[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Leaving On A Jet Plane, Don't Know HOw To Say 'Jet Plane' In Swedish
Myself and the Canals In My Stockholm are off to SWEDEN tomorrow to play at the Cosy Den 5th Anniversary festival, and then to have a good old luck round the capital city. I've never been to Sweden before, it's quite a) exciting b) NERVE WRACKING!
In the meantime, here are the main points of the news:
I'm back from Indietracks - physically at least. I feel i may be there MENTALLY for a good while to come, for LO! It was AMAAAAAAAAAZING!
I'll try and keep this short, but there were a LOT of highlights. I met The Understudies at Alfreton Station and shared a taxi to the Travelodge with them, where I INSTANTLY thought "Aah, staying in a hotel is a GRATE idea!" I tried to get to the site in time for Rocky Nest and thought I'd MANAGED it... except my train went tootling happily past Swanwick Junction to go to the other end of the tracks and come back again. It was a lovely voyage, but a shame to miss them!
I was due on the Merchandinsing Table at 3pm - it was the first shift so I was expecting it to be quiet, but we got MOBBED. HUNDREDS of pounds of CA$H were thrust at us, especially by a Spanish Contingent who bought EVERYTHING. I staggered away at the end of it EXHAUSTED!
I then, however, went on to miss pretty much EVERY OTHER BAND, instead spending the day hugging people. This happened a LOT! The GRATEST thing about indietracks is that nearly EVERYBODY i know from ROCK is there waiting to be pounced upon, it was absolutely LOVELY. On many occasions I'd nip to the tram shed to get a beer before a band started, would meet two or three different bunches of people on the way, some more at the bar, then stop and chat to a couple MORE on the way out, realise I'd finished my pint while doing so and then turn round and do it all over again!
The only band i DID manage to see on Saturday were Camera Obscura, who were FAB, and then I heard La Casa Azul from the CAR BAR with Team Sheffield. Then there was meant to be some DANCING but, again, I ended up talking to various people before it was time to be DRAGGED onto the train and head home.
I woke up next morning with a SPLITTING headache - I'd been drinking the CASK ALES all day which was very nice but DID give me a proper Beer Festival Hangover. I was thus RELIEVED that The Understudies were on in the Church, as it meant I could have a bit of a sit down.
I then staggered about a bit feeling AWFUL, whilst worrying about my gig - I was playing on the train, and was wobbling between worrying about nobody coming (The School were on the main stage!) and it being FULL. Astoundingly it was VERY MUCH the latter, there was actual REAL LIFE PANIC on the Platform as it looked like not everyone would get in - i had to fight my OWN way in, and spent the next 45 minutes with the audience MERE INCHES from my sweating face.
It was BLOODY GRATE tho - Mr J Walsh held my setlist for me whilst BOOTLEGGING the gig, and there was MUCH singing along. I was amazed to see that I didn't actually KNOW huge sections of the audience - there were all these NEW people there, i hope they hadn't got on expecting the Manhattan Love Suicides or anything!
It was VERY VERY VERY VERY HOT INDEED throughout the journey, including a lengthy stop STALLED in a field, but nobody seemed to mind too much and I think it actually SWEATED OUT most of my hangover. Here's what i played:
It was DELIGHTFUL, and I got off the train VERY happy and VERY sweaty!
The rest of the day DID involve me managing to see bands - half each of Lucky Soul and Smittens (both GRATE), Pocketbooks being IMMENSE and LOVED, the end of BMX Bandits, but NOT The Pete Green Corporate Juggernaut. There was a HUGE queue of people trying to get into the church to see them, in the RAIN! It was ASTOUNDING, and my disappointment at not getting in was tempered somewhat by knowing SO many people wanted to see them.
And then it was time for Art Brut, who didn't just do the best gig of the weekend but also one of the BEST GIGS i have EVER seen. They were INCREDIBLE! It was like someone had dropped a STADIUM ROCK BAND into the middle of it all - they commenced the set at SUPERSONIC SPEED and just kept going, and everyone LOVED them. At one point Eddie walked into the crowd to do "DC Comics Makes Me Want To Rock Out" (not a typing error, re-written song!) and everyone just went MENTAL. The whole tram shed was POGO-ING!
It would have been my favourite gig ANYWAY, but then there was... well, something so DERANGEDLY ODD that I find it hard to think about too much, but basically Mr Argos dedicated "Slapdash For No Cash" to ME and went on about wanting to get here in time for the train gig. AT SOME LENGTH. I'd like to pretend I was embarrassed, but i LOVED it! HOORAH!
Then it was HO! for the main stage (featuring many people shouting "MJ Hibbett! Top Of The Pops!" at me: again, a better person than I would be modestly embarrassed, I however COULD NOT HAVE BEEN MORE PLEASED!) to see Teenage Fanclub, who seemed a little TAME after the ROCK HISTRIONICS of Art Brut. But then, so would anybody, and once that thought had been turned down they were just brilliant, the perfect way to end the festival. And the new stuff sounded GRATE too!
All that was left to do was to stagger round doing some more chatting before it was time for the train again and home. It was an utterly utterly FANTASTIC weekend!
I think I'm beginning to get the hang of this GIGGING thing now - this one was PEASY!
I got to St Pancras SO efficiently i got an EARLIER train, and was met from the train by The Span Of My Bridge who had travelled up in ADVANCE. We strolled to the Ibis which really IS just five minutes (EXACTLY) from the train PLATFORM, and I was pleased to find that, as ever, they had given me my usual room (STILL an hilarious GAG! STILL!). I had a quick shower and NIPPED off to The Firebug where I met Mr Twesta and The Crookes, who seem like nice young men but TERRIFYINGLY YOUNG. I said hello to the soundman, and we agreed that I didn't really need a soundcheck - years ago, when soundmen would say I'd only need a linecheck i would be UPSET and INSIST that I needed one in order to make the point that, just because there is only one of me i STILL require the RESPECT afforded to full bands. Nowadays I realise that a) i can command said respect simply by ROCKING IMMENSELY HARD and b) if i DON'T have to hang around waiting for a soundcheck I can go to the PUB.
THUS I soon found myself enjoying a Cheeky Half in The Criterion (Oakham Ales IPA - tastes TANGY like all their beer, but very tasty) before hotfooting it round to ASK to meet The Chillis In My Arrabiata and THE TIGER for some tea. It was LOVELY, so we were a pleasantly fulled trio by the time we got back to The Firebug just in time to watch The Crookes, have some BEER, say hello to the many various lovely people who'd turned out, and then to go onstage and do THIS:
I had a THOROUGHLY EXCELLENT time. Things started well when i said "WHOO! HELLO EVERYBODY!" and got the typical Leicester response of a few mumbles and someone eventually saying "... hiya." LEICESTER! One of the [MANY] things I love about my adopted hometown is that people DO NOT MAKE A FUSS - this extends to ALL aspects of life and can seem a little FLAT if you're not used to it in a GIG ENVIRONMENT. OH, that London Bands I have seen play in Leicester and be DESTROYED by the lack of RIDICULOUS OVER-EXCITEMENT they were used to! I think it's GRATE tho, it means when people DO clap then they actually MEAN it, also LARF and CHEER etc etc.
It DOESN'T, however, mean that people will JOIN IN very willingly, so I changed the set accordingly from the pre-Indietracks MASS SINGALONG I was planning to slightly LESS interactibe and, as I say, had a LOVELY time. It was GRATE to be playing a solo gig in Leicester after AGES not doing so and ESPECIALLY GRATE to NOT be singing an entire set of songs about DINOSAURS. I did a couple of Dinosaur Planet songs tho, and was pleased to get a couple of WHOOPS for 'A Little Bit' when introduced as being about Academic Research. HECK YES!
So yeah, GRATE stuff, and afterwards I got to reassure SEVERAL people that I really wasn't joking about having written a Science Fiction Rock Opera about DINOSAURS: I had brought some flyers with me just to completely SEAL the DEAL. There was also some BEER, some LARFS, a demonstration by The Tiger of where to find the SECRET NICE BOURBON behind the bar and MUCH hugging. Ideal for an Indietracks warm-up, and good times all round!
The glamorous WHIRL-I-GIG of this week continued last night as myself and The Light In My Light That Never Goes Out headed down to the other end of the Victoria Line to see Morrissey.
On the way in to the venue the "security" guy asked me if I had any chewing gum in my pocket. I thought I must have mis-heard him, and he looked VERY displeased when he had to MUMBLE his question REPEATEDLY until I was sure that IS what he'd asked. I must have looked like a Comedy Deaf Uncle saying "Eh? CHEWING gum young man?". The Nice Door Man said it's because they have trouble with it sticking to the carpets. Ah!
Apart from that kerfuffle The Brixton Academy proved itself once again to be very much the NICEST of London's Medium Sized Venues [i.e. the ones that are like old theatres]. This isn't exactly hard, as most of the rest of them are utter utter shitholes designed to DRAIN the HUMANITY of all within through a constant drip drip drip of RIP-OFFS, but it's genuinely Fairly Pleasant. There's plenty of loos that are easy to get to, plenty of bar staff, and you can actually SEE from most parts of the venue.
We were upstairs this time and so were able to RELAX with our beers while the fairly ROTTEN support band were on. I'm told by RELIABLE SOURCES that they are a band formed at a STAGE SCHOOL and GOLLY but you could tell - dour, pointless but inexplicably excitable songs based on a single riff with repeated HISTRIONIC SCREECHING over the top played by three DULL yet PROFESSONAL AND COMPETENT Musicians Who Like The 'M' Capitalised, fronted by Singing Girl who had very very clearly done several MODULES in stage craft. There were heads held back, I'm Krazy Me SKIPS across the stage and - HOORAH - the Old Classic, Pretending To Be Sexy With The Guitarist. Whoo!
They were followed by a Variety Of Short Films Of The Very Obvious Morrissey Variety - Johnny Ray (i think it was Johnny Ray anyway), some Music Hall, and of course The New York Dolls. I think Stephen Patrick and I will have to disagree ont matter of The New York Dolls.
And then the lights dimmed and CHRISSIE HYNDE came on and introduced him! GOLLY! There was a couple of minutes of AMBIENT SOUNDS and the man himself came onstage for a MIGHTY version of "This Charming Man"!!! It was AMAAAAAAZING! He was in fine fettle from the start, his singing was FANTASTIC and the band sounded LOUD, also CHUNKY. I know people complain that they lose some of the DELICACY and FINESSE of The Smiths, and while that's true they are not ACTUALLY The Smiths and sound GRATE when playing live.
There then followed 40 minutes of HIT after HIT after HIT, it was amazing - "Throwing My Arms Around Paris", "Ask", "Something Is Squeezing My Skull", "SOME GIRLS ARE BIGGER THAN OTHERS!!!", "Irish Blood English Heart", "How Soon Is Now" and many MANY more. BRILLIANT! There was a bit of a LULL just after that, only because he did some songs I was less familiar with, and also because he did his Rant About The Media. "How many Music Magazines have come to review us? NONE." he said. Well, Morrissey, maybe they'd booked their tickets for when these shows were SUPPOSED to happen, and couldn't make it to the rescheduled dates? It seemed a bit odd that he was so bothered about it - and it'd been in LOADS of the papers, ALL saying how GRATE he was.
And GRATE he very VERY much was - Indeed, ROCKING - and when he came out for the encore of "The Last Of The Gang To Die" (it's BRILLIANT that The Big HIT he saved to last is so recent) the entire BALCONY was up and DANCING. OK, dancing in a very much INDIE DAD sort of way, but still. He was FAB!
Dinosaur Planet: THE LAUNCH
I spent yesterday being UNUSUALLY NERVOUS, like when i first commenced on the rocky road of ROCK. Back then EVERY gig LOOMED in my imagination as a thing of FEAR for WEEKS before it happened and ANALYSED for DAYS afterwards. Now, however, I am a SEASONED PRO and hardly EVER get the heebie-jeebies, ROCKING AND ROLLING from one gig to the next without a care in the world... except for THIS time. This time I was all of a quiver with excitement, REALLY looking forward to THRUSTING Dinosaur Planet on an UNKNOWING WORLD.
This may explain why I arrived at The Wilmington so uncommonly early - 5.20pm. The tech spec said load-in time was from 4.30pm and even though there wasn't really any loading to DO i thought that, as promoter, I should make the extra effort. I thus ended up sitting quietly folding flyers trying NOT to drink too much for about an hour, before it was soundcheck time. My co-headliner Mr Chris T-T had rung to say he'd been DELAYED, so me and Benjy The Soundman set about getting the PIANO set up in preparation. "Shall I just play something?" i said AIRILY but I have to admit that i don't think my THUNK-A-THUNK-A-PLINK-PLONK style of "playing" was much help.
Still, we were soon DONE and after a visit to a HOUSE OF FALAFEL (where my falafel came mysteriously GARNISHED with 5 lonesome chips) I settled into the CHAT bit of the evening, where I stood around gabbing with many of the many and various delightful people who'd turned up. Chris himself arrived in good time, did his soundcheck, and it was suddenly time to open the doors and see if anyone was coming in.
THEY WERE - the room had been set out in The Cabaret Style (SIDEBAR: for a venue which is supposed to be All Trendy and Hip, the people there are surprisingly nice - everyone was very helpful, the CHARGE was extremely reasonable, and there was even NICE BEER! Amazing!) so it looked very FULL when Chris took to the stage. He too had been extremely and unusually nervous about the evening and, to be honest, he had even more reason than me for being so, for LO! He was performing an IMPROVISED PIANO RECITAL. I mean, I was nervous MYSELF about it - was he really going to sit at the piano for 40 minutes and just play whatever came into his head? And if so, could he possibly get away with it?
Yes he was and YES HE REALLY DID - it was GRATE! It was all TUNES and THEMES - THEMES! - and BITS and build-up and all sorts. I was amazed - this was dead good! He even got LARFS in a couple of places, which has to be a mark of GENIUS, and didn't mind when OAFS shouted out requests for "C!"... whoever that was. At the end of the forty minutes he did a mini-set of REQUESTS, including "Giraffes" (requested by The Notes In My Tune from the front) and "Seven Hearts" (requested by ME!). HOORAH!
My collegaue Mr Hewitt took to the stage to announce THE BREAK and then, BANG on time I went on and did THE SHOW. This time i REMAINED plugged into the PA system, and using a microphone made it feel quite a bit different, more like stand-up than Telling A Story. Also not really being able to SEE the audience seemed to make it easier to get LARFS because there were quite a few, it was GRATE! I had a FANTASTIC time doing it, there were BOOS and CHEERS and AUDIBLE GASPS in the correct places and everybody seemed to really get into the story. I tried some extra GAGS, some of which worked and some of which didn't, and did a bit of extra SHOWING OFF which pushed it to a massive 56 minutes - but 56 minutes of, for me at least, HUGE FUN and EXCITEMENT.
Afterwards everybody seemed to have enjoyed themselves, and I was especially pleased that Mr T-T said that the ending was "moving" - I was a bit worried when writing it that it might be JUST a bit silly, so did hope that the Vague Point of it might get across (i.e. apart from how GRATE it would be if DINOSAURS invaded) and it's nice to think that that might be working. There was much HUGGING afterwards and even some HIGH FIVES! HECK YES!
And now I'm sat at my desk with that briliant AFTERGLOW of a gig well done, thinking "Can't I just do THIS all the time instead?" Come on, Broadway Musical Millionaires, INVEST!
Mercury Prize: MOANING FRANCHISE SCHEME
So, they've announced the Mercury Prize shortlist today and we're not on it.
I KNOW. I AM AS SHOCKED AS ANYBODY
This does however leave me in something of a privileged position: every year when The Mercury Prize shortlist is announced ALL BANDS EVERYWHERE have a REALLY GOOD OLD MOAN about it, complaining, in a round about way, that they're not on it. The RESPONSE to this is quick and sensible: did you ENTER, eh? Did you? And of course, bands being bands the answer is generally "Eh? you have to enter? What? I am in band and therefore to hopelessly feckless to do that!" and thus they must legally CEASE and DESIST their whingeing.
The same thing probably applies to anybody else - you cannot moan about The Mercury Prize unless you have actually ENTERED. Well, i HAVE entered BUT have decided NOT to complain about it* but rather to FRANCHISE OUT the MOANING RIGHTS to anybody who would like them.
The terms are quite simple: the next TWENTY people who buy a copy of our album, The Mercury Prize Contender (do you think I can get away with that? It is at least FACTUALLY CORRECT) Regardez, Ecoutez Et Repetez direct from the website, will be LEGALLY ENTITLED to moan about it as much as they like. It'll take 20 sales to get back the money I spent entering, so I think that's fair enough, don't you?
So, come one come all - the shop is open, buy your moaning rights NOW!
* the only one I've actually got off the list is the Glasvegas album... which is shit, but I knew that was a possibility before I bought it.
Myself and The Laughs On My Laugh Track headed OUT WEST last night, as we went to BBC Television Centre to see if we could get in to see the filming of Miranda Hart's new sitcom. We'd applied for and GOT tickets a few weeks ago, but previous experience of this sort of thing told us that GETTING tickets doesn't necessarily mean you get in.
We arrived to find a BIG queue but as BBC Staff kept walking along COUNTING, and going far past us down the line without saying anything, we assumed that meant we'd get in without problems. However, JUST as we got to the front of the queue and inside the entrance lobby (to the car park, not the building itself!) the queue was HALTED. Apparently they were FULL, and only letting in another 20 people on stand-by. The poor people who'd queued nearly as long as us just outside had to go all the way home again!
We went into the BBC Audience Foyer, a sort of CANTEEN to wait in where they played APPALLINGLY BAD MUSIC at high volume. "No Limit", "Ooh Aah Just A Little Bit", THAT sort of thing. It DID include "Boom Shake The Room" for a singalong, but even THAT didn't make up for the terribly bombardment of TERROR we were subjected to. WHY, The BBC, WHY?
They collected the ACCEPTED ticket holders while we 20 stand-by people lurked around listening to terrible music for 15 minutes, before being told we could ALL go in. HOORAH! We TROOPED in and were led to seats that had been kept spare for any PALS of the production to use... which were thus The Best Seats In The House! I felt a LITTLE guilty, but not much.
And then we were into the recording - it was VERY interesting. All right, what I'm about to say may not be interesting if you've EVER been to see a TV show recording yourself, or know somebody that has and goes ON about it, for LO! everyone probably says the same things: it was really really tiny. There were big gaps between scenes. They did re-takes of pretty much everything. There was a warm-up guy.
He was actually pretty good - Ray Peacock his name was, and he basically kept us JOLLY throughout. He did the stuff comedians normally do BETWEEN the jokes mostly, all the "where are you from" stuff that is a pain in the neck when that's ALL they do but which worked pretty well in this ENVIRON, as he kept having to stop at a moment's notice when the next scene started up.
We were sat quite a long way from where the actual ACTING was going on - there were three different SETS all RIGHT next to each other, and between us and them were loads of cameras and sound machines, so we ended up watching the whole thing on GIANT TELLYS suspended above us. It was strange, especially when we watched bits pre-filmed on the same set that WEREN'T happening in front of us.
The show itself was really funny - I don't know if it will be when shown on telly, but it certainly felt that way whilst we were watching it. I've always wondered why the audiences on TV Laugh Tracks seem to GUFFAW and HOOT with laughter at even the slightest thing, but I now know - it's because they want to be HELPFUL. Right from the start we were told we were PART of the proceedings, so we LAUGHED even at bits that weren't that funny at the start, until after a while EVERYTHING was HILARIOUS!
Also Miranda Hart herself, as herself and as the character, was VERY funny and also extremely likeable. This DID make most of the other characters seem a bit unpleasant, but she was GRATE, especially in the bits where she talked directly to camera. She was HILARIOUS.
As I say, it was all very interesting, especially when the comedian pointed out that the Jokeshop Set contained THE ACTUAL TOYS FROM PLAYSCHOOL and also THE CLOWN FROM THE TESTCARD!!! GOSH! I found, and still find, that one of the most exciting things of ALL!
It took AGES to film - we got there at 6.15pm, started filming at 7.30pm and it was gone 10 o'clock when we finally got out - but it was all well worth it. As well as being a FUN EVENING we also got to walk through the BBC Buildings, past the fountain where Roy Castle broke all those records and, on the way out, have a WEE in the toilets Jools Holland walks past at the start of his show. Who could ask for more GLAMOUR?
I headed off to Nottingham last night for the second Dinosaur Planet preview. I got myself booked into the Ibis - AMUSING MYSELF as usual by doing the "Oh! My usual room!" GAG when I went in - and then strode round to Lee Rosy's where not much was going on. AS SUSPECTED everyone was over the road in the PUB, where I had a DODGY pint of Pedigree then a significantly nicer half of Black Sheep. I don't think I've ever tried it before, despite The Tiger wearing their t-shirts at most gigs, but it was very nice INDEED.
Back over the road I had a cup of coffee and managed to GRAB three or four people who'd come in looking for the show - we were playing downstairs this time, so it wasn't immediately obvious it was actually going to occurr... apart from the man saying "YES! It is ME! DON'T GO AWAY!"
Downstairs I got set up and watched a HEALTHY STREAM of people file downstairs to pay their money, take a BADGE (they arrived yesterday, they are GRATE) and sit themselves down - I was quite impressed by the turnout, about 25 people I reckon!
The show itself went pretty well I think. I started off using the PA, thinking it'd be good practice for next Tuesday when I'll have to use one, but it was such a small room that it felt DAFT. The smallness of the room, and lack of ventilation, meant that it also got EXTREMELY hot in there - man alive, I was sweating like I used to when I was Significantly Heftier than I am now! It all seemed to go pretty well tho - many people were sat with a look familiar from last time, combining slight UNEASE that I could SEE them, but also a sort of RELIEVED SURPRISE that it wasn't a load of old rubbish and, indeed, seemed to WORK.
I know exactly how that feels! I still apparently did the thing of mixing WORDS up, which I'll have to keep an eye on, but otherwise it all seemed to go well, especially "Fighting For The Fate Of The Earth", now with added "WHOA-OH-OH!" throughout.
When it was all over, and with clean t-shirt put on, I joined everyone over the road for a bit of an old chat and a couple of beers, before we bid our farewells, pledging to meet again in just over a week at Indietracks. Indietracks is only a WEEK away! ZANG!
The Misunderstood ARTISTE
My DAILY GOOGLING uncovered a new review today, at The Beat Surrender, which presents me with FEAR.
Basically it says that the album's SNEERY and PRETENTIOUS - which is a bit upsetting as that's pretty much the EXACT OPPOSITE of what I was setting out to do but, WORSE STILL, I can sort of see why he'd think that. It's something that does happen occasionally (and sometimes with DISASTEROUS RESULTS) when someone reads something i have said/sung/written in a SARCASTIC VOICE. For instance, if i type "That's GRATE!" i mean... well, that it's GRATE, but people in the past have been know to take the capitalisation/spelling to mean something more like, "Oh well, that's just great."
Italics: the international denotation of sarcasm.
A recurring example of this is Do The Indie Kid, which is meant to be a JOLLY CELEBRATION of the kind of dance that, well, that _I_ do, yet some people think it's a piss-take or SLAGGING OFF. I guess it IS kind of a piss-take, but it's mocking MYSELF - I thought that the fact that it's always ME demonstrating how to do the dance, to French people/my parents/The Kids of THE FUTURE, would indicate that, even without seeing my MEGA SKILLZ at this particularly dance in the video, but obviously not.
Normally I wouldn't mind, but it's upsetting in this case because what he has to SAY about songs being sneery and pretentious is EXACTLY the same as what I think, and if it was anybody else being told off in such a way I would be NODDING ENTHUSIASTICALLY. THUS I have done a COMMENT on the bottom to try and explain myself - I know this is very much Not The Done Thing, but I feel bad that someone who is obviously CORRECT in his outlook has thought us to not be so.
Clearly I was asking for trouble giving the album a FRENCH NAME tho - is ANYBODY old enough to remember the French Tapes (CASSETTES, The Kids, CASSETTES!) when that was the constant refrain?
Hey There Emo Boy!
GOOGLING for reviews is always a DELIGHT, especially when you come across a GEM like this one at Die Shellsuit Die. It sounds rather like the Grumpy Slightly Self-Obsessed Emo Boy who was reviewing it got as far as Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid and was too OVERCOME WITH DESPAIR AT THE UNIVERSE to continue... but thank GOODNESS he did! My favourite bit is when he says, apparently without irony, "Itís far too jovial and good natured to break my current mood." Which, we can only assume, is BLACK AS NIGHT.
He then goes on to say "This record does nothing for me. I have really tried. Had it for some time. Nothing. My insides are dead to it." BLESS! I must say I am surprised tho - you'd think listening to a recording of people old enough to be his parents singing "HEY THERE EMO BOY GIVE US ALL A SMILE" would have cheered him RIGHT up, wouldn't you?
There's been a bit of STRIFE in my locality over the last few months - a general RACKET out the front AND round the back, some STABBINGS, someone attacked with ACID, and the other week a full-on POLICE RAID (featuring BATONS and SHIELDS and a HELICOPTER! WHOO!) just over the road - so when we got a letter through the door asking if we'd be interested in setting up a Neighbourhood Watch scheme i thought "YES!"
Well, actually I thought "If I don't at least go along to the meeting then, in future, when I have a GOOD OLD MOAN people will be fully justified in saying 'why didn't you DO something about it then eh?' Going to a meeting seems to be the bare minimum required to enable me to continue having a GOOD OLD MOAN." Which is pretty much the same thing.
SO, The Landlady and I set off last night for our local community centre, where we were pleased to find we weren't the ONLY ones who wanted a bit of a moan - it was actually really rather nice to a) say hello to our neighbours and b) discover that it wasn't JUST us who were getting a bit fed up with it all. Really, if it had been a GOOD OLD MOAN session that would have been enough.
But that wasn't all it was, for LO! they had sent members of our Safer Neighbourhood Police Team down to meet us. You know when TV shows want to MOCK the police, and cast somewhat overweight actors who look like they are LOST without a beefburger in their hand? IT WAS HIM. "To reassure you", he said, "the acid attack wasn't gang related, it was probably completely random." THAT'S VERY REASSURING, THANKS!!
It really wasn't very impressive - I mean, I don't want to be unpleasant, but they weren't exactly CSI. "No-one has ever used acid in an attack locally before", he said. "Yes they have, there was one six months ago", replied A Concerned Resident. "If you need any help at all we're open from 10am to 10pm... usually." Thank goodness there's never any CRIME after 10pm eh? "We believe this attack was between members of the same ethnic group." "But none of the attackers were the same ethnicity as the person mugged, were they?"
It was all a bit like that really, and after a while it seemed a bit CRUEL to expect them to, well, MANAGE TO DO ANYTHING. They looked like they might CRY and need a HOTDOG to cheer them up. We were also told that we could HELP the police by ringing their different teams to give them information... although they hadn't bought enough sheets with them to let us HAVE THE PHONE NUMBERS.
Still, it was GRATE to actually SPEAK to the neighbours and i think we ARE going to try and get involved, especially if it means we can have a PROPER MOAN without anyone trying to stop us with "reassurances". I was a BIT disappointed that they didn't immediately issue us with TAZER GUNS or anything, but I AM holding out for a BADGE!
The Dress Rehearsal
And so a small ragged band of us gathered upstairs at The Lamb for the first proper public performance of Dinosaur Planet in its entirety. I was a little bit nervous about it but also quite EXCITED - it's been bubbling around in the background of my head for a year and very much in the FOREGROUND for at least a QUARTER of that time too. I was looking forward to TELLING the story to people!
I'd not PLUGGED it too hugely ("No facebook group!" as Mr J Kell pointed out, surely the very EPITOME of Not Plugging It Too Hugely) because a) I was expecting it to be a bit ramshackle with ERRORS and things that needed changing and b) I didn't want to distract attention to the Proper Press Launch the week after next. I was thus surprised (i.e. PLEASED) to find quite a few people turning up, not least a Mr P Baker of Arizona, USA, who HADN'T actually come all the way over the Atlantic JUST for the occasion (he claimed, anyway) but HAD made the big effort to get over and see the show. I hope it was worth the effort sir!
Almost EXACTLY on time I started the show... and it actually went pretty well. Much to my astonishment I do actually appear to have LEARNED most of the words, both to the songs and the bits in between, and apart from some confusion about the words "Dinosaur" and *ANOTHER WORD* (SPOILERS!) which crops up quite a bit in the second half, I think I got it all pretty much CORRECT. I was a little thrown by people not CLAPPING after the first song - easily corrected by me saying "Please CLAP", NOTHING if not SUBTLE - but otherwise THOROUGHLY enjoyed myself, which is probably why it expanded from its usual running time of 47-48 minutes to 54. If it's 54 minutes long when I'm showing off as much as I was doing last night, then I think we're going to be FINE to fit it into the hour long slot in future!
I had a GRATE time, I think everyone else enjoyed it too and I was ESPECIALLY delighted to find that, when asked "Did you understand the story? Did you get the link between *SPOILER* and *SPOILER*?" people said "OH YES!" Maybe they just wanted to stop me explaining it ALL OVER AGAIN, but it was a relief to find out it made some kind of sense.
It was also a little bit of an anti-climax - I was expecting REAMS of NOTES to make changes, but the only problems seemed to be me mixing up EAST and WEST (it's confusing!) and that thing with "Dinosaurs" and the other word. Otherwise, I think we've got ourselves a show! PHEW!
As the excitement builds - INTERNATIONALLY - for Dinosaur Planet (and thanks TONS everybody who's been PROPAGATING the trailer, it's much appreciated) a young man's thoughts turn to MERCHANDISE!
Or, to be blunt: BADGES!
They're rather nice, i think - especially the one on the left. I'm going to get them sent off for MAKING in the next few days, hopefully alongside the FLYERS. OH THE FLYERS! They've taken a LOT of DESIGN WORK, but i _think_ we're just about there with them now... I shall save the INSANE THRILLPOWER of THOSE, however, for another time!
THRILLS OF THE FUTURE! Watch The Skies, Earthlest! And so forth!
I had a bit of a SPLURGE on Amazon last week. I've been building up my WISH LIST for a month or to in order to give my faaamily a nice long list of presents to choose from for my BIRFDAY - yes, you're right, i am like a LIVING SAINT - and thus trying very hard NOT to buy anything off of it. Now that said BIRFDAY is retreating into the distant past I believe it is safe to go and BUY whatever's left, which is what I very much DID, so that yesterday at work there was a pile of PRESSIES of christmas-like levels waiting for me, thoughtfully wrapped in JIFFY BAGS. Thanks, Santa Amazon!
SIDEBAR! This isn't what I was going to go on about, but one thing I bought was Ben Moor's book More Trees To Climb. He mentioned it when I spent four hours stood with him in the queue to see Alan Moore, so I thought I ought to give it a try, and it is BLOODY GRATE. Not just in a "Someone I sort of know has written a book and that is impressive" way, but in a "This is FANTASTIC" sort of way - it's just lovely, really, every paragraph is GORGEOUS, and the whole thing together is SORT OF like a COMIC, in that it's all vivid imagination and tons of new ideas but ALSO like a POEM [NB or like a poem is meant to be anyway] in that it's LYRICAL and beautifully written. BUT ALSO ALSO it is full of JOKES and is DEAD FUNNY. Honestly, it's BLOODY GRATE.
Anyway, the thing I started off wanting to say was that also amongst the PLUNDER was the new Neil Hannon-related album The Duckworth Lewis Method, which had me GRINNING like a LOON within about five minutes. It's FAB - exciting and funny and TUNE PACKED and all round DELICIOUS - exactly as FRESH and SUMMERY as the Ideal Of Cricket but about a MILLION times more exciting.
For LO! It is a CONCEPT ALBUM about cricket. Being of a Certain Vintage I am used to new Concept Albums coming out and being, basically, BOLLOCKS. I remember many MANY Goth Pillocks saying "It's a concept album" when they actually meant "All the songs are about the same vague thing because I only have one idea". They would ALWAYS then say "think of it as a soundtrack to a film that doesn't exist". HOWEVER this one, as you can probably guess from my RAVING, really DOES appear to be about cricket, and manages to do so in an engaging, charming, and FUN way.
Also in the STASH was the new Stuart Murdoch-related album "God Help The Girl". I haven't listened to it yet - anything to do with Belle & Sebastian from side two of "The Boy With The Arab Strap" ONWARDS takes a very long run up and a lot of careful expectation management I find - but I DO know that this TOO is a Concept Album. I don't know what the concept is - it may well be some kind of soundtrack to an imagined film etc etc - but it definitely IS conceptual. "How odd", i thought, "to have bought TWO concept albums together."
BUT! THEN! I realised that the LAST album I had bought was ALSO A CONCEPT ALBUM! This was the MAGNIFICENT The Liberty Of Norton Folgate by MADNESS which we'd listened to whilst On Tour and thought was OK, but I'd not revisited. I DID have another listen last Wednesday and have had it on repeat in The Walkman In My Head ever since. It's FANTASTIC - sorry to GO ON SO today about things that are BRILLIANT, but it really is EXCELLENT. When I first listened to it I thought "Why is it getting all these amazing reviews that say it's the best thing ever?" and now I know the answer: IT IS.
So that's THREE concept albums - is this a TREND? Has anybody else noticed this or am I being - as ever, it is like a CURSE - unnaturally PERCEPTIVE? And if it IS a trend, what does it mean for the future of ROCK?
Or, to put it another way: does it mean it'll be any more likely that I'll be able to persuade The Validators to record a full band version - WITH TALKY BITS - of Dinosaur Planet?
Craig and Gemma's Wedding
Leytonstone on Saturday lunchtime was FULL of Community Bonding and Excitement - there was a MASSIVE police raid on the house over the road, about twenty Officers Of The Law going into a tiny terraced house with RIOT SHIELDS and FACE HELMETS and all sorts. It's the sort of thing that really brings a neighbourhood together, with everyone standing around GAWPING. I took pictures!
I had to tear myself away though to head NORTH, where I was due to play at Craig and Gemma's wedding. They'd asked me to play in MAY 2008, so it felt a bit odd to finally actually GETTING to a day which had seemed a DISTANT FUTURE for so long.
This was a bit of a THEME on the way up, and I went up on a) Virgin Trains to b) Birmingham New Street, two things which I'm sure seemed MASSIVELY futuristic and forward thinking at the time of creation but which are both, in actual fact, RUBBISH. Goodness knows I've gone on about New Street enough, but the Virgin Pendolino is the IDEAL train to use that station - cramped, terribly designed (they hid the FLUSH button BEHIND the toilet seat, so nobody flushes the toilet and EVERY five minutes the disabled alarm - which is placed where logically the flush button SHOULD go - goes off), ALREADY falling to bits (loos not working, flashy radio system not switched on, The Shop pretty much unstocked), expensive, and unreliable. MOST annoying though is probably the fact that on Sunday the train stopped for about ten minutes IN EVERY SINGLE STATION just to make sure that it would meet it's timetable punctuality targets. Thanks, Richard Branson!
The Arriva Wales multi-lingual knackered old rattler that I got to Telford thus seemed CHARMING in comparison, and when I got off to see my HOTEL was no more than two minutes walk from the station I was fully re-CHEERED. "Have you ever stayed in a Premier Inn before?" asked the lady, and I don't think I have - though it was basically a Travelodge by any other name, and thus perfectly FINE. I had a big BATH, watched some telly, drank some coffee, and was soon in a TAXI and off to ENGINUITY, where the wedding was being held.
I STROLLED into the reception, about to HALLOO loudly... and discovered 50 people in SILENCE, poised to hear the start of the BEST MAN'S SPEECH. I BACKTRACKED rapidly, and I don't think anybody spotted me, and decided that MAYBE this might be a little bit more important than me doing a soundcheck! I walked into the nearby village where a very nice man, tinkering with his car in his drive, directed me to THE PUB. It took me quite a while to get there, as Coalbrookdale is all HILLS, which I'm never very good at, but it was WELL worth it - The Coalbrookdale Inn is a lovely LOVELY Proper Pub - loads of beers, friendly people, DOGS, and just the right side of Very Slightly Scruffy to be comfy. It was BRILLIANT.
When I emerged I found some people who looked like they'd been at a wedding, who informed me the speeches were over and then directed me to the MUCH quicker way down to Enginuity, where I saw the newly married Craig and Gemma. They seemed VERY happy to be married! I had a bit of a chat, got myself set up, then sat down for some MORE chat with their friends, who were ACE. On the way up I'd been a bit worried that I didn't really KNOW anybody, but everybody was EXTREMELY friendly, also lovely, and i had a GRATE time for the next hour or so, so much so that I was a bit late getting round to doing the actual GIG, which went like THIS:
It was FAB. Earlier in the morning I'd gone through quite a few covers, thinking that I'd probably do MOSTLY that, as most people there wouldn't know my stuff at all. However, when we'd been sat chatting it turned out there were a FEW people who did, but I also realised that they'd asked ME to come and do it presumably because they liked some of MY songs, so maybe it'd be OK to DO some of them! I'm really glad I did! I had a little crowd at the front near me who got into it (including some DANCING) and then everyone else sat a way away at the tables, far enough away for me not to be able to see them properly, so I assumed they were all GRINNING, which may lack some truth but DID make me GRIN myself!
It was all just lovely, especially doing "Back For Good" which I've not done for AGES, and when it was finished I came BACK to the microphone to introduce The First Dance. We'd been discussing how this would work beforehand, but it was a little bit of a surprise to the GROOM, who didn't think it would happen at all, but was soon FRUGGING.
And the rest of the evening was FOOD and BEER and TALKING (including another in my series of Lengthy Discussions About How The Younger Generation Are About To Get A Nasty Shock In The Recession With Men Of A Similar Age To Me Who I Met When Drunk) and then some DANCING and generally having a BRILLIANT time. I do love a good weddding!
All too soon it was time to go home, but I'd had a really REALLY good day - it's always fun to go to weddings, and even more so to PLAY at them, not just because it's always a good gig, but also because it feels like a bit of an HONOUR to be asked to play a part in The Big Day. It was GRATE!
COMING THIS SUMMER...
Last night I started making the TRAILER VIDEO for Dinosaur Planet. Most of the actual WORK involved building sets and PROPS, i.e.:
drawing a prehistoric landscape (featuring VOLCANO) on A3 paper in CRAYONS
drawing a modern London cityscape on A3 paper in CRAYONS
building a GIANT ROBOT out of LEGO
building a spaceship out of LEGO
When THAT gruelling workload was complete I moved on to the actual FILMING, which mostly involved:
shaking plastic dinosaurs at the camera, whilst giggling and going "GRAAARGH!"
simulating a car chase by zooming toy cars across a crayoned landscape
setting up FIGHTS between tiny plastic soldiers and waggled dinosaurs
zooming spaceships around while making spaceship noises
It's true what they say you know - SHOWBUSINESS is the toughest business in the world! Further TOIL will be going on over the next few evenings, and I shall be going ON AND ON AND ON about it when it's finished!
Telly Theme Tunes
Over the past day or so a few people have pointed me in the direction of this article about a new BBC 4 series called "System Era", which will be about the rivalry between Sir Clive Sinclair and ... er... whoever it was who invented the BBC computer.
I wonder why anyone thought I might be interested?
I JEST OF COURSE and am now daydreaming about them using Hey Hey 16K as the title music - rather fantastically, thanks to THE MAGIC of THE FUTURE in which we live, I mentioned this on my twitter and within the HOUR it had been re-mentioned on to Alexander Armstrong, who seemed to quite like it.
That's pretty GRATE isn't it? Isn't the interweb FANTASTIC? It'd be AMAAAAZING if it did get used, if anybody works for the BBC do please put in a good word for me won't you?