Sunday, 30 December 2012

Looking back over 2012

Well, it's been quite a year. 

Old Father Time (at Lords) catching up
It's taking stock at the end of the seasonal break time. 

A week back, I was thinking about coming up with some sort of awards list, but I've dropped that in favour of simply noting  what I’d really enjoyed or noted this past year, both in music - live, recorded or on video - and a radio. So that’s the guts of this post. 

Lots of brilliant stuff to talk about, though. And sadly, some disappointments. But, this being our shiny and creative local scene, I'm not short of decent topics. The biggest problem was keeping it concise. And I know I've missed some people out. 

Gigs of the year
Sunday 2nd September at Moseley Folk was just….perfect. Too many great people to mention. But I had me a blast.
At Paul Murphy's wonderful Songwriters Café, Kate Goes, the Cadbury Sisters and Abie’s Miracle Tonic stood out… but there were tons of great acts. And while we're talking about Paul Murphy...any Murphy show, solo or with The Destroyers, was a highlight.


Dan Whitehouse at Symphony Hall – especially when the Ray Davies crowd stopped, listened… and stepped up to buy his album

Micky Greaney at Folk for Free
Several excellent sets, all over town, from George Barnett

Mellow Peaches and Ben Drummond, both at the Hare and Hounds
Mittwoch Aus Licht
Urban Folk Quartet at The Yardbird
and from outta town, Larry McCray played serious blues and soul - just... right

Cannon Street

It was a delight to catch Cannon Street at OxjamBrum, and Katherine Priddy made an excellent, assured, entrance as well, at Moseley Folk. Watch these guys fly…

Blimey, that was quick
From the Troumaca website

It's been a damn good year for several bands who simply got their heads down, grafted away... and got a break. It happens, each year, not quite at random, and not necessarily to everyone who should catch a break - but that's showbiz. That said, all good luck and best wishes for 2013 go to Troumaca, who signed to Gilles Peterson's label after a whirlwind year. Victories At Sea have also had a damn good year, and Peace also set a blistering pace in Indie-land, and they're now on Sony. Nice going all round. 

Videos of note - six among MANY...

George Barnett - Where The Devil Sleeps
One Eye – Mr Bailiff
Goodnight Lenin - A Winter's Night
Alternative Dubstep Orchestra - Power
Hannah and the Gentlemen - Global Warming
Xova - 9 Lives

and many many more... I could fill a page with good stuff. 

Albums of note - eight (and two bits) among MANY...

The Destroyers - Hole In the Universe
Dan Whitehouse
Red Shoes - All The Good Friends
Urban Folk Quartet - Off Beaten Tracks
Toy Hearts - Whiskey
TG Collective - Release The Penguins
Mellow Peaches - I'll Go Down With This Ship
And I am eagerly looking forward to Balsall Heat, and the new albums from 360 and Goodnight Lenin.

There's still not much to write home about, I’m afraid. BRMB, Mercia, Beacon and Wyvern morphed into Free, but the listening figures, largely, stayed the same. As I’ve already documented, the national brands are here to stay, but they’re not making any headway against the BBC. As far as Free goes, it’s only nine months into the new brand, so they need a bit of time. Sometimes it takes years to develop both a radio identity and a relationship with the audience. Of course, it helps if there really is something that people can identify with, something that actually differentiates your product from everyone else’s, and I am quite sure they’re working hard on that on Broad Street. 

Over at the Mailbox, it’s really nice to see a number of WM presenters now making a point of featuring new local music – special kudos for Adrian Goldberg, and a very honourable mention also for Paul Franks. Kerrang!, spearheaded by Loz Guest and Johnny Doom, continue to champion new and local stuff in their very specific areas of coverage; long may that continue. 

For the rest? A sad February goodbye to South Birmingham Community Radio, who, like many community radio stations around the country, are suffering as sources of funding are either completely withdrawn or are proving harder and harder to come by. Nationally, it's good to see lots of love for a number of local acts (Musgraves, UFQ, TG Collective, Destroyers, Nightingales) at Radio 2 and 6Music.

Oh, and I have this cute idea I'm working up. Idealistic developers, feel free to get in touch.

Venues and politics
A qualified hooray for Birmingham City Council, who have wisely knocked back a property developer’s plan which would have severely compromised music making at the Hare and Hounds. And a big welcome to Ort Café and the Old Print Works in Balsall Heath. It's good to note that nobody else, to my knowledge, has shut up shop. .

That’s the plus side. The downside is that I had almost allowed myself to believe that the council was taking its local music scene seriously as a potential revenue earner, reputation builder and jobs creator. That optimistic state of mind came about through the council’s publication of Destination Birmingham, late last year. This laid out a blueprint to engage with, support and develop the local music scene. Sadly, after a change at the top, the entire plan seems to have been parked out of the way where it's not going to bother anyone. And that's a great opportunity lost. 

And the latest weird news from the Council House - I can't quite believe this - is that some councillors are, seriously, debating renaming Birmingham International Airport after Ozzy Osbourne. Your august and wise councillorships... that's a completely silly idea.  Ozzy's not had anything to do with Brum for decades, and his recent celebrity owes much to reality TV, an incontinent dog, and his very clever wife. It's time to live in the present, guys.

It’s great to see Moseley Folk and Mostly Jazz continuing to grow in stature and confidence, with imaginative programming in many areas, and an increasing raft of fringe events tucked away in various parts of Moseley Park. 

I’m also dead chuffed that Simmer Down and The Flyover Show are settled, smoothly successful and increasingly important. I’d love to see Reggae City get more public support, and a longer run, maybe with some family-friendly daytime activity – and a bit of nice weather would help too. 

And massive credit goes to Lyle, Nicola and the team at OxjamBrum for running themselves into the ground to bring us a lovely day of activities.

Next year?
I expected breakthroughs for the The Destroyers, Goodnight Lenin and Dan Whitehouse in 2012. Of the three, the Destroyers made the most running, and now fill decent-sized halls with ease all over the country. Dan and GNL aren’t too far behind, and they are still my big tips for 2013, along with George Barnett - looks like it's happening for him right now - Electric Swing Circus and the Musgraves. And, and and…I have high hopes for Layla Tutt, Xova, Swim Deep, and Alternative Dubstep Orchestra.

I may not be completely up to speed here...but isn't it about time for some more Twang?

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