Month: June 2012

Stuck in England

Haven’t found the time to write anything for a while – too busy crossing my fingers waiting for my visa extension to be processed, and my passport returned to me.  Applied on the 30th April – the day my original visa expired.  It was delivered to the authorities the following day.  It then took a little over two weeks for them to open the mail – and send a letter confirming it had been received.  Not a good sign.  A couple of weeks later I got the letter asking me to submit my “biometrics” (fingerprints, photo, signature) – which I thought was a good sign.  But nope.  My flight to Siem Reap leaves in about one hour.  And I’m sat at work – swamped with a dozen different projects which piled up while nobody was sure if I was going on holiday or not – writing this instead.

Anyway – the last month’s worth of gigs and general life:

Doomtree – 14th May.  Justin & I had been looking forward to this one.  They were actually the support act – for some terrible “good ol’ boy from Alabama” rapper.  But it was worth the ticket price to turn up, watch Doomtree for a short 45 minute set, then leave.  Doomtree are good.  If you don’t know them – check it out.  A hip-hop collective – but with a wide range of talents – P.O.S., a punk rocker turned hop-hippist; Dessa, lady-rapper; and a few other emcees & producers who deserve more than this passing reference.

Following night – checked out Flip Grater – a young kiwi lass who’s recently moved to Paris.  Very very small quiet low-key venue/gig – downstairs below a pub around the corner from my place.  But good gig – nice girl, perhaps a little crazy – but in the good way which ensures we get music.  (Good crazy in that she chucks everything in, gets on a plane, and deliberately lives the poor struggling artist lifestyle.  In Paris.  I’d do that if I had just a little more crazy.)  Had a drink and a chat with her at the end of the night.

A couple of nights later – some more hip-hop.  Shabazz Palaces.  It was good – but I was tired, and I nearly walked out about two-thirds of the way through.  But then – just a slightly different view of the stage, and I was revitalised again.  Or maybe I was just bored by the mid-innings slump.  But anyways, a decent gig.  Fans of slightly different hip-hop – give it a listen.  Similar super-deep thumping bass, and vocal style, as Tylah the Creator would have if he grew up, and stopped relying on over-synthesised shock-lyrics and fart-jokes.

The following week was essentially my final week of over-the-top-gig-attendance – before what was to be a week off, then Rough Beats, then three weeks touring potential war zones in South East Asia.  So – the week was a solid combination of over-the-top commercial showmanship, classic understated showmanship, repeat gigs, mediocre gigs.  Starting with Jay-Z & Kanye West.  And I had been suited up for being onsite at a client during the day down in Basingstoke – which dragged on into the evening.  Net result – me rushing straight to the O2 from Waterloo – attending some swagger-rap/hip-hop wearing a suit and carrying my laptop man-bag.  But I bought myself a bottle of red wine, took my seat – amongst several groups of young shrieky girls – and settled in for the show.  And yeah – as you’d expect from two massive egos – it was certainly a show.  Elevating stages with LCD screens on the side – impressive light shows, etc etc.  Good.  A good mixture of Kanye‘s stuffJay-Z‘s stuff (but no Takeover), and stuff from Watch The Throne.

Following night – a bit more low-key, the Temper Trap at Koko.  I don’t think I’d even ever heard these guys before, other than maybe a track or two on the Triple J’s Hottest.  But I recognised the name when I was going through a ticket-buying frenzy, so there I was.  It was alright – the kind of music you can’t really dislike, but nothing I could really get excited about either.  The australian Coldplay, I believe I’ve heard them described as – although perhaps by myself.  (Actually – checking Triple J – they weren’t on the Hottest 100 – so not sure how I heard of them.)

Following night – back to some guaranteed good stuff.  Elvis Costello, at the Royal Albert Hall.  I had bought this ticket, to go by myself – and then had a request to take Pen, at which time I needed to buy two tickets – adjacent seats – so bought two tickets for the following evening.  This first evening I decided to go anyway, to practice for the following.  Which was worthwhile.  Both evenings were good – a fairly unique premise… in that there was not much of a set-list.  It was a return of what I gather was a gimmick he came up with on a tour a while back – for this tour was The Return Of The Spectacular Spinning Songbook.  In essence – the stage was set-up with a few little accessories to resemble a big-top carnival type set-up – including a giant spinning wheel – labelled with various song titles.  And a pretty young lady would go into the crowd, and select random crowd members to come on stage and spin the wheel.  And there was a cage for dancing in.  And a “test your strength” Hammer Of Songs – where if the crowd member could hit it hard enough to ring the bell, they could request any song at all.  And all that sort of thing.  Anyway – first night: a lot more chatter – anecdotes around each song which came up on the wheel.  Such as recording an album on Boxing Day with Nick Lowe and Johnny Cash, but it was crap so they threw it away.  And after admiring some signed album by Johnny Cash – Johnny giving it to him, then later finding out it was actually one of the first gifts from June Carter to Johnny, or vice versa.  And lots of political jokes, digs at Boris Johnson, Rupert Murdoch, David Cameron, the Leveson Inquiry, etc.  And a special guest: introduced as “he just arrived on the 3:10 to Yuma, he may be evil – but confidentially he’s got a beautiful mind,…” (at which point a dreadful suspicion came into my mind) “… he’s the romper stomper of love, …” (at this point I’m hanging my head, shaking it slowly side to side”) “… the master and commander of romance, …” (certainty floods me with dread) “… the rockin’ condirella man, the gladiator of guitar, etc etc”… and sure enough, Russell bloody Crowe walks out on stage.  Wearing a tuxedo, with black bow-tie seemingly casually hanging untied around his neck.  What a prick.  And then he gets to jam with Elvis Costello, at the Royal Albert Hall – doing an Elvis Presley song & a Johnny Cash song – and revelling in it.  What a prick.  But this video of it (fairly rare – as the Hall staff were stopping people from filming when they could) – also has some decent coverage of Elvis by himself afterwards.  And the second night – went with Pen, had dinner at one of the Royal Albert Hall restaurants – then the gig.  It was good seeing it twice, as I could figure how much of the “Spinning Songbook” was actually fixed, and how much improv there really was.  And pleasantly surprised – the whole Spinning Songbook, improv stuff was entirely genuine.  There were components of the gig where he just played a normal set-list – as would be expected for a tour – but all the crowd-interaction stuff was genuinely off the cuff.  And the second night – nearly every spin was a ‘jackpot’ category – meaning he had to play three or four songs.  Which meant a lot less time telling anecdotes/stories about the songs.  A lot of his political commentary was the same jokes, retold, but that’s fair enough.  The real question – would the special guest be Russell bloody Crowe again?  It came time for him to invite out a special guest – and this time – introduced “the UK’s greatest living songwriter and singer…” (at which point I was pretty sure we weren’t going to be seeing “the romper stomper of love”) … “Nick Lowe!”.  Well done Elvis, you certainly improved with your choice of friends.  All in all – a couple of very good gigs.  Some lovely classics, some invigorating classics, some obscure stuff from the Spinning Songbook, some brilliant covers, and some good solid showmanship.  Highly recommended – Elvis Costello’s Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook.

Monday – went to watch/support Jess (I have been corrected…) The Hat and The Cat at an open-mic night.  She was They were on last – after an act who was obviously brought in to provide the “main act” – so not an ideal slot – but she they did rather well.  The engineer apparently failed to record it – so no evidence of the evening, but she they managed to do 5 or 6 songs – a lot more than the previous acts.  One benefit of playing last, I guess – nobody pressuring the engineer to adhere to slot times.

And since then – no gigs.  Just a dozen different projects, sales people, directors, clients, etc – trying to get a slice of my time before I was supposed to be leaving on holiday.  And all of them pressuring me to give a solid answer on whether I was actually going on holiday or not – which I couldn’t do until yesterday.  But now – I’m stuck in the UK, and everybody is after their piece of Kruse.  I think I need to start doing my job poorly.  “Expectation Management”.

Oh – and there was a Jubilee recently.  Extra long weekend – so I hired myself a motorcycle.  Went for a couple of long-ish rides – down to Tonbridge on the Sunday, while the rest of the country was lining the Thames watching some boats go past.  Me – motorbiking out to some random small town, failing to find any decent food, and then biking back in the rain – too tired, cold, and hungry to make sensible decisions like pulling over to put on my waterproof overtrousers.  Tuesday – went out to Whitstable, famous for oysters apparently, so ate some oysters and other seafood – then headed onwards out as eastward as Margate and Ramsgate – then back to London – again in the rain.  This time, I pulled over at a country pub – which just happened to be having a “family friendly Jubilee Day” – and was crammed full of townfolk.  All of whom were white.  And I suddenly had this image of Easy Rider – my being an ‘outsider’, and ‘foreigner’ to boot, in this small insular english village pub.  I gulped down two thirds of a pint, put on my overtrou, and headed out of there before I got thrown in a cell next to Jack Nicholson.  And discovered riding back to London in relatively dry conditions was much preferable to the option of just letting myself become soaked.

And that was the last month.  My flight to Cambodia just took off.  And I’m not at all bitter about not being on it.  And grounded in UK until my visa is processed (or declined).  With the only timeline I have being “95% of applications will be processed within 6 months”.  Awesome.