BPREVIEW: Stand Up Comedy Showcase @ mac 01.12.16

Stand Up Comedy Showcase @ mac 01.12.16




Words by Ed King

On Thursday 1st December, the Stand Up Comedy Showcase returns to mac – held in the Foyle Studio, on the second floor of the arts complex.Birmingham Preview

Doors open at 7:30pm with tickets priced at £5. For direct event information and online ticket sales, click here. Further Stand Up Comedy Showcase events will be held across 2017: 31st March, 1st April (should be a good one) 14th July and the 15th & 16th July.

Exactly what it sounds like, all acts performing have been studying under local comedian James Cook – completing a twelve week course, at mac, in stand up comedy. What we get to see on stage is all original material written, rehearsed, rewritten, and presented to us, the humour hungry public. What could possibly go wrong..?

But don’t take my word for it – one of Birmingham Review’s long standing contributors, Matthew Osborne, will be performing at the Stand Up Comedy Showcase on 1st Dec.

So take his. In fact, take all 368 of them.


Stand Up Comedy Showcase… before

Words by Matthew Osborne

Crippling self doubt, anxiety, sleepless nights, a failing sense of humour; these words sound like the symptoms of manic depression, yet they are not. Nor do they appear on the advertising literature for mac’s stand-up comedy course, for obvious reasons. But they should, for as this term class approaches their climax – a comedy showcase at which all the performers (myself included) will be stand-up virgins – these words are all too real in describing my experience of taking the course.

Each week we have been learning techniques which are intended to help with our performance on the night. These might be ways to approach subjects in order to wring every last drop of humour out of them, or better ways to convey emotions to mac-birminghamthe audience. For most of us it has been a challenging experience, forcing us to break out of our shells and become actors of sorts, trying to successfully lead an audience to the precipice of a joke’s set up, allowing them to easily and safely make the jump to the punch line.

Each week those of us who feel brave enough are encouraged to try out our routines on the class. This is undoubtedly the most humbling and demoralising experience that someone with a big enough ego to want to attempt stand-up comedy can go through, and I have very quickly learned that stand-up comedy is by no means easy.

I recently took a routine that I was very happy with to the class. I expected thunderous applause and hearty laughter. I got blank looks and appalling silence. I was told that the routine was ‘too meta and too self-referential’. Whilst this had been my intention, the end result was far from what I had hoped for.

Unfortunately, in the absence of anything else that I am remotely happy or confident with, I will be performing this routine (approximately) to a real life audience at mac on Thursday December 1st. And like the egotistical fool I am, I have agreed to let Birmingham Review come down to cast judgement upon me.

Tickets are £5. For those who still pine for the days of public executions, this might be just the thing for you…

Stand Up Comedy Showcase comes to mac on 1st December, held in the Foyle Studio. For direct event info and online tickets sales, click here.


For more on James Cook, local comedian and stand up course leader, visit www.jamescookcomedian.com

For more from mac, including full event listing and online ticket sales, visit www.macbirmingham.co.uk


BREVIEW: Explosions in the Sky @ O2 Institute 10.10.16

Explosions in the Sky @ O2 Institute 10.10.16 / Reuben Penny ©Birmingham Review


Words by Matthew Osborne / Pics by Reuben Penny 

I’d almost forgotten about Explosions in the Sky. Back at the turn of the century, post-rock was a formidable genre with bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai and Sigur Rós making music that seemed to wordlessly say something significant about the human condition through cinematic and sometimes apocalyptic music.Explosions in the Sky @ O2 Institute 10.10.16 / Reuben Penny ©Birmingham Review

With their 2003 release, The World Is Not a Cold Dead Place, Explosions in the Sky (EITS) made something quite beautiful which celebrated what it was to be alive on this planet, full of epic songs with life-affirming titles such as ‘First Breath After a Coma’. Since 2011’s Take Care, Take Care, however, which fell into the category of more-of-the-same, along with the works of many of their contemporaries, EITS fell off my radar.

Coming across them again on a cold Monday night in Birmingham, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Their current record, The Wilderness, whilst adding some electronica to their palette, had underwhelmed me upon first listen.

Arriving at the O2 Institute midway through the opening act, Entrance, we buy beers and immediately look for somewhere to get away from this drab, one-man-and-his-guitar act who is sucking the life out of the room with every reverb heavy chord.

After Entrance finally makes his exit, Explosions in the Sky take to the stage, say a few brief words to the packed room, and then launch into over an hour of uninterrupted music.

The light show is mesmerising, and the first ethereal notes of the title track to the new record gently leak out from the stage, entrancing the assembled throng. The photographers in the pit scurry around taking Explosions in the Sky @ O2 Institute 10.10.16 / Reuben Penny ©Birmingham Reviewshots by poking their heads through what looks like shards of heavenly light, trying to get a shot through a dimensional portal.

Then, without warning, the band erupt into a wall of noise, distorted and beautiful, and the five members thrash about the stage, lost in their own music. On the left are Mark Smith and Michael James, head-banging to every beat, and on the right are Munaf Rayani and Carlos Torres (EITS’s fifth member whilst touring) who are writhing, like charmed snakes, to the gentle melodies beneath the powerful drumming of Chris Hrasky.

EITS work their way through a set comprised of old and new material, the oldies getting the bigger round of applause and the occasional clap-along from the audience as the tension builds to the inevitable climaxes dotted throughout each piece. At one point the wedding bands of three of the members glint and catch my eye at the same time, and I Explosions in the Sky @ O2 Institute 10.10.16 / Reuben Penny ©Birmingham Reviewcontemplate a supposition that these guys are good wholesome folk who understand love in its purest sense. That certainly comes through in their music.

I am also willing to gamble that they are excellent lovers, if their music is anything to go by. They are in no hurry to get to the climax, happy to be suspended in a moment for as long as it needs. The big pay-offs always come, but are sometimes sudden and surprising, especially to newcomers – like my companion this evening who watches enthralled for the whole performance, her body rocking with the band’s every beat.

Sadly, all good things come to an end. Fortunately this is nothing short of spectacular with EITS resurrecting two classics from their much-loved third album, The World is Not a Cold Dead Place. Cheers go up as a familiar riff breaks through the ambient dramatics of ‘The Only Moment We Were Alone’, and for ten minutes we are caught Explosions in the Sky @ O2 Institute 10.10.16 / Reuben Penny ©Birmingham Reviewsuspended in something magical – a wordless story which slowly unravels, becoming an overwhelming blanket of sound, building and building until it can’t reach any higher and ending in a sudden silence as the lights go down.

Tonight is a truly spectacular piece of musical theatre. EITS show that the apparently tired sounds of the post rock genre can still ring pure and true when played at the right volumes, with the mastery of a talented band of musicians who understand the dynamics of their work.

As we are kicked out of the O2 Institute, into the sharp chill of Monday night in Digbeth, amidst the drunks and the litter, it is hard not to find some sort of beauty inherent in every scene. You just need to approach it with the right pair of eyes, and the right set of ears. Without speaking a word tonight, Explosions in the Sky showed their Birmingham audience that troubles can be overcome and that there is a beauty to life, love and living, that we can forever embrace

For more on Explosions in the Sky, visit www.explosionsinthesky.com

For more from the O2 Institute (Birmingham), visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2institutebirmingham

For more from DHP, visit www.dhpfamily.com


BPREVIEW: Explosions in the Sky @ O2 Institute 10.10.16

Explosions in the Sky @ O2 Institute 10.10.16

Words by Ed King

On Monday 10th October, Explosions in the Sky will be performing at the O2 Institute (Birmingham) – coming to the city as part of their pan-Atlantic Wilderness Tour. Support comes from the Guy Blakeslee born, Entrance.main-with-web-colour-bcg-lr

Presented in the UK by DHP, doors will open for the Explosions in the Sky gig at 7pm. Tickets are priced at £25.25 +booking fee – for direct gig info, including online tickets sales, click here.

Born in the post rock Texan shadows of 1999, Explosions in the Sky are a guitar led, four piece, mini orchestra – producing layered, guitar led instrumentals (mainly) that hark back to the ambient rock progression of Spritualized or Mogwai.

Releasing their first LP in 2000, the seven track How Strange, Innocence, the band signed to Baltimore born/Brooklyn based Temporary Residence Ltd to release their sophomore album – Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever (2001).

Under the Bella Union umbrella in the UK since their third album, The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place (2003), Explosions in the Sky have been hop-scotching the Atlantic in 2016 – touring The Wilderness, their 7th studio album (if you include the limited physical release/free download of The Rescue in 2005) following its release in April this year.

Five years after the six track Take Care, Take Care, Take Care saw the light of day, the Explosions in the Sky’s latest LP endevour is an arguably more ‘radio friendly’ affair – stretching across 9 tracks and leaning to the lower end of the one-to-ten minute scale. Known for their uncompromising approach and self-described ‘cathartic mini The Wilderness / Explosions in the Skysymphonies’ this is a side step for the Texan rock band, one which could signal a slight change in the prevailing wind or could just be a coincidence. Perhaps a mute point (until we see guest vocals from Fergie) but worth noting none the less.

After their gig at the O2 Institute in Birmingham, Explosions in the Sky will be playing two more UK dates in Gateshead and London respectively. Then it’s over to our (hopefully still) European friends for gigs across October – starting out with three dates in Greece (Oct 14th – 16th) and ending their EU adventure in Düsseldorf, Germany (Oct 27th).

And for a tiny taste of what you might find on any of these stages, check out Explosions in the Sky performing their tour/album’s title track at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. – courtesy of NPR Music.

‘Wilderness’ – Explosions in the Sky

Explosions in the Sky come to the O2 Institute (Birmingham) on Monday 10th October, as part of the worldwide Wilderness Tour – supported by Entrance. For direct gig info, including online tickets sales, click here.

For more on Explosions in the Sky, visit www.explosionsinthesky.com

For more from the O2 Institute (Birmingham), visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2institutebirmingham

For more from DHP, visit www.dhpfamily.com