THE GALLERY: The Hungry Ghosts – ‘Amerika/Lazaro’ single launch @ Centrala 22.07.17

THE GALLERY: The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

 

 

 

Words by Ed King / Original pics by Rob Hadley

On Saturday 22nd July, those slaughter house siblings let another one of their scaly offspring slither out unguarded across the plains… or if you’ve not read me write about them before, The Hungry Ghosts released a new single – their double a-side of ‘Amerika/Lazaro’.

Celebrating their latest twisted blues debauchery, The Hungry Ghosts had themselves a fine little single release shindig at Centrala – taking over the upstairs room (which we never knew existed until this event) for a smoke filled DIY affair on the banks of the Birmingham canal network. There was laughter, tears, mother’s ruin drunk straight from the bottle, probably a lost shoe or fractured corpse floating somewhere in the waters, plus a feast of friends coming from all across Albion for some superlative support. ‘Aint alliteration ace, anyway…

THE GALLERY: The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / August tour posterThe acts that came to play at The Hungry Ghosts‘ ‘Amerika/Lazaro’ single launch are (almost) all represented in glorious Technicolor below, but if you need a chronological roll call: You Dirty Blue, Charlie Boyer, Average Sex, The Lizards.

But honestly, I was having too much fun to seriously comment. Or commit. Or converse, rationally, at points. Although I’ll tell you this for nowt – The Hungry Ghosts have been embedding a new line up this year and the results are blisteringly promising, both on stage and off. I saw the five piece first at The Sunflower Lounge for Counteract’s 7th Birthday bash in April, with a fresh edge that had been somewhat needed. The fire was back. And their Centrala single launch was another notch above, so as trajectories go there’s something of a second attempt Icarus happening here.

Joe Joseph is fast becoming the front man of legends, whilst Billy Ollis seems to have tapped a little further into that dark spring that wells so wonderfully within him. Flanking the founders now are Jay Dyer and Emily Doyle, who feel like they have always been there, with Rich Burman proving that you can actually keep hold of a percussionist. He’s a keeper; they’re all keepers. This is the band The Hungry Ghosts should be.

So, blah blah blah. Adulation/opinion. Told you… having too much fun. But ‘Amerika’ rocks in every sense of the description so it’s all quite simple really:

1) Read my BPREVIEW here
2) Watch the official ‘Amerika’ trailer video via the link below
3) Buy a copy here – out on August 4th. This band needs to eat

‘Amerika’ – The Hungry Ghosts

Outside of all that, Rob Hadley had a more professional hat on at Centrala and there’s some smokey sex shots for you to skewer you’re way through – a few cherry picked below, or (heartily recommended) for the Full Flickr of Pics click here or on the relevant links.

And if you still need a guiding voice in your ear, you crazed bastard child of Bateman, then simply grab your leather bound Roget, flick those fingers to the words ‘sinister’, ‘gold’ and ‘vociferous’, then start to fill in the blanks. ‘Awesome’ might be worth a look too.

N.B. The Hungry Ghosts are back out on the road in August (tour poster above) so you’ll be able to see this for yourself. Diaries at the ready… Crofters Right (Bristol) 12th August, Shambala Festival (Northamptonshire) 26th August, Hare & Hounds (Kings Heath, B’ham) 27th August.

The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

THE GALLERY: The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

THE GALLERY: The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

THE GALLERY: The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

THE GALLERY: The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

THE GALLERY: The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

THE GALLERY: The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

THE GALLERY: The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

THE GALLERY: The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

For more on The Hungry Ghosts, visit www.thehungryghosts.co.uk 

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You Dirty Blue – supporting The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

THE GALLERY: You Dirty Blue – supporting The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

THE GALLERY: You Dirty Blue – supporting The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

THE GALLERY: You Dirty Blue – supporting The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

For more on You Dirty Blue, visit www.facebook.com/youdirtyblue 

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Charlie Boyer – supporting The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

THE GALLERY: Charlie Boyer – supporting The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

THE GALLERY: Charlie Boyer – supporting The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

THE GALLERY: Charlie Boyer – supporting The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

For more on Charlie Boyer/The Voyers, visit www.soundcloud.com/TheVoyeurs 

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Average Sex – supporting The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

THE GALLERY: Average Sex – supporting The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

THE GALLERY: Average Sex – supporting The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

THE GALLERY: Average Sex – supporting The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

For more on Average Sex, visit www.facebook.com/averagesex 

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The Lizards – supporting The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

THE GALLERY: The Lizards – supporting The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

THE GALLERY: The Lizards – supporting The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

THE GALLERY: The Lizards – supporting The Hungry Ghosts @ Centrala 22.07.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

For more on The Lizards, visit www.soundcloud.com/allyourfriendsarelizards

For more from Setting Son Records, visit www.facebook.com/settingsonrecords

For more from Centrala, visit www.centrala-space.org.uk

INTERVIEW: David Baldwin – Shock & Gore Festival @ The Electric 28.07 – 10.08.17

INTERVIEW: David Baldwin – Shock & Gore Festival @ The Electric 28.07 – 10.08.17 / Ed King - Birmingham Review

Words by Charlotte Heap / Original pics by Ed King

Walking through Southside to The Electric, I’m struck by how Birmingham behemoth Grand Central now looms over the Art Deco cinema.

Claiming to be the ‘UK’s oldest working cinema’ the building has hosted films since 1909 – originally known as Electric Theatre, then as numerous incarnations (including as a less than salubrious pornographic cinema in the seedy 1970s) until the business eventually died in the shadows of the then decrepit New Street station in 2003. Restored by local entrepreneur and filmmaker Tom Lawes, the Station Street cinema was re-opened as The Electric in 2004, seeking to entice film fans into its monochrome foyer with imaginative programming and broader range of genres than the mainstream theatres.

I’m interviewing David Baldwin, The Electric’s General Manager and the man behind the cinema’s annual Shock & Gore festival – a special programme of horror films, resurrected for the seventh year between 28th July to 10th August. As I arrive and peer into the gloom, squinting against the bright reflections of Grand Central, the doors suddenly swing open and I’m ushered into the faded grandeur of the foyer by a bow-tied barman. After being briefly mistaken for a job applicant, I’m taken down a dark and narrow staircase into the bowels of the building… a suitably spooky place to discuss Baldwin’s devilish brainchild.

David Baldwin joined Tom Lawes at The Electric in 2009, having been “made redundant” from a journalism career that he was glad to escape from. “I could see the way the (newspaper) industry was going”, explains Baldwin. “Tom (Lawes) takes less of a front seat now; he has a lot of fingers in a lot of pies with his films and stuff. Sam (the bow-tied barman) and I do the programming and managing now.”

Since 2009 people’s proclivity for streaming films at home has increased, not to mention the opening of the Everyman and The Mockingbird cinemas, so there is a constant challenge to encourage people into The Electric. One way to tackle this is ‘inventive’ programming. Sitting on a plush velvet sofa, David Baldwin acknowledges the need for a seven year old Shock & Gore to attract the hoards – stating that while it would be easy to show “just zombie films and the classics, we don’t want it to be films you can just watch at home.”

So the pressure is on, as Baldwin and his team “mix it up with special events, Q&As and previews, to create something that’s a bit more inventive. Horror gets a bad rep because you can make it cheaply. There’s a lot of shit out there but there’s great stuff coming out and we’ve found the good stuff and put it in the Shock & Gore programme.” He is also particularly excited about a possibly unappetising feature of the 2017 programme: “The Wickerman showing with themed food and drink is one we’ve been wanting to do for a while; we’re working with Conjurer’s Kitchen and it will be particularly odd. There’ll be edible foreskins…”

INTERVIEW: David Baldwin – Shock & Gore Festival @ The Electric 28.07 – 10.08.17 / Ed King - Birmingham ReviewHaving picked up on the penis-related snacks in the programme, I’m glad David Baldwin raised this. It’s unusual to see food and drink teamed with horror, given that many people (ok, me) can’t contemplate eating while watching a gruesome film. Baldwin emphasises that “Conjurer’s Kitchen are artists and we’re adding a live element that can’t be recreated at home. They design food that makes the experience interactive, even for the squeamish.” Laughing, he does admit to “reining in” Conjurer’s Kitchen for this viewing: “the foreskin is my limit.”

But for those with slightly more squeamish limits, Shock & Gore promises a programme with something for everyone.” A self-confessed 90s horror nerd David Baldwin is looking forward to the 20th Anniversary Shindig for vampire slaying heroine, Buffy – an event that has, albeit unsurprisingly to Baldwin, sold out before the festival opens. “I know my Buffy fans,” he explains, “Buffy and I went to school and university at the same time so our lives have always been on the same track… although I’m not a vampire slayer. Not that I know about anyway. Sadly.”

Perhaps more surprisingly though, Buffy’s smart and slightly sanitised slaying is one of many features in the 2017 Shock & Gore programme with strong female leads.  “People think it’s (horror films) just women getting chased by scary men. But there are so many great female roles like Buffy and Sigourney Weaver as Ripley. Horror is progressive – it subverts and surprises. I mean, in the 1970s no one would have thought Ripley would have survived. There are also a lot more female directors now and more meaty roles for women.”

INTERVIEW: David Baldwin – Shock & Gore Festival @ The Electric 28.07 – 10.08.17 / Ed King - Birmingham ReviewFor example Hounds of Love – an Australian serial killer horror scheduled for Sat 29th, shows the female ‘victim’ as “resourceful, using her brains and fighting back. There’s something satisfying about seeing a female character outwitting men… and causing them to die in horrible ways.”

Everyone means everyone though, and for families looking at the Shock & Gore programme this year David Baldwin recommends the 1954 original of Godzilla, “a silly monster movie”. There’s also Nicolas Roeg’s interpretation of the Roald Dahl classic, The Witches, which is still pitched at a family friendly audience despite my protestations that Angelica Huston as the Grand High Witch gave me nightmares as a child. “It’s a PG,” retorts Baldwin, “and there are some pretty tough kids out there”.

But a horror film festival will no doubt have certain expectations to live up to, no pun intended, and for those at the other end of the tough spectrum to me, “we’re showing a short film showcase,” tells Baldwin, “which is great because they’re punchy and inventive. Martyrs is from the New French Extremity genre and it’s pretty full on: flayings and extreme torture. But it’s a good film and the gore is part of the story; I’m not a fan of gore for gore’s sake.”

Pushed about a hardened horror fan’s gore limits, David Baldwin explains that a visceral, sweaty palmed, dry mouthed feeling is more what he loves about the genre, “when I was younger, The Ring remake, which I think is better than the original, screwed me up for a while. Nightmares and I actually felt my heart pumping, which is rare for me.”

Not often you hear of a remake surpassing the original; how are contemporary horror films holding their own against the classics? “Everyone always thinks it was better in their day,” tells Baldwin, “the 90s was my genre with the self-aware (horror) films, and then the torture porn era came along. It disappeared quite quickly apart from Saw”.INTERVIEW: David Baldwin – Shock & Gore Festival @ The Electric 28.07 – 10.08.17

And what about the modern perception that, as a society, we are becoming desensitised to certain horrors and violence on film? Has the genre become more shocking to challenge our numbness. “It feels as though we’re going back to a more classical, subtle style,” explains the horror festival curator, “like It Comes At Night, which is definitely a psychological style horror. But as make up and special effects get better, and young directors want to make their name, there are shocking things happening.” Although a lot of films still rely on the fear of the unseen, like The Conjouring films. “They’re based largely around shadows and creaky floorboards. There’ll always be that, it’ll never change.”

But if anything, David Baldwin see the horror genre leaning more towards exploiting society’s biggest issues to shock its audiences: “We’re showing Genocidal Organ (a Japanese Anime production) and whilst Japanese films are known for being quite extreme it’s an interesting and intelligent film as well – it’s about genocide and how we have become disconnected from it. Like we hear about people being murdered in media and then just go, ok and go and get a Starbucks.”

How about the more mainstream studios; are there any ‘big releases’ in the genre pitching social commentary as horror? “Get Out, which was really low budget but made a huge profit because it appealed to such a wide audience, made a comment on race-relations and modern day America. Saw 5 was about the failings of the US healthcare system. You don’t expect that in horror.”

INTERVIEW: David Baldwin – Shock & Gore Festival @ The Electric 28.07 – 10.08.17Also on the programme for Shock & Gore 2017 is The Ghoul – the latest sinister story from Ben Weatley, a contemporary filmmaker with a subtle fair for frightening his audiences. Plus one who’s no stranger to The Electric’s wider programme. “Ben Wheatley likes this place, our audience and thinks it’s a great thing for Birmingham,” tells David Baldwin. “It’s nice to hear that from people working in the industry.” A solid endorsement, something that no doubt helps in attracting audiences and industry alike to the Birmingham based cinema; Richard E Grant also took part in a recent Q&A at The Electric as part of the 30th anniversary of Withnail & I.

But this creative approach to programming is what’s needed on the front lines of an increasingly competitive Birmingham film scene: “we thought Everyman might steal our audience,” admits David Baldwin, “but our audience is different. People who go to the Everyman are not necessarily film fans – they’re going for a night out. Whereas people love the history of the place here (The Electric) and want to know what we’re showing, what special events we’ve got coming up.”

Competition can also encourage growth, with Birmingham’s reputation in the wider film industry on a promisingly upward keel in recent years. And like most ‘in the know’, David Baldwin alludes to Steven Knight’s (Peaky Blinders) quest to build a film studio in the second city: “He is still really trying,” tells Baldwin, “and if he does that, it’d be huge. There’s a lot of talented crew here (in Birmingham) but they have to go to London and elsewhere because there’s not much happening.”  

INTERVIEW: David Baldwin – Shock & Gore Festival @ The Electric 28.07 – 10.08.17 / Ed King - Birmingham Review“We need a cheerleader and a champion for film in Birmingham and Steven’s in a perfect position. There’s much more going on. We’ve had Spielberg, Kings from the Golden Circles, Girl with the Gift filming here. Enticing film crews here is a great way to change the perception of the city and Birmingham City Council have finally seen the light.” But what are the chances of an actual studio being built, is it ambition or pipe dream? “He’s (Steven Knight) had people over from Paramount looking at the site; he’s doing it.”

As I’m leaving The Electric, talk turns to the recent death of George Romero – one of the masters of modern horrors. And despite his respect for modern offerings from the genre, David Baldwin will be watching zombie-classic Dawn of the Dead rather than cult comedy Shawn of the Dead at Shock & Gore’s traditional late-night film screening party.

“It’s a great film,” explains Baldwin, “and a commentary on capitalism and shopping; it’s stood the test of time. The best stuff does, and the rest just disappears in to the ether. George Romero, the director, died the other day and he effectively created the zombie genre with Night of the Living Dead. So it’ll be a bit sad.” But Baldwin jokes, “he always said as a big zombie fan he won’t stay dead.”

As I step back outside, once more into the bright reflection of Grand Central – our city’s own trance-like stomping ground, I can only hope Birmingham’s film industry has better odds at its own resurrection.

For more on the Shock & Gore film festival, visit www.shockandgore.co.uk

For more from The Electric, including a full film/event programme and online ticket sales, visit www.theelectric.co.uk

BPREVIEW: The Hungry Ghosts – ‘Amerika/Lazaro’ single launch @ Centrala 22.07.17

Words by Ed King / Pic by Rob Hadley (Indie Images)

On Saturday 22nd July, The Hungry Ghosts will be celebrating the upcoming release of their ‘Amerika/Lazaro’ double a-side with a single showcase gig at Centrala (Minerva Works). Support comes from You Dirty Blue, Charlie Boyer (The Voyers), Average Sex, The Lizards.

Doors open at 7pm with tickets prices at £6.50 + booking fee. For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

Set for release on 4th August through Setting Son Records, ‘Amerika/Lazaro’ is the first release for The Hungry Ghosts with their new line up. Adding two new bodies and three new faces, the Redditch born purveyors of slaughterhouse blues are enjoying (we hope) a promising evolution this year – with height, grace, automaton time keeping and the occasional Manchester moshpit brawl now packed into The Mothership (The Hungry Ghosts’ trusty touring steed). Don’t mess with Emily Doyle I think is the message here.

So, any good..? The last time Birmingham Review saw The Hungry Ghosts was at Counteract’s 7th birthday in April, where the now five piece were supporting The Mother’s Earth Experiment and the world’s worst kept secret. And there was certainly something going on. BPREVIEW: The Hungry Ghosts - ‘Amerika/Lazaro’ single launch @ Centrala 22.07.17The new material – still spearheaded by Billy Ollis and Joe Joseph – is a continuation of this curve; fresh yet confidently identifiable, the two snippets we’ve been privy to so far are promising to say the least.

‘Amerika’ opens with swagger, low steel twangs and a guitar riff so addictive it would out twitch a crack baby, before Joe Joseph’s serrated drawl comes to drag us a little further through the grit. Think ‘Super King King’ after the longest sex of its life. Smeared with all the imagery, prophecy and the subtle flavour of gold rush fever you’d expect from a Hungry Ghosts track titled ‘Amerika’, this is a little lighter than their usual brand of twisted metal yet still immediately identifiable. Blood Red Songs is an awesome EP but this is the balance we’ve been waiting two years to hear.

Following the narrative is ‘Lazaro’, a more garage rock affair that introduces the ‘naked as a stranger’ protagonist who will be our resurrected guide through this double a-side. Punched out from the off, this side of the single is more raw and raucous – a hark back to the ‘Hares on the Mountain’ that hooked our cheeks in the first place. Awesome. Again. Double A.

And here’s a sneaky peak into the story of ‘Amerika’ and the dark tendrils that pulled it out from the collective subconscious. Or Joe, for short. The rest you’ll get to figure out on repeat from 4th August.

‘Amerika’ – The Hungry Ghosts

The Hungry Ghosts are launching their ‘Amerika/Lazaro’ double a-side at Centrala (Minerva Works) on Saturday 22nd July, with support from You Dirty Blue, Charlie Boyer, Average Sex, The Lizards. For direct event info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

For more on The Hungry Ghosts, visit www.thehungryghosts.co.uk

For more from Setting Son Records, visit www.facebook.com/settingsonrecords

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For more on You Dirty Blue, visit www.facebook.com/youdirtyblue

For more on Charlie Boyer/The Voyers, visit www.soundcloud.com/TheVoyeurs

For more on Average Sex, visit www.facebook.com/averagesex

For more on The Lizards, visit www.soundcloud.com/allyourfriendsarelizards

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For more from Centrala, visit www.centrala-space.org.uk

BREVIEW: Ani DiFranco @ Town Hall 30.06.17

BREVIEW: Ani DiFranco @ Town Hall 30.06.17 / Cameron Goodyer - Birmingham Review

Words by Ed King / Pics by Cameron Goodyer

This is a first. I’m early. Fifteen minutes early. Never happens… Ever.

But the God of Surprises is on the warpath, as tonight’s Ani DiFanco gig at the Town Hall has undersold to the point that they’ve closed the Circle. What, the..? This is an artist that can sell out two nights at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, back to back, with a mail out and an advert in the Guardian Guide.

OK, fair enough; there’s more to promotion than this. But I’ve been running events since before I was legally allowed to be in the venues that hosted them, so I have some perspective. Sort your shit out Birmingham or we’ll never get Ani DiFranco back in the city.

The review is also, now, a plea.

But also a review. Like an empty airplane I stretch out, bags and coats, as Chastity Brown opens up with her blues and bluegrass coated folk… I’m getting tired of genre descriptions. Braving the echoing cavern first, not an easy hurdle, Brown delivers a tight yet stripped back set – winning over the stalls only crowd with melody, candor and “…like a talk show host” instructions. Awesome stuff.

BREVIEW: Ani DiFranco @ Town Hall 30.06.17 / Cameron Goodyer - Birmingham ReviewThere’s now five albums out there for you to explore, Silhouette of Sirens released this May, but I am surprised to see Chastity Brown back in Birmingham so soon – having played the Hare & Hounds with Otis Gibbs only a couple of weeks before. Seems like another missed opportunity for the Righteous Babe roster too.

But support set turns into interval, interval turns into alcohol, alcohol turns into a more salacious atmosphere as the interval turns into the headline set; Ani DiFranco walks on to the Town Hall stage to a reassuringly huge reception.

Opening with ‘Not Angry Anymore’ there is immediate fire in the gut. It’s odd; I’m not used to seeing Ani DiFranco in front of anything less than wall to wall adulation, but there’s an edge tonight. The confidence and cocked head/wry smile deflections are still there but they’ve come out fighting. Maybe the challenge of the crowd-to-floor-space-index is a good thing, a blue touch paper to a performer who has worked her way with every step.

BREVIEW: Ani DiFranco @ Town Hall 30.06.17 / Cameron Goodyer - Birmingham ReviewA quick shout out to the calibre of the venue, a far cry from the “sticky floors” DiFranco is more used to playing on, and ‘Two Little Girls’ is introduced with a candid quip about the other person in the story. I love Little Plastic Castles and getting to see anything from it played live is a bucket list bullet point, but DiFranco punches this tale of love, heroin and the absurdity of self destruction off stage with tight control. Ferocious in all the right ways.

‘Allergic to Water’, the tile track from DiFranco’s last but one LP, comes out next with some beautifully tempered percussion from Terence Higgins. ‘Names and Dates and Places’ takes us back to the cutting teeth days of the Canadian folk circuits, before ‘Modulation’ is introduced as a byproduct of getting “married by accident… throw in a leather jacket and call it a good deal.”

Higgins is once again standout, with some short tap percussion, but the whole band are tight and together. At least that what it feels like from Row K. In fact the air is significantly lighter than it was before anyone started playing anything. I’ve seen Ani DiFranco at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and the Glee Club here in Birmingham; both great gigs but already, only a few songs in, this feels… something, I don’t know, more involved I guess. Stronger.

Then Bucket List A / Subsection 2B: ‘Swan Dive’. I’ve waited years to sing ‘…I’ve got better things to do than survive,’ in a room with its author. DiFranco rips through the song of fuck you/empowerment (or at least it is to me) as if the chords were searing flesh; unrelenting. Troubadour 101.

Some ‘Dithering’ next, before we are introduced to the first song tonight from Ani DiFranco’s most recent LP, Binary. Inspired by the stained glass hypocrisy and male governed dress up box that is a “proper working Church, with dudes in robes… I was in their way all day” – ‘Alrighty’ stalks its way off stage and into the BREVIEW: Ani DiFranco @ Town Hall 30.06.17 / Cameron Goodyer - Birmingham Reviewshadows, with some finally fixed distortion and lyrics as close to a pun as I’m comfortable to be. There’s a lot to revere in an Ani DiFranco back catalogue but it’s been the words that have pulled me in time after time. A significant songwriter, yes. But a writer.

Binary has some beautiful moments on it too, delivering important challenges through sometimes playful, yet acerbic and unassailable observations (to read my review of Binary, click here). But the “absurd” nature of the Church, with its anxious misogyny and religious patriarchy, is amongst the most important; a side step to the fight against male control of the female body, as delivered so deftly in ‘Play God’, being the next battle on the hill.

The set jumps from old to new, as Binary gets to show off more of its wares with some much earlier material filling in the gaps – including a musical pause to deliver ‘The Slant’, DiFranco’s prose only warning about ‘rhythms of attraction’ and the dangers of ‘something more they wanted’.

Then ‘Play God’ arrives. You can check out the official video below but this is Ani DiFranco on top form. And at a time when our Great Britain is preparing sell the right to choose for a heckle free Queen’s Speech it’s all the more important a message.BREVIEW: Ani DiFranco @ Town Hall 30.06.17 / Cameron Goodyer - Birmingham Review I’ve kept my political nose clean in recent months but all week I’ve wanted to throw chairs; now I just want to applaud.

With Chastity Brown back on stage, alongside the full band line up, the title track to Binary takes us into the encore. DiFranco’s latest LP is a mature call to arms, imploring a more reasoned approach to debate and understanding, as “consciousness is circular when consciousness is winning” – and the new material stands out, albeit a dangerous place to be against such a well loved and extensive portfolio. Played live tonight it’s superb, but its timing is just as important with the world’s three largest ‘democracies’ currently governed by bullies and murders. And this is not a left wing rally cry; actual bullies, actual murders.

We need to pull together, even if we don’t agree. We need to, quite simply, unite. We need to embrace musicians like Ani DiFranco who keep bringing something substantial to the table. And whilst this could neatly tie itself into my framing device – following on from the ‘surprise’ of an emptier Town Hall than the bill poster deserves – I don’t want to knock an audience who helped turn a kick in the teeth into a silver lining. Best Ani DiFranco gig I’ve been to.

Although there’s always one, and perhaps that’s the point. But I write my last line inspired by the loud complaints of an angry (and oddly vocal) woman we run into as we’re leaving the Town Hall; my final surprise of the evening.

So, a pro-lifer walks into an Ani DiFranco concert…

‘Play God’ – Ani DiFranco

Ani DiFranco released Binary on 9th June, through Righteous Babe Records and Aveline Records. For more on Ani DiFranco and the wider Righteous Babe roster, including online purchase points for the label’s entire portfolio, visit www.righteousbabe.com

For more on Chastity Brown, visit www.chastitybrownmusic.com

For more from the Town & Symphony Halls, including venue details and online ticket sales, visit www.www.thsh.co.uk

BREVIEW: Miranda Lee Richards @ Ort Café 28.06.17

BREVIEW: Miranda Lee Richards @ Ort Café 28.06.17 / Denise Wilson - Birmingham Review

 

 

 

Words by Ed King / Pics by Denise Wilson

On Wednesday 28th June, Miranda Lee Richards played at the Ort Café in Balsall Heath – with support from My Autumn Empire and Ryan Sparrow.

Traversing the Atlantic to tour our tiny isle, Richards is on the UK road promoting Existential Beast – the fourth LP in her portfolio and the second released via Invisible Hands Music, the UK based home of Tangerine Dream, Hugh Cornwell and now Miranda Lee.

BREVIEW: Ryan Sparrow – supporting Miranda Lee Richards @ Ort Café 28.06.17 / Denise Wilson - Birmingham ReviewOrt is a good home too, one of our favourites. Just big enough to feel the safety of numbers; just small enough for an estate agent’s ‘…intimate’ up sell. Plus you’ll probably run into the band or artist that you’ve gone there to see, which whilst being an absurd obligation-by-proxy for the performer is useful when dragging a crowd off the sofa and into the suburbs.

I arrive at Ort in time to catch Ryan Sparrow “…just get on with it”, a local singer/songwriter and the first support act tonight. Lap guitar with slap tap percussion, confident, controlled; I only catch one song (indeed, the last) but pencil his name on ‘the list’. Watch out Mr Sparrow, we’re coming for you…BREVIEW: My Autumn Empire – supporting Miranda Lee Richards @ Ort Café 28.06.17 / Denise Wilson - Birmingham Review

My Autumn Empire is the night’s second support act – the solo persona of ‘dream-pop experimentalists epic45’, or Ben as he’s called for short. Benjamin Thomas Holton is probably the safest/sanest middle ground, but my mind will now forever think of him as the bastard child of Neil Young and Message to Bears; sonorous vocals and jangly guitars, loops and peddles a plenty. Now what would our estate agent say… ‘atmospheric’.

“I’ll be playing from my last two records…” introduces Miranda Lee Richards, taking her place in front of the Ort crowd with seasoned confidence; intimate is not always a plus point, especially when there’s four of you in a corner.

BREVIEW: Miranda Lee Richards @ Ort Café 28.06.17 / Denise Wilson - Birmingham ReviewOpening with ‘Toyko’s Dancing’ – a melodic message of hope or dystopia (I could never quite work out which) from her 2016 LP, Echoes of the DreamtimeRichards’ voice lifts itself beautifully across the room. Her two guitar backing band (which makes three including her own) build a solid wall of Americana with country undertones, whist Sammy Smith picks up some equally beautiful harmonies. One track in; all is well.

‘On the Outside of Heaven’ picks up the pace next, with a lower range and tougher guitar punching out one of my favourite tracks from Richards’ more recent album. Then we’re BREVIEW: Miranda Lee Richards @ Ort Café 28.06.17 / Denise Wilson - Birmingham Reviewstraight into the “modern psychedelic trip” of ‘Lucid I Did Dream’ – another strong album track from Existential Beast, with a pretty superlative solo guitar from Randy Billings. Then back to Echoes… for ‘Colours So Fine’, more mellifluous vocals, guitar solos and melodies that boarder the addictive.

The most beautiful thing at play tonight is proficiency; Miranda Lee Richards and her band have absolute control over what their sound is, what it’s going to become and what they need to do to deliver it – even knowing “how many guitarist does it take to tune a twelve string?” (the correct answer beginning with, are we in Portugal?)

And Richards’ last two albums, released within eighteen months of each other, have shown a rounded development – two confident strides from a musician who you felt never wanted to run the majors’ race in the first place. Lyrically we’re heading more towards poetry than prose, which you could argue either way, but the overall feels immensely believable. An intelligent songwriter.

BREVIEW: Miranda Lee Richards @ Ort Café 28.06.17 / Denise Wilson - Birmingham ReviewHowever tonight’s set feels a touch like it’s suffering, which could be from the rigors road but could also be a tired dedication to a pitch perfect performance. There is a request to the sound desk in between each song, with an air of irritation at things most stages will have to contest with. Ha, what a criticism – stop being so good you meticulous creative. But as an audience member in a small room I want to be brought in, not just allowed.

BREVIEW: Miranda Lee Richards @ Ort Café 28.06.17 / Denise Wilson - Birmingham ReviewThe rest of the set moves from the country confessions of ‘Blood on My Hands’, through the “medieval folk… a template for a story” of ‘Oh Raven’, to the title and neighbor album tracks of Existential Beast – aspects of ‘Autumn Sun’ reminding me so much of ‘Thirteen’ I’ve been singing the Elliot Smith song all week. Well the second verse anyway.

Our encore begins with ‘Ashes and Seeds’ – the confident opening track to Existential Beast, and closes with a track I couldn’t cite retrospectively. Although I wish it had been ‘Golden Gate’.

But the walls warm up, the room stretches out, and after being reminded to “stay for a drink afterwards” half the room falls into the relaxed punch drunk camaraderie of a successful Christmas, albeit one spent at someone else’s house. Not a bad outcome for a 10,000 mile round trip; now’s where’s the corkscrew in this kitchen…

‘Lucid I Would Dream’ – Miranda Lee Richards

For more on Miranda Lee Richards, visit www.mirandaleerichards.com

For more from My Autumn Empire, visit www.myautumnempire.co.uk

For more from Ryan Sparrow, visit www.ryansparrowmusic.co.uk

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For more from Ort Cafe, including a full events programme and online ticket sales, visit www.ortcafe.co.uk

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