Synthetic City 3 event review

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The third big synth night in Birmingham as organised by mr Johnny Normal was another resounding success. Here’s our recap of the evening:

Nature of Wires

Regular listeners to the radio show will undoubtedly know N.O.W. from their regular plays but perhaps there may be readers less familiar. They’re a band who started many years ago (1986) but have just recently returned to making music and have been a little out of practice in the live situation. This was their first gig in a very long time (over 20 years). It showed at the start that there were some nerves at play, possibly seemingly like starting out for the first time. Perhaps there was also a little apprehension about being older guys producing music. Any fear fairly quickly abated due to great audience enthusiasm. Which is understandable due to the catchy tunes and stirring beats produced by Mr Gary Watts. Strong credit must go to mr Andrew Stirling Brown for sublime live vocals, pitch perfect every time, quite valiantly performed with the slight tech issue of absolutely no reverb or delay at first. It was lovely to see a great reception for them and showing that there’s still a place for you live when you’re not just pretty young things.

Regrettably Countess M couldn’t be there in person but some of her great pre recorded vocals did feature occasionally and Andrew did cover the vocal duties on occasion where needed.

Rodney Cromwell

We’d rather liked Rodney Cromwell’s Barry Was an Arms Dealer previously and have played it on the show. We’d heard them some time ago but lost contact only to reconnect after their One Two Seven was played on Bluetown Electronica we believe it was. We expected a fairly typical two synth player live line up but actually got bass guitar two synths and a guitar. Normally Rodney Cromwell (band name not musican name we must point out) features Adam and Alice synthy duties but sadly Alice couldn’t make it (having her electrics done, apparently suggesting she is in fact an android). The Age of Anxiety album by Rodney Cromwell is a wonderfully pure synth delight but the live performance was a bit different having a feel more like New Order with lovely chorused bass guitar featured, being played quite high up the fretboard by Adam. Also joining this live setup was Andrew Maley of Real Experts playing a modern moog synt, probably a little phatty or some such. Always good to have expert assistance on hand. This performance was vastly more than we ever expected it could be and brought a whole new dimension to the Rodney Cromwell music. The certain wry sense of humour was on display and an unexpected dynamism to the sound that was utterly engaging. We absolutely loved it. Sadly our live video doesn’t really do it justice but do seek them out live if you can.


The Department

Again they should be no strangers to any regular visitors and listeners. Rob Green and Magnus Lindstrom’s music has been frequently featured on the show and we had them here for D.E.F. live #9 alongside Naked Lunch. And it’s funny that Naked Lunch should be mentioned as they have now recruited Cliff Chapman of said band. The Department are always a joy to watch Rob Green is a wonderful performer and tremendous fun on stage. They were significantly on form tonight and Cliff makes a great addition to the band, adding that connection to the history of electro. Their most recent song The World Without You was used as a finale yet again and for good reason. It utterly ignited the whole venue and had everyone dancing. So much joy in watching The Department we really look forward to our next encounter.



Johnny Normal

Yet again someone who should be very familiar with anyone who is at all involved in the underground synth scene. He’s the man who, alongside Rob Green, started up Electro London and has also been doing the Synthetic City events for a while now. This time he was joined not only by his regular guitarist but a new drummer. This added hugely to the whole live experience of Johnny Normal and really managed to be the most exciting and engaging performance we’ve seen from Johnny to date. Miss Razorblade is our favourite of his works and had been requested by an audience member so was played despite not originally being in his set (we think we heard this anyway. Always a crowd pleaser that track and utterly wonderful in the live setting. Johnny’s wonderfully authentic I Die You Die cover was the finale of the set which again gave us that connection to the history of synth music to show the continuity of what is being done here. It was and now it can be again, but new and re energised, not just a carbon copy of what has gone before. This really was our favourite JN performance to date.

Mechanical Cabaret

The captivating and androgynous Roi takes to the stage and cue the goths.. suddenly the place seemed packed out with those of a darker disposition as Mechanical Cabaret do have quite the following in that community. Despite a largely empty stage are Roi’s stunning stage presence filled the whole area and it was such a delight to see how well he is able to engage with his audience, frequently walking out among them in a tempting and teasingly seductive manner and feline grace. A varied and exciting sultry sexy setlist had an audience hanging on his every word and move on stage. Roi is clearly a master craftsman of his art and it’s little wonder Mechannical Cabaret have such a dedicated following. Our favourite number was a newer track without any percussion which was a delightfully atmospheric production.

As for the night as a whole it’s wonderful at these events how everyone is so full of enthusiasm for what is happening, no big egos just friendship and a real sense of community. So many wonderful people. It’s also worth noting that 20 people from downstairs in the pub came upstairs to the live room and paid to get in with them liking the music they could hear so much. This proves we are starting to get through with our synthy sounds. We can be again, the NEW WAVE OF WAVEFORM is crashing on their shores and we’re riding in on the SYNTH WAVE. Long live Synthetic City, Electro London and of course us…

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