Gigbeth: urban music festival or urban myth?

Gigbeth is Birmingham’s biggest music festival that coincides each November with Music Live at the NEC.

100 Acts, 10 venues and only one weekend….

Gigbeth is a weekend of the very best music set in Birmingham’s fabulous Digbeth creative district.”

Oo great, sounds like Birmingham’s version of the Camden Crawl or the Great Escape, or even a mini South by South West. A music festival in the city centre without having to camp or deal with mud.

I expect we’ll see such exciting new acts as Crystal Castles, Florence and the Machine, Friendly Fires, Ladyhawke, Lykke Li, Noah and the Whale, Operator Please, Last Shadow Puppets, Laura Marling, MGMT, Neon Neon, Santogold, Tilly and The Wall, Ting Tings, etc. etc. etc…

Er no, you won’t get chance to see a load of up and coming artists that you’re excited about having heard them a lot on music radio recently, over one weekend in the same city. You’ll see a hotchpotch of whatever acts the promoters, that are lumped together under the umbrella of “Gigbeth”, (probably) already had booked for that night anyway, a few local bands and a couple of token acts provided by Gigbeth themselves.

That’s why the lineup is so incongruous. When the lineup was first announced, everyone was thinking D:ream?? are they even still going? (they’re provided by Moneypennies so that makes a bit more sense now). The Sugar Hill Gang, are they even still going? (oh, they’re on at a Heducation night). A couple of the dance acts are a bit more exciting (Stanton Warriors, subfocus), but they’re part of a Spectrum night, so no thanks to Gigbeth. One of my fave, local bands of the mo are the Destroyers, but they’re on at a free event. The 4Talent stuff looks pretty good, but (I think) mainly local so would no doubt get a chance to see them anyway at some point.

So Gigbeth basically just boils down to The Young Knives, Guillemots and Kano (who I’m actually quite excited about), which seems a bit pricey at £25.

We bought a weekend ticket and went to Gigbeth last year and it was a similar format to this year. Our wristbands got us into various different venues, but there didn’t seem to be anything holding them together. We just felt like our wristband was a pass into various events that would be happening anyway, 90% of the people in the Medicine bar for DJ Zinc, for example, wouldn’t have even heard of Gigbeth. There was no Gigbeth ‘vibe’ as most of the people at the promoters events weren’t there for Gigbeth.

The street stage was fun, but we found out later free, so we needn’t have paid for that. We saw a couple of OK local bands, but the best part for me was the Capsule night (why aren’t they there this year?) which was happening anyway. After last year’s Gigbeth, we offered some feedback about the disjointedness of the event, but looks like that was ignored and they’ve gone for exactly the same approach this year.

Anyway, I already have my ticket for this weekend, I fear it will be as incoherent as last year’s, but I will keep an open mind. I’m looking forward to some individual acts and promoters’ recommendations rather than anything that Gigbeth can offer as a whole.

So, no, I don’t think Gigbeth is “a weekend of the very best music” I realise this is subjective, but I think there would be a general consensus among music industry/radio types about some of the bands “the very best” would include.

It could be so great, it’s got a great name, a great home (Birmingham) with some great venues, but it’s got no cohesion and a severe lack of decent acts. Why can’t we have an urban festival to rival the likes of Camden Crawl/Great Escape? At the mo it feels a bit like a naff youth club event, and I doubt many people outside the city will be travelling here especially for it.

4 thoughts on “Gigbeth: urban music festival or urban myth?

  1. Pingback: Digbeth is Good » Blog Archive » More Links for November 4th (you lucky lot)

  2. Pingback: Gigbeth, it’s some gigs, in Digbeth - Birmingham: It's Not Shit

  3. Pingback: links for 2009-02-08 : Birmingham Music Network

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