BREVIEW: The Hungry Ghosts @ The Sunflower Lounge 06.07.16

The Hungry Ghosts @ The Sunflower Lounge 06.07.16 / By Rob Hadley (Indie Images)Words by Ed King / Pics by Rob Hadley (Indie Images)

For the full Flickr of pics, click here

I have a problem with ‘thank you’.

When I write something – a review, a feature or an opinion piece, it’s autonomous. To thank me for it implies I did something supportive, or helpful, or (god forbid) kind. I didn’t. I don’t. Writing is what I do. I often wish is wasn’t. And should you find yourself the subject of my (often acerbic) pen you’ve done something to deserve it; however the end critique turns out, you’ve earned your words.The Hungry Ghosts @ The Sunflower Lounge 06.07.16 / By Rob Hadley (Indie Images)

On Monday I reviewed The Hungry Ghosts’ debut EP, Blood Red Songs. Surmised in ten words or less: Ferocious. Superb. Dark. Ball grabbing. One track too short. I received a number of ‘thanks you’s.

But I like the band; they swagger, they strut, they could cut you with razors, and their Redditch born black magic southern swamp blues is perfectly dangerous.

The Hungry Ghosts are (and I’m not the only one to say this) “a fu*king rock band”, and if Blood Red Songs is anything to go by they’ll continue to be until we all choke on stories of “when I first saw them…” Its only flaw was the track listing – the four song debut leaving you with a psychedelic lullaby instead of a kick to the groin. Strike, dear mistress.

Now it’s Wednesday and I’m at The Sunflower Lounge, to see said Ghosts launch said EP in front of a strong home grown crowd. The room is full, the stairs are full, there are several other bands in the audience, and I’ve already upset someone by helping her not to knock over my cider.

The Hungry Ghosts @ The Sunflower Lounge 06.07.16 / By Rob Hadley (Indie Images)It’s cramped and furtive; the two support slots dutifully filled by Apathy and The Terror Watts – taking us from the Metallicaesque shoegaze of the former, to the pop fueled DIY of the later. And if you see either band on a bill it would be worth looking further.

The Sunflower Lounge is always dark, but tonight extra midnight red bathes the small stage as The Hungry Ghosts take root. Scrubbed, oiled and polished, with new drummer Mike Conroy in tow, the four piece start with the cheeky bass riff of ‘Beetle Boots’ – dancing through the room like Scooby Doo with a switchblade.

Joe Joseph leans in and looks up over his mic stand, all dark curls and menace; rumbling vocals of dangerous tales I can’t quite distinguish. A low drawl jumps to a frayed scream, whilst Jodie Lawrence and Billy Ollis flank him with self assured pouts and head thrusts. Flashes of teeth, red and silver jump off stage; it’s an entrance Jack Nicholson would be proud of. The Hungry Ghosts @ The Sunflower Lounge 06.07.16 / By Rob Hadley (Indie Images)

Straight into ‘Father Snake Moan’, with the metaphor chorus I have yet to fully unpick, Joe Joseph commands us all forward – filling the invisible void so many small venues create. Rolling drums and appropriate feedback spill into the now tighter crowd, before Joseph tails it into the audience for what will not be the only time tonight.

The molasses of ‘Love Song’ follows, with the B-Side of The Hungry Ghost’s debut single bringing Lawrence and Joseph’s vocals together like a stolen kiss – before the front man is back off stage and into the crowd.

I’ve seen this in their sets before, a dance around the candid and intimate, yet still somewhere on the cusp of violence. You believe it too; a raw and rehearsed performance celebrating the intimacy of these people on stage. You can practice this stuff but you can’t make it up, and it’s precisely these points that warrant “a fu*king rock band.”

The punchy dark march of ‘Hares on the Mountain’ signs its A side name across the room, almost bitch slapping the front row, as Joe Joseph takes his place back on stage and cranes his eyes back over the crowd. Who in turn start to bubble. I scrawl the word ‘ferocious’ into my notebook (for neither the first nor last time with this band) before ‘The Hungry Ghost Blues’ washes through the room leaving little imprint. ‘I lose something. I say something to the person next to me. It ends’ is written on the line below.

The Hungry Ghosts @ The Sunflower Lounge 06.07.16 / By Rob Hadley (Indie Images)There’s a small break, like just before the second time you jump into water, and the shoulders of the room seem to drop slightly as the band tunes in between tracks. In silence. The stage lights seem momentarily brighter whilst the audience chats away to itself; ‘INTERMISSION’ could be written in light bulb letters across a long velvet curtain somewhere. Tonight’s opening triptych has been a powerful beginning, even domineering at points, but as a small divide perches on the edge of the stage, its feet not quite yet touching the floor, I write ‘…say anything’.

And they do, musically, as ‘Super King King’ struts its predatory blues off stage next – prompting a period of deep breaths, steel-eyed stares and mic stand stroking that could land you in court. It’s a ferocious track (…told you) a working museum of the band’s influences and admirations, and one that’s fast becoming my favourite in a Hungry Ghosts’ set. On the EP it sounds superb; back to your seats people.

We slide full swing into the Velvets-esque riffs of ‘Death Rattle Blues’, another track from the Blood Red Songs EP, as the room builds in an orchestrated crescendo. The crowd dances; I drum my fingers against the railings, a few steps down from where I stood the first time, and contemplate throwing things from the stairs. Me, a glass, the man to my right. Something. Anything. Again, “a fu*king rock band”.

By this point Billy Ollis and Joe Joseph are huddled together in a twist of guitars, as the front man’s vocals jump from low drawl to scream. I struggle more and more with the frayed lyrics; it’s an honest display, but I want to hear these words and not just witness their delivery.The Hungry Ghosts @ The Sunflower Lounge 06.07.16 / By Rob Hadley (Indie Images)

And the final track of the main set brings this dichotomy to the forefront, as Joe Joseph lays down his guitar to focus on prose for ‘The Catcher’ – with its semi spoken introduction, leading to almost fetal position screaming from the floor of the stage.

Then somewhere, somehow, Joseph is lifted up by the crowd; fulfilling the main set held aloft by his audience, playing his guitar horizontally as he is passed from one end of the room to the other. This wasn’t rehearsed yet manages to occur with almost theatrical precision; one of those moments.

The demanded encore is ‘The Hungry Ghosts Say Hello’ – a seemingly scone & tea titled track, that is, in reality, a mosh pit and explosion of strobe light. An awesome end, leaving a palpable and lingering taste that would have done well on the EP. Perhaps not this track, but this ending.

Joe Joseph, with no windows to jump or throw something out of – trapped in the limited capacity of the subterranean Sunflower, walks through the Red Sea crowd and out the back door. And for the last time tonight… “a fu*king rock band”.

The Hungry Ghosts @ The Sunflower Lounge 06.07.16 / By Rob Hadley (Indie Images)We file slowly, languidly upstairs, with most of the room deciding it would be safer to just stay for a drink. No one’s going home straight away. The Hungry Ghosts, their “job done”, are dutifully packing their gear into the van and cracking on with the business of post performance. Joe Joseph seems, as always, genuine and appreciative that anyone’s responding at all.

I extend a garrulous invitation to help – not knowing anything about kit or stage that would be in anyway useful, but it’s all I can really think of to say. “…you’ll have to wait until I publish it. But, you know… blimey. Job done I think Joe” and I extend a pat between the shoulder blades as both deflection and full stop.

The Hungry Ghosts must know it’s been a good gig tonight, I think; there will be personal assessments, sure, and mistakes only a creator will see. But the crowd response was undeniable. A happy elephant stomps through this room.

I backtrack, my drunk and guarded rhetoric still determined not to give away parts of my review (perhaps that one cider should have been sacrificed to the floor) and think quick for a suitably safe response.

“I mean, that was, well… Thank you for tonight.”

The Hungry Ghosts’ debut Blood Red Songs EP is out now – available to by online & from Setting Son Records. For more on The Hungry Ghosts,

For more from The Sunflower Lounge, visit 

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BPREVIEW: Melvins @ The Rainbow 22.06.16

Melvins - By Mackie Osborne

Words by Ed King / Pic & artwork by Mackie Osborne

On Weds 22nd June, the Melvins come to The Rainbow – as presented by Surprise You’re Dead Music. Doors open at 7pm with tickets priced at £22 + booking fee. For direct event info & online tickets sales, click here.Birmingham Preview

On the road to promote their new record, but mostly because touring is a way of life for them’, the Melvins stop off in Birmingham as part of a 17 date European zig zag across June. And with two studio albums to shout about – Three Men and a Baby (No23, released on 1st April) and Basses Loaded (No24, released on 6th June) you could argue their press release was being… modest, about the band’s touring agenda. Although 100 dates from March to October is pretty ‘way of life’ as you’re going to get.

Formed in 1983 in Montesana, Washington – ‘a small town, much smaller than anyone could imagine’, Melvins grew up, in and around the North West grunge scene that still leaves its imprint today. Although with a style sliding from post punk frenzy through to a black metal molasses (often compared to Black Sabbath), the Melvins weren’t a direct composite of the shifting Sup Pop landscape that surrounded them. Three Men and a Baby, which was initially started in 1993 with Mike Kunka from godheadSilo, is the Melvins’ only release on the black & white branded Washington based label.

MelvinsBasses Loaded, released on the Melvins’ relatively longstanding label – the Mike Patton & Greg Werckman owned Ipecac Recordings, is a riff munching march through the murky mires of ROCK. ‘Beer Hippie’ Is an Iron Man lament behind a voice decoder, ‘Hideous Woman’ is a punchy West Coast foot stamp, with ‘War Pussy’ heralding all the Donnington mosh pit madness you’ve come to grow, love and fear over the decades. There’s even an accordion in there.

And with a Spinal Tap-esque approach to bass players, with six notable guests featuring across the LP, Basses Loaded holds a bevy of sounds and influences to music porn yourself stupid over. Plus it’s a lot, A LOT, of fun. Garage bands of Birmingham take note.

‘Hideous Woman’ by Melvins – from Basses Loaded

Melvins play at The Rainbow on Weds 22nd June. For direct gig info & online ticket sales, visit

For more on the Melvins, visit

For more from The Rainbow, visit

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BREVIEW: Broken Witt Rebels @ The Sunflower Lounge 15.04.16

Broken Witt Rebels @ Sunflower 15.04.16 - Eric Duvet #2

Words by Olly MacNamee / Pics by Eric Duvet 

Broken Witt Rebels @ Sunflower 15.04.16 - Eric Duvet #2Currently on a whistle-stop tour of this scepter’d isle of ours, Birmingham’s Broken Witt Rebels are back on home turf tonight. And with a sell-out crowd of family, friends and new fans awaiting, they need to bring their ‘A’ game.

Playing a taught, thirty minute set and offering up tracks from their two EP’s (the recently released Georgia Pine and previous offering, Howlin’) alongside new songs, this quartet from Castle Vale did not disappoint.

First and foremost, I was amazed at the rich, smoky, sensual, “Down South” strains of frontman, Danny Core. Core offers a voice that sounds as though it’s done some living; a wise Broken Witt Rebels @ Sunflower 15.04.16 - Eric Duvet #2old singer-songwriter reincarnated into a young man from Brum. Maybe the stork got his Birmingham cities mixed up and somewhere in the Deep South of America there’s a guy with the Brummie brogue Core was supposed to have.

Opening up their set with the punchy, sexy ‘Low’, Core and company – childhood friend and bassist Luke Davis, guitarist James Tranter and drummer James Dudley – were clearly enjoying themselves. It was infectious, with many of the crowd singing along, bringing a sense of taciturn camaraderie between the rockers and the room.Broken Witt Rebels @ Sunflower 15.04.16 - Eric Duvet #2

Broken Witt Rebels‘ sound is a blues-infused, country-twanged brand of rock and roll, reminiscent of early Kings of Leon, before they lost their beards and their soulfulness. Whizzing through a set of ciggie-soaked vocals and Mississippi moonshine-marinated melodies, Broken Witt Rebels played tracks including ‘Getaway Man’, ‘Guns’ and the set’s closer ‘Shake Me Down’.

I was left with the feeling that this is a band on the up. And I suspect Broken Witt Rebels may not be returning to such small venues in the future, given how developed and ready for rock success they already are, and at such a tender age.

For more on Broken Witt Rebels, visit

For more from The Sunflower Lounge, visit

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BREVIEW: Hans Zimmer @ Barclaycard Arena 12.04.16

Hans Zimmer @ Barclaycard Arena 12.04.16 / By Michelle Martin - Birmingham Review

For the full Flickr of pics, click here

Words by Olly MacNamee / Pics by Michelle Martin 

If anyone was still wondering how we can break boundaries and encourage people from all walks of life to embrace classical music, then Hans Zimmer’s concert  at The Barclaycard Arena provided the answer. Hoodies and Hooray Henries, and all stratum of society in-between, were in attendance.

Hans Zimmer @ Barclaycard Arena 12.04.16 / By Michelle Martin - Birmingham Review All were there to lap up the soundtrack of our lives, the original scores and complex compositions of Zimmer and his impressively large entourage of musicians. Musical numbers that date back through three thrilling decades of orchestral originality evoked some fond memories over an immense two and a half hours.

Starting promptly at 8pm on the dot, Zimmer introduced each track with humorous anecdotes – as we were transported through an autobiographical autobahn of his back catalogue.

The last time he’d played Birmingham, over thirty years ago, Hans Zimmer travelled in a Ford Transit van and played to a crowd of three in a pub. Humble beginnings indeed, but as I watched him command the stage, his love for music, for what he does, became apparent. It struck me that here is a man who, even if he were busking at New Street Station, would be equally as happy.

Hans Zimmer @ Barclaycard Arena 12.04.16 / By Michelle Martin - Birmingham ReviewSurrounding yourself with friends and long-term collaborators helps too, especially if you’re on the road as much as he is over the coming months. The energy on stage was palatable and infectious. We were won over almost instantaneously as we witnessed the man behind the majestic, soaring music he has penned.

The first half was dominated by past achievements, the score to Crimson Tide kicking off the set before segueing into the original score for the film Angels and Demons – reminding the audience that sometimes, Zimmer’s music is the most memorable part of a film.

Playing through scores from Gladiator (both haunting and bombastic in equal amounts) there was also room for the much more elegant, subtle sound of The Da Vinci Code. Music from The Lion King was thrown into the mix, and proved to be an instant crowd-pleaser, immediately recognisable from the opening bars alone.

With many tracks lasting epic lengths of time, the first hour was over in the blink of an eye. We had been enthralled and entertained. A man who showed he could be both a musical maestro as well as a humorous raconteur. And, justHans Zimmer @ Barclaycard Arena 12.04.16 / By Michelle Martin - Birmingham Review like the Man City match on the same night, this was a show of two halves, with a second half that had a superhero and sci-fi theme.

Focusing on his more recent work with Christopher Nolan and the like, Zimmer – swapping instruments as he went along – brought the electricity to the Electro Suite from The Amazing Spider-man 2 and the darkness to The Dark Knight. His heavier, gothic music grabbed you around the throat, hanging you threateningly over the edge of a precipice. Just like Batman himself would.

He informed us that after hearing of Heath Ledger’s tragic death, he was tempted to change the score, but rightly decided that it should stand as a tribute to the chaos and anarchy Ledger brought to his Oscar winning (albeit, posthumously) performance.

Hans Zimmer @ Barclaycard Arena 12.04.16 / By Michelle Martin - Birmingham ReviewFor me, this tight, brutal Dark Knight medley was the highlight of the evening, accompanied as it was by stark lights and visuals, blinking black and white, black and white in ever quicker succession and drowning the stage with appropriate Expressionist aesthetics not too far removed from the director Franz Lang (Metropolis); a fellow German émigré.

With an encore focused firmly on his music for Inception, Zimmer played out the night, as one by one, each musician and the spotlight receded to leave him on stage, bathed in light. Zimmer is a composer and performer who has made a career out of what he loves and it showed, through every minute. Truly an enjoyable, exuberant evening for all in attendance.

Just don’t leave it another 30 years to return, hey Hans.

For more on Hans Zimmer, visit

For more from the Barclaycard Arena, visit

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BPREVIEW: Ringo Deathstarr @ The Sunflower Lounge 09.03.16

Ringo Deathstarr @ The Sunflower Lounge 09.03.16

Words by Helen Knott

On Wednesday 9th March, Ringo Deathstarr performs at The Sunflower Lounge in Birmingham. Main with web colour bcg - lrDoors open at 8pm, with tickets priced at £12 (advance). For direct gig info and online ticket sales, click here.

This Sunflower Lounge gig is the first of a five-date UK tour in support of the band’s third studio album Pure Mood, which was released on 20th November through Club AC30.

The brilliantly/badly named Ringo Deathstarr, from Texas, was originally formed by singer and guitarist Elliott Frazier in 2007. After a string of singles and international tours (apparently the band is big in Japan) Ringo Deathstarr released their first album Colour Trip in 2011, followed by Mauve in 2012.Ringo Deathstarr / Pure Mood

Their latest album, Pure Mood is a continuation of Ringo Deathstarr’s shoegaze sound – heavily influenced by bands like Ride, The Jesus & Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine. Crucially, Ringo Deathstarr incorporates enough stylistic surprises, including hints of grunge and heavy metal, to keep things interesting.

And as for the band’s live show, expect Ringo Deathstarr to be loud. Maybe not My Bloody Valentine or Sunn O))) loud, but loud enough to make you worry the ceiling is about to cave in.

Until now Ringo Deathstarr’s most high profile was probably a support slot for The Smashing Pumpkins, back in 2012. But a resurgence in popularity of the shoegaze sound over recent years, through bands such as Cheatahs, Echo Lake and DIIV (along with the release of Ringo Deathstarr’s arguably best album to date) may mean it’s time for this hard working band to finally emerge as a force to be reckoned with.

…I think that’s enough bad Star Wars puns for one BPREVIEW.

Released in November 2015, ‘Guilt’ was the first taster of Pure Mood. Check it out below:

‘Guilt’ by Ringo Deathstarr

Ringo Deathstarr perform at The Sunflower Lounge on Wednesday 9th March. For direct gig info & online tickets, visit Sunflower Lounge - BR web colours, cropped

For more on Ringo Deathstarr, visit

For more from The Sunflower Lounge, visit http://thesunflowerlounge.comFollow-Birmingham-Review-on-300x26Facebook - f square, rounded - with colour - 5cm highTwitter - t, square, rounded, with colour, 5cm high