All entries for July 2009

July 23, 2009

City vs Blackburn

The Manchester City lineup (probable) for the first game of the season against Blackburn at Ewood Park.

Given

Richards - Onouha - Dunne - Bridge

De Jong - Barry

SWP - Ireland - Petrov

Bellamy - Caceido - Bojinov

Benjani - Evans

Robinho - Adebayor - Tevez

Santa Cruz


The innovative 4-2-3-3-2-3-1 line up will surely overwhelm Blackburn Rovers who will probably revert to their preferred lineup of 9-0-1 where the one up front is defender Christoper Samba. Either way, City are leading the line in the Premiership this year for tactical innovation. With the vast wealth of the oily owners City should have no trouble persuading the FA to accept their brave new approach to the game of association football.

However it is widely believed that City have a backup plan if the FA gets a bit clingy to the outmoded notion of 11-a-side football, and have designed the following lineup to accommodate their recently acquired talents:


Given

Caceido - Evans - Benjani - Bojinov

Bellamy - Jo (recalled) - Tevez - Robinho

Adebayor - Santa Cruz


This will allow for City's vast array of attacking talent to thrive whilst eliminating the possibility of any, or indeed all, of them getting major strops about the splinters in their arses from the most overstuffed attacking bench in the entire history of history.

Naturally if city ever need tips they should only look across the city to their neighbours Manchester United, who will be approaching this season with the equally intriguing tactical innovation of a strike force made up of two foetuses, a man who doesn't do very much, and a man who does too much like shout at refs, defend and assault corner flags.

Full season guide coming soon.


July 06, 2009

Chimp Escape

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/8135603.stm

Read the one about the thirty chimps who escaped from their pen at Chester Zoo causing the whole thing to be evacuated? Guess who was there? Ya, twas Hollyzone. Me and five thousand other punters were evacuated from the zoo at about lunchtime yesterday in an incident that can only be described as “becoming a theme” after I managed to get evacuated from Birmingham New Street station two weeks ago. Coming up this week I will get evacuated from a concert, a game of ten pin bowling, a pub and a nuclear submarine.

And what was learnt from the chimpery?

  • Chester Zoo practises for animal escapes a lot, but there hasn’t been one for at least four years according to the zookeeper I spoke to.
  • Chimps are one of the worst animals to escape because they are big, strong, clever and have opposable thumbs.
  • However, even when they do escape, they are only really after tasty things, hence why they didn’t even make it out of monkey house, only into the kitchen. According to the keeper “they’re in the right building, just not where we want them”.
  • People don’t like it very much if you joke that it’s the jaguars which have escaped.
  • People are worse than animals in a lot of ways – all the chimps wanted was nuts from the kitchen. When it became apparent that this meant the zoo was closed for the day several humans got loud and aggressive, so much so the tills which had been opened to give refunds had to close, and some remained badly behaved as they tried to leave. There was much honking of horns and general impatience despite the fact even a chimp could work out that five thousand people cannot leave a place at once without a queue forming.
  • As part of the entry fee one can donate a small amount to Chester Zoo via gift aid as a donation. It’s optional but often taken up. In the queue Hollyzone was in to get refunds there were probably several hundred people. Hollyzone was the only one to enquire as to whether it was possible to have only the entry fee refunded, and not the donation which was, after all, a donation. Apparently due to paying on card this was not possible. It’s a bit sad that no one else thought to ask. Sure, claim the entry fee back, but a donation’s a donation, surely?
  • The BBC News website reported the whole thing under it’s Merseyside News banner. Chester ain’t in Merseyside. The clue’s in the title, it’s in Cheshire. This is very annoying. All that effort I went to growing up there and the BBC (paid for by my license fee) can’t even be bothered to say the place exists. Typical. Bet the chimps would care.

July 03, 2009

Music Resolution 2009 – Metric, Manchester Academy 3, 11th May

Join me and my New Year’s Resolution to go to at least one gig every month of 2009.

Does going to a gig on your own make you a loser? No, of course not. It is a pure declaration of love for music that one is willing to be that Billy No Mates. Of course, it is instantly more respectable if one makes random gig friends in the course of one’s solo adventure, and where is better to make friends that the queue for the merch stall? After all, in an era where downloads and the nature of record deals mean only a tiny, and usually Bono-shaped, minority of bands make any money from something so vulgar as CDs, buying merch is one of the best declarations of intent towards a band. Yes, it says, I will wear your shameless advertising to show my love. Your face, my chest. They were meant to be together.

I’m talking about teeshirts, right?!


A Metric teeshirt.

And it was as witness to the unusual sight of the male half of a couple dilly-dallying over a garment, whilst the female half held onto a beer for dear life, I met my random gig buddies. It turned out Mr GB was the Metric fan, Miss GB had come along because, well, it was something to do and Mr GB really wanted to go. Neither of them expected to make a random gig buddy (why would they when they had each other?) but when I turn on my waif and stray look, I can get adopted by even the flintiest hearted gig goer (this theory has not been tested at an Oasis gig, and hopefully never ever will).

Now the second stage of the plan was less succesful. Granted, the second stage of the plan was not fully formed until halfway through the gig, but it was a simple idea with a not-so-simple execution, to wit, run away and join Metric.

It’s entirely possible to love a band and not want to run away and join them. The list of bands I’ve wanted to run away and join is very small. There are always practicalities. I wouldn’t run away and join Muse because I am not good enough at any instrument. I wouldn’t run away and join Crystal Castles because I value my personal safety. I wouldn’t run away and join Elastica because they split up eight years ago, and besides, heroin just isn’t as appealing as Toberlone. So there remains a tiny rump of bands I would join. Prior to this gig I had a year long desire to learn Portugese and sod off to join those masters of the not-quite-proficient instrument playing, CSS. But no longer.

Nope, nowadays I plot my journey to Metric, like a loser with six inch ruler, dreaming of 15cm.

But why? Well, why not? And besides, Emily Haines, Metric’s vocalist and sometime keyboardist, probably managed to persuade most if not all of the audience to share this dream with me. When she introduced ‘Gimme Sympathy’, the highlight of new album Fantasies, she opted to highlight the choruses query “Who’d you rather be/The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?” before answering that she’d say neither, she wanted to be in Metric. It was only about 55% vomit inducing, a much lower percentage than you would expect.

randoms 5
A crap photo of Metric, showing the sun shining out of their… places where sun shines normally. Ahem.

Haines is a top class front woman. She has charisma, a tendency to waffle the most endearing crap (including, but not limited to, a hilarious meandering rumination on taking magic mushrooms, punctuated regularly be completely unconvincing denials of ever having touched said fungi or having encouraged anyone to use them) and doesn’t seem to realise that sometimes a singer can stay still. Neck threatening headbanging on ‘Hand$hakes’, jumping around on multiple tracks (risky, the Academy 3 has a very low ceiling), stalking the stage endlessly. The set was very very heavy on the new album, all bar four tacks coming from this sleek but engaging lesson in classy indie. The occasional addition guitar solo or extended outro give the crowd something new, but a Metric gig these days is a masterclass in making the efficient exciting.

Starting on a slowie is something only a band full of confidence would do, so its a good thing it is justified. The slow start builds expectation, rather than testing the audience’s patience. As does the decision to make the set Fantasies-heavy. For Miss GB it didn’t matter that she barely knew the band at all, by the end she was insisting to Mr GB and myself that we were heading back to where it all began between us, the merch stall, to buy her a copy of Fantasies for her car. She also agreed that if we hadn’t had jobs to go to the next day we would be spending the rest of the night trying to smuggle ourselves aboard Metric’s tourbus.

And why not. You’ll only end up a Billy No Mates if you don’t go out there and meet people. Book me a spot on the bus, Emily!


July 01, 2009

Music Resolution 2009 – Bat For Lashes/School Of Seven Bells, Manchester Ritz, 7th April

Join me and my New Year’s Resolution to go to at least one gig every month of 2009.

Nothing like a grand and slightly out-of-time venue for the slightly unworldly and grand world of Bat For Lashes. There aren’t many venues in the Manchester area with chandeliers and golden decorations adorning the wall. And there aren’t many pop stars who turn up in a shower of gold paint and curious kitsch stage decorations.

Certainly School Of Seven Bells haven’t dressed up particularly strangely for the night in the venerable old Ritz, with it’s ‘legendary’ ‘springy’ dancefloor. Instead they’ve decided that they’ll do their spookiness via their music. The swooning guitar and keyboard noises generated by Benjamin Curtis and the twins Alejandra and Claudia Deheza, who enticed him away from his previous band, Secret Machines, are more than sufficiently unworldly in a way which evokes a time unfamiliar to most of the audience – an early 1990s shoegaze concert. Not that they had state of the art laptops tapping away in an echo-y manner back in 1991. No, they had real drummers.


School Of Seven Bells. Bells not pictures.

But a real drummer would only ruin School Of Seven Bells’ symmetry, Curtis stood centre stage with a singing twin on either side. There should be more symmetry in music. Wonky musicians will never be as satisfying as a perfectly balance front line. It’s why the Manics needed Richey Edwards onstage, to create a neat symmetry of glam bloke-macho bloke-glam bloke rather than supply guitar heroics. School Of Seven Bells have symmetry. Conveniently they also turned out to have some gorgeous songs. Even when they were looking confused at Bat For Lashes’ distinctly asymmetrical stage props, they weren’t sounding confused. Tight and relentlessly dreamy, they were one of those pleasant surprises anyone who arrives early for the support wants. Setting the scene, drawing us in, and so beautifully symmetrical.

Bat For Lashes doesn’t do symmetry. She does trinkets, lots and lots of trinkets. Some of her trinkets are borrowed from other bands, New Young Pony Club’s drummer, ex-Ash lady Charlotte Hatherley on various instruments and nick nacks. They take their place alongside odd lamps, strange statues and a pile of musical instruments, not all of which were in a mood to function.


Miss Bat.

Natasha Khan, is a shy girl. Hiding behind her musical alter ego Bat For Lashes, and on new album Two Suns her psychic opposite, a character called Pearl who amounts to Khan in a blonde wig, Natasha herself is quite shy. Very shy. And there’s nothing worse for a shy person than watching your carefully assembled equipment throw a hissy fit. For Khan it’s her synth which refuses to play ball. Sitting at it her discomfort is quite clear but such is her shy charisma that the audience peer anxiously rather than fidget, uninterested. There’s something about her demeanour which encourages affection in her crowds, many of whom are wearing the paper masks handed out by the street team before the gig. When she nervously sighs into the mic “Can anyone make a harpsichord sound?” the audience is laughing with her and willing the roadie in attendance on to fix the bug as “harpsichord” could only mean one thing – ‘Horse And I’.

There aren’t enough harpsichords in modern music, a statement which could probably have been uttered at any stage since the reign of Elizabeth I. When Khan brings us her songs she dresses them in clothes which stand out for their inventive eccentricity. ‘Pearl’s Dream’, one of the best things released all year by anyone, marries juddering electronic noise stabs with chiming melodies. The big bass drums of ‘What’s a Girl To Do?’, the digitised outro vocals of ‘Two Suns’, the shoop-shoop backing vocals of ‘Moon And Moon’, all little doses of oddness in a time of supposed creative stagnation in many areas of the music industry. The live setting suits Bat For Lashes, even some of the weaker tracks from her debut benefit, ‘Sarah’ in particular rises from a not particularly gripping three minutes into a bass driven, sinuous creation.

maskface
Me, looking really sinister with a lovely Bat For Lashes mask.

Some in the crowd might not have appreciated the second album heavy nature of the set, especially as said album had barely been released but, as it is a more immediate collection than her debut, this appears not to matter to most.

Instead a shy, asymmetrical girl in a headdress wanders around the stage entrancing all in the faded ballroom glory of the Ritz. Even if Khan let the mask slip once or twice, the magic was still there.


July 2009

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