Easy Star-All Stars. Hare & Hounds. Kings Heath. Birmingham. 10th August 2011.

I was woken this morning by the radio as per normal. The news was not good. 3 people had died in Birmingham as a result of the current mindless unrest. I’m not totally sure of the details, but it sounded terrible.

As I made a bacon and egg sandwich I was appalled that this news was getting so little coverage. It almost seemed trivial, as in incidental news.

Working in the field that I do and knowing the areas of Birmingham this incident happened in I really feared the worst regarding the different ethnicities related to this terrible news.

Against a backdrop of mindless opportunistic ongoing problems nationwide, the last thing we needed added to the current situation was a real racial divide. This was on the cards. People I know well and people I know less so well via social networks gave off the vibe that real problems maybe about to happen.

I would not have gone to this gig had I not been given a ticket. The owner of the ticket had been stopped from going to the gig by his girlfriend. She had intercepted a BBM suggesting that there were going to be problems in Birmingham as a result of last nights awful tragedy.

I know very little about the band. I know they do a dub version of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon” and Radiohead’s “O.K. Computer”. That is all I knew.

Why am I citing the news and a gig together you might ask. For a start, we were not even sure the gig would be on. Last night Sainsbury’s in Moseley was shut about 6 p.m. Moseley! The peaceful suburb in Birmingham closed due to riots in the city! Eh! It looked like England was losing a battle against opportunistic acts of near mindless greed.

I have worked in education since 2005 with “disaffected youth”. I have always established a very strong rapor with students that I work with. Perhaps I’m too honest with them – but the student’s sense the advice I give them is real. I do not bullshit them. I tell them how and why I dropped out at 17 and promote the real benefits of education. They can take or leave it, I do not hammer the point home. Most sense this and I’ve had some incredible feedback from them, usually long after our meeting.

The best example of this is a student from my previous job who enrolled at the college I work in now. He was “refered” to me in 2005 and did an Access course last year. When he joined my new college his face lit up when he saw me – it really did.

Now he’s going to University in September / October. He’d remembered everything I said to him in my previous job. I would never have imagined this, as when he was 16 he was very evasive. Very clued up, but (he’d agree) hard work.

I guess my point is youth that appear disaffected are just like you and I. I was once like that and would have appreciated real support too.

I’m detracting from the gig I know but the current themes are too prevalent to ignore. Sorry.

The Easy Star-All Stars are about as varied a group that you will find. White. Black. Hispanic. Asian. They have a global vibe.

From fears about even going out – to a vibe of unity this gig worked supremely on many levels.I wish i’d taken my new camera, but fears of getting mugged made me leave it at home. Incredible that I had to think like this, but given the recent developments it seemed like the right option. A regret now as i’ve loved using my new camera.

For a start, they did not exploit the success they have had from cover versions. The band played original songs at the beginning of the gig. This showcased an incredible frontman and some great musicianship.

More songs, more frankly great reggae. Reggae is not my scene, but this band were damn good.

The audience was loving it. Fears of Inner City problems went out the window in a flash. This was the tonic we all needed alright.

Then they played two Pink Floyd tracks, from Dark Side Of The Moon in a sublime reggae format. Added to the sound was the frontman adding ridiculously good toasting. with a crazy love in vibe the band were hitting the right spot.

More original songs, then some Radiohead covers.  When they covered “Karma Police” this track hit the spot head on. The band cited that riots would not put them off playing live that they promoted peace and understanding. When the lines “this is what you get when you mess with us” the lead singer went off at an artistic toasting tangent that you felt was a huge peace push. Then when the break of “for a minute there, I lost myself” dropped the vibe really went through the whole room. It just seemed very relevant. I do not get reggae much, but I know a great moment.  Damn, I almost danced!

With many people getting lost in the music the vibe relating to current issues seemed to disappear. This was a great moment. Very positive, just what we needed. The band, genuinely picked up on this. More new songs that matched the covers toe-to-toe.

When The Easy Star-All Stars ventured in Sgt. Pepper material the crowd had been well and truly won over. The version of when i’m 64 got even none Beatles lovers (me) onboard. To sing “when I get older, losing my hair” then take off a cap to reveal full dreads was a moment of pure rock theatre.

Encore supplied and the band had gone after thanking Brian Travers for DJing. Oddly he patted me on the back, not sure what I did but nice to get some millionaire acknowledment!

Apologies for rambling on about the riots, but it’s too current to ignore. This gig seemed to ease the tension. A relief, and much better than i’d ever imagined. when I got home and put the radio on there had been no problems in Birmingham. Hopefully this continues and normal service is resumed….

Rate 9/10.

Thanks to Findlay for the photo. Next time i’ll take my new camera!




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