The Black Heart, London, 12/11/11
This month’s club hosted by Josie Long was its usual mixed bag of fun, nonsense and stuff. Funny awards go to Ben Partridge (pictured) and his lauding of an online forum celebrating the long-defunct Windsor Safari Park and Nathaniel Metcalfe who used his slot to organise a ‘lads’ night in watching The Football Factory. Oi oi indeed. Elsewhere, there were drawing workshops, bad drawing nonetheless, political tales and dreams of a relationship with James Franco. Lost on me because I don’t know who he is.
Union Chapel, London, 05/09/11
One of those bands whose name I seem to have seen around for years without ever actually hearing a note of their music, Blonde Redhead were something of a mystery to me. Kindly given some free, unwanted tickets by a friend, this was a gig which surely couldn’t go wrong, bearing in mind its cost and the amazing venue. Well, it seems as if karma did its thing and contrived to have me spend the entire gig with trousers soaked in tea and something in my eye so painful I had to watch through just the one eye. The band were lovely though. Seemingly, their sense of dramatic melancholy has recently been plundered to greater acclaim by Beach House. With each song a new wave of downbeat, a Blonde Redhead set doesn’t have stand-out moments, more an ongoing feeling.
The story of Harvey Milk, the original gay rights campaigner assassinated by a fellow politician, was always likely to be an emotional one. The balance between personal and political here though was just right, the period communicated convincingly and Sean Penn’s performance as Milk excellent.
The Emirates, London, 09/10/11
On the back of a disastrous summer in which we lost our two best players, an 8-2 schooling at Old Trafford and without a win in the league so far this season, the most important thing here by far was the three points. And they came about in bizarre fashion as Swansea keeper, Vorm, rolled the ball out into the heels of his nearest defender who unwittingly deflected it into the path of Arshavin, who finished well into an empty net. Pure luck for us, but just what we needed. The rest of the performance though left a lot to be desired. Missed chances, possession with no cutting edge, clinging on mainly due to some poor Swansea finishing and, worst of all, having such a transparent lack of confidence that led to Swansea controlling the game for large periods. Of the new signings, Mertersacker looked solid (although I still have my doubts), Arteta started OK then faded and Benayoun’s 20 minutes provided energy, if little else. Worth noting were the performances of Walcott and Gibbs, who both looked way, way below standard.
I was more than sceptical when I saw that this film was to be made. It seemed like history too recently passed. However, the film got rave reviews and rightly so, in that it does what it needs to do and it does it well. If you want a history into the beginnings of Facebook and a story about computer geek rivalry, you got it.
The weather’s perked up and Scrabble Sunday’s on. Until the rain starts and it’s off. But then it stops and we’re on. But then it starts again and we’re off for good!
All packed up, we take in Os Mutantes who are at times extremely annoying prog, but occasionally really impressively psychedelic with hints of soft pop in there too. At the Sunrise, Oh Land does a short set of well crafted pop songs reminiscent of Lykke Li. She’s followed by The Bees who, basically are rubbish, Gomez-style rubbish. But they’re feelgood and get everyone bopping.
The rain halts again, which allows us a look at Ghostpoet whose melodic, weird hip hop is a welcome antidote to The Bees good time tunes. Then, I’m off to the Film and Music tent to see The Hidden Cameras whose performance is a delight, but is horribly under-attended. They’re a band who I have occasional intense bouts of obsession over, one of which I happen to be in right now. Theatrical, strange and joyful, their set is exuberant, energy-giving.
Over to the Main Stage, another band to tick off the list is Suede, a band I had some formative growing-up experiences with. When they play songs I know (from the first album, pretty much), it’s great. Otherwise, they’ve since been irrelevant to me so, despite a lively performance, I’m not fussed. James Blake on the Lake Stage is a real attraction, but it’s all a bit too downbeat at this stage in the proceedings.
Naturally, we aim for the Literary Arena where Leo Benedictus attempts an interactive book reading which is, by turns engaging, funny and calamitous (a 17 year old girl and an extremely inebriated pixie-lady attempt to overtake the event). A welcome and amusing experiment.
It’s hard not to obsess over the weather with British festivals. And, despite the forecasts, we arrived in Suffolk full of hope that the sun that graced us for the whole of Friday would stay with us throughout the weekend. We pitched our tent in an earwig-infested, woody part of the Performer’s campsite and made our way onto the site, excited.
The first band of the weekend is Braids, performing in the Sunrise Arena, possibly my all time favourite stage. The band live up to their billing of Animal Collective meets Cocteau Twins, but frankly, it’s a bit too early for music. So, off to the comedy tent we go to see Josh Widdecombe impress the crowds with his domestic observations and then Richard Herring look a bit out of place, before turning it round with some more heartwarming stuff about his family at the end.
With the sun on full blast, we take in Wanda Jackson on the main stage. She’s still got a great voice, is brilliantly cheesy in a way only a woman of her age can be and tells some great little anecdotes. She’s followed by Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, who always disappoint. I want them to be a modern-day Lee & Nancy, but they’re nothing of the sort, despite wonderfully contrasting voices.
It’s a shame to leave the sun behind and head to the Word Arena, but the double bill of Deerhunter and Caribou is surely the highlight of the weekend. Deerhunter wig out in style and Caribou rave so hard that, upon leaving the tent, I feel completely disorientated, like stumbling out of a club to find the sun’s up. But it’s late afternoon. As the band get the party going, I realise their evermore ravey sound is attracting a younger and younger audience. I think to myself that I’m too old to rave. But then I realise that, actually, it’s the other way around; they are too young to remember it the first time. I win. And shuffle discreetly towards the middle-aged people at the back of the tent.
Over at the Sunrise, Cloud Control are whipping up an indie storm as the night draws in. Later, Cat’s Eyes, despite awful sound problems, deliver one of the sets of the weekend. Fusing 80s miserablism with echoes of Teardrop Explodes, Spector-ish ballads and occasional lengthy dirges, Cat’s Eyes are an intriguing mix. I’m not too taken with yer man’s voice, but when the lady sings, it’s pure magic.
On the way back to the main arena, we stop and sit by the lake for a spot of stargazing. Sadly, cloud covers the sky, but the talk on what’s out there in the known universe is awesome and humbling. We’re pretty insignificant huh! We finish the night in the Theatre tent with Kate Tempest’s Wasted. An urban tale of youth developing into adulthood, the storyline is a little cliched, but it’s well presented and the actors pull off their various roles well.
And then…the rain. Which means we head for cover straight away. Which turns out to be Adam Ant, whose performance seems plucked straight from his 80s heyday and is as fun as you’d imagine (lots, actually). Over in the Sunrise we’re bought slightly more up to date; this time to 1992 as Tripwires do their very best Ride impression in sound, and in look. They’re good though, but interest wains quiet quickly here.
We arrive at the Cabaret tent to see Colin Hoult, but instead catch Late Night Gimp Fight, whose well performed but tedious combination of cock gags and bum gags, sadly, goes down uproariously well. Student comedy, nothing more. They’re taught a lesson in comedy over at the Poetry Arena by Tim Key, who can make doing up his tie hilariously funny. His ridiculous poems have the audience in the palm of his hands and his deadpan, silly manner makes you think that hanging out with him would be a lot of fun.
Back in the Word Arena, Echo And The Bunnymen are on. Seeing them felt like ticking a classic band off a list of ‘must sees’. They are just Echo And The Bunnymen; no more, no less. Not the biggest fan of Steve Mason’s post-Beta Band work, I see him nonetheless for lack of much else. He’s a strange, engaging performer; baggy and slightly menacing. Later, Foals do their tricksy indie thing to much rapture and even I, not a fan in any way, am slightly taken with a barnstorming performance.
Back over in the Sunrise, the East Park Reggae Collective are playing bad reggae and reminding us of their name over and over and informing us that they’re the last band on (they’re not). It’s good, bouncy fun though. We finish the evening in the Film and Music Arena with Barrence Whitfield who has an incredible voice, a tight band and some brilliant, dance-worthy soul songs.
Leicester Square Theatre, 13/07/11
This Edinburgh warm-up continues where Hoult’s last show left off, straddling the line between character comedy and absurd, dark theatre. Loosely set in an asylum, Hoult plays the part of Thwor, the God of Thwunder (trapped in the body of a man from Garforth), an acid-jazz lover, an old, dotty lady and a dancing dog among others. There are plenty of laughs, mainly utterly silly ones, and there are moments of reflection. Let’s call it melanch-omedy, shall we?
I think I set my expectations too high for this one. An influential cult sci-fi classic it may be, but I have to say I found it laughable. From the jocks vs nerds in space opening to the ridiculous hippy-dippy flowery sequences with Joan Baez foghorning away in the background, this is a serious period-piece. At times it threatens to be better than it is and its impact on sci-fi, especially Moon, is evident, but I just couldn’t take it seriously.
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