Tag Archives: Gigbeth

Gigbeth band review

Here’s what I thought of the bands I saw at this year’s Gigbeth, I will write a separate review of the festival as a whole.

Young Knives – really tight musically, nice bit of onstage banter. ‘Special effects’ were provided by a lonely bubble machine and it was a joy to see The House of Lords jumping up and down like a 5 year old trying to pop them! I actually knew more of their songs than I thought I did, and they were more punky than I imagined they’d be, which worked really well live. Glad to be able to see them for the first time in a small and intimate setting (The Barfly).

Pete Ashton and his Thingamachines (or whatever he’s decided to call them!) – disclaimer: Pete is a mate and it was great fun seeing him unleashing his bleepy machines on an unsuspecting public for the very first time. The whole thing was a bit of an experiment and people were encouraged to come and have a go at twiddling knobs and waving lights about. Those Things don’t half make some fantastic noises, now if only they’d learn to behave and do what they were told! I’d like Pete to perhaps be slightly less experimental, figure out which configurations of knobs make them do which sounds and ‘play’ them more like a traditional instrument and build up a tune perhaps by layering live sampling and looping over some beats.

Rich Batsford is a hugely talented piano player and a thoroughly nice chap. His tunes are beautiful, just not sure that the 4Talent stage at Gigbeth was the right venue for him? Would love to hear him play on a sunny afternoon at the Moseley Folk Festival or something.

Iain Woods and the Psychologist – I found Iain Woods very interesting. The audience was definitely split down the middle. He came on stage with an arrogant attitude, some were even calling him ‘obnoxious’, but I think an onstage attitude can make for very interesting entertainment. It’s an offstage attitude that I can’t stand, but Danny Smith, who interviewed him after the show for Rhubarb Radio, assured me he was a nice guy. The fact that I passed Iain in the corridor soon after he came offstage and he gave me a big cheesy grin, still buzzing from his first (hard to believe) gig seems to confirm that.

The band consisted of Iain on vocals, a smiley chap with really long dreads on beats and two live string players. Also, interestingly, they had a couple of girls standing behind the audience, doing live paintings and fiddling with various images on layers of acetate, which were projected onto the wall behind the band.

I wasn’t sure about Iain’s voice to start with, it was quite raw, it reminded me of Tricky a little but perhaps that’s because the first track was quite trip hoppy. But when he did an acapella cover of Lauryn Hill’s Ex Factor that we really got to hear how amazing his voice is.

The beats were fantastic and really got me dancing and the strings were great too. Difficult to categorise this band, at times trip hoppy, dancey (Faithless-esque) and R&B (please ditch the cheesy lyrics though!), they have the potential to be huge.

The Keyboard Choir were just that, a band made up of 5 keyboardists including the ‘conductor’ at the front. I thought that the louder and faster they got, the better they sounded! I found the quiet introductory experimental sounds a bit boring, but when they built up the layers into a wall of sound they were much better. Still we slipped off after a couple of songs to go and check out…

Musical Youth – not really much to say about them, they were as professional as expected, great sound, but some of the covers were not my cup of tea. Also found it extremely odd to be sitting down (in the South Birmingham College auditorium) and found myself trying to chair-dance to some cool reggae beats.

Kano – was 45 mins late, which upset my other half, but didn’t bother me too much because the DJs who were on were playing some fine tunes (not sure who they were). I had a good old dance to the bouncy basslines, I showed them youngsters a thing or two, I can tell you ;)

It must be really difficult to do hip hop live, I’ve seen a few terribly muddy attempts in my time, but Kano has a really clear and distinct voice, even when he was rhyming really fast. I much prefered his rap/hip hop stuff to his more melody based R&B, which I found a bit cheesy.

Anyway, Kano had a great stage presence and he really seemed like he was enjoying himself. If he gave up the cheese and found the right producer, he could be the UK’s answer to Eminem/Snoop Dogg etc etc.

Sugarhill Gang – they were on so late that I was too tired to appreciate them properly and it was bladdy freezing in the Custard Factory. Rapper’s Delight was pretty momentous and their cover of Apache was ace, but I felt like there was a lot of filler.

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.