Review by Farhana Alam with photography by Helen Williams.

The second ever Star Shaped Festival came to the o2 Institute for one afternoon and evening of 90s nostalgia as they seek to bring six of the best Britpop bands to a city near you – in this case Birmingham –  featuring Salad (Undressed), My Life Story, DodgySpace, Sleeper and The Bluetones.

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A mix-up by the promoters meant that I was unable to gain entry in time for the first band, Salad (Undressed), who took to the stage at 2:50pm – unfortunately, I missed their entire set. Within a side-room at the venue was an exhibition from Microdot Creative – the graphic design company responsible for a lot of the artwork for bands such as Oasis, The Verve and The Super Furry Animals. Brian Cannon – the designer himself – manned the stand, giving fans the opportunity the purchase signed copies of original artwork.

The first band of the afternoon (for me) was My Life Story, with singer Jake Shillingford appearing in pinstriped suit and white boots, strutting his stuff. Initially, the audience was sparse; after all, it was only 4pm – quite early to be in the dark interior of the Institute. The band included a few B-sides in their set, including Emerald, injecting a dose of synth pop into the middle of this mid-afternoon middle-aged crowd. Further into the set, the bassist Jack Hosgood was really getting into the groove, whilst Shillingford – like a conductor – orchestrated the growing audience to sing along with outstretched arms to Sparkle.

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The third set was from Dodgy, with frontman Nigel Clark scoffing at the idea of being labelled a Britpop band, as was advertised by the festival. The band was on top form throughout their set, sounding tight – this, despite some technical difficulties with the bass guitar. Clark reminisced about jumping down from the balcony at his first ever rock concert at age 15, at this very venue in “deepest darkest Digbeth.” The set included a mix of old and new material – Water Under The Bridge, California Gold – with the audience singing along to Good Enough. When the band played Staying Out For The Summer, everyone danced as if they were on Top Of The Pops and it felt like the stage lights had teleported us all to a 90s disco. The set ended with Grassman, from the 1994 album Homegrown.

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Space brought their frenetic brand of rock to what was now a packed venue, with singer Tommy Scott intermittently swigging from a full bottle of wine. Scrawny in stature and quite visibly drunk, Scott was nevertheless the energetic showman, bashing into the bassist and grinning mischievously at the audience, who sang along to some of the favourites, including ‘Avenging Angels’. Scott ventured into the adoring crowd for ‘Female Of The Species’ – a song which he claimed was rejected by Gary Glitter. Following ‘Drop Dead’ and ‘Me And You Versus The World’, the band ended the set with ‘Neighbourhood’, and a horizontal Scott was peeled off the stage by the bassist and a roadie.

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As Sleeper took to the stage, shouts of “We love you, Louise!” could be heard from the largely male and increasingly inebriated audience. This was one of the band’s first gigs in almost two decades and the excitement was palpable. Frontwoman Louise Wener smiled demurely and waved at her fans in between deliveries of the band’s saccharine pop-rock, including the songs ‘Pyrotechnician’, ‘Delicious’, ‘What Do I Do Now?’, ‘Inbetweener ‘and ‘Sale Of The Century’. Their cover of Blondie’s ‘Atomic’ got the biggest response from the crowd.

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The Bluetones took the final slot of the evening. They looked like frequenters of the Fountain of Youth, with singer Mark Morriss looking particularly dapper in a grey suit. ‘Bluetonic’ and ‘Solomon Bites The Worm’ appeared early in the set, followed later by ‘Sleazy Bed Track’ and ‘Keep The Home Fires Burning’. Morriss punctuated the set with his characteristic wry humour, encouraging the audience to look after themselves because “more than anything, you are our pension.” After a massive singalong to ‘Slight Return’, the second half of the set included the rest of the “minor hits”(!), including ‘Marblehead Johnson’, ‘Never Going Anywhere’ and ‘After Hours’. The band ended their set with ‘If… ‘and bowed out with grace.

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For more images from tonight’s gig visit our Flickr page.

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Star Shaped Festival continues at venues across the country throughout August:
5 August – o2 Forum Kentish Town
12 August – o2 ABC Glasgow
19 August – o2 Ritz Mancheste

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