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Saturday, 30 August 2014

1984 - Citizens Theatre.

It has been said that the only culture I indulge in is scraped off the bottom of a yoghurt pot at 3am when I do a hangover raid on the fridge, but that’s a dirty lie as when time permits I don’t mind indulging in a bit of theatre.

In fact the truth is that I love it.

Although I will admit that as a working class boy there’s a bit of me that does feel the need to justify my penchant for a good stage play.

It’s irrational, and of course my rational mind baulks at that revelation, but I can’t help but accept that deep down there is a part of me that still feels that the theatre is not for the likes of a semi literate chancer who grew up in the wilds of Ayrshire.  
In very quiet moments a small voice often whispers that it is for my betters.
My so called betters being those who have basked in an existence that wasn’t one of making ends meet, wearing hand me downs, and instead revolved around chats with mater and pater about the merits of impressionist art over classic realism.

It is silly stuff, and most assuredly not rooted in reality and the voice is of course one that I try not to listen to.

Thankfully it does helps that the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow has always advocated strongly that the tales that are shared from their stage are for everyone, and it is ensconced in one of their seats that the voice that whispers to me is so very often drowned out by the inclusive spectacle of the events that they regularly host.

A prime example of this was provided by the performance of an adaptation of 1984 by Headlong that they currently have running. http://headlong.co.uk/

I’ve always been pushing that people should read Orwell, and I consider that through the character of Winston that he painted a dystopian picture that is well deserved to be considered as a globally recognized precognisant masterpiece.

Yet this imaginative adaptation by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan takes the story, one that has always been darkly alive, and pumps even more fresh blood into it.

By twisting how the tale is delivered by looking at it from a future vantage point as if the fictional account was one that was based on actual events - even if the character of Winston himself is accepted as a fictional one - they allowed us all to immerse ourselves in what could be the equivalent of what could be considered akin to an Anne Frank diary speaking to us from the past.
An example of not what could be, but what once was, and by coming at it from this angle the message of the evils of totalitarianism are writ large, and are then ultimately difficult to ignore when we leave the theatre and consider the present world as it is.

Clever, thought provoking and entertaining.
In fact it is everything that the novel equally is.

While I have often been left enchanted by live theatre this is one performance that I would not hesitate in recommending to literally everyone.
It’s a must see in every way imaginable, or probably a more accurate statement would be a must be experienced event in every way imaginable.


Bravo. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Monsterpop

Fame and success are two things that often go hand in hand, but neither necessarily have anything to do with talent.
Some people are famous for doing very little, while others have success dropped into their laps due to being in the right place at the right time.

Talent, hard work and a sense of self belief may well get you far in life, but there are simply no guarantees that come with having any, or all of them, as positive attributes.

So with that said I am sure that pretty much everyone can name a friend who they know are supremely talented in what they do but are not getting the recognition that they so richly deserve.

For me that person is Jimmy Devlin aka Monsterpop.
Apart from being an all round good guy who has been supportive of all the things I do and who can be relied upon to step up when help is required, he is also as mentioned outrageously talented.

Give him a guitar and there’s not a lot he can’t do with it.
Throw a genre of music at him and he will master it.
Ask him to write a song and what he will come up with could sit comfortably on a top selling album.

Yet for one reason or another that success that his talents should provide him with has never materialized.

It’s not that he hasn’t had opportunities.
He’s been a member of a few bands who are much loved and some of them have taken him right to the cusp of wider recognition and then due to factors that are not within his control fell short of reaching the finishing line.

He’s not one to complain though.
Instead he will regale you with tales of the tours and television appearances that are humorously entertaining, and not once do they come close to being the “Glory Days” stories that lend themselves to the person claiming “I could have been a contender”.
It is certainly to his credit that the years haven’t left him burnt out and jaded as it has for so many others.
The man is in short a diamond.

In recent years, far from being idle, Jimmy has been offering six string support to both The Snipes and The Red Eyes.
Both of who are considered to be - not to be missed - examples of melodic punk rock at its finest.

And as a project that stands apart from playing in these bands he has his Monsterpop alter ego that allows him to flex his power pop muscles.
.With some kitchen session recording done he time after time drops little nuggets of power pop classics to the world that could have been recorded in the most luscious of studios.
Think Cheap Trick, think Jellyfish, think of any act that that has had some success in writing a hook that digs deep and wont let go and then think Monsterpop.

Over recent months he has journeyed out and made a few sporadic appearances as Monsterpop and played the songs acoustically, but he must be sick of me telling him to get a band up to speed and get out there to do the full electric show.

Anyway, the project and Jimmy are literally that good, and best of all is that you don’t have to take my word for it.

Instead all you have to do is go and listen to him here www.noisetrade.com/monsterpop/monsterpop and after you have done that then jump over to Facebook and show the man some love. 

Oh and here he is just messing about in his kitchen.

No Mean City 2014 (Glasgow)

After last years success the team behind No Mean City are not resting on their laurels and an already sterling line up has been secured.

The Felice Brothers - O2 ABC, Thursday 28th August, 7pm

The Felice Brothers started their musical career performing at family barbeques; and have just released their sixth album. 
Described by American Songwriter as "challenging Americana that never takes its audience, or its influences, for granted", 
Favourite Waitress marks the first time the band ever recorded in a proper studio.

Nick Waterhouse  -  King Tut's, Thursday 28th August, 7pm
Californian guitarist Nick Waterhouse is known for a sounds rooted in rhythm & blues, jazz, and soul. 
On his latest record, Holly, "he hones a had-edged sound, full of nimble guitar licks, taut melodies and precise rhythm" (Paste Magazine).
St Paul and the Broken Bones
He cites the movie Chinatown as his main influence for the album, which is an ode to Los Angeles; and dedicated it to screenwriter Robert Towne.

St. Paul & The Broken Bones - Oran Mor, Monday 1st September, 7pm
St. Paul & The Broken Bones is a seven-piece soul band from Alabama who use vintage technology to recreate a 60s sound. 
After taking SXSW 2014 by storm, their debut album Half a City went to No.3 in the iTunes Chart.

Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin plus Sarah Hayes (Admiral Fallow) - O2 ABC2, Monday 1st September, 7pm
Glastonbury regulars Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin are one of the most innovative acts to appear on the folk scene in years; 
and after winning Best Duo at the BBC Folk Awards 2014, they are very hot property.

Willie Watson -  CCA on Friday 5th September, 7pm
Former Old Crow Medicine Show member, Willie Watson was once described as "Bob Dylan without the nasal whine or pretention". 
Although he did grow up listening to the likes of Dylan, it was a Leadbelly album that got him hooked on the folk style; as a result, 
his expert banjo and guitar playing will transport the listener to another time.

Frank O'Hagan plus Les Johnson & The Shiverin' Sheiks -  O2 ABC2, Friday 12th September, 7pm 
A regular at one of Glasgow's oldest pubs The Scotia, Frank O'Hagan has become one of the city's best-loved singers songwriters. 
He recently supported soul legend Mavis Staples.

Robert Altman's Nashville - Glasgow Film Theatre, Tuesday 16th September, 6pm
Incorporating film into the Festival for the first time, there will be a special screening of Nashville (1975) at the GFT on Tuesday 16th September at 6pm. 
Widely considered as some of Robert Altman's best work, the film takes a snapshot of people involved in the country music and gospel business in Nashville, Tennessee.

Natural Child plus Eugene Twist- O2 ABC2, Wednesday 17th September, 7pm
Rascals of the country scene, Natural Child 'Let the Good Times Roll' with comical lyrics, and a fun laid-back stage show. 
Indie Media Mag sums the boys up perfectly: "the three-man band blends country, rock and blues to make an elixir to cure all your musical ales (Sic)".

The Urban Voodoo Machine plus Dirty Diamond and the Gunslinger - O2 ABC2, Saturday 20th September, 7pm
The Urban Voodoo Machine market themselves, accurately, as bourbon soaked gypsy bop 'n' stroll. 
Urban Voodoo Machine
"The London-based nine-piece inhabit a weird, surreal Noo Orleans world where the ghosts of Dr. John, John Lee Hooker and vaudeville orchestras do battle with stomping rockabilly-style swamprock". (Louder Than War)

Christian Bland & the Revelators plus Al Lover -  O2 ABC2, Tuesday 23rd September, 7pm
Christian Bland is best known as the guitarist for The Black Angels (part of No Mean City in 2012) His solo project, 
Christian Bland and The Revelators highlights his signature sound and his contribution to one of modern psych-rock's biggest and best bands.

Chastity Brown -  O2 ABC2, Thursday 25th September, 7pm
The sound of Chastity Brown is a laid-back fusion of soul, jazz, blues and country. She has been compared to the likes of Tracy Chapman and Nina Simone; 
and Penny Black Music dubbed her last album, Back-Road Highways, "THE soul album of the year".

The Dunwells plus City of Lights - O2 ABC2, Saturday 27th September, 7pm
Leeds lads, The Dunwells, describe their sound as a "unique blend of emotionally driven, anthemic rock, featuring four part harmonies". 
Their influences vary from Foy Vance and Crowded House, to Fleet Foxes and Elbow.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

NHC Shop

As some readers will know I am involved in a new venture.
For those who don’t know what I am talking about I will explain.
We, and I say we as it isn’t just me, are opening a record shop in the west end of Glasgow.
Well it’s not strictly just a record shop as apart from the vinyl and the CDs we are selling books, DVDS, Blue Rays, Merchandise and gig tickets.
The shop itself is really an extension of the New Hellfire Club, a natural next step from the website, podcast, fanzine and promoting of gigs and I am very pleased to be up to my neck in this.
So I hope that explains the lack of content being added to the blog.
We have all simply been run off our feet getting things ready.

Times are indeed a changing.

Now a bit more about why I am doing this.
Well apart from the obvious of why not, it is because like so many others I have always felt a degree of dissatisfaction with the employment side of my life.
There have been many positives in what I do as a day job, and I have worked with very many lovely people, but deep down it isn’t what I feel that I am naturally inclined to gravitate towards.

It’s like that instant association thing when someone asks you to say your dream job, no thinking, just say it fast.
If anyone was to do that with me then what would fly from my lips is not what I currently do.

It would be the word “music”.

I want to be involved in music.
I want to swim in it, breath it in, feast on it and exist within a world of swirling notes that will carry me forward in my life.

And now as middle age wraps its arms around me I have this opportunity and I am not going to let it slip past.

I am going to make that leap and sweat blood to make a success of it as if I don’t now then when will the opportunity arise again?

The words “shoulda, woulda, coulda” will not be part of my future conversations.

This is it.

So wish us all luck, and more than that come and see us.
I think the majority will be surprised at what we are doing as we are looking to be more than just a record shop.

If you do want to pop along then you can find us in the hidden lane in the west end.
The shop is tucked away in a corner at Unit 4, 1103 Argyle Street.

We are open from the 18th of August, but on the 23rd and 24th (Sat and Sun) we have six acoustic performers on each day to entertain you as you browse.
There may even be wine.

Oh okay. There will be wine. J

More information can be found on our facebook page.


Friday, 8 August 2014

We love you to. Mwah.

Dear everyone that put their name to the lovebomb letter.

Yes, that’s you David Aaronovitch, Jenny Agutter, Sir Ben Ainslie, Kriss Akabusi, Roger Allam, Kirstie Allsop, Alexander Armstrong, Sir David Attenborough, Steve Backley, Baroness Joan Bakewell, Frances Barber, Andy Barrow, John Barrowman, Mike Batt, Glen Baxter, Stanley Baxter, Martin Bayfield, Mary Beard, Sarah Beeny, Antony Beevor, Angellica Bell, Dickie Bird, Cilla Black, Graeme Black, Roger Black, Malorie Blackman, Ranjit Bolt, Helena Bonham Carter, Alain de Botton, William Boyd, Tracy Brabin, Lord Melvyn Bragg, Jo Brand, Gyles Brandreth, Rob Brydon, Louisa Buck, Simon Callow, Will Carling, Paul Cartledge, Guy Chambers, Nick Cohen, Michelle Collins, Colonel Tim Collins, Olivia Colman, Charlie Condou, Susannah Constantine, Steve Coogan, Dominic Cooper, Ronnie Corbett, Simon Cowell, Jason Cowley, Sara Cox, Amanda Craig, Steve Cram, Richard Curtis, Tom Daley, William Dalrymple, Richard Dawkins, Dame Judi Dench, Jeremy Deller, Lord Michael Dobbs, Jimmy Doherty, Michael Douglas, Simon Easterby, Gareth Edwards, Jonathan Edwards, Tracey Emin, Sebastian Faulks, Bryan Ferry, Ranulph Fiennes, Ben Fogle, Amanda Foreman, Sir Bruce Forsyth, Neil Fox, Emma Freud, Bernard Gallacher, Kirsty Gallacher, George Galloway, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Bamber Gascoigne, David Gilmour, Harvey Goldsmith, David Goodhart, Lachlan Goudie, David Gower, AC Grayling, Will Greenwood, Tamsin Greig, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Lord Charles Guthrie, Haydn Gwynne, Maggi Hambling, Mehdi Hasan, Sir Max Hastings, Stephen Hawking, Peter Hennessy, James Holland, Tom Holland, Tom Hollander, Gloria Hunniford, Conn Iggulden, John Illsley, Brendan Ingle, Eddie Izzard, Betty Jackson, Sir Mike Jackson, Howard Jacobson, Sir Mick Jagger, Baroness PD James, Griff Rhys Jones, Terry Jones, Christopher Kane, Sir Anish Kapoor, Ross Kemp, Paul Kenny, Jemima Khan, India Knight, Martha Lane Fox, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Tory Lawrence, Kathy Lette, Rod Liddle, Louise Linton, John Lloyd (journalist), John Lloyd (producer), Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, Gabby Logan, Kenny Logan, Sarah Lucas, Dame Vera Lynn, Margaret MacMillan, Stephen Mangan, James May, Davina McCall, Sir Ian McGeechan, Heather McGregor, Andy McNab, John Michie, David Mitchell, Lord John Monks, Lewis Moody, Michael Morpurgo, Bill Morris, David Morrissey, Philip Mould, Al Murray, Sir Paul Nurse, Andy Nyman, Peter Oborne, Sir Michael Parkinson, Fiona Phillips, Andy Puddicombe, Lord David Puttnam, Anita Rani, Esther Rantzen, Sir Steve Redgrave, Derek Redmond, Pete Reed, Lord Martin Rees, Peter Reid, Baroness Ruth Rendell, Sir Cliff Richard, Hugo Rifkind, Sir Tony Robinson, David Rowntree, Ian Rush, Greg Rutherford, CJ Sansom, June Sarpong, Simon Schama, John Sessions, Sandie Shaw, Helen Skelton, Sir Tim Smit, Dan Snow, Peter Snow, Phil Spencer, David Starkey, Sir Patrick Stewart, Sting, Lord Jock Stirrup, Tallia Storm, Neil Stuke, David Suchet, Alan Sugar, Graeme Swann, Stella Tennant, Daley Thompson, James Timpson, Alan Titchmarsh, Kevin Toolis, Lynne Truss, Gavin Turk, Roger Uttley, David Walliams, Zoë Wanamaker, Robert Webb, Richard Wentworth, Sir Alan West, Dominic West,  and Kevin Whately.

Especially you Kevin Whately, but maybe not you John Barrowman.

First let me apologise as I have no clue whatsoever who many of you are, but that doesn't matter.
I thank you for your timely and compassionate intervention.
I am sure that you have all thought long and hard about the future and each and every one of you have very clear reasons as to why you want us Scots to remain as part of the union.
We feel the love, we really do.
Just ignore those people who are saying that you have no right to an opinion because so many of you are rich, oh so very rich, and very often don’t live in Scotland, or even the UK, or have much of a clue about what it is like to be scrambling from one pay day loan or benefit cheque to the next.
These people are just tired, partially ground down and lashing out.
You all have the right to an opinion regardless of whether you hold it while lounging on a beach in Barbados or sharing it with a friend over a meal in a VIP area in a five star restaurant.
So feel free to express them as you wish.

However, and this is just a small thing, a little favour that you could maybe consider doing.
Could you maybe, just maybe, find some time in your busy schedules to add your name to another letter?

This one could be addressed to David Cameron and you wouldn’t even need a stamp to send it as some of you are close friends and I am sure next time you see him you could just hand it over.
I mean there’s no rush anyway.

Here’s the deal though.
In this letter could you all collectively ask why there are food banks in the UK, why the rich are getting richer off the backs of the poor who are most certainly getting poorer, and maybe casually throw in a request for him to sort out someone that the nation can get behind to investigate all that disgusting child abuse stuff.
If you really want to you could even mention something about the NHS dying from a death of a thousand cuts.

It’s just that I think that it is possible that you have put the cart before the horse when you asked us to stay with you.
Although not literally because I am sure none of you want us Scots turning up on your doorstep with our suitcases full of Irn Bru, haggis and shortbread asking where your nearest deep fat fryer is.

What I mean is that if there were no food banks because no one was going hungry, that the wealth of the nation was shared a bit more fairly, and that we could see justice being done not just in the child abuse cases, but in all the things that the politicians seem to get up to, then it is possible that we would agree that we were better together and feel no need to look to forge ahead with an independent Scotland.

It’s just a thought, and I am sure that given a moment you will see the worth in it.

PS. Can you have a word with John Barrowman about his accent? Life is hard enough.

PPS. Oh, and I didn't notice Rod Liddle in there. Rod Liddle who said "The only reason any people remain in Scotland is on account of the very cheap alcohol in supermarkets, plus a ready supply of heroin for when the alcohol runs out."
He is also the guy who offended so many with his cheap racist shots surrounding the Stephen Lawrence case.
So while we love the rest of you I think you can keep Rod.
The Scotland many of us want is a pretty inclusive one, but you have to draw the line somewhere. 


Thanks.

More information about Rod Liddle in the comments section. 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Post referendum apocalypse warning.

Thursday, July 10, 2014 2:02:00 pm The snp is polluted with nut cases and zealots, they have kept their mouths shut and followed salmond when he was telling them he would deliver freedom from the hated English. Even these morons are starting to realise that the game is up and there will be an ugly reckoning between the 'fundies' and the salmond lackies. It should be pretty awful and hilarious.

To quote a bit of this, it is in fact “pretty awful and hilarious” isn’t it?

It was written by a Councillor called Terry Kelly who represents the Labour party.
Until yesterday his infamy had not reached the darkest corners of Ayrshire and I was unaware of his existence until he contributed to a thread that can be found on the facebook page of Cathy Jamieson (Labour MP)

Since that pleasurable experience I have enjoyed dipping my toe into the mouth of his madness.
Okay then, that’s not strictly true.
In the interests of full disclosure I have to say that no one is looking for a toe job from this guy.
Figuratively, or literally.
It wasn’t the nice experience comparing it to a toe job may have led you to believe.

Anyway I found that gem of reason that I opened with on his blog.
The blog itself is a weird and wonderful place where rants flow and debate is strangled at birth.
In its totality it really provides a prime example of how some people can slip through the net and achieve a position that carries with it a certain degree of power.
I am aware that I could easily be accused of cherry picking a comment that shows Terry in the worst possible light, but that’s not the case.
Honest guv.
In fact if anyone does consider that then please do jump over to http://councillorterrykelly.blogspot.co.uk/ and print off some of his missives including the comments and pin them to your wall before finally throwing a dart at them.
No matter what one you skewer I can assure you that it will be enlightening, but remember to wipe your feet on leaving after taking a walk through the psyche of this guy.

However let us commence with breaking down the example of his razor sharp wit that I have provided.

“The snp is polluted with nut cases and zealots.”

Personally I am a socialist and for much of my adult voting life I have supported Labour, but as a rational individual, or I at least think I am, I am aware that unless it is a party of extremists who promote hate from the fringes the reality is that none of the mainstream parties are polluted with said nut cases and zealots.
There will always be a few who slip past as Terry highlights with his being a member of Labour, but similarly a few do not reflect the attitudes of the many.
So that’s pretty much bollocks right there.
If this fella genuinely believes that then he has no ability to fairly assess others as he obviously paints with the broadest brushstroke available.

“they have kept their mouths shut and followed salmond when he was telling them he would deliver freedom from the hated English”

Really?
The silence is so deafening that people are sick of it and begging for more referendum talk aren’t they?
The claim that anyone is blindly following Salmond is equally as bogus.
It is also a rather blanketing remark as is expected.
Is it really the case that everyone voting yes is an SNP supporter who idolises the first Minister?
The answer is of course not.
The yes support is made up of all political persuasions, and only those who are blinded by their own limited understanding of this fact continue to hang onto making such ridiculous claims.
Should we even consider the “deliver freedom from the hated English” part?
It’s really beneath contempt.
I certainly don’t hate the English and I know no one who claims that.
It’s true that we see some who claim to hate them ranting occasionally, but we are safe in the knowledge of knowing that they are quite frankly a minority that are best ignored as they bring nothing of worth to the table.
Apart from that it isn't freedom that people are looking for.
It’s the opportunity to determine our own futures as a country, and if that is delivered it will come from a democratic vote.

“Even these morons are starting to realise that the game is up and there will be an ugly reckoning between the 'fundies' and the salmond lackies.”

More name calling and calling into question the intelligence of those not singing from the same page of “Songs that Terry taught us”
Who are these fundies and the Salmond lackeys to?
What is this ugly reckoning he speaks of?
From other comments he has made it would appear that it is English pensioners that should fear for their lives if the vote goes to the union as those who are looking for the yes vote to be carried will vent their apoplectic rage at them.
Hyperbole much?
Seriously, this is the level that this clown is stooping to, and I will repeat that he is a councillor.
It doesn't really matter that he is a Labour one.
His party affiliation has little to do with his ranting.
(Although it does seem that even UKIP are happy to jettison anyone of their people who make similarly ludicrous assertions and it does beg the question why Labour haven’t picked up on this guy and considered him a liability.)

And finally “It should be pretty awful and hilarious”

So we are to surmise from his that people being at each others throats would be awful?

Finally something I can agree with, but also “hilarious” though.

I have a problem with this bit.
Is this guys bitterness blinded him to the point that he considers post referendum violence is something that would be funny.

That no one is really looking to burn the world down if a no vote is the outcome is neither here nor there in this.

What is important is that we have an elected official that participates in spreading nonsense like this.

He claims to be a supporter of equality and opposes discrimination in all forms.
He is quick to flaunt his socialist credentials to.
And yet much of what he posts verges on hate speech.
If you aren't with him and his views then you are against him and in his opinion you should step out of his way.

Do we really want individuals like this representing us?
It doesn't matter what party it is.
Should the quality bar be lifted?

I certainly think so. 

Thursday, 31 July 2014

EK.Decay - No Hope

With the siren wailing as a warning that EK.Decay’s début is here it’s a fine a start to some nuanced modern punk rock.
Everything always comes full circle and it is with that turn of the wheel that these punks have struck at a time when their delivery and lyrical anti establishment howl is now as relevant as it ever was.
In a world that often feels as if it is falling apart around us the band aren't looking to let anyone off the hook, and with misanthropic salvos, the bankers, politicians, the imperialistic USA and the divisive factions that are on the rise are targeted and firmly outed as those who nurture the roots of evil.

Of course there’s partially a stereotypical angle being explored on some of the material like “Smash the System”, but I could argue that there’s never been a generation that didn't need a voice calling them to arms and question everything around them and that message never really gets old.

Another huge plus is that it’s not all punk by numbers across the breadth of the album either.

With the band looking to incorporate a more rock influenced guitar sound that takes the listener away from the tired old cul de sac that many punk acts seem to get stuck in it makes a refreshing change from the more common fare.
After all it’s 2014 and not 1980 and wasn't punk really about pushing at the edges anyway so what’s wrong with some guitar workouts?
Didn't Saint Joe once utter “you’re my guitar hero” at Sir Jones once anyway, and if it’s good enough for the Clash it’s good enough for me.

I digress though.
Apart from a more rock influenced guitar approach the band are open to tackling some weighty subjects like suicide in a manner that befits it.
There’s no faux heart wringing and tear inducing schmaltz, and befitting of a mature punk band they instead intelligently and emphatically deliver a song that is emotionally raw, well balanced, and will undoubtedly touch people who have experienced the loss of a family member or a friend.
Being able to do that is really at the heart of what EK.Decay are, and it is with this keying into the world around them from the personal to wider social issues that they can engage, and engage like fuck.


Once the final track comes to a close all you can do is ask for more please.

Hans Chew - Christie Connor-Vernal King Tuts Wah Wah Hut - 29/07/14 (Glasgow)

Innis & Gunn in a can?

Why did no one tell me about this?

Initially I was entertaining some dark thoughts about this new release being kept a secret from me, but then when my change was handed back over the bar I realized that friends were keeping it quiet in an attempt to steer me away from financial ruin.

In these recession hit times the four pound price tag (nearly $7US) is something that my meagre income is not up to carrying the weight of.

As the barmaid took my money I had a flashback to when the Solid Rock Café wet the bottom of a two glasses with some Mount Gay rum and took ten pounds from me for the privilege. 
I nearly cried that night, and as I sipped on my expensive Innis and Gunn I could feel tears welling up again as I grieved for the loss of hard worked for mullah from my wallet.

It’s been an emotional week I guess.

Anyway on the upside I was in good company, and the prospect of seeing Christie Connor-Vernal with a full band backing her, and the headliner Hans Chew, was enough to balance out the bad karma that was lurking behind the bar waiting to take the shine off the night for unsuspecting patrons.

Once relocated to venue proper that is upstairs the night could start in earnest though, and it most certainly did as Christie and the band opened with As good as I am.
The studio version, while impressive, pales in comparison to the live rendition.
It’s not that the band and Christie were pulling their punches while recording it, but instead that with a quality sound - and an audience to play to that were obviously supportive - the whole performance is taken to a different level again.

After another couple of songs were aired from the session I started to get the distinct impression that there was something quite cinematic about the experience.

That what we were seeing reflected the Hollywood rock and roll fantasy.

It’s Christie starring as the up and coming artist who is paying her dues along with her band in small bar rooms, and from the quality of the music on display it is easy to see where the story is going, and of course the credits will assuredly roll on a triumphant stadium show.

However the thing with these films is that they can’t start off revealing anyone really paying their dues, and from the first song the standard is set at a level that is maintained across the whole movie.
After all they have a soundtrack release to sell.
Consider Kris Kristofferson and Barbara Streisand in “A star is born”.
Beyonce Knowles in “Dreamgirls”,
Or even Neil Diamond in “The Jazz Singer”.
All of these movies have musicians at the top of their game pretending to be starting off, and it is in this way that the set reflects that as the quality of the bands performance is out of sync with the surroundings.
It’s a set that is already at the point of being featured as the end credits roll.

It just seems that as a whole this is a band that should literally be already jetting about from festival to stadium and it is only in catching them live that this can be understood.

On the rare occasions when I witness a band taking the music to this degree of professionalism, paired with a solid chunk of passion, then it honestly begs the question why label representatives are not out the back of the venue slapping each other in the face with chequebooks with the last man, or women, standing getting to sign them.

Someone out there somewhere isn't doing their job if any band this talented is not being supported in achieving their dreams.


As for Hans Chew it was a bittersweet first meeting.

The bitter part was all about the amount of people flooding from the venue prior to them starting to play.
Something that had nothing to do with Hans Chew either, but everything to do with the usual myopic engagement with live music from the public.
People just generally stick to what they know, and as Hans and his band are a bit of an unknown quantity here in the UK then the majority simply weren't looking to take the time to get acquainted.
It would be easy to say it is their loss, but it isn't.
It’s really our loss, our collective loss, because every time this happens the artists at the level Hans and his band-mates are at have to consider if it is worth returning to these shores from the other side of the world.
They have to think about the costs involved, the time away from their family and friends, and then weigh it up while asking themselves if the fan picked up in this bar here and the two in that club there is really edging their careers forward in any meaningful way.
The brutal angle on that is if it’s not, then it’s not, and it isn't worth doing.

The sweet part was as you have probably guessed the music, and oh how sweet it was.
The band simply refused to let the dwindling crowd take anything away from what they do.
With a Hans Chew show no one is getting short changed.
You paid to hear some great music and that’s what you are getting.

It’s actually rare to see a band so attuned to each other.
I don’t know if it comes from practice, a natural ability, or a combination of both, but there are points in the show where it looks as if the band becomes lost in a high velocity jam session with each other.

Sometimes when that happens I can appreciate that the musicians are skirting with disaster and there’s an added appeal as everything could jump the rails at any second, but Hans Chew aren’t like that.
Instead it’s a fluid and organic performance that takes everything to a peak, and then pushes on beyond that and as every peak is reached and you think they can’t take it to another then they gleefully do leaving other bands in the dust.

Of course on stage Hans is the focal point, and maintains control throughout, but this is a real band and not a one man show.
The musicianship on display hammers that point home.
The rhythm section of Jesse Wallace on drums and Ricardo Ortiz on bass don’t simply provide a beat, a foundation for the songs to be built up from, but rather they play their instruments as part of the fabric of the songs and provide additional shading to everything that is being played.
I've seen many drum solos and like the majority of non musicians they leave me cold, but Jesse doesn't just beat at the skins and hit everything in sight.
When he goes into his solo it’s a musical part of the show in itself.

Similarly Dave Cavallo on guitar is no slouch.
You want some bottle neck slide with the soulful keyboard flourish?
Not a problem sir.
You want a punky thrash to compliment some honky-tonk tinkling?
Have some of that and here’s a side order of the blues to go with it.
Meanwhile with Hans stomping, growling and howling through everything from soul and jazz to country and juke joint rock and roll it becomes glaringly obvious that they are collectively providing a joyous noise that covers every base imaginable.
It’s a smorgasbord of aural delights with something for everyone.
A one stop shop for real music fans to indulge in.

At one point as they tucked their heads down and powered on I was thinking about a celebrity death match between the Doors and MC5 with it coming to a points finish.

At another I was considering Dr John playing at 3am in a piano bar.

Stunning.

That could be a one word review for it.

To take it back to an earlier point about the lack of an audience.
If this is what you get in a room with barely anyone in it can you imagine what it would be like if the band could feed off an ecstatic crowd and they and the audience build on that flow?

At the end of the gig it would have to be classed as a natural disaster zone as it wouldn't just be the roof of the venue taken off, but every roof in a five mile radius.


Oh I do so hope they come back.  


Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Wiseacres.

Classed as one of those shoulda woulda coulda bands The Wiseacres just fell short of snatching at the next rung on the ladder of success on their first stab at making a go of it in the music biz
The reason was all about public tastes moving on rather than them setting a foot wrong though.
It’s the time old tale of boy meets girl, likes girl, sees another girl and leaves the first girl behind.

The public are of course fickle bastards.

The difference between other acts and The Wiseacres though is that they decided not to end the story there, and with a fresh album released they have managed to not just revisit the past, but use the intervening years to ensure that they didn't stall themselves into a musical rut.
With Sharon Bain at the vocal helm for much of it the references to Debbie Harry and a slew of late eighties indie power pop chanteuse are unavoidable, but the band doesn't sound like any particular one, and certainly not Blondie, and that keeps it all very interesting.
In addition the occasional male vocal lead from John White can take us into Velvets and Jesus and Mary Chain territory to, and it is in this broad range of influences that are being touched on that the band can manage to take a great deal of essentially disparate parts and weave them together to create a cohesive whole.
Pretty damn impressive, but don’t ask me how the actually do it because it’s probably a secret that if I knew and revealed then certain death would be on the cards.

Maybe this time around that elusive rung on that ladder of success is hovering within reach again.
If they manage to get a grip on it then it would be well deserved, but as with the first attempt that is going to be something that is down to public support.

So get listening, get buying, get going to see them in action as I don’t want to be writing a where are they now article down the line.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Has anyone seen John Lydon and Katie Hopkins in the same room at the same time?

It would be very easy to take umbrage at the things that John Lydon says here.
Especially if you are a fan of both The Clash and The Ramones.
However Lydon is the self styled king of outrage and this is his stock in trade.
A mature consideration of what he has spouted can only lead to the conclusion that it is done with the intent to bate, and he clings to the delusion that this carries some worth to it.
Here he is gaining some media traction as his nonsense partially goes viral while simultaneously being unaware that people are laughing at him and not with him.

His comments are ludicrously ill thought out, and to a degree disrespectful, but through repetition of this sort of vapid missive there is literally is no shock value any more.

Who cares what he says.

It's Lydon.

Instead of being offended most now see him as akin to an aged relative with an incontinence problem.

The first time he shits himself everyone screams in horror, and then it is a talking point for some weeks, but a few years down the line when the odour that heralds yet another evacuation of his bowels reaches you there is no shock or horror.
All you do is lift a weary eyebrow and shout to his carer that he's filled his continence pad again before moving on to continue doing what you were doing in the first place.
It's really just become another day in the life of ol' shitty pants and no one is surprised or shocked any more.

And that's really all this is.
Lydon opening his mouth and once again releasing some words that have the value of the contents of an incontinence pad.

It could be funny if he shook it all up a bit, but he is lost in inhabiting the persona of the cartoon stereotype that he designed for himself.

It's actually a rather sad and pointless rut he has managed to create for himself to languish in.

PS - For those who reside any place other than the UK I should explain that Katie Hopkins is a talent void mouthpiece who the media trundle out to boost ratings of daytime televisions shows as she is hardwired to open her mouth and spout similar bollocks to Lydon.