Beer and bands in Birmingham

…Or Supersonic Festival 2010

right, I’ve got the CD player loaded up with the excellent Barolo CD, (First heard on the equally excellent Brumcast) and a couple of cds from the 3 for £20 Dirty Water Records Sale. I’ve got half a bottle of wine and a tube of Pringles. God damn it I’m going to finaly finish Supersonic Write up.

You could actually skip this review and head on over to Russ L’s [of Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands fame] and read his recently posted write up, as he both has a better memory and a more eloquent way with words than myself. Nonetheless, I’ve started so I’ll finish, this write up is brought to you by the photographs I took, the Supersonic Festival brochure and my very poor memory.

The Victoria

I met up with my regular supersonic attendee mate for a beer in The Victoria, a place that always has a decent selection of beers and it didn’t disappoint, one drink turned into four(-ish) and we headed off to check in to our accommodation for the weekend. This was to be the Arc Apartments, same as last year, as it was nice to have some extra space – living room/kitchen/tv/dvd area at not too much extra cost. Check in was confused by the fact I was apparently supposed to bring £200 cash with me to check in, well either that or a credit card. I had neither – there was nothing on any of the booking documents about it – so they agreed to charge my debit card it, this I apparently will get back at some point over the next couple of months, not yet mind, this being further worrying given the list of charges on the table for ‘breakages’ and also the list of charges should you check out more than five minutes late aannnd also given the painting in the room that had been glued back together, the smashed cooker top and the marks all over the walls. Not the most relaxing welcome though the check in staff and the place itself was nice enough.

Anyway, bags dumped we raced off to the Symphony Hall to catch Big Man Clayton who was doing a free show as a part of Birmingham Jazz’ rush hour jazz series of free gigs. It sounded good, and was nicely busy with an open bar – didn’t know what to expect, I’d been aware of the rush hour events for some time but didn’t know it was literally wander over and have a gander. Would definitely go again. That said while it was nice to get a taste of the music it would also have been good to see it in a ‘proper’ venue. After a quick hello to ace photographer and fellow Dirty Bristow contributer eight8all we headed off to the festival. Stopping on route at the recomended, to me, Manzils for some food. Previous Supersonics have always been heralded by some kind of event for us, the fabulously odd ‘school trip-like’ coach trip followed by the exelent Home Of Metal talk in 2008 and then last years free screening of Suspiria. While there were indeed some film screenings on it was nice to have a sit down and a decent meal before proceedings. Food was mostly good, my starter was a bit overdone(and my mate managed to order something which was a scotch egg deep fried with an omelette on the top – but then he always does find these bizarre combos so its no real surprise) the price was right and we both had no ill effects so it was a win overall.

We still had an hour or so to kill so headed for a quick pint in The Old Wharf. Ordering a Guinness we watched a very young band soundcheck. They were pretty good and while clearly heading in different directions genre wise they were a talented bunch. The Guinness had a rasberry tinge as its is oft served in rock venues, we cut it short and headed to the festival.

Okay, to be honest there was a tiny que when we arrived at the Custard Factory, so we headed over to the Spotted Dog for a quick half.

Anyway, we did eventually get to the festival, just in time for Necro Deathmort in the Old Library, which was the new stage for this years, it was a great improvement on both the old Medicine Bar room and the Kitchen as was. A nice space in general with its high ceilings and arches in fact it also had a bar, it would take us a day to figure out that this was in fact the ‘Capsule bar’ and as such, was cheaper, friendlier and had a better choice of beers(In fact by Sunday it was about the only bar with any draft beer left) than any of the others. I remember watching some of and enjoying what I saw of Fuckpig and then Drumcorps, in fact I remember realising it was Arron Spectre and all the great mixes I’d heard of his in the past – just about the time he was finished.

Then back to the bar in what was the Kitchen. Here we had discovered bottles of real ale, chilled, and for £3.50. Even better than this, We had thus far been entrusted to drink said beer straight from the bottle thus not having to interact with a plastic cup. However as we ordered the last two bottles of beer in the fridge the rules had changed and they were ‘decanted’ before being given to us. This is how two bottles of cold beer were given to us;

Four beers?

We had to laugh.

We headed to the library, caught some of Supersonic stalwarts PCM, enjoyable as ever from what I recall and then on to Napalm Death. It felt a little special though by the third ‘right on’ speech between songs we were wishing for a bit more noise and a bit less talk… the start of another bit of talk and we decided to call it a night, stopping at the now traditional, for us at least, late night pint in The Kerryman, a pub whose diverse weekend crowd and friendly attitude is hard to beat. Always seems odd we never see any other supersonic attendees in there.

PCM at Supersonic 2010

Saturday began with a walk for some breakfast (lunch) in one of the pubs I’d seen when I was lost in Digbeth, however I failed once again to find the place I was looking for. We ended up in the The White Tower, both feeling a tad worse for the night before we had both decided a shandy was on the cards however one look at the clientèle and we could tell such and order would have us laughed out of the pub. Luckily we spotted M&B Mild on tap so both ordered a pint of that. It did the job but the pub wasn’t one for doing food so we headed out into what had become a rainstorm, we fought through it for a while so as not to miss any of Saturdays acts but were beaten by the weather into a stop off at The Woodsman, just over the road from The Thinktank building. A lovely building from the outside though looking a little abandonded, inside a cold and draughty unlit bar with a teenager sat texting on her phone in one corner and a slightly shifty barmen. Spotting the M&B pump again we said, oh, 2 pints of mild. Here I should add that the mild in the Tower had taken longer for them to pour than about 8 pints of Guinness. Frustrating but when it arrived tasting as good as it did no problem. Here a pint was poured in around four seconds. We were then told it was £2.80 “Two pints” we said. No, that was the price. Annoyingly this was not my round. The barman brought back our change and then as he disapeared out the back of the bar said “yes, its on special, its nearly off, but its alright.” We never did see him again… What we had was two pints of vinegar with some tap water poured in for colour I would guess. I struggled on hoping it might get better but in the first time in x number of years I was forced to leave about 75 pence worth of my pint behind. My mate soldiered on bravely but neither of our digestive systems were quite right for a fair few days after Saturday.

Running late and still un fed we called in at Hennesseys Bar, where I remembered the food being quite good, after a twenty minute too long wait our food it arrived, cold like it had been stood in the kitchen for 20 minutes, but we wolfed it down and time was not on our side. To the festival…

We arrived, Bought a pint watching Part Wild Horses Mane On Both Sides and discussed how it was a bit off that the staff behind the bar were volunteers given the last nights bar prices, but then did catch on that we were being charged less than Friday night. We caught the end of Blue Sabbath Black Fiji, great name but didn’t do much for me from what I remember, watched a little of Eagle Twin and nipped in to a rammed Theatre space to watch Nic Bullen, we couldn’t really see anything so headed back out for a rst stop at The Spotted dog.

Back in time to catch Stinky Wizzleteat who I’d wanted to see after hearing them on Brumcast, they didn’t disappoint, okay you couldn’t see a lot but you could sure feel the energy. Then I was hustled to see King Midas Sound. Boy was I glad I was. Its this kind of thing that really makes Supersonic Festival for me. The fact you could go from punk noise to some bass heavy near pop music is just awesome, and somehow just works. I must say the Midas Sound was a big high point for me of the weekend. Seemed a lot more lights in space 2 this year which while a bit close encounters at times made for some pretty photos.

King Midas Sound

More importantly the stage on the side wall was a whole lot better for seeing the band from the whole of the venue, I’ve never really liked Space 2 on previous supersonics and even at other gigs I’d been to there, but this was much better. Tweak Bird who I enjoyed, having bought their CD when they were due to play last years festival, I enjoyed a lot, sure didn’t remember the vocals being that ‘high’ on the record mind.

Godflesh weren’t really my thing, I guess I was never really aware of them as a kid, other than on other peoples shirts, and as such it didn’t grab me from the off. Melt Banana on the other hand blew me away. I was sure I didn’t like Melt Banana, I was sure I’d seen them at ATP and at the Cube in Bristol and never really got them. Thats me again getting one name confused with another, getting a bit worried about that kind of thing, Anyway, they were truly awesome and a sight to behold.

Abandoned drink in the Kerryman

We ended the night in The Kerryman again where in I had my first less than overly enjoyable time. There was a guy in there so drunk he couldn’t stand properly who wanted to chat to everyone, but physically couldn’t and you got the impression things could go either way at any moment. His mate was quite amusing, asleep on a bar stool. On occasion he would wake up and order another beer, sip it, then doze off again. He had about 7 pints in front of him in various states of emptiness. To be fair the talker was an equal opportunity annoyance pouncing on anyone who came in the door and even annoying the bouncers. Fortunately for us a group of young ladies came in and two of them took him off to the dance floor – I don’t know(or care) what they did to him there but they came back alone which was good news for all concerned.

Wetherspoons for breakfast

Having failed so miserably to find sustenance on Saturday we thought we’d play it safe and go for a Wetherspoons breakfast on Sunday. Skipping the branch on Hurst Street, which allways seems to smell of vinegar, we headed up to Bennetts Hill, which was rammed and so on to Corporation Street which wasn’t (Presumably because everyone knows how dificult it is to get servered at the mile long bar). We arrived just in time to watch the breakfast menus being collected, luckily then the Sunday lunch menus were distributed, a pint and a Sunday lunch for under six quid? I tell you it wasn’t bad either.

Unknown at Supersonic 2010

We made it to the Custard Factory just in time to catch Health and Efficiency who I enjoyed a lot, reminded me a little of a more stoner Pharaoh Overlord from a previous Supersonic, from what I remember. We then headed to catch Pierre Bastien just leaving the stage, luckily having seen (and enjoyed) him before, and saw Małe Instrumenty start up. This seemed to confuse many late comers around us as several arrived trying to work out which one was Pierre. They were very enjoyable and again with some great crowd banter – another part of that Supersonic randomness that flows rather than jolt (Don’t know how it works, just does)

From there my photos go to the family size tub of peanut butter we spotted abandoned in the medicine bar, and then to, oh look, the sun came out for a bit.

Sunshine at Supersonic

We headed out for a bit and came back to try to get in to see Ruins(I think it was Ruins) The Old Library was at one of its few crisis of capacity which it had over the weekend. This was certainly not helped at this time by a part of the bands desision to play in the small and only entrance coridor by the veneus doors. This meant even if you wanted to just get in and buy a drink you had no chance. I couldn’t help thinking it would have made more sense if the back door to the library was the ‘main’ door as at least then people could get in and buy a drink and leave. On then to Nisennenmondai who were truly awesome.

At this point I should also mention the twitter instalation that Pete Ashton had created, for someone who has fell into using twitter quite a bit over the last year or so this was usefull for both an update on what you might be missing and also and good for the occasional laugh, one comment that set me off was about it being nice to see some women perfoming at the supersonic sauasagefest. You probabbly had to be there. Anyway, it was an awesome set and the crowd were righteously enjoying it. Then to Khyam Allami & Master Musicians of Bukkake present: Bosphorean and a quite legnthly soundcheck where basically everyone wanted to be a bit louder….

One louder...

I didn’t really have the patience for the full set of this, I imagine its the kind of thing I would enjoy a whole lot listening to a home but stood in a cold warehouse, after being stood a whole lot for three days, it was a bit of a challenge, made me whistfull for those early ATPs at Camber Sands back where they still had some tables in the ballroom.

And so we headed for a last time out to The Anchor, actually thinking back we had also had a pint there earlier in the day. This time we sat in the ‘Midland Red’ bar, a nod to the old bus service. In the back room some older folk were having a 78 listening party, one lady was dancing, the bar was fantastic and looked like this;

The Anchor

What a fab place.

On return to festival base camp we caught someof HalloGallo, I would’ve like to have stayed a little longer but felt like I’d be missing out if I didn’t catch Swans. I did catch Swans, another band I was aware of a kid but never really in to, and I can’t say I was grabbed. It might have been the tiredness of three days of music and standing around in the cold, I don’t know. But it didn’t do it for me. In fact by the end of the long set I was feeling the cold a bit painfully. After that we headed home, more for some heat than anything, We were hoping to pick up a pizza and cook it in out ‘apartment’ as it was Digbeth was deader than a dead dodo thats not making any noise. All the 24 hours shops were closed and so were the food joints. The only place with any kind of action going on was the upstairs of the Adult Shop, which looked like a scene from an Ang Lee movie from the window silhouettes outside.

Nisennenmondai at Supersonic 2010

So that was Supersonic 2010. Loved the fact that previous moans about overpriced beer were addressed. Must admit I had expected more changes to venue/set up given the October setting. It was unpleasantly cold by 10pm most nights. This was made worse(for me) by the lack of hoodies and zippers available on the merch side of things this year – Would’ve happily bought anything on Sunday to keep warm, I have a capsule hoodie already, it being quite a snug XL there was no way another one would have fitted over my shirt and zipper or I would’ve bought another. I reckon in September you would have goten away with it but by October it was just too cold at night. That said if it was the same next year I would know that there was no heat and so could bring a bag of stuff out with me to layer up with as the night went on. Even so, a thermals changing area might be a good idea.

The new room layout seemed to work well, apart from the few times the smaller venue hit capacity, would’ve liked to have seen Chrome Hoof again but guessed it would be rammed, we nipped out for a pint and as we came back and tried to get in there toward the end of the set to get to the bar were told it was closed and he didn’t know when it would open. The whole venue was at capacity for the whole weekend it seemed, normally you tend to get a busy early Friday night, which then tails off as people leave to get home, then a busy Saturday with a quieter Sunday. This year it seemed every venue was full all the time. Impressive but wouldn’t want to see it much busier.

The merch ‘room’ was also very busy, the fact it was the warmest and driest way to get from Space 2 to the rest of the venue meant it became a main thoroughfare and that that ‘browsing’ in there was nigh impossible most of the time. Given all the space in the rest of the old Medicine bar venue I think spreading it about would have worked a little better, at least for the people trying to sell things.

One final mention to the fantastic Rhubarb Radio who were broadcasting throughout the weekend with some live broadcasts, you can listen again to some here.

suggestions for acts I’d like to see there next year? Well having seen the Infesticons put on a positively destructive live show last weekend, Mike Ladd comes to mind, more on that later.

As normal I came away dissapointed at all the acts I’d missed that I’d wanted to see, some of the Theatre talks too, I’m constantly impressed just how much goes on and how it all goes on to shedule too. I look forward to another Supersonic. Festivals really just don’t get much better than this.

You can read more much well deserved praise at the Collective Memory.

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3 Comments

  1. “a scotch egg deep fried with an omelette on the top”

    Nargis kebab, that’ll be. You usually get tikka lamb type stuff rather than the breadcrumbs of a scotch egg, though.

  2. Was certainly new to the two of us, it did look quite interesting. Now I know what its called I’ll look out for it in future, Thanks.

  3. Had a Nargis kebab in the unimaginative but highly search engine friendly Tandoori Indian Restaurant in Bromsgrove, following the sad passing of the Tamanna, Was pretty damn good as a starter too.

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