OPINION: Shouting in the dark

Words by Ed King

There is a side to me I don’t like. A small boy stomping his feet through the halls of men. It comes out in conversation first, then in the tone of my voice, and if we’re all really lucky I’ll stand up to underline my point. Adult churlishness born from a child in need and a lifelong trait that can be surmised in two words.

Hear me.

I was out drinking the other day, at a local pub with enough familiarity for me to know both the people in my peripheries as well as those at my table. It was a sunny afternoon, in every sense of the expression; the sky was clear and the beer garden alive, and I was happy. I am happy. And sitting with a relatively full pocket and belly I was better than happy, I was content. Then someone I don’t know mentions a man I’ve never met – a public figure prominent in certain circles – and my options cascade across the picnic bench with that-oh-so-tired rising inflection, like an acerbic stand up when they no longer care for their audience.

My point was valid and referenced, sure, as Bill Hicks said, “you can’t be this much of an asshole without the truth on your side.” But my delivery was tinged with the desperate cries from that bottomless pit where I assume no one is listening to me. So I didn’t stop, becoming more exasperated with each empty reply, when all anyone around me wanted to do was play nice. Sunny afternoon, pub, friends, you get the picture. I knew I was doing it too. I knew then and I know now, and I’ll know every time I do it again. But I’ll do it again.

Please, hear me.

I also know why I do this, which is the real kicker. Years of sober analysis had made this pretty clear to me. But that’s a different op-ed. This is about my frustration at myself, and that the only thing worse than putting your hand back in the flame is knowing it’ll hurt when you do. This is the side I really don’t like, my narcissistic self harm – a perpetual commitment to fucking it up, with an incredulous scorn as the earth doesn’t stop turning when I do. I’m being unfair to myself here, perhaps; I’d honestly hate to have that attention or focus. And it’s probably not as bad as it is in my head. Anymore. But I dislike myself intensely for still shouting in the dark and even more for wanting the whole world to listen. It’s my ego and it hurts me. It hurts others. It’s the child of my youth banging his small fists on the table. It’s the loss of security, and it’s a dark corner that I simply do not need to escape from anymore.

I need you to hear me.

It’s also why I write, my chosen form of expression from an early age and across both my adult and professional lives. I can play with words when I write; I can use them accordingly, or twist them for humour and simple pleasures. I can use them loudly or quietly. I can sharpen them to such a point that you won’t be aware of the attack until they’re impaled in your midriff. But with the written word you get stop, you get to edit, and there is no audible tone of voice. Things ‘work’ in a way that they don’t when I speak, which makes my time in the rest of the world often fraught and unnecessary. I like myself more when I write, and I sense other people like me more too. And greatest of all, for everyone, I don’t have to shout. I don’t have to steamroll a conversation. What I wanted to say will sit there, stoic and silent, until you arrive at it without me having to stand up or open my mouth. Joy, all round. And breathe out.

I read an interview with Anthony Hopkins a few days ago, hooked onto his performance as King Lear but delving a little further behind the curtain; Hopkins has a history of ill temper and aggression, one that cost him two marriages and a relationship with his daughter. And whilst I’m not sure I fully believe him, it sounds like something you practice saying because you need to, but I’ve been trying to keep the following words in my mind:

“I don’t get into arguments, I don’t offer opinions, and I think if you do that, then the anger finally begins to transform into drive.”

This is what I would like you to hear.

The man across from us, the one with steroid stained muscles and strained eyes, has taken his shirt off. His friends are still arguing with the bouncer, a curiously small man, and have begun rolling both their shoulders and the bottles in their hands. I can hear the voices raise but I don’t think anything will happen, there are too many families around and it’s not that kind of afternoon. It would be too unpleasant. And I don’t get the sense that any of them, not even the man who is now literally beating his chest, actually want it to escalate. It’s just posturing; it’s just alcohol, testosterone, and honestly it’s a little dull. So I tune out, letting the angry declarations fall short of my eardrums.

Even his friends are starting to turn their backs now, I don’t blame them. It’s a beautiful afternoon, we’re surrounded by people who care for us, and who wants to listen to nonsense like that.

Ed King is a Birmingham based writer and editor. His book, Snapshots of Mumbai, is set for release through Review Publishing in August 2018 – featuring pictures from Paul Ward. Follow Ed King @edking2210

For more on Snapshots of Mumbai, visit www.snapshotsofmumbai.com

BPREVIEW: An Indian Summer with Paul John Indian Single Malt Whisky @ The Electric Cinema on 17.08.17 & The Wellington on 25.08.17

BPREVIEW: An Indian Summer with Paul John Indian Single Malt Whisky @ The Electric Cinema on 17.08.17 and The Wellington on 25.08.17Words by Ed King

Paul John Single Malt Whisky invites you to enjoy their ‘Indian Summer’ with two tasting events this August – as presented by The Birmingham Whisky Club.

There’s a film/cocktail combo at The Electric Cinema on Thursday 17th August, followed by a more extensive tasting session at The Wellington on Friday 25th. We’ve gone into a little more detail about each event below, but for direct info and booking from The Birmingham Whisky Club, click here.

But first a little background… Paul John Indian Single Malt Whisky is distilled in the small(ish) Goan town of Cuncolim – mainly known for its large church, larger private hospital, and sewing the violent seeds for the eventual liberalisation/invasion of the Portuguese stronghold. What better place to brew moonshine.

Straddling the NH66 (or the Panvel/Kochi highway) Cuncolim is a prime place on the modern silk route to distribute domestically produced liquor – a vice that’s not officially welcome in every pocket of India, but one that fuels the tourist trade of the Konkan coast line.

And whilst the neighbouring state of Maharastra has become quite prominent for its wine in recent years, Goa is still the place for beer and spirits – between a Kingfisher and a seven year Old Monk (or a Honey Bee, should you have a taste for formaldehyde) most restaurants and hotels in ‘The Pearl’ are on a constant lookout for more premium products. So if you’re going to start a single malt distillery anywhere in India, Goa’s probably your best bet. Or the Foreign Correspondents Club in Delhi.

So what are these August tasting sessions all about then? On a mission to booze up every corner of Birmingham, in the most refined way of course, The Birmingham Whisky Club has come up with two cross promotions to whet your whistle with some Paul John Indian Single Malt Whisky – have a looksie below:

Thursday 17th August / The Darjeeling Limited cocktail tasting @ The Electric Cinema

Serving two whisky cocktails – prepared by the owner of the cocktail taster menu magnificence that is Smultronställe (Go Team Birmingham) – we are invited to sit back, relax and watch Wes Anderson’s film about frustrated bothers. You know, the one set on a train that runs through North East India… like haggis in St Ives. But who really cares when it’s Wes Anderson and cocktails from Smultronställe. Doors open at 8pm, with tickets to this sub continental love in priced between £25.50 – £30.30 (+booking fee). For direct info and online booking, click here.

Friday 25th August / A Taste of Goa with Paul John Indian Single Malt

Now this looks like fun. Paul John Single Malt Whisky’s UK brand ambassador, Shilton Almeida, will be walking us through five of their ‘delicious whiskies’ and ‘delectable drams’. On the menu are: Paul John Brilliance, Paul John Edited, Paul John Bold, Paul John Classic, Paul John Peated – with some background, history and the ‘many personalities of Goa’ that surround each single malt being presented by Mr Almeida. Just a shame we won’t be sitting on the banks of the Mandovi, but The Wellington will do. Until the end of monsoon, anyway. Tasting starts at 7pm, with tickets priced at £20 (standard) or £15 to members of The Birmingham Whisky Club. Or direct event details and online booking, click here.

For more on Paul John Indian Single Malt, visit www.pauljohnwhisky.com

For more from The Birmingham Whisky Club, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.thebirminghamwhiskyclub.co.uk


For more on The Electric Cinema, visit www.theelectric.co.uk

For more on The Wellington, visit www.thewellingtonrealale.co.uk

For more on Smultronställe, visit www.barsmultronstalle.co.uk

BPREVIEW: Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam – album launch ‘all dayer’ @ Hare & Hounds 05.07.17

BPREVIEW: Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam - album launch 'all dayer' @ Hare & Hounds 05.07.17

Words by Ed King

On Saturday 5th August, Sunshine Frisbee Lasterbeam (SFL) host and headline an ‘all dayer’ at the Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath – launching their double LP, Sink or Swim / The Mirage.

Joining SFL will be a bevy of the great, good and decidedly gifted of the Birmingham DIY scene, with Black Mekon, YR Poetry, Sonne Mond, Burning Alms, Bad Girlfriend, Repeat of Last Week and Exotic Pets all playing live alongside DJ sets from This is Tmrw and Victories at Sea. Blimey.

Doors open at 4pm with tickets priced at £7 (advance) and £10 (otd) – as presented by This is Tmrw. For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam have been out on the road with YR Poetry, touring their latest double release since the 25th July. The August 5th gig at the Hare & Hounds is a stone’s throw from the end of their oddly alliterated tour and a chance to see the MAMMOTH 20 track LP get some serious stage time. Plus check the wider line up… for a tenner downwards you can’t really go wrong there.BPREVIEW: Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam – album launch @ Hare & Hounds 05.07.17

So what’s the ‘ere LP all about then? Littered with short, sharp shocks the Sink or Swim / The Mirage double whammy is the fourth/fifth long playing endevour from SFL. Opening with the twisted garage rock  of one of the album’s title tracks, we slide into some kick drum led punk pretty quick and then bounce around the two.

The other title track delivers a longer wall of sound and pedal kissed rock, before introducing a second half that would have felt right at home on the sticky Hummingbird and Black Horse dance floors of yore… that’ll separate the men from the older men. Then there’s the album’s closer, ‘Drunk in the Sea’, with a psychedelic kiss goodnight.

But it’s live you want to see this band. The last time Birmingham Review stood in front of Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam was back in May this year, again at the Hare & Hounds, when they supported Victories at Sea. Ouch. Then there’s the wider line up to this ‘all dayer’ album launch who are, for the most part, pretty high on our ‘I’ll call in sick tomorrow’ list.

Can’t argue at that for a crinkled Charles Darwin; but if you need a little more twist to your arm…

‘Sink or Swim’ – Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam


The Mirage – Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam

Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam headline and host their ‘all dayer’ album launch for Sink or Swim / The Mirage at the Hare & Hounds on Saturday 5th August – as presented by This is Tmrw. For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

For more on Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam, visit www.sunshinefrisbeelaserbeam.bandcamp.com

For more from the Hare & Hounds, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk

For more from This is Tmrw, visit www.thisistmrw.co.uk

BPREVIEW: Beyond the Tracks @ Eastside Park 15-17.09.17

BPREVIEW: Beyond the Tracks @ Eastside Park 15-17.09.17

Words by Damien Russell & Paul Gallear

Birmingham’s Beyond the Tracks festival is set to take over the Eastside City Park, outside Millennium Point, from the 15th to the 17th of September.

This new three day addition to the Birmingham festival scene has a stellar line-up and caters for an eclectic audience incorporating rock, britpop, dance, electronica and more. And it’s not just music that’s on offer, the festival website boasts a ‘great selection of gourmet caterers to suit all tastes and appetites’ as well as ‘a choice of well stocked and well staffed bars’ which, while not essential for the festival experience, will certainly be reassuring for some (me included).

Beyond the Tracks is one of the biggest city centre festivals this year and although there’s no camping, being just five minutes from Moor Street Station the transport access is good enough to take away the sting of the daily ‘commute’. For direct festival info, including more about getting on and off site, click here. For information and online bookings for all Birmingham city centre stations (Moor Street, New Street and Snow Hill) click here to visit Trainline.com

On Friday 15th September the gates will open at 14:00 and this is definitely your day if you like electronic music. Orbital, reunited and with a new track released this February, are the headliners – with Leftfield performing their 1995 album Leftism in full as part of their anniversary tour. There will be a DJ set BPREVIEW: Leftfield @ Beyond the Tracks - Friday 15th Septemberfrom electronica stalwarts Faithless, with Australia’s Jagwar Ma also providing a touch of psychedelia to the Friday night bill.

Beyond the Tracks opening night also sees the return of the Higher Intelligence Agency (HIA) to our city’s soundsytems, who will no doubt bring the old ambient/Oscillate crowd out from under whatever chamomile flavoured rock of lost serotonin they are currently resting – Birmingham Review’s editor included. HIA are also hosting an unofficial after party at Centrala on Friday night, for direct info click here.

On Saturday and Sunday the gates open at midday, with both days set to have a more rock-based line up. There are also a number of notable local names across the weekend, including Saturday’s headliners – britpop veterans Ocean Colour Scene.

Saturday daytime the event openers are Penkridge based indie-rockers Sugarthief, who have had an impressive festival run this year including Y Not and Kendal Calling. They are followed by ‘experimental’ Birmingham band Health & Efficiency who make me think of what indie would sound like if it were invented in the 80’s. Noise punk fuzz merchants Table Scraps are up next, who recently spoke to our own Ed King at their recent double a-side launch with Black Mekon at the Hare & Hounds – click here for the Birmingham Review of the gig, alongside links to the full interview.

BPREVIEW: Table Scraps @ Beyond the Tracks - Saturday 16th SeptemberAlso performing across the Saturday programme are The Americas, with their driving up-tempo rock (reminiscent of Tom Petty) describing themselves as ‘music to ride a motorbike to’. Then there’s Midlands based artfully crafted classic college-rock quartet Superfood and B-Town indie-pop rockers Jaws, both coming back to Birmingham after some significant success outside the city walls. The Twang, who are celebrating the ten-year anniversary of their debut album Love It When I Feel Like This, Maxïmo Park – touring following the release or their 2017 album Rick To Exist – and The Coral complete an indie side to the day’s line-up. To read Damien Russell’s Birmingham Review of Risk To Exist, click here.

For those still craving more following all that, there is an after party running from 23:00 to 03:00 at the O2 Institute featuring a DJ set from Maxïmo Park, Blast Off DJs and Dave Southam of Snobs – click here for more details or check out the banner ad below.

For those not exhausted by the previous two days partying, Sunday is a more eclectic line-up with artists such as Scottish 80’s alternative rockers The Jesus and Mary Chain – touring their new album Damage and Joy, Reading’s shoegaze rockers Slowdive – promoting their eponymous album (the first for twenty-two years) and Birmingham’s own Editors bringing the proceedings to a close.

Beyond the TracksBPREVIEW: Slowdive @ Beyond the Tracks - Sunday 17th September‘ final day will be opened by Dorcha – ‘a five piece Birmingham band of synths, strings, electronics and heavy beats led by composer Anna Palmer’. Then throughout Sunday we will see sets from Victories at Sea – described by The Guardian as ‘dolorous indie disco with a fresh spin’, Goodnight Lenin – who have recently announced they are recording their second album, and psychedelic industrial rockers BLACKASH.

I think it would be fair to say that there is something for everyone on the Beyond the Tracks bill and seeing big national names with current tours/releases lined up side by side with solid local acts is a pleasure. The organisers seem to have considered every act and made sure they all have a connection to the area or to the 2017 music scene – an attention to detail that bodes well for the wider event.

Speaking of the wider event, while information is a little sparse the promotional video for the festival (link below) goes into a little more about what non-music elements we can expect. There is the promise of ‘fine ales, imported lagers, craft beers, scrumpy cider shack, quality cocktails and fine wines & fizz’ for the drinkers, alongside the aforementioned ‘gourmet street food & snacks’ to soak it all up with and and keep you going.

Then for those moments when the music has got a bit too much, we have some ‘cabaret side shows and walkabouts’ for the grown ups. Not a lot on the programme for children though, with the Beyond the Tracks organsisers issuing the following statement:

‘The event is aimed at an adult audience. There will not be any specific children’s entertainment on site with the focus primarily on the music itself. That said, we are keen not to exclude anyone from the event so have not set an arbitrary age limit for this year. However, all persons do require a full ticket for the event regardless of age’.

But seriously, who under the age of… is going to be losing it to Orbital or The Jesus and Mary Train? Also worth noting Beyond the Tracks has a no re-entry policy and once you’re in, you’re in. Although with a line-up like this I can’t see why anyone would possibly want to be ‘out’.

Beyond the Tracks 2017 – Official Trailer

Tickets for this event are £54.45 for individual day tickets, £145 for a weekend pass, and £11 for the Saturday night after party at the O2 Institute. 

For more on Beyond the Tracks, including full festival details and online ticket sales, visit www.beyondthetracks.org

BPREVIEW: Beyond the Tracks - after party @ O2 Institute 16..09.17

BPREVIEW: Regina Spektor @ Symphony Hall 05.08.17

BPREVIEW: Regina Spektor @ Symphony Hall 05.08.17

Words by Ed King

On Saturday 5th August, Regina Spektor comes to the Symphony Hall – performing in Birmingham as part of a six UK tour dates.

Doors at the Symphony Hall open at 7pm, with tickets priced between £30.50 and £38 as presented by SJM Concerts/Gigs & Tours. For direct gig info, including venue details and online tickets sales, click here.

So at the beginning of the week you’re making jokes about holding your heart for a Jewish redhead who can play the piano…

Born into a musical family, both performers and professors, Regina Spektor began playing piano as a young child growing up in Moscow. After her family left the USSR, as it was back in the late 80s’ perestroika, Regina Spektor eventually settled in the Bronx and began performing around the clubs and cafés of downtown New York. Piano based storytelling is perhaps one way to describe Spektor‘s style; socio-political and self analytical narratives, delivered over strong melodies with ivory at their heart is another. The classical training is there, the Jazz influences were there, and watching Regina Spektor’s finger work is like a master class in appropriate pressure. But there’s fun, self deprecation, the occasional horror story and above all honesty. So it’s a win.

After a few years grafting through the suitcase sales and self promotion of a truly DIY artist, Regina Spektor signed to the Warner’s subsidiary, Sire Records, to release Soviet Kitsch in 2004. But it would be the flurry of singles from her 2006 LP, Begin to Hope, that would start attracting the more mainstream success – although the album tracks such as ‘Samson’ and ‘Après Moi’ would be picked up and performed by Gwen Stefani and Peter Gabriel respectively.

The production partnership on Begin to Hope, with David Khane, would carry onto Spektor’s third album for Sire Records – releasing Far in 2009, with (…wait for it) Jeff Lynne also sitting in behind the glass (BOOM, a regional connection… Trinity Mirror’s click bait merchants would be proud). But Far would also deliver arguably some of Spektor’s most memorable songs, with the singles ‘The Calculation’ and ‘Eet’ backed up, even beaten, by the delicious ‘Folding Chair’ and personally pertinent ‘Laughing With’.

Two albums and eight years later, Regina Spektor is back globetrotting to promoter her latest LP Remember Us to Life – released in 2016 on Sire Records, the label Spektor has stuck to since first signing to them in 2004. The debut single from Spektor’s seventh studio album was ‘Bleeding Heart’, let loose into the world in July last year.

An official ‘Steinway Artist’, endorsed by the piano manufactures in 2012 (although having played on/preferred Steinway pianos throughout her career), Regina Spektor at the Symphony Hall is a promising marriage of artist and venue. It also gives me allows me to come up with a suitable pun for the one Sire Records album I haven’t mentioned yet.

Until then I’m going to make jokes about Donald Trump and Stan Kroenke being sat on by an escaped rhino… lets see if this universe stuff really works.

‘Bleeding Heart’ – Regina Spektor (from Remember Us to Life – look out for 3mins 46sec)


‘Samson’ – Regina Spektor (from Begin to Hope)

Regina Spektor comes to the Symphony Hall on Saturday 5th August, as presented by SJM Concerts/Gigs & Tours. For direct gig info, including venue details and online tickets sales, click here.

For more on Regina Spektor, visit www.reginaspektor.com

For more from the Town and Symphony Halls, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.thsh.co.uk

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