The feature photo is credited to Paul Reynolds and Counteract, and can be found originally here.
Before I delve in to the content of the gig itself, let me first indulge myself with a short anecdote.
Everyone has, or should have, a person in their life who they can look towards for musical guidance. They go to multiple gigs a week, they know everyone in their local music scene, and they’ve probably made good friends with people in reasonably famous bands. It just so happens that my go-to person is called Dave, and I’m sure he’s the go-to for many other people besides. When he says he’s going to see someone you’ve never heard of, you pay attention and seek them out because 99% of the time they’re going to be the best thing you’ve heard all week.
It’s an all too infrequent occurrence that me and Dave are at the same gig together, but after inquiring with him as to whether it’d be worth the hassle of public transport on a Sunday, I made the effort to go along to The Sunflower Lounge last Sunday night (12/11/2017) for their hastily put together fund raiser in aid of Cancer Research UK. Oh boy was I in for a treat!
First up, a collaboration between Crop Circles‘ Liám Mckeown and Bad Girlfriend‘s Billy Smallman-Köpf. A real neat way to get the show started with a short set featuring hazy guitar and vocals, and which even incorporated a cover of Neil Young’s ‘The Needle And The Damage Done’ at the end.
Next was Youth Man bassist Miles Cocker doing a solo set of his own material. Some musicians may have been put off their stride had a guitar string snapped halfway through the opening song, but it didn’t faze Miles at all who powered through the opener with grim determination and, once a change of guitar took place, pulled off a really stripped back and melancholy set which had the audience gripped from start to finish.
False Grails played after Ed’s magic act and a chaotically fun raffle draw, and after blowing an amp, ripped the place up with an absolutely stellar set. The fraught tension in vocalist Tom Wagstaff’s performance, almost as if he’s walking a tight rope over a sea of despair, is offset perfectly by the fantastic rhythm section. It’s an absolute pleasure to watch a drummer so well versed in their craft, perfectly in time and with the energy to incorporate so many fills in between the drum beats. Check out recent EP’s ‘Privilege & Consequence’ (available for free from their Bandcamp site if you’re interested) and ‘Hope And Release’ for some awesome, aggressive hardcore rock music.
Finally, Black Mekon closed the show. “For those kids that were here earlier, go to school tomorrow and sing that song to your friends, they’ll love it. It’s called ‘You Are My C**t'” band lead Steve Baker fires in to the microphone, before blasting through a few songs from their latest record One In The Hate. It’s a really assured performance from a band who’re evidently at home performing to such a close knit network of hometown fans, and the crowd sing and dance along to each and every track. A brief message of thanks from the organiser for raising in excess of £1200, and Black Mekon rattle through blistering renditions of ‘Black Mekon Must Die’ and ‘Backseat Babe’ to round out what has been both an incredibly frenetic and entirely heartwarming evening of live music.
With the tinitus still ringing in my ears from such a raucous show, two things come to mind. One; the live music scene in Birmingham is well and truly alive, full of untapped potential, with The Sunflower Lounge one of the centrepiece venues driving the scene. Two; music can, and should, be used for the power of good. Music manages to bring people together in support of a common cause, and to stand in the face of adversity when hope seems lost. From the big scale gig which Ariana Grande put together after the horrific Manchester terrorist attack in May, through to small local venues putting on fund raisers for charity, it’s our collective responsibility as music fans to turn our love in to more than just a subjective passion. Let’s stand up, be counted, and make the world just that bit brighter for all.