Words & pics by Ed King / Follow him @EdKing2210
“We got a load of old Birmingham bands together to do a show here, and it was packed,” Matt Beck remembers the Sunset Cinema Club/Tropical Hotdog reunion from August 2013, when This Is Tmrw hosted a one off revival of the three piece Punk band’s monthly club night. “That was what it should be like – everyone supported it, everyone got paid.”
We’re in the Hare & Hounds, the ‘here’ and suburban success story that This Is Tmrw now happily calls home. And in a few days time their second All Year’s Leaving Festival will back at the venue, taking over every space with a stage and even one without – as a smattering of bands (fourteen by my count) bring a weekend of Punk Rock, Shoegaze, Psych Rock and other genres I don’t feel equip to do justice. Promising stuff – but over the eight years Matt Beck and Tom Hopkins have been promoting music the road to Kings Heath was not always so sparkly.
“We’re both from Solihull,” explains Matt, “and did a couple of pretty terrible shows there before we realised no one’s interested in live music in Solihull.” A defamatory, but arguably true reality. At least for promoters. “Then we did a gig at The Sunflower Lounge with Foals, which was probably our first proper gig. They were just on the cusp. I think they had one single out and were ‘hotly tipped’ at the time.”
An admirable catch; so after death there came glory? “Then we went to The Yardbird and did weekly night there for maybe a year, a year and a half, which was a Wednesday night thing – pre Snobs, local Indie bands plus bringing in some touring acts.” The last This Is Twrw gig Birmingham Review covered was peripatetic oddball Connan Mockasin, the next on their bill are ‘Ohio Punk upstarts’ Cloud Nothing. How was life at the Conservatoire canteen? “When it worked it really worked,” answers Tom Hopkins, “we hosted an all day local band event that was a great show there.”
“Hot Club De Paris, they played there too – that sold out” adds Matt. “Then there were other times when we’d put on a Low-Fi, noisy Punk band and you’d have ten regulars in there expecting Jazz. There were some conflicts.”
It doesn’t sound like a heaven made match, and although The Yardbird has respectably eclectic tastes the Hare & Hounds is arguably much more versatile – a useful backdrop when your bookings range from Norwegian Synth Pop to Psychedelic Soul.
“Plus we needed a better sound system,” explains Matt, with a faint flicker of more challenging memories, “…we’ve had a lot of problems with sound engineers over the years, maybe not being able to communicate with bands as well as they should. But here you’ve got the best engineers that are out there – they’re really skilled at what they do.”
“We’ve built relationships with them as well,” adds Tom, “they know what we want from a night and we trust them that they’re going to deliver, which is important for our shows.”
“There’s a lot that can happen in that first half hour when a band arrives,” continues Matt, “they’re probably a bit miserable because they’re on a tour bus and they haven’t slept. It’s really important to have someone who knows how to greet them and softens the atmosphere straight away.” I imagine mini vans of Pan Atlantic angst turning up to The Yardbird with jet lag and specifics. “That’s why it works so well here (Hare & Hounds), it’s such a well established venue for touring bands. There’s showers back stage, well there’s one…”
“They have good, lounge feel green rooms too,” adds Tom. “It manages to have a real homely feel, but with all the professional support you want from a venue. It was perfect for us when we were upping the level of bands we were going for.”
And that back slapping synergy seems to have paid off, with This Is Tmrw promoting what could be seen as difficult line ups in a city “considered sixth on the pecking order” by some touring acts. “We’re behind Nottingham sometimes,” laments Matt. But he’s right; Hebden Bridge Trades Club gets acts that often jump over Birmingham.
“There are a lot of familiar faces coming down to our shows that we’re very grateful for, and I think we’ve got to a point now where people trust what we’re putting on. Birmingham doesn’t necessarily deserve the bad rep it can have.”
But it takes tough skin, tenacity and graft (and some pretty sexy artwork, courtesy of Lewes Herriot) all of which This Is Tmrw will culminate for the second time in their now annual All Years Leaving Festival – taking place at the Hare & Hounds from Friday 24th to Sat 25th October.
“We put Eagulls on earlier this year and we loved them,” Matt says about the Friday night headliner. “They supported a band called Merchandise for us and were just a really great live band – post Punky, inspired by The Fall. Good lads from Leeds.”
“They were really humble too,” explains Tom, “we often cook for the bands we book and Eagulls were in the kitchen with us, washing up, having a beer. I remember asking one of them ‘what’s your plans?’ and he was like, ‘well, when this all dies down I’ll probably just go work on the (telephone) poles with my dad.’ Totally down to earth.”
But you must have had a few on the festival long list, were Eagulls an easy choice for the first night headliner? “We spoke to them about All Years Leaving when they did their gig in Venue Two, which they sold out,” answers Matt, “and the next day their agent contact us and said yeah, they’d really like to do that. And because they are quite dark, Punky, noisy and abrasive there are plenty of bands we can book around them.”
Matt walks through the Friday night who’s who, “Cheatahs are quite Shoegaze but with a Grunge element as well, God Damn are a great local band, Menace Beach are bit of a Leeds super group with members of Pulled Apart By Horses and a quite Low-Fi/Slacker type vibe, Bad Breeding are a very UK sounding Punk band from Stevenage, and Sunshine Frisbee Laser Beam are one of our favourite local bands.”
And how about Saturday, how easily did that fall into place? “We had more problems with the headliners on Saturday,” admits Matt, “we tried to get Hookworms for ages but they couldn’t commit as they were touring America,” it’s never easy spinning plates, “we were waiting and waiting and waiting, and about eight weeks ago got an email saying they’d (Hookworms) had just signed to Domino and wanted to do five dates in the UK; it was one of those divine interventions things.”
Amen Brother, but that’s pretty close to the promotional wire. Are they worth the wait? “Hookworms were one of those bands that we always wanted to book,” explains Tom, “a very, very good live band. Great album too, one of our favourites.”
“They’ve got a real Kraut Rock influence but with loads of loop pedals and droney type things and effects on guitars,” adds Matt, “they’re one of these bands that everyone wants to play with. As soon as we said to Traams, another band we absolutely love, we’ve got Hookworms they were like ‘Yep, I’ll phone in sick but I want to play that show’. We wanted to give Victories at Sea a higher slot too after opening last year’s festival – they’re such a good live band and have just finished their album.”
With Echo Lake, The Voyeurs and Theo Verney also playing on Saturday it’s a strong line up. But with both headline acts coming from Leeds, didn’t you want to make the line up a little more local? “Across the two days there are five strong local bands,” says Tom, “but we wanted a good balance; eventually we want All Years Leaving to be a nationally recognised event.”
“We didn’t want it to be one of those Birmingham all day events with just one national band,” adds Matt, “we wanted to make it a more compelling line up with bands people read about but might not get to see.
And as far as Pscyh music goes, to us, Hookworms are the Holy Grail of bands that are around at the moment.”
All Years Leaving Festival comes to the Hare & Hounds on Fri 24th & Sat 25th October – presented by This Is Tmrw. Tickets are priced at £13.50 day ticket / £25 weekend. For more info and online bookings, visit:
Saturday 25th Oct / http://hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk/event-listings/event/?eventID=10031406
For more from This Is Tmrw, visit http://thisistmrw.co.uk/
For more from the Hare & Hounds (Kinsg Heath), visit http://hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk/