Doors open at 6pm, with advance tickets available for a mere £7 sterling plus a smidgen of a booking fee… which works out at around £1.75 a band, so literally cheaper than chips. Although a small cone of chips are available across the road for £1.25, so literally cheaper than some chips.
Lice have been steadily creating that kind of hard earned hype for a couple of years now – burrowing deep into the Bristolian live music circuit, snapping up support slots with The Fall and Fat White Family, then heading out across the UK to open for Idles on a sell out nationwide tour.
Setting Son Records and RDE present The August Showcase – with Lice, The Lizards, The Hungry Ghosts, and Whitelight all playing at the Hare & Hounds on Sunday 12th August. For direct event information and links to online ticket sales, visit the Facebook Event Page by clicking here.
There will also be live music from The Original Players, The Equators, and Aphrodite Strings – alongside Digbeth Arts Markets, comedy, wellness therapies, and retro gaming from Dead Pixels. And whilst you can only eat and drink as much as you your wallet will allow, all the day’s entertainment is included in the ticket price, with no age restrictions.
Held in collaboration with the Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath Dining Club is the suburban split from the Digbeth based mothership – usually taking place on York Road, outside the venue that partners their Kings Heath events. Holding their first event at Highbury Hall back in April this year, Sunday 1st July marks the start of three further street food summer showcases at the Highbury Park based mansion.
How things change; it seems a long time ago that Digbeth Dining Club’s founder, Jack Brabant, gave up filming raves from across the globe to bring street food to the back streets of Birmingham – a culture of cuisine he had seen mushroom (pun intended) in London and further afield. Six years, in fact. But believe it or not, all this pop-up, avant garde, street/festival food malarkey started in our city from pretty much one box of bright sparks. And now the inferno is so rampant it’s hard to imagine Birmingham without it. Like Motorways or the Internet. Ah the youth of today, I remember when this were all Toys R Us and Woolworths…
Partnering with the Hare & Hounds seems like a shrewd move into the suburbs too, with the prolific entertainment venue having done more to shape the cultural cache of Kings Heath than a million plant pots or local councillors.
All that’s left to do is cherry pick (again, pun intended) a menu to put to the taste test, and after some grueling investigative journalism (eating) we’ve gone for The Middle Feast – the Lucy Rhodes run Persian pop up that has some of the best Kebabs, shawarmas, mezze, and flatbread that you can get your mits on this side of the Mediterranean.
And on Sunday 1st July, The Middle Feast will be presenting a new dish: Persian Spiced Buttermilk Fried Chicken, which comes with fries, slaw and harrisa mayo. Also available from The Middle Feast will be Cooked Whole Cauliflower Shawarma, Diced Lamb Kebab with Charcoal Hummus – plus a range of salads, smoked yogurt, sweet pickled radish, gluten free and vegan options.
And whilst we couldn’t 100% confirm it, if you see the Halloumi Fries on the menu then we strongly suggest grabbing some before they sell out. In fact, get us some whilst you’re there too.
As one of the most anticipated dates in the UK pop punk calendar, it’s safe to say Slam Dunk Festival are taking no prisoners with this year’s line up. With a bevy of bands and artists descending upon the NEC in just under a week’s time, I took it upon myself to comb through the roster and select a number that I personally love.
Holding Absence / Rock Sound Breakout Stage
Birmingham favourites, Holding Absence, are set to make their Slam Dunk debut this year on the Rock Sound Breakout Stage. Having recently announced the departure of guitarist Feisal El-Khazragi, it will be one of their first performances without him in their line up. But with Holding Absence recently nominated for Best British Breakthrough Band at the 2018 Heavy Metal Awards, plus playing a string of dates supporting Being as an Ocean across Europe in June, they’re certainly not letting El-Khazragi’s departure slow them down.
Represented by Sharptone Records – who bought us the likes of Don Broco, Miss May I and We Came As Romans – the Cardiff based band also recently toured and released a co-EP with Loathe titled This Is As One, which earned them numerous positive reviews from critics for tracks such as ‘Saint Cecilia’.
Holding Absence perform at 3:30pm on the Rock Sound Breakout Stage. For more on Holding Absence, visit www.holdingabsence.com
‘Saint Cecilia’ – Holding Absence
PVRIS / Jägermeister Main Stage
Having recently performed at Coachella, PVRIS will be returning to Birmingham hot off the heels of the American leg of their All We Know of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell tour – promoting their latest album of the same name.
Lynn Gunn’s dreamy vocals, combined with the band’s heavy rock influences, have earned them a dedicated fanbase and won them Rock Sound’s Artist of the Year Award back in 2017. Here’s hoping PVRIS also perform some tracks from their debut album, White Noise, with songs such as ‘St. Patrick’ and ‘My House’ being on my personal wish list.
PVRIS perform at 8:15 pm on the Jägermeister Main Stage. For more on PVRIS, visit www.pvris.com
‘Anyone Else’ – PVRIS
Taking Back Sunday / Monster Energy Main Stage
Returning to Slam Dunk for the 3rd time, Taking Back Sunday were in the first wave of bands to be confirmed to at perform this year’s festival.
Having released their 7th album, Tidal Waves, in September 2016, and parting ways with their original guitarist Eddie Rayes last month, it will be interesting to see if we get to hear any new material from the group. Although I’m hoping to hear classic tracks such as ‘You’re So Last Summer’ and ‘MakeDamnSure’ as well as songs such as ‘You Can’t Look Back’ from their latest album live.
Taking Back Sunday perform at 8:05pm on the Monster Energy Main Stage. For more on Taking Back Sunday, visit www.takingbacksunday.com
‘You’re So Last Summer’ – Taking Back Sunday
Astroid Boys / Impericon Stage
The Impericon stage will be hosting hardcore grime band Astroid Boys, who have always delivered impressive shows in Birmingham. Growing steadily since their formation back in 2012, they were bought to my attention after being featured in BBC Radio 4’s documentary Operation Grime, which tailed them on a tour across the UK.
Astroid Boys‘ music is not for the faint hearted – expect brutal lyrics addressing issues such as racism, mashed with hardcore and grime influences to create a sound you probably have never heard before… but will just as probably want to listen to again.
Astroid Boys perform at 2:20 pm on the Impericon Stage. For more on Astroid Boys, visit www.astroid-boys.com
‘Foreigners’ – Astroid Boys
As It Is / Signature Brew Stage
Announcing the August release of their latest album, The Great Depression, only a few days ago, Brighton based As It Is will be headlining the Signature Brew stage this year.
A band who’ve amassed a dedicated fan base with tracks such as ‘Dial Tones’ and ‘Hey Rachel’, their material is catchy, easy to listen to and fun – however it’s unfair to assume they lack a more serious side. Their latest release, ‘The Wounded World’, delves into a much darker side of their ever-expanding noise, having been cited by the band as a ‘new era’ of their music which expands on ‘the societal romanticisation of depression’ and ‘the disrepair of present-day human connection’.
As ever with this band, though, As It Is approach their subject with the respect and sensitivity it warrants – referencing their new material as a means for them to work to create a positive change for mental health.
The Key Club Acoustic Stage is hosting a stellar line up of bands and artists, including Birmingham’s Luke Rainsford – combining upbeat guitar with gut wrenching vocals, making music that is hard hitting but a real treat to listen to.
Having toured the UK extensively since the release of I Feel At Home With You in February 2017, and having recently released his latest EP, I Just Don’t Deserve To Be Loved, in April 2018, Rainsford’s music deals with difficult issues such as loss, bereavement, low self esteem and mental health. Good, honest stuff.
Australian trio, Stand Atlantic, will also be making their Slam Dunk debut this year, having recently toured with other performers such as ROAM and Knuckle Puck. With their latest EP, Sidewinder, reaching an impressive #10 on Rock Sound’s Top 50 Albums of 2017, and having been cited by Kerrang! as one of the hottest bands of 2018, Stand Atlantic are proving they’re a force to be reckoned with.
Claiming influences from Blink-182 to The 1975, they’re certainly considered a mixed bag musically too – but in the best possible way. Trust me. Go and listen to ‘Coffee at Midnight’. You can thank me later.
Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) comes to the NEC in Birmingham on 28th May. For direct information on Slam Dunk Festival 2018, including details on all the events happening across the UK, visit www.slamdunkmusic.com
A man stands in the doorway at the Hare & Hounds, gesticulating like a proud Neville Chamberlain. OK, bad example. But it’s 7:30pm, the venue has just opened, and there’s a queue forming behind him. As gigs on a school night go this is looking promising.
And so it should be, the once ‘rising balloon’ now ‘rock powerhouse’ of Rews have returned to the city – bolting a Birmingham gig onto the end of their UK spring tour, before finishing their run with dates in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Plus, they’ve sold out. On a Thursday. Something that’s a shiny badge of honour for bands that play in the second city, and one that is unassailable Rews deserve.
Since releasing their debut album, Pyro, back in November 2017, the Marshall signed two piece have been relentless in their performances and promotion – with their penultimate single, ‘Your Tears’, recently receiving a week of A-List airplay on Radio One. Rews are on the march, and it’s working. This is a band that you only have to see play once to become hooked. And from most of the DJs on Auntie’s No1 station to the room full of people coming tonight, there’s many who’d agree.
The Hare 2 continues to fill up, with the venue’s narrow stairs looking like a bathroom queue at a house party. Roddy Woomble is playing in Hare 1, launching the promo campaign of this year’s Mosley Folk Festival, and it’s a busy night all round in Kings Heath. The buzz in the air is both cliché and palpable, with a healthy half room turnout by the time Rews’ first support band, P.E.T, swagger on stage – dripping head to toe in punk paraphernalia and attitude.
“Take your hands off me, I’M NOT YOUR P.E.T”, declares front woman, Abi Whistance, screaming into the mic and over the crowd – who have edged closer to the stage to find out where this ‘tiny but mighty’ noise is coming from.
P.E.T are relatively fresh faces on the Birmingham live circuit, having formed as the leaves fell in 2017. But already they’re already picking up a wealth of support and steam, with their unrelenting thrash punk and dead pan humour – stabbing the ribcages of the establishment with ‘Eton Mess’, to cutting off those wandering hands with their eponymous opening track. It’s raw, unashamed, and musically solid. This is a band who could get somewhere, or take us all down in the most colourful of ways whilst trying. But I’d watch out for P.E.T… tonight’s ‘rising balloon’ baton has been firmly handed over.
The rolling cymbal crashes and rough vocals of You Dirty Blue are on stage next, washing the room with waves of psychedelic and garage rock. I’m reticent to call it ‘blues rock’ again, as the man to my left is currently reading the BPREVIEW for tonight’s gig, smirking, shaking his head like a straight laced Will Self, and muttering “…this is not blues”. He might even be right, in his lexicon and record collection at least, but it seems no one really cares as the Tamworth two piece kick out tracks from their Tough Crowd EP and beyond.
Walls of sound are built and knocked to the ground, riffs get scatter gunned, as Leon James’ rough but endearing vocals lead us through a Velvet Underground tinged Purple Haze with some Seattle seeded two fingers up. You Dirty Blue’s final track, of both tonight’s set and their Tough Crowd EP – ‘Gallow Dancer’, punches a particular hole in the room, with a melodic hook and chorus I dedicate to the smart phone wielding ‘man to my left’. It’s like drowning in a lava lamp whilst John Peel and Bruce Pavitt play you ‘some really cool shit’. And if you have any room on the inside of your forearm left, carve You Dirty Blue as a musical reminder. Awesome stuff.
Some set changes ensue and fervent mummering begins, as Rews get ready for their headline set – the eager beaver Thursday night crowd pushing itself towards the front of the stage. Awesome to see such enthusiasm, but not easy when you’re juggling drum kits on a busy stage. Lights down, lights up, mummering stops, and like the opening scene in Back to the Future (minus the clock, coffee or dog food) we are poised – somewhere a plectrum glints…
Immediate and personable, Rews (aka Shauna Tohill and Collette Williams) beam their appreciation to the crowd and across the room – launching into the staple of tracks from their debut album. ‘Let it Roll’ bounces off stage declaring the rock intentions of tonight’s set, reeling in an already health and safety defying audience with invisible fish hooks. No one here gets out alive, or at least until the end of the set, as the great and good from Pyro and beyond (…album two?) get a rigorous shake. Or even ‘Shake Shake’, but not until a little later.
There’s a real joy in watching Rews perform, and not just because their already tight performance seems even more polished this time around. It’s the sheer energy and enjoyment you get sweeping off stage. Rews are in Birmingham at the end of a long and arduous tour (…think snow, lots of snow) but tonight could be the first time they’ve stepped on stage after a month in the sun and several nights of interrupted sleep. The banter is great as well, with the closeness between the two musicians making the whole room feel part of something special.
Then comes ‘the moment’. Rews had alluded to adding a “sort of an electro acoustic rendition of one of our older songs” into the set, after their gig in Leeds a few nights before. And as Williams leaves her stool to join Tohill at the front of the stage, this is what we’re about to get – soft steel strings and a tapped out percussion deliver a stripped back version of ‘Everything’, one of Rews’ older tracks that is getting a post Pyro make-over. It’s beautiful. My job is to find words but often I can’t, and this just works. Rews work. Add your own hyperbole.
Crammed into the edges of the merch stand, I let the rest of the set wash through me. I think I scribble the words ‘triumphant’ and ‘step up’ into my notebook, but any serious reportage is done for the day. Thankfully there’s a load of pics to help you piece this night together (see below) if you weren’t there to witness it first hand – with the full Flickr of pics from Aatish Ramchurn here, and from Eleanor Sutcliffe here.
And it you didn’t make it to the Hare and Hounds on 22nd March, or if you’ve not seen this continuously impressive rock duo before, I strongly suggest checking Rews out for yourself. If you haven’t got a copy of Pyro, start there. But if you ever see them on a bill poster, in whatever corner of the globe you call home, then put your hands in your pocket and buy a ticket. It’s hard to imagine you’ll feel short changed. And next time Rews come back to Birmingham, you might want to move a little quickly whilst you’re at it.
“We were talking about this the other day… our second sold out show in the city. It’s absolutely fantastic. We’re so excited that there are people returning show after show to come and see us; it’s such an amazing atmosphere, we honestly can’t wait to come back.”
I’m catching up with Shauna Tohill and Collette Williams, aka Rews, as they travel from a debut gig in Leeds to another hot ticket show at the Sugarmill in Stoke. Birmingham is a few notches down on the tour post, with the rock powerhouse returning for their second consecutive sold out show in the city on 22nd March – this time playing at the well-loved and well-programmed Hare & Hounds, with local support from You Dirty Blue and P.E.T.
“It’s been really good,” explains Collette Williams – as I ask about the rest of Rews‘ tour, “and it’s nice to be able to get to some places that we haven’t yet been to before – we haven’t actually played in Leeds before, which is crazy. I used to go to Uni in Leeds and this is the first time I’ve been back in about eight years.”
“Yeah, it’s been really brilliant,” adds Shauna Tohill. “We were just a bit sad about having to reschedule some of the gigs to being with, we now have new dates for them, but it’s been amazing so far.”
Rews keep a pretty rigorous live and tour schedule, with a focused work ethic both on and off the road. But beginning their UK tour as the tabloid titled ‘beast from the east’ closed off half the country proved to be somewhat of a challenge.“The two dates we had to postpone were because people just physically get to the venues,” continues Tohill, “the roads were all closed. That’s was Newcastle and Glasgow… we’d never been to Glasgow before either.”
Back touring the UK and Ireland, still on the crest of “this Pyro wave”, Rews have had a significant year – not only with the release of their stellar debut album, but also racking up some serious time on the national airwaves. And not just the rock stations either, for a while it seemed Rews had polished off their shotguns and taken over Broadcasting House.
“It’s been incredible, but so strange,” tells Williams. “We keep getting messages from friends and family saying, ‘I’m in my car, driving back from work, and you’re on the radio at five o’clock’. The DJs were really supportive too and took the time to find out about us. Apart from Scott Mills, who didn’t, then went on to tell everyone I was an alcoholic and flower arranger – he was like, ‘let’s just coin her with something’ which was quite hilarious.” But however they got through the BBC’s front door, or whatever floral self-destruction may or may not have happened in the green room, Rews’ time on the air has certainly bolstered their growing army of fans. Then again, a week of having your single (‘Your Tears’) pushed across the biggest broadcaster in the county should pay some dividends.
But time and tide wait for no radio playlist, and ‘Shake Shake’ is the latest Rews single – released in February and already building momentum. “A lot of people have been making comments about it,” explains Tohill, “and some have been comparing it to the older version that we had.”‘Shake Shake’ was one of Rews’ original four singles, with the track first recorded and released in 2016. “but our ‘likes’ have gone up and you can see that reflected in people watching and interacting with it online. You can see that it’s been received well by people.”
“I guess we’ve got two different camps,” continues Williams, “we’ve got new fans who didn’t know the old version of it, but who love the energy of the new version. Then we’ve got the people who have been there from the start who can recognise it’s a different recording and a different sound. But when we play it live everyone loves it – it’s really energetic and they all get dancing to it, which is cool.”
Live gigs are where Rews undeniably make their mark, with such high octane and engaging shows you sometimes have to check there really are only two of them on stage. In your face Polyphonic Spree… But Pyro, Rews’ debut album that came out in November 2017 (read our Birmingham Review of Pyro here), is a ferocious first foot forward – an addictive ten track ‘avalanche’ of an album, with all the hallmarks of a rock classic in the making. Seriously, in about five years just wait for the listicles.
But Pyro also cemented their signing to Marshall Records, as Rews were one of the first UK bands to appear on the iconic rock brand’s recently formed label. “It’s been good,” explains Williams, “they’re quite hands off in their approach, which allows us some creative breathing space. But we’ve been with them a year and we’ve grown together, so I think they’ll be trying to kick it up a notch now – more international stuff, us getting out and playing more places we haven’t been to. There’s some exciting stuff on the horizon.”
“We do have some news…” adds Tohill, “but nothing we can tell you about now.” I’m guessing, and hoping, it has something to do with America. Rews would kill it in America.
But world domination aside, there are other good fights to fight – with Rews recently being pretty proactive on International Women’s Day, appearing in various panel discussions and interviews, as well an all-female gig in Brighton (if you get a chance, read the Women Who Rock feature on Mels Jukebox).
“There’s a whole combination of things, it can be quite complicated,” explains Tohill, as I ask the uncomfortably obvious question about ‘issues facing women in the music industry today’. “But I think a lot of it is just getting the right kind of support and respect really. Collette and I both find we’re well supported and respected, but there’s just, you know… sometimes, things like when you get groped whilst your having your photos taken. It’s not really on. It’s fine to give someone a hug, and some caring touch, but not anything more than that.”
“I think it’s about opportunities as well,” continues Williams. “There’s been a lot that’s come out about the lack of female musicians appearing on festival line ups, and I think it’s about turning some of the attention onto opportunities and filtering that in from the ground level up. It’s about inspiring young women to get into music, to take up an instrument, because it’s important to get the balance right. Whilst there might not be enough females (in areas of the music industry) you don’t want to go too heavily to the other side and have this sense of entitlement – that you’ve been put on the bill just because someone’s trying to fill some kind of gender gap.”
“It feels like it might take a few years yet,” adds Tohill “but the more awareness we have and the more women that get involved in the music industry, the more you won’t even need gender as a factor and we won’t see that divide anymore.”
How do you feel when gender is used to describe Rews? Being called ‘the female Royal Blood’ isn’t a bad thing, but it’s still steeped in sexuality.
“We’ve talked about this a few times,” continues Tohill. “We don’t really mind, too much, but it depends in what way it’s being used. Again, it is going to take a few years, generations possibly, to take away the kind of ‘unique thing’ about being a female band. But we are a female band, so we don’t mind people referencing that if they’re not doing it in a derogatory way.”
“It works both ways too,” adds Williams, “we can use it in our favour – some people are still intrigued by it, in a positive sense. But it shouldn’t be used just for the sake of it because it’s not a describing factor about our music. Ultimately it would be great to drop the gender and for it not to be a factor at all.”
The first time I met Rews we spent, or rather I spent, perhaps too long fixating on a word in their press release. But I’m also aware that during this conversation I have, repeatedly, referred to these two women as ‘you guys’. So, we all have out part to play. But as far as journalism goes there are many words to describe Rews that have nothing to do with their gender and everything to do with their music. Feel free to fish out some superlatives from this feature, or Google ‘awesome’ and take your pick from the world wide web of synonyms.
But for now, I’ll settle for the following: ‘Rews’, ‘Hare and Hounds’, ‘Thursday 22nd March’, ‘sold out’. And if there’s any word count left, ‘excited’ and ‘respect to Birmingham’s live music scene’.
‘Shake Shake’ – Rews
Rews perform at the Hare & Hounds (Kings Heath) on Thursday 22nd March, with support from You Dirty Blue and P.E.T – as presented by Metropolis Music and Birmingham Review. For direct event information, including venue details and online ticket sales, visit http://bit.ly/2IFpUon