BREVIEW: Goodnight Lenin @ Hare & Hounds 11.08.15

Goodnight Lenin @ Hare & Hounds 11.08.15 / Michelle Martin - Birmingham Review




Words by Damien Russell / Pics by Michelle Martin

You know that moment when you find a band and think ‘I really must go and see them sometime’? Do it. Go and see them. Don’t ‘catch them next time’, or wait until you’re not ‘too tired’ for a non-work night, or whatever else it is that you tell yourself to give you an excuse to be lazy. Go out of your front door, down the road by whatever your chosen method is, and see them.

This is the lesson I have been teaching myself, painstakingly, over the last 12-18 months and never was it more poignant than with Goodnight Lenin.

I first came across the musical strains of Goodnight Lenin in 2015 and the video I found online had been up for two years already at that point. I liked it, got the album and kept an eye on their social media for when they might be about. Sometime later, after nothing had materialised, I had stopped being so diligent in my approach and waited for something to just pop up in the ether and grab me which, of course, it never did. And now in August 2017 I have finally made it to a Goodnight Lenin gig for the first and probably last time.

Not for lack of quality or enjoyment, you understand, but because I left it too long and this gig is currently set to be their last. The creative flame is a delicate thing, to be nurtured lest it fade away out of sight, and while Katherine Priddy - supporting Goodnight Lenin @ Hare & Hounds 11.08.15 / Michelle Martin - Birmingham ReviewI don’t know all of the reasoning behind this hiatus in the Goodnight Lenin story I sincerely hope that lack of support isn’t part of it.

All of these things and more are running through my head as I make my way to the Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath and up the stairs to the far room. This taller and more impressive of the Hare & Hounds stages is already fully set up and the lights (full disco ball included) are heightening the atmosphere of anticipation. Very fitting, and while the room is surprisingly only about a third full it’s early and there’s still a feeling of electricity in the air. Predictably, I move to the bar and get a pint while I wait for the inevitable rush and for the proceedings to… well, proceed.

About 15 minutes later Katherine Priddy takes the stage. She is to perform seated, which is a nice low-key start to the evening and working to my expectation that musically the event is set to build with each act. As she starts I become acutely aware that she has a very good voice (clean and clear, slightly ethereal) and a complex finger picking guitar playing style – the combination of which make her songs seem both simple and intricate at the same time. A hush settles over the room as she plays, receiving enthusiastic applause at the end of each song.

Boat to Row - supporting Goodnight Lenin @ Hare & Hounds 11.08.15 / Michelle Martin - Birmingham ReviewWhile I admit Katherine Priddy is an excellent opening act for an evening headlined by a full band, I can’t say that she would be out of place as a headliner and I could easily imagine her on the Cropredy Folk Festival or Beautiful Days stages. Priddy’s set is well thought out and, even containing two songs based around Greek mythology, manages to be relatable and engaging. Doing some YouTube searching post-gig, I’m pleased to find a cover of ‘Beeswing’ that justifies the fact I was comparing Richard Thompson and Katherine Priddy in my head during the set.

After a short break, Boat To Row start to plug in and tune up. Lead singer/rhythm guitarist, Michael King, joined Katherine Priddy for her final song so I have an idea what to expect. Although now King has changed into his gig outfit and is joined by the full band, so it’s a fresh introduction and a fuller sound. A bit too full if I’m honest.

I find Boat to Row provide that particular brand of folk where the songs are quite busy, with several different melodies present at once. I can’t deny that as a band they work very well together, and the precision in such detailed song writing can’t be understated, but I find it hard to grab a ‘hook’ in most of their songs and found them too ‘art for art’s sake’ for my taste (‘chorus, for God’s sake’ I find myself thinking, stealing 10cc lyrics). My favourite song of theirs is the penultimate in tonight’s set – a new number called ‘Fairies Flaws’, I believe, that has a funky undertone and quite a driving tempo, standing out as the most accessible to an uninitiated listener.

Boat to Row - supporting Goodnight Lenin @ Hare & Hounds 11.08.15 / Michelle Martin - Birmingham ReviewAnd then, of course, our main event. The room has been filling up more and more over the course of the evening and at this point it’s roughly three quarters full. And by full, I mean having your toes stood on and breathing the hair of the person in front of you because that’s the only space left in the room.

*At this point, I would like to take a moment to thank the three women by the bar who were loudly and relentlessly cackling and bumping into my friend and I. Without your inconsiderate rudeness, we would have stayed put by the PA and not moved further into the crowd. We got the best of the atmosphere where we moved to so you did us a favour, in a way. I hope you got your money’s worth of being shushed and glared at because I know I wasn’t the only one who called you out on your nonsense.

Goodnight Lenin are a wall of sound. It’s the only way I can describe it. The sound has been good all night, but Goodnight Lenin are a cut above and their depth and ‘fullness’ is noticeable against the other acts on the bill this evening. I listen hard and I can pick out every instrument individually, which is my test of a well-mixed band. Impressive work from Jon Nash on the desk too.Goodnight Lenin @ Hare & Hounds 11.08.15 / Michelle Martin - Birmingham Review

The band are in good form and seem to want to send themselves off in style. They tell us they have an extended set planned including some covers and all the ‘hits’ from the new and old original material. And they’re not kidding. Goodnight Lenin move through the set smoothly and confidently, and from their In the Fullness of Time album I pick out the familiar strains of ‘The Constant Lover’, ‘Weary’ and ‘Cautionary Tale’ among others.

In particular, ‘The Reason’ was blindingly good – a song that is a real treat to listen to live. As was ‘Old Cold Hands’ with its anthemic ending, a near ‘lighters in the air’ moment. Sadly they don’t play my personal favourite, ‘Tell-tale Heart’. But it is quite slow one and I didn’t really expect them to. They can be forgiven.

There are songs I’ve never heard in tonight’s set as well, perhaps not being as much of a die-hard fan as I might have been; ‘Wenceslas Square’ being an easy one to pick out as it was an audience request. While they may well have played it anyway, the fact that Goodnight Lenin asked for requests and then actually played one is a nice touch and not something all bands do.

Goodnight Lenin @ Hare & Hounds 11.08.15 / Michelle Martin - Birmingham ReviewFrom the newer material we are treated to live versions of ‘Desire’ and ‘Portrait of Youth’, with the fresher faced tracks standing up against the tried and tested classics. Were I bolder, I might venture the opinion that perhaps the new songs don’t quite cut it as well. But honestly, I think that’s only because I’m so familiar with the older ones.

Covers-wise, we are treated to Neil Young’s ‘Helpless’, where Goodnight Lenin are joined by Katherine Priddy and Boat to Row for a huge multi-band rendition and a nice rock oriented version of ‘Come Together’. A solid nod in the direction of the bands that have inspired them over the years.

There’s a lull in the set somewhere in the middle, when some technical issues occur, and Liam is forced to use a guitar kindly lent by Boat to Row. No idea what happened to his as it just seemed to give up between songs (although it was very considerate of it to wait until the previous song had finished). John did a good job of keeping the set going with his comfortable patter and a couple of solo songs, but it is an inevitable come-down in an otherwise high octane set. A shame but nothing that could have been helped, I imagine, and these things do happen.

Goodnight Lenin @ Hare & Hounds 11.08.15 / Michelle Martin - Birmingham ReviewEnding with ‘Without You’, the band invite their sound technician, Jon Nash, onto the stage wielding a black Telecaster – bringing the lesser-spotted member of the Goodnight Lenin family into the limelight for this swansong.

And then it’s over.

Goodnight Lenin put on a cracking show and despite the technical issues kept things flowing very well. If I had to offer a criticism, it would be that the set went on too late and people had to leave before the end for buses and trains home. A shame, in a way, but one not easily combated.

For some reason it was one of those gigs where I thought I knew what to expect; I had it in my head that it would be packed from the outset, that musically it would build and build and then Goodnight Lenin would hit the stage hard, smash through their set to rapturous applause and then do two, maybe three, encores before bidding us a fond farewell. But it was so much more than that. So much more personal.

Tonight was more than just a last gig, it was a real goodbye. I’m sure every Goodnight Lenin fan would join me in wishing them the very best of luck in whatever they choose to do from now until the reunion (fingers crossed) and while I can’t stop feeling the edge of sadness, I’m glad I’ll be able to say I was there, the day a chapter in Birmingham’s musical history closed.

For more on Goodnight Lenin, visit

For more on Boat To Row, visit

For more on Katherine Priddy, visit


For more from the Hare & Hounds, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit

For more from Moseley Folk, visit

BREVIEW: Regina Spektor @ Symphony Hall 05.08.17

Regina Spektor @ Symphony Hall 05.08.17 / Michelle Martin – taken for Express & Star

Words by Paul Gallear / Lead pic by Michelle Martin – taken for Express & Star

A man, younger than I am but around the same height, is wondering around the streets of Sheffield, slightly lost. He has recently started university and is still unfamiliar with his surroundings.

Shuffling through the snow, he passes The Leadmill – a long-established music venue in the city. ‘TONIGHT: REGINA SPEKTOR’ proclaims the poster by the door. Amazed at his luck he calls around all of his newly-made university friends, trying to find someone to go to the gig with. Either no one is available or they are unwilling to take a risk on a last-minute invitation to an unknown gig. Undeterred, the young man queues that evening in the chilly northern air to try and get a ticket on the door. His luck is in.

It was 20.02.07 and that was the first time I saw Regina Spektor live, touring her 2006 album – Begin to Hope. Ten-and-a-half years later I again had the chance to see her in concert, this time touring her seventh studio release – Remember Us to Life. Nothing would be left to chance this time; I had signed up to the mailing lists and was ready with my unique verification code when the pre-sale opened at 9am.

I managed to secure prime seats a mere six rows back (not too close, not too far) and just off-centre in Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, a larger and more prestigious venue than The Leadmill. Hosting the likes of Marina Medvetskaya’s Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Symphony Hall claims to be ‘widely considered one of the finest concert halls in the world’ and their website lists an impressive set of acoustic specifications (all of the venues on Regina Spektor’s six date UK tour are more up-market than they were a decade ago). Sporting my by now vintage Soviet Kitsch album T-shirt from the Sheffield gig, I survey the stage: a black Steinway & Sons grand piano, a monikered drum kit, a cello, a guitar, and a keyboard. Can that be the same piano stool as last time? Am I dreaming? Musicians can be creatures of habit.

Despite this being a show without support and having a tightly-scheduled start and finish time, Regina Spektor takes to the stage half-an-hour late. The room is not quite sold out, but the anticipation has built and Spektor enters stage right to rapturous applause and cheers. She and the band burst into ‘The Calculation’.

Full disclosure. Some of the tracks from Regina Spektor’s latest album haven’t struck a great chord with me; it is the album I have listened to least frequently. The opening half of tonight’s set is, as you’d expect, laden with these new tracks (such as ‘Grand Hotel’, ‘Tornadoland’ and ‘The Light’) which are performed to an enthusiastic audience. I even find myself enjoying these songs live in a way I hadn’t enjoyed recorded. But during these early numbers I pick up on a buzzing sound which is surprising from a venue that boasts about its acoustics – I would have expected perfection.

The set is diverse. Regina Spektor is of course always present, but she is either backed by the entire band whilst she plays piano and sings, or abandons the piano and sings more like a pop star with a backing band. Her playing has few audible mistakes and the cello playing is, I’m reliably informed, very good. For other tracks, such as ‘That Time’, she abandons the piano all together and picks up the guitar. But for me some of the best and most successful tracks are when the band leaves and Spektor plays such song as ‘Après Moi’ unaccompanied (how many songs can you name which feature three different languages?).

The quiet nature of the audience between songs is not something I’m used to (being a frequenter of more rock-orientated concerts) but Regina Spektor manages to hold the atmosphere. That’s not to say that she is entirely silent in these short gaps. “Do you have a train to catch?” she sasses when an audience member calls for ‘Samson’, a track which would be played (inevitably) as part of the encore.

There is even an endearing moment of humour at the beginning of ‘Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)’ a favourite track of mine from  Begin to Hope, when Spektor forgets her own lyrics; cue a great moment of audience interaction as she calls out for prompts. But I do get the feeling that a lot of these songs have stories behind them that I would have loved Regina Spektor to have gone into, giving us a little insight into her life and writing process.

Nor does she forget where she is; giving a nod to the Birmingham audience by mentioning that local boy Jeff Lynne (of E.L.O fame) had been a producer on her album Far, Spektor bursts in ‘Folding Chair’ – a bouncy crowd-pleaser.

As I mentioned, Regina Spektor ends her encore with perhaps her most famous and most enduring song, ‘Samson’ (after ‘Us’ that is, which was performed with aplomb just before exiting the stage for the first time). I’m not a fan of the trite modern assumption that artists will play always an encore at the end of the set, but nothing could have pleased me more than to have seen Spektor’s ruby-red shoes patter across the stage once more to retake their place on the piano’s sustain pedal. The audience are on their feet at the end of the show and it is thoroughly deserved.

Adding a band to her live shows, Regina Spektor has developed a more complex and mature sound in the last decade. But I can’t help wonder if something of the arty rawness and fun of her earlier performances might have been lost along the way. Spektor has come a long way since emerging from the anti-folk scene in downtown New York’s East Village, and she does concentrate on her work from the previous three albums rather than delving into her archives.

Back in Sheffield we stood in awe as Regina Spektor, bandless, thwacked out a rhythm on her piano stool using a drumstick; in Birmingham we sit as she and her band play through a largely flawless set. Though I don’t leave disappointed, I am greedy. I would like a second show, more stripped back without a band and with a smaller audience, during which she could reconnect with her roots. A boy can dream.

Thoroughly satisfied that my high expectations have been met, I leave the venue clutching a new t-shirt. Hopefully I won’t have to wait another decade to wear it to one of her concerts.

For more on Regina Spektor, visit

For more from the Town and Symphony Halls, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit

For more from SJM Concerts/Gigs & Tours, visit

BPREVIEW: Birmingham Pride @ Hurst St + various 27/8.05.17

Birmingham Pride 2015 / Michelle Martin

Words by Ed King / Lead & parade pics by Michelle Martin (taken from Birmingham Pride 2015)

On Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th May, Birmingham Pride is back in the city – taking over various venues in Birmingham Gay Village (on and around Hurst Street) for their ‘Big Weekender’.

Tickets will need to be purchased, then exchanged or a wristband allowing you onto the main festival site. Advance tickets will be available from The Nightingale Club (Kent St) on Thursday 25 May from 4pm – 12midnight, then again on Friday 26 May from 12noon until 12midnight.

Wristbands can be bought over the Pride weekend, priced as: Weekend £40, Day £30, Pride by night (9pm onwards) £20. For direct information on tickets/wristbands, including full details on when, where and for how much, click here.

So unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know what Birmingham Pride is. If you don’t, then move you and your stone abode BPREVIEW: Birmingham Pride @ Hurst St + various 27/8.05.17into the new millennium. Seriously, one of Birmingham biggest parties – with a parade that is possibly the only place outside of Shambala where you’ll see more hairy fishnets than… some joke about sailors and a haberdashery shop.

Awesome fun what/whomever your predilections, Birmingham Pride is in its 21st year – picking up the mantle from previous mirror events to the London Pride, that ran sporadically in Brum from the early 70’s. Birmingham Pride as we know it today is a two day extravaganza, held on five separate festival stages with a deluge of fun and games in pretty much every bar within a stone’s throw of Hurst St.

Plus Birmingham Pride 2017 marks the 50th anniversary since you can’t get locked up for being homosexual, kinda sorta. As long as you kept yourself behind closed doors. But ten years after the Wolfenden Report was published the Sexual Offences Act finally made it through parliament – repealing the draconian laws against homosexuality, as made by Henry VIII (oh yes, we move that fast…)  and the 1885 Labouchere Amendment.

Even whilst being molasses slow, this was the first important step in challenging the discriminatory attitudes… sorry, publicly discriminatory attitudes of Britain’s political class when it came to consensual sex between men. Apparently Lesbians weren’t as threatening to the fabric of a decent, God fearing society.

And whilst 50 years is still not that long a time, the tide had to start somewhere; thank fuck, God bless, and another reason to raise a glass in the air this weekend.

Here’s a maraschino cherry pick from across Birmingham Pride 2017:

Saturday 27th May

Birmingham Pride 2015 / Michelle Martin


Pride Parade 2017 / Assembling in Victoria Square from 11am, ready to ‘wind its way’ through the city and down to the festival site, the Birmingham Pride Parade is as colouful an explosion as you can get. Celebrating half a century of less nonsense, Birmingham Pride have set the theme of Love & Pride for this year’s show of solidarity.

If you want to get involved or enter a float, you might just have some time too – click here for more info.



Duo Lipa / Headlining the Main Stage, the English born singer/ songwriter and model will be releasing her debut album about a week after Birmingham Pride – with Birmingham Pride of the only chances to see her perform before an international festival season takes her out of England until October.

For more on Duo Lipa performing at Birmingham Pride, click here.


Basement Jaxx – DJ set / Exciting enough even when it’s just Felix, Simon and a box of vinyl (or whatever the kids are spinning these days) Basement Jaxx will be DJing a headline slot on the Main Stage. With a pretty stella discography of club hits and foot stamping dance floor anthems, stretching back to 1994, Basement Jaxx have been purveyors of the Big-Beat-Disco-House sound for longer than there was a name to call it. I could run through a list if you need me to, but I won’t – just Google ‘Red Alert’ then crawl back under your rock.

For more on Basement Jaxx performing at Birmingham Pride, click here.


Other names to watch out for on the Saturday line up are: Rue Jay (Dance Arena), Tanya Hyde (Cabaret Marquee), Amy La Queefa (Women’s Arena), Ellé Robertson (Women’s Arena), Sandi G (Dance Arena), Topping & Butch (Cabaret Arena), Son of a Tutu (Cabaret Marquee), Jonas Blue (Main Stage), Louisa Johnson (Main Stage), RAYE (Main Stage), Pete Graham (Dance Arena), Jamie Duggan (Dance Arena), DJ Lisa Sharred (Women’s Arena).


Sunday 28th May


Twiggy / Clubland legend and fashion designer for the bastard child of Ziggy Stardust and Tinkerbelle, Twiggy will be performing in the Cabaret Marquee on the weekend’s second day. If you haven’t been hit on or refused entry by this local luminary of lustre and sparkles, then you should have gone out more. Wouldn’t be a proper party without Twiggy’s extravagant headdress bobbing around somewhere in the crowd.

For more on Twiggy performing at Birmingham Pride, click here.



Call Me Unique / The Urban Gypsy comes back to Birmingham Pride, performing a last day live set in the Women’s Arena. Hot on the heels of her new Urban Gypsy II EP, Call Me Unique is touring her new material across the UK and mainland Europe. Always worth a stop, look & listen, you can read more about Call Me Unique as seen through the eyes of Birmingham Review here.

Or for more on Call Me Unique performing at Birmingham Pride 2017, click here.


Charlotte Church’s Late Night Pop Dungeon / Born out of the festival cabaret circuit the Late Night Pop Dungeon is a den of musical iniquity where Wales’ Voice of an Angel gets to dirty her wings one tip at a time. Pop classics to contemporary hits, from MIA to Sufjan Steven, Charlotte Church’s Late Night Pop Dungeon looks hella fun – no pun intended. Now on tour across the UK, it’s hard to think of a better booking for Birmingham Pride’s Sunday crowd.

For more on Charlotte Church’s Late Night Pop Dungeon at Birmingham Pride, click here.


Other names to watch out for on the Saturday line up are: Vicki Vivacious (Marquee Arena), Zara Sykes (Women’s Arena), Gabrielle (Main Stage), Jamelia (Main Stage), Sophie Ellis-Bextor (Main Stage), Boney M (Main Stage), Kissy Sell Out (Dance Arena), Marc Spence (Dance Arena), Tom Shorterz (Dance Arena), Todd Terry (Dance Arena), D.E. Experience (Marquee Arena), Miss Penny (Cabaret Marquee), Madi Saskia (Women’s Arena).

Birmingham Pride takes place from 27-8th May, with the main festival situated on Hurst Street. The Birmingham Pride Parade will leave Victoria Square at 12noon on Saturday 27th May – heading for the festival site on Hurst Street.

For more on Birmingham Pride, including the festival’s full line up and layout, visit

THE GALLERY: Maxïmo Park @ O2 Institute 05.05.17




Words & pics by Michelle Martin

I do love a good cup of tea. Fruity, spicy or a simple Earl Grey. I enjoy tea like I enjoy music, always open to trying new things.

Admittedly, I know little about Maximo Park. From releasing the debut LP twelve years ago on Warp Records, the Mercury nominated A Certain Trigger, to their latest Risk to Exist LP, the band appeared to have slipped through my music collection. And now I know the reason. As I stand in a sold out main arena at the O2 Institute, with fans and adulation all around me, the most interesting thing in the room is the man in the hat, centre stage. Him, and one audience member who was dancing like a T-Rex.

But as much as I enjoyed Paul Smith’s energetic performance, even his stage presence couldn’t make up for the music. Opening strong with ‘What Did We Do to Deserve This?’ – the second single from Risk to Exist, things fell flat pretty quickly for me after that.

Covering a deluge of work from their twelve year portfolio there were the inevitable ebbs and flows, with ‘Our Velocity’ and ‘Girls Who Play Guitars’ – the opening two tracks from the Our Earthly Pleasures sophomore LP – bringing some ear catching open guitars and much stronger vocals to the stage, more so than I found in their recent work. The rest of the set, which I was free to enjoy sans camera after track No#3, felt forgettable. Perhaps I came to this party too late.

But clearly the O2 Institute audience were having a fantastic time, all dancing and singing along, so I guess the opinion of one doesn’t really matter. Maybe that was why I was distracted by a man in the audience attempting to recreate a scene from Jurassic Park – Maxïmo Park’s blend of anarchic stage strutting and political laced indie rock was definitely his flavor. Although I think I’ll pass on this cup of tea next time around.

Check out a selection of Michelle’s shots from Maxïmo Park from the O2 Institute gig in THE GALLERY below. To see the Full Flickr of Pics, click here or on the relevant links.

Maxïmo Park @ O2 Institute 05.05.17 / Michelle Martin – Birmingham Review

Risk to Exist by Maxïmo Park is out on general release from 21st April, via Cooking Vinyl. For more on Maxïmo Park, visit 

For more from the O2 Institute, including full venue details and online ticket sales, visit 

For more from SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours, visit

BREVIEW: Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP – launch night @ Mama Roux’s 05.05.17

BREVIEW: Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP - launch night @ Mama Roux’s 05.05.17 / Michelle Martin - Birmingham Review




Words by Ed King / Pics by Michelle Martin & Ed King

‘You’ve always had the power to go back…’

It’s here: the day in question, of reckoning, red letter. Call Me Unique is launching her Urban Gypsy II EP tonight, three years since its predecessor came off stage at The Yardbird, with a smorgasboard showcase at Mama Roux’s – the raw and raucous live music sponge in the Rainbow portfolio. And I’ve seen the running order; I kid you not there’s over ten artists joining Unique on stage, with an average of five minutes to perform and turn around. I’d make a joke, but it’s an important day.

Known for many years as the Girl-With-The-Guitar (and still on some bus routes) Call Me Unique has been frustratingly close to something for some time. Her combination of soul, rap, jazz, verse and scat, peppered with flecks of folk and bonfire laments, has BREVIEW: Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP - launch night @ Mama Roux’s 05.05.17 / Ed King - Birmingham Reviewbeen circling the thermals for a while; deserving of adulation beyond this city, whilst gaining some ground in London and Europe (based out of Budapest) Call Me Unique has sorely needed a win. Not a pat on the back, not a friend saying ‘well done’, a win. And the only way this was going to happen, to really happen, to happen in a way that would push this all forward, was the holy trinity: write, record, release.

So, no pressure then.

Walking into Mama Roux’s the first thing I notice are the numbers. Full room – check. Next are the people who make up those numbers – a regular line up of musicians and music professionals, with some healthy creative faces on the periphery to even things out. Then there’s what I can only assume are Mama Roux’s regular crowd or the throng that attend Digbeth Dining Club, with a handful trapped at two iron mesh tables by the front of the stage. I maybe address that one.BREVIEW: Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP - launch night @ Mama Roux’s 05.05.17 / Ed King - Birmingham Review

But before anyone can say ‘shall we sit upstairs’ the stage begins, with Unique and guests walking us through the EP that started ‘the Urban Gypsy Experience’ a handful of years ago. ‘Stranger’ is up first, with rappers Trademark Blud and Boy October (aka Christian Deveaux) giving some significant punch to my favourite track from Urban Gypsy I, before trading places with Kezia Soul and Simon Jnr for ‘Here’.

The eponymous track gets Lady Sanity and RTKal up on stage, always good to see, before the pinnacle performance of the first half from Jugganaut and Malik MD7 – bouncing ‘Bombs & Wars’ around the room and back again. So far this is going extremely well. Then Ed Geater and Affie Jam join Call Me Unique to perform ‘Sholow’, with Geater’s vocal leading the song in a memorable Bill Withers moment. It’s not often you see these three on stage without guitars in their hands; wouldn’t mind that happening again.

N.B. Ed Geater produced Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP, that’s why he is on stage tonight. All the other artists are here from love, affinity, involvement or love. Life is quite simple.

BREVIEW: Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP - launch night @ Mama Roux’s 05.05.17 / Ed King - Birmingham ReviewRound Two is a showcase of Urban Gypsy II, the full EP getting performed with a selection of guests – kicking off, as the god of track listing intended, with the dreamlike ‘Dreamers’. A surprisingly effective cover of ‘Genie in a Bottle’ comes up next, with a mix of vox pops and ‘eerie sounds’ taking us into ‘Birds’ – the second track from the EP in question.

The rib digging ‘Only Girl in Manville’ gets a darker delivery, as the band step back to let the words speak for themselves, before the first (noticeable, at least) slip up on a running order that could have been Chrystal Maze challenge. But without missing a beat, figuratively or literally, a quick crowd search then a “come on up here girl” pulls Tina Amana up on stage for the ‘Say My Name’ cover, who I haven’t seen with Unique since the Sun at the Station gig back in March 2015. It’s a beautiful silver lining, and represents the genuine love and support that fills up this room tonight. They even share a mic. Although that was more a technical issue than some crazed close quarter duet.BREVIEW: Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP - launch night @ Mama Roux’s 05.05.17 / Ed King - Birmingham Review

Leanne Louise is our next guest of honour, as her and Unique banter back and forth with ‘Hashtag’; no egos, a shared stage and joint presence. Job done. Then a journey back to the source with ‘The Wife’, before the final two tracks from Call Me Unique’s new EP, ‘Shoulda’ and ‘Ashon’, gets their turn in the spotlight tonight. There’s a lot of personal exposure on Urban Gypsy II but perhaps these two tracks are amongst the more visceral – challenging hypocritical fists in the former and honouring a ‘son who never got to breathe’ in the latter. But I’ll sum up the end of this set, of this gig, of this obstacle course release, in one word. Strength. Even with tears streaming down your face.

Call Me Unique has a few more to add anyway, with her standard call to “support local artists” getting sandwiched with a more mature declaration of strength. There’s that word again. But oddly, perhaps, perhaps not, it was the call to “make this our home” that I walk out of the venue carrying closest. The Yardbird was an important playground for BREVIEW: Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP - launch night @ Mama Roux’s 05.05.17 / Michelle Martin - Birmingham ReviewCall Me Unique and others; full of talent, ambition and garrulous endevour. It meant a lot to many. And whilst I’ve only been in Mama Roux’s a handful of times I’m old enough to see something unfolding itself here, tonight, with an honest soul at the centre. And I can all too easily be a cynic.

So go out and buy Urban Gypsy II, support your local music scene, support your local music venues. Do as she says. And someone, somewhere under the arches in Digbeth, with an address book and a diary, should start seriously clicking their heals together.

‘…there’s no place like home.’

Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP is out now, launched at Mama Roux’s on Friday 5th May. For more on Call Me Unique, including online sales of Urban Gypsy II, visit

For more from Mama Roux’s, including a full events programme and online ticket sales, visit