Category Archives: Live

Review: Scarlet Harlots / Tantrums / Bronze Medals / The Carpels

As part of the Moseley Festival, The Bulls Head is buzzing with the atmosphere that tonight’s gig is not going to disappoint as two of Birmingham’s’ biggest local bands are taking to the stage. The Gutter Skank DJs are dropping some awesome tunes whilst the first band are setting up.

The Carpels are first on, and their blend of dubstep beats, spiky indie riffs and two differing vocals draw us in. The energy from the band is injected into the crowd and they set a really high standard for the rest of the bands for the night.

Bronze Medals take to the stage next, with their more mellow sound, chilling out the crowd that had been revved up by The Carpels.

The eagerly anticipated Tantrums are up next and the room is crammed with people who want to witness their impressive performance. The mix of heavy dub sounds and haunting vocals shouldn’t work on paper however it sounds incredible and the crowd really soak it up, with many people singing along. How these guys haven’t been snapped up is a question on many people’s lips.

The final act of the night is Scarlet Harlots, who have people dancing as soon as they grace the stage. Their confidence on stage shines through and the progression within their music shows that these lads are moving with the times and should go far.

Overall the bands and DJ’s work well together to create a fantastic gig which is over too quickly.

Perri Ross


Review: Hot Monocles @TheFlapperBrum by @JeffStuka

Hot Monocles
The Flapper
9th July 2010

Hot Monocles?  What kind of a name is that to put on the lips of unsuspecting people.  Or in the eyes for that matter.  Dirty boys. It’s a long time since I’ve seen a band on stage that has this amount of… well, wow factor isn’t quite the way to describe it.  I suppose polished commercialism is nearer to the mark.

First impressions from their dramatic Muse tinged opener is that they could shift a lot of units. The last occasion on which I experienced such a resonance was a certain band called Snowfield and we all know what happened to them don’t we.  The brick walls of The Flapper struggle to hold in an expansive progressive sound, reminiscent of the pomp of Led Zeppelin and Queen. It would be better placed belting out of 50 foot stacks to a baying arena sized crowd.

Sadly though, the quality of the early part of the set peters away towards the middle, with the descent towards rock pastiche doing little to sustain interest. Unprocessed padding slipped in to fill time.  Perhaps a shorter, tauter set would suit better until they have enough quality material to achieve a consistent standard. Sadly, having started with such potential they fail to sustain it and by the time they’re doing encores I’m looking at my watch and wondering when to leave for the bus.  Shame.

At My Door by hotmonocles

Jeff Stuka

The Best Band of the Noughties, 35 Seconds, Return @ThisisTmrw 12th July


The greatest Birmingham band of the last decade as voted for by readers of The Blue Whale Blog return to play at The Hare and Hounds for This is Tomorrow on 12th July.

35 Seconds support the hotly tipped Toro Y Moi with help from Of Pandas and People featuring ex members of Hero Machine, Alex ‘The King Singh’ McIntyre and Tom ‘Grease Boy’ Rees.

A free 35 Seconds Mix CD is available to the first 30 people through the door.

More info can be found on Facebook here.

Review: Primavera Festival, Barcelona by Gareth Ackerman @heliconx

Primavera Sound Festival
Day 1
29th May 2010

Romance at Primavera by Brid Rose

And so, we arrive. Your correspondent bravely venturing forth into Primavera, the air thick with beards, hash smoke and Pavement t-shirts. I make my way across the purpose built concrete, (and some might say, soulless), site and head downwards, towards the Vice Stage. My first band of the festival: the ever amazing Monotonix. In a bizarre way it’s almost boring how brilliant this band are and a small part of me wants to see them play a poor gig one day. But that day will not be today.

Monotonix by Brid Rose

Setting up in the middle of the crowd and dragging the drumkit around the place is the very least you expect at a Monotonix show and it works just as well on this massive outdoor scale (apart from bloodless protestations from a few hipsters not wanting to have their shoes stepped on) as it does in the confines of any other venue I’ve seen them demolish. For you, gentle reader, I insinuate my old weary body into the frontline of this assault, wearing my (figurative) Blue Whale hat, to supply you with the very best in gonzo reportage. And it’s awesome. But, like, deep fried awesome. Your correspondent has now *officially* played at Primavera, mindlessly thrashing the tom as I bound up the bleechers, following Ami Shelev, a drum in one hand, a microphone cord that snakes away into the crowd in the other.

Monotonix, again by Brid Rose

Finishing, he dangles over the edge, clearly contemplating the fifteen foot drop, then thinking better of it. Well, his leg is heavily bandaged, you can’t expect everything. As the crowd cheer and disperse a part of me expects to hear the following over the PA: “You might as well all fuck off now, that was the best band you’re going to see all weekend.”

But no, onwards. Mark E Smith and his merry band of pranksters that make up The Fall this week dance onto stage. Smith greets the crowd in fluent Spanish before switching to Catalan and plays hit after hit after hit, engaging in the cheeky between-song-banter that we’re all so familiar with…

Only joking! It’s good for morale.

What you get is the standard hour or so of a miserable man in his mid-fifties shamble about the stage, bellowing into two microphones and pissing around with people’s amps (whilst the owners of said amps worry silently to themselves as to whether or not they’ll have a job by the end of the show). Basically it’s as if you put a tramp, ripped to the tits on Windowlene and boot polish in front of a terrified post-punk-psycho-billy-dirge band… Amazing, obviously.

One *could* claim that The XX, the next band on your correspondent’s agenda are a touch one-dimensional. And one would be right. BUT, it’s one really good dimension. They seem to be a gigantic draw in Spain, and the vast amphitheater in which they play is packed to the very gills. The music is deeply, darkly sexy and makes me want to *things* with *people* (and back in the old days, when I could achieve and maintain an erection, I bloody well might have done. But I was listening to trip-hop back then. A genre to which The XX owe something of a debt,) but not with the band themselves who seem to consist of a plump Tracey Thorn, a twelve year old in a New Era cap and a man whose name, I would guess, is Slick.

Pausing only to catch a few songs by Superchunk, whom I’d forgotten I loved, your correspondent races (read: plods) towards Tortoise. I love Tortoise. I love Tortoise with a passion many would feel is unnatural, The album Millions Now Living Will Never Die didn’t leave my record player for over a year after I first bought it, and having seen them before, I kinda know what to expect. A magnificent display of technical playing, exciting deconstruction of time-signatures, angular, awkward and at once organic soundscapes (this is all getting a bit Wire Magazine, isn’t it? Adventures in high seriousness and whatnot), but they suffer what to my mind is the affliction of almost all instrumental bands. No focal point. If they had video screens, projections, lights or a performing kitten doing tricks, as a live experience they would improve immeasurably. (Note: I accept that I am probably lazier than you, and having weened myself on a steady diet of soap-operas and music videos, I have a very short attention span but come on, you know I’m right.)

Your correspondents first massive disappointment. I don’t think that Mission Of Burma wanted to be there. And after the third song, when they played ‘That’s When I Reach For My Revolver’, neither did most of the crowd.

And now, seconds out, the main event. Pavement. Those of you who have had the misfortune to read me before, or those of you who have read this far, will know that I tend to dabble with hyperbole.

But having said that, Pavement are, genuinely another of my very, very, veryveryvery favourite bands of all time ever, EVER! The clever, but never pretentious music. The elegantly oblique lyrics (why should the words to a song mean anything? Or why shouldn’t they mean everything?). With a few notable exceptions, Pavement lyrics could be the most beautifully complex poetry to rival the work of, say, Gertrude Stein, or utter drivel, garbage like the work of, say Gertrude Stein (yeah that’s right, I’m having a pop at dead, early twentieth-century lesbian avant-garde poets. Literally no one is safe from my poisoned pen[is]).

So yes, it is fair to say that Pavement are one of my favourite bands, and yes I’ve seen them live countless times, and yes, on each and every occasion I have been completely and utterly blown away by how utterly, immeasurably shite they are. The lackadaisical posturing, the poor playing and timekeeping and the total inability to structure a live set…

But would this time be any different?

Would they have freed themselves from these self imposed shackles and play perfectly to this adoring crowd of international admirers?




Not that anyone minded. It’s still Pavement, innit?

Sleigh Bells live is a daunting prospect. A little too “Kap Bambino” for me. A little too Let’s-just-make-a-racket-and-jump-around-until-my-tit-falls-out for me. A little too If-people-can’t-understand-this-then-they-will-think-it’s-edgy for me. What I like to refer to as “Rubbish.”

Followed by Delorean. A band who I thought I liked, but writing this a few scant hours later I can recall not a thing.

I’m meant to dislike Fuck Buttons. I forget why. It might be the pointlessly offensive name. It might be because they are good looking young fellas. It might be because they are obscenely talented and good. Who knows, let yourself get taken hostage by these sounds, this music, this dark snake of sound, these tendrils inside of you.

It was at about this point things got a bit blurry…

Gareth Ackerman

For more of this sort of thing, check out Chicks Dig Jerks’ blog where Gareth continues his reportage and threatens to take his clothes off…..

Review: Tantrums ‘Champloo’ EP Launch @ The Rainbow

‘Champloo’ EP Launch
The Rainbow
2nd June 2010

'Champloo' Artwork by Lewes Herriot

You can’t move in Birmingham for talk of Tantrums right now and tonight’s ‘Champloo’ EP launch at The Rainbow compounds this as the venue is absolutely heaving by the time the frisky five piece take to the stage amidst moody lighting and plumes of smoke.

The young and fearless down the front immediately create a mosh pit as the dubstep intro of ‘Barracudas’ rips into the humid air followed by its enormous stadium-prog rock guitar riffs. Tantrums have long ignored musical boundaries, fusing heavy electronica with giant size axe wizardry but now there’s a conscious effort to make the melee as accessible as possible. The Fleetwood Mac harmonies of ‘Steal it Back’ and ‘Mek Ya Feel Hype’ have daytime Radio 1 airplay written all over them, while still retaining an edginess in their filthy laptop manglings to keep pushing your naughty buttons.

How apt too that their debut EP is to be the first physical release on Bigger Than Barry Records, an offshoot of the Brummie clubnight phenomenon that has never followed any direction other than that of pure upbeat party music – an ‘anything goes’ sound that Tantrums themselves have embodied. One minute it’s all Rusko digital squelch and bangs the next it’s giant indie-disco choruses like a supercharged, more urgent New Order.

Tantrums absolutely nail it tonight and are threatening to become something much, much bigger than just another local buzz band.

Andy Roberts

‘Youngun’ by William on Blue Whale TV filmed live @ThisisTmrw @TheVictoria

For more of this sort of thing, you can visit the Blue Whale TV channel you know.

Review: Mr. Hudson / Tinie Tempah / Tenny Ten @ The Rainbow Warehouse by Lee Hall

Mr. Hudson, Tinie Tempah, Tenny Ten
The Rainbow Warehouse
12th May 2010

One of the biggest nights of the year thus far for the Rainbow Warehouse, took place on Wednesday with a host of talent nurtured in Birmingham invading the stage. Former Handsworth resident Mr Hudson, along with Wolverhampton’s own rising star Tenny Ten and newly crowned number one artist Tinie Tempah, brought some flavour to mid week Birmingham.

Making significant waves in the urban Hip Hop scene, Tenny has received massive noise from Radio one and has been endorsed by some of the most influential people in the British music industry, including Tim Westwood and Zane Lowe, as THE one to watch in 2010.

Tenny Ten by Richard Shakespeare

In the midst of an impressive crowd for an opening act which sees the Warehouse three quarters full, the atmosphere is electric as a combination of friends and family and intrigued music lovers gather unsuspecting for the spectacle that is about to unfold. You would be forgiven for thinking that, being the opening act of a homecoming gig on what is reputedly his biggest tour to date, the 24 year old may be a little nervous. If he is – it never shows.

After a prolonged intro from DJ Springa, Tenny bursts onto the stage with his trademark flair and charisma and it’s not long before the showman makes his mark. Mid way through the song he cuts the DJ off addressing the crowd ‘I need you with me on this guys…I can’t do it without you – make some noise!’ The crowd oblige with an impressive backlash of cheers and the fist track kicks back in. He’s joined on stage by partner in rhyme Big Wayne and the two provide a well rehearsed, multi-layered performance, part hip hop gig – part soap opera.

Dubbed a lyrical genius and modern day poet, Tenny manages to silence critics who would seek to diminish the abilities of hip hop artists. His rhymes are flawless and eloquent borrowing from all facets of life from the Iraq war to 19th century texts, he seamlessly incorporates them all. His song about the diamond trade in Sierra Leone slows down his performance showcasing his lyrical abilities and moral fibre. ‘Jump Jump’ depicting someone on the verge of suicide, displays a rare social awareness. Standing on the very edge of the stage the theatre begins with Big Wayne, who had previously left the stage, emerging once more in an attempt to coax Tenny from the brink. The theatrics are excellent and multiple layers of the performance mesmerise the audience.

It’s not all doom and gloom, as Tenny is infinitely capable of rousing the crowd from the depths of despair to the heights of excitement. Dropping soon to be released single ‘Swaggnificent’ (20th June 2010) the flair returns and the crowd return to their thumping, jumping best. One to watch is an understatement, if you don’t know Tenny Ten yet, we guarantee by the end of the summer he’ll be all anyone is talking about.

Needing little introduction of late, Tinie Tempah is touring off the back of his number one single ‘Pass Out’ and throughout May is flittering up and down the UK with Mr Hudson and Rihanna. Another of the new breed of urban / grime stars emerging in the scene, Tinie was picked as one of MTV’s Top Ten to watch for the year and seems intent on proving their prediction right.

Tinie Tempah by Richard Shakespeare

Exhibiting many of the traits as the man who has just vacated the stage for him, Tinie embodies once more the intellectual nature and showmanship of today’s performers. His rhymes flow effortlessly and his concentration and engagement with the crowd is commendable.
What Tinie offers is something with a twist, Hip Hop with a healthy dose of guitars. He manages to traverse the sticky ground between two different mediums, incorporating a variety of sounds in his music. It works supremely well and advances the efforts of Jay-Z and Linkin Park to close the gaps between the genres, in the process re-defining perceptions of what the genre can be.

The performance is energetic and he feeds off the crowd darting from side to side making good use of and the occasional joke, of the post that features front and centre of the Rainbow stage. The reception is indicative of his recent success and he relishes in it. In some respects, his is the most difficult performance of the evening as he is not a local like the other acts, and has to live up to the hype that come with being no.1.

Undoubtedly the crowd pleaser of the evening as no.1 track ‘Pass Out’, which has been a phenomenal success of late. For us, new track ‘Frisky’ (released 6th June) was that little bit special and will undoubtedly be a contender for the summer anthem of 2010.

The Handsworth hero, Mr. Hudson took to the stage arms open, to embrace what is effectively his hometown crowd. The biggest artist to have performed for Birmingham Promoters to date, Hudson spent most of his life in the Handsworth area and seemingly was intent in giving the crowd a performance that portrayed his feelings for the people of Birmingham.

Spot the rising folktronic frontman on guitar in the background - photo credit - Richard Shakespeare

His unique vocal talent soared through the rafters of the Rainbow Warehouse, electrifying the crowd. The confidence exuded is in no small way reflective of the company he is keeping of late, including his record label boss Kanye West and Jay-Z. Prior to this gig Mr Hudson had to postpone his gig in Manchester to play with Jay-Z on the David Letterman Show prompting rumours of a possible release in the States and with Jay-Z as a backer, success is almost a certainty.

Faultlessly guiding the crowd through his album Straight No Chaser, Hudson has hooks and melodies spilling out from every orifice that the crowd chew them up. ‘White Lies’ was as impressive a delivery of any track we have seen this year and displayed the unity that exists between Hudson and his backing musicians. One of the highlights of the performance was the return of Tiny Tempah to the stage to perform a new track called ‘Anyone But Him’ that has been shown much love on Radio One.

Certainly deserving of his reputation as an innovator, his musical abilities are infinite as he transfers from one instrument to the next with ease. The next few months will no doubt see Mr Hudson continue his meteoric rise in the music community which may yet see him do what few others have – break the American market.

Check out June’s issue of AREA Magazine for an exclusive Tenny Ten interview.

For more gigs go to

Lee Hall