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September 01, 2005

Leeds Festival 2005

Sunday

At festivals you get plied with freebies – evidently they’ve done a bit of research into the sort of things students like: free things is of course the top answer. Amongst this is lots of condoms – what on earth am I going to use them for? I might be over crediting a condom’s emotive capacity but they must despair once they get handed to me because the chances of them getting used plummets to somewhere between zero and nil. The extent to which this is true is easy to seen in the fact that I now have a sizeable collection of condoms in a draw that have been handed out at festivals and around university by well meaning types trying to protect the well being of festival goers and students, but unwittingly wasting the earth’s rubber supplies.

With the onset of the last day comes a desperation to watch as many bands as possible in order to get your money’s worth. This meant spending a little time watching the Unsigned Bands Stage. We saw The Last People On Earth, or at least they claimed to be. They’re from Hull. Cue the inevitable jokes about how if the last people on earth are from Hull then we’re all screwed. More to the point I wonder how we’d end up with such a scenario. My best guess would be that anyone hell bent on destroying the planet would take one look at the place and reckon somebody else had gotten there first.

We took a quick trip to the Carling Stage where we caught Youth Group, who apparently feature the bassist from the Vines. Any hopes that Youth Group might have more in common with them than a member were short lived as they very nearly put me to sleep.

Another stage and another band as we went to watch The Cribs in the NME tent. I’d seen them play last year and they were brilliantly energetic, so I had high hopes of a repeat performance. And again they managed to put on a good show. Next on the bill was Nine Black Alps – supposedly the new Nirvana. Seeing as how I can’t stand Nirvana I’m not really sure that there was much point in me checking them out. The comparison was fairly accurate, which meant I didn’t enjoy it all. However for fans of depressing, moaning music they’re probably very good.

I chose the moments after Nine Black Alps had finished to demonstrate my incredible abilities of getting lost and separated from my friends. After a ping-pong match of text messages we were reunited and went to the Carling Stage to watch Mystery Jets, I can’t say I was particularly bothered about seeing them play – the main reason for watching them was in order to get into the tent for the Arctic Monkeys who were on after.

The NME in their infinite wisdom had put them in their list of fifty-one reasons to go the Leeds/Reading weekend. Given that Leeds is just up the M1 from Sheffield the impending crush and lack of oxygen that came with the band’s presence on stage hardly came as a shock. My friends moaned that most of the people there were just trying to be part of the scene and that the music isn’t even that good. Which is all very well, except why were we there? It was the second time I’d seen the band play inside a month and I enjoyed it. At least I would have done if I hadn’t had someone’s elbows in my back. And ribs. And stomach. And my own elbows. And pretty much any part of the human anatomy you’d care to mention.

Our trip to the comedy tent for the day was to see Ed Byrne. He raised a few laughs but his whole act seemed to rely upon his: being Irish, being skinny, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. His best moment was:
Ed Byrne: “I was at the Reading Festival yesterday”
Crowd: “Boooo”
Ed Byrne: “You do realise it’s the same festival just in a different place?”
Which is fundamentally true, but Leeds is much better.

It was a short hop from the comedy tent to the Carling Stage after Ed Byrne had finished to watch the end of Yeti’s set. They’re the band fronted by the Libertines bassist. I was told not to expect anything like the Libertines, but I’d dispute that. They did have a similar sound, except – and you’ll find this a bizarre statement – with a bit of a country vibe in there. Whatever it was it worked okay.

I must take a few moments to pay tribute to the great freebie my friend Chris got from the V festival: an inflatable beer holder. You know how it is. You're drinking a can of (warm) beer and you want to pick something else up. You put the beer down on the ground but gravity's having none of it. Before you know it half your beer is on your jeans and everyone's pointing and laughing.

The evening run was kicked off by Arcade Fire in the NME tent. They were most notable for the fact that they seemed to have enough drummers for all the bands at the festival. I counted at least three. Perhaps Oasis ought to get in touch – they get through drummers at a similar rate to most people get through milk cartons. It was an interesting performance largely because it was so different from anything else I saw all weekend.

Due after Arcade Fire was Babyshambles, would they or wouldn't they turn up? Would they be any good? Does anyone really care anymore? As it happens they did manage to make it onto the stage, albeit ten minutes late. You could argue that they were fashionably late, but everyone else managed to get there on time. What's so special about a band who have only managed to release two singles? We didn't stick around for long as we wanted to get in position for the Foo Fighters in good time but what we saw wasn't exactly spectacular.

However the Foo Fighters more than made up for any inadequacies of the other bands. There's something extra special about the last night of a festival especially when it's to see a band as uttely brilliant as the Foo Fighters.

Dave Grohl really knows how to play to the crowd, unfortunately when I've seen them play in the past there's been a little too much chat, when all you want them to do is get on with rocking. On this occasion though he managed to keep the talking to a minimum and stuck to blasting out great song after great song. Up in Arms and The One were particular highlights.

The one criticism would be the sucking up to the crowd. "I gotta tell you guys something," someone stod behind us figured out what was coming and pre-emptively shouted out "bullshit!" Dave Grohl then proceeded to tell us that he loves Reading (crowd boos) but people in the north are more "f*ked up" and that he likes f*ked up. I think it was a compliment though I'm not entirely sure.

For the encore we were treated to Grohl taking up the sticks behind the drums and Taylor Hawkins singing on one the tracks from the acoustic album – I'll be damned if I know which one.

Back at the tents and the campsite nazis, or security as they call themselves, were out in force stamping out fires. We saw one instance of a festival goer being brutally thrown to the floor and handcuffed, all because of a fire. Cue us stamping frantically upon our own, though thankfully much smaller fire. I got the impression that the person in question had given the security guards a bit of lip but the response was slightly over the top.

The only trouble with festivals – except for the massive crowds trying to get everywhere at once, the over priced food, the idiots parping klaxons at 4am, the litter created by over a hundred thousand people, all the bands you don't want to see hogging the bill, occasionally poor sound quality on the main stage, mud, getting there, not showering, getting back and, of course, the terrible smell from the toilets – is the people running them.

Traditionally you're allowed to take in empty bottles as you can fill them up at taps inside. On the first day I was stopped trying to take an such a bottle in to the arena. The pea brain at the gates stops me and tells me that:
"You can't take in opened drinks."
"What?" I failed to see the point he was trying to make.
"You can't take in opened drinks."
"It's empty" (At this point I took the top off and turned the bottle upside down – just to display the moron what empty meant)
"Is it open?" (How else would it be empty?)
"Well technically, yes."
"You. Can't. Take. In. Opened. Drinks."
I really had no idea if he was saying this for information or whether he wanted me to bin the bottle. Okay, okay, you can't take in opened drinks, but I didn't have an open drink. I had an opened bottle, it ceased to become a drink when the last remaining drops of liquid were poured out.
"So you want me to bin it?"
"YES!"
There's very little you can do to argue in these kinds of situations so resignedly I chucked the "opened drink" into the bins. I wonder which asylum they get their staff from.

Monday

We left early in the morning, around half seven, in order to beat the traffic queues on the way out. It worked and we were soon blasting down the M1. The first thing I did upon getting home was to take a shower, if only you could accumulate cleanliness from consecutive showers. I'd take five or six before for good measure. After that there's only one thing you want to do. Sleep.


August 31, 2005

Leeds for your needs: Leeds Festival 2005

Saturday

This was the best day for the main stage with Queens of the Stone Age and the Killers on in the evening. However there was plenty of time to kill until then. Half an hour of this was dealt with by having to queue to get into the main arena at the start of the day. Or rather having to shuffle along at approximately zero miles per hour. It would be quite impossible to go so slowly if there wasn’t a wall of people also going at approximately zero miles an hour directly in front of you. Naturally there are always a few bright sparks who have figured out what would help, yelling “Get a f**king move on!” expecting it to improve their position by a few metres just because they’ve got a big gob. Genius. I don’t know why more people haven’t got that one sussed; I thought we were all stood around just to piss everyone off.

The upshot of this merriment meant we missed about ninety percent of Goldie Lookin’ Chain. As it happens we’d seen them when they played last year so it wasn’t such a big disappointment as it would have been. We did manage to catch a new song with the lyrics “If you leave me now can I f**k your sister?” As ever GLC hit the nail on its lyrical head, pity we didn’t see more of the set.

Next was another trip to the comedy tent to see Hugh Lennon and Hypno-dog. Before anyone gets carried away I’ll bring down your expectations of Hypno-dog. I was really excited about the prospect of a hypnotic dog but all that happened was the hypnotist, that is the man hypnotist not the canine one, hypnotised the people on stage to sleep when they looked in the dog’s eyes – I did warn you that you shouldn’t get carried away. The show was mildly interesting featuring some excellent ballet dancing and people thinking they were the Spice Girls, but I find hypnosis seriously creepy – I’d never want for someone to be able control me to their will. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ll have to read the NME to remind me of which bands I enjoyed at the festival.

There was a bit of gap until the Subways were on in the NME tent so I (my friends weren’t interested in the Subways) wandered to the main stage and saw a very small portion of Graham Coxon: his left arm. No I jest! I mean I only caught a few songs. As an Oasis fan I’m not allowed to say anything nice about Blur or anyone who’s been in Blur so he was really terrible.

The people we were camped with decided to nickname me Coxon on account of “looking like him”, rather more accurately it was because I wear glasses and have dark hair. I’ve had this all my life, being compared to David Baddiel and even Adrian Mole – a character from a non-picture book.

The Subways were worth watching, not least because the bassist is really fit. Musically they’re fairly competent and blasted through their big songs Oh Yeah and Rock n Roll Queen. The singer even showed off his climbing skills by clambering to the top of the speakers and playing a guitar solo. I thought all that movement was a little over the top for a mid-afternoon slot. Now if they’d put a pole on stage for bassist Charlotte to dance around, that I could have understood.

The typical festivalgoer, students, was reflected in the number of university hoodies on show. Every other person seemed to be wearing one emblazoned with “Sheffield Hallam”. I may have noticed them more because that’s where I’ll be next year doing a PGCE but I’m convinced there were more there than you would have expected, or maybe I kept seeing the same person over and over.

After a quick trip back to the campsite for a beer or two it was back out to watch the Coral. I’m not a huge fan even if this was the third time I’d seen them play, indeed it was the second time in less than two months. I find them the sort of band that’s kind of just there – they won’t blow your socks off but they’re not so offensive as to have you running away from the stage screaming “I can’t take it anymore!”

Next was Queens of the Stone Age, or rather Josh Homme and some nobodies. We went reasonably far forward, though kept a sensible distance to the inevitable carnage at the front. Even if technically they’re not the same band as they were it was still a good show. Josh Homme is a great front man but not the sort of person you’d want to spill beer over, though I guess that’s what makes him such a great front man.

The Killers followed to complete a main stage three-in-a-row. This was one of the main reasons for buying my ticket yet I couldn’t get all that excited about it now they were here. I’d convinced myself that they were going to let me down so didn’t want to get my hopes up. I needn’t have worried as they put on a good performance, unfortunately we’d moved a long way back after Queens of the Stone Age so the sound wasn’t as good as it might have been.

There was no way on earth I was going to stick around and watch the Pixies, even if the NME were making out their slot to be the best reason for going to the festival. The irony is that in avoiding them we went to watch Kasabian in the NME tent. As we expected they were bloody fantastic. We were only at the back but the crowd was crazy for it. They sounded incredible in the tent, added to that there was the sense of sticking two fingers up at the (trying to be) in-crowd watching the Pixies by snubbing the main stage. It was the highlight of the weekend so far.


August 30, 2005

Fest is Best: Leeds 2005

Thursday

Last year we made the grave error of setting off for the Festival after lunch. This resulted in waiting for four hours in traffic queues usually reserved for smartly dressed business people commuting in busy city centres, not scruffy students/miscellaneous misfits sauntering along in what would be quiet city suburbs. Not to be caught out again we were off by 9am. On the approach to the junction off the M1 were braced ourselves for the sight of a long line of traffic, but to our immense relief found none. We continued on the same roads that a year ago had been so full with ease. It was a huge shock to the system and a hushed awe set upon us out of fear of jinxing it. This worked and we were in the car park before midday.

We set off to find base-camp: my friend Chris ringing up our camp-mates to try and find it with no success. However as is often the case in such scenarios we bumped into them purely by chance – it’s amazing how this happens at festivals. It’s as though there’s some sort of psychic connection brought about by the music.

No sooner had we put up the tent than Leeds treated us to extreme weather conditions, Glastonbury may have been all but washed out, but did they have hail? It may have been a festival – such events aren’t subject to the normal weather climate, almost anything goes – but ice falling from the sky during August came as a surprise.

We went for a wander around the festival site to check out the lay of the land. Naturally it looked the same as it had done the previous year. On this wander came an example of utter stupidity: people asking me for directions. I don’t understand why but you could put a hundred people with maps stood next to an information desk and a lost person would still ask me, possibly staring at my feet wondering why one hundred people with maps need to be stood by an information desk, for directions. I must look like the sort of person who knows where they’re going. Members of the University of Warwick Orienteering Club will tell you that this is emphatically not the case. In this case the directions I needed to give were simply “keep going and you’ll find it”, which I always find by far the easiest to give. I do wish people wouldn’t ask me as I always worry I’ve sent them to some frightening place like Baghdad, Mordor, or in this case: the centre of Leeds. I do like to help though – I don’t smoke but I’m sorely tempted to start carrying round a lighter just so when someone goes “Got a light mate?” I can go “Yes!” and make myself useful.

Friday

I woke up typically early and seeing as lie-ins in tents aren't half as much fun as their bed equivalent I got up and went for a walk around the site. As always with festivals there were lots of people about – though it was impossible to tell whether they were up late or up early. I walked past the Samaritans tent and was asked how I was. This is all well and good, you'd hope the samaritans wouldn't tell people passing by the go fuck themselves, but it made me a little paranoid that anyone might think that I'd have a less than acceptable well being. As an aside when i first went to Leeds in 2000 I got dumped during the festival so if anyone had asked me how I was I'd probably have broken down in tears.

Friday was the "rock" day on the main stage, ergo an opportunity to spend some time in the NME and comedy tents. The first bands we saw were The Rakes and Sons and Daughters. Unfortunately both were very poor so halfway through Sons and Daughters we went and plonked ourselves down in the comedy tent. As luck would have it we managed to catch the exceptionally funny Reginald D. Hunter.

Then it was back to the NME tent to watch Maximo Park - a band I'd heard very little of but was impressed by. Well, thank goodness for that. I like comedy (why wouldn't I?) but I didn't want to have to keep plodding into the comedy tent every five minutes because the bands were so bad. Apply Some Pressure naturally was a real highlight, possible because it was one of the few songs I'd heard but was performed nicely.

A quick trip back to the tent to cook some, soon to be rather black, sausages on a disposable barbecue was followed by a deliberate and unusually planned outing back to the comedy tent to see Toby Foster – Les from Les Alanos on Phoenix Nights – ripping into the police, southerners and had the audience been different I presume students would have been next on the list. It was fantastic! It's horrible but there's nothing funnier than hearing a good slagging off, especially with such well chosen subjects.

We wandered across to the main stage and caught the end of Marilyn Manson. Unfortunately it was only the end of the set and not of the band itself – it brought back memories of 50 cent from last year, a combination of bemusement and general what-the-hell?

The headliners were Iron Maiden which meant my appeals to watch the Futureheads fell on death ears. Unpertubred I went to see them on my own. It was a great show, much better than Maiden of course. During Hounds of Love they split the crowd down the middle for the "oh, oh-oh" and "oh! oh! oh!" bits at the start. Unfortunately I couldn't actually see the band so had no idea which side I was on, neither it appeared did anyone around me.

After the Futureheads I found myself at something of a loose end. Next up on the NME tent was Bloc Party – a band that I find incredibly dull. On the other hand we were camped near the fairground so perhaps something so completely mind numbing might help compensate for the terrible wailing of mixed up crazy frog gibberish being blasted out and help me get some sleep. On the Carling Stage was Echo and the Bunnymen, of whom my knowledge is limited to knowing that they once did a song with Liam Gallagher on the backing vocals. Though his contribution was only singing “Yeah, yeah, yeah” a few times.

In the end I opted to watch the rest of Iron Maiden on the main stage. Well, it would be foolish to not at least check them out. I proved my rock and roll credentials by standing at the back with a nice warm cup of tea trying my best not to shiver in the kind of cold that can only be found out of the crowd at open air concerts. The band didn’t particularly amaze me though I could appreciate that they were probably quite good if you like that sort of thing. I don’t much go in for gigs with giant devil/monster puppets. As it happens I was once accused of looking like I was an Iron Maiden fan. I can only presume the accuser was blind seeing as a typical Iron Maiden fan is fat with long greasy hair and a menacing miserable expression on their face, compared with my scrawny frame, short well kept hair and permanent slightly nervous grin. I left before the end in order to avoid the dull trudge out of the arena in the huge crowd.


August 20, 2005

Bob the Builder – Can We Fix It?

This song means so much to me because it reminds me of a special time in my life. I can really relate to what Bob was singing about; I think we'd get on well if we met.

The song is much deeper than most people realise. I think the building and fixing in the song is actually a metaphor for how we live our lives. Especially the part where Bob sings: "Building and fixing till it's as good as new". To me this means rebuilding ourselves and our lives after things go wrong.

The chorus is so anthemic too. I love the positivity of "Yes we can!" It's the kind of spirit that lifts the soul. When I'm about to do something really important like being a pretentious show off I'll listen to this song before to motivate and inspire myself. I challenge anybody to not be inspired by such lyrical genius as "We can tackle any situation. Look out 'cause here we come".

Another point about this song is the subliminal communist messages: "Working together, they get the job done" is actually a modern take on "workers of the world unite". The bit about the "sun goes down" is about the impending fall of capitalism.

This really was Bob's finest hour, a few months after this came the scandal involving Bob and that servant girl and later his problems with drink. At the time when this was released though, Bob was a true superstar and hero.

Bob the Builder - Can We Fix It?

Take your places
Can we fix it?
Yes we can

Bob the Builder
(Can we fix it?)
Bob the Builder
(Yes we can)

Scoot, muck and Dizzy
And Roly too
Lofty and Wendy
Join the crew
Bob and the gang
have so much fun
Working together
They get the job done

Bob the Builder
(Can we fix it?)
Bob the Builder
(Yes we can)
Bob the Builder
(Can we fix it?)
Bob the Builder
(Yes we can)

Time to get busy
Such a lot to do
Building and fixing
'Til it's good as new
Bob and the gang
They can really be found
Working all day
'Til the sun goes down

Bob the Builder
(Can we fix it?)
Bob the Builder
(Yes we can)
Bob the Builder
(Can we fix it?)
Bob the Builder
(Yes we can)

Wow!

Oh dear,
Can you fix it?
Right, left a bit, right a little
Okay, break down
We can tackle any situation
Look out 'cause here we come

Can we dig it? Yes
Can we build it? Yes
Can we fix it? Yes

Bob the Builder
(Can we fix it?)
Bob the Builder
(Yes we can)
Bob the Builder
(Can we fix it?)
Bob the Builder
(Yes we can)

Digging and fixing
Having so much fun
Working together
They get the job done

Can we dig it? Yes
Can we build it? Yes
Can we fix it? Yes
Bob the Builder
Bob the Builder
All together now

Bob the Builder
(Can we fix it?)
Bob!
Fantastic! Yes, Yes, we can
Bob the Builder
(Can we fix it?)
Bob the Builder

Bob the Builder
(Can we fix it?)
Bob the Builder
(Yes we can)

We'd better get some work done


August 01, 2005

Arctic Monkeys at the Leadmill 31/07/05

For a band who have yet to make an album, the Arctic Monkeys sure receive alot of hype. Nowhere can it be truer than in their home city: the mighty Sheffield – home of many other musical giants, such as Pulp, the Human League, Joe Cocker, the tramp with the accordian in the subway under Arundel Gate…

The Leadmill was sold out, meaning the best part of a thousand people were crammed into the venue, which I might add always appears in the top ten venues in the country – see how wonderful Sheffield is?

Support Bands

I can't remember the first band's name. This can be a problem if they're really good and you want to recommend them. Fortunately then, the band were poor. Featuring 3/5s female members they were never going to be anything else. I don't mean to be sexist (though I'm going to be anyway) but as a rule female fronted bands are rarely any good. My friend Chris described them best, suggesting they sounded like the soundtrack to a teen romantic comedy.

The second lot were much better – Stoney I believe they were called. Breaking the mould for support bands (Come on stage, don't say anything, stare at feet, strum guitars, thank main band) they were lively and energetic. I, along with everyone else in the place, thought they were rather good and I think the lead singer shared that view. He finished with a big rock outro, picking up the microphone and jabbing it in the air.

The Arctic Monkeys

True to the hype they rocked the place out. They're music's often compared with the Libertines and on this occasion such a comparison is fairly accurate. Though it doesn't hold entirely, some riffs even verge on ska (thankfully only verge on), meaning they sound perhaps slightly like the Ordinary Boys (terrible new album btw).

The singer played to the audience nicely, realising he could get away with requesting more applause. This reflects the incredible hype surrounding them. The fact that they're from Sheffield surely had nothing to do with it ("Is anyone here from Sheffield?" *Huge cheer* Where else?). They even managed a few sing alongs.

Particular highlights were "Mardy Bum", a very Sheffieldy titled song and… some others, don't ask me their names. All in all it was very good, plus the gig was helped by standing near to a fan (of the cooling appliance variety, not the "fan of" variety).


July 04, 2005

Oasis at the City of Manchester Stadium

As a music fan there was only one place to be on Saturday 2nd June 2005… The City of Manchester Stadium watching Oasis. I hear there was some little gig down in London Village at a park somewhere with 8 people watching. I didn't quite get the details but I hope none of the kiddies swings got damaged.

It was actually a close call for me to make it to the gig. i'd thought it was on Sunday and only realised when my friend texted me at 11pm on Friday telling me to be ready at 11am. Whoops.

There were five bands playing including Oasis:

The Redwalls

No, I hadn’t heard of them either. They’re from Chicago apparently and seemed heavily influenced by the Beatles, which I suppose explains their presence on the support at an Oasis gig. One of the singers bore a resemblance to John Lennon and they did the two-people-singing-into-one-microphone trick. For a band appearing fifth on the bill they were pretty good.

In between bands they showed highlights of Live 8 on the screen. There was a muted response to Coldplay with some members of the crowd showing two fingers to the screen. I presume they either weren’t about to rush out and buy X&Y or were really big fans of poverty. I got a bit confused by it when the director kept showing pictures of a blonde women and a baby, not realising it was Gwyneth Paltrow holding Apple. How would I know? Its not like I’ve not seen Sliding Doors four times or anything like that. Heh. What I’d like to know is if she’s a fair trade apple.

The 22–20s

I really like them so thoroughly enjoyed seeing them, though they didn’t get a great response. They kicked of with Why Don’t you Do it For me, and blasted through their big songs (hits?) including Such a Fool and 22 Days, favourites of mine. Unfortunately I think the size of the stadium may have been too much for them. Their sound didn’t really travel that well, so I think I’ll have to see them again sometime.

I’ve discovered the perfect woman. They had people barrels of Fosters strapped to their back – they were mobile bars. A woman with beer on her back? Surely that’s what every guy wants.

The Bees

I’m not a huge fan, but they did okay. They got some booing from the crowd. I’m not entirely sure why. The thing that puts me off them is that one song they have that sounds a bit like the theme from Grange Hill.

The stage was bedecked round the edges with what looked a lot like fairy lights. All it needed was a few photos of Oasis’ friends and you could’ve confused the City of Manchester Stadium with a girl’s bedroom. Indeed, during the live 8 highlights thy showed Richard Ashcroft singing Bittersweet Symphony so I guess you could have done.

The Coral

I’m fairly indifferent to the Coral, they have a few highlights like Pass it On and Dreaming of You (Which they managed to play, when I saw them at V2003 they somehow didn’t play it I think they ran out of time) but they don’t do much for me. In an attempt to piss Scousers off with the obvious, tedious and pointless comparison I prefer the Zutons. However they were worth watching and as support bands go they’re quite worthy.

The problem with Oasis is all the Chavvie fans. 90% of the crowd was lager louts. At any other gig the throwing of beer would be seen as a sign of dissatisfaction with the artists on stage, but with Oasis it’s a sign of appreciation. It’s quite disgusting. At one point there was a huge empty circle on the pitch. I’m not entirely sure what its purpose was but there seemed to be a convergence of beer at that point. Bloomin’ Lancastrians.

Oasis

They came on to Fucking in the Bushes playing over the speakers. They started with Turn Up the Sun from Don’t Believe the Truth, which by the way, I think is a stupid name. It doesn’t even make sense. The screen went all blurry, I think this was an effect but the Irish woman in the seat next to me had been smoking a pipe with stuff coming out if of that didn’t smell much like regular tobacco, so I’m not sure.

Before they’d even gotten properly into the first song they had to stop as a security guard came on to talk to Noel. After a brief discussion Noel informed us that a barrier at the front has broken and they couldn’t play until it had been sorted. The band stood on stage patiently waiting to play. They looked as bored as us. Liam then requested some tits. Naturally he got them, the cameraman sought out any women on peoples shoulders. The first few were reluctant, but Liam’s wish was granted, not that he could see the screen. It was funny at first, but got a bit tedious after a while. I think the rest of the crowd agreed too. Who’d have though that breasts could become dull so quickly?

After a twenty plus minute wait they got under way again. The followed Turn Up the Sun with Lyla. It went down a treat and from there they did some older stuff like Bring It On Down and Morning Glory. Noel tried to get the crowd at the front to cam down a bit, requesting they turn it to nine and a half tenths. Liam undermined him by saying “Fuck that, let’s have it!” Noel gestured Liam over to discuss it with him. Cue aggressive shrugging by Liam and an eventual and inevitable two fingers being shown right up to Noels face. I’m never sure how much they put it on. I mean, both of them are well into their thirties now and are fathers so in theory should be calming down a bit.

Most of the gig was plugging the new album, which I suppose you might expect. Highlights were Mucky Fingers and A Bell will Ring. For The Importance of Being Idle, they put up some phrases on the screens like “Workers don’t think”, and “Thinkers don’t work”. It was almost like being at a dumbed down Manics gig. I was disappointed at the lack of Let There Be Love, on account of really liking that song.

They included a little (by little) from Heathen Chemistry, but steered completely clear of Be Here Now and Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, I suppose that’s understandable. They were the obligatory emotive moments with Live Forever and Don’t Look Back in Anger, here I noticed a real sign of the times. Cigarette Lighters appear to have been replaced by illuminated mobile phone screens. It was surreal looking across towards the stage and seeing this sea of Nokias and Siemens. I just hope nobody had the Crazy Frog ringtone because I think they’d have had to make a trip to Phones 4U today.

Also included was Acuiesce, a song that I’ve not heard for a while so I appreciated beign reminded how great it is. They “finished” with Rock and Roll Star, which still sounds fantastic after all these years. Of course this wasn’t the real finish, because they did an “encore”. The actual finish was My Generation.

It was a reasonable gig, but there were too many technical problems. As well as the barrier problem the sound wasn’t quite right. It seemed to shift from full-on to being a bit weak now and then. Shame, but I enjoyed it anyway.


June 14, 2005

Oi! What's in your festival rucksack?

It's going back a bit, but Jo Whiley used to have a feature called "What's in your festival rucksack?". Seeing as festival season is fast approaching, though my beloved Leeds is still a couple of months away, I thought it was time to say what's in my festival rucksack:

Lighter: I don't smoke, it's for those stadium rock moments. (And good for burning stuff, y'know, for kicks)
Crisps and snacks: Probably the healthiest thing I'll eat all weekend, let's face it a stick of lard's better for you than the stuff from those burger vans.
Torch: To avoid fuck!-who-put-that-guy-rope-there? moments.
Toilet Roll: Essential.
Stun Stick: To ease my passage through the crowds exiting the arena after the last band.
Wire Cutters: For the guitar strings of those people who try to play on the campsites. Are they hoping some industry big-wig's going to come along and say, "Hey, you've got talent kid. Here, sign this record deal"?

Ticket?

Radioactive suit: For those nasty portaloos.
A big bag: To catch all those freebies they force on you. Avoid the iced tea though.
Lots of belts: To offer to skater kids who's trousers are looking extra likely to fall down.


June 04, 2005

The Divine Comedy

What better lyrics for a sunny afternoon (perhaps the Kinks with Sunny Afternoon, a song which has the virtue of actually being called Sunny Afternoon) than:

I fall for this season everytime,
When it's hot and everybody smiles
I can't help myself, I'm i love with the suuuummertiiiiime.

The Divine Comedy with The Pop Singer's Fear of the Pollen Count.

They're such a great band. I was walking around campus the other day listening to them on my walkman (Yes, some of us are resisting the digital movement. Well at least until I can afford an mp3 player and then I'm right on board). Playing was their greatest hits album from a few years ago, A Secret History, or seeing as I'd condensed it to fit onto one side of tape, I guess my version was a potted history.


Artist's (Okay, my) impression of the cover to A Secret History.

For the uninitiated the Divine Comedy are an Irish band fronted by and sometimes consisting solely of Neil Hannon. They are possibly most famous for their involvement with Father Ted. The theme music for the show is taken from their track Songs of Love and they wrote My Lovely Horse which Ted and Dougal entered in "Eurosong '96".

Their first album was Liberation in 1993 featuring the aforementioned The Pop Singer's Fear of the Pollen Count (though it only became a hit in 1999). They hit the big time (?) on the release of Something for the Weekend which featured on Casanova, released in 1996.

Since then they've sort of plodded on through all manner of permutations and combinations, but remain a firm favourite of mine. I don't want to sound prententious but, (meaning "I'm going to be really pretentious here but I want you to like me anyway, oh go on, please!") I love how their songs create images in your mind and suck you into a story through verse (Gosh). In fact I suppose they're really poems put to tune.

For example, Something for the Weekend seems to be about a man at a party trying to have his way (*giggles*) with a woman. You have to really listen to the lyrics and think it about what it's saying, what's more the story twists at the end, I won't spoil it for you by saying how but it's quite funny.

Not only are the lyrics unadulterated genius but I'm assured by a friend with a musical bent that they're very talented as musicians too. In Something for the Weekend they change from the song being in… something to being in… something else. I'm not exactly sure what but apparently it's very clever so we should all be impressed. Since my friend told me about this whenever I listen to the song I'm always very relieved that they make it through okay without screwing it up.

If you're unfamiliar with the Divine Comedy I suggest you listen to the following:

  • National Express (Very funny song featuring the lyric "But it's hard to get by, when your arse is the size, of a small countryyyyy.")
  • Something for the Weekend
  • The Pop Singer's fear of the Pollen Count
  • My Lovely Horse (Purely for comedy value)
  • In Pursuit of Happiness (see if you can recognise the the music towards the end)
  • Come Home Billy Bird (It's one of the recent ones and the story in it is sweet if a bit sappy)
  • Gin Soaked Boy ("I’m the catcher in the rye, I’m the twinkle in her eye, I’m the Jeff Goldblum in the fly. Well, who am I?")

June 01, 2005

Guide to listening to a new CD

Some of you may not know this but in the good ol' days music was available on little discs called "CDs", which I believe stood for Casual Defractors. These were primitive objects invented by neolithic man. They have all but been replaced by wizardry which allows people to "download" music via the magical t'interweb. However unlike mp3s, CDs relied on old fashioned technology and no such dark arts were required.

Buying a new CD and taking it home is invariably a wonderful experience. This is because evil corporate record companies place mind altering airborne drugs in the sleeves of the packaging in order to shift more bulk from the shelves. Once you have got it home you'll want to listen to it. I recently went through this process with the new Oasis album, here's how you go about it:

Step 1: Make sure you have the appropriate equipment. This is to say you have a CD player and other necessary appendages to get sound from the CD into the air, for example, speakers. I've come across confused people trying to listen to CDs in toasted sandwich makers. Doing this will not only ruin your CD but make your lunch taste decidedly plasticky. As a veteran of buying CDs this step was second nature to me. However the CD case was a booklet affair so it took me half an hour to actually find the CD itself, but I'm a fool so you shouldn't expect to have such difficulties.

Step 2: Should you have the correct equipment place the CD into the player and press play. Once you've done this you're all set. There are a few fundamental ways to proceed, either immediately put on a track that you know – if you don't know at least one already may I ask why the hell you bought the CD in the first place? Or listen to the whole album all the way through. Or listen to the start of each song to get a flavour of the album. Or if you're really paranoid set the music playing backwards to find hidden messages from satan.

Step 3: Once you've listened to an album you'll probably want to form an opinion. To do this you'll need to figure out the titles of the songs you like, otherwise you'll end up sounding like you're ordering Chinese food (I like 2, 4, 7 and 11). It's also important you think of someone else the songs remind you of, this is all music critics ever do and they get paid for it. For instance I think Mucky Fingers sounds vaguely Dylanesque (Bob Dylan, not the one from the magic roundabout. The key difference here is that Bob Dylan's work was inspired by drugs, whereas the magic roundabout was… was… er?). If all this opinion forming sounds like hard work don't despair. Just buy a copy of NME and they'll kindly tell you what to think. No one really has an opinion about anything anyway, they just stole it from someone else. Personally I'd rather be listening to Girls Aloud or Westlife but that's not cool so I go along to crash and listen to "good" music (Oasis? hmmm) in order to fit in.


May 18, 2005

Spontaneous Giggage

At 5 o' clock tonight my friend Chris texted me to see if I wanted to go watch The Music play tonight. Seeing as the options were this or revision, by half seven I was on my way to the Coloseum – alas the club in Coventry and not the place in Rome.

Due to what may be claimed to be brilliant timing we arrived just before the support band were due on.

Onto the stage came a scruffy looking, scraggily haired lager lout type with a facial expression like he was ready to pick a fight. Surely not? Could it be? Liam Gallagher? Well, what do you think? It was in fact the singer for support band Agent Blue (or perhaps it was Blue Agent). Well I suppose it was a chance to rehearse for when I go to see Oasis play in July.

As it happens Agent Blue were pretty good, in spite of nearly losing it by announcing that they were from Stoke. Cue the crowd scratching their necks embarrassedly and avoiding eye contact with the band. Fortunately they rocked sufficiently to ride over this blip and get everyone going.

The Music came on at around half nine. They rocked quite nicely I thought, I think the (over used) description of a wall of sound fits quite nicely for them. I have to admit my knowledge of The Music is scant, so there were a few occasions where they'd announce they were playing such and such a song and everyone would go wild and I'd be left looking confused and trying to nod along in the right places. Having said that I'm a bit of a daydreamer meaing I hardly have a clue what's going on at the best of times (witness blog socials with me sat around looking perplexed) so this scenario wasn't exactly alien to me.

The other problem with going to gigs for bands you don't know that well is trick endings. This is where a song seems to stop and you start clapping only for it to start up again. The Music seemed to have a plethora of these, indeed one song contained two trick endings, which, personally I think is just asking for trouble.

Nevertheless it was thoroughly enjoyable. They caused constanation at the end though. They went of stage and most of the lights remained off, misleading the crowd into anticipating an encore. A few minutes went by with nothing happening, indeed it proved too much for some fans who ended up cheering when a roadie came on stage. Eventually it became clear that there wouldn't be an encore which resulted in some sections booing. Now, that was a bit presumptuous in assuming we deserved an encore. I find the whole idea of encores at gigs is a bit silly anyway. I mean The Music could quite easily have gone off ten minutes earlier and then come back and called that an encore, but no one would have gained anything from it. You never see real encores at gigs because they have to finish at set times, it's all a bit false really.

So it didn't spoil my night. I hadn't been the the Colly for a good while, it was nice to be back. I think they might even have done up the toilets since I was last there, though as I remarked to a friend, it may just be that they'd bothered to clean them. I was back home by half eleven and having done it and thought it, all that was left to do was to blog it.


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