Wednesday, 23 March 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Part Three

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

day 10 - a song that you want to play at your wedding
One of my hugest regrets was that the DJ at our wedding totally stank.  I always said that my wedding playlist would be carefully chosen, to make sure that there’d be no annoying pop fluff and Top 40 annoyances.  And in the end, we were so busy trying to sort out everything else that we went to the Yellow Pages and hired the first person who fit our budget.

So, 9 years late, please accept my sincere apologies (those of you who may have attended my wedding) for the totally shit music.  Sure, we danced our first dance to the below song (the only one we could agree on at the time; another hasty decision) but I violently opposed the rest of the DJ’s playlist, it was wrong wrong wrong.  If we’d been married 5 years later, we’d have had a computer by then and we’d have snobbishly arranged a series of mix CD’s and hired our own PA.  

If I could go back in time to August 2002 (in addition to making sure that my arse was considerably smaller at the time, of course) I would ensure that the following soppy little gems were included in the setlist:

day 11 - a song that you wish you could play
When I was about 11, I begged my Mum and Dad to let me have piano lessons.  I really enjoyed them, and did reasonably well.  But when I reached university I stopped playing.  Not good enough to enter the BMus programme at Western, I opted for the Comparative Literature course and, hoping to find a kindred spirit while I was away from home, I chose an “idiot-version” music appreciation/performance course from the prospectus.  I didn’t find a single friend there; the lecture was filled with people who out-played, out-smarted and out-performed me at every turn – you know the type… those child prodigies whose strict parents forced them to spend 4 hours at the piano every day, who were “persuaded” into the school of dentistry, or law, who wanted a “fun” course to take?  I had this piano tutor – ugh, she was a shrew – and (no doubt fuelled by my obvious disinterestedness and lack of commitment) one day told me, “Your hands are wrong.”  Apparently, according to her, I hold my fingers wrong at the keyboard.  Something about the tips of my fingers and the pads of my fingers.  Funny how the alleged deficiency escaped the notice of the examiners at the Royal Conservatory, but she was resolute in her insistence that I try it her way and bellyached about it c0nstantly.  It knocked my aptitude two grades lower and took my confidence with it, and I dropped the course shortly after.  So the song I wish I could play?  Anything along these lines:

day 12 - a song from your childhood
My propensity toward music-snobbery isn’t accidental, as those who know me well would surely bear witness.  It was genetically bestowed upon me through my Dad.  Along with his green eyes and short temper, I inherited from him an obsessive music fanatic chromosome.  I lost count of the amount of times my brother and I were plonked on the middle cushion of the sofa (that precise location of course being equal distance between the two speakers) while my Dad waxed lyrical/melodic/rhythmical/harmonious (delete as appropriate) trying to get us to hear the same thing that he heard.  It could have been a line of melody, it could have been a phrase with a particularly pretty harmony, a lyric, or a riff or a chord progression, whatever.  Much to his perpetual dismay, we never heard it – of course, our Dad’s music was Dad Music – but I get it now.  My friend Lindsay and I affectionately dub these “Rewinder Moments” – you know what I mean… when you find a part of a song that you think is so amazing that you can’t even get to the end of the song before you have to rewind back to the beginning and hear it again.  Anyway – what a long winded way of arriving to the point – the songs from my childhood I would choose:

And I’ve already linked to The Swimming Song by Loudon Wainwright here; but that song would be amongst these as well.

day 13 - your favourite song at this time last year
Well, that’s easy.  I just looked at my blog archives for the day closer to this date… turns out it was my post on Adam and the Ants that I was listening to this time last year.  

Stay tuned -- more later.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Part Two

Sunday, 20 March 2011
day 04 - a song that makes you sad
Well, this was easy. I spent a great deal of my formative years collecting songs that made me sad, so that I’d have a soundtrack to accompany all that bad poetry I was writing.

For a lot of years, I couldn’t listen to this first one. Let me give you a bit of context: if you check my Gig List, you’ll see that on 21 September 1996 I saw Pearl Jam in Toronto. That was the night my brother Jonathan died... and I link this song to that every single time I hear it. I’m okay with it now – sometimes I can listen, but sometimes I know when I have to switch it off.

Here’s another – Jason wants this playing at his funeral.

This one doesn’t exactly make me sad – but it certainly isn’t going to cheer me up if I’m feeling maudlin. It fits in with the other two.

day 05 - a song that reminds you of someone
I’m going to cheat with this one and refer you to this post about songs that remind me of girls, and this post about songs that remind me of boys.

day 06 - a song that reminds you of somewhere
Hmmmm.... lots of songs remind me of somewhere. Usually linked to what I was doing at the time and what songs I was listening to at the time. The whole of Swell’s “Too Many Days Without Thinking” reminds me of a trip to England I took in 1997. I rented this tiny little car, and had this album on a tape for those long drives.

If you don’t have this record – WHY NOT?! Go and download it at once. It’s one of my favourites ever, ever, ever. You know those records that you can’t choose just one song? That the whole thing, from start to finish, is bloody brilliant? Like The Stone Roses first album, and Radiohead’s “OK Computer”? This Swell CD is like that. Here’s a song from it:

day 07 - a song that reminds you of a certain event
Can you class an episiotomy as an event? Because I can feel my stitches when I hear this song. Just kidding – sorry to be gross... but it does remind me of when we brought Ben home from the hospital. We had been in hospital for about a week, and we finally were allowed to bring him home. We carried him into the flat, put his carseat on the floor of the living room and sat on the sofa, staring at him. Then I promptly burst into tears, and had a bit of a WHAT-THE-CRAP-DO-WE-DO-WITH-HIM-NOW type of outburst... and then Jason settled me down with this song and a cuddle. And then we ate Subway sandwiches.

day 08 - a song that you know all the words to
I know a lot of words to a lot of songs... but I am quite proud to say that I know all the words to this song, as there are so many of them.


day 09 - a song that you can dance to
If you happened to stray into Kitchener’s Club Abstract any Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday night between oh... let’s say 1994 and 1998, and any of the following songs were playing, you’d find me on the dance floor.

Stay tuned -- more later.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Iron & Wine, Sage Gateshead, Wednesday 16 March 2011

Friday, 18 March 2011
There were three gigs to choose from in Newcastle/Gateshead this week – all on Wednesday night. The Academy was hosting Primal Scream (seen ‘em), Elbow was at the Arena (too expensive) and Iron + Wine were coming to The Sage. Since I was practically broke from seeing The Wonder Stuff on Saturday and The Wombats the week before, It was an easy choice to make.

I’ve only got one record – The Sea + the Rhythm – which, if you don’t know, is a little EP released on Sub Pop in 2003. It’s full of some real corkers – a man, an acoustic guitar and not much more. But you can’t go too far wrong with that kind of equation, so accompanied by a friend of mine (who only knew ‘of’ them) and after my description of what they were like he was firmly on board, so off we went.

But before I tell you what I think, can I please have a moment for a brief narrative in a scene-setting stylee which, I hope, will give some context to my review.

Over my distinguished and extensive career in music snobbery, there are a few points on which I am emphatically resolute:

1. No Top 40 Pop Fluff
2. No Country & Western
3. No Thrashy Vomit Noise-Making Death Metal
4. …and absolutely, for no reason, by no means, certainly not, under no circumstances ANY JAZZ.

Now that we are clear, please allow me to continue.

I wondered how the lovely Mr Sam Beam would handle bringing the one-man-one-guitar thing to the ‘big stage’ – Hall One at the Sage is a 1,640-seater so I was curious how intimate it could be, given the unsophisticated simplistic charm of the records.

It was… okay. There were moments of brilliance: I love the story-telling nature of the songs, and romantic sap that I am, I very easily got swept up in the romance of the lyrics and found that for the most part I was enjoying myself. But the whole thing was tainted slightly by the frequent and unfortunate downward crash into extended passages of jazz-pap-shite. It was quite quiet in there and I suspect it wasn’t received very well in more seats than just my own; I can’t have been alone in thinking OH MY GOD THE JAZZ.

Beam himself must have sensed it, saying, “I hope you don’t mind us fucking with your favourite songs like this. I figured you’d want to hear something a bit different to what’s on the records.” Ouch. Bad call – we minded. I found myself not even recognizing the song until the melody started, and more than once leaned over to my friend to babble apologetically to him, “It sounds NOTHING like this on the CD, I promise!”

But, I have no wish to be too harsh – I did enjoy it. The drummer was handy with a loop pedal, and there were some cool moments that employed its use. I am sad that it is not very likely that my friend will go and buy an Iron + Wine CD after all.

Here's a couple of videos for you.  They ended with “Naked As We Came” – that, to my great relief and pleasure, was largely unaltered arrangement-wise. Sorry the video is mostly of the ceiling of the Sage – no one was taking any pictures so I was trying to hide my camera.

Maybe I should have gone to see Elbow after all.

Monday, 14 March 2011

The Wonder Stuff & The Levellers, O2 Academy Newcastle

Monday, 14 March 2011

Oh, I'm so, SO glad I went to this show! 

I wasn't going to.  In fact, The Wonder Stuff have come to Newcastle a couple of times in recent years and I don't know why, but I never went along.  And their most recent visit to my fair city very nearly went the same way -- it was a Sunday night... they weren't even headlining... I felt slightly over hung from the previous nights' festivities... a million reasons why I was going to stay home.

But then!  Someone I know said she was going, and that I could hook up with her and her friends once I got there, and so yesterday afternoon I decided to buy a ticket at the last minute and go.  (Thanks Julie & girls whose names I completely forget!  You're fab!)

It was a brilliant show -- I broke with tradition and stood right at the front and had plenty of room to dance and jump (oh, my achin' bones though, today!)  I don't mind telling you that I had an absolute blast.  It wasn't 2011, it was 1993!  They played all of my favourites - A Wish Away, Give Give Give Me More More More, Red Berry Joy Town and a lovely acoustic version of Welcome to the Cheap Seats.  You may or may not know that the album version of that song features the inimitable Kirsty MacColl on backing vocals -- here is a little bit of video from last night of Miles Hunt telling us how she came to make the record with them:

The whole place was bouncing.  For me, the best bit was the collective admiration and all around good time we were all having was effortlessly matched by Miles Hunt; his smile never wavered the whole time he was on stage.  The guy has been making a living from playing gigs like that for the best part of probably far too many years than he'd care for me to mention... yet he was loving every minute.  And don't even get me started on his dimples. 


Seriously, though?  He danced, and told stories; his enthusiasm and vivacity was highly infectious and inspired us all sing along with that much more conviction.  Would that they have played for another hour! 

I drove home with the type of warm fuzzies one can only get from having crossed someone off my "Yet To See Live" list.  Hope you enjoy the video - sorry they're so fuzzy and distorted - you can just about make out Size of a Cow in the one above, and here is a little bit of A Wish Away:

Oh, The Levellers?  I'm rubbish - I only recongised the first song.  Much to the chagrin and outrage of The Levellers Number One Fan the guy standing next to me who chastised me for not knowing every word... I made some feeble excuse about being hung over from the night before, and despite receiving from him a drunken serenade accompanying the band with this song, he staggered off forlorn, but not before accusing me of having a heart of stone for not being moved to tears. 

Ah, you win some, you lose some.  Sorry, fan boy.  My heart belongs to Miles. 

Saturday, 12 March 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Part 1

Saturday, 12 March 2011
Someone sent me a link to Facebook's "30 Day Song Challenge"... I thought I'd bring it over here, instead.  I'll do it over a few days.  It has been harder than I thought! 

day 01 - your favourite song
Tricky, tricky, tricky. No, I don’t mean this guy. I mean – how the crap do I choose? Impossible. In the immortal words of that nun chick from that movie with the nuns, “How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?” Here are a few that will always be right up there:

day 02 - your least favourite song’s true what they say; there is a thin line between love and hate, right? So just as I struggle to choose a favourite song, I will likewise with my least favourite. So I’ll let you choose, if you like: log on to BBC Radio1 and whatever is playing now? I’ll choose that.

I’m very good at working out whether or not I don’t like something. What is slightly trickier is working out whether or not I do. Strangely enough, sometimes when I first hear something that I immediately like, it will wind up being one of those things I will eventually grow tired of, and be irritated by. And yet, some records towards which I felt an initial ambivalence will wind up being those you’ll find stuffed in my coffin around my cold, dead body. Weird, I know.

Here’s one that I definitely hate, and am definitely NOT going to change my mind about:

day 03 - a song that makes you happy
Here’s a couple – impossible to be pissed off if these are within listening distance:

I think that's enough for now... stay tuned

Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Wombats, Get People, O2 Academy, Newcastle upon Tyne, Saturday 5 March 2011

Sunday, 6 March 2011

I love a good crowd shot, me.

You’ll know from this post that there aren’t many bands that Jase and I both like. But – wha-hoo – because The Wombats were playing in our town last night, and we both like them.

So off we go!

I really liked the gig – it was a sell-out and the Academy was packed. Packed WITH TEENY TINY CHILDREN. Whooooo baby, did we feel old last night. But, nasty bitch ever the optimist that I am, I was able to turn a uncomfortable situation into a positive one, and spent a happy hour before the headliner came on by developing my discourse on “Kids These Days”.

Jason thinks it’s despicable and small-minded of me but in my defence, HAVE YOU SEEN WHAT THEY’RE WEARING? Are we at a garden party with that floral shorts set and old-people’s-home cardigan, or are we at a rock concert? PULL UP THOSE TROUSERS, YOUNG MAN! Don’t even get me started on their shoes.

Be all that as it may – we missed the first support band entirely. I wish I could say the same for the second support band; they were called Get People and they were pretty boring. Have a listen for yourself  but I thought their setlist was one degree away from what you’d find badly dubbed on a Maxell C-90 in the tape collection of that guy from American Psycho. There are lots of good things about the 80’s and the music scene, don’t get me wrong. The foundations of my own musical tastes were fired there, and it was an exciting time for a lot of people.

So, be inspired by the music from that time? Sure. “Borrow” a few tricks and aural flourishes here and there? Quirky. But what I heard last night was a blatant style-for-style rip off of all that was bad about the music of that time. Sorry lads; I was half expecting this guy to come out and provide guest vocals, and not even in a good way. Just about every song ended with the same noise that Ross’s song ends with here.  Not my scene.  But you know, I am not a kid these days, and all that. 

Anyway – WOMBATS! Hurrah! I loved it. First I heard of them was a few years ago; they got a bit of SXSW buzz about them in 2007 with their single "Let's Dance to Joy Division".  Proud to call myself a card-carrying moody and defensive lifetime Joy Division nut, I was prepared to be outraged on their behalf when I first heard OF this song - BUT it's so great I didn't mind it taking up residence in my ear and subsequently bought the whole record.  And I'm glad - it's  gem.
They came out and attacked their set; really looked like they were enjoying themselves and had the whole floor jumping. They played a good mix of new stuff and old – their 2007 release “A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation” has some great little numbers, and I’m looking forward to picking up their forthcoming album “A Modern Glitch” when it is released this year.  You might already know their newest single "Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves)" which they finished the set with last night with full audience participation. 

Standing safely at the back; didn't even break a sweat. But heard everything and enjoyed it all. :-)

Enjoy the video!

Saturday, 5 March 2011


Saturday, 5 March 2011
So! The other day I was reading a post from Heather at about the “serious hots” she has for Blur/Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn. Oh, dear readers, she is not wrong. Impossible to quantify or express the stratospheric levels of his hottie-ness. And he just happens to make bloody marvellous music, too. Heather links to a brilliant version of Gorillaz covering The XX’s “Crystalised” – click on this link and go and watch it, but come back here because I never told you about the time that Damon Albarn almost delivered my baby.

Let me give you a bit of background first: back in 2009, the rumour mill in the music news was churning with more than a steady trickle of talk that Blur were thinking of getting back together for a reunion gig that summer. In a year that saw just about everyone get back together for a reunion gig, I dismissed it until it really became really really real!

Let me take a moment to remind you of what I looked like for most of 2009:
Baby #1 and Baby Mama, and Baby Belly.

I’m not so great at math... so that last paragraph in that Guardian article took a little bit of working out. Proctor Baby #2 was due on 12 July. Blur reunion gig in London (a five and a half hour drive from where we live) on 3 July. Needless to say, as fond as I am for zipping down the M1 for a gig, it didn’t take me very long to comprehend that the likelihood of my attendance at Hyde Park was mostly in the “Not Very Bloody” category.

BUT! Ye gods of music snobbery smiled on me when, around April, Blur announced that they were going to do a warm up gig about a week before the Hyde Park show, just to see how things went.


The gig was announced for a teeny-weeny little venue on 25 June. More math (and a bit of “Thirty Days Hath September...” and I worked out that with about two weeks to go before the baby was due, I could certainly go to the gig. And you know, like... try not to jump up and down too much.

“We can make this happen,” I convinced my unborn little dude.

The day that the tickets went on sale was a Friday. I was at work at the time. Cleared my diary for the morning, instructed the rest of my team that I would be unavailable for comment/advice/fire drills/cups of tea or anything that would pull me away from TicketWeb come 9am. Knuckles cracked? Check. Credit card at the ready? Check.

But lo! Cometh the hour, cometh a weird message on TicketWeb’s site saying that a last minute decision had been taken that tickets for the Blur gig could only be obtained from the venue itself and that online purchase facility had been disabled.

(“I’ll bet she flipped out,” I hear you saying.)

I DID TOTALLY FLIP OUT. Tried to phone the venue; couldn’t get through. Tried other ticketing agents; no joy. Then heard through the grapevine that a huge queue had formed outside the venue in the last few hours and the police were there trying to keep order, etc. I look down at my six month belly, and over to my raging in-tray on my desk, and knew that there was no way I could leave work and stand in a day-long line-up. With my swollen ankles? Needing the loo every 4 and half minutes?

Fuck, twat, arse and shitty bollocks.

Was this happening? I was gutted with disappointment. Couldn’t believe that I couldn’t get tickets. Couldn’t find an explanation. Flounced around (can a waddling pregnant lady flounce?) all day in a horrid, foul temper.

So I did the only thing I’m really good at (besides swearing, pouting and stamping my feet) when I get a bee in my bonnet: I got ready to send a bitchy email. Okay, okay – riled as I was, I promise I’m telling the truth when I say that it wasn’t THAT bitchy. I found an email address for the ticket office, and spent the morning constructing a passionate yet strongly worded (not even sweary, I really really promise) tale along these lines: blahblahblah I’M PREGNANT blahblahblah CAN’T LEAVE WORK blahblahblah REALLY LOVE BLUR blahblahblah NOT FAIR blahblahwhinewhinewhine.

And you know? Not an hour later I got a lovely email in reply from a very understanding lady, who explained that at the very last minute and at the band’s request, the decision had been made to sell the tickets on the day only in person only, to stop scalpers and ticket touts from buying up batch blocks of tickets and flogging them at extortionate prices. Admirable, I thought. Fuck, twat, arse and shitty bollocks, I also thought – on 25 June I wouldn’t be watching Blur.

24 June rolls around and – the day before the gig -- and I was so big and huge and uncomfortable, complaining all the time about everything; it wasn’t pretty. I looked like this around then:

Who ate all the pies?

BUT LO! AGAIN! Out of nowhere arrives an email from none other than the unfortunate recipient of my bitchy email of a few months before. It went like this: blahblahblah EXTRA BANK OF TICKETS BEING RELEASED blahblahblah ARE YOU STILL PREGNANT blahblahblah WOULD YOU LIKE TO RESERVE SOME blahblahblah I REMEMBER YOU hurrahhurrahhurrah!

Hy. Per. VENTILATING! I’ll spare you the formalities but will let you freak out with me when I arrived at the gig and was shown to a seat ON THE FRONT ROW OF THE BALCONY which looked like this:
V.  I.  Pregnant.  P, bitches!

I know I stink for waiting all this time to blog about it. I can’t even tell you how brilliant the gig was. Instead I will let the video and pictures speak for themselves. 

They opened with “She’s So High” – my favouritefavouritefavourite – which you might be able to discern for yourself when you watch this: that scream a few notes in when it becomes apparent which song it is? Totally me. Pregnant, screaming, water nearly breaking me.

Here’s a bit more of the same song- I WANT TO CRAAAAWL ALLL OVAAAAH HERRRR!!! Sexy, sexy, Damon. I’m practically contracting by now.

A bit of “Chemical World”:

And here is a bit of “Country House” with some BLOODY BRILLIANT zooming-in on Damon courtesy of my gig-mate and most excellent cousin, the lovely Lauren. YOU CAN SEE HIS BELLY BUTTON. Oh, my giddy aunt! I just love how you can hear the audience screaming along with every word.

And a brilliant bit of “Parklife”:

I went into labour the following week and my gorgeous Jude was born on 7 July. 5 days early – rocked out of the comfort of my womb by my pregnant belly Blur gig waddle dancing. And that, dear readers, is how Damon Albarn VERY NEARLY delivered my baby.

Oh COME ON... I had to give you some flash headline to make you read all the way to the end.