Mr J Lewis, in sequence.
Okay. Five quid in, three hours, four bands, all great. One day I’ll go to a gig and come away disappointed but right now I’m on a streak. I knew cartoonist of distinction and anti-folk superstar Jeffrey Lewis was going to be good but knew nothing about the support, which is kinda how I like to play it. Same went for Dan and Sooz who I’d turned onto Lewis a few weeks back. Tom has decided to come at the last minute, knew nothing, and walked in just as the first support started, approaching us with a big grin.
Bom and his Magic Drumstick consisted of a balding bloke sitting at a base drum with two keyboards and a variety of toy musical props. He started telling a story about a butterfly, a frog and other animals as they went on an adventure and continued this, with songs and sound effects, for the entire set. Initially the novelty was cool but after a while it started to turn into something seriously odd, potentially a bit trying but nonetheless quite wonderful. Definitely in the category of something you don’t see like ever .
We were standing at the back so I didn’t get a photo of Bom but as the room began to fill we moved forwards and I found myself with a quite stunning line of sight as the next act came on.
Pete Green came over as a local boy, someone who’d been in a number of Moseley based bands and had come out the other side a solo singer-songwriter. Nice tunes, including a quite stunning cover of Kids in America, and good line in repartee. “Is anyone here a binge drinker? Didn’t it used to be know as ‘going out’?” This sort of act doesn’t seem to me to be done too much and I think we’re poorer for it. There are plenty of bands, often guitar based and frequently bringing in weird synth and toy sounds, but very little of what I assume you’d call “modern folk”. Of course it’s probably going on somewhere beneath my radar – must try harder.
MJ Hibbett and the Validators were up next with a style that I’m finding surprisingly hard to describe. Hibbett himself comes over as a cross between the music of Bill Bailey and the style of Mark Thomas without the politics. Musically the songs sound like some kind of traditional British thing but it’s not footie. I think they’re tapping into whatever it is Half Man Half Biscuit and Billy Bragg are, only not in the same way at all. I can’t bloody put my finger on it but it definitely has it’s origin in a pub.
As I’m enjoying their set the lyrics “We bought it to help with your homework” rang out and I suddenly realised why they sounded slightly familiar. A few months back yet another great animation came out of B3ta towers entitled Hey Hey 16K and here I was hearing it live! Keen! It looks like they’re about to break into the little-big time on the back of this so look out for them on tour. Go to their site and dig deep for many mp3s.
Finally the main event. Jeffrey Lewis featuring brother Jack Lewis on bass and Anders Griffen on drums.
According to Jeremy he “seemed kind of nervous and distressed” at the Oxford gig on Wednesday but there was nothing of that here. Odd as it may seem, Moseley does appear to be a home from home and he came over very comfortable playing to a packed and highly appreciative crowd. There was even one of those moments where half the crowd recognised the intro to “The Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song”. In all it was a very eclectic set, ranging from the shouty screamy fucked up pieces like “The Man With The Golden Arm” to the quiet solo auto-bio songs culminating in the ever-odd “Springtime” where Jack tore paper into the mike and Gareth from Misty’s joined them on toy keyboards and it all got very strange.
The highlight, of course, was the lo-fi videos where Jeff stood on a chair with his sketchpad turning the pages as he sang. Here’s a song about the history of Rough Trade records…
Which was followed later by an unfinished song about this history of Communism which started in full colour, moves into pencils and stopped. Maybe by the end of the tour it’ll be complete.
As the evening drew the a close they squeezed in a couple more short songs, and then another, and I left buzzing. Lewis on his own would have been enough and could easily have played for the entire evening without getting stale but the gig itself was almost overpowering. As I’m writing this I know I haven’t even scratched the surface as memories keep popping into my head. Gigging in Birmingham definitely seems to be in a renaissance at the moment.