Michael at Muther'sSupport: Haq123| Strip Search Tramp | The People Assembly
February 7, 2020 at Muther's
Promoter: Black Hole Promotions
Like other cities former industrial sectors, Digbeth is once again being reborn, becoming busier, more expensive, weirdly less welcoming. These sort of evenings, where you can see four loud bands in a small room of like minded people for less than a tenner, are once more finding new homes. Tucked away in one of Digbeth’s still comfortably grimy and ungentrified corners Muther’s is a studio and rehearsal rooms more than a venue. I’ve seen local bands do warm up shows and such in the past but tonight is the first time I’m aware of a touring band playing here. There’s more to come too, Bilge Pump and Girls In Synthesis will both play here in the next few weeks. This might just be smart business diversification, but I suspect it’s a DIY response to a need as smaller venues close or mutate through refurbishment.
The People Assembly have made it over from Leicester, a town we already have to thank for both Kasabian and Showaddywaddy. Half of them look like lads in the pub you’d never expect were in a band. They busy themselves with playing instruments while a long=haired kid leaps about with a megaphone and the front man rocks a cowboy hat. They seems to have their hearts in the right place. Dense guitar noise and a decent shot of youthful anger. They describe themselves as “karaoke from a failed state” which has a nice ring to it and possibly explains their closing cover of ‘Jolene’. It’s an odd one, their version is hardly reverent, but they don’t seem to be taking the piss either.
While The People Assembly are a young band still moulding a range of influences into their own voice, Strip Search Tramp are a team of veterans working within a more established set of parameters. A chugging B-movie punk-and-roll type of deal, the band are in the default dad punk uniform of black t-shirts and bald heads except the front woman, who’s wearing a Star Trek uniform. Sci-Fi is sort of their schtick but they don’t beat you over the head with it. Projected on an available, but not very visible, piece of wall are some cool visuals we can’t really see. Chunks of movie dialogue pop up to decorate the tracks. I’m all for that sort of thing but the Lux Interior clip which introduces ‘She Devil She Machine’ is just asking for Goddamn trouble if you ask me. It’s the best song in their set but I’m not sure any band of their ilk want audiences comparing them with The Cramps, because that’s a fight you can’t hope to win.
Hometown hosts Haq123 played their first ever gig in here about two-and-a-half years ago and they grow stronger all the time. A mix of old and new tunes, the set tonight seems more focussed and more varied. Always changing, always moving forwards. Young Zac’s drumming powers them along as the bass churns and Millie picks out targets for her scorn in ‘Ugly Baby’. Tonight’s unusual move is to close with a new tune, the first track off their forthcoming third album. Not only that but it presents another new sound in their arsenal. Dave puts down the bass and sits at a small keyboard. I fear a ‘November Rain’ moment is on the cards but my apprehension is misplaced. This spot of bold sonic adventuring done they end with some crowd surfing. Smashing stuff.
Almost immediately Michael seem bigger than everyone else, more present. They command the stage and they rock. Nobody really says ‘hard rock’ these days do they? Michael are a Hard Rock band who have made, let’s be honest about this, an unhelpful choice with their name. Perhaps the difficulty of tracking them down online led to them calling the album Tell Your Friends. Portillo, Buble, Heseltine, Barrymore, Cera, the list of potential heroes the name might honour is long. Could it be the very King of Pop himself? Did he not declare to a puzzled world “I’m bad!” Although gathered from a number of bands the story goes that Michael has risen like a metal-winged phoenix from the charred remains of Bad Guys. Shit-kicking metalheads with a fine tuned sense of their own ridiculousness, Bad Guys were never likely to last. Michael feel like an interesting turn towards something more substantial. Just considering the two names offers a clue. Bad Guys is direct and jokey, Michael is odd and obscure. More cryptic than comic, the music is wider ranging along less well-trodden paths.
They’ve also gone with the classic black t-shirt contrast with the singer look. Mullet Michael and Beard Michael have matching ones with a large ‘M’ initial on them, a hangover from a more serious attempt at sartorial unity I suspect. Meanwhile Vocal Michael’s cropped hair and pale green shirt brings powerful Charles Boyle energy. He’s the eye of the storm, eccentric and impenetrable, the key to their mystery. While the band indulge in rock ‘n’ roll shape-throwing he’s made to look a little out of place, an unlikely metal frontman, but his voice is strong and his performance is fierce. Recklessly mixing up everything from doom to hardcore they beat the hell out of it all with joyful conviction. There’s a similar playfulness in reworking rock moves as Pigsx7; but if Pigs dig in to a particular groove and ride it, Michael are more erratic – like Pigs’ weird and intense brother who doesn’t go out much. Imagine that.