We promised you a detailed review from the Q&A session with Joe Talbot and Alan McGee in Birmingham and we are keeping our word. Kevin Fitzgerald of Toura Toura and his team did the impossible and delivered one of the best events we attended in a very long time. It was intimate (despite being nearly sold out), full of hope, community spirit and unplanned confessions from Joe himself and the audience. At times it felt like a group therapy or a meeting of people hell bent on changing the world. AF Gang as a secret society for betterment of humankind? We will take it and sign ourselves right up.
It was a beautiful evening at The Night Owl – one of our favourite venues in Digbeth (Birmingham`s answer to Manchester`s Northern Quarter). The amount of psychedelic shows we have seen at the Owl is a story for another blog! We arrived early to find best seats and to speak to people (big shout out to Rebecca and Arron a couple of awesome kids who travelled all the way from Stoke and had their return journey on a coach at 3 in the morning). We grabbed our drinks and strategically positioned ourselves next to a heater and were ready to be entertained.
Believe us, everyone was properly spoiled on the night. Before Alan and Joe took to the stage we had a chance to see two local bands play their sets (about 30 minutes each) and they were excellent picks. First came The Jack Fletcher Band – a four piece from Wolverhampton. We had a pleasure to interview them for Indieterria in 2018 and we knew what to expect from Jack and his men. The band went to play some of their biggest hits (“Young Man At Heart”, “Carousel”) and left audience speechless. It was so quiet during the set you could swear the Q&A was held in a cathedral instead of a music venue. The Jack Fletcher Band offer indie rock anthems that can only be described as real life stories. There is something in their music that has Paul Weller quality to it – the ability to tell stories of ordinary people with such grace and compassion. If you haven’t seen them live yet – do so as soon as possible.
After The Jack Fletcher Band came The Pagans S.O.H. We must have attended a dozen gigs of The Paganistas by now and its always a pleasure to see them doing their thing. They mix hip hop, rock, funk into a concoction that is truly unique on the circuit. Show us a band like Pagans and we will be buying you lunches at Digbeth Dining Club for a year. Every song played on stage was vibrating with positive energy that all hearts and phones in the room charged up immediately to 100%. And Pagans did not stop for a second – from “Banananah” to “Da Vinci” and “Come Down to Reality” – the band played flawlessly and enjoyed themselves as much as the audience.
Once the music stopped – chairs were brought on the stage, lights dimmed and Alan McGee and Joe Talbot entered the room.
Joe and Alan gave a fantastic talk with many tips for people struggling with mental health, addictions, bands trying to make it in the business. There was a lot of laughs – Joe is a really funny man with wicked sense of humour. And it’s true that he’s very honest and very open about everything. He joked that the crowd gathered to see him last night was the biggest that IDLES ever had in Birmingham! Alan guided the conversation for the first half, then the microphone has been passed to the audience. Fans themselves had some incredible and well prepared questions: what gig IDLES frontman thought was his favourite (you will guess it was Glasto), what he would like to be asked about (Joe got philosophical pondering about questions about questions) and his advice for starting artists (don’t look at others, do your thing, play the best gig even if you play to empty room, surround yourself with people who uplift you rather than mindlessly criticise you, value quality over quantity, try to spend less time online, create for yourself first – were some of the best ones).
The main consensus in the room was that IDLES and everyone else is part of something much bigger than ourselves and only combining forces could allow everyone to be better off. The Be Kind spirit was very much in the air and if there was one thing to take away from the meeting it was just that – be considerate, be optimistic, be kind to yourself and others and you will make a huge social and even political difference.
We gave Joe a small gift on behalf of all AF West Midlands fans who couldn’t make it to the show. He actually loved it and laughed hard when he saw the writing on the Thornton’s chocolate cup.
We have made just one video from the talk as we didn’t want to record the entire show. As Joe said it is important to participate instead being constantly on the phone trying to capture the gig.
Our night was further made when we had a chance to speak to Alan McGee and he told us we were great. Not like we are gonna brag about it now but it did put a big smile on our faces. We went home in an Uber, over tipped our driver, fed the livestock (aka the cats) and then slept until midday.
It was totally worth it. What a night!
Just a small update – we wanted to show you how the event looked from all sides so we edited some of our mobile pictures. The Night Owl is such an iconic venue and the Digbeth part of Birmingham has some of the city`s most vivid and extraordinary murals. So we captured that as well. We hope you will enjoy – especially Joe`s reaction to the lovely Thortons` Chocolate Cup with “Well Done” on it. We simply could not help ourselves.
If we find any more resources or materials that need to be added to this review – we will surely add them.
All Is Love,