BPREVIEW: Mad Dog Mcrea @ The Big Bulls Head 25.03.17

BPREVIEW: Mad Dog Mcrea @ The Big Bulls Head 25.03.17

Words by Damien Russell

Wending their Happy Bus down to The Big Bulls Head on the 25th of March are Mad Dog Mcrea. Brought to us by Birmingham Promoters, the show is scheduled to start at 19:00 with tickets are priced at £13.75 (ex-booking fees). For direct gig info, including online ticket sales, click here.

N.B. The Mad Dog Mcrea gig has been moved to The Big Bulls Head, 75 Digbeth, B5 6DY – from Mama Roux’s. For direct venue info, click here

Mad Dog Mcrea are a modern folk band very much of the old school, blending traditional folk leanings with gypsy jazz and a more modern folk/rock sound. Even the odd nod to bluegrass creeps in occasionally.

And although they lean towards a quintessentially Celtic sound much of the time, the band actually hail from Plymouth in deepest Devonshire. That said, Mad Dog Mcrea seem to spend so much time on the road I would be surprised if they can remember what street they live on. They are a road tested, hard-working, hard drinking good time band and no mistake.

Mad Dog Mcrea currently have four full studio albums and one studio EP on the shelves, with their latest LP, Almost Home, released via God Damn Records in March 2015. Each album has a diverse mix of sounds, tempos and styles, and if you look at their iconic songs: Black Fly, Am I Drinking Enough?, The Happy Bus, Duck Street and Bees Wing, they span twelve years of writing, recording and touring (my favourite is ‘Am I Drinking Enough?’ – check it out live, link below). No flash-in-the-pan group here.

Mad Dog Mcrea were more prominently recognised in 2011 when Radio 2’s Mike Harding gave them some airplay. Harding was quoted as saying they were “one of the most exciting discoveries of 2011,” despite their pre-2011 activities.

Last time I saw Mad Dog Mcrea was in 2014 at the Robin 2 in Bilston. They’d been delayed on the way up by some numpty crashing on the motorway or something, loaded in late and had a hurried soundcheck. Maybe the stress was a factor or maybe it was business as usual, but I’m certain that lead singer/guitarist Michael Mathieson was swigging from a bottle of whisky throughout the set. And emptied about half of it. Quite the stage show.

They also had a bunch of dedicated supporters at the front dressed as crayons, who had apparently followed them for most of the tour. A right bouncy lot they were too. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see such merry madness again this time around.  I hope Birmingham’s ready; the Happy Bus is heading to town. 

‘Am I Drinking Enough?’ (live) – Mad Dog Mcrea 

Mad Dog Mcrea perform at The Big Bulls Bead in Digbeth on Saturday 25th March, as presented by Birmingham Promoters. For direct gig info and online tickets sales, click here.


For more on Mad Dog Mcrea, visit www.maddogmcrea.co.uk

For more from The Big Bull’s Head, visit www.facebook.com/TheBigBullsHead

For more from Birmingham Promoters, including a full event programme and online ticket sales, visit www.birminghampromoters.com

ED’S PICK: Festivals… July – Sept ‘16

Flyover Show 2012 / By Rob Gilbert

Words by Ed King & Ceri Black / Lead pic of The Flyover Show – by Rob Gilbert  

 “…I was thinking, Michael. If you got some speakers and a little wooden stage, we could really make this a party. And if it goes well we could always do it again next year. Maybe even charge.”Birmingham Preview

With the trenches of Glastonbury baking behind us, and Bestival sprinkling glitter onto the summer’s event horizon, there are still a few festivals worth a stop, look & listen. And being Midlanders we have a better stab, logistically speaking, of getting our backpacks and Birkenstocks out across the UK – with some so temptingly close to home it would almost be rude not to.

So if you’ve been living in a hole – synthetic, figurative or literal – and haven’t had a chance to see what’s where and when on the calendar, here are a few suggestions to get your festival summer started.


Mostly Jazz @ Moseley Park 08-10.07Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul @ Moseley Park 8-10.07
Having only begun in 2010, Mostly Jazz has already been on quite the journey. Popularity and controversy of acts performing over the three day event have been on the up, with last year’s headliners, Public Enemy, being the arguable zenith of both.

But this year’s announcements will not disappoint an ever hungry Mostly Jazz crowd, as George Clinton, Average White Band, Grandmaster Flash and De la Soul all perform in the fashionably middle-class suburb – with Mostly Jazz ‘stalwart and curator’, Craig Charles, DJing on the Saturday. There’s also a healthy local contingent, including Call Me Unique and Trope, who are both well worth some attention.

Tickets are priced from £42 for a day pass, and after being recently described as ‘…a Birmingham institution,’ value for money doesn’t seem to a problem. With a vibrant line up, locally sourced food stalls, and onsite Purity Brewery fuelled bars, Mostly Jazz‘s high-spirited atmosphere kicks off our suburban summer with a bang.

For more on Mostly Jazz, visit www.mostlyjazz.co.uk


Big Family Festival @ Dunton Hall 30-31.07.16Big Family Festival @ Dunton Hall, Sutton Coldfield 30-31.07

Not often you get to see Rastamouse headline a Greenfield event.

Big Family Festival launches this year, taking over the grounds of Dunton Hall in Sutton Coldfield for the weekend of 30-31st July. And it is exactly what it says in the tin – a big site festival that’s been programmed with a firm focus for children. We kid you not about Rastamouse, who appears supported by De Easy Crew (naturally) and a host of his CBeebies cohorts, no doubt looking to broaden their portfolio should Tony Hall get another sudden rush of blood to the head.

The rest of the bill is packed with kid friendly acts, including tribute performers from Katy Perry and Beyonce to Michael Jackson and Bob Marley (OK, not that kid friendly) alongside a range of stay & play activities and games based learning. There’s also a The Gruffalo Storytelling, The Tin Man Dance Academy, a comedy tent, an outdoor cinema, the Ibiza Ghetto Blaster and a Jedi Training Academy – the last two of which, I’ll put money on attracting a somewhat older crowd.

Tickets are reasonably priced too, with day passes ranging from £29 for adults, £15 for children (10-17yrs) / £8 (5-9years) aged five to nine. Under fives are free, which considering the raison d’être is either Father Christmas generous or a little fiscally daft.

For more on Big Family Festival, visit www.bigfamilyfestival.co.uk


The Flyover Show @ Hockley Flyover 20.08.16The Flyover Show @ Hockley Flyover 20.08

The Flyover Show returns to Birmingham, once again set to ‘transform the grey space beneath the Hockley Flyover into an oasis of cultural expression’ in a one-day festival of music, arts and dance.

Headlining The Flyover Show 2016 will be legendary jazz/reggae guitarist & composer Ernest Ranglin, who ran Studio One and Island Records back in the days when you’d really, really want to. Further acts confirmed are Basil Gabbidon, Eska, Call Me Unique, Juice Aleem, Knox Brown, TrueMendous, Reuben James, DJ Winchester, YounGod, Decip4life, Amerah Salah, Jae Dot Sosa and Trope. Soweto Kinch will also be playing both with his own band and alongside headliner Ernest Ranglin – who is adding The Flyover Show to his ‘farewell tour’, following dates including Glastonbury Festival, The Barbican, Montreal Jazz Festival and Istanbul Jazz Festival.

Always inclusive, always fun, always free. And with an A road roof should the August’s skies turn, The Flyover Show is a welcome sight back on the city’s event calendar.

For more information on The Flyover Show, visit www.uprize-cic.com/theflyovershow


Shambala 2016 - NorthamptonshireShambala @ ‘a country estate in Northamptonshire’ 25-28.08

If you’ve not been to this Mac daddy greenfield affair then 1) shame on you, 2) buy a ticket for Shambala 2016, and 3) buy it quickly. Without a doubt the most fun you can have whilst dressed as a shoal of fish, circa Shambala Festival 2014, this truly homespun festival endevour is a benchmark in both style and content.

With a cracking approach to production, and a line-up that represents a vast, huge, wondrous array of all things audio (a bit like the record store loins from which it came, no pun) this is the way your three day benders should be.

Plus the brains behind the bash have kept the site capacity to 15k, or so I believe, meaning you’ll never have to worry too much about being lost in the crowd. Oh, and Sister Sledge are headlining this year. I’ll say that again… SISTER SLEDGE ARE HEADLINING. Holy sing-a-long Batman, get me Skiddle Tickets on the laptop.

For more on Shambala, visit www.shambalafestival.org


Moseley Folk Festival @ Moseley Park 04-06.09.16Moseley Folk Festival @ Moseley Park 02-04.09

The only bad thing about the Moseley Folk Festival is it means (cue Game of Thrones theme music) winter is coming. A week before Bestival and on the same weekend as End of the Road, Moseley Folk is one of the last leaves to fall on the perennial festival flower. But it’s not a bad way go.

On the upside it’s right in your backyard, figuratively for most and literally for some. Which I suppose you could see as a either good or a bad thing, depending on how seriously you take you resident’s association. But picking up the reigns left by the adventurous yet unsustained L’Esprit Manouche festival, Moseley Folk has established its beautiful suburban setting as a well-groomed event site – paving the way for a cornucopia of acts who have found their way to the Private Park. And gaw’d bless ‘em for that.

This year sees The Levellers, The Coral, The Proclaimers, The Jayhawks and Billy Bragg on top of the bill – with a healthy second row coming from Phosphorescent, Oysterband, Songhoy Blues and Benjamin Francis Leftwich. There’s a load more on the line up also worth a stop, look and listen – including Steve Tilston, Laura Gibson, Treetop Flyers and Chris Cleverley. Plus a duet show from Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) and Jessica Hoop; an offer is so tantalizing I may be making it up.

For more on the Moseley Folk Festival, visit www.moseleyfolk.co.uk

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BPREVIEW: Free Comic Book Day @ Nostalgia & Comics, Forbidden Planet 07.05.16

Free Comic Book Day - land

Words By Olly MacNamee

Main with web colour bcg - lrWhether this event brings new readers into comic shops when the combined might of Marvel and DC’s films has failed, is up for debate. But Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) celebrates it’s fifteen year anniversary in comic book shops across the world this Saturday 7th May – as they give away comics free to anyone who comes into their shops.

But FCBD was never just about trying to get new readers into stores and into comics. It was also designed as a ‘thank you’ to existing customers, as well as an attempt to entice back fans who may have drifted away from the spandex crowd.

Funnily enough, the very first FCBD was scheduled to coincide with the release of Spider-man back in 2002. So the thought must have been that the film would boost sales of comics in some way, whether in the short or long term.

Free Comic Book DayAs each year has passed the offerings from many a comic book company have increased. But, with demand always high, us hardcore fans have known for months which titles will be hitting the stores this coming Saturday; it’s best to get there as early as possible.

Even then there are no guarantees. Nostalgia & Comics, for instance, will once again reward their loyal, long-standing customers with an earlier opening time (8.30am) – with a ticket only event that allows us to get in, scoop up the booty, and make for the high seas. Or to hang out at a shop that has become something more than just another retailer for many of us, having built up a community of comic book guys and gals thanks to regular nights out, once a month at The Victoria (such as this Wednesday’s Star Wars themes quiz night).

nostalgia-comics-store-birmingham 50%In fact, the odd comic book creator can often be seen in Nostalgia & Comics getting their regular fix too. Apple stores may have their Genius Bar (which to me, always conjures up the image of Einstein and Sheldon Cooper getting riotously and gloriously drunk) but comic shops have their fanatics. The people serving you have built up their knowledge and understanding for years, if not decades, from immersing themselves in the hobby we all share and love. You can’t learn that from a staff manual.

FCBD is an excuse, then, to bring an arguable carnival atmosphere into these specialist shops. What it once was (a marketing ploy, let’s be honest) has evolved into something very different – a celebration of comics, creators and, most importantly, community.

For a list of all the titles on offer at both Nostalgia & Comics and Forbidden Planet in Birmingham, visit http://www.freecomicbookday.com/Home/1/1/27/981

For more on Free Comic Book Day, visit http://www.freecomicbookday.com/


For more from Nostalgia & Comics, visit https://www.facebook.com/NostalgiaComics/

For more from Forbidden Planet (B’ham), visit https://forbiddenplanet.com/events/for-location/birmingham-store/

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BPREVIEW: Burlesque & Cabaret @ Swingamajig 2016 – Rainbow Venues 01.05.16

Swingamajig 2015 / By Ed King

Words by Ed King

5 days to go…

Main with web colour bcg - lrBecause there is only so much swinging and jigging a normal human can do in a day, the best-dressed-fest is providing a sumptuous array of side shows to keep you occupied. And stationary. Kind of.

From the absurd to the sexy, with some quite staggering feats of hand to eye thrown in, Swingamajig 2016 presents a pretty anarchic programme of burlesque, cabaret, dance and the occasional well humored piece of destruction. All well worth a gander, but here are a few cherry picked performers to get you started.

Just, maybe, depending on your… erm, threshold, avoid the front row seats. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Viddy below:


Jon UdryJon Udry

Juggler, standup comedian, and with a Faustian earned ability to defy the laws of gravity (unsubstantiated, but seriously… how else?) Jon Udry brings a stage show to make any circus ringmaster weep into his lion’s mouth. Honestly, the man is like a mix of Bez and Magneto – big-fish-little-fishing his way around the impossible and back again.

OK, maybe Bez was a bad example – but the choreography attached to his show gives Udry a beautiful and fluid stage show. Plus he’s funny, slightly absurd, and the winner of ‘British Young Juggler of the Year’… just don’t ask him to make you a cup of tea.

For more on Jon Udry, visit http://www.jonudry.com/


Cory Baker Phone Box / By Dani BowerCorey Baker’s Phone Box

Brought to Swingamajig 2016 by DanceXchange and the International Dance Festival Birmingham 2016, with production credits also going to Without Walls, Phone Box is the latest commission from choreographer and dancer, Cory Baker. Clue’s in the title, right?

So what is Phone Box… well, I’m not 100% sure what to expect, but the freshly commissioned piece (making its debut at Swingamajig 2016) ‘brings to life this nostalgic British icon with thrilling dance and a wacky digital sound-score’. The troupe dance in it, around it, on it, and, I think, through it. And if you were born before 1980 you’ll remember how chicken hutch small those bast*rds were to just stand in.

For more on Cory Baker’s Phone Box, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HI3qlBXWVw


Rubyyy_Jones-Performs-swingamajig-2016Rubbyyy Jones

‘Queen of Queerlesque’, a new one for the event lexicon, Rubyyy Jones combines theatre with dance, narrative with striptease, and bundles the whole well executed cacophony into a poignant stage show. ‘One part Las Vegas Showgirl, one part Broadway Baby and one part Drag Queen’, Rubyyy Jones is a self described ‘Burlesque Sex Education Performer’ who cut her teeth as an actress before adopting the elongggated moniker.

But Jones’ neo burlesque performances carry edge of heartbreak, menace and politicized fun. Be it an internet chat room, a disappointing Christmas, or just a good old poke in the eye to stereotypes, Rubyyy Jones has a touch more than just something to say. And the stage is where she says it, like a velvet glove punching you in the face. Marvelous stuff.

For more on Rubyyy Jones, visit http://rubyyyjones.com/


Eliza DeLiteEliza-DeLite-at-Swingamajig

A British burlesque artist with exuberant flair, and more than a dash of Hollywood’s golden era about her sequins, Eliza DeLite ‘meticulously constructs her acts with a view to transport her audience to a place of visual beauty and wonderment’. Sounds about right.

Winning the British Female Crown 2012 and International Crown 2014 at the annual, London hosted, World Burlesque Games – Eliza DeLite is well established on the international cicuit. Her sets homage burlesque across the eras, from the more traditional tease to contemporary culture reference points such as Twin Peaks. She’s no stranger to the fan dace either… I will never look at a peacock in the same way again.

For more on Eliza DeLite visit http://www.elizadelite.com/


Other burlesque and cabaret acts appearing at Swingamajig 2016 include Kitty Bang Bang, Peggy DeLune, Equador the Wizard, Spider Salah, Dr Andrew Szydlo’s Brief History of BoomDiego Spano (as Charlie Chaplin) + The Brothers Swag.

And for the who, what, when & where’s for all the artists performing at Swingamagig 2016, check out the full event running order below.

Swingamajig 2016

Swingamajig 2016 line up

Swingamajig 2016 comes the Rainbow Venues in Digbeth on May 1st – running form 2pm until 6am. Tickets are priced at £22/£25/£30.

For the full Swingamagig line up, alongside everything else you need to know about the festival – including online tickets, visit http://swingamajig.co.uk/

For more on Rainbow Venues, visit http://therainbowvenues.co.uk/

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BPREVIEW: Drink and Draw @ Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (Edwardian Tea Rooms) 22.04.16

Drink and Draw @ Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 22.04.16Words by Olly MacNamee

Simon Myers and Nigel Hopkins’ doodliscious Drink and Draw returns to the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (BMAG) on Friday 22nd April – in conjunction with the wider Birmingham Comics Festival, which runs throughout April.Main with web colour bcg - lr

And, as such, it will be taking on a superhero theme that asks attendants (nearly 500 pencil-wielding patrons last time) to imagine they’re superheroes and to depict how they received their powers. A great idea with the potential for both serious and stoopid secret origin stories to spill forth onto the page.

Oh, and as always, it’s free.

Pencils and paper are provided in large amounts – at an event that encourages all and everyone, no matter how limited an artist you may be, to get involved, get merry and get sketching.

I attended the last one (somewhat more squiffy than initially planned) and couldn’t help noticing a wide section of Birmingham’s art communities were in attendance, from comic book artists to graffiti greats.

Indeed, both Drink and Draw organisers are artists in their own rights, with Simon Myers having recently created some great album cover parodies for several Dr Who comics. Some of Myers’ work is still available from Nostalgia & Comics and Birmingham’s own branch of Forbidden Planet.

Drink and Draw starts at 6.30pm and runs through to 10pm, with snacks and drinks available from the Edwardian Tea Room – the part of BMAG where the event is being hosted. And judging from last time, I’d get there early to find a seat.Edwardian Tea Rooms - Birmingham Musuem & Art Gallery

And if you’re still stuck for an idea, following the event’s superhero theme, soak in Birmingham Review’s handy guide to secret origin stories:

Step One: Have your hero lose a loved one (or two)
The loss of a loved one is a solid backstory for many a superhero. Spidey lost Uncle Ben to an ungrateful thief, the Hulk’s mother was killed by his father, whilst Superman was even more unlucky – losing both his Kryptonian parents and his adoptive parents, the Kents. And yet, Supes never went all mean and moody. Unlike Bruce Wayne, who only lost one set of parents but was scarred for life. If only he’d had the child therapy he so clearly needed.

Step Two: The costume
The costume should reflect your character’s powers. Whether it’s the wings on Flash’s mask, reminiscent of the winged helmet of Hermes – the messenger of the gods, or the funky webbing of Spider-man’s outfit; let the bad guys know what they’re up against.

Drink and Draw characters - web coloursStep Three: The arch-enemy
The arch-enemy is usually, in some ways, the dual opposite of the hero, as best summed up in the weird, twisted relationship Batman and The Joker have always had. Two mad men in suits, with at least one of them recognising their madness. But then, as a billionaire, who would dare tell Batman that he’s, well, bat-shit crazy.

Step Four: Anything is possible
Let your imagination (and a few beers) take the driving seat and have fun with your ideas. The history of comics has shown us that even the daftest of ideas can be long lasting. Look at superhero names such as Bouncing Boy (who can inflate his body up to beach ball proportions), Matter Eating Lad (who can eat all matter) and Sun Boy – all members of the goofiest super team I’ve even had the privilege of reading, The Legion of Super-Heroes.

Drink and Draw takes place at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (Edwardian Tea Rooms) on 22nd April, between 6.30pm-10pm. Entry to the event is free.

For direct information, visit http://www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/bmag/whats-on/edwardian-tea-rooms-late-drink-and-draw

For more from Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, visit http://www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/bmag

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