Review and photos by Russ Tierney
Arriving at the Institute Library just after doors, the lack of queue and sparse room gets me slightly worried, but punters are slowly filtering in before our openers Electric River hit the stage. The Kent foursome instantly endear the ever growing crowd with a strong offering of punky r’n’r with a southern USA country blues twang; almost folky and indie in places too. While hard hitting in the live arena, they’re also deliciously melodic and hooky.
How these guys have managed to slip under my radar is beyond me, but based on tonight’s performance they’re strong contenders to making a huge statement as to what the UK has to offer the world of Rock n Roll. I think if Social Distortion, ‘the Boss’ or maybe even Swedish sleaze kings the Backyard Babies often grace your stereo, then you’ve probably found the band you’ve been desperately searching to find on home soil. I can picture big things for these guys; they’re inoffensive enough on record to be easy to listen to yet they grab you by the balls live. A stellar opening to tonight’s proceedings, if not a little left field from what i was expecting from a Lit show.
Up next Uttoxeter rockers Blame list much the same kind of influences suggested above, but in reality fall a little short with their loose rough around the edges take on the genre. After a few tracks the guys seem to find their stride a little more. An instant highlight is their cover of Nirvana’s take on the Vaselines ‘Kiss Kiss Molly’s Lips’, which they dedicate to Kurt Cobain, quite possibly unaware of Courtney’s arrival at the Birmingham Academy tomorrow. Blame genuinely have some nice moments where I warm to them and I’m in two minds as to how much I should embrace some of the rougher moments given Nirvana are clearly a huge uncharacteristic influence on their chosen genre, but with apologies offered for a decaying voice before the last track, we could possibly chalk some of it down to being beyond the band’s control too. The crowd also get on board for a few tracks and the good vibe continues to grow in the room with the anticipation of our headliners hitting the stage. Although when I overhear one audience member state that they sound like any band you may wander across in the pub, unfortunately it’s hard to disagree tonight.
15 years have passed since A Place In the Sun, and Lit are celebrating “the record that changed our lives forever” with an anniversary tour. The crowd which is now near capacity pretty much go ape shit from the second the first note is strummed! Despite their anthem that I imagine would otherwise be brought out for encores, we’re treated to ‘My Own Worst Enemy’ second in the set as per the album. Of course this does little to dilute the crowd who sing back every lyric and are soon wrestling with us photographers for pit space, somewhat catching the security off guard who instantly call in reinforcements for surfers prompting the guys in Lit to give them several shout outs for doing a sterling job.
Fresh out of the pit and no sooner am I trying to bang down some notes on my phone for this review, than I am pulled aside by bassist and photographer Kevin Baldes mid song. Praying he’s not gonna bollock me for committing the sin of all gig sins of being on my phone while a band is on stage, he actually instructs me to get on stage and take some piccies… this is where my review may start to get a little hazy as a result.
“Birmingham! You are lot are not fucking around! No wonder Ozzy is from here!”. Brum can often gets some slack for lacklustre turn outs and crowds if you’re exposed to the unsigned and smaller touring bands, but the Library is completely buzzing and alive with moving bodies tonight. I love the Library when a band can fill it, it has to be one of the greatest atmospheres of any venue in Birmingham and this is echoed by the Lit boys who exclaim something along the lines of “We don’t lie Birmingham, you genuinely are crazy and the best crowd of the tour. I love little sweat boxes like this” maybe hinting at it being a smaller room than they’ve become accustomed to, yet embracing every second. Now well in to their second set (choice songs from various albums), a touching moment occurs when the band finally slow down the mayhem and dedicate ‘Happy in the Meantime’ to former drummer Allen Shellenberger who sadly died of a brain tumour in 2009. “He’d be so proud right now to see this”, and I doubt one person here could argue otherwise as the guys continue to make him proud by finishing up the set in much the same manner that they started it.
Lit are a trip down memory lane for me. I’d happily admit I got sucked in to the singles and never followed through, and I genuinely wasn’t sure what to expect as a result, but it would take the most arrogant and closed of minds to suggest that Lit didn’t completely destroy Birmingham tonight from the first to the very last note.