Roy Wood and friends There's nothing like a bit of old skool glam rock to get you in the mood for Christmas... Roy Wood is aiming to make this event at Birmingham's Symphony Hall an annual event, like a brummy variety performance, I'm loving a bit of retro talent to kick off the festivities.


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Scott Bradlee and Postmodern Jukebox Okay, so imagine if Lady Gaga had hung around the Noo Yoik jazz clubs of the 30s and 40s or if Robin Thicke had been ‘blurring lines’ in Appalachia back in the 50s? That, in essence, is the brilliant but simple premise behind Postmodern Jukebox, take ‘modern’ pop songs and re-imagine them adding a little (or in most cases a lot) more musical magic all with a distinctively vintage twist. To quote the chap behind it, US jazz musician Scott Bradlee, it’s all about the creation of “an alternate pop universe” (and let’s face it some of today’s pop songs...and their singers...could certainly do with being transported to an alternate universe at times). It’s been pretty ruddy successful too, with one of the group’s best efforts, a heartbreakingly poignant cover of Lorde’s Royals sung by a 7ft tall clown (yep, seriously), picking up almost 8million hits on You Tube to date...and all without the aid of breakdancing kittens, grannies battering would be muggers or drunk frat boys falling off roofs. Impressive eh? Now, after a sell out US tour, the Jukebox has popped over the Atlantic for a mere handful of dates, one of which is in Brum’s suitably vintage Institute.


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Temples Whoooooooah...hey man, what’s happening? Going to see Temples at The Institute? Cosmic...faaaaar out dude. Okay, enough of the trippy 60s lingo (for now at least, I’m still having flashbacks from this show so frankly anything could happen in the next few paragraphs) but tonight was another of those time travelling gigs that made you question which decade you were living in.


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AlunaGeorge First on the list is Benedict Taylor a singer songwriter from Hertfordshire. His melodies comprise of slow contemporary vocal and piano based ballads. Taylor's falsetto vocal works perfectly with song highlights including 'Stranger' and "please don't fall out of Love' - a love song "in reverse" Benedict tells us. His heart felt songs certainly warm up this crowd on a cold and wet Tuesday evening.


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Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra Amanda Palmer is naked. Not literally, although she’s not averse to getting her kit off (as her recent Daily Mail baiting set in London amply demonstrated), nope Amanda Palmer’s nakedness this evening is more of the emotional kind. In fact whether it’s her lyrics, blog, occasional webcasts or spontaneous guerrilla gigs she’s possibly one of the most open and ‘genuine’ (whatever that word means in today’s all too superficial world) performers/human beings you’re ever likely to stumble across. Whilst Richey Manic famously carved the words ‘4 Real’ into his arm with a razor blade Palmer demonstrates her realness in rather less bloody, but equally striking ways (cut her in half and I reckon she’d have the words ‘4 Real’ running through her like a stick of rock) as tonight’s gloriously ramshackle (I mean this in the best sense of not really knowing what was going to happen next) show proved.


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Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra Amanda Palmer is naked. Not literally, although she’s not averse to getting her kit off (as her recent Daily Mail baiting set in London amply demonstrated), nope Amanda Palmer’s nakedness this evening is more of the emotional kind. In fact whether it’s her lyrics, blog, occasional webcasts or spontaneous guerrilla gigs she’s possibly one of the most open and ‘genuine’ (whatever that word means in today’s all too superficial world) performers/human beings you’re ever likely to stumble across. Whilst Richey Manic famously carved the words ‘4 Real’ into his arm with a razor blade Palmer demonstrates her realness in rather less bloody, but equally striking ways (cut her in half and I reckon she’d have the words ‘4 Real’ running through her like a stick of rock) as tonight’s gloriously ramshackle (I mean this in the best sense of not really knowing what was going to happen next) show proved.


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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club I've always been a fan of BRMC, ever since they first glowered into my life in early 2002, hot on the heels of the hipper than hip Strokes and the cartoon garage rockers the Hives, San Francisco 3 piece BRMC always had a touch of the sulky older cousin, a bit distant and not really interested in anyone else, chuffing fags in black leather, always in grainy black and white with smoke billowing around them. It's been an adore/not that fussed relationship for some time now, I stuck with them up to the 3rd album HOWL, a more stripped back gospel blues hand clap album in stark contrast to their thunderous, distortion psyche rock blues of their debut BRMC and the follow up Take Them On, On Your Own. I actually loved this change of direction for them, something they took to with equal talents.


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Layers Ahhhhh springtime, dontcha just love it? Longer days, buds on the trees, daffs springing up everywhere, the sudden reappearance of our old friend Mr Sun...except someone, somewhere seems to have failed to read the script this year as the temperature allegedly plummeted to a nut shrivelling -10 today (with wind chill). Good grief. Happily tonight’s compact and subterranean venue rapidly achieved a slightly more tropical feel courtesy of This Is Sinister. They’ve been knocking around for a few years now and what was once an odd mix in their early gigs seems to have gelled remarkably well. Psych, prog, country, rock, beat...no genre’s immune but somehow they make it work. Musical trainspotters might make links to Pearl Jam and At The Drive In in places but this lot are frankly impossible to pigeonhole and there aren’t too many bands you can say that about these days. Pick of the set included Idle Pleasures and the country rock tinged Never Find A Way, complete with added harmonica, neither of which I can find online anywhere so you’ll just have to go and see ‘em instead. Oh, and ask them to do tonight’s closing number too, a spirited and pant wettingly enjoyable version of Twist and Shout that might just be one of the greatest covers of all time...


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Saint Saviour Who’d have thought it eh? B-Town’s now seemingly home to the rebirth of old skool house! At least it will be if Greg Bird and Flamingo Flame have their wicked way. Sporting a sparkly eye mask, leather gloves and chain of fairy lights Bird knocks out the kind of tracks that crate digging DJs would willingly sacrifice their Numark turntables for. Singing live with a dude on an array of laptops and electronic gizmos and a guitarist adding additional colour to some of the quieter tracks (shades of Durutti Column in there perhaps) it was a masterclass in bringing this kind of music to life, one of the most glorious, soul lifting, hand in the air like ya just don’t care sets you’re likely to see. Both Animals and Skool (pick of their latest must have EP, Black Tableaux) were stunningly good, temporarily transforming the Hare & Hounds into some kind of fabulously sweaty gay disco in 1980’s Chicago. That’s a rather marvellous thing by the way. Simply one of the most exciting new bands in Birmingham.


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Saint Saviour Who’d have thought it eh? B-Town’s now seemingly home to the rebirth of old skool house! At least it will be if Greg Bird and Flamingo Flame have their wicked way. Sporting a sparkly eye mask, leather gloves and chain of fairy lights Bird knocks out the kind of tracks that crate digging DJs would willingly sacrifice their Numark turntables for. Singing live with a dude on an array of laptops and electronic gizmos and a guitarist adding additional colour to some of the quieter tracks (shades of Durutti Column in there perhaps) it was a masterclass in bringing this kind of music to life, one of the most glorious, soul lifting, hand in the air like ya just don’t care sets you’re likely to see. Both Animals and Skool (pick of their latest must have EP, Black Tableaux) were stunningly good, temporarily transforming the Hare & Hounds into some kind of fabulously sweaty gay disco in 1980’s Chicago. That’s a rather marvellous thing by the way. Simply one of the most exciting new bands in Birmingham.


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Savages You know what, there’s a worrying lack of girls (ladies, females, women...whatever you’re supposed to call them these days) in music. Sure there are some massive exceptions but they tend to be solo artists, Adele, Sticky Minge, Lady GaGa...there are relatively few ‘girl’ bands...or indeed girls in bands out there. This troubles me more than the lack of females in Government (as if Government’s really change anything these days) or big corporations (ditto). Call me an old idealist but music remains one of the greatest art forms and communication tools in the world and it’s always struck me as curious that considerably fewer than 50% of the bands I’ve seen over the years (roughly 5% in fact I’d say) have any female component whatsoever. Why? Answers on a postcard please. Savages are that rare beast though, an all female group. And, whilst it really shouldn’t matter a toss what sex they are the rarity of this kind of a line up has certainly bought them added attention. Being touted as the ‘female Joy Division’ sets the bar particularly high but would tonight bring Unknown Pleasures or would it be a case of She’s Lost Control? Hmmm...


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Sparks Now celebrating an incredible 41 years together Sparks (essentially brothers Ron and Russell Mael) have been hailed as an influence on everyone from Kurt Cobain to Duran Duran and The Pixies (let’s face it, Soft Cell and Pet Shop Boys based their entire acts on them too). It’s unusual enough for a group to make it to their fifth decade but even rarer still for them to be producing decent work too, witness exhibit A, their rather fine last album 2009’s The Seduction Of Ingmar Bergman, which the duo are ambitiously planning to transform into a full length movie and stage show. Makes most other bands seem positively slack in comparison eh? It’s this continuing quest to, as Ron later put it this evening “Keep pushing the envelope” that seems to be behind this latest tour, Two Hands, One Mouth, a stripped back chance to see “Sparks in the nude”. We can thank Russ for that particular mental image.


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