Month: July 2011

I’ll Be Your Mirror

So – a weekend of music.  So much music!  Too much to really write about.  So… bullet points:

  • I’ll Be Your Mirror – a two day festival at Alexandra Palace – organised by All Tomorrow’s Parties who usually do festivals at campgrounds  (because I’ll Be Your Mirror was the B-side for Velvet Underground’s All Tomorrow’s Parties – see?)
  • “curated by Portishead” – which is supposed to mean that Portishead had a big say in the choice of bands.  In reality – who can say?  But more importantly – it also means that Portishead headlined both nights.
  • Saturday – headed along with Jess, and spent the day drinking Japanese Bloody Marys, wandering from stage to stage, and queueing for food
  • Beak> – pretty cool.  Really good use of heavy bass and slowly changing rhythms.  Might have to check out their album.
  • Doom – formerly known as MF Doom, amongst other things.  I never realised he was such a fatty.  Quite the pot on the chap, although he tried to deflect attention by having a very very large man on stage with him.  Overall – a fairly timid performance – but worth seeing just for seeing a middle-aged hip-hop star with a beer-pot and wearing a metal mask.
  • PJ Harvey – unfortunately I missed a lot of this.  Was still in a queue for dinner when she started, and then foolishly volunteered to go get drinks halfway through – which involved going to 2 different bars.  Which is a shame – as looking back, it was pretty bloody good.  Also – was quite far from the stage – so didn’t notice her bizarre clothing.  A lot of the gig was new stuff, from Let England Shake – but that’s alright, because it’s a very very good album.
  • Portishead – oh so good.  We got a spot just in front of the sound stage – perfect.  If I hadn’t been to Flaming Lips a couple of weeks ago – this day would have become my favourite gig ever.  Just the Portishead set alone would be close to taking that title.  It was just perfect – excellent set list, perfect stage show/visuals, and amazing performances – from both vocals and instruments.  Another one of those sets, where you walk away thinking “I’d forgotten how absolutely brilliant their music is – I need to listen to that more often.”
  • Sunday – headed along by myself, with Justin promising to come along later.  I arrived ultra early to check out Godspeed You! Black Emperor – and then spent most of the afternoon lazing in the sun, drinking Bloody Mary’s, and reading.  Because why else would you go to a music festival?
  • Godspeed You! Black Emperor – not bad, but I spent most of my time watching as person after person tried to leave via the big door near my spot – and person after person being turned away.  Probably THE thing I took away from the entire festival was the bizarre traffic/crowd control.  Big accessible entrance/exit points were closed off – forcing people to push through crowds when trying to leave certain areas.  And then main thoroughways that were normally open, would randomly be closed off.  Aarrgh.  Anyway – Godspeed You! Black Emperor – was pleasant enough, but I wasn’t enjoying it because of my old man rant building up in me – so didn’t hang around for the whole set – which was actually a couple of hours long.
  • Liars – I again checked out a short bit of their set – looked pretty good, but relaxing in the sun was more enticing
  • Beach House – I only caught one or two songs, not realising they were on
  • Swans – very loud – and with Justin, as two old men we gave up on them to head to…
  • Anika – some random singer ‘discovered’ by Beak> – and an album put together.  To be honest – it did sound like Beak> had gathered their ‘B-side’ material – figured it might be usable if they threw a lady in front of it.  And it might have worked, except Anika’s voice didn’t seem that great – so it was substandard singing on top of rejected songs.  But I’ll still probably check out the album, and see if it was actually just an off-performance.
  • The Sundowners – a band performing in the ‘Panorama Room’ – so nowhere near a proper stage.  But quite a nice gig – a group of insanely happy young people singing poppy happy songs.  I hope somebody kept them far away from the lead singer of…
  • Grinderman!  Not quite the frantic frenetic frenzied fr… whirlwind that they were last year – but still… anybody who hadn’t seen them before would have been quite impressed with the raw energy displayed on stage.  Once again – Nick Cave was strutting, hip-thrusting, yelling his way through the songs, throwing his microphones and guitars to the side when he was done with them – resulting in stage crew running around trying to recover bits, make other bits ready for him when he might want them again, etc.  And, of course, Nick Cave getting right up close and personal with the crowd – presumably looking for eligible ladies.
  • Portishead – again.  Not quite up to the standard of the previous night – but perhaps that was more in the eye of the beholder?  I’m old and easily tired out – so maybe the weekend had just been too much for me?  But it seemed that it just wasn’t quite as good – individual performances were fine, but just the set-list didn’t flow the same.  Strange – just playing the songs in a different order could have such an impact.  But Saturday – there just seemed to be a perfect flow of songs, punctuated to perfection with a sudden slow song, or a sudden slap in the face by something like Machine Gun.  Sunday night – not quite.  But still – very very happy to have been there.

And then after such a weekend, I came back to work – and immediately got dragged into two boozy nights.  Monday & Tuesday on the gas – not cool.  Wednesday – some evening work.  Tonight – a little gig by the Pajama Club.  Tomorrow night – probably more work.  And then I have to get up early on Saturday to go to watch some stupid bloody rugby.

Brizzles, & (too)big shoes to fill

Went to Bristol last weekend, to spend a weekend with Caro’n’Dom’n’Malachy.  Got the train there on Friday evening, and discovered that Dom had project-planned out the boozin’.  Friday night was for Caro & me to get drunk (go on, anybody – criticise my grammar there…), while Saturday night was earmarked for Dom & me.  We went for a wander into town – planning on having dinner together, before Dom would take Malachy home, leaving Caro & me to get our drink on.  The plan mostly worked – except that we didn’t get any dinner.  Dom & Malachy left for home, while Caro & I did indeed get our drink on – on empty stomachs.  And a few hours later, we had that all too familiar sight of two intoxicated people staggering along the street – guy essentially holding girl up.  When will people learn?  The guy needs to really gulp down the drinks right at the start, get obviously drunk early – and then the ladies will have to refrain from the booze in order to ensure everybody gets home safe.

But anyways – Caro & I did indeed fulfil our part of the deal.  Went to a dodgy bar to escape the rain, and then what was apparently THE bar to go to in Bristol.  I think I offended Caro, because I thought that it was really quite cool that there was a group outing of intellectually handicapped people.  And I mean that – I’m not being nasty or anything – I honestly thought that there were about a dozen people who looked/acted/sounded as if they were handicapped – and I thought it was an awesome idea for a night-out for them.  Apparently – nope, they were just random Bristol locals.  Which shouldn’t be an offensive mistake – but yeah, I guess some people won’t see it that way.  We had a shot of some description at some point, and the proposed theory is that it was the shot’s fault that I had to carry Caro home.  Of course once we got home, we needed Dom’s help to open the door, and help Caro to the bathroom.  And therefore – none of us got much sleep at all.

Meaning the plan for a bit of the ol’ binge-drink with Dom on Saturday night was compromised.  But – we made do, had some lunch on a boat, met up with Dom’s cousing andand headed out to Portishead – the place, so I could have a point of reference when seeing Portishead the band next weekend.  Nice enough place – and got to see Wales.  Just a big hunk of land across the water – but still, I saw it.  And then back to Bristol proper for some dinner, and then the boys attempted to get some drinking done.  I think we managed to get 3 or 4 beers down before Dom was visibly nodding off, and I was fighting to look like I wasn’t.

Sunday essentially consisted of walking through dreary drizzly Brizzy, shopping for a roast dinner, then cooking roast dinner, eating roast dinner, and keeping children busy/happy – with vastly varying levels of participation by myself in each of those activities.

And Monday morning – I missed the first cheap train to London, so had to wait for another half-an-hour – and eventually strolled into work a few minutes before lunchtime – ready for another productive working week.

Gigs this week consisted of the lady-singer in Bristol – and Liam Finn on Wenerei night.  Liam was an odd one.  I was probably fairly tired – so even worse than usual in my habit of “get bored after the first few songs, then start getting all overly-analytic/judgemental regarding band personality”.  But Liam did also make it rather easy for me…

First up, he came out by himself – and did a highly energetic set of creating his own samples on the fly, layering it up, culminating in him bashing the hell out of his drums.  Same kind of approach as Don McGlashan last year – but this was a one-off “look-at-me” intro to the set.  Once he’d finished a very short but showy demonstration of his abilities, a supporting band came out.  So yeah – he’s talented, but needs to get some more schooling done.

And then his “on-stage banter”.  You just very quickly got the impression that he might be a bit of a dick.  Again – I might be way off the mark here – I was tired, and I do tend to get ultra-judgey of performers midway through any gig.  Just an overall feeling of the “not-cool kid at school who thinks he is, because he’s popular in his own group of fellow not-cool kids”.  But I can live with that – because it might easily be wrong.  But then the elephant in the room was pointed out.  Somebody made a crack – about Neil Finn.  I think he accused one of Liam’s songs as having been written by his dad?  And of course Liam took that bait like a <tried to think of a good simile, but nah>.  Made a big show of pointing out he was not his father’s son – maybe trying to distance himself?  Quote: “You think fuckin’ Neil Finn grow a beard like THIS?”.  The unspoken answer… “Well, yeah, of course.”  Which brings me to his merchandise.  His t-shirts were all based on references to his beard, and/or his dad.  The beard – it ain’t that good a beard.  It’s a twenty-something’s attempt at growing a big shaggy indie beard – but falling rather short.  I mean – it’s not the equivalent of a teenager’s attempt at a moustache – but it ain’t no Hombre Lobo or Joaquin Phoenix beard neither.  And a t-shirt of a cartoon Darth Vader taking off his helmet – and stating “Liam… you are my son”  – really?  Are you really trying to make it on your own without any help from daddy & family?

All in all – I don’t regret going to the gig.  It was good.  Plenty of energy, a bit of crowd-interaction (even if most of that was just terrible… getting the crowd to go “yip yip yip” instead of clapping after a song… no Liam, no), and clearly trying rather hard.  But everything just seemed forced.  The opening self-sampling-layering gig – a new trick, done better by Don McGlashan.  His song-writing – yeah, he might be right with his self-claimed “I’m maturing” – but he is no Neil Finn… not even a Tim Finn.  Stage presence – enjoyable, if forced.  Venue – very small, and lots of kiwis in the crowd, so lots of tall people – but I sat on a equipment-box at the back, and had a better view than most until a girl on crutches asked to steal my spot.  I tried to kick her crutches out from under her, but had to get down to do it, and by then she was up on the box.

And that’s the review of a grumpy tired old man jealous of these yooves with their loud crash-bang music.  (I can’t find any youtube coverage of the gig – but here is a clip of a previous gig, which probably encompasses the general style.)

2011 1/2

So – we’re over halfway through the year – which is the time for the usual “oh my, hasn’t this year just gone so fast”, “oh lordy, where has this year gone?”, “holy emmer-effing shit, it’s July!”, “oh god, I’ve achieved nothing”, all that jazz.

So, yeah – all those thoughts ran through my head – and I assuaged some of it, and accentuated the rest – by putting up photos for the year thus far.  There is a distinct lack of them.  On one level – a notable lack of events for which I have any photos at all – demonstrating my lack of doing anything recently.  And on another level – a lack of photos for what events/places I have attended – due to my recent reluctance in actually taking photos, and generally assuming I can just take copies of other people’s photos later.  Which I never get around to doing.  So yeah – if anybody’s got good photos from the last several years – please send them through.  Or organise some kind of luncheon/dinner event – where we can all bring CDs/flash-drives/etc – like proper 21st century nerds – and swap photos and what-not.

Indie Rock!

First gigs of the year (not including Rough Beats):

I was finally convinced to go see Arcade Fire in Hyde Park – despite only having seen them a couple of months back.  I’d never been to Hyde Park though – so figured I’d better “tick that one off”.  So – Thursday night, headed to Hyde Park and saw Mumford & Sons, followed by Arcade Fire.  Missed Beirut and The Vaccines however – which was a shame.  But anyway – saw the headliners.  And again – not bad.  The main guy from Arcade Fire – with his terrible haircut and weird name I can’t remember – looked to be very very pleased with himself.  And fair enough I guess.  An ‘indie’ band – headlining Hyde Park (but not sold out) and winning a Grammy, what has the world come to?  But yeah – he was grinning from ear to ear at the start of the night – like the ‘proverbial’ who got the cream.  Or the cheshire ‘proverbial’.  Or some such.  But I also realised that I’m not a fan of such a big concert.  People pushing their way through the crowd – people actively trying to prevent people from pushing their way through “their” little area – forgetting the hypocrisy when they then need to push their way out to the bar/toilet.  Just the overall “me-me-me” attitude which becomes even more apparent than normal.  Or am I just old?  I lost everybody on the way out – and then just to even things up, decided to lose myself.  I started walking in the direction I thought was home – and when I finally decided to check my phone to see where I was – nope, I was heading in a rather wrong direction.  So – got a taxi, and got home fairly late.

Oh – and nearly forgot about Mumford&Sons – which says a lot I guess.  Current holder of Worst Gig of 2011.  It just kinda… meandered?  Fizzled out?  I could imagine it being an excellent gig in a small setting – Union Chapel – or maybe even bigger than that.  But not really a stadium kinda band.  Or maybe it was just the set-list – they seemed to use all their ‘hits‘ at the start, and had nothing left to keep the interest going, until one last attempt at going out with a ‘bang‘.

But the next day – I had the Flaming Lips lined up.  In fact – Deerhoof performing their famous album Milk Man, followed by Dinosaur Jr performing their seminal album Bug, and finally the Flaming Lips performing their breakthrough album The Soft Bulletin.  And having seen the Lips once before – I was expecting big things.  I spent the day trying to get rid of my extra tickets – to no avail.  Went home, had a nap.  Then – as I didn’t have to wait on or meet anybody else – figured I’d actually arrive at a gig early enough to appreciate all the “warm-up” acts.  And as I get on the train, I discover that there’s been a “person on the tracks incident” at Alexandra Palace.  Which is where I’m heading.  Not cool.  I wondered if the person involved had been on their way to the gig.  It’s a sad event anyway – but that possibility just made it a tiny bit worse.  But in any case – I got on the train, wondering how far I could get.  I could get as far as the middle of a tunnel, where we were stuck for some time.  And a girl standing nearby complaining about it.  I had my earphones in – so I didn’t hear clearly, but a guy who I had previously judged as a pervert not-nice guy pointed out that there was a person who had just died, who also had parents and a family.  I adjusted my judgement of the chap.  And listened to the girl confirm my judgement of her – when she responded with “Yes – but I’m stuck in a train in a tunnel… with no air-conditioning!”  I bit my tongue and turned up the earphones.  And at the next station – heard some businessman complaining loudly about “it’s unbelievable, you pay these ridiculous prices, and then this… and I pay this much…, blah blah”.  Again, I stopped myself from pointing out what a prick he was, and that he was pushing me close to hoping that it was a member of his family/friends who had just died on his precious train tracks.

Enough of that.  I came up with what I was a ludicrously smart plan of getting to the Ally Pally anyway.  And soon discovered that a couple of hundred other people had the same plan.  But got the right combo of tube & bus to get there in the end – and arrived just in time for the start of Dinosaur Jr.  But too late for bloody marys.  They had a deluxe cocktail bar – with japanese bloody marys!  Although I missed out this time – the “I’ll Be Your Mirror” festival in a couple of weeks is organised by the same people, so my expectations for that have been raised.  On this occasion, I settled for red wines, and loud music.  Dinosaur Jr was all good, and then the nervous wait for the Flaming Lips.  Had I set my expectations too high?  When I saw them in Melbourne – I was very very impressed.  But had my memory been warped by time?

And then Wayne Cohen came out – and gave a long speech about this and that.  Advised that there would be some strobe lights – and if anybody became affected by them… try looking away.  Or closing your eyes.  And he might very well be coming out onto the crowd in his famous “space-bubble”.  And if so – don’t all rush up trying to get close to it – just chill out bro.  That kind of thing.  And generally just working the crowd into a frenzy as stagehands seemed to be redesigning the entire stage behind him.  Which is a good sign.  Oh – and did I mention that when I first entered the main hall – there were huge balls hanging from the ceiling – some just low enough for people to hit them and swing them, etc.  About a dozen of them or so.  (It’s pretty well known that there would be a heap more ‘free’ balls released at some point during the concert.)

But then when it started.  Not disappointed, at all.  I really don’t know how to describe it, without a full narrative of every little thing – which would take a long, long time.  Video screen; flashing eyes; a ‘virtual door’ which appeared and from which each band member entered the stage from; teletubbies; a giant naked woman; lights; noise; Wayne rolling out onto the crowd in his plastic hamster-ball (and obviously loving it), and then… oh and then… confetti; balloons; balls; Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots; energy; dancing; and just an overall atmosphere of … pure joy.  Spectacular.  He played a few songs from Yoshimi – and then eventually once the initial adrenaline/serotonin rush was over – gave a bit of a speech before settling into playing the Soft Bulletin.  But even then – it was still just so packed with energy, humour, and just happiness.  And when you start thinking that maybe we’re devolving into a normal concert – he brings out his giant hands which shoot dozens of laser-beams, while on the screen there is a montage of snakes,dogs,sharks,etc snapping at me.  What… The… Fuck?  I will quite often get a little antsy/bored/restless about 3 or 4 songs into a gig.  This one – not at all.  After they finished the album (and I was continuously hearing songs, thinking – nah that’s from Yoshimi – but nope, it’s from Soft Bulletin… definitely going to have to check out that album again – it’s just so so good) – some more songs from Yoshimi – including, of course, Do You Realise? – which was received as well as one would expect.  All in all – I think this gig has become my new “Best Gig Ever” – overtaking… the previous time I saw them.

So – Portishead, the challenge is set.