Discover Birmingham 2020 Genuine Panama gig review

Last month Birmingham Promoters teamed up with BBC Introducing, MAS Records, Born Music and Counteract to bring together a series of live showcases from some of the region’s leading artists alongside some of the newest talent the Midlands has to offer!

The idea, named ‘DISCOVER BIRMINGHAM‘, was to provide a platform for up and coming bands to showcase their musical prowess and originality. The events took place throughout January in one of the city’s most intimate and loved music venues, The Sunflower Lounge.

I was invited by the Sunflower Lounge to attend and review a show of my fancy. My available night was Thursday the 23rd of January so I checked the bands out online first and looked forward to the gig.

The Sunflower Lounge is a reliable music spot for new and alternative bands. I have seen quite a few gigs here from both local and touring artists, the bar upstairs is indie rock meets MOD and psych and a great place to meet some local characters before watching the live music in the bowels below.

Genuine Panama / Melotone / Sriracha People / Tradin’ Fives

As I descended downstairs, the door to the basement was vibrating with the sounds of the first act. Birmingham based quintet Trading Fives were playing contemporary and modern jazz with a touch of folk – it was loud, it was frenetic, and blew my balls off. They would touch on music I recognised and loved before transcending in chaotic jazz ensembles. An interesting amalgam of styles, keep an eye out if jazz is your bag.

It was great to see a packed out venue for all the gigs, standing space was at a premium at times and all the bands who performed showed professionalism

Next up were Sriracha People, a 6-piece band who formed whilst studying at UoB. The bands had presence on stage and merged styles such as neo-soul, disco, jazz and dance. It was funky, it was fun, and the lead singer had a beautifully soulful voice. It was nice to see more brass, and I can see these guys lending themselves well to Latin, soul & funk party bookings. However their original material is not to be ignored, one track which the singer mentioned was about the male orgasm had feeling and depth. The cover of ‘Groove Is In The Heart’ sounded great in rehearsal but I didn’t think it sounded quite right on stage – though in fairness, this is a bloody hard track to cover. I really enjoyed the slower paced, silky sexy tracks these guys played and they definitely have a ‘sound’ which could progress to bigger things and I hope they do.

The third band were Melotone, a four piece who describe themselves as an alternative funk band hailing from Bristol and Brum. There were elements of this band which really were captivating. I felt influences from from the late 70s New York ‘No Wave’ music scene with bands such as Liquid Liquid and other Punk sub-culture bands. The guys sounded authentic and I thought the drummer was superb as was rhythm and bass, there were a few “f*cking cool” moments where the music really joined up and morphed into a strong groove, with a bit more time and guidance another band I think could do great things. The singer was animated, eccentric and slightly Jim Morrison-esque.

Finally, Birmingham based Genuine Panama appeared on stage with their wriggly, indie-soul featuring more brass sections and pop filled funky beats. The band formed in 2017 and have since cut their teeth in art galleries, cramped cafes, and car park rooftops with headline shows in Birmingham, Bristol, and Cheltenham, as well as a support slot on the sold out Birmingham date of Cassia’s UK tour. It was clean and up-beat, with a vocal following. You can tell the band really enjoy what they do and are evidently passionate about getting their catchy sound out there. Having released their debut EP ‘Itchy Teeth’ in summer 2019, Genuine Panama are preparing to release new music in February 2020.

It was great to see a packed out venue for all the gigs, standing space was at a premium at times and all the bands who performed showed professionalism and just looked as though they were lapping up the attention – and why not!

Full credit to those involved from the bands to the organisers and venue itself. It is so easy to just let things happen, but something I have learned with regards to music specifically over the years (click here for something I wrote for BBC in 2009), you need to keep pushing at that open door, and just hope, that someone on the other side gives it an extra yank, then voila! A really entertaining evening.

Words by Nick Byng for Grapevine Birmingham