ED’S PICK: February 2018

Words by Ed King

The shortest month of the year is here. Luckily it’s also the turning point, as life starts to push up through the thaw and Percy Thrower can start planning his planters. OK, bad example, but there’s a joke about daisies in the somewhere.

But luckily for us mortal coilers, the venues and promoters of this city are still packing a pretty heavy punch with February’s event calendar. If there truly is no rest for the wicked, then it seem incongruous that anyone got Christmas presents this year.

Comedy starts strong with the ‘queen of the acerbic broad smile’, or Katherine Ryan as she’s known in  other publications, bringing her Glitter Room tour to the Symphony Hall (2nd Feb) – a week before the Machynlleth Comedy Festival Showcase (9th Feb) comes to mac with Joe Lycett, Tom Parry, Mike Bubbins, Rachel Parris and Danny Clives. Then it’s back to the Glee Club for a little end of the month self help, as Lloyd Griffiths (23rd Feb) walks us through what it’s like to feel in:Undated in ‘a show about overcoming the overwhelming.’ I call them mornings, but we’ll see what he brings to the table.

Hurst Street is the home of dance this month, with Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella coming to the Hippodrome (6th – 10th Feb) whilst round the corner DanceXchange and Mark Bruce Company present a reworking of Macbeth (8th-9th Feb). And no doubt making St Valentine’s Day less of a massacre for many in this city, see what I did there, Birmingham Royal Ballet present The Sleeping Beauty back at the Hippodrome (13th – 24th Feb).

Music has everyone from the soon to be great to the already good coming through the city, kicking off with a cross city battle between Peach Club at The Sunflower Lounge (6th Feb) and While She Sleeps at the O2 Institute (6th Feb). A week later we have Iron & Wine at Symphony Hall (13th Feb), followed by Bedford’s alt rockers Don Bronco at the O2 Academy (15th Feb) as Dermot Kennedy plays the O2 Institute (15th Feb). A day later there’s Mondo Royale spicing it up at the Actress & Bishop (16th Feb) bringing a few different strands of your music rainbow across our city. In the days after that, we see Cabbage at the Castle & Falcon (17th Feb), one not to be missed, The Ataris at The Asylum (17th Feb), Irit at the Glee Club (19th Feb), Laura Misch at the Hare & Hounds (20th Feb), Big Cat at the Indie Lounge in Selly Oak (23rd Feb) and Puma Blue at The Sunflower Lounge (24th Feb).

All the ‘big gigs’ this month are at the Genting Arena, in the shape of Imagine Dragons (24th Feb) and the man himself, or one of them at least, Morrissey (27th Feb). But there’s a few home grown releases this month worth saving your sheckles for too, as Amit Datani releases his debut solo album – Santiago (17th Feb) and Table Scraps send another fuzz monster into the world with their latest long player – Autonomy (23rd). Watch out for March’s listings for showcase gigs from both.

Exhibitions come from a multitude of angles this month, with the two blips on our radar being Factory Warhol at The Sunflower Lounge (10th Feb) and The Dekkan Trap from Sahej Rahal in mac’s First Floor Gallery (17th Feb) – with a few ancillary events to introduce both the artist and exhibition.

Some suitable love story based theatre starts treading the boards in this most Hallmark of months, with Penguins (1st –10th Feb) and Brief Encounter (2nd – 17th Feb) coming to the Birmingham REP, as The Last Five Years get played out at The Old Joint Stock (14th – 18th Feb). Then it’s the arguably less seductive A History of Heavy Metal with Andrew O’Neill & Band in mac’s Theatre (18th Feb), before the award winning Mental has a three day at The Old Joint Stock (21st – 23rd Feb) and Terence Rattigan’s The Windslow Boy begins it’s run at REP (21st Feb – 3rd Mar). And for one night only each, LEFTY SCUM: Josie Long, Jonny & The Baptists and Grace Petrie present a mix bag of ‘Music! Comedy! Revolutionary socialism’ again in mac’s Theatre (27th Feb) whilst back at The Old Joint Stock there is single An Act of Kindness (28th Feb) to round off the month. But don’t worry, it’ll be back in March.

So, enough to keep you lovebirds busy this month – or to distract the kings and queens of singledom on that depressing light letter box day. But whether you face this world alone or together there’s always Fight Club for £1 at The Mockingbird Kitchen & Cinema (12th Feb). Cheaper than a card, at least. 

For more on any of the events listed here, click on the highlighted hyperlink. Ed King is Editor-in-Chief of Review Publishing, which issues both the Birmingham Review and Birmingham Preview.

BREVIEW: Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17

Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham Review




Words by Lucy Mounfield / Pics by Aatish Ramchurn

When I last saw Cabbage they were supporting Blossoms at the O2 Academy and, I felt, they stole the show with a brief, explosive set. Now they’ve announced a new EP, The Extended Play of Cruelty, and their biggest headline tour to date. Can the energy of their supporting act scale to a full set?

The venue was the upstairs room at the O2 Institute in Digbeth; a small room, which made for a more intimate experience. The first band on were Strange Bones, a Blackpool outfit who deserve a special mention.

Frontman Bobby Bentham was an absolute madman, jumping off the stage and into the crowd with a technician frantically spooling out the microphone cable after him. At one point he donned a balaclava shouting “BIG SISTER IS WATCHING YOU”, before approaching various members of the audience chanting “behead the despots” Strange Bones - supporting Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham Reviewwhilst waving his finger across his throat in a slitting motion. The confrontational manner of his lyrics matched his onstage presence – it was a cross between a bank raid and a political rally – with Bentham often addressing the younger members in the audience as the future “kings and queens”. He certainly had them on his side by the end of Strange Bones‘ short set.

Next up were The Blinders who calmed things down with their psychedelic guitar focused set. If Strange Bones brutally confronted the audience with political agitation, The Blinders came out with a more reflective approach. The lyrics took the form of poetic musings on life and society whilst the dream-like quality of the guitar produced a trance effect, which in a way deflated the audience who had been provoked into a frenzy by Strange Bones. Consequently this made Cabbage‘s entrance less bombastic, after being lured into a sedative mood by The Blinders.

There’s an elephant in the room. Cabbage have been embroiled in controversy over the last couple of months after it was alleged that lead singer, Lee Broadbent, had sexually assaulted a concertgoer as part of his performance whilst supporting Kasabian. These claims are denied by the band.

The Blinders - supporting Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham ReviewIt’s tempting in these situations either to jump on the Twitter hate train or to leap to the defence of your favourite musicians, but I think we should do neither – we should refrain from indulging in speculation. I mention it because Cabbage made a point of thanking the audience for their commitment in the last “tough three months”, hastily adding that things can “get them into trouble”.

There was an overwhelming atmosphere of reciprocal gratitude and love between the band and the audience. Making such references indicated that perhaps Cabbage had lost a bit of confidence, something I felt with their quiet entrance and slow start, and clearly this allegation (and the negative media attention) has made the band more tentative . But by the end of the night Cabbage were back on form with the energy of the audience seeping into their set.

When I saw them last, Cabbage opened with ‘Uber Capitalist Death Trade’, which is a belter and probably their most recognisable track. This time they opened with ‘Terrorist Synthesiser’ which combines punk sensibilities, thumping drums with a funk edge, proving their dynamic range. They played a few new songs from their upcoming EP, including their new single ‘Celebration of a Disease’ which brought the audience to more of a quiet rumble instead of Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham Reviewthe loud cheering and singing which they did on Cabbage’s more memorable numbers.

The next new song (apologies, didn’t catch the name) proved more of a hit than the official single and could end up a fan favourite with an incredibly up-tempo drum beat and a good head banger. To keep up with the pace, singer Joe Martin raced through the lyrics half rapping them like a Streets song, which was fun but ultimately made it really difficult to understand the lyrics which are an important part of Cabbage‘s appeal.

Joe Martin got the crowd going with his ‘Dinner Lady’ and ‘Kevin’, the lyrics being chanted back by the audience and showing that Cabbage can dissect anything and everything to make a great song that resonates with both the disaffected youth and the beleaguered workforce.  ‘Tell Me Lies About Manchester’ was a particular favourite of the set – the hypnotic chorus and bass rumbled along with ska inflections, creating a fevered sense of anticipation for the frenzied ending. One more song was dedicated to their drummer, Asa Morley, and was a great show-piece for him and his kit.

Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham ReviewCabbage put on a good show. Both front men were dynamic, moving about the stage and interacting with the crowd;Joe Martin did his striptease routine and ended up in just his trousers. And I am pleased to report that the only groping I saw was from the audience, after Martin and Broadbent climbed up on the barriers and everyone in the the crowd went somewhat mad. By the end of their last song, ‘Uber Captalist Death Trade’, it was clear that Cabbage are adored by their fans; a relaxed and confident grin appeared on the band’s faces.

Cabbage‘s new songs may not be as rough and ready but they have shown that the band can evolve musically and challenge their punk roots.  However it can be hard to make out the words in their new material (which don’t have as much bite) and even the performances seemed tame – it doesn’t matter how much you’ve sharpened your rapier wit, if I can’t hear what you’re saying in a crowded room reverberating with amplified guitar chords then it falls flat.

Obviously these songs are new to both band and fans alike, so with practice and time they may well become more defined. Plus it’s all part of being the main act on the bill; I’ll just have to keep going to more Cabbage gigs to find out.

For more on Cabbage, visit www.ahcabbage.bandcamp.com

For more on The Blinders, visit www.soundcloud.com/the-blinders  

For more on Strange Bones, visit www.soundcloud.com/strangebones


For more from the O2 Institute, including full event listing and online ticket sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2institutebirmingham

For more from SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours, visit www.gigsandtours.com

BPREVIEW: Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17

BPREVIEW: Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17

Words by Lucy Mounfield

On Friday 30th June, Cabbage will take over the main stage at the 02 institute Digbeth, with support from The Blinders and Strange Bones. Doors open at 6pm with tickets priced at £11.50 (advance). For direct gig info and online ticket sales, click here.

This summer the Manchester five-piece are taking to venues across the UK in their biggest headline tour to date, following their recent stint with fellow Manchester band, Blossoms. Coming from the Scala in London (June 29th) to the 02 Institute in Birmingham (June 30th) and then onwards North to the Ritz Manchester (July 1st), expect to see Cabbage to pitch up at some major venues.  For full tour details from SJM/Gigs and Tours, click here.

Cabbage have recently announced their new The Extended Play of Cruelty EP – set for a digital release on July 21st, with a physical release on August 25th via Skeleton Key records. Cabbage have previously released their new single, ‘Celebration of A Disease’, which is out now and the opening track from the EP. The Extended Play of Cruelty EP comes after a short recording session with producers James Skelly and Richard Turvey at Liverpool’s Parr Street Studios. According to a post Cabbage’s Facebook page, “The Extended Play of Cruelty is our revisited conquest to our pop psychological platitudes. The deceit of man tests all in a moment of clarity and we deliver our position in a long search for Utopia. Our blend of fervent disdain is focused on local frustrations, whilst celebrating those who shall rise through the ashes.”

What looks like Cabbage’s thoughts on their The Extended Play of Cruelty EP does in fact read like a cultural and musical manifesto. Certainly, their new single is a seething comment on society’s unnatural fixation with social media that spreads like a ‘disease’ with ‘the corruption of technology’ breaking our ‘dreams’. Deep stuff, but not unexpected from a band who are known  for their politically and socially charged lyrics, and during the run up to the 2017 general election had the words ‘Vote Jeremy Corbyn’ on their drum kit.

The Extended Play Of Cruelty comes hot on the heels of their collection of early EP’s, called Young, Dumb and Full of… in January 2017; twelve songs of hard-hitting post-punk that bubble away with an energy that is not so far removed from The Sex Pistols. However, the darker, more punkier sound is somewhat lacking in their new single, ‘Celebration Of A Disease’ which still retains the heavy throng of the drums but lacks the slicing guitar that made some of their classic songs like ‘Uber Capitalist Death Trade’, ‘Necroflat in the Palace’, ‘Indispensable Pencil’ and ‘Terrorist Synthesiser’. But Cabbage are proving they have a lot more material to give and are by no means a flash in the pan. It will be interesting to see how their new song fares when played live, especially as Cabbage can deliver a ferociously intense set on stage.

(Lucy Mounfield last saw Cabbage playing at the O2 Academy in March, as part of the NME Awards Tour with Blossoms and Rory Wynne. Read her BREVIEW here)

Support band The Blinders are a three-piece alternative group from Doncaster who are now based in Manchester. Combining political punk-rock with ‘psychedelic poetry and tones’ to create visceral ‘punkedelic’ sound, the band seem an equal match for Cabbage’s raw yet thought provoking punk. Equally so, Blackpool rockers Strange Bones are putting a modern twist to punk with their stand out tune ‘God Save the Teen’ – a nod and a wink to The Sex Pistols’ punk anthem.

‘Celebration of a Disease’ – Cabbage

Cabbage play the O2 Institute on Friday 30th June, with support from The Blinders + Strange Bones. For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

For more on Cabbage, visit www.ahcabbage.bandcamp.com

For more on The Blinders, visit www.soundcloud.com/the-blinders  

For more on Strange Bones, visit www.soundcloud.com/strangebones


For more from the O2 Institute, including full event listing and online ticket sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2institutebirmingham

For more from SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours, visit www.gigsandtours.com

BREVIEW: Blossoms + Cabbage, Rory Wynne (NME Awards Tour) @ O2 Academy 24.03.17

BREVIEW: Blossoms (NME Awards Tour) @ O2 Academy 24.03.17 / Rob Hadley - Birmingham Review




Words by Lucy Mounfield / Pics by Rob Hadley

The show started with Rory ‘this song’s all about how good I am’ Wynne’s brand of indie rock. Wynne’s persona is charming, in an arrogant sort of way, like a budget Mick Jagger.

The only issue being I don’t think he’s got sufficient calibre of music behind him for it to work; he talks the talk, but at this point I don’t think he quite walks the walk. Although his set was fun and the crowd (albeit a bit thin on the ground) enjoyed it.

Next up were Cabbage, a wholly different story. Fronted by Lee Broadbent, heroically hobbling around with an injured pelvis (I initially thought the funny walk was part of the act) prowling about chewing the scenery and spewing beer everywhere.

Additional vocals and fronting duties came from Joe Martin (also on guitar) who was leaping about the place and tearing himself out of his shirt as if it were a straight jacket. Cabbage stole the show here, opening with the ferocious ‘Uber Capitalist Death Trade’ and barely letting up the intensity until their set was, regrettably, over.

Cabbage perform a high-energy post-punk with lyrical content drawing in equal parts on the political and the absurd. Alongside Broadbent and Martin, Cabbage are completed by Eoghan Clifford on guitar, Stephen Evans on bass, and Asa Morley on drums.

BREVIEW: Rory Wynne – supporting Blossoms (NME Awards Tour) @ O2 Academy 24.03.17 / Rob Hadley - Birmingham ReviewThe aforementioned ‘Uber Capitalist Death Trade’ is a breakneck speed punk anthem with a righteous ‘three chords and the truth’ approach, while subsequent tracks slowed things down and brought in more keyboards, played by Broadbent. Another stand out track was ‘Dinner Lady’, played towards the end of their set, with Martin’s rap-punk slur reminiscent of Joe Strummer. This left Blossoms with a hard act to follow, since their more down-tempo sound never quite reaches the same intensity. It felt a bit like the climax of tonight’s show was in the middle.

Finally, after some interlude recorded music (which people were inexplicably singing along to), Blossoms came onto the stage. The O2 Academy main room was absolutely packed by this point; a huge crowd had turned out. Blossoms began with ‘Honey Sweet’ – the fourth track of their BREVIEW: Cabbage – supporting Blossoms (NME Awards Tour) @ O2 Academy 24.03.17 / Rob Hadley - Birmingham Reviewnew LP, which was, like most of their tracks, a synth heavy mid-tempo affair with lots of chugging along on the guitars, topped off with Tom Ogden’s distinctive vocals. Charlie Salt’s bass is prominent and rather good on the funkier tracks like ‘Blow’, which Blossoms played towards the middle of their set.

Towards the end we had the acoustic ‘My Favourite Room’, along with some audience interaction – an intimate moment with Ogden alone on the stage, proving his abilities as a front man who can command and engage with an audience even in larger venues. However this section of the set ended with a medley of various cheesy songs (‘Last Christmas’?) which felt incongruous and like karaoke night down the pub. The audience loved it.

‘Cut Me and I’ll Bleed’ is one of the more interesting songs on Blossoms‘ debut/eponymous album, but played live it lost its psychedelic keyboard section under the wall of guitar and bass – although this might possibly have been the fault of the venue. Blossoms create a wall of sound composed out of the textures of the synths, guitars and bass; on record one can pick out the details, but live at the Blossoms (NME Awards Tour) @ O2 Academy 24.03.17 / Rob Hadley - Birmingham ReviewO2 Academy everything was a little too muddy for me. Cabbage were less susceptible to this, their sound more stripped down and in your face.

‘Charlemagne’ was the last track played, but the intensity produced by ‘Deep Grass’ (the second to last) was not followed through by such a well-known song. I particularly liked the jam section at the end of ‘Deep Grass’, it felt rhythmically interesting and you got the sense the band were enjoying themselves.

Interestingly, in terms of their music, Blossoms bear little or no resemblance to those mighty Mancunian bands to whom they have been compared: The Stone Roses and Oasis. Instead they came across as a kind of clean cut ‘mum friendly’ band performing a solid sort of indie rock. I feel the better moments were when they embraced the bassier, funkier aspects of their sound and they seemed to riff off one another – however these were the bits that seemed to bore the rest of the audience. Blossoms (NME Awards Tour) @ O2 Academy 24.03.17 / Rob Hadley - Birmingham Review

All in all, a good night. Blossoms, the main act, were certainly giving their fans a great time. But for me they were upstaged by the supporting act, Cabbage, whose frantic performance left little room to up the ante.


For more on Blossoms, visit www.blossomsband.co.uk

For more on Cabbage, visit www.ahcabbage.bandcamp.com

For more on Rory Wynne, visit www.rorywynne.co.uk


For more on the NME Awards Tour 2017, visit www.nme.com/awards/tour

For more from the O2 Academy, including full event listing and online ticket sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2institutebirmingham

For more from SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours, visit www.gigsandtours.com

BPREVIEW: Blossoms (NME Awards Tour) @ O2 Academy 24.03.17

Words by Lucy Mounfield / Pics courtesy of APB

On Wednesday 29th March, Blossoms perform at the O2 Academy (Birmingham) as part of the NME Awards Tour 2017 – with support from socio-political punks Cabbage, and Rory Wynne

Doors open at 7pm; the minimum age for entry is 14 with under 16s requiring adult accompaniment. Tickets are priced at £20.25 (+bf) – as presented by SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours. For direct gig info, including full venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

N.B. At the time of writing the O2 Academy (Birmingham) is one of the last remaining venues on the NME Awards Tour 2017 to have tickets to sell.  Please check availability before attending or click here for more info from the NME.

On the back of three years touring, and a string of singles and EP’s released, Blossoms hit the road again to promote their eponymous debut studio album. A bit of a warm up before they visit mainland Europe, North America and Canada, Blossoms will be back in the UK for festival season and a potential place in the hall of fame of Mancunian indie rock.

Blossoms arrived onto the music scene in 2014 with their singles ‘You Pulled a Gun On Me’ and ‘Blow’, the video for the latter being shot at the Fitzpatrick Scaffolding yard in Stockport that was their formative rehearsal space (owned by the grandfather of bass player, Charlie Salt). After building up a back catalogue of singles, Blossoms established an almost cult following with tunes like fan favourite ‘Charlemagne’. Their latest single, ‘Sweet Honey’, was released in February this year – once again featuring a who’s who of Stockport locations.

Blossoms‘ synth-rock sound has been labeled as ‘psychedelic’ by some critics but the band themselves arguably prefer to bask in the pop mainstream, cultivating a more mass appeal. Their nostalgia of The Stone Roses has brought older fans to this new band, whilst their sun blushed melodies found favour with today’s pop luvvies and teenage dreamers.

Blossom’s Mancunian roots are a big part of their music (and name – ‘Blossoms’ being a pub in Stockport) but can they be the sound of a new generation, or will their nostalgia tinged indie rock forever remind us of 00’s indie? A dichotomy which was arguably cemented by their support slot at one of The Stone Roses’ homecoming concerts last June.

But with Blossoms‘ debut LP already hitting the No #1 in both the UK and Scottish album charts, alongside a string a plaudits from artists including Johnny Marr and Ian Brown, Blossoms seem to be on their way to fulfilling their dream of being ‘massive’. And if their tour manager tweeting ‘I don’t think @BlossomsBand can fly economy anymore’ is anything to go, they’re becoming at least as recognisable as their musical heroes.

Support band on the NME Awards Tour 2017, Cabbage, will no doubt bring some heavy opinions and political clout to the O2 Academy (Birmingham) – alongside the self/social media professed doctor of music, Rory Wynne.

The five-piece Cabbage display ‘a penchant for juvenilia’, look childish (nappy wearing stage costumes) and seem a little… unhinged at times (check the official video to ‘Kevin’) but their appearance is deceiving. Often described as ‘Manchester’s next great…’ (I’m not sure how the headliners feel about this!?) Cabbage take their musical influences from band such as The Sex Pistols and Joy Division; their darker punkier sound with manic drums tackles Brexit, poverty and the boredom of everyday life. It will be interesting to see how Blossoms respond to such a rousing start.

‘Sweet Honey’ – Blossoms

Blossoms perform at the O2 Academy on Wednesday 29th March, with support from Cabbage + Rory Wynne – as presented SJM COncerts. For direct gig info and online tickets sales, click here.


For more on Blossoms, visit www.blossomsband.co.uk

For more on Cabbage, visit www.ahcabbage.bandcamp.com

For more on Rory Wynne, visit www.rorywynne.co.uk


For more on the NME Awards Tour 2017, visit www.nme.com/awards/tour

For more from the O2 Academy, including full event listing and online ticket sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2academybirmingham

For more from SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours, visit www.gigsandtours.com