BREVIEW: The Mothers Earth Experiment @ The Dark Horse 13.07.18

The Mothers Earth Experiment @ The Dark Horse 13.07.18 / Ed King

Words & pics by Ed King

I never played at the Whisky a Go Go. I was never in the house band; I was never Morrison. As much I wanted to be, mine was another time, another room. Another stage. Mine was breakbeat, rave, and those pills that had nothing to do with weight loss.

But The Mothers Earth Experiment, tonight, they get close. Close enough for me to start my review with wishes and references. Close enough to make me walk out the door and leave everything behind. Close enough, and what are we if nothing but shallow dreams. But fuck me they rock.The Taboo Club - supporting The Mothers Earth Experiment @ The Dark Horse 13.07.18 / Ed King

First up tonight though, at this particularly generous free entry Friday night gig at The Dark Horse, is The Taboo Club – the new face of Rob Lilley and Josh Rochelle-Bates, now joined by Jack Ingaglia (guitar), Ben Oerton (sax/keys) and Aiden Price (drums).

Their first live gig together, there are some rehearsal room cobwebs being dusted down tonight, and by the time ‘Bible John’ comes tumbling off stage, led by Lilley’s deep vocals, we are in a red room of sultry intent. Nestled somewhere between the low lit bourbon dive bars of Harlem and an opiate pit of six string destruction that would make the Velvet Underground blush, The Taboo Club are tapestry of genres and influences – driven by guitar, but with tinges of jazz, sax, and keys, giving the wall of sound a deep lustre.

The Taboo Club - supporting The Mothers Earth Experiment @ The Dark Horse 13.07.18 / Ed KingAbsurdly promising, even if I am a little biased. The Taboo Club play the next Birmingham Review showcase on Saturday September 29th at The Victoria and we predict an interesting first time around the sun for this band – a tight ensemble with real depth. So stay alert, you listicles of music press future. More is sure to follow from The Taboo Club.

But back in the present, it’s time for Birmingham’s favourite space cadets to come in for landing. I’ve seen The Mothers Earth Experiment before, and they’re good. They’re tight. Polished psych rock. Musicians who know how to play, and who you get the feeling (I can only observe) really enjoy their time on stage together. At least I love watching their keyboard player.

The Mothers Earth Experiment @ The Dark Horse 13.07.18 / Ed King

But there’s something in their set tonight, and the front row, and the bass, and the shoulders that sway in that Nico kinda way. There’s something more. I’m engaged in a different way than before; perhaps it’s the blues rock, for whatever you or I make of that term. But it’s good, and a little ferocious. Two words I’m confident we all understand.

Frontman Mark Roberts pulls his face and eyes out over the crowd, as the band open with ‘Cool Down Mama’ and work backwards through their debut album. The combined exuberance of this six piece, who are probably classically trained (I have no idea but it feels like they could, or should, be) with high ideas and the balls to bring them to life, is unassailable.

The Mothers Earth Experiment @ The Dark Horse 13.07.18 / Ed KingI’m a little drunk and lazy as I write this (I recently adopted the stance of penning each review as soon as I get back. You know, whilst it’s ‘still fresh’. The photos on the other hand…) but I have an overwhelming urge to run across the bonnets of parked cars, or laugh. Or actually enjoy myself in public. There’s a deeper edge to The Mothers Earth Experiment tonight that I’m not erudite (sober) enough right now to adequately describe, but it keeps me in the crowd with a half jealous fix on stage. The man next to me agrees. We stop talking and watch. And dance, when the moments of tight self-control allow us.

Donald Trump would not agree. His name is mentioned more than a few times tonight, and not with compassion or without candour. But let’s face it, as we laugh at doom and the absurdity of such a close nuclear winter, the man is indeed “a cunt”. But with balloons and battle cries constantly thrown off stage we are unified at The Dark Horse tonight, on the very day that such monstrosity prepares themselves for dinner with the divine right of kings.The Mothers Earth Experiment @ The Dark Horse 13.07.18 / Ed King And in a further act of general good will, The Mothers Earth Experiment have been passing out NOT NORMAL – NO OK stickers until in the room is adorned with specs of yellow and black. A wonderful sight to see; bless everyone one stage and off. Click here for more on the NOT NORMAL – NO OK campaign.

But we’re nearing the end, my only friend, and the The Mothers Earth Experiment say sayonara with a new track before heading back to the cosmos – ‘Bliss’, which builds, folds, unfolds, and explodes off stage like a grenade wrapped in a cloud.The Mothers Earth Experiment @ The Dark Horse 13.07.18 / Ed King Bliss… For Spaceman 3 playing ‘Revolution’ on a particularly angry day perhaps; the shift from sweet jangles to sonic assault is almost rude… and so much fun. A startling denouement. No encore needed. Although The Mothers Earth Experiment had one planned, as the track listing I stole (it’s usually a journalist) told me was ‘Fortress’.

The rest of my night ends with random friends, strange new faces, stories of pet executions (lack of funds… ouch, you’ve got to love the fluctuating moral compass) and that unpleasant edge in Moseley I’m old enough to reference. Fuck you, I remember when this was all fields…

The Mother’s Earth Experiment at The Dark House, we give you four out of five stars, No one gets five. And I’m sure the letter you send home about this will be the talk of your family Christmas mailout. But I loved it; a great gig. And one that didn’t cost us a bean too.

So to the people of planet Earth, go out and purchase everything on The Mothers Earth Experiment merch stand and keep the world replete with good music. Also, keep Saturday September 29th free for The Taboo Club Showcase Gig with Birmingham Review at The Victoria. That is the judgement of music journalism. It has spoken. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. And considering tonight was a free entry gig, with copies of The Mothers Earth Experiment’s eponymous album being given away, I’d say it’s the very least we can do. 

For more on The Mothers Earth Experiment, visit

For more on The Taboo Club, visit

The Taboo Club Showcase Gig with Birmingham Review will be held at The Victoria on Saturday 29th September. To find out more, and to be on the waiting list for when tickets are released, visit the Facebook Event Page by clicking here.

For more from Sonic Gun, including further event listings and online ticket sales, visit

For more on The Dark Horse, including venue details and further event listings, visit


NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To sign up to NOT NORMAL – NOT OK, click here. To know more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK sticker campaign, click here.

BREVIEW: Playback @ mac – running until 24.01.18

BREVIEW: Playback @ mac – running until 24.01.18 / Ed KingWords by Ashleigh Goodwin / Pics by Ed King

Stepping into Playback almost feels like the beginning of a Black Mirror episode; the silence is palpable in the dimly-lit space, as people sit before screens, each person plugged into the monitors, staring intently ahead.

The calm and quiet is a welcome distraction from the packed lower floor of mac, where people are continuously swarming around the open space; weirdly enough, even though the double doors to Playback are open, it feels like a safe haven, isolated from the rest of the arts centre.

The set-up is functional, yet quite captivating; minimalist structures are set up throughout the room that encase a screen to select films, a monitor to watch and a couple of pairs of headphones below. This could be quite a passive experience, one where you stumble in, take a quick look and exit to explore the rest of the gallery, yet each person who enters is memorised and instantly takes a seat in one of the stalls to begin.

A real highlight of the exhibition is the complete flexibility it offers. The interface is so simplistic you can easy browse comedy, drama, music, dance, drama or animation with the touch of a button. The idea that Playback brings the films to the audience, as opposed to the other way round, is an interesting format and is a smart way of getting the endevours of budding creatives out there.

Much of the work being displayed covers scenarios so far removed from the viewer that you’re able to gain a sobering, eye-opening insight. For example, Courtney Grigg’s 18, a POV documentary that explores Courtney’s journey through homelessness when she was eighteen. Or Rediat Abayneh’s 25 Days of My Life, which is dedicated to those ‘who lost their lives in search of better’ and charts her brief stay in the infamous refugee camp ‘The Jungle’ prior to her journey to England from Calais. These pieces draw you in immediately by conveying such emotion in a short time frame. I felt myself unintentionally breathing a small sigh of relief and gratitude when I read in the description below that despite the circumstances depicted in their work, they are now studying towards their chosen career, or are exploring another walk of life and have made it out of sombre situations.

BREVIEW: Playback @ mac – running until 24.01.18 / Ed KingI can say with complete honesty, there was not one single short I viewed that I didn’t appreciate in some way. Each work was enlightening and completely unique. In mainstream film I often feel like what I’m watching is just regurgitated with a different cast, location or a slight differentiation of a basic scenario. The sheer individuality of each piece presented at Playback took me by surprise; alongside thought-pieces and documentaries charting real life experiences, the exhibition was brimming with off-the-wall, abstract and bizarre concepts, which was so refreshing and showed the passion of hungry young filmmakers.

I felt this was especially reflected in Battle by Darnell Smart, which relied on mostly a non-verbal performance, mixed with sound effects to create distortion of the main character Deshawn. The minimalist setting and almost sterile visual at the end combined for a really effecting piece. Additionally, Bliss by Billy Floyd stuck in my memory long afterwards. No dialogue was needed, as the piece was carried by minimal sound effects and intense, non-verbal performances that used the same setting for each shot, just varying the content. Battle and Bliss left me genuinely excited for the work that future filmmakers will produce as the execution of these ideas was something I hadn’t witnessed before and really, this is what Playback is all about.

BREVIEW: Playback @ mac – running until 24.01.18 / Ed KingIt would be near impossible to comment on all the content, with over 145 short films, ranging from 90 seconds to three minutes a piece, on show. If you do have the opportunity, give yourself a full day and head down to mac and see, or rather experience, for yourself – Playback is free to enter and in the arts centre’s First Floor Gallery until Wednesday 24 January 2018. I’m sure each individual will discover something different from the next and connect with the pieces in a completely unique way. Personally, I tend to gravitate towards drama, but the flexibility of Playback exposed me to a world of other possibilities; content that I would never have previously considered due to admittedly, my own ignorance or dismissal of genres that don’t seem instantly appealing.

I felt a particular highlight was the animation section and I’m so glad I allowed myself to be led by the exhibition, as there were some excellent pieces in there. Specifically, My Familiar by Leah Morris, an animation that blends live action scenes with animation to explore ‘the comforts of non-verbal communication’ in the face of isolation and loneliness. The piece is set against a minimalist, yet effecting score, and uses no verbal narrative within its series of vignettes, which works to astounding effect. So much so that halfway through I looked down to find myself with little marks imprinted into my palm where I’d be gripping the chord of the headphones, completely engrossed.

BREVIEW: Playback @ mac – running until 24.01.18 / Ed KingOr Meet Cute, another short that splices live action with animation and blurs the line of creation, production, fiction and reality – a fun and interesting piece by Chris Consentino. Adrift was also a highlight, a short sci-fi that ‘blends lo-fi animation, indie folk and quirky live action’ by Will Crerar, an aspiring screenwriter and director from Newcastle. The drama explores decision making through the protagonist, a teenage boy trapped in space, who is at the crossroads of change but hesitant to move forward. The setting and minimal, spoken-narrative deliver a point that is reflective of wider society in an extremely clever way.

After two hours of selecting films I was completely captivated by the exhibition’s documentaries and dramas and found the comedy section to be a welcome break, one that pulled me outside my head for a while. Some highlights were Contactless that deals with a scenario not as far removed from the future as it should be, set against the backdrop of Birmingham with a whacky, upbeat soundtrack that allows the comedic overtone to shine through but also elevates the distress and seriousness of the political message. The variation in styles was a joy to experience throughout all the genres, but in particular, in shorts such as Chops which is a beautifully stylised laugh-out-loud piece by Jac Clinch, and Slice by Hari Ramakrishnan, a dark satire exploring the graduate experience with great visuals and perfectly delivered narrative by Marie Hamilton, paired with an eerily perfect performance by Dorothy Collins.

The final highlight was All That Is by Camille Summers Valli and Wessie Du Toit, a beautifully shot drama-documentary that intimately explores ‘love and its role in the lives of five individuals’, through snapshots in a stunning sepia quality. As the short eloquently states “any experience is good, to talk about it is better” – which I feel encompasses the whole event perfectly.

There were 145 narratives for the audience to explore in Playback and each has taken a personal experience, feeling, emotion or thought and turned it into a work of art. Most of the work can be found through the Random Acts website, but actually attending the exhibition adds so much more to the experience, as you’re able to fully submerge yourself amongst the work in the peaceful atmosphere that the mac has created.

Events such as Playback are vital in the medium of film, creating exposure for young creative, as well as giving them a platform and voice to address current issues and situations. We just need to be ready to listen.

Playback – running at mac until 24.01.18

Playback runs at mac until 24th January, held in the arts centre’s First Floor Gallery. Entry is free with no age restrictions. For more on Playback at mac, visit

To view a list of all the Playback dates across the UK, visit

For more from mac, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit