Birmingham turns it round

Sweet Nothings singist person Pete Green celebrates a forthcoming gig in Birmingham with a look at indiepop in the second city

It’s not just a city of a million people: it’s the place that produced Felt and The Sea Urchins. So it always seemed to me pretty perverse that Birmingham had no indiepop scene at all when I lived there.

And I didn’t just finish university and bugger off back up north. I was there for 12 years in all, through the 1990s and 2000s. Eventually, though, I decided enough was enough and buggered off back up north. The ongoing lack of an indiepop scene was an injury, and the demolition of all my favourite pubs and cafés was adding insult to it.

I’ve been thinking over all this stuff again because The Sweet Nothings have a gig in Brum next month. It’s on Saturday 23 July, at the beginning of our Indietracks Tour of Awesomeness. And it’s at the Victoria – a lovely venue, even if the beer’s a bit expensive, but isn’t it everywhere these days?

And the fact that we’re playing this gig suggests to me that the second city has succeeded, to a significant extent, in filling its indiepop void.

Selfridges

Lots of dustbin lids stuck to a big shop in Birmingham. Photo: rudolf_schuba (cc by 2.0)

The option I could have taken back in the 2000s, but didn’t, was to stay put and do something myself to try and create a scene. Who knows: maybe I should have – DIY and all that. This task fell instead to my friend Dunc Vernon and his girlfriend Debbie, who set up a night called The Autumn Store not long after I left.

The Autumn Store put on indiepop bands. They played indiepop records. People went to it. They weren’t indiepop obsessives like me and Dunc – they liked Idlewild, but also the Delgados, but they’d never heard ‘Pristine Christine’. And they ended up dancing to it. This is as it should be.

I went back to play at The Autumn Store a few times – first on my own, then with The Sweet Nothings’ old incarnation as the Corporate Juggernaut. It was lovely every time.

And then other things started happening in Birmingham. There are nights like ATTA Grrl, which I’ve been meaning to get to since forever. There’s a really good indiepop band in Ace Bushy Striptease. There is now a little group of younger indiepop fans, who can be found every year at Indietracks being so sparkly and charming that you even stop noticing the terrible violence visited on English vowels by their Brummie accents.

Autumn Store poster

And in among all these green shoots of regrowth and renaissance is a group called The Party Planning Committee. These are the people who’ve asked us to go and play in Birmingham in July. An Indietracks warm-up gig in Birmingham in July! I don’t think we’ve met them or anything: PPC Paul saw us supporting Eux Autres there a few months back.

So my indiepop band has been asked to play an indiepop show, leading in to an indiepop festival. On my old stomping ground, which I left because there was no indiepop. And we’ve not even had to rely on favours from old friends to get the gig.

Being massively self-obsessed and everything, I can’t help thinking that all this Means Something Somehow.

Welcome back to the land of the living, Birmingham. You were missed.

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About Pete Green

Poet and musician. Sheffield. Maps, coastlines, walking, whisky, and potentially dangerous levels of wist. Grimbarian. Pedestrian. King of the impossible. Big girl's blouse.
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One Response to Birmingham turns it round

  1. mark says:

    well said Pete. yes, I like to think that it Means Something Somehow.
    similar story to yours; moved to Birmingham in 1986, but survived the indiepop void of the 1990’s/2000’s. very heartened to see what’s happened in recent years.
    lived with The Sea Urchins you see, drove them all over the country.
    you cannot imagine how exciting it was to hand Mr Peel a copy of Pristine Christine and to hear him play it shortly after! followed by Bob Stanley giving it single of week in NME.
    guitarist Robert still plays you know, remains inspiringly obsessed with music.
    have enjoyed your stuff also Pete, thanks for keeping the spirit alive..

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