Month: December 2011

2011… nearly over…

Well – December has pretty much turned into just treading water, waiting for the New Year – which will hopefully provide enough symbolic ‘new beginnings’ to provide an impetus to get moving again.  Not sure if that makes sense to anybody – but I have talked to a few people who agree… we’ve had enough of this year, it’s time for a new one.  There’s not been anything particularly bad about the year – in fact it’s been rather good in a few ways – but it’s just gone on long enough.  Mostly – I’ve fallen into an apathetic hole, and am using the upcoming New Year as an excuse to not do anything about it until then.  Which just means I’m going to have to actually get up and do quite a lot in the New Year, so that I don’t fall into a guilty spiral back into inactivity.

But – what has been breaking up the monotony of December?  Since I last dragged myself up enough to type… a couple of gigs.  Firstly – DJ Shadow.  Rather an odd show – due to the stage set-up.  It was just an empty stage, with a big white background, and a big white ball – which he sat hidden away in most of the time.  But he used the background wall and the ball as projection screens – creating a rather spectacular effect, especially when the whole 3D nature of the projection space was used cleverly.  And once in a while, the ball would spin around – showing him inside on “his decks”.  All in all – it sounds rather boring, just a stage with a big ball on it – but his lighting/display/video guy used it to spectacular effect.  There’s a series of clips on youtube, showing the whole gig – which show the visuals quite well, but the audio is utter shite.  Which is a shame – because he was rather good.

I then had nearly a week off of gigs, but not off work – instead working on a new client, spending about a week of waiting for the client to get all the things ready that I’d asked to be ready before I wasted their money by being on-site.  Oh well – it’s their money.  Oh – and over that time, I also decided on several occasions to NOT stay up overnight watching cricket, because it was obvious that NZ was going to get thrashed by the arsetralians.  Which was the correct choice considering I had to go on-site at a client the next mornings, but the wrong choice considering the eventual result.  Oh well.  Now I can get my hopes up, and stay up all night while watching South Africa thrash us.

Next gig was one which I went to only to see the smallest support act.  HMV is doing a series of gigs in February – 11 nights in a row, of their picks for the “Next Big Thing” – £10 per gig.  The first one I checked out on youtube, and decided to go see – was We Are Augustines.  But it turns out they’re playing on the same night as the Black Keys, which I already have tickets for.  But – I saw they were playing support for some shitty rock radio station’s “Winter Wonderland” event.  So – I got tickets to that, and headed off extra early to be there in time to see the very first support act.  Which of course meant scoffing down junk-food on the way, getting there at 6pm, and then essentially spending 6 hours at a bloody gig drinking red wine.  And regretted that pretty quickly.  We Are Augustines were fine, but re-affirmed my initial impression from their videos – slightly too earnest young rock’n’rollers – bordering on cringeworthy.  If they were from any other country, I’d think that was fine – they’ll grow up, become cynical, their music will become better, and yay – more good music for the world.  But these guys are american – I suspect they’ll grow up, become more earnest and self-important, and start churning out earnest well-meaning soft-rock.  Anyway – I’ll shelve my cynicism and enjoy them for now.  Meanwhile, back at Brixton Academy – loud obnoxious radio DJs (are there any other kind?) – came and went, introducing each band.  Next up was the Tribes – which I don’t really remember much of.  I guess they were fine, but forgettable?  I’ll check them out this afternoon on youtube.  After that – Band of Skulls – who of course I’d already seen this year.  I’m thinking maybe even more than once – but maybe I’m mixing up that I’ll be seeing them supporting the Black Keys, twice, in February.  And they’ve got their new album out now – so it was pretty much a set of all new songs, with only one or two of their old crowd-pleasers thrown in.  Then it was the Maccabees – whose name I’d heard a fair bit, but haven’t really listened to.  They were fine, and I’ll have to listen to a bit more of them.  I think the Horrors were also supposed to play, but they pulled a sickie.  And then the headliners – Kaiser Chiefs.  I’ve never really bought into the hype around the Kaiser Chiefs overly much, although I do understand that they are rather good.  So – I should have enjoyed it, but by this stage the Academy was packed full of young people – young people who listen to a rock station named XFM – and I was tired, old, many wines down, and cantankerous.  I slipped out before the Kaiser Chiefs’ encore in order to avoid the rush, and slunk off home for a good ol’ nap.

And those were the last gigs of 2011.  It will be time to draw up a “Best-of-2011″ some time – but in 2012, when I’m all re-energised.

Other than that – on the evening of the 24th, I stayed up very late, watching the entire Die Hard series, and chatting with family over this new internet jobbie.  Spent an hour or so just watching the niece and nephew over internetcam – which was awesome.  And eventually headed off to bed about 4:30am – having been reminded how tangential the downhill slope of those Die Hard movies really was.  And on the 25th, slept in, before heading North with half-a-dozen bottles of wine in my arms.  Eventually found a taxi, and went to visit Caro’n’Dom & Malachy.  And then a day of board games, roast lamb, wines, chit-chat, and a stroll up to Alexandra Palace.  And then an evening of wines.

And now – back at work, in a deserted office, killing time until 2012.  Not having even organised anything to do in order to welcome in the New Year.  It is looking like the least eventful New Year’s Eve since high school days.

Post-Hungover Babble

Right – so after I foolishly did a hungover-still-slightly-drunk edit to last week’s post, I’ll try to make up for that with an ultra boring sensible post.  “Try” being the key word there.

Firstly – the one gig I made it to in the last week or so.  Das Racist – some alternative hip-hop.  If you’re open-minded about music, you should definitely check these guys out.  They’ve become popular because of their slightly gimmicky ‘joke-rap’ songs, and accompanying videos – but they are also actually really freakin’ talented, with a fair bit of ambition thrown in.  In fact, their best known song is probably their worse.  So yeah – it was pretty sweet to see them in a tiny venue – XOYO – just around the corner from my place.  Every gig I’ve seen there has had their ‘visuals’ limited to some smoke machine, and usually not too much of that – as the place is just too small.  But these guys had a full on light-show, with the backwall covered in images/videos, and all that.  And yeah – good show, with the crowd being an odd mixture of geeks there for the “joke” rap, homeboys there for the “proper” rap, and me – there for the good music.  Yeah – something like that.

The following night – I had tickets to Thurston Moore at Union Chapel, which I was really rather looking forward to.  I also had my work’s end-of-year dinner/party (known to some as “the Christmas Party”).  I left work in time to avoid the giving of gifts/etc – headed home, and got changed into my “lounge suit”.  I then headed back into town, to the “lounge” where we had drinks and dinner, while everybody enthused over my suit.  I really have to stop dressing so well – I get tired of compliments so easily.  Anyway – I took my tickets to Thurston with me, hoping to slip away at some point.  But – I got caught up in it all – a good dinner, free drinks, etc… and ended up missing the gig.  Instead I got drunk enough to ignore my promise to myself to not bring up the prospect of a payrise with my boss while drunk.  I knew I was going to do it – and had desperately tried to do it during the two previous days while at work – but had failed.  So – as was always destined – I instead did it in the midst of a drunken conversation with one of the company owners – how unprofessional is that?  But, it seemed to go well, as his response was “of course, yeah”.  I now just need to follow up while we’re both sober.  Or maybe – organise more drinks, and have some paperwork handy next time.  Anyway – more drinks were had, I did some breakdancing, drank plenty of wine – and eventually left everybody when the decision was made to go to a casino.  I don’t do casinos.  (The list of illegal stuff I’m fine with is rather long – but gambling… that’s where I have to draw my moral line in the sand.  Go figure.)  I think I got a bicycle rickshaw home.

And woke up the next morning with my first “proper” hangover in quite some time.  And proceeded to half-drunk-half-hungover babble all over this website.  And then crawl off back to bed, and spend the rest of the day alternately stumbling about trying to eat, drink, and sleep.  (And came very very close to whim-purchasing flights back to NZ/Aus for the 25th/31st respectively.  I was actually seriously considering flying out, landing in NZ on the morning of the 25th, spending a couple of days, flying to Melbourne or Sydney on the 31st, having a party, and then flying back to London on the 2nd.  Stupid hangover urge.)

Books – I think I was reading Pigeon English, by Stephen Kelman, at the Das Racist gig, and it has somehow lasted most of the week.  Quite good – even though – or actually because of – it’s rather gimmicky premise.  More qualified, if not better, people than I have called this book “overhyped”.  Perhaps it is – but probably because of this, it was quite welcome in the middle of all the other Man Booker nominees I’ve been reading.  It’s just trying so hard to be “literature” – that it perhaps pushes a little too far, but instead of becoming overly pretentious – actually becomes just bad enough to enjoy while being good.  I realise that makes little to no sense – but I can’t be bothered trying to explain it any further.  Essentially – a story written from the viewpoint of a 11-year old boy, in the middle of immigrating right into the middle of London’s much-publicised knife-crime.  So yeah – the expected attempt at a poignant mixture of wide-eyed innocence – facing normal childhood experiences, along with gangs.  And then just randomly throw in a mystical connection to a pigeon – seemingly just to justify the title.  Odd.

Oh – and I was also supposed to see the Felice Brothers on Tuesday – which was possibly one of my most eagerly anticipated gigs of the month.  But then one of them went and got facial shingles, or so they claim – and that’s been postponed until March.  Which has resulted in rather a quiet month – most welcome.

Quiet week.. not so

Right – so it was to be a couple of quiet gigs, then a quiet week, then casting my vote in a fore-gone conclusion of a General Election.  Well, none of that really happened.

Monday night – the Twilight Sad – part of the current wave of indie-rock coming out of Scotland.  And similar to the others, their albums have been quite good melodic indie rock, with ridiculously strong scottish accents over the top.  But live – well… I’d heard that they started off doing experimental “wall-of-sound” type gigs, before the band really evolved.  And yeah – that’s what their live show was.  A wall of sound.  Which I’m sure floats some people’s boats, but not mine.  (Having another listen to the albums – the clues are all there, it’s just dialed down quite a bit – especially on the ‘single’ type songs).  Maybe I was just too tired – and too old – but I walked away thinking too loud, too much noise, couldn’t hear any tunes/lyrics – sorry Twilight Sad, but it seems you’re the Wu-Tang Clan of 2011.

And then it was Tuesday.  With a nice quiet gig that night to help me ease into 5 nights off, or something like that.  But while at work, I’m suddenly told to fly to Jersey as soon as possible – either tonight or tomorrow morning.  I decide on the following morning.  Head home, do some quick packing – and off to the gig.  Wye Oak – a little folk duo – including a very nice polite sweet young lady singing very nice polite sweet songs.  And after seeing the nice polite sweet young lady a couple of times on the AVClub (the only band invited back to do a second Undercover session – and covering Danzig!), and then live – I might have grown a little bit of a crush.  Anyways – once again, a show which was much louder than I’d expected, but this time in a good way.  Expecting indie-folk-pop, getting much more of an indie-folk-rock vibe – not at all unwelcome.

And yeah – so off home, shave off what had become my beautifully ridiculous pencil-moustache (just wide enough to show the regrowth-esque two-tone) – and another attempt at last-minute packing, but failing spectacularly to make a decision about whether to bother with a suitcase for what will be just a couple of days.  And so I end up heading off towards London City airport in the early morning, with my laptop bag, and a very very small daybag with spare underwear, one spare business shirt, one t-shirt, and a pair of kung-fu slippers.  I don’t really know the rationale behind most of that.  Was I planning on wandering around town in my suit trousers, kung-fu slippers, and a t-shirt – in the middle of the English Channel in the middle of winter?  I don’t know.  I had my normal vague plan of “if I need shit, I’ll buy it” in mind – but I could still have done a lot better.  I got to London City – bought myself a bottle of whisky which I’d wanted for some time but is only available in duty-free stores – and sat down to wait for my plane.  Which was delayed.  And then cancelled.  Okay – so I rush off to Gatwick airport – to get a flight from there – booking a ticket on the phone on the way.  And then realise that I’m going to miss that one – as I arrive at the airport 5 minutes before the flight is due to leave.  But the nice lady lets me pay just a £60 fee to change this flight, to the next one – which is 4:20 or some such.  Which gives me about 5 hours of sitting in Gatwick airport.  I spend the time with laptop open, trying to be productive – and also grab myself another bottle of whisky (that first one is now in my tiny daybag – which I had to put in as cargo, seeing as I now was carrying a litre of liquid).  I eventually landed in the Balliwick of Jersey (yep – that’s its official name) – headed to my hotel, checked in – before I did indeed wander out in my kung-fu slippers, suit trousers, t-shirt, and suit jacket.  Yep – the classic t-shirt-suit combo.  Not particularly happy about resorting to that.

Thursday – finally made it into the office, and proceeded to do my job like a gangsta.  Ended up staying there, and working through the weekend, coming back Monday afternoon.  Just in time to head to a gig.  Although I did make it as difficult as possible for myself.  Once again my flight was delayed.  And when I landed, I put myself on the wrong tube, and didn’t realise until I’d gotten myself to Mile End or some such.  So – reversed direction – eventually got home, dumped my stuff, ran to Old Street, got the right tube up to Camden Town, and met Dom at the pub.  Rushed off to the Jazz Cafe – and discovered we had gotten there just in time to wait half an hour or so – before the P-Funk came on stage.  Eventually George Clinton joined them, and we had the promised George Clinton & the Parliament Funkadelic.  Oh – and it was worth it.  I was already intoxicated from approximately a bottle of wine drunk while waiting at Jersey airport – followed by no dinner and Dom pouring wine down my throat (yeah – I’ll blame him) – resulting me in being more than a little light-headed by the end of the night.  But – any way you slice it – it was a very good gig.  The P-Funk started off by themselves, pretty much playing a huge long jam session, showing off each band member’s skill one-by-one – and they were all very very good.  George’s voice kept telling us to get our funk on from somewhere, then somebody came on stage in a tu-tu to great applause, and got everybody to wave their hands – but then they hinted that he was an imposter, and that George was actually somebody else on stage – and I was all very confused.  There were probably 4 people on stage that I thought could possibly be the great man.  But by the end, I’m pretty sure it was all a double-bluff, and the guy in the tu-tu was in fact the real George Clinton.  (Made obvious when he gave one of his crazy spoken-word rants)  At some point he went off for a bit of a sit-down and a rest, while some young folk took over the mic.  At one point he also got his grand-daughter out on stage, while he lit up a joint – genuine, I believe – including giving some audience members a puff or two of the Class C Controlled Substance, as you do.  I guess it’s lucky there is no video evidence.  All in all – a very good gig, with a great show (pack as many crazy people onto a tiny stage), some great crowd interaction, and great music.  I believe everybody there felt the same.  Well done George C & the P-Funk.

[edit] (hungover edit)… oh… books… Snowdrops, by A.D. Miller – another book suggested to me by the man Booker… not quite the same theme of “some guy punched me and so I was the victim who chased him and then got punched but at the end I reveal that maybe I wasn’t really the victim but might be the bad-guy myself after-all” – but pretty close.  More of a slowly doing the same thing.  In a very short book, however – it might as well be.  So yeah, I am now starting every listing of this year’s Man Booker Prize with the expectation that the narrator (they’re all first person as well, what up with dat?) – is going to turn out to be not such a nice person.  But I guess that’s what makes literature – true to life.  I’m struggling to count on my hands the number of people that I know and consider to be genuinely nice people.  But then – I’m an ice-cold cynic.  (And not a ‘nice’ person).

Just because I don’t want to end on that tone – and because I’m very hungover/still-drunk and therefore babbling… I’ll do another book.  I’m currently alternating literature with trash.  My current trash is Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.  And the other night, as I finished one book at a gig – I was tempted to start the next, solely because I was drunk at a gig, and wanted something ‘light’.  But, even in that state, I realised that I shouldn’t.  Because reading two in a row would just make the badness so obvious that I couldn’t (pretend to) ignore it any more.  I think I finished the second-to-last one.  And they are just so self-indulgent.  They started off as “yep, I’m writing something good” – and have rapidly become “yep – I’m writing something good and I am so proud of myself and I want to tell everybody how proud of myself I am – in the storyline”.  The guy writes himself, and the novels, into the storyline – and compares the novels to the Lord of the Rings, for jeebersake.  That’s just not right.  It’s a fine story – sure.  Or… it was.  And he was doing quite well with the invented dialects and what-not.  But as soon as he started his self-back-patting… I only just now realised how much that annoyed me.  So I’m going to leave it at that, before this becomes even more of a hungover rant.  (Work christmas party last night – I think I got a ride home in a rickshaw)