Forget about Glastonbury, Reading or Womad. If enjoying live music in the great outdoors is your thing, then happy days are here.

And you don't have to spend hours trying to bag tickets on the internet, travel halfway across the country or spend a weekend queuing to use the toilets from hell in order to get your musical fix.

Birmingham's MAC is the place to be every weekend now that the Sounds in the Round summertime series of open-air global music is under way.

Take a ten-minute bus ride from the city centre and - with a bit of imagination and luck with the fickle British weather - you can find a little slice of, say, Cuba, Canada or Mexico. Musically speaking, that is.

Like the headline-hitting festivals, Sounds in the Round gigs can, of course, be a wash-out, although you won't have to wade through a sea of mud to reach the bar.

But when the rain stays away, there is no better place to be on a Friday or Saturday night - it varies from week to week - and Mother Nature certainly managed a sultry early summer welcome last Friday for what was rightly billed as one of Mexico's finest bands.

Los de Abajo's footstomping show had more kick than a bottle of tequila and a decent-sized audience at the MAC's outdoor arena had clearly come to drink their fill.

Response was enthusiastic from the start but it took the example of two lone hipslinking student types to get people up from their seats and dancing.

After half a dozen numbers, Los de Abajo's take-noprisoners approach to live shows had almost everyone bouncing up and down in an air-punching pogo dance.

No coincidence there because although the music is the real Mexican McCoy - including cumbia, a hybrid dance sound that varies from region to region, and lots of sassy horns - it is shot through with punk energy and a strong political message.

The latter was lost on non Spanish speakers, of course, but there was no mistaking the power of a truly fine set that varied the pace without ever losing the momentum. Great fun and a great night.

And there is every reason to believe that tonight's set by Jazz Jamaica will be another sizzler - if the weather forecast and the PR hype are anything to go by.

Other dates worth making a diary note are award-winning folkie Karine Pol-wart - described by Mojo as having a voice someone between Eddi Reader and Emmylou Harris - on Friday June 16, and Ska Cubano, described as the missing link between Cuban music and ska, on Saturday July 28.

Best of all promises to be the sepia-shaded country/early American folk meets old-time jazz, blues and gospel of The Be Good Tanyas on Saturday July 15.

The bad news - tickets are sold out.

With prices ranging from £12.50 to £15, the shows are great value and, according to MAC staffers, they will only cancel if there's torrential rain.

So don't forget your waterproofs and umbrellas as well as the cushions (bum-numbing concrete seats), blankets and sun cream.

David Faers