Pond Great rock band names... Black Sabbath! Iron Maiden! Hawkwind! Def Leopard! Metallica! Motorhead! You know what you’re in for just by the name eh? ROCCCCKKKKK! Call yourself Pond though and you could be a fey folk band with a penchant for songs about Maypoles and a hey nonny no. Any ill informed folk fans who may have stumbled in to this gig expecting a gentle rendition of All Around My Hat though may well now be undergoing counselling...


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Friends Next door (in the big room) the newly reformed Happy Mondays are twisting the melons of hundreds of mums and dads on the old ‘topping up the pension’ circuit. Meanwhile, here in the Academy 2, the night gets off to an equally twisty (but infinitely cooler) start thanks to the sinuous ass shaking of Aluna Francis, one half of new London R&B-tronica duo AlunaGeorge.


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Alabama Shakes There’s an all too rare moment this evening when the whole audience falls silent. No chatter, no tweeting, no click of camera phones... just silence... broken only by a howl of pure pain from the band’s vocalist. Hell, even our goosebumps got goosebumps. Yep, Alabama Shakes are in town.


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Team Me It might have been an unseasonably cold and damp Tuesday evening... I say ‘might’, what I really mean is “Damn it! What’s with the freakin’ cold... it’s May already... oy vey!!!”... but tonight did more to warm my cockles (stop sniggering at the back) than a bath in a boiling hot toddy.


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Busdriver Bo! Word to your mother. Break it down etc etc. Yep, tonight Digbeth’s legendary boozer, The Rainbow, is well and truly bouncing along to a hippity hoppity beat kicking off with a rising local collective Abes Oddysee. Keeping it old skool there’s a pleasing hint of of J5’s laid back grooves in this four pieces set. Lyrically they’re focused on the key subjects of young inner city kids these days (1) What the fuck am I going to do with my life? and (2) Where can I score some weed? All four took the mic at various times and the different styles worked well together. Of course there’s a rich history of rap collectives going back to the early 80’s but few young crews (yes, crews...I’m down with the street) seem to be making it right now. Shame. No mention of the local rap scene in the recent NME feature on Birmingham either so kudos to tonight’s promoters Fantastic Damage for giving it more of a platform. “Make hip hop one of your 5 a day” one of ‘em shouted at the start of the set. If it’s this good I’d be inclined to agree with him.


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Liz Green Something of a resident artist at The Glee Club now Dan Whitehouse has been playing here for many years, during which time he’s released no less than three EPs and an album of finely crafted, emotionally raw and... I’m guessing... deeply personal songs.


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The Irrepressibles There seems to be a bit of a vogue for gigs in Birmingham churches at the moment. St Paul’s has had a few this year and now St Martin’s is getting in on the act too. It’s a cracking idea. They’re generally gorgeous buildings, perhaps somewhat underused in these more secular times and the acoustics can be...er...heavenly. Tonight we’re here to worship at the altar of St Jamie McDermott, the frankly inspirational life force behind The Irrepressibles, a chamber pop band that’s currently wowing our European neighbours but still seem to be criminally underrated here in their homeland. C’est la vie. Given that this is their first UK tour though (and this is a band that you really need to see live) perhaps all that is about to change.


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Grace and Danger: The Songs of John Martyn Part of the English Originals Weekend tonight saw a veritable cornucopia (yep, I’ve been reading the dictionary again) of artists pay their own tribute to a man who, in my humble opinion, is hugely underappreciated. Of course John did himself no real favours during his 40 odd year career... what with all the drink and drugs... and more drink... and... oh go on... just a few more drugs. Having his leg lopped off in 2006 probably didn’t help matters either, but the overwhelming feeling that you got after he passed away last year was that John well and truly lived life to the full. Inevitably if you’re going to do that you can expect massive highs and crashing lows and listening to John’s songs it’s clear that’s just what he got. Anger, love, hate, bitterness, regret, joy... he covered pretty much every emotion under the sun and tonight’s gig gave us a chance to see how others manage to interpret what are, often, intensely personal songs.


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