Words by Ed King / Pics by Connor Pope
Last weekend, hundreds of music lovers packed out Oikos Cafe in July to watch homegrown and international acts perform as part of the citywide Jazz & Blues Festival.
Organised by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID), the main Saturday stage was set for New York based The Hitman Blues Band, playing two sets of modern/alt blues, including originals ‘Bad, Bad Man’, ‘Not My Circus Not My Monkey’ and “the track that got us touring in the UK” – ‘Angel in the Shadows’.
Classic covers were also on the set list, Including Dylan’s folk anthem ‘Time They Are A-Changing’ and Willie Dixon’s blues standard ‘Hoot Koochy Man’ – all given a firm Hitman twist. The UK’s Honeyman Hickling Blues Band were also on the afternoon bill.
Originally planned to be held outside on and around the Village Green, the bad weather forced the live gigs into the upstairs room at Oikos café. But in a space usually reserved for church services and community groups, the musicianship, comradery, and comedy made it feel like Saturday night at Ronnie Scotts.
Regaling stories of broken hearts, relationship battles, and pet tortoises who might survive the tour due to poor merchandise sales, Russell ‘Hitman’ Alexander had the room devouring every word and chord change – with superb support from keys, a horn section, percussion, and vocal harmonies.
“Thank you all for coming out, we really appreciate it,” exclaimed charismatic front man at the end of the final set, with many sticking around for signed CDs and photos with the band.
After a short break, Oikos then welcomed the UK’s own Honeyman Hickling Blues Band, serving up a second slice of the Blue & Jazz Festival pie.
Earlier in the weekend, local trombonist Clive the Slide headlined the Erdington Arts Forum run Evening of Creativity – bringing another rafter packing crowd to Oikos Café, as part of the citywide annual event.
Erdington Town Centre Manager, John Hodgkiss, who brought the Saturday Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival to Oikos, told: “Today has been fantastic, hundreds of people came out to welcome international musicians and a citywide music festival into Erdington.
“The Hitman Blues Band travelled all the way from New York to play in Erdington, delivering two incredible sets – alongside the UK’s amazing Honeyman Hickling Blues Band. Erdington High Street can be a vibrant and exciting place with a generous and supporting community, and we (EBID) want to keep bringing acts and events here to celebrate that.”
Erdington Ward Councillors Gareth Moore and Robert Alden (Conservative) were also in the crowd on Saturday afternoon.
Cllr Moore said “it was great to have the Jazz festival here on Erdington High Street and to see so many people enjoying the events. Thank you to the Jazz Festival, volunteers, the Erdington BID manager and Oikos for all their hard work.”
Pastor Dan Mandley from Oikos Café and Church added: “Wonderful to have such a wonderful event come to Erdington. Great bands and great atmosphere. I am already looking forward to next year’s festival.”
Look out for a special PICTURE GALLERY feature on the gigs with The HItman Blues Band and Honeyman Hickling Blues Band at Oikos Cafe – in the next print edition of Erdington Local, out from 1 August.
For more on The Hitman Blues Band visit www.hitmanbluesband.com
For more details on Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival visit www.birminghamjazzfestival.com