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ArtsFest: Band highlights
By Chris Jones, contributor
Chris Jones reviews the best band performances at ArtsFest weekend from The Arcadian Kicks and Midas to The Levellers.
Saturday 13th September – Centenary Square and the outer fringe:
To have one band pull out of a festival line-up must be irksome for any organiser, but to have the first 3 bands cancel their appearance must be a logistical nightmare! In the event of a delayed start at The Flapper & Firkin, (where base camp for the day was established), a quick walk to the City Centre Gardens meant that I was in time to catch their first act of the day.
Inertia Blooms photo: Joanne Morgan
The Brightsides, Inertia Blooms, Computer Club
After a delay of 20 minutes to ensure that the sound check was correct, The Brightsides kicked off the afternoon’s programme of events at 12.20pm. They played a brisk set of perky pop tunes and entertained the audience, already gathered to enjoy the sunny weather and ensured that the day got off to a positive start.
Still in the City Centre Gardens, I witnessed a set by Inertia Blooms, whose post-rock, mainly instrumental ‘soundscapes’ would have been ideal either in an evening or maybe within The Flapper’s subterranean surroundings. Shimmering sweet sounds, but some of the atmosphere was lost on a bright summer’s day!
A stop off at base camp for a refreshment break to check on the updated programme and credit must go to the various organisers and bar staff for turning things around. A couple of drinks later and it was back to the park for Computer Club, who are rather good at what they do, HOWEVER, there are already enough bands who sound like The Editors…the best of the bunch being the Editors! Sorry lads.
Bad Scout, The Arcadian Kicks, Betty and the ID
Back to The Flapper to watch some of the football results and to catch Bad Scout, who finally got events under way! Some most welcome punk rock guitar tunes and a relief for the bar staff that everything had finally got started.
Still, there was no time to hang around as ANOTHER brisk walk had to be undertaken to catch The Arcadian Kicks back up in the park! What is it that they put in the water in Stourbridge? They’re another quality band from the district that are improving with every performance and word has it that they’ve been signed as well! Were they the band of the day? Well, almost…
Imagine a band that were legends back in the early ‘80s that split up before their time but virtually influenced everything that happened in art and music thereafter! Betty and the ID could have been that band! They’re a fresh ‘young’ band that draw upon influences from the quirky, angular sounds from the eighties but make the sound their own! Original and superb and a ‘must see’ attraction! Impressive and almost band of the day!
Having took more time out for ‘refreshments’ and to catch the final scores on the TV, the mood was greatly enhanced due to fact that everything was now running to order at base camp, and talking of ‘camp’…
The Fun House Robots
The Fun House Robots, Cobweb Dilemmas
Available for weddings, funerals and children’s parties, The Fun House Robots would definitely get your party started, and how! Kicking off with some ‘Vegas Elvis’ impersonations they get down to some glam rock stomp, and like it or loath it, that ‘Sensation Space Station ’ tune was still running around my head long after they’d finished! Liked the touch with the songbooks too!
Apologies to Cobweb Dilemmas, as I’d liked to have stopped until the end of your set, which by and large sounded rather fine, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to catch them in the future because there was only one possible place to go to at 8.00pm that evening – Centenary Square.
Billed as a ‘Classical Fantasia’ the main event was on the main stage and featured the City of Birmingham Orchestra, the Birmingham Royal Ballet and Birmingham Opera and you know, I may not know much about art but I know what I like!
Birmingham Royal Ballet
Fancy a bit of Tchaikovsky, (the Nutcracker no less)? How’s about a little bit of Mozart, (Would the Marriage of Figaro suit you sir)? So you like Prokofiev, (try some Montagues and Capulets)? How’s about some Morris men dancing on the stage?
Perhaps a John Barry Bond Theme to relax the mood, (‘We have all the time in the world’ no less and at that moment I must have got something in my eye)? Hey, who ordered a bit of Wagner, (‘Ride of The Valkyries’ an epic in itself) and let’s not forget something for the kids…here’s some John Williams, (‘Star Wars Theme’ and cue lots of adolescents swinging light sabres)!
Oh, and did we say there would be fireworks? Cue flying gondolas lighting up the night sky! Fireworks shooting up from Broad Street, The Hyatt Hotel being used for a spectacular lighting effect and you had the end of a perfect evening.
The CBSO, now that’s my band of the day!
Sunday 14th September – Centenary Square and the outer fringe:
Now I really like The Heathers and so I made the effort to get to the City Centre gardens early to catch their 12:30 pm set and perhaps it was the right choice too. They have fantastic tunes and all credit to the chaps engineering the live sound, they came over as strong and very professional, (The Healer and September being ace tunes). But then they announced that this gig was to be their last local show and after one more show in Bristol, they would be no more! A genuine shame and wish them all the best in whatever future endeavours they undertake!
Now is not the time to get too maudlin and so it was time for a quick livener over at The Main Stage in The Square but what’s that smell? The beer van had only gone and parked on top of an open drain, (not their choice obviously – and no amount of joss sticks was going to take away the stench of whatever was flowing underground). Still, a beer’s a beer!
The Elements, Fillmore Gears, The Riptides
So I watched The Elements start up the day’s proceedings from the comfort of the mixing desk. And it looks like it’s going to be another fine day again! They sound good and although they reckoned it was too early to be playing a gig, there were enough people watching to appreciate that they made the time! Thanks chaps!
Back to the park and I didn’t expect the band of the day to be on so early in the day, but ‘thank you’ to the Fillmore Gears for providing one of those ‘festival moments’. On first showing, they highlight their influences, (taken from the Led Zeppelin song book) but have enough of their own spark to make tunes like ‘Like a Train’ and ‘Tear Down Your Walls’ soar! The songs alone would have been enough but to have someone guest on stage and interpret a tune using sign language was one of those unique moments where you wonder ‘why has no one done that before? It was a simple but moving gesture. ‘Same Old Lies’ was tune of the day, (thanks to the lads for having the savvy to sell CD’s at the event)! Hmm, got something in my eye again!
I even had time to play ‘tourist guide’, helping a rather elegant lady find her way to The Malt House before I took a break for lunch, (of the liquid variety) at The Flapper. Returned to The Square to check out The Riptides, who weren’t too bad but didn’t create enough of a vibe to get the audience going. And as for the ‘presenters’ on the main stage, at least they could have showed a bit more enthusiasm? Maybe I’d peaked too early! Time to return to The Flapper for some more live music…
Slipstream and Midas
…or something like it! Maybe I missed some of Slipstream’s set from the beginning if they came on earlier than advertised but all I managed to hear were a couple of drawn out funky instrumentals that could have sound-tracked a John Holmes feature! And then they simply packed up their gear and left the stage without a word! Oh well, back to the main stage…
A lot of cancellations and line up changes were apparent over the weekend but not too much to affect enjoyment. In fact, one of the beneficiaries of The Mexicolas cancellation on Sunday, were The Fillmore Gears who were invited to perform a second set of the day and because they were afforded more time, they threw in a couple of extra Led Zeppelin covers just for the hell of it! A perfect Sunday afternoon treat!
And so it was time to finally settle down in Centenary Square for the remainder of the show and now the crowds were beginning to gather as the early evening came on. Time for another beer then, and no, the drains hadn’t improved! The council really need to consider where to pitch the vendors next year!
Blimey! Haven’t Midas come on in leaps and bounds? It’s been a couple of years since I saw them back in Walsall and they’re definitely NOT the band they used to be! They appear to have ditched the heavier element of their sound and gone full throttle on a ‘popped up’ vibe, not too dissimilar to McFly, (and that’s meant as a compliment - honest)!
Envy & Other Sins
The Metros, Envy & Other Sins
It’s getting darker now and the crowds are gathering, especially around by The Rep Theatre, and in tune with the ‘theatrical vibe’, The Metros enter into the spirit of things with some rather exotic headwear, (the beer box being a rather striking example)! Note to the bloke in charge of the large screens – not everyone is on hallucinogenic drugs! Please moderate the effects for the more emotionally fragile, oh and will the onstage announcers please cheer up!
There are more lighting effects, only this time of a lounge theme, as the equipment is set up for Envy & Other Sins. The set was brief and politely appreciated by the audience but they really do suit a big stage and it’s only hoped that the reality TV connection hasn’t affected them too much in the long term! They need to show their faces more locally too and soon!
The guests of the evening were The Levellers and this is who the people had gathered this evening to see and, as we were constantly reminded, ALL FOR FREE! A short set by their standards not too reliant on just the hits but plenty to keep everyone happy until the end of the show. They were allowed a brief encore before the throng made their way back home.
After all, it's back to work in the morning!
last updated: 29/09/2008 at 08:48
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