ED’S PICK: January 2018

Words by Ed King

January 1st… no finer day to cross off the calendar. But as the world crawls out of bed with hangovers and resolutions, Birmingham’s events diary looks forward to a pretty vibrant January. It seems the ‘quiet month’ is not so dormant this year. Which is a good thing, right? I mean, who needs to stay in and save money? Food and heating are for quitters.

Some pretty big gigs happening this month, with the rock powerhouse that is Paramore (ain’t alliteration ace) coming to the Genting Arena on Jan 14th. Tickets may be sold out by the time I finish this sentence, so you’d better act rápido por favor (just finished watching Narcos) if you want to catch them tour their fifth album, After Laughter, through the second city. On the Lord’s Day as well… dios nos perdone.

On the smaller stages in Birmingham, Surprise You’re Dead are tearing the city in two on 24th Jan – as Ohio’s metalcore Miss May I come to Mamma Roux’s, whilst London’s pop punksters The Bottom Line are joined by Nottingham’s Lacey at The Asylum. In fact, overall it’s quite a strong start to 2018 from SYD as the Birmingham’s stalwart rock/punk promoters are also bringing Dead! to The Flapper on 31st Jan and The Bronx to Mama Roux’s on 17th Jan – although The Bronx gig has already sold out so check the relevant corners of t’interweb for returns.

Elsewhere in the land of live gigs, we have the rising stars Riscas headlining an uber line up at The Sunflower Lounge on 19th Jan – with Spilt Milk Society, Candid and The Real Cool all in support. If this gig doesn’t sell out then I will 1) buy a hat, 2) eat my hat, 3) buy another hat. 2018 is set to be a big year for Riscas, we reckon, so catch them when and where you can. Then The Hunna return to the O2 Academy on 11th Jan, whilst Setting Son Records present Average Sex and Semantics (one of our faves) at the Hare & Hounds on 24th Jan.

Hot on the heels of their recent triumphant homecoming, KIOKO headline a stellar line up of local acts at The Crossing on 26th Jan – with Namiwa Jazz, Zara Sykes, VITAL, Elektric, and revered local poet Kurly all performing as part of the Love Music Hate Racism event at the Milk Street venue. Trish Clowes presents her latest album, My Iris, with a new ensemble of the same name at Eastside Jazz Club on 25th Jan. Whilst those somewhat silent psychedelics, Moon Duo, come back to the Hare & Hounds on 30th Jan courtesy of This Is Tmrw. Then there’s the gig I’m throwing my metaphor in the ring for – This is the Kit showcase their new album, Moonshine Freeze, at The Glee Club on 24th Jan.

January also sees a strong line up of comedy in the city, kicking off with Tina T’urner Tea Lady Steamy Bingo at The Old Joint Stock on 5th Jan. Tracey Collins will be bringing her ‘camp alter ego’ back to The Old Joint Stock in March, so if you miss your numbers this time around you can always try again in spring.

Stand up also starts strong at The Glee Club, with Andy Zaltzman bringing his Satirist for Hire tour to The Arcadian Centre venue on 19th Jan – a week before Fern Brady’s debut Suffer Fools tour lands there on 26th Jan. Quick tip, if either of these stand ups ask you to email in suggestions or comments… don’t. Or at least don’t sign your name. Or sit in the front row. You have been warned. Whilst over at the Town Hall, Ed Byrne brings his Spoiler Alert tour to Birmingham on 27th Jan – a room big enough for some safe anonymity, for the audience at least.

Theatre stamps a reassuringly eclectic foot down on the first month of 2018, with Outer Circle Arts presenting The Death Show at The Rep Door on 26th and 27th Jan. Whilst a stone’s throw behind them in Hockley, Blue Orange Theatre present The Late Marilyn Monroe – running from 30th Jan to 3rd Feb. Then over at The Patrick Centre is the somewhat less self-explanatory Translunar Paradise  – Ad Infinitum’s unspoken story ‘of life, death and enduring love’, presented at the Hurst Street venue for one night only on 31st Jan.

Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet present Swan Lake, also for one night only, at the Symphony Hall on 7th Jan. Whilst The Mockingbird continues to its mission to save The Custard Factory from the cultural abyss with a double screening of Clerks and the documentary behind Silent Bob’s directorial debut, Shooting Clerks, on 19th Jan. There will also be a Q&Q with the latter’s director, Christopher Downie, and some cast members at 9pm.

For more film, mac hosts Playback from 7th to 24th Jan – a touring and ‘interactive exhibition’ of over 200 short films from ‘krumping and parkour dance shorts, to an animated tale of teenage love that unearths our desire to be as cool as the zines we read’. Held in the arts centre’s First Floor Gallery, with free admission, Playback carries a Tubbs and Edward local angle too, as ‘some of the films were originally made in and around Birmingham, where young people based in the Midlands were given the support and funding to create a short film.’

Then rounding off Birmingham’s cultural cache for the New Year, The Chefs’ Forum present their ‘Pay What You Can’ lunch at University College Birmingham on 15th Jan – a networking, trade and showcase event with four courses from some of the city’s top restaurants. Having launched its Midlands’ agenda at UCB back in February this… sorry, last year, The Chefs’ Forum is hosting their Jan ‘18 lunch to raise funds and awareness for its Educational Foundation which supports young chefs across the UK.

And with Louisa Ellis (The Wilderness), Mark Walsh (Opus Restaurant), Luke Tipping and Leo Kattou (Simpsons) and Olivier Briault (The Edgbaston Boutique Hotel) all chipping in a course, it should do just that. Although, the non-fixed donation approach is gratefully received in mid January.

Now if I can just find an energy provider with the same approach…

**Also straddling this month and the next are the two rescheduled Lady Gaga concerts, as the uber-star kicks off the UK leg of her Joanna World Tour at Arena Birmingham on 31st January before returning to play the Genting Arena on 1st February. Tickets to both arena shows are priced at £48.50 (+ fees), as presented by Live Nation UK.

In memoriam of her paternal auntie and namesake, Lady Gaga’s latest song, album and tour appear as personal an affair as you can offer when delivering it to millions of strangers. A curious dichotomy, but one Birmingham will get to see on stage first as the Live Nation machine sets down in our city before anywhere else in the UK. Kudos.

And with tickets being transferred from the previous dates in October 2017, it’s fair to say there may be a bit of a bun fight to get in to these gigs. No doubt it’ll be worth a few scuffed elbows though, but even if ‘I’m never going to know you now, I’m gonna love you any how’. OX Joanne.

For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, for Lady Gaga at Arena Birmingham on 31st January, click here. For Lady Gaga at the Genting Arena on 1st February, click here.’

Tickets for the originally scheduled Lada Gaga shows at the Genting Arena (12th Oct ’17) at Arena Birmingham (15th Oct ’17) can be transferred to the new dates. According to the venues’ websites, ‘if you cannot make the new date, refunds can be obtained at your point of purchase for a limited period’.**

Playback @ mac 7th to 24th Jan

For more on any of the events listed here, click on the highlighted hyperlink. 

Ed King is Editor-in-Chief of Review Publishing, which issues both the Birmingham Review and Birmingham Preview titles.

BREVIEW: Semantics – Acid Test EP launch @ Actress & Bishop 09.09.17

Semantics – Acid Test EP launch @ Actress & Bishop 09.09.17 / Paul Reynolds - Birmingham Review




Words by  Ed King / Pics Paul Reynolds

Due to a late cancellation at The Sunflower Lounge, we have two extra names on the bill tonight – with North Parade and My-Hi joining Hankks, Quinn and Semantics at the Actress & Bishop. Not bad for a fiver (neither is the new Semantic EP, Acid Test… but more on that later).

But time, tide and the Number 45 bus wait for no man, and with an excellent track record of poor time keeping I rock up to the A&B just in time to catch the last song from My-Hi. Nothing like a bit of head banging at 8:30pm on a Saturday; I even have the hair for it nowadays… where’s my snakebite?

My-Hi - supporting Semantics, Acid Test EP launch @ Actress & Bishop 09.09.17 / Paul Reynolds - Birmingham ReviewNext up is Quinn, the curious three piece fronted by the legendary Sam Lambeth. Quinn look like a fresher’s party at five in the morning,  but sound like Mega City Four – for those of you who will get the somewhat archaic reference – with languid melodies disguised by fast paced distortion and an unashamed rock outlook on life. But Lambeth is a superstar in the making, with absurd confidence, deft solos and the kind of charisma that you would sign in blood to possess.

He’s a great writer too (one I tried to bring onto these pages but was trounced by the perennial lure of London) and even as a front man with sparkles from head to toe, kind to his audience – dedicating a track to “super fan Zach Aston, I heard you lost your virginity last night so this one’s for Quinn - supporting Semantics, Acid Test EP launch @ Actress & Bishop 09.09.17 / Paul Reynolds - Birmingham Reviewyou”. But sadly, truthfully, and with the softest of kit gloves, the rest of the band fall a tad short; practice, a metronome and possibly some solo material might not be a bad idea for a while. I hear London’s quite up and coming so Lambeth should be in luck. For everything else there’s always Amazon.

A case of mistaken identity later and I’m wrestling my cider back from Hankks’ drummer, before the polka dot fronted four piece take to the stage. An honest mistake, but I can be a shallow man when it comes to alcohol. Mercifully Hankks are solid as a rock, with a tight (albeit slightly detached) set of bouncing grunge rock with little to let it down. Little to really remember too, and once my more learned friend noticed “they sound like an early Green Day” that’s all I could hold in my head.  But keep on trucking lads; you got mustard in there.

Hankks - supporting Semantics, Acid Test EP launch @ Actress & Bishop 09.09.17 / Paul Reynolds - Birmingham ReviewThen the lights go down, the mood shifts, and the most well dressed (and amongst the loveliest) band in Birmingham take their place centre stage. With a new EP on the table, literally, Semantics kick off their headline set.

DISCLAIMER: Birmingham Review is lucky enough to get a fair number of bands and musicians reach out to us, but the one’s that do it with kindness and candor (and enough advance notice) stand a much better chance of getting covered. Take note – this probably applies beyond our pages too. But that doesn’t mean we will them write a good review. An honest review, yes, but you have to earn your gold stars.

Semantics – Acid Test EP launch @ Actress & Bishop 09.09.17 / Paul Reynolds - Birmingham ReviewJosh RB, Semantics‘ bass player, has been a joy to get to know – even bouncing over to give me a big hug and introduce their front man, Rob Lilley, whom I had not yet met (please don’t hug all our reviewers). So I’m nervous now. What if they’re shit. I am ruthless about honesty from the Birmingham Review contributors so should probably lead by example. A few minutes pass and I’m more nervous… seriously, what if they’re really shit.

Opening with an instrumental, Semantics sound is immediate; a brooding backdrop pierced by clear and dominating riffs (SECOND DISCLAIMER: I am not a musician). Then it’s the title track from the reason we’re here, as ‘Acid Test’ introduces the mournful lament of Rob Liley’s vocals – albeit somewhat let down by the sound desk – and the dark but beautiful box he wants our kisses wrapped up in.

‘A cut above’ is what I tap into Samsung Notes, before adding some nonsense about ‘sense and sensibility’ and spending the next 5 minutes looking for a glockenspiel.

But Semantics clearly know what they’re doing, as the set builds into a quite ferocious wall of sound (sorry, but the cliché is too appropriate not to use) adding layer upon glorious goth layer and dragging the audience into the stage with invisible fish hooks. I think, by now, I’m dancing, or an approximation of this. But the floor has to make room some as first Josh RB, then Bridie Green, step out into the crowd for a well controlled showcase. Semantics – Acid Test EP launch @ Actress & Bishop 09.09.17 / Paul Reynolds - Birmingham Review

This is when I stop writing (or an approximation of this) – Semantics, here tonight, are just too fucking good. Its a show; a proper gig. And aside from the vocals being squashed into a cotton wool pancake (seriously sound desk…?) the audio is awesome, the delivery is near perfect, and the look is… well, working.

I wasn’t sure if the stylised nature of this band would stand up in a live setting, and I was worried that the spectre of Ian Curtis would be too much of a distraction, but Semantics own every inch of their set with confidence and grace.

And because I also ask our contributors to try and find a counterpoint – what I call the ‘velvet glove punch’ – I shall end an overwhelmingly positive review with a word of warning. In fact I’ll end with three: Joy, Division, careful.Semantics – Acid Test EP launch @ Actress & Bishop 09.09.17 / Paul Reynolds - Birmingham Review

For more on Semantics, visit www.soundcloud.com/semanticsuk 

For more on Hankks, visit https://soundcloud.com/hankks 

For more on Quinn, visit www.soundcloud.com/quinn-580556457 

For more from Actress & Bishop, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.facebook.com/Actressandbishop

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

BPREVIEW: Semantics – Acid Test EP launch @ Actress & Bishop 09.09.17

Words by Damien Russell

Striking in both sound and appearance, the Actress & Bishop welcome Semantics to its stage on 9th September 2017 – celebrating the release of their sophomore EP, Acid Test.

The event, brought to you by Birmingham Promoters, will run from 7.30pm through to 1.00am, with tickets priced at £6 plus the usual booking fees. For direct gig info, including online ticket sales, click here.

Semantics are supported by high octane indie/punk rockers Hankks, who are no strangers to the Actress & Bishop, and power pop band Quinn who remind me of a softer Smashing Pumpkins.

Starting with airplay on BBC WM Introducing, 2017 has been the year Semantics kicked things up a notch. Founded in 2014 and with their first recorded music release on the 1st July 2016, Semantics took a little time to prepare before taking the Birmingham music scene on fully, but since then they have been hitting it hard and keeping the pace high.

Their first EP, self titled, saw the first of their BBC WM Introducing spins, made it onto the Little Indie Blog track of the day and was crowned one of Scruff Of The Neck Records’ top five tracks of the week – all within two months.

Now before I go through any more of the year’s achievements, sound-wise Semantics are a fusion of 80’s synth-pop melodies and guitar led indie rock. Their music centers around the powerful vocals of Rob Lilley, and the simple, engaging melodies he creates.

Behind this sits a driving rhythm section that gives their songs a foot tapping, head nodding quality and a soaring guitar, heavily laden with echo (or delay, I can’t work out which) that adds a high melody to counterpoint Lilley’s vocal, bringing extra depth to their sound. Some bands work with each instrument in its place; some bands create a unified wall of sound. Semantics are the latter.

After a strong start in 2017, Semantics headed down south for their debut show in the capital before, in March, getting back into the studio for their second EP recording. In April they headlined the Into The Void Festival at the 6/8 Kafe before heading back down to London to The Finsbury Pub. The radio play and headline shows continued and while staying at a steady one-a-month kind of rate, there is a consistency to it that speaks to me of a steady but fierce rise.

Leading us to this… Semantics‘ second EP release show. Whether this will be promo, party or both is yet to be seen, but it’s a promising lineup and there’s only one way to find out; get yourself to the Actress & Bishop on Saturday 9th September. Click here for direct gig info and tickets, from Birmingham Promoters.

‘Acid Test’ – Semantics

For more on Semantics, visit www.soundcloud.com/semanticsuk

For more on Hankks, visit www.soundcloud.com/hankks

For more on Quinn, visit www.soundcloud.com/quinn-580556457

For more from Actress & Bishop, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.facebook.com/Actressandbishop

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