Words by Ed King / Pic by Katie Foulkes
Due to a charity boxing event, a gregarious 15 year old and my failure to slip, I couldn’t make the Saturday of this two day bandfest – now in its second year at The Public in West Bromwich.
But my main reasons for going were all playing on the Sunday; so bloody nose aside, things were looking up.
I’d been trying to see Johnny Foreigner, The Traps and Shatter Effect for a while, and someone had strongly recommended I check out Shana Tova. So with all of the above playing virtually one after the other, the final day of Now We Are 2013 was the perfect chance for me to settle the books.
A quick jaunt on the Metro, an elongated walk around a desolate town centre, and I’m standing in The Public’s main atrium with a beer in hand and Shana Tova on soundcheck.
Ah the rock ‘n’ bread roll of regional journalism… yam lord giveth and yam lord taketh away.
“THEY’RE LOUDER THAN I EXPECTED”, I mouth to the man at my right – as the ferocious three piece belt out ‘No One’s Saying Wow’ from the Pinktank stage. Full of punk, spunk, and the occasional bluegrass middle eight, Shana Tova are confidently brash.
But fun. And as ‘Kaybab’ (say it in a Brummie accent with a question mark) hurls itself at my earholes, I’m beginning to understand why ‘you should see them’.
The pace continues through ‘Swan Hills’ (I think that’s right) and ‘Dear Friends’, before a slight lull in ‘Waiting for the Sun’. It’s a nonstop kidney-punch-handshake; that gregarious violence that makes city centre weekends so memorable, with even Shana Tova’s lead singer/guitarist, Geordie, admitting “someone told us we’re playing too fast.” Before continuing to play fast and scream out lyrics I hear but can’t understand.
Finishing with ‘Wake Up the Lions’ I’m left a little uncertain. Did I enjoy that? Do I like this? That’s not what I usually hear at Jewish New Year? But intrigued and impressed.
And in agreement, Shana Tova are worth checking out. Even if you don’t like what they do I suspect you’ll enjoy the way they do it.
‘If I couldn’t physically see the drummer I’d think he was a machine’ – I scribble, as ‘Calypso’ punches its way across the open hall of The Public. The first ‘official’ release from The Traps’ own Speech Fewapy Records is immediately engaging, with Jamie Berry’s vocals sounding confidently fuller live.
‘Calypso’ is a song you think you know the first time you hear it, and like much of The Traps’ portfolio – one you’ll possibly want to know better.
The solid backline backbone thumps through ‘Moving Pictures’ (I think – we’re at the 2 ½ beer marker), before the raw rhythm and glockenspiel of ‘Eyes Open’ underpin Berry’s melodic fluctuation and rock star neck strain. A cracking opening trio.
‘Your Headland’ introduces itself with a bluesy twang, and images of Laura Dern and Nicholas Cage run through my head. Tight, polished and a little samey after a minute and a half, I swallow a lull in the set.
A lull that encroaches into the first part of ‘Ida’, before some cutting fret work builds into a verse that pulls my pen up off the floor.
A simple bass-drum-vocals chorus allows a more nostalgic melody to drip off stage, before we’re marched into track 6 (…3 beer marker) and eventually ‘Honey Drip’ – The Traps’ infectious debut single.
During the closing song, where event organiser Emma Cooper brings a horn section on stage, I stop trying to write. I just want to listen; to the glockenspiel sounds, the carnival tempo, Berry’s vocals and the proficient arrangement with fanfare finale.
I’m chuffed. The Traps are an excellent badge for Birmingham’s music scene to wear – and one without hyperbole, loaded acronyms or the life expectancy of a minor’s budgie.
Viva Speech Fewapy.
“We seem to get bigger crowd out of Brum”, admits guitarist Robin Davies, highlighting a disparagement I’ve heard more than once before. But with ‘Dance Music for Rock Kids’ as a strapline, I guess you can expect a divide.
Opening with ‘Broken Toys’, Shatter Effect are immediate and boundless on stage. Dark, brooding techno rock, reminiscent of NIN or (some) Public Domain, they explode with three guitars, two synths and a human version of Animal on drums.
Green spotlights flood through the dry ice, filling the room with a jealous mist as the eponymous ‘Rebecca’ is played next. Lead singer, Rebecca Davies, drives a confident energy into the Theatre venue – despite an arms length crowd and fiscally eager merchandise table from another band on the bill. But a prominent front, Ms D pushes her range through the room regardless, with the old effortless adage.
‘Grease’ seems to mark the end of Shatter Effect’s more melodic beginning, and sets a fast paced precedent that holds throughout the rest of the set. Ferocious would be one word, fierce would be another. Alienating could also get used, as I notice a few audience members start to slink into the shadows.
But Shatter Effect stick to their guns, their loud booming cannons aboard a nefarious warship, and fire through ‘Come Again Soon’ (pun intended?) and into ‘Make Me Hate You’ – the air punching denouement if the room were full.
And they deserve a bigger crowd, because what they’re delivering deserves to get noticed. And not for its noise, or pace, or barbaric refusals – but because it really f*&king good; if not, perhaps at times, a little 90’s anachronistic.
It’s just a shame, like so many Midland musicians, they have to travel further North/South for more appropriate recognition.
Feeling very Sunday, and seduced by cheap ales, I cadge a lift back to Birmingham City Centre.
Now We Are 2013 was unfortunately hindered by rare British sunshine, a somewhat lacklustre approach to marketing and perhaps a slightly high door price.
But I got to see a handful of bands I’d been trying to catch, and introduced to more of what Birmingham (which is the actual name of our city) has to musically offer. ‘Enriched’ is the description I’m ending with, throwing ‘encouraged’ in to boot.
And it may be the Bishop’s Finger (look it up), but a bit more proud to be Brummie.
For more on The Traps, and Speech Fewapy Records, visit http://speechfewapy.com
For more on Shana Tova visit, http://www.myspace.com/shanatova
For more on Shatter Effect, visit http://www.shattereffect.com/
Now We Are was organised and promoted by Funny Looking Cat. For further info, visit http://www.funnylookingcat.co.uk/
For further events at The Public, including art, music, comedy & workshops, visit http://www.thepublic.com/