Friday, September 11, 2009

Goodbye to the old Birmingham Academy...

...welcome to the new one.

Another piece of Birmingham's recent history is about to vanish. The 70s site of the former Hummingbird, more recently known as the Birmingham Academy (or Carling Academy, like the Worthingtons Cup's poor brother) is now being cleared out and awaiting demolition.

Nostalgics may remember the dozens of gigs they watched there, and -as a live music venue- it was actually alright. It provided the city with a mid-sized venue for those bands that could not fill up places like the NEC and the NIA. Until it re-opened in 2000, our only option was the Wolverhampton Civic and Wulfrun.

At the Academy, I watched Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros (an amazing gig, in a half-empty venue, a year before he died, god bless him), an out-of-steam Pulp on their final We Love Life tour, Morrissey on his 2002 comeback thingy (when he introduced Hand In Glove he said "this song is older than you, and you", pointing at the crowd), Suede just before they split at the end of 2003 (with Razorlight as support!) and the unbelievable Bauhaus reunion in 2006.

As a club, however, the Academy sucked, plain and simple, especially the main room which -unlike other legendary hangouts like Snobs, XLs and Edwards no.8 (the latter two now defunct) -was too big and impersonal. The bouncers were spectacularly hostile too. Still, god knows how many times I went and the amount of money I spent!

In any case, Birmingham's not losing out, because a better and more effective Academy (now re-branded 'o2 Academy') is now opening at the site of the former Dome at the top of the Bristol Road. It will house three venues: the Academy 1, with a capacity of over 3,000 people, the Academy 2 (600) and the smaller Bar Academy for local bands and after-gig parties. Each of them has been fitted with dressing rooms and showers for the bands, which should make local acts feel particularly chuffed.

After a weekend of christening events, the 'opening ceremony' will climax on Sunday with a gig by Birmingham's own Ocean Colour Scene.

One thing will be missed however. The old Oasis market, part of the complex that housed the Hummingbird along with Argos and other shops, is yet to find a new home.

In the meantime, if you have any memories of the old Academy/Hummingbird, feel free to share in the comments section.


eric the fish said...

Saw a few gigs there in the 80s. New order perhaps? What happened to the Powerhouse? And the posers's joint on Hagley road - possibly Liberty?

Seem to recall the acoustics not being so hot at the Hummingbird.

Marcus said...

I saw Franz Ferdinand there. I think it was January 2004, when they were just about hitting the big time with Take Me Out and stuff. I remember The Rapture and Funeral for a Friend were also playing that night.

Also the Libertines I caught there round the same time which was ace and Supergrass about a year ago though that was dull and me and my mates were bored.

richard worcester uk said...

Oh the Academy! Went 2the new 1last night and it rocks. They obviously put some thoughts into it. With Moneypenny, the Island bar and the o2 Academy now that part of Brum can turn into a really thriving 1.

BTW. the Enemy there at the old Academy a couple of years back. Bostin'.

Chris Baldwin said...

Went to a fair number of club nights there - not exactly atmospheric but they sometimes played some decent music in the upstairs bit. They were obsessed with keeping drinks off the dancefloor though, spoilsports! It wasn't as much fun as Snobs or as erm... interesting as XL's, which I went to once just before it closed.

Cheryl from Quinton said...

I saw Gorillaz, Dido, The Charlatans and Pulp at the old Academy -I think it was all around 2001 because it had just reopened.

I remember the Pulp gig (below par, I agree with the article) when the final support band suddenly announced: "This is the last song we're gonna play".

Definitely a big mistake on his part, because he must have felt a right tit faced by the huge cheers of relief that followed. Cheering soon subsided into embarrassing laughter, as everyone suddenly realised how rude we'd all just been. But let's face it, any support band that says that really is asking for it.

Silent Silent Simon said...

Hated the fuckin Hummingbird and hated the Academy after.

Too old to go clubbing when it was rebranded but I was a regular on weekends at The Hummingbird.

My gig list makes me feel so ancient. I saw both The Fall and Fields Of The Nephilim there in 1988! And also Iggy Pop solo which was great, I remember a bald chap in shades looking scary on guitar...Those were the days.

PhilH said...

I went to University in Brum from 1999. I think I only went to the Academy twice (once clubbing and I'm sure I went to a gig there, but I can't for the life of me remember who it was).

But in my first year I *did* go to the Dome a lot - before it was briefly rebranded as Eros.

Ah, nostalgia. Sweet, sweet, not-actually-all-that-long-ago nostalgia.

Anonymous said...

Many fond memories of this venue. Been to gigs and parties there since the late 80's. Went to the new Academy last night and was suitably impressed. I'll still miss the Humingbird though.