Running Am-UK with Baby Venom: Midlands Weekend – Untangled Notts & Brum Leg

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MP3: Abe Vigoda – Don’t Lie from Reviver EP (2009)

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MP3: Cats In Paris – Get Out Of Jail Free Card

Dave again. I’ll handle the account of our trip up to the Midlands since I spent a good many months nestled in Central England a few years ago. First off–our Saturday night support slot in Nottingham:

wallpaper eating nathan in brighton
Wallpaper eating Nathan in Brighton

After regaining consciousness that morning in Brighton, our brave entourage bid adieu to the lovely lads we’d been crashing with at the Grapevine. Saying our quiet, tip-toed goodbyes and thank yous to our hostel beastmates, we prepared to head back in the estate car towards London.

Riding shotgun, I insisted on listening to some Beach House to send us out on a cloud of nautical seaside bliss as we dieseled away, somewhat forlorn and extremely drained of energy, from the famous resort town in our Volkswagon rental. Navigating the roads became a lot easier as we got back into south London thanks to some A-Z London map-consultation and the iPhone of our de facto tour-manager, Benjamin, whose Stop Scratching cassette-label is re-issueing our tape. The excitement began to build once again.

After a quick bite to eat and some tea in London we were off again, streamlined and ready to hit up the Chameleon Cafe in Nottingham. Half the car began sleeping on the journey north through our playlist of Deerhunter and the newest Abe Vigoda EP jams. Undoubtedly, none of us could have imagined this time last year that we’d soon be sharing the stage with both those acts (especially me- going to physical therapy 2-3 times a week to rehab a shattered right elbow).

Arriving right on time to the venue and parking by the castle, probably one scaled by Robin Hood or Dave Chappelle back in the day, we made a more conscious effort to get our sound problems sorted out since we were actually on time and actually getting a soundcheck, but not before devouring a discounted bowl of some amazing grilled veggies over pasta, cooked for us by Nick, the man at the door. Although it seems that most sound-guys at smaller clubs in the UK are okay with running keyboards direct-in through the house PA system, there are always problems that arise with our four small, battery-powered wonders. Tonight was no exception, as Sarah’s keys were set down too low in the mix, and we accidentally had a few keyboards slightly out of tune. How does that even happen!? The honky-tonk chorus effect. The set went really well, despite these minor hurdles, and coming away from the small third-floor stage we felt our normal, ebullient selves. Whatever that is. I was thrilled to see a few of my old friends from my semester abroad in the crowd and we hung out for a bit during and after the show.

hott or nott
Hott or nott

Chameleon Cafe Nick Owner dude guy Art his this is
Chameleon Cafe Nick Owner dude guy Art his this is

To recap the nights’ music, the openers at The Chameleon were a local student group called Sea Mullet. Despite having all that working against them, they actually weren’t too bad! Zinggg. The two singers harmonized fairly well together, and switched bass and guitar duties displaying their musicianship and knowledge of chord patterns during soundcheck and brief instrument swap-gaps between songs. Their new drummer played a full Roland digital drum kit while the lead singer held the attention of the crowd throughout and aptly triggered his own vocal effects (a stutter-delay, extra reverb) throughout a series of songs that could have fit well in a Hot Chip or Happy Mondays live set. They ended powerfully with a traditional folk tune, “Lowlands,” which centered around a beat featuring the digital kit’s steel-drum cadence.

The Week That Was. An indie-rock quartet from The Futureheads’ neck of the woods. Their indie power-pop reminded me something of Danish dream-proggers Mew (without the Ben Gibbard-esque whiny teardropping). The Newcastle/Geordie accent is so distinct that it’s difficult not to use their friends, The Futureheads, as a frame of reference, and the similarities between the two (plus the fact that this seemed like a side-project) likely prevents TWTW from getting nearly as massive. Like the openers, they, too, finished with a cover–John Cale’s “Fear (Is A Man’s Best Friend),” which immediately made me think of that great Arboretum/Pontiak split as the gig was ending and we had to pack up all our equipment. We definitely miss Baltimore, but England has been a blast so far. We’ve had the opportunity to play with and meet a lot of great bands.  One who was in attendance at this particular show, Lovvers, who have in the past year or so toured with buzz bands Times New Viking, Jay Reatard, Abe Vigoda, and Los Campesinos!, will be storming Baltimore for Whartscape on July 18th!!! Brace yourselves!

Our show the next day in Birmingham seemed like a blur, and I’ll keep it shorter than our Notts trip. We started off the morning heading off from a large but untidy student-house in Nottingham, full of wonderful people but no hot water for showers. babyvenom_dietwat

Matthew (my old friend from Uni and our driver) arranged for us to meet up with an old flatmate of his in Leicester, and got us all hot showers and tea. The sun was out after a brief spell of morning rain, and we had a good Sunday roast over at my old local, The Soar Point, adjacent to the river I used to overlook each morning at breakfast five years before.

We headed into a city difficult to navigate, home to the infamous Spaghetti Junction. Thankfully, we found our way to the venue and got the closest possible parking space. We were able to get this gig at the Sunflower Lounge last-minute since Benjamin used his Brum booking connections. That said, we were slid right before an incredible trio called Cats in Paris. The three other bands that went on before us, including Between Us and The Fire, had their moments, but I felt like for the most part bands had brought waaaay too much equipment to such a small venue. The band that went on before us (“A poor man’s Metronomy,” as someone put it) seemed primed to play a stadium venue with all the keyboards and pedals they had strewn about.

Our sound was a disaster. The soundman, a Russell Brand lookalike, could not seem to get anything close to the correct levels on our keys, even after I opted to send my low-end through Cats in Paris’ bass amp. We plowed through our tunes, packed up and prepared to be treated to a set from Cats in Paris. They were very engaging to watch, and had thankfully brought their own soundman and AV. The bearded lead singer appeared to be pulling the Michael McDonald finger-to-the-ear move to get his vocals in tune, when in actuality he was more than likely just sliding his glasses back into place when his hands had a free moment.

The man was a virtuoso, wielding both a violin and two tiers of keyboards, while the bassist and drummer were certainly up to the task of carrying out his complex compositions. The visuals projected behind the band switched between comic book cartoonishness and black and white clips conveying childhood imagination, and unified the arpeggiated video-game synths with the rich tones of the violin, doubled and looped. Apparently they had even more members that were not there, and I excitedly shudder to think what else they would unleash with an expanded lineup. They could easily fit onto any Wham City Round-Robin lineup, and would appeal to fans of Man Man and They Might Be Giants alike. Result!

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One Response to “Running Am-UK with Baby Venom: Midlands Weekend – Untangled Notts & Brum Leg”

  1. Mom D says:

    Sounds like the journey of a thousand miles has presented some interesting discoveries. Hope you’re getting some rest. What’s your ETA in Denmark?

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