Words by Charlie Culverhouse
It’s the day of BIMM Birmingham’s Summer Festival and the weather is as miserable as it has been all week. Luckily for the ‘summer’ theme it hasn’t rained today, yet. I cross my fingers that the weather will allow festival goers to celebrate in the dry.
In the venue, I notice a lack of people. I get in early as I study at BIMM Birmingham and know musicians playing tonight, yet I see no-one around.
It’s strange seeing such a large venue so empty, but the emptiness also shows the lack of a summer theme – a few inflatable palm trees, beach balls and rubber rings, but nothing else suggesting a festival happening, which is further damped by the rain now starting up. I quickly start to feel underwhelmed – the music is set to beging in 10mins and the 600-person venue has a maximum of 40 people in it. ‘Summer’ pop music plays in the background, but is over-shadowed by the now pouring rain outside.
The venue feels dingy, too dark for a summer festival. There is no hustle and bustle. As the first act begin, with a simple acoustic song and lack of any audience, I find more interest in the Spiderman movie being oddly screened above the bar.
As The Asylum‘s main room slowly fills out, I notice no one looks particularly summery either – more like they’re in the middle of December. The definitive age gap separates the audience into two halves, the students and their friends running between the smoking area and the front of the crowd, whilst the older gig attendees spread across the back of the venue – enjoying the music without any external noise and chatter. The night is quickly dominated by acoustic songs, and as pleasant as everything sounds I crave something more upbeat. BIMM Birmingham’s Summer Festival was advertised as a ‘talent showcase’, but can you call it a showcase if there’s no genre diversity throughout the majority of the show?
The third song performed by Gerard Harrison is a soul cover of Lionel Ritchie’s ’All Night Long’, which starts the summer feel and lifts the mood of the whole crowd. More musical highlights include Sofia Jones’ cover of Toni Braxton’s ‘Un-Break My Heart’, which sounds so much like the original it’s crazy. Whilst Jones’ second performance, of Lenny Kravitz’s ‘Are You Gonna Go My Way?’, just proves her talent and genre diversity.
By this point in the evening people are starting to loosen up and have a good time, the drinks may be a factor in this. Well, they are for me. But each act only gets to play one or two songs before changing over, which creates a choppy feeling – with the frequent intervals making me loose interest too.
When the music isn’t playing I speak to William, who has been standing at the front of the venue for the majority of the night – singing and dancing through every song. “The event is fun and I will support my mates through everything they do,” explains William, “but I feel like it’s missing something. I want to hear more from some people and get really into the music, instead of feeling like I’m being interrupted halfway through.” I’m glad it’s not just me. Most of the people I chat to are also here for friends or children – mainly supporting who they know, which is emphasised as I see people leaving after whoever they’ve come to see has performed.
Hunger Moon’s performance is beautiful, as always. The crowd love it and the venue fills out even more. Felix brings a heavier sound, with harsh bass tones, and starts the long-waited transition to some heavier music – a move that I’m craving. The crowd seems to agree and meshes into one, filling the gap between those at standing the back and those dancing at the front. I understand why an event like this may leave heavier styles of music till the end of the night, but this left me (and arguably many of the rest of us) somewhat lost through the first three quarters of the show.
Sundogs end the night. I’m at the back of the venue, as by this point I can’t break through the crowd that has formed. Everyone who has been craving something heavier is now enjoying themselves, as they clearly wish they had been earlier; I’m even pulled into a dance circle, where I jump around with people I barely know having the time of my life and enjoying some really awesome music. It may even have stopped raining, but by now I’m having too much fun to check.
This is the perfect way to close off the evening, and I’m excited to see how future events held by BIMM Birmingham compare to this one – as their first Summer Festival ends in success. Things can only get bigger and better from here. We just need to find a reliable booking agent for sunshine.
For more on BIMM Birmingham, visit www.bimm.co.uk/birmingham
For more on Asylum, including venue details and further event listings, visit www.theasylumvenue.co.uk
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