ELEANOR’S PICK: Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

ELEANOR’S PICK: Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

Words by Eleanor Sutcliffe

Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) comes to the NEC in Birmingham on 28th May. For a direct event information, including venue details and online ticket sales, visit www.gentingarena.co.uk/whats-on/slam-dunk-festival

As one of the most anticipated dates in the UK pop punk calendar, it’s safe to say Slam Dunk Festival are taking no prisoners with this year’s line up. With a bevy of bands and artists descending upon the NEC in just under a week’s time, I took it upon myself to comb through the roster and select a number that I personally love.

ELEANOR’S PICK: Holding Absence at Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

Holding Absence / Rock Sound Breakout Stage

Birmingham favourites, Holding Absence, are set to make their Slam Dunk debut this year on the Rock Sound Breakout Stage. Having recently announced the departure of guitarist Feisal El-Khazragi, it will be one of their first performances without him in their line up. But with Holding Absence recently nominated for Best British Breakthrough Band at the 2018 Heavy Metal Awards, plus playing a string of dates supporting Being as an Ocean across Europe in June, they’re certainly not letting El-Khazragi’s departure slow them down.

Represented by Sharptone Records – who bought us the likes of Don Broco, Miss May I and We Came As Romans – the Cardiff based band also recently toured and released a co-EP with Loathe titled This Is As One, which earned them numerous positive reviews from critics for tracks such as ‘Saint Cecilia’.

Holding Absence perform at 3:30pm on the Rock Sound Breakout Stage. For more on Holding Absence, visit www.holdingabsence.com

Saint Cecilia’ – Holding Absence


ELEANOR’S PICK: PVRIS at Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

PVRIS / Jägermeister Main Stage

Having recently performed at Coachella, PVRIS will be returning to Birmingham hot off the heels of the American leg of their All We Know of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell tour – promoting their latest album of the same name.

Lynn Gunn’s dreamy vocals, combined with the band’s heavy rock influences, have earned them a dedicated fanbase and won them Rock Sound’s Artist of the Year Award back in 2017. Here’s hoping PVRIS also perform some tracks from their debut album, White Noise, with songs such as ‘St. Patrick’ and ‘My House’ being on my personal wish list.

PVRIS perform at 8:15 pm on the Jägermeister Main Stage. For more on PVRIS, visit www.pvris.com

‘Anyone Else’ – PVRIS


ELEANOR’S PICK: Taking Back Sunday at Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

Taking Back Sunday / Monster Energy Main Stage

Returning to Slam Dunk for the 3rd time, Taking Back Sunday were in the first wave of bands to be confirmed to at perform this year’s festival.

Having released their 7th album, Tidal Waves, in September 2016, and parting ways with their original guitarist Eddie Rayes last month, it will be interesting to see if we get to hear any new material from the group. Although I’m hoping to hear classic tracks such as ‘You’re So Last Summer’ and ‘MakeDamnSure’ as well as songs such as ‘You Can’t Look Back’ from their latest album live.

Taking Back Sunday perform at 8:05pm on the Monster Energy Main Stage. For more on Taking Back Sunday, visit www.takingbacksunday.com

‘You’re So Last Summer’ – Taking Back Sunday


ELEANOR’S PICK: Astroid Boys at Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18Astroid Boys / Impericon Stage

The Impericon stage will be hosting hardcore grime band Astroid Boys, who have always delivered impressive shows in Birmingham. Growing steadily since their formation back in 2012, they were bought to my attention after being featured in BBC Radio 4’s documentary Operation Grime, which tailed them on a tour across the UK.

Astroid Boys‘ music is not for the faint hearted – expect brutal lyrics addressing issues such as racism, mashed with hardcore and grime influences to create a sound you probably have never heard before… but will just as probably want to listen to again.

Astroid Boys perform at 2:20 pm on the Impericon Stage. For more on Astroid Boys, visit www.astroid-boys.com

‘Foreigners’ – Astroid Boys


ELEANOR’S PICK: As It Is at Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

As It Is / Signature Brew Stage

Announcing the August release of their latest album, The Great Depression, only a few days ago, Brighton based As It Is will be headlining the Signature Brew stage this year.

A band who’ve amassed a dedicated fan base with tracks such as ‘Dial Tones’ and ‘Hey Rachel’, their material is catchy, easy to listen to and fun – however it’s unfair to assume they lack a more serious side. Their latest release, ‘The Wounded World’, delves into a much darker side of their ever-expanding noise, having been cited by the band as a ‘new era’ of their music which expands on ‘the societal romanticisation of depression’ and ‘the disrepair of present-day human connection’.

As ever with this band, though, As It Is approach their subject with the respect and sensitivity it warrants – referencing their new material as a means for them to work to create a positive change for mental health.

As It Is perform at 8:30pm on the Signature Brew Stage. For more from As It Is, visit www.asitisofficial.bandcamp.com

‘The Wounded World’ – As It Is


ELEANOR’S PICK: Luke Rainsford at Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

Luke Rainsford / The Key Club Acoustic Stage

The Key Club Acoustic Stage is hosting a stellar line up of bands and artists, including Birmingham’s Luke Rainsford – combining upbeat guitar with gut wrenching vocals, making music that is hard hitting but a real treat to listen to.

Having toured the UK extensively since the release of I Feel At Home With You in February 2017, and having recently released his latest EP, I Just Don’t Deserve To Be Loved, in April 2018, Rainsford’s music deals with difficult issues such as loss, bereavement, low self esteem and mental health. Good, honest stuff.

Luke Rainsford performs at 4:15 pm on The Key Club Acoustic Stage. For more on Luke Rainsford, visit www.lukerainsford.bandcamp.com

‘Home Safe’ – Luke Rainsford



ELEANOR’S PICK: Stand Atlantic at Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

Stand Atlantic / Rock Sound Breakout Stage

Australian trio, Stand Atlantic, will also be making their Slam Dunk debut this year, having recently toured with other performers such as ROAM and Knuckle Puck. With their latest EP, Sidewinder, reaching an impressive #10 on Rock Sound’s Top 50 Albums of 2017, and having been cited by Kerrang! as one of the hottest bands of 2018, Stand Atlantic are proving they’re a force to be reckoned with.

Claiming influences from Blink-182 to The 1975, they’re certainly considered a mixed bag musically too – but in the best possible way. Trust me. Go and listen to ‘Coffee at Midnight’. You can thank me later.

Stand Atlantic perform at 6:00 pm on the Rock Sound Breakout Stage. For more on Stand Atlantic, visit www.facebook.com/StandAtlantic 

‘Coffee at Midnight’ – Stand Atlantic

Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) comes to the NEC in Birmingham on 28th May. For direct information on Slam Dunk Festival 2018, including details on all the events happening across the UK, visit www.slamdunkmusic.com

For a direct info and online ticket sales for Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands), visit www.gentingarena.co.uk/whats-on/slam-dunk-festival

For more from the Genting Arena, including full events listing and venue details, visit www.gentingarena.co.uk

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 www.therainbowvenues.co.uk/events/the-melvins

For more on the Melvins, visit www.themelvins.net

For more from The Rainbow, visit www.therainbowvenues.co.uk

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INTERVIEW: Benjamin Francis Leftwich

Ben Leftwich / By Pip for Dirty Hit Records

*Benjamin Francis Leftwich plays at The Rainbow Courtyard on Thursday 5th May – as presented by Birmingham PromotersKilimanjaro Live. For direct info & tickets, click here.

Words by Ed King

I over play things. It’s a habit. And for one glorious summer Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s debut album – Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm, was the repetitive soundtrack to my earphone clad existence.

Alongside Like I Used To by Lucy Rose, and If You Leave by Daughter, these three debuts owned me for a solid six months – complicit and outright. And now with Leftwich’s follow up album poised to attack, the ‘eagerly awaited’ After the Rain set for release on 19th August, I prepare for predictability once again.

“I really appreciate that,” responds Benjamin Francis Leftwich, as I try to retain any sense of detached cool, “those two artists (Lucy Rose, Daughter) are close friends of mine and I know they’d be incredibly humbled to hear that as well. I know what you mean though; so many records of that genre were coming out then and everyone was on the same gig circuit and festivals – it was a really beautiful time and one that I’ll always cherish.”

Ah the halcyon days… But such an immediate impact can be both a blessing and a curse, with the pressures to jump even higher, especially on ‘that difficult second album’, often the antithesis to a healthy creative development. And more often than not, with the aforementioned being a triptych example, the make or break in this scenario can come down to the label.Dirty Hit logo

“They’re amazing; I consider them family,” explains Leftwich – talking about Dirty Hit, his label for nearly a decade. “It’s a great home, they’ve allowed me to make the record that I wanted and needed to make. They’re just very music focused; I was almost going to say ‘tolerant’, but the people who work there have an amazing ear and ultimately they’re just music lovers who know more about how to make things work (industry) than I do.”

You do get a sense of camaraderie from the Dirty Hit roster, even from the outside looking in – like it’s more a friendly faced 4AD than a suited and booted Sony. “I’m not just saying that because we’re talking,” confirms Leftwich, “but the level of dedication goes so much further than just the music and song writing than I think people realise – it’s everything. When you’re working with an independent label like that, and you go into an office and there are five people running the whole thing… out of necessity it has to be inclusive, and song focused. And of course ambitious.”

Good to know. When my kazoo career is ready for takeoff I know where to send my demo. But it’s not all a garrulous love in at Casa de la Leftwich, as the five year hiatus between albums was the result of the illness and subsequent death of Benjamin’s father – a man the After the Rain press release describes as both ‘a parent and his number one source of inspiration’.

“…feel free to ask me what you want to ask me,” says Leftwich, as I stumble around the foundations of his latest endeavour. “There’s no question of me being offended. By ‘aspects’ do you mean things as well as the death of dad?” I do. It’s a poor choice of words, but how driven by that particular sadness was the writing process for After the Rain?

After the Rain / Benjamin Francis Leftwich“It was hugely impactful, massively so.  I’ve run through the timeline of it so much; I was with dad back in York, living in the house, and I loved that I could be there. Then I went on tour to America, which in hindsight I regret, but you know, that’s life.  Then I came back and was writing in my room; me and my sister were there, sharing time.” Again the press release mentions this, how After the Rain’s opening track was ‘written in the living room opposite his father’s old house.

“We had producers coming up and setting up in the living room recording music, we had a full mixing desk in the living room at one point.” I feel like I’ve left my shoes on where I shouldn’t. But was it all about your dad?

“When something like that happens it’s more than just about that initial thing,” continues Leftwich, “it affects everything else around it. So that album (After the Rain) is massively inspired by it, and everything that followed. Not every song is about that – they cover a massive geographical and emotional range, but of course it’s a theme that runs though, and probably, subconsciously, maybe, ties them all together.”

Luckily for the sake of this conversation (and the apparent label goodwill) the first teaser from Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s new album is a superb return to form – the delicate but visceral ‘Tilikum’, which has been out in the public domain since early this year.

“The name of the song came from the name of the whale in the film Blackfish,” explains Leftwich, “and it’s a name that I was once planning on calling my baby… but that didn’t happen.” I remember ‘Tilikum’s opening six lines and choose not to ask. “And I wrote a song kind of explaining my thoughts about that and for the future. The chorus is just full of love.” The verses aren’t bad either; with a crafted sensitivity and robust pen, ‘Tilikum’ is arguably a step up from its predecessors. And that’s hard for me to say.

But there’s something else in Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s first release in half a decade, something evolved. Maybe it’s the time spent in between albums, maybe it’s the tragedy and catalyst, maybe it’s the Charlie Andrew production, or the “wider range of music than I listened to five years ago” and “sounds and textures from different records” that Leftwich references in his follow up. I honestly couldn’t say. And part of me doesn’t want to.

But with a 27 date tour before the album’s release – traversing Europe, America and Canada, and a date at our own Moseley Folk Festival, I’ll probably have enough time to find a suitably verbose suggestion.

Now someone get me Elena Tonra on the phone…


Benjamin Francis Leftwich plays at The Rainbow Courtyard on Thursday 5th May – as presented by Birmingham Promoters & Kilimajaro Live. For direct info & tickets, click visit http://therainbowvenues.co.uk/events/benjamin-francis-leftwich/

For more on Benjamin Francis Leftwich, visit http://www.benjaminfrancisleftwich.com/

For more from The Rainbow Venues, visit http://therainbowvenues.co.uk/

BPREVIEW: Swingamajig 2016 @ Rainbow Venues 01.05.16

Swingamajig 2016 / 1st MayWords & pics (from Swingamjig 2015) by Ed King

It’s that time again. Spring has sprung, the chocolate chicks have hatched, and that fantastic festival crocus is popping up in flyers and on Facebook.Main with web colour bcg - lr

Swingamajig 2016 is four weeks away – time to get your glad rags out, dust down your feather boas, and dress up for some fine & dandy debauchery. 1st May people…

Moving to the Rainbow Venues, this year’s Swingamajig is the biggest festival yet – cramming ‘over 4,000 of the UK’s best dressed ladies & gents’ into the sprawling Digbeth events complex.

Curated by Electric Swing Circus & Kambe Events, Swingamajig 2016 has 6 stages on offer, ‘packing a massive program of music and performance’ into its new home – with Balkan Beatbox as the main event headliner, alongside a bevy of the bold and beautiful from Burlesque, ‘electro swing, bassline, gypsy, punk, balkan, folk, jazz, rockabilly and rock and roll.’

There’s also a tie in this year to the International Dance Festival Birmingham, with a few artist crossovers and Stomp Stomp – a day of ‘lindy hop and authentic solo jazz workshops’ at The Night Owl on Saturday 30th April. For more on Stomp Stomp, click here.

But trying to define Swingamajig, or to slot it neatly into one event pigeon hole or another, is a foolhardy endevour – as Birmingham Review found out for the first time at last year’s festival (…shame on us).Swingamajig 2015 / By Ed King

Try not to think of Swingamajig in terms or genres, just imagine a masquerade ball exploding like a glitter filled piñata inside a cabaret circus big top, with all the fire crew dressed by Mr Ben and Dita Von Tease after a mouthful of mushrooms. So hopefully that clears that up a bit.

And if a burlesque tinged psychedelic 70’s children’s TV metaphor isn’t crystal enough for you, have a look at our BREVIEW of Swingamajig 2015 – click here

So then… down to brass tacks. Swingamajig 2016 – who’s on, where, and for how much? As previously stated, this year’s festival headliners are Balkan Beatbox – who will be in The Big Top Main Stage at some point after dark.

Jenova Collective @ Swingamajig 2015 / By Ed KingNext on the live line up are The Destroyers – a local ‘MegaFolk’ ensemble who are as addictive as fun is legally allowed to be (in fact, they may not be legal. Defra are getting back to us), with the band that started it all, Electric Swing Circus, having their rightful place of prominence. Another first, I popped my ESC cherry last year and they are all sorts of awesome.

There’s more on stage show from The Tootsie Rollers, Jack Rabbit Slim, Swingrowers, Tankus the Henge, The Carny Villains, The Rin Tins (again, particularly awesome), Barbarella’s Bang Bang, The After Hours Quintet and Jim Wynn Swing Orchestra – with DJ sets coming from JFB, C@ in the H@, The Chicken Brothers (another stand out set from Swingamajig 2015), Aries, Tallulah Goodtimes, Jenova Collective, and the man with possibly the best biog in history – Father Funk.Electric Swing Circus @ Swingamajig 2015 / By Ed King

Outside all the audio, there’s visual treats with Cabaret from Dr Andrew Szydlo, Sasha Khron, Jon Udry, Those Two Magicians, Rose Rokoko and Brothers Swag. With Burlesque from Kitty Bang Bang, Rubyyy Jones, Eliza DeLite, Peggy De Lune & Equador the Wizard – alongside a site worth of games, sideshows, food stalls and general nice-nice-naughtiness to keep you safe and occupied. Well, occupied.

Click on the highlighted links to get a bit more background on all the above. Or for a wider SELLSELLSELL, have a butcher’s at this little number – you might even win something:

Swingamajig 2016


Birmingham Review @ Swingamajig 2016

Birm_Rev-logo-MAIN - web colours, lrBirmingham Review is absurdly excited to say we will also be at Swingamajig 2016, with an army of well dressed reporters gathering words & pics for a special Birmingham Review @ Swingamajig 2016 souvenir brochure. You know those glossy keepsakes you get from a West End musical… kind of like one of those, but with a bit more show.

So look out for us near The Big Top Main Stage – we’ll be selling food & drink at the Birmingham Review Chai Stall, with a whole play pen of stuff to dig your fingers into as well. Come & say hi, drink some chai, dance Swingamajig 2015 / By Ed Kingaround like a deranged demon child in drag, and scrawl your inner most secrets on the Birmingham Review Chalk Board of Thought. We promise not to tell.

Birmingham Review will also have photographers at our stand taking some souvenir snaps to email out you (free, gratis) after the event – with the first to pre-order a copy of Birmingham Review @ Swingamajig 2016  getting their pics included in the souvenir brochure, should they so desire.

See you at Swingamajig 2016.

Swingamajig 2016 comes the Rainbow Venues in Digbeth on May 1st – running from 2pm until 6am. Tickets are priced at £22/£25/£30. For direct festival info, including online ticket sales, visit http://swingamajig.co.uk/

For more from the Rainbow Venues, visit http://therainbowvenues.co.uk/