Lots of bank holidays recently/soon… and I’ve managed to make use of some, not of others.
But first up, recent gigs:
- Augustines (formerly We Are Augustines) – at Koko. I can’t figure out if these guys are a guilty pleasure, or genuinely good. But in any case – another good gig. They just seem so stoked to be playing. Mandatory encore, acoustic song from balcony, excursion into crowd, cover of a ‘local’/semi-topical band/song. Overall, good. I’m going to take some of their optimism, and rescind my earlier predictions that they would become more and more annoyingly earnest.
- John Butler Trio – at Brixton Academy. Good. Except, as soon as I reached the venue, I remembered… “there are going to be a lot of australians here”… and sure enough, the sheer volume of cheap shiny faux-leather, leopard-skin prints, and just general loudness – spectacular. Although I started wondering, how different was this from a Black Seeds gig – with the “young-kiwi-in-london” crowd? After some amateur postulation over mini-bottle after mini-bottle of Black Tower, I decided it boils down to aussies being full of self-confident naivete, while kiwis are self-aware naivete… or perhaps self-conscious naivete… can’t decide. Anyway – John Butler Trio… good. Very good, really enjoyed the gig. Plenty of energetic songs done by the Trio, a few more extended classic John Butler solo efforts. And, of course, some preachin’.
- Devendra Banhart – at the Barbican. Actually, Devendra was the 1st act, main act was Rokia Traoré – and the show was the kickoff event for Nonesuch Records 50-year celebrations at the Barbican. I’m considering grabbing tickets for more events. But the one I did go to so far – it was obvious a very large proportion of the crowd was solely there to see Devendra Banhart – even though he was doing this solo/acoustic. And as such, had nobody to rein in his completely random ramblings when he did start speaking between songs. Or give him direction when he foolishly opened the floor for the crowd to start requesting songs. But – when he did play, it was rather good. I stayed around to check out Rokia Traore – and was glad I did. Really good – I can’t find any videos of that particular gig, but one from recently, which looks rather similar.. or a video of a full concert from last year, which again looks very similar, excepting the setting – including when she really gets going at about the hour mark. What is it about Mali, that generates so many spectacular musicians?
- Nick Lowe – at the Union Chapel. Always going to be good, and it was. It was just last night, so no videos available on the youtube yet, but – rest assured, good. About half the show, just him and his guitar. Then for the second half, he had John Paul Jones (as in, Led Zeppelin) playing bass.
- Easter, meandered towards Wales, spent two days just criss-crossing every National Park I could find… the Black Mountains… awesome. One amazing road, and several other just really really good ones. The main danger, being nervous sheep – there were a couple which looked like they were going to jump right in my path, but luckily – no such thing happened. Then on the Monday, meandered my way back towards London, picking random B-roads, ofttimes finding that I’d gone in a circle, or was heading away from London. But all good… until a pheasant hit me. Or rather, I should say, I hit a pheasant… at 70 mph. Right in the centre of the chest, which was probably quite lucky – if it had hit an arm, handlebar, I’m guessing I could quite easily have dropped handlebar, and/or even swerved quite wildly. But – nope, just a good solid kick to the chest, and the head must have hit my helmet – as I certainly took a little blow to the helmet/head somehow. But, I stayed on, and stayed going… once I’d checked I was still in a straight line, and head was straight too… checked I wasn’t holding a dazed bird in my lap – but no such luck. And with white-line-fever, I didn’t bother going back to see if it was dazed or dead on the road. Regret that now… somebody told me that it was illegal to ‘claim’ roadkill if you were the driver… but I believe that isn’t actually true. In any case, probably would have been quite tricky hanging a pheasant in my apartment.
- Last weekend – headed south. Criss-crossed the South Downs national park several times, before finding a hotel at Bognor Regis to stay the night. Turns out that the hotel was your stereotypical colonial-times hotel, with all the sorts of practices one reads about in Agatha Christie novels. Designed for tour groups. Dinner at a certain time, with your choice of meal made at breakfast. A ballroom, the Garden Room, big lawns, bar open at very specific times, etc etc. And the town – a typical “British seaside resort” town. Pier, ‘amusement centres’, cheap restaurants, bad fish and chips, bad beach, rental deckchairs, and then Butlins… I’d never seen a Butlins, or similar, before – and even now – I just rode past it. But it, and several other neighbouring similar entities – is apparently a ‘holiday camp’. I think it’s just a hotel, and some sort of ‘so-called-fun park’ rolled into one? I don’t really get it… it’s like they’ve found a place where it would be good to have a holiday, like the seaside… and then built this big complex there, designed such that you would never actually go visit/see/experience the reason for the location being a good holiday destination. I just don’t get it.
Anyway – next day, got up – keen to leave this place in my rearview mirror… discovered I didn’t have a clutch. Realised this was most likely to my clutch fluid being effectively empty… couldn’t get the plate off to refill, neither could AA guy… settled in for a long van ride back to London – but recovery guy suggested he have a go, did so – got it off, sweet – refilled – I was off on my way. Found myself in the Cotswald Water Park… and once again, I found myself confused. Similar to Bognor Regis – it seemed like just dozens and dozens of ‘holiday camps’, based around, and encroaching on, a similar number of bad lakes… bad in that I couldn’t tell if they were natural, but ruined by the man-made nonsense going on around them… or artificial – and therefore just inherently bad, as man-made attempts at water features normally are. Happy Land. At one point, I discovered the tiny dirty country lane I was riding on, about to leave – was called “Happy Land”. Not “Happy Land Lane”, or “Happy Land Row”, or “Happy Land Road”… just “Happy Land”. Happy Land smelt quite a lot of the cowshit it was covered in. After a day of randomly riding in circles, including through Avebury (home to Europe’s largest neolithic stone circle) several times, found a very nice road from Marlborough-Avebury… I need to remember and revisit… nice corners, hills, a big white horse on the hill, neolithic stones… everything – settled into a hotel in Marlborough… where it seems some family reunion or similar was in progress, with parents very drunk, and unsupervised children running around the hotel/pub – and it seems that at one point a food fight had taken place (parents or children – unknown).
Monday – more meandering, before finally joining the A40, and making my way into the heart of London. When, just as I am in the right-hand lane of what is effectively, if not officially, a motorway – heading up an overpass… my rear tyre goes. Flat/burst/punctured – whatever… I’m in the middle of very very busy traffic, all impatiently driving home after the long weekend. I pull over to the right of the right hand lane… hazard lights on… trying to make myself the smallest target/nuisance as possible… pull out the phone to dial somebody, anybody – maybe police? – just about to dial… phone switches itself off, no battery. Awesome. But, as it happens – I was right next to a police headquarters – they must have spotted me – sent a truck, which blocked traffic – I pushed my bike off the motorway to a nearby side-street, called roadside assistance from a payphone, and sat down to wait 2 hours to be picked up.
- This weekend – picked up the bike, after having both tyres replaced, full service, MOT. Should be safe again now – and I’m pretty sure the clutch fluid, and rear tyre going – were both my own fault… I hadn’t checked clutch fluid for a long time… and rear tyre, I had noticed was getting a little bald… just didn’t realise how bad it actually was. In the future – much more diligent. So, bike is as good as new now… rode it into town, did some shopping – mostly ridiculously overpriced clothing/accessories. Then remembered that ridiculously overpriced places love to package their stuff in ridiculously over-sized packaging. So, ended up riding home with a big luxury brand name shopping bag hanging from one handlebar, my mochila/backpack crammed full of other stuff – during a period when it seemed the rain had stopped (which it did, mostly)
So – sitting here now, with post-shopping regret… nearly every ridiculously over-priced item purchased was wrong for one reason or another. Still, it was a nice day out. Now – off to do more shopping, but today – cheap stuff, food, anything which will assist me in using up all the tinned foods I bought 2 years ago, as “ingredients for emergency meals” – but which I have never used, and will apparently expire next month. I see some uninteresting meal options between now and flying to NZ.