Swingamajig 1st May 2016, Birmingham
When you first arrived at Swingamajig you may have been a bit concerned. The backstreets of Birmingham are not, perhaps, where you would expect to find an electro swing based festival. However, once you get into the festival, you are soon transported to a very different place. It’s quite amazing how the organisers transform the setting. You enter a labyrinth of streets containing mini venues. The whole area is turned into a vintage town with hidden venues, street food and vintage stalls. Credit must also go to the attendees as so many people made the effort to dress up and look the part. It is quite clear that everyone is there to have a good time and really go for it. It all adds up to a really vibrant and fun filled atmosphere.
The first band that we checked out was the Gypsies of Bohemia who were playing at the Vintage Terrace, a stage which would have been perfect it there was just a little more sunshine! The band themselves, matched the early Sunday afternoon feel with a great little acoustic set. This included laid back covers of brilliant songs like “Wuthering Heights” and “Tainted Love”. We also got to hear a swing version of “Toxic” before the crowd pleasing sing a long of “Hot In Here”. There were a few murmurs of discontent when they said they would end the set with a ballad, but thankfully it ended up with a massive sing a long version of “Seven Nations Army”. How good were they? So good that, despite everything else going on, we caught them again later in the evening on the Arch Stage! It was actually a great example of highlighting how the layout of the festival worked so perfectly. By this time we were in full carnival mode, an atmosphere helped not only by the increased alcohol intake, but also by the street food stalls and colourful decorations. The Gypsies of Bohemia lived up to this change of atmosphere with an electric set this time, which carried even more punch. It was a perfect party mix of classics like “Jump Around” and “Outta Space”. It’s a mark of how this band do something just a bit different where they can please such a diverse crowd and get them all singing along to a Backstreet Boys’ song!
Many of the acts on display were equally tuned in to the atmosphere of the festival which was obviously all about having a great time. The somewhat strangely named Tankus the Henge, performed on the Swingamajig main stage. Their use of guitars, horns and songs about ‘smiling making your day go quicker’ certainly seemed to appeal to the crowd. Although, how the lead singer managed to perform bare chested in the less than seasonal weather conditions is a mystery to us.
There was so much to experience at the festival that it would be impossible to capture it all. However, one of the great things about this type of day is when you stumble across something unexpected. There were plenty of opportunities to do this at Swingamajig. If you had mentioned there was a guy doing a dance related act near a telephone box it might not have been high on our must see list. However, the dance/mime act involving the use of the phone box, pretend mobile phone and audience participation was just entertaining and spell binding. Acts like these truly show what Swingamajig has to offer. This was really an in-between set ‘filler’ but was a great surprise and something just totally different.
A more obvious draw for us was the Burlesque acts and we definitely weren’t disappointed with that. Kitty Bang Bang put on one of the most impressive displays we have seen, it was literally a watch with your mouth open performance. It was both tantalising and impressive. True, settling fire to your nipples to a soundtrack of “Pour Some Sugar On Me” is an obvious way of being hot in all senses of the word!!! Totally mesmerising, as was the aerial display that followed, an act that showed an unbelievable amount of strength and power. Whilst we are predominantly a music site, these sort of acts are equally as entertaining and impressive as any band.
That’s not to say there wasn’t plenty of swell music to enjoy as well. One of the bands we were really looking forward to seeing were Jack Rabbit Slim. Anyone who has heard their stuff, will know that they are a ‘proper’ rock n roll band. They didn’t disappoint and managed to get the crowd dancing, including some impressive jive dancing by a few who were definitely getting in to the swing of things! Playing great rock n roll tracks like “Devil In You” and throwing in Johnny Cash covers, they certainly got the party going on. The last live band we caught during the day were the ‘hosts’ of the whole event, Electro Swing Circus. Not surprisingly they attracted a big crowd to their headline set. They kept the party going with a typically eclectic set. They’re a band that appeal to so many people as they just blend diverse styles including swing, soul, rock n roll and all delivered with an electro feel. They are a perfect accompaniment for the diverse and alternative audience that the whole festival attracted.
Even though, they were the last band, the fun didn’t stopped there. Music continued to be played through out the various venues by DJs. As had been the case for the whole festival, it involved a whole array of styles and sounds. The end result being you couldn’t go long without finding something that moved your body.
As a fellow punter remarked to us during the day “it’s hard to believe you’re in the centre of Birmingham and I didn’t realise that there were so many people in to this type of scene”. Full credit to the organisers for delivering a really unique event. It managed to pull off the very difficult trick of being very cool and ‘hip’ but still being great fun and a real laugh. Rest assured we will be going next year and letting you know well in advance when tickets are available so you definitely don’t miss out!