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Marvellous musicians' nights in Birmingham

Written by
Robin Valk

The past few years have seen a positive explosion of open mic and participation nights across Birmingham. This all started in folk clubs, but it's now spread to cover some seriously intense jazz, reggae, rock and blues sessions in pubs and venues across town. Side by side with music sessions, open story-telling and poetry sessions are also winning new audiences.

There are dozens of weekly or monthly open music and spoken word nights, mostly at the start of the week. Usually, they're free, so you get your music or poetry fix for the price of a drink. All you need to bring is a sense of experimentation and an open mind. You won't know who's playing until you get there; sometimes, not even then.

The guys who organise the nights are just as interesting: working musicians and superfans who draw on their extensive address books to put their nights together. They'll usually open up proceedings; whether they wind up jamming later on with their guests depends on the night and the vibe. Here's just a few of the nights that are set up by some of the amazing musicians around town...

Andy Bennett's nights  

Flickr - Elliott Brown

Andy is a veteran of 90s heroes Ocean Colour Scene. Now solo, he hardly seems to stop, organising four (count 'em) sessions a week. All are worth checking out, but his Brown Lion nights have been running the longest, and have earned a solid reputation.

Tuesday: The Brown Lion, Hall Street, Hockley. 
Wednesday: The Acres, Rowood Drive, Solihull.  
Thursday: The Crown in Shard End.
Sunday: Afternoons 2pm-6pm at Alfie Birds at the Custard Factory in Digbeth.

Ben Drummond's acoustic nights

Ben DrummondDee Karla - DK Photography

A very fine musician in his own right, Ben books most of the acts at the Jam House on St Paul's Square.

When he's not doing that, you'll either find him opening for the likes of Rod Stewart or rattling though his own material at any one of a dozen spots in town.

His monthly nights at the Jam House on the last Tuesday of each month, are always worth checking out. They positively bristle with quality musos. Details at Acoustic Sessions at the Jam House

The Dark Horse team

DK Photography

Four musicians take it in turn to put together semi-acoustic nights at the Dark Horse in Moseley, among them Ross Lydon (above) of veteran ska-meisters 360, and Ryan Webb of CowPunk dementoids Rhino And The Ranters, currently one of Brum's hottest new outfits.

Check The Dark Horse, Alcester Road, Moseley for more.

The Fiddle and Bone

The Fiddle and Bone: back in businessFlickr: Elliott Brown

At the much-loved city centre muso boozer The Fiddle and Bone, punk / bluegrass / country veteran Richard Heath runs a Tuesday night session. It's one of the newest in town, and it's growing fast. As with all such nights, a PA and backline is provided as standard.

Muso Mondays

british legion kings heath

Flickr: Elliot Brown

This is always special. Sue Fear, a veteran promoter with a brilliant contacts list, started this night three years ago in King's Heath; it's current home is the British Legion on Station Road.

You can expect a night of road-tested quality musicianship. The Muso Monday Facebook page has all the details

Jam Jah Mondays 

Bongo Damo of the collectiveDee Karla - DK Photography

Organised by Reggae collective Friendly Fire at the Bulls Head in Moseley, this night is heavy on grooves, MCs, and percussion jams. Jam Jah's Facebook page has more.

 Tom Walker's Blues Nights 

Flickr: Elliott Brown

Tom Walker is a fast-rising, excellent Birmingham blues guitarist; he's getting approving nods from some of the best musos in town.

Among other gigs, Tom now hosts a blues jam night on the first Thursday of each month at the Roadhouse in Stirchley, with his own trio, and generally a guest band. Blues wranglers are welcome to come and join in the open end-of-night jam. 

Of course, there's more, a lot more. It's a huge scene, and it's very fluid. But that's the fun of exploring, isn't it? 

While you're feeling musical, did you know that some of Birmingham's musical venues can boast an impressive history?

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