On Sunday evening we drove up to Birmingham to see Earth Calling Alice perform at Atticus in Bearwood. The gig was organised by an outfit called Acoustic Brew – more on them later!
A quick word about the venue. Atticus is self-described as a cafe/bar. It’s a large, split-level room with a mix of kitchen-ish chairs at small tables, comfortable chairs beside low-slung coffee tables and various standing areas built around shelves to place your drinks/food on. Along one long side of the room is a serving bar. Atticus is on the ground floor, so one ‘wall’ is a floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall glass panel. It was in front of this large window that the PA, microphones and lights were set up.
During the setting up, as part of the level check, a guy who I’d assumed was a kind of roadie, whipped out a funky black six-string and started tweaking sliders and faders on a couple of mixing decks around his very comfortable rendition ofÂ ‘Fall At Your Feet’ by Crowded House. We clapped when he finished, it was that good – not a total carbon-copy; he made it his own, thoroughly likeable version.
Then ‘the roadie’ introduced the first act, The Abbott of Unreason, a musician based down in Worcestershire.
By the way, did you know that this weekend, Friday 22nd – Sunday 24th, is the Worcester Music Festival? No, neither did we. But now we have a list of artists and venues and may get involved.
Anyway, the Abbott, one man and his guitar. The Abbott gave everyone a competent, professional performance. The best in his repertoire, for my taste, was a modernised but faithful version of Up The Pool by Jethro Tull (taken from their brilliant album Living In The Past – a double lump of vinyl that went a long way towards defining Jethro Tull, and of course Ian Anderson, for the next decade or so). Not withstanding the unfamiliarity with The Abbott’s material I could appreciate his fine performance.
The second band on stage were the people we’d travelled up to see, Earth Calling Alice. I’d had a quick chat with the guys beforehand and the small amount of background information I’d gleaned turned them in to three people, rather than three anonymous performers. So our two guitarists were a teacher and an IT ninja and on vocals we had another teacher. Doesn’t knowing even this small amount of information add a new dimension to the band?
Earth Calling Alice may have been around for two years, but the two teachers have known each other much longer. The teachers found the IT ninja on an internet bulletin board, they started rehearsing and performing music together and Earth Calling Alice was born. How laid back does this sound?
That, for me, is the key to Earth Calling Alice. Apart from the fact that they are three nice guys, they really are laid back. See them off stage, chat to them and they are three genuine, likeable people. See them on stage and they are three musicians performing as one group; no stresses, no strains, no egos, just one band.
And they’re out there performing just for the music; they have no immediate plans to change from being teachers and an IT ninja to musicians. But my friends, the guitar-work was exemplary – even though one broke (a borrowed guitar quickly rectified things) – the harmonies were spot on and the lead vocalist stood up to the microphone and delivered a brilliant performance. Effortlessly. The ease with which Jim delivers a passionate performance of such high quality is almostâ€¦ unnerving. Thrilling. Shivers down the spine kind of thrilling.
Did I say they’re performing for the music? Of course I did. Did I tell you that their new EP (Thankful for Mice) is available to you – right now – FREE OF CHARGE? No I didn’t, that was remiss of me. But it is! Details of how to collect it can be found at their website (below).
Their performance was brilliant though I shall never be able to listen to ‘Casablanca’ in the same way again; it is now an emotional trigger point for me.
When Earth Calling Alice had finished delivering aural ambrosia to my head and heart, ‘the roadie’ announced that we had an unbilled band stepping in; (the brilliantly named) Ivan Campo.
These three guys (another trio!) came on, tuned, warmed up, and started a repertoire of distinctly-sounding acoustic-based music. It was while they were warming up that I discovered that ‘the roadie’ who had delivered Fall At Your Feet was actually Mister Acoustic Brew (aka Dale Perry) – the promoter/organiser. Well maybe that explained his virtuosity!
Anyway Ivan Campo. Nothing to do with the talented Real Madrid player. Everything to do with distinctively-sounding acoustic music. These guys looked a little oddball but sounded quite exceptional.
Unfortunately it became time for us to leave – the early Monday morning alarm is an unforgiving beast – and this meant that we were unable to fully appreciate Ivan Campo or, sadly, hear Dale (Mr Acoustic Brew) come on and do his own set at the end of the evening.
But so that you can enjoy a little here are the websites of the bands, in the order they came on and played for us.
Please visit them – in the case of Earth Calling Alice, get their work, they’re giving it away! – and don’t forget to tell all of these performers how brilliant they are.
The mainstream recording industry would have us believe that home recording and file sharing is killing music. They’re wrong. The real music scene, as evidenced by the five bands that I have seen onstage in two days, is live – alive – and kicking.
* Dale Perry