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things i’ve seen this year and not got round to blogging about (January)

March 9, 2014 3 comments

2014 has been exceptionally busy. I haven’t had a chance to blog about all the wonderful things that I’ve been able to experience – and to be honest, I worry that if I don’t blog about them, they’ll be erased from my memory just through so many other things piling in!

So, I have been making the most of living in this wonderful, cultured city – I’ve seen so many widely diverse shows, it makes me feel alive! God bless London!

Death Ship 666

The first show I saw this year, so I did actually manage to get around to blogging about it, before I got bogged down in being such a culture vulture!! See my full blog post here.

The Lost World, Barts Pathology Museum

The Lost World at Barts Pathology Museum

The Lost World at Barts Pathology Museum

Two treats in one – a visit to the amazing Barts Pathology Museum where you can peruse the fascinating and gory exhibits of medical interest in the many cases and jars (from leprous hands to a flashlight that was extracted from an ancient flashlight that was extracted from a soldier that had obviously ‘fallen’ onto it backwards) and a silent film that I hadn’t seen before.

As part of their Silent Film season, the £7.50 entrance fee included popcorn and a Hendricks giin and tonic. The Lost World (1925), based on the book by Conan Doyle (and featuring him at the start), it was the inspiration for Jurassic Park and King Kong. And it was brilliant. The stop motion animated dinosaurs felt way ahead of their time, and the acting was wonderfully non-purposely comedic. I loved it. One of the best moments was after they had carefully and painstakingly gone through the process of capturing one of the huge creatures, the caption “Later in London…” is shown, removing the need for a return journey 🙂 Brilliant!

The Pink Singers, Cadogan Hall

The Time Of My Life

The Time Of My Life

The Pink Singers are London’s LGBT choir, and in January they put on a great show at Cadogan Hall of a selection of songs from some well-known and well-loved films.  There was a great energy amongst the singers, and some fantastic high-points. I may not enjoy “I Will Always Love You” but there was no denying the sheer talent of the MALE soloist who belted out a perfect rendition. the haunting “Mad World” was my highlight though. Beautiful 🙂

Frank Skinner, Leicester Square Theatre

Frank Skinner

Frank Skinner

I was lucky to be given a friend’s ticket for Frank Skinner’s ‘Man in A Suit’ – a prelude to his tour that starts next month. After a seven year break from stand-up, he’s changed a bit. Now a father, teetotal and in his mid-50s, he’s not quite the lad that he used to be in his Fantasy Football days. He was warm and witty and relaxed, rather than outlandish and shocking with loud belly laughs. It’s not often that you get knob jokes and haikus in the same show.

beardyman, comedy cafe

August 2, 2013 1 comment
Beardyman improvises 'Release The Midget'

Beardyman improvises ‘Release The Midget’

I’ve seen the brilliant Beardyman (beatboxer extraordinaire!) three or four times over the years.  I think the first time was at Lovebox when he did a fantastic medley of Groove Armada songs.

I have a real soft spot for beatboxing, but he remains my favourite.  So, when I spotted that he was doing a gig in Shoreditch where he will create a brand new album in an hour from suggestions from the audience, I was well in there!  Beatboxing and improv?  It’s like this was aimed specifically at me!

He was better than I could have imagined.  He took to the stage peddling his wares and had the crowd onside from the start.  He was engaging and FUNNY, and certainly gauged the audience right.

Aided by his ‘Beardytron5000MKII’ decks/mixer (?!) that enabled him to add many layers and textures to the brand new compositions as he went along (everything made up live on the spot), the only instrument other than his voice was an electric guitar that he used for a couple of ‘prog rock’ style tracks.

As well as that, we had songs in the style of Lionel Richie, Prince, rave, reggae (starring Rastamouse), his fantastic drum n bass, house and even a Britney Spears style pop track called Heatwave that he ended up having to break from after he caught himself dancing around and singing in a high-pitched voice.  He held his head in his hands and shouted at us for what we’d made him do.  Secretly, I think he might have enjoyed it a little.  Track names from the audience included Mousehead, Release The Midget, Strawberry Blue, Dragon Tears, Lyrical Spaceman and Chelsea Cocks.

As an additional treat, improvised graphics were expertly created by mr_hopkinson & asdescribed.net

Energy was high, beatboxing was incomparable, choons were awesome and there were huge laughs.

This was a warm-up for a show at the Edinburgh Fringe…so I highly recommend it if you’re going!

aelita: queen of mars (with minima)

September 23, 2012 4 comments

Aelita’s confidante and perspex beardy-man

Last weekend, I spent another lovely evening at Hackney Picturehouse.  I actually went slightly early and did my homework for my creative writing course, which consisted of  ‘observing’ people in a crowded place.  It really is a great place to people-watch…but then I end up people-watching all the time (it’s just a nicer way of saying I’m nosey really, isn’t it?)

Anyway, I digress (as usual).  I had never heard of Aelita, but enjoyed Minima‘s live score to The Cabinet of Dr Caligari so much before that I was willing to watch anything with them playing 🙂

Yakov Protazanov’s Aelita was first released in 1924, and is set in 1921.  It was apparently the first science-fiction film to come out of the Soviet Union, but to be honest, the ‘sci-fi’ bit of it isn’t the main story.

A strange radio transmission is being received across the world, and one of the recipients is an engineer called Los.  Newly-married to Natasha, the message intrigues Los and he starts day-dreaming of its origin.

We cut to his dreams, which are of the woman of the title – Aelita, Queen of Mars.  Although Aelita is supposedly the Queen, she doesn’t really seem to have much power – that is down to the Elders.  One of the inventors has built a special ‘viewing machine’, which he shows to Aelita, and she becomes obsessed with Earth, and especially one man – Los himself.

Meanwhile, Los & Natasha have been told that they have to take in a lodger, Elrich.  Unknown to them, Elrich is married, and his wife is currently working on Los’ colleague, conning him out of his money.  Elrich too is abusing his position and stealing from the State (the political messaging in the film is unmistakable throughout!).  However, Los becomes fixated on his misguided suspicion that Natasha is having an affair with Elrich, and this in turn pushes him into day-dreaming more about Aelita.

This film is absolutely bloody bonkers! 

I could see echoes of Dr Caligari in it, especially in the Mars-based sets, and I could also see shere it probably influenced some of the scenes that came a few years later in Metropolis.  Some of the Mars costumes were truly odd – one girl had trousers that looked like bird cages, and there was a large amount of perspex in the costumes of the Elders – some great perspex hair and beards (see above).

However, there were a lot of scenes where me and my mate looked at each other and just said “WTF??” — I think the total surrealism of it all added to its appeal though, as I have been thinking back over it a lot over the past week.

As for the live score, Minima were once again fantastic – atmospheric, haunting, spot-on!  I especially liked the dog bark that one of them managed (was it the cellist??)

I have already booked tickets for me and my mates to their double-bill at the Prince Charles Cinema next month – Dr Caligari again but also Nosferatu, which I have never seen 🙂

robin hood (with royal philharmonic orchestra), cadogan hall

Douglas Fairbanks as Robin Hood

On 12th July, I went with a few friends to the gorgeous Cadogan Hall, just off Sloane Square to see the 1922 silent classic Robin Hood starring Douglas Fairbanks (senior, that is!).

The film was accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by the composer of the live score, John Scott.

One of my friends had asked me if I had seen the film before, and I said that I vaguely remembered seeing it, and the only lasting impression I remembered was that it was very ‘fast’ – speeded up, like the end of the Benny Hill show.

This certainly wasn’t like that, and so I was confused as to what I had seen, until I read the blurb in the programme.

Composer John Scott (he seemed a lovely man, and after the performance, he asked Douglas Fairbanks’ granddaughter who was in the audience, whether she thought he would have approved!) originally turned down the idea of creating a new score for the film when approached in 2006 by the City of Nottingham.

One of the reasons he gave was “I found the film unbearable, all the characters moved in a stilted way, far too fast and the whole effect was quaint and unreal.”  So perhaps my memory of the film hadn’t been wrong after all. they then slowed the film down to ‘real time’ action and John Scott realised that the film was now a very different subject, and that he would be able to compose the new score.

The film was actually far more lavish than I had been expecting – it apparently cost a rumoured $1million…in 1922…and at the time was the most expensive film made.

The sets were absolutely amazing for the time, including a full-scale castle built especially for the film.  The jousting scenes at the start included a huge number of extras, animals and grand costumes and sets.

The film was often suprisingly dark, often laugh-out-loud funny (sometimes even intentionally!) and literally had Robin and his merry men skipping around the forest in their tights.  Yes, literally.  Grown men skipping.

The athleticism of Douglas Fairbanks was also a wonder to behold.  Whenever they rushed off to their horses, he literally leaped over rocks, bushes, etc and jumped straight into the saddle, while the rest of the men put on a brave show of trying to heave themselves up via their stirrups while he got a head start on them.

And the score – it was faultless.  Sometimes I glanced down from the screen and was almost shocked to see a full orchestra there playing, as I had momentarily forgotten that it was live, so seamless were the action and the music.

It was a fabulous evening in gorgeous surroundings, and a film that I am glad I now have a better memory of, with a faultless live score – I loved every second!

I wonder what will be my next silent film with live score experience…

I will levae you with a non-slowed down clip…pretty gruesome, aye?

amy, my daughter – mitch winehouse

July 16, 2012 4 comments

Amy, My Daughter

This time next week, it will be the first anniversary of Amy Winehouse’s tragic death.

I’m not generally a particularly soft-hearted person, and although I have felt a tinge of sadness when a celebrity has died, I am not one of those to get all weepy and claim that I loved them, and that their very existence changed my life etc etc.

I remember it was late on a Saturday afternoon and I had been having a bit of a doze before going for a night over the pub, when I first saw the messages coming through on Twitter that she had died. I remember quickly turning on the news channels and flicking from Sky to BBC and back again. It was a story that felt inevitable and yet it was still shocking. She was just 27. She was amazingly talented.

I was stunned. I was even more surprised when I realised that I was crying. I sent a text to The Man who was already over the pub, and then I put my Back To Black album. Followed by Frank. I cried some more. Such a waste.

I also remember that there were a lot of people who tried to belittle her death as the day before had seen the absolutely shocking murders of 69 people by Anders Behring Breivik. Many people were posting on various social network sites saying things like, “Get it in perspective, this is one druggie girl as against a huge number of innocents!”

I found that particularly hard to deal with. Why did one have to be weighed up against the other? Why couldn’t people be upset about both events?

Personally, I think that the reason that Amy’s death struck a chord with me that day in a different way to the Norway murders was because the murders were just too catastrophic, sickening and difficult to even comprehend. Whereas the loss of a young, talented, troubled girl was far more easy to picture, understand and believe. It doesn’t mean that I wasn’t as disgusted and shocked by the murders at all, and my heart went out to every one of the victims and their families – and those poor kids who will have to live with that memory for the rest of their lives.

Anyway, this is meant to be a review.

I got this from Audible as an audiobook. The foreward and the epilogue are narrated by Mitch himself, but it is understandable that he wouldn’t be able to read the rest of the book, so that is done by Rupert Farley – and he did a commendable job…I imagine he was picked because he sounds somewhat like Mitch, and he managed to read with what sounded like so much pride and emotion that during a lot of it, I forgot that it wasn’t Mitch!

This whole book is heart-wrenchingly full of love. You can feel it with every story. From Amy’s childhood, as a precocious, funny, impossible-to-teach child where she found school a bit of a bore, and longed to perform to her well-reported rise and subsequent fall and tragic end.

There were particular moments that must have been difficult for him to write – the time that she met Blake who he quickly realised was a bad influence on her and the moment he finally realised that Amy was actually doing Class A drugs and had a habit. This wasn’t any old father-daughter relationship, they were a tight-knit unit and not a day seemed to go by that he didn’t speak to her.

From the moment he realised she had a habit, he kept diaries and documented Amy’s life – the highs of Frank and Back to Black, various live performances and her Ivor Novello awards to the soul-destroying years of trying to get her to give up the drugs and her subsequent descent into alcoholism.

Hearing Mitch’s side of the various tabloid stories, Blake’s imprisonment, Amy’s stage-fright, the fights with Blake’s family and the fact that she had been off of Class A’s for three years before her death were quite eye-opening.

On the last day that I was listening to this, I was wandering around Camden (where I have worked for 5 years) and I took a different route to usual and walked past Amy’s old house while I was listening to Mitch telling the tale of when he found it for her – and it all just felt so poignant.

Everything feels laid bare, and I doubt if anyone could read this without wanting to give Mitch Winehouse a massive hug while they shed a few tears.

urban classic, walthamstow town hall

July 14, 2012 1 comment

Urban Classic

Last week, Waltham Forest council put on another concert as part of The Big 6, as a ‘celebration’ of being an official Olympic borough.

You may remember my trip to Party On The Pitch – this again was a free concert with a random ticket ballot.  Unlike Party On The Pitch, I think this was absolutely fantastic.

I have to say, it probably helped in some way that the weather on the evening of July 5th was gorgeous – an unexpected occurance considering the weather this summer.  The crowd was also extremely varied.

Urban Classic is a real musical mash-up – the BBC Symphony Orchestra playing with urban hip-hop artists.  It had its first outing in 2006 to much acclaim and earlier this year it apparently had a very successful run at the Barbican (which somehow passed me by – shocking for a Barbican member, as this is right up my street!).

Luckily, last week it literally WAS right up my street, taking place in the Chestnuts Showground behind the iconic Walthamstow Town Hall.  There were loads of food stalls and I had a gorgeous chorizo, red pepper and rocket roll 😉  No alcohol though, and no food or alcohol allowed onto the site.  they even nicked my hairspray which was a brand new can and I hadn’t taken out as I’d come straight from work 😦  Boo!

There was a great atmosphere with everyone happy to be out somewhere being entertained for free in the sunshine.  There was such a mix, as you can expect, with loads of kids down the front cheering and shouting, unable to contain their excitement for seeing Fazer (from N-Dubz), Skepta, Devlin and Ms Dynamite (who I had actually heard of!) and then others (the oldies, like me) who were looking forward to the 85-strong orchestra (although personally it was the whole mash-up that appeals to me personally!) and (like me) had brought along their foldy chairs 😉

First of all there was a rather random DJ, who, although enthusiastic, unfortunately came across as a kind of local radio DJ with an over-abundance of sound effects, he was particularly fond of a breaking glass one, which after a while we found really amusing.  he even houted “SHABBA!!” a couple of times. I can’t believe that he was cool  even to the yoof, but bless him, he got the party started.

The orchestra kicked it all off with Jules Buckley conducting and then were joined by each of the artists in turn – I even got to sing “Ms Dynamite-ee-hee” which is the only part I actually knew from any of the tracks (I am SO old)…but it was all amazing…I loved every single second.

At one stage, Fazer was joined by Ed Drewett for their cover of Englishman In New York, which was really good, but this was totally blown away when Ed Sheeran joined Devlin (I think they’ve collaborated many times) for their cover of All Along The Watchtower that is being released as a single.  I hate to say it, as the original really IS a classic, but I loved it a hell of a lot more than I should’ve done.

Here’s my vid of that part:

There is A FAR better one here though, which you can actually hear properly.  I’m just shocked that my video already has almost 4,000 hits!  There is also a whole flickr set of offical photos here.

There was an unexpected firework show to end things, and we all went away feeling thoroughly entertained and extremely happy.  this was a total success, as I said it was so much better than Party On The Pitch, and I think appealed so much more to the diverse population of the borough.  I hope there’s the opportunity for more things like that – I would be willing to pay to see such a brilliant show on my doorstep!

Ms Dynamite and fireworks

field day 2012

June 27, 2012 3 comments

Even the sun came out for Field Day

I’ve been a little out of sorts, and this blog has borne the brunt of that by not being updated for SO long.  I have a stack of reviews and stuff that I have started but not finished.

2nd June was Field Day Festival at Victoria Park.  My first festival of the year – and a lot earlier than usual due to the sodding Olympics!

it was a bit grey and drizzly all morning, and I was bemoaning the fact that i didn’t have wellies, and I was going to have to go and buy some at short notice.  The Man said “Let’s just see how it goes – you might decide you don’t want to go at all!”

Chance would be a fine thing!

Field Day is lovely, but their entry system is absolute chaos every year.  You stand in a queue outside for at least half an hour!  Allowing time for the terrible entry, I knew I had to be there in time for Django Django who were the earliest on-stage band that I wanted to see.

There was one amusing point when we actually got to the bag-search area and this group of rather overly-made-up girls in the line next to us had an absolute panic when they were informed that they weren’t allowed to take aerosols in.  There was much spraying of hairspray and dousing in Impulse or the such like – with it being passed around the lot of them.

Once inside, the sun was shining brightly and it was extremely warm – it’s like there is a little micro-climate above Victoria Park, due to the mass of hot sweaty bodies at the festivals.  We grabbed a couple of ciders and made our way over to local boys, Django Django who had certainly drawn a huge crowd for that time of day.

They were everything that could be expected and more – they are definitely way better live than their recorded stuff (which is pretty bloody good anyway!).  I was extremely impressed.  Deep thumping beats, a giant tambourine, excellent drumming and just right to get the party going.  if you get a chance to see them at a festival this year, make sure you do!

To be honest, they were my favourite of the whole day, although it’s not like the day went downhill from there or anything.  Being the first festival of the year, and the weather being unexpectedly decent, there felt to be rather more people there than there have been over the past couple of years – it’s given a far smaller area than Lovebox, and it did seem incredibly crammed.  However, I hadn’t been to Lovebox at that stage…more on that later!

Always a favourite, the brass band had their own tent, rather than being in the bandstand this year!

It is an incredibly ‘hip’ festival too. it feels like someone has picked up the entire population of Hoxton / Shoreditch and just dropped them into Victoria Park.  Me & The Man are acutely out of place – but we love the people watching.  it’s great picking out those efortless girls who wear stuff that would be totally ridiculous on other girls, but it just works because they convey the right attitude.  And then the girls (mainly) where they’ve just tried way too hard, and it shows.

Last year’s hipster accessory of choice appeared to be rather a lot of facial hair. Considering most of the crowd are early – mid 20s, last year it felt about 90% had facial hair (on the blokes).  that seemed rather disproportionate to ‘real’ life.  However, this year’s male hipster accessory of choice appeared to be a cool Asian girlfriend.  Honestly! It was VERY noticeable – and I wondered what had brought it about. Any ideas?

One of the things I love about Field Day is that they have huge boards with the whole timed line-up for each tent near the entrance, with clear directions, and then line-up times on boards at each tent.  it is a REALLY good idea!

Anyway, the rest of our Field Day went like this:

Afrocubism:  I have seen them before, and to be honest, I didn’t really feel like they completely ‘brought it’ with them on the day.  even so, lying on the grass, in the sun, sipping my Pimm’s and listenign to them was a very pleasant Summer feeling.

Andrew Bird: Obviously very talented, but not totally my kind of thing.  Again, felt a very nice ‘summer day’ sound lying on the grass.

Grimes: Completely different sound, she’s a little bit whacky – sometimes folky, sometimes more electronic. i’ve never been very good at genres, hence linking to a place that I know can explain far better than I!

Metronomy:  Well, everyone knows them don’t they?  Electropop heavy synthy stuff, most known for the Look, whcih everyone went wild for when they played it. they were way better than last time I saw them 18 months ago, when they wore these big lights on their chests and seemed a bit up themselves.

It was also during Metronomy’s set when security obviously spotted someone doing/dealing drugs as this skinny lad suddenly made a bolt for it, persued by two hi-vis’ed big guys.  As he leapt over people’s heads, the crowd cheered in unison, egging him on.  Until he was ambushed by a third man who wrestled him to the ground, face-down in one rather violent move, and the only crowd went “Oooooooooo”, imagining the pain!

We did go to see SBTRKT next, who I was quite keen on seeing, but he started late, and then there was a huge problem with the sound, and then I really wasn’t feeling it.  So, we went to the very popular Bodean’s burger stall, expecting good things.  my chilli cheese fries were fabulous, but The Man’s burger was extremely disappointing!

TOY:  We popped by to see them, and they were certainly interesting.  Billed as a ‘Korg Delta led 5 piece’ – I had no idea what Korg Delta was, but it is apparently a keyboard / synth.  there’s a LOT of synth music around at the moment, it seems.

The Laneway Festival tent line-up

The Vaccines:  By now it was starting to spit a little, so it was nice to get along to a tent.  The Vaccines gave good festival – they sang the crowd pleasers and put on a show, everyone singing along to Post Break-Up Sex was a good feeling!  Was a really good set.

Franz ferdinand were undisturbed by the huge woman towering over their heads!

Franz Ferdinand:  The headliners.  and they did it in style.  Great visuals, played all the favourites, good crowd-interaction and made us all smile through the rain.  and by now it was raining.  Really raining.  Quite hard.  I have to admit, that we did leave before the last couple of songs, knowing that the walk back to the park entrance wouold allow us to still hear them, but cut out about 15 mins soaking time.

I must be getting old!

In summary, Field Day, I shouldn’t like it, it’s not really aimed at me, but I DO so like it and will definitely be going again next year!

And then a UFO came and transported everyone back to Hoxton

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