Burt Bacharach Excitement abounds, and for a Monday night the crowd of gowns and jewels that alight the stairs to the main symphony hall it's clear this is an occasion that's been much awaited. It is in fact the first time that Burt Bacharach has played Birmingham.


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THEBAND Cool music, lovely people, real ale, steam trains, sun...sun...even more sun...wouldn’t the country be a better place if it was run by the good folk behind Indietracks and the bands who played? Yes, yes it would. MJ Hibbert would be Secretary of State for Education, Hidden Cameras would be in charge of the armed forces and Gruff Rhys would be Prime Minister, although given his wonderfully laid back drawl and thoughtful pondering Prime Minister’s Question Time may well last a week.


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Larkin Poe Okay, quick quiz for you...how many famous ‘Poes’ can you name? Go on...if you’re lucky you might just come up with the one, the granddaddy of horror himself Mr Edgar Allen Poe. Even so I was more than mildly surprised to discover that tonight’s band, Larkin Poe (sisters Rebecca and Megan) are actually related (albeit distantly) to the dude behind The Raven, The Tell Tale Heart and The Fall of the House of Usher (serves him right for releasing rubbish records...). Cool eh? Formerly trading as The Lovell Sisters (that’s the sister’s surname, Larkin Poe was their great, great, great grandfather and cousin of Edgar), Larkin Poe have been around since 2010 and tonight they’re fresh from Glastonbury...well as fresh as you can be after spending several days ankle deep in mud and...er...other ‘stuff’...I guess.


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John Grant Gemma Ray strikes me as the sort of girl you might see in a Tarantino movie, with her retro beehiveesque hair, and knife wielding guitar strumming, she’s that heady mix of ‘sweet sixteen’ & edgy B girl femininity. Ray has already a large number of album’s under her belt, and brings a selection here tonight along with her bequiffed and enthusiastic drummer, and shoe gazing bass player. It’s hard to define Ray’s music so many are it’s influences, from bottle slide blues to spaghetti western soundtracks, I’m quite surprised to learn she’s not American (but from the south of England). Central to her sound is the use of a customised Hagström guitar, which she wields with ease, later in the set drawing her large blade like a gun and pulling it across the strings to dramatic effect, eventually discarding the knife like a scene from a fairground sideshow. Ray is the perfect lead in to John Grant, the headline act tonight.


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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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Courtney Barnett I was pretty much sold on Courtney Barnett from the moment I discovered that one of her songs was called Avant Gardener. Clever. I do love a good pun. Happily the track’s as impressive as the title which, despite a still relatively low profile over here in the UK (Courtney’s from Melbourne), probably explains why this gig at the Hare and Hounds sold out a while back.


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The Correspondents Having formed in 2007 it’s taken a whole 7 years for The Correspondents (DJ Chucks and singer/dancer Mr Bruce) to get around to releasing their debut album. But then again Mr Bruce (aka Ian Bruce) also has a career as an artist to keep him busy so we can kind of forgive them. Besides that given the energy that he expends during tonight’s gig I reckon he probably needs to lie down for a month or six every time they play live...


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Goodnight Lenin At last, after a gestation period that makes the average Elephant birth seem a tad premature (apparently it takes around 2 years between getting jiggy and wetting the baby’s trunk...who’d be a lady elephant eh?) this year will finally see the release of Goodnight Lenin’s debut album. Definitely. 100%. No question at all. Hurrah! To prove they can deliver the goods against the clock a few weeks back they set themselves the challenge of recording, mixing and mastering a single for Record Store Day in just one mammoth 24 hour session. The resulting recording, just 24 copies of which have been pressed, will be sold on Record Store day itself, this Saturday 19th April (hence the timing of this gig I guess).


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Table Scraps A moshing butler, a raffle prize that included a Bubba Ho-Tep action figure, a Fray Bentos Pie, drumsticks and...er...’lube’ (answers on a postcard please...) and five bands for £5 with all proceeds go to kicking cancer’s butt (does cancer have a butt...I guess it does...), what’s not to love eh? First off high fives to Thomas Wagstaff (Female Smell) and Nat Jones for organising it all. Happily Wags beat the disease a few years ago and tonight was his way of paying back the Teenage Cancer Trust who clearly gave him oodles of support during his treatment and recovery.


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CHVRCHES I’m sure there’s a great reason why Chvrches spell their name that way, even if it does send the old spellchecker into a full on meltdown. Hold on...I’ll look it up. Right, apparently it’s because if you put Churches into Google (other search engines are available...unless Google want to pay me £500,000 in which case GOOGLE ROCKS) all you get are loads of websites to do with ding dong bells, Jesus, God and all that schnizzle kind of churches. As you’d reasonably expect I guess. Quite why they didn’t just choose a different name isn’t explained but we’ll let that lie...


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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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Miss Halliwell The City Tavern. Just a short stumble away from the festering mass of humanity that spills, totters and...I hope you’ve already eaten...oozes all over Broad Street on a Friday night whilst seemingly remaining a hundred miles away. In that respect it’s pretty much the perfect venue for Miss Halliwell, a band that similarly skirts close to popular appeal with some deceptively catchy tunes and lyrics (check out Free Chips for instance... it’s got sing-along hit written all over it) whilst somehow remaining safely outside the ‘mainstream’.


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Radkey “We are three brothers on a quest to save the world from false rock”. So reads the rather bold claim on Radkey’s Twitter page. Hell, it's not just 'false rock' that the world needs saving from these days so let’s hope they deliver eh?


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Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip It’s been nearly seven years since Le Sac and Pip’s first hit, Thou Shalt Always Kill, a deliberately provocative swipe at the mindless hero worship of many a sacred musical cow (everyone from The Beatles through to Lostprophets... hmmm they may have had a point there in retrospect). Okay, perhaps it had a vague whiff of the novelty one hit wonder about it but the pair have since gone on to produce some of the freshest most thought provoking hip hop around, hence the pretty much capacity crowd tonight.


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