THE GALLERY: Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17

Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review

 

 

 

Words by Ashleigh Goodwin / Pics by Phil Drury

After shuffling to the O2 Institute wrapped in my coat and pushing my face into my scarf, I want nothing more than to sit down by a fire and not move for a few hours.

However, upon entering the venue it’s hard not to adopt the enthusiasm from those also attending the Jaws homecoming tonight; it’s infectious, and as large groups of people snake round the walls for the cloakroom and the merch desk there is definitely an air of excitement (and a bit of pre-emptive screaming).

Heading upstairs, South Londoners Social Contract (described by Jaws as “a bloody great new band”) are starting up and have already attracted a decent cluster. People are scattered around, looking appreciatively at the stage, and throughout their set the room begins to fill up with groups at the back making space for dancing whilst flinging their arms around each other and jumping in unison.Marsicians – supporting Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review

Social Contract deliver a really interesting set, incorporating pop, grunge and a danc-ier edge when performing their debut single, ‘Citizen’, which was released earlier this year. The atmospheric pink lights that stream from the stage only solidify their calm and cool performance, whilst singer Josh drawls “yeah, what’s good?” Although their catalogue of releases is small online, I’d definitely check this band out if you’re a fan of Foals or Bombay Bicycle Club.

Marsicians are the second support, and the crowd responds instantly – if you had no knowledge of the tonight’s show you’d think they were the headlines. Self-described ‘upbeat indie meets dirty pop’, Marsicians perform a strong set giving a slightly Circa Waves vibe and on certain tracks, such as ‘Arms of Another’, James Newbigging’s vocals bare similarity to Matt Healy of The 1975. The set includes tracks such as the insanely catchy ‘Too Good’ and ‘Throw Ourselves In’, all of which incorporate memorable guitar riffs or choruses as well as a feel good vibe – making them translate extremely well in a live space.

The aura from the band is something really special too, they look so completely in their element and I didn’t expect to get so into it, which left me wishing I’d checked Marsicians out prior to tonight. Between the overall chaotic crowd and the flying pints (that didn’t seem to faze them) Marsicians wind down with their last song of the set, ‘Absense’ – an atmospheric slow burn that ends in a medley of guitars. And as cliché as it sounds, you can feel the emotion radiating from the stage and it leaves the crowd completely hyped.

Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham ReviewThrongs of people now move around the venue, calculating how and where to get the best view for Jaws. Following this I find my way to the balcony, which is pretty much deserted as the floor below is full of bodies pressed together. The crowd sing enthusiastically to Nirvana and The Darkness in the changeover but surprisingly, the biggest reaction is when Skepta’s ‘That’s Not Me’ begins, with a large bulk of the crowd instantly pushing, shoving and manically jumping around. This preludes Jaws, as the lights fade and people instantly take to their mates shoulders despite the O2 Institute security gesturing for them to get down. Jaws’ sign at the back of the stage lights up and the crowd absolutely lose it as the Birmingham born band now take to the stage.

The opening, swirling, guitar riff to ‘Surround You’ starts and people sing along to the beat whilst the crowd go crazy – pushing and swaying relentlessly, as lead singer Connor Schofield greets the audience with “what you saying Birmingham, we good?” By the time Jaws perform their third song, ‘Think Too Much, Feel Too Little’, from their debut album Be Slowly, it’s hard to tear my eyes away from the crowd; it’s like watching something on fast forward, the atmosphere is electric and when an adventurous audience member jumps on stage mid-set, the trio don’t falter once as the guy bounces and sings all whilst getting escorted off by security.Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review

Through ‘Work It Out’ and ‘What We Haven’t Got Yet’ – from JawsSimplicity album (released early November), pits are created before the songs even start; people sway on their mates shoulders, beer, jackets and even a shoe at one point fly through the air. Schofield relays “you guys have a lot of energy, thanks!” before inviting the crowd to sing through tracks such as ‘17’ after announcing “my voice is fucked, sing along”.

Schofield proclaims, “I don’t know what to say, this is amazing, thanks…it’s nice to be here”, and the trio finish with ‘Be Slowly’, before the lights to down and Jaws disappear off stage after a completely mesmeric set, which of course is met by the “we want more” chant. Before there is time to process, inflatable beach balls are thrown into the audience from the balcony, welcoming Jaws back to the stage as they launch into ‘Donut’ with Schofield saying “let’s enjoy the rest of the evening together” before completing a four-strong encore. Jaws finish on ‘Gold’; the crowd finish with the momentum that they have somehow sustained throughout the whole set.

Seeing Jaws headline in such a large venue as the O2 Institute really does solidify the idea of supporting local acts; tonight you can feel a sense of pride, seeing this Birmingham born band receive such an amazing reception. Their two albums are strong standalones, but whether it’s due to the energetic crowd or just the gig atmosphere that gives their songs a fuller sound, Jaws should definitely be caught live if you ever have the chance.

As tonight’s opening band Social Contract said in their set, “it’s the last day of the Jaws tour…it’s been a fucking great time, we had a blast”, and you only have to look at the crowd streaming out of the O2 Institute at the end of the night to know they did too. 

 

 

 

Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review

Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review

Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review

Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review

Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review

Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review

Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review

Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review

Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review

Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review

Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review

Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review

For more from Jaws, visit www.jawsjawsjaws.co.uk

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Marsicians – supporting Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review

Marsicians – supporting Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review

Marsicians – supporting Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review

Marsicians – supporting Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review

Marsicians – supporting Jaws @ O2 Institute 01.12.17 / Phil Drury – Birmingham Review

For more from Marsicians, visit www.marsicans.co.uk

For more on Social Contract, visit www.soundcloud.com/socialcontractband

For more from Birmingham Promoters, visit www.birminghampromoters.com

For more on the O2 Institute, including venue details, event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2institutebirmingham

 

 

BREVIEW: Beyond The Tracks… Saturday @ Eastside Park 16.09.17

Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

 

 

 

Words by Damien Russell / Pics by Eleanor Sutcliffe

Morning has broken. Seemingly over my head. The choices of the night before, prompted by the engaging festival feel and the desire to get all dance-y, now seem like a catalogue of errors. The chance of getting breakfast slips away; I am forced to embrace the fact that lunch and a recovery pint are the only way forward.

And so, being in a pub already, this is what we do. Down the stairs, to the bar, a sandwich and a couple of pints of something light. Back to my usual self again. Ish. Thank goodness we didn’t try to do the ‘4am finishing’ after party or today may have been lost.

The Old Crown feels further away from the Beyond The Tracks festival site today, as Paul and Carl Barât and the Jackals - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham ReviewI wend our way through the town. We make it through the entrance process to find Carl Barât and the Jackals both looking and sounding cool. They’re a good choice for the festival daytime being slightly rocky, slightly punky, and slightly indie; a good balance of appeal across the audience.

They’re energetic but not so energetic it puts my shuffling state to shame, and while no one song stands out the set overall is good. Something in their deportment keeps screaming ‘LONDON’ at me, but I would be hard pressed to say exactly what.

Sandinistas - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham ReviewAfter this solid introduction to Beyond The Tracks’ Saturday programme, the festival’s second stage hosts Sandinistas from South Wales. Sporting a bass made more of tape than wood, an approachable charm, and punk rock to knock your socks off they’re a total change of atmosphere. Upbeat and fun, with some excellent banter from lead singer/guitarist, Dan Hagerty, Sandinistas do a great job of entertaining; Beyond The Tracks is the first time I’ve seen this band but I would be keen to catch them again.

The Twang - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham ReviewFollowing Sandinistas, local lads The Twang take to the main stage. The Twang are a band I’ve heard a lot about but never seen before so, while I have an idea what to expect, I’m not too surprised to find my initial idea was totally wrong. It can happen. Musically reminiscent of The Streets in some ways, The Twang bring an urban edge to the day which, while not entirely my cup of hot beverage, does mix things up nicely.

The real star of the show is Phil Etheridge, having a laugh with the audience and swigging from a can of Red Stripe. Etheridge makes full use of the stage, which I like, and while I can’t help feeling his voice isn’t as strong as it could be, with the band covering the music and Etheridge covering the performance The Twang deliver and engaging and enjoyable set.The Americas - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

A quick trip to the bar is in order while The Americas finish setting up; as they get started I’m reminded why I was looking forward to seeing them. Although I’m slightly surprised they’re on the second stage as I would have expected their ‘American road trip’ styled rock to be ideal main stage material.

Somebody has to take the smaller stage though and with a solid, easily accessible sound The Americas make it their own. Still reminding me of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in some ways, they continue the trend of bands either winning me over musically or by performance, but not both; it’s unfortunate, but with each of them being tied to an instrument the performance is a little static.

The Coral - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham ReviewI think it’s fair to say at this point that, while I try not to be biased, with three such different days it’s incredibly difficult not to have a preference in some way. So, I give up and admit to myself that this, the middle day, is almost certainly going to be my favourite of the Beyond The Tracks triptych. That confessed, I have an open mind towards The Coral while also half expecting them to follow the day’s pattern and wow me with their performance over their music.

They don’t. The Coral are pretty static visually but musically their back-catalogue shines; ‘In the Morning’, as you may expect, goes down exceptionally well. The crowd is building up now and with more people comes more applause, more appreciation and more singing along. I was never massively into The Coral when they first hit the charts and found their sound to be confusing, somehow both new and old at the same time. Something about that always put me off a little bit but seeing them live, but they win me over at Beyond The Tracks and I plan to delve a little deeper when safely offsite.Tablescraps - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

It’s pit-stop time, following The Coral, and while I hate to miss any of Table Scraps’ performance having seen them earlier in the year I know they’ll do a top job. I do wonder if it’s the wrong day for them though, and to my mind they would possibly have been a better fit for Sunday. The good and bad thing with festivals, in equal measure, is that there’s always so much going on that you can’t catch everything. Plus at some point there must be a welfare break, and right now the Persian Kitchen is calling. And then the bar.

Sadly then, the last number is all I catch of Table Scraps’ set, but the crowd seem to be fully on board and I’m sure they’ve hit it as hard as they usually do.

This of course means that Maxïmo Park are about to start on the main stage. Having reviewed their latest album, Risk to Exist, earlier in the year and not being too impressed with it, I’m not holding much hope for their live set. Maxïmo Park - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham ReviewIf I’m honest, I’m almost biding my time until Ocean Colour Scene.

What a mistake. As soon as they start I can see and hear that Maxïmo Park mean business. The sound is spot on and they look cool; proper ‘rock-star’ cool. By the end of the first song, Maxïmo Park win me over and I’ve move as close as I can get to the stage.

Paul Smith, in particular, is excellent – climbing on the monitors, striding across the stage and generally coming across like a caged tiger. The band start with ‘What Did We Do To You To Deserve This?’ and power through to ‘Our Velocity’ and beyond. My biggest surprise of the day and a band I would heartily recommend seeing live.

Superfood - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham ReviewAt this point the crowd is super dense, so there’s not much chance of getting too close to Superfood on the second stage, but they sound decent from where I can get to (which you may have guessed is the bar). Musically they make a good follow on to Maxïmo Park and while the second stage doesn’t quite offer the same opportunity for a ‘big show’, Superfood maintain both the atmosphere and the crowd set by their predecessors.

In fact, with Ocean Colour Scene ever closer to coming on stage the crowd is swelling more than ever. And although the announcement of a reduced-price Sunday ticket for Saturday ticket holders gets a mixed reaction, the crowd is clearly buzzing with anticipation for the Saturday night headliners.

Ocean Colour Scene - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham ReviewThey sound great too. All the concerns I had about another situation like The Twang are instantly put to bed; Simon Fowler hasn’t lost any vocal clarity or power over the years, and Steve Craddock is as dexterous on the fretboard as he ever was. More so, perhaps, as he makes everything seem effortless.

In fact they all do, yet somehow that doesn’t come across well. It’s the same situation that has occurred throughout the day; musically Ocean Colour Scene are just as good live as on the records, they’re just not very visual.

They don’t seem to have brought much in the way of staging or lighting, with the band members almost fixed to their spots onstage. Ocean Colour Scene have also chosen quite a downbeat set for a headline act, starting with ‘Profit In Peace’ which in my mind is more of an anthemic closer than an opener.

That said, Ocean Colour Scene deliver all the back catalogue bucket list hits and the crowd singing along to ‘The Day We Caught The Train’ is a beautiful thing. Clearly Birmingham still has a great soft spot for this once Moseley mob, and while the atmosphere on stage could be better the atmosphere in the audience is something to behold.

As the last echoes of the amplifiers fade away, Beyond The Tracks’ Saturday crowd begins to move slowly back towards the city centre. I find it hard to imagine anyone not having had a good time today – passing happy face after happy face as we head back to our temporary nest at The Old Crown. Two down, one more to go.

 

 

 

Jaws – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

Jaws - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

Jaws - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

For more on Jaws, visit www.jawsjawsjaws.co.uk

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Sugarthief – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

Sugarthief - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

Sugarthief - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

Sugarthief - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

For more on Sugarthief, visit www.soundcloud.com/sugarthiefuk

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Carl Barât and the Jackals – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

Carl Barât and the Jackals - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

Carl Barât and the Jackals - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

Carl Barât and the Jackals - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

For more on Carl Barât and the Jackals, visit www.carlbaratandthejackals.com

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Sandinistas – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe 

Sandinistas - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

Sandinistas - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

Sandinistas - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

For more on Sandinistas, visit www.sandinistas-uk.myshopify.com

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The Twang – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

The Twang - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

The Twang - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

The Twang - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

For more on The Twang, visit www.thetwang.co.uk

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The Americas – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

The Americas - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

The Americas - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

The Americas - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

For more on The Americas, visit www.soundcloud.com/theamericasyeah

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The Coral – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

The Coral - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

The Coral - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

The Coral - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

For more on The Coral, visit www.thecoral.co.uk

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Table Scraps – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

Tablescraps - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

Tablescraps - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

Tablescraps - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

For more on Table Scraps, visit www.table-scraps.bandcamp.com

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Maxïmo Park – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

Maxïmo Park - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

Maxïmo Park - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

Maxïmo Park - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

For more on Maxïmo Park, visit www.maximopark.com

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Superfood – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

Superfood - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

Superfood - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

For more on Superfood, visit www.superfoodjunk.com

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Ocean Colour Scene – Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

Ocean Colour Scene - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

Ocean Colour Scene - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

Ocean Colour Scene - Beyond The Tracks @ Eastside Park 16.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

For more on Ocean Colour Scene, visit www.oceancolourscene.com

For more on Beyond The Tracks, visit www.beyondthetracks.org

INTERVIEW: John Fell – Beyond the Tracks @ Eastside Park 15-17.09.17

John Fell - Beyond the Tracks @ Eastside Park 15-17.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

Words by Damien Russell / Pics by Eleanor Sutcliffe

Feeling like a lazy Sunday afternoon despite being a Monday (thank you Bank Holiday), sitting in the shade at Eastside Park has got something of a ‘last day of a festival’ feel.

Convenient really as I’ve braved exhaustion and headed out to into the sun to see a man about a festival. That man is John Fell and the festival is, of course, Beyond The Tracks.

I say ‘of course’ but given that Beyond The Tracks (for those who have missed the promo so far) is the newest addition to the Moseley Folk portfolio, it may not be as clear cut as that. This new city-centre, three day event  is nestled comfortably alongside the Moseley Folk Festival itself, the Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul Festival, and the Lunar Festival, all under the Moseley Folk banner.

And John Fell is, “kind of Festival Manager, really, so to be honest I do a lot things from booking the line-up to the marketing, to the press, the finances, I get involved with a little bit of kind of planning the site and things like that. All the staffing. So, it’s a lot there really.” If he does say so himself. And I agree, it is a lot; they’re big events with stellar line-ups and not exactly spread out in either area or through the year.

Curious about this, I ask about the rest of the team. “Well, there’s me, full time, and then there’s two directors (Gerv Havill, Carl Phillips) that are kind of more part time on the festivals. They’ve got their other businesses. And we’ve just taken on a new member of staff as well and she’s become a kind of Festival Assistant, so it’s slowly growing but it’s not a big team for all the things we do really”, Fell explains.

John Fell - Beyond the Tracks @ Eastside Park 15-17.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham ReviewNot a big team at all. And with a variety of other events as well as the festivals, it must be a lot to take on. John Fell is a collected man and while he will admit that focusing on so much is “quite difficult”, he quickly adds, “I’ve always been quite good at that really. I’ve always… I don’t sit still very often”. I’m glad we got him pinned down for half an hour to talk to us.

So how did it all begin? And how did it become Beyond The Tracks? “When I joined we’d just created Goodnight Lenin”, Fell says, taking us back to both the start of his band (recently announced to be on hiatus) and his time with Moseley Folk, “and JJ from the band asked me to go round and come and play music at 3 o’clock in the morning because they’d been up all night drinking. Normally I would never do it, not if I hadn’t been out already, and I thought ‘you know what, fine, I’ll go round’. If he wants to play music, I’ll do it, whatever time of day”. And a 3am video became Goodnight Lenin’s application to play Moseley Folk Festival. “Carl who ran the festival rang us up and said ‘I wanna come and see you play’ and he wanted to manage the band and put us as headlining the second stage, the Lunar stage” Fell expands, describing an opportunity most bands would do something their mothers would disapprove of, to get.

It isn’t surprising but it is good to be reminded that Moseley Folk (both festival and company) have always been committed to local talent. And actively looking for it has “always been an ethos of ours, to support that and provide a platform for that. Which is quite cool”. And not just at the festivals. They “do loads of cool shows throughout the year… and because that’s not really our… job, I guess, our festivals are where we kind of scrape our salaries… we can book who we want. We’re not pressured to book gigs, we don’t just put gigs on for the sake of it; we can book who we want”.

An envious place to be. And a powerful place. Free from the constraints of popularity and to a certain extent cost, Moseley Folk remind me of the record companies of old – able to take risks and trail-blaze if they wish, whilst hosting the type of gigs many bands dream of getting to play at.

With such an open opportunity for booking talent, I wonder how the Beyond The Tracks lineup was approached. The answer lies in being different to the other festivals in the Moseley Folk portfolio, “with Folk and Jazz, Lunar’s a bit more psychedelic… we wanted to essentially make three different gigs. I mean, originally we didn’t put weekend tickets on sale because we didn’t think there would be that much demand. Essentially it was an electronic night, an indie night and, I guess, like a post-punk, shoegaze kind of Sunday, which is cool”.John Fell - Beyond the Tracks @ Eastside Park 15-17.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham Review

Planning, then combining, three different gigs sounds like an unusual way to approach a festival, but less so when originally it was “going to be an Ocean Colour Scene gig with, you know, Maximo Park or whoever, and it grew into a festival which is, you know…”, John Fell leaves me to offer the rather clichéd ‘really cool’ but charitably goes with it. “It is really cool. So the whole thing has just been, like, a really natural progression”.

Choosing this site, currently just open grass and quiet couples, was also natural progression; John Fell takes us back to 22nd January 2016, and to the 20th anniversary shows of Ocean Colour Scene’s Moseley Shoals in Moseley Park. “And that was just incredible”, Fell says, and shortly after those shows “we were just sat outside the pub, the Eagle and Tun, and looking at this space and were like ‘why have we not done a festival here?’ Or at least a gig here” so they decide they should and went full on for Beyond The Tracks.

And what a festival it’s pitched to be. “It’s Birmingham’s, you know, I guess biggest inner city, kind of ‘band festival”, in John Fell’s words. “Obviously you’ve got things like MADE which are doing incredibly at The Rainbow and a lot of other events going on” he continues, “I suppose it’s not like a Great Escape but that kind of inner city festival, Tramlines in Sheffield, that kind of thing. And we thought for the first year we should really celebrate Birmingham music. We already had Ocean Colour Scene; Editors have got strong Birmingham links. So then we just go ‘right, okay, we want to support other bands’ so, you know: Superfood, Jaws, Victories at Sea, Dorcha, Table Scraps. We just added Hoopla Blue and Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam, there’s so many bands… The Leftfield guys are coming to DJ, Magic Door guys coming to DJ… So it’s a bit of a Birmingham love-in really. It’s gonna be really cool.”

And speaking of Hoopla Blue… I ask John about the sad news that Goodnight Lenin wouldn’t be playing and would be replaced by, you guessed it, “Hoopla Blue. Yeah, we wanted it to be a local band and Hoopla – great band – they just jumped on it straight away. It is a shame but it just felt right to end Goodnight Lenin with Liam rather than playing another show, it didn’t quite make sense”. I don’t ask about the conflict of interest in booking a band you play with; if John Fell began working for Moseley Folk through Goodnight Lenin, it stands to reason Goodnight Lenin would still be one of Moseley Folk’s regular artists.

John Fell - Beyond the Tracks @ Eastside Park 15-17.09.17 / Eleanor Sutcliffe - Birmingham ReviewThere’s certainly plenty of Birmingham music at Beyond The Tracks, possibly more Birmingham on the stage than in the audience at times, as to my surprise, “Friday night’s about 40 percent people coming from outside the Midlands. Which is pretty incredible. It’s very similar numbers to the Jazz and Folk, to be honest with you, it’s like, high 30’s from outside the Midlands. Saturday here with Ocean Colour Scene and The Twang, is obviously more localised but it’s still a good 25 percent from outside the Midlands and Sunday as well is about 30, high 30’s. So, we are actually bringing people in,” and in saying so Fell sounds proud. And I believe he is, proud of what Birmingham has to offer and proud to be a part of it.

And not without merit either; four major festivals are not organised through hope alone, that kind of work needs vision. The vision that Beyond The Tracks is “what Birmingham needs really just to kind of give it that other, kind of, star next to its name of what we have here to offer”. The drive to “bring people to Birmingham and actually show them what we do”. And the eye on the future looking to “see what else we can do for the city now”.

But with the rise of Beyond The Tracks, we’ve seen the fall of the Lunar Festival; this yearly switch looks set to continue, as the original three year access to the Beyond The Tracks site has been scuppered by the HS2 development. “We are bringing Lunar back next year and then… we don’t have the land for this (Beyond The Tracks) next year”, Fell explains, taking me a little by surprise. “We were told two years, we could have it… three years we could have it and HS2 is being built on this land. So they’re acquiring the land. So it might be the case that we maybe have a year off Beyond The Tracks, bring Lunar back. We’ve been refining that (Lunar Festival) so we’re quite excited to bring that back. Erm, and then, you know, hopefully we can bring Beyond The Tracks back the year after, maybe”.

Maybe, maybe not; there is always the fear that “it’s four festivals. You do start eating into your own audience as well. People only have so much money”. So maybe one on, one off could be on the cards. Or maybe it’s just a one-off.

Either way, when you think that “Friday night’s going to be crazy with Leftfield and Orbital and the light show they’ve got, here, in the city centre on a Friday night”, then the local focus lineup on Saturday and Sunday, with “Fairground Rides in the middle… a Ferris wheel and everything” it’s hard not to get a building sense of excitement.

And as I walk back across the site toward The Woodman pub, thinking to myself ‘stage there, fairground there, bar somewhere here…’ it’s also hard to disagree with John Fell when he shares the sentiment, “It’s gonna be quite cool. I mean it’s gonna be phenomenal, you know. It’s costing the world, really, so it should be…. But yeah, it gonna be cool, man”. Cool indeed. Phenomenal sounds about right too; I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

Beyond The Tracks comes to Eastside Park in Birmingham City Centre, running 15th to 17th September. Tickets for this event are £54.45 for individual day tickets, £145 for a weekend pass, with a host of after parties after each day. 

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

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

INTERVIEW: Richard Franks – Counteract

INTERVIEW: Richard Franks - Counteract @ The Sunflower Lounge / Rob Hadley - Birmingham Review

Words by Ed King / Pics Rob Hadley

Interview conducted at The Sunflower Lounge on Saturday 22nd April.

Richard Franks started Counteract seven years ago. Seven years ago today in fact, on his birthday. Which along with World Earth Day, Record Store Day, and what seems to be the warm up for Pride marching past The Sunflower Lounge, makes April 22nd a pretty red letter date.

Having “kind of” studied journalism at Birmingham Metropolitan College and then again at University in London for “only a couple of months”, Richard Franks took his career into his own hands and out of the classroom. After scaling/banging heads against the brick wall of being an unknown freelancer, Franks picked up his ego, accepted his fate and did what all honourable men do in the face of professional adversity. He set up on his own.

Seven years later and Counteract is the leading online music magazine in Birmingham, with a monthly readership and reach that can impress and intimidate the publications around them. A regional reality I know only too well.

“I didn’t really do my A Levels,” admits Richard Franks, “and I started writing about music online pretty much straight away, as I left school at sixteen. So all I have are GCSEs and AS Levels; I’ve done all the things that I’ve done without the need for a degree. I made a lot of things up in terms of the way I do things; a lot of guess work. Like learning to make a website. It was never built on ‘I want to copy them’, I just thought right I want to make a website, Googled ‘how do you make a website’, then did it.”

INTERVIEW: Richard Franks - Counteract @ The Sunflower Lounge / Rob Hadley - Birmingham ReviewWorld’s largest library at our finger tips. But some publishing houses, especially those behind the mainstream broadsheets, still ask for a degree at interview – do you ever regret not having that piece of paper? “Not so much, because through the things I have done that’s how I’ve got other jobs. My employers always found it interesting that I’d started the website; it shows a self starting attitude, it shows you’re quite positive.”

“You’ve only got to look at what I’ve done to see that it is possible to do what you want to do,” continues Franks, as I ask the ‘any advice’ question no self respecting interviewer should ask, “to follow a path you know you want to follow. I’m very much an advocate that you don’t necessarily need education to do what you want to do. There are a lot of people I know – in bands or who write – where it’s gone from a hobby to their full time job. That in itself makes it clear you don’t need an education.” I’d argue this with some professions, but the national curriculum has never impinged on my working world. “Obviously there are pressures from all types of angles, from parents, from friends and from the general working life. But I think you’ve got to follow what you think is right and if you’re happy with what you’re doing then so be it.”

Are you happy with what you’re doing? “Yep, sure. I am. There was a time when perhaps I wasn’t, jumping from job to job, thinking how the hell do I make a career out of this? But over the past six months I feel firmly settled. I’m not saying that had I got a degree and then went and got a job I’d be any better or worse off, you don’t know do you. But I felt this way would develop; for different people it’s different things, isn’t it.”

INTERVIEW: Richard Franks - Counteract @ The Sunflower Lounge / Rob Hadley - Birmingham Review“I don’t think qualifications are so important anymore,” Franks continues, as the afternoon bubble of tired shoppers begins to burst at the bar. “Especially the way online journalism and copywriting and those areas are developing. I think you’d be more likely to get a job now, in an online sector, probably if you have more experience than if you have a degree.” So imagine the scenario, two candidates walk into Counteract HQ for the same salaried position…

“It’s a bit of a double edged sword; how do you get experience if you’re not offered experience in the first place? That’s the kind of thing I struggled with so early on. I was sending reviews and my CV off to places like the NME and The Guardian, but I was either getting knocked back or I wasn’t getting a reply whatsoever. That hurt me, and because of that, I think, I’d be more inclined to give something to someone who didn’t have experience.”

At points, I couldn’t agree more (excluding surgeons, airline pilots…). There was a time whilst recruiting for an entry level position at a PR agency that I stopped interviewing graduates: a blanket ban on university brats. I ended up employing a woman who had worked in a clothes shop since she was sixteen, a few years later she became regional MD.

But I’m not here to pay lip service to the old guard approach of garrulous opinion (think Hunter S Thompson meets a Raymond Chandler character) it’s Counteract’s seventh birthday and the line up to their self promoted party is too strong to ignore, with The Mother’s Earth Jaws (special guests) @ Counteract’s 7th Birthday 22.04.17 / Rob Hadley - Birmingham ReviewExperiment, The Hungry Ghosts and newcomers The Dream Collective all on the bill. There’s even a special guest: a bastard child of the B-Town “baby boom” who have been teased out with the Spielberg adage, ‘we’re going to need a bigger boat’.

Speaking of B Town…

Certain coattails are more fashionable than others and the toilet walls of this venue plot point various rising B Town balloons. But Counteract was one publication, one regional publication, one readable publication, which was there before any widespread interest. How did the national media land grab make you feel as a regional editor?

“I was glad at the time that they were getting the kind of publicity they were getting,” explains Richard Franks. “I know all of the bands that were in that circuit, one of them are playing tonight; Harry Koisser used to message me on Facebook asking, ‘we’ve got this new song, can you put it on Counteract?’ This was in 2011/2012, something like that. We always had that little personal relationship with the bands. But I think…” So often does this subject create an uncomfortable pause.

“The term itself, B Town, while it was good at the start it just became a bit of a joke. I don’t think people here, the people that were involved in the music scene here, liked it after a while. It became a parody of itself. And all the bands moved to London. So you’re talking about B Town, you’re talking about Birmingham, but Peace, Swim INTERVIEW: Richard Franks - Counteract @ The Sunflower Lounge / Rob Hadley - Birmingham ReviewDeep, Superfood all moved to London.” How does that make you feel, again as a regional editor – one who championed these artists when there was no NME in sight? “It annoys me but you know why they do, because there’s more there.”

What about the promoters and labels who are still in the city. Should they have picked the up mantle with a firmer grip? “It’s money isn’t it; it’s London. How do you compete with London? But the B Town thing I could talk about that for days. I’m happy it happened; I’m disappointed they all moved – because it killed it. But in the same way it spawned so many new bands that wouldn’t have ever thought about coming in to Birmingham. The shows were busier. It was like a baby boom, just in music.”

It is both ironic and encouraging that the seemingly impenetrable wall that once compelled Richard Franks to build Counteract, is now a less of an obstacle. Here we sit, discussing national interest subjects that were once kids reaching out through the Counteract Facebook page.

So now you’re captain of your own ship, with some significant landmarks behind you, what sends you out across the waters? “Seven years ago there wasn’t such an impetus on online content,” explains Franks, “places like Buzzfeed weren’t so prominent. Whereas now it’s a little bit different because I’ve got in my mind that I’m creating the content to try and reach as far as it can, that I have to write it for an online audience.”

The Dream Collective @ Counteract’s 7th Birthday 22.04.17 / Rob Hadley - Birmingham ReviewExtrapolate that? “What I mean by ‘online audience’ is ‘user friendly’,” Franks continues, as The Sunflower Lounge moves into the DEFCON 3 of a Saturday afternoon. “So all the buzzwords you need to use to try and hit the search engines, all the techniques you need to use to improve your website’s visibility online. All these things are in my mind now. I guess for me there’s been a big change, because of the way the online market has developed.”

“In kind of a roundabout way of saying things, and this may sound a bit bad or naive of me, but it’s now less important for the journalistic quality of the writing as opposed to the way it’s presented on the website for search engine optimisation. In those seven years it’s developed quite a lot, to the point where I like publishing the posts more than I did seven years ago. One, I know they’re going to a good audience because we’ve built up this following on Facebook, Twitter, the mailing list and all those kind of things. And two, I know that when I’m publishing the posts more work has gone into it because you’re making sure it’s set up well for an online audience. It’s more technical now than it was seven years ago.”

I didn’t expect that. There are dangers, in my mind, with being over concerned about clicks, hits and page views; I think writer first, journalist second. An embarrassing attempt at designer third. But marketing comes with a paycheck. And I’ve been running PR campaigns for over tweThe Hungry Ghosts @ Counteract’s 7th Birthday 22.04.17 / Rob Hadley - Birmingham Reviewnty years. I start to stumble around a question I would want someone to ask with more confidence.

So… in your priority list, where does the quality of a… maybe that’s the wrong word, what about the story’s… “Integrity?” offers Richard Franks. That’s the word. Where does integrity come in? “Probably not as much as I’d like. But that’s down to two things, one me not having enough time, and two, that it takes more time to publish them – because of the SEO elements of the world. In terms of the integrity of the written content itself, it still ranks pretty high.”

As both an editor and a consumer I have my issues with overzealous content, I don’t believe it. And I’ve known writers jump from one ship to another over precisely this debate. But Richard Franks is in a different place, professionally speaking, and Counteract has its own approaches and agendas. As all publications should. What about straight out bad copy – have you ever not been able to publish someone’s work at Counteract?

“I’ve had to say to people (contributors) but sorry, this is not what we expect. And I never want to do that, I hate doing that, because I want to give everyone a chance. But if they’re rubbish writers, in a roundabout way, we have to be honest. So it’s not me saying the quality of the content, the written work, is not important. It’s just me saying when we publish it the quality of the written content, while it’s just a bit more important than SEO and making sure it’s set up right it’s still not miles ahead.”

The Mother’s Earth Experiment @ Counteract’s 7th Birthday 22.04.17 / Rob Hadley - Birmingham ReviewThe upstairs at The Sunflower Lounge is starting to fill up; we’re pushing ‘high readiness’. And the background noise is putting a strain on my frighteningly fickle voice recorder. Plus the bands are staring to arrive now, DEFCON 4, and whilst The Mothers Earth Experiment have been wrestling with lights (and possibly lava lamps) for a few hours, there’s still some left to sound check.

As we end our interview, me putting down my pen to play ‘punter’ and Richard Franks dusting down the responsibilities of ‘promoter’, I wonder if it’s all worth it. I like Richard Franks. I wasn’t sure if we’d get on (I wasn’t even sure he’d agree to an interview) and God knows not every publication makes it to seven candles. Plus he’s given me some serious food for thought.

But the man is open, honest, and certainly knows his way around a search engine. Digital marketeers of the city beware. And whilst I disagree on some of his style sheet and publishing policies, I respect what he has achieved with Countertact. Seldom has any single person, any music journalist or publisher, done more to celebrate the music in this city; Richard Franks is to be applauded. But probably without him noticing to save an awkward moment for both of you; even whilst celebrating his publication’s seventh birthday, the biggest ego at this table is still most likely mine.

But will we be sitting here in three years time facing double figures? “The gigs are very time consuming,” Franks replies, “and I don’t like to say ‘never’… but for now it’s more important for my energy to go into the website.” Never indeed, Counteract is bringing Alex Ohm to The Victoria on 20th May – for all intents and purposes, the last in the publication’s recent flurry of live gigs.

“I’d like to get back to the place where I can give everyone a chance,” surmises Richard Franks. “The website is more important and I’m just too busy to reply to everyone right now. But never say never. Once you stop enjoying something, then stop doing it.”

I’ll make us both a note then, April 22nd 2020. Remember to buy a card, candles, a balloon in the shape of the number 10…

For more on Counteract, visit www.counteract.co

For more from The Sunflower Lounge, visit www.thesunflowerlounge.com