Saturday, 30 June 2012

Fossil Collective at the Yardbird Gig Review

Fossil Collective @ the Yardbird
Gig 31: Sun 10 June 2012

The last day of my holiday rattling around, fed up about having to go back to work and so it seemed incredibly sensible to go and see a band to take my mind off it. In fact this was a gig that I was looking forward to as it would be my third time of seeing The Fossil Collective, and I was becoming a bit of a stalker, if one can be a bit of a stalker at the age of 40 fitted in around a young family and work.

So a quick tweet to find out when they were on, and the Pub Quiz was deffed out again. Arriving at the Yardbird with a bit of time to spare I found that something must have aligned in the stars because everything was going my way:

i) Walking into the venue a little early it turned out that........there was no entry charge...Freebie!
ii) There was a bar stool available right where I wanted to be sitting, making me feel like I was a member of cheers whilst supping my pint of Coors
iii) The Ireland v Croatia game was on the TV right in front of me, which was a nice twist as I got to watch the Irish wupped (not so good), with lots of talk about a contentious offside goal (played onside) and the Villa Goalie manage to score a nice header into his own net, pretty good feeling.
iv) Oh yes and a couple of bands were coming on!

The first band up was a support act called Sam Eden, who was local (well from Malvern in Worcestershire) and battled for attention with the crowd which was filling out and talking robustly when he started. I enjoyed his set, and felt for him battling on to make a living as a singer songwriter, as he pointed out he's not signed and doing his bit the best he can. Looking back with a couple of weeks grace, his songs had something about them and he won the battle with the audience.

He had a good level of banter between each song about what they were all about and swapped between the guitar and keyboard. In my opinion the guitar tunes took the edge, but then I've never been too much of a fan of Elton John sitting at the piano singing moments. Standout tune, probably Footsteps but pretty entertaining, I would suggest purchasing it!

After Sam Eden had finished and received a standing ovation from an incredibly young looking orange T Shirted chap on the front row, we had the lull between the bands, livened up by the 'did you know there's no such thing as death' conversation which kicked off on the bar stools next to me, and the Ireland game (which had been quite distracting for me whilst Sam was on) came to an end.

The Fossil collective took to the stage at around the same time as the young student posse from Edinburgh arrived to watch the Fossil collective. Again another quality gig, lots of great humour and banter about the set, particularly when the same orange T Shirted chap had a song dedicated to him for his enthusiasm, just when he stood up to go to the loo. Well we can't wait all day suggested the band, querying whether it was a number one or two as he left the stage. Quite amusingly when he came back, and they were mid song the must have been a wee comment went straight over Orange T Shirt's head.

Just shows what a glamorous lifestyle it is for a band up and coming as they were looking forward to finishing the Yardbird gig, being the last of the current tour as they will then be off for a break and not having to spend the night 6 to a room in the hotel, and when quizzed on what format their debut release was taking the following day, it was simply electronic - all purchased though!

Pointing again to the superb harmony's from the fossil collective and standout single 'Let it go' is easy, I will be back - and getting in contact next time they are in Brum, especially as Jonny knew my name, unlikely I will be in Edinburgh again!

Also love the cover of Power of Love which has been on the ipod on heavy rotation (if thats relevant to the zero's and ones of an ipod) over the last few weeks

which you can download for free here - BOOM!!

Buy That Single off Itunes

I am now officially a stalker, I'll get my coat.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Sutton Fun Run 2012

Not quite a Marathon, but for the first time in over 20 years on 10 June 2012 I competed in the Sutton Fun Run or the Great Midlands Fun Run as its now known, an 8.5 mile jaunt (dumbed down from the 10 mile runs from the good old days) around Sutton including a nice section in Sutton Park and the aptly named Cardiac Hill.

I was more apprehensive before this run than recent half marathons due to a lack of preparation or just general runs that I have been doing, in fact my Nike GPS watch has even stopped the sarcee comments about whether I am going to go for a run or not now its been that long. Plus a week in London has resulted in all you can eat breakfasts all week which whilst good for piling on the calories, not quite the preparation Olympic athletes will choose.

Lining up I got myself ready, set the iPod for shuffle, and chatted to my sister. Then at 11:10 we were off, slowly walking to the start line, pressing buttons on my surprised watch and the race started to the tunes of Ant and Dec's better watch out - good job no one else could hear this.

Running up the hill, it's unusual that it's not staggered as most of the first mile is spent side stepping the walkers on the run, but running up the hill in the glorious sun was smashing. The first few miles were without much incident, just reading the various charities around on T Shirts and lots of encouragement from the crowds, missing the first drinks stop (although nothing to write home about as I have been spoilt with the regular lucosades and sport bottles, here it was plastic cups of water, impossible to drink while running without spluttering and spilling them all over the place, and a nice yellow sponge).

Into Sutton Park, and I was feeling pretty good, miles 3 and 4 worked nicely, tunes like the Rolling Stones Sympathy For the Devil and associated Woo woos passing the strides, plus the obligatory pick someone to be a pace maker for you, a very tall girl seemed to have matched my stride which helped no end to focus on.

A bizarre sight half way round was a herd of cows walking along next to the runners, bizarre because I can't ever remember seeing so many cows in Sutton Park. Then it hit me, this must be the cows version of the great escape, as all of the cattle grids were covered over, everyone was distracted with the run, what better time to escape the confines of Sutton Park, I fully expect to see the cows at train stations later with faked papers trying to blend in.

The Route and my pace - can you spot Cardiac Hill?
Later in the park came the afore mentioned cardiac hill, which got me, I had been lulled into a false sense of security as a hill was climbed just before that one and I thought oh that's not that bad at all, then turned the corner and ground to a halt, it wasn't supposed to be like that, I was saying right no walking steady pace up, and my body just decided to ignore this completely and walked to the top, as small children galloped past.

Another pacer turned up then, being the girl who had taken off her shoes to run, I felt like saying hey Zola Budd, but then realised that 90% of the crowd would be too young to understand, so I followed her for a while as she ran freely (getting her socks very mucky, her Mum will be cross), and emerging from the park I felt I had my own fan club as there were cheers left and right as I went past, sadly this was for the Dalek who was at my shoulder, but none the less it spurred me on for the remaining 2.5 miles. It felt a bit of a canter the last bit into Sutton, saw a few people to shout at, and then the iPod built me up for my final 800 yard sprint by launching into My Dark Star by Suede, great tune but hardly very lively again.

Very pleased to be handed a medal, and to have completed the run in the only sunny day for a couple of weeks, leaving me with a bright head!

Here's the official site

The Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy Radio Show... Live! Review

The Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy, 
Radio Show Live! 
12 June 2012: Birmingham Alex Theatre

The Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, really fills a place in the Physical Product given the number of different products and memories it fulfils, so when the chance came to see the Live version of the Radio Show, going down was a call that was always going to happen.

Perhaps surprisingly no one fancied joining me for the evening, and I suppose when I mingled there it was full of people a bit older than me, appropriately nerdy, and so a felt pretty much at home. Having got the ticket late, I got a restricted view (very slightly) which gave actually a cracking view and position, win, settled down and tried to listen to a not very easy to hear radio interview of Douglas Adams, an amazing man. Then it kicked off, with Phil Jupitus hamming it up appropriately as the book, sat in a very Douglas Adams armchair, with standard lamp and coffee table.

The show was a little unusual as it was a live recording of a radio show.....the clues in the question.....and the artists performing were most of the actors who appeared in the original series. In particular seeing Simon Jones playing Arthur Dent in person, having loved him in the TV series was a joy. In fact once I had got used to the difference in voice in the book from the Radio show I was virtually reciting the first half word for word, which made the experience really unusual, as the quirkiness of the narrative is not so quirky it's now part of who I am. 

It took me back to the trips around Europe with Mom and Dad in the caravan where we would all either listen to the tape together or I would bung it into my (cheap imitation of a ) Walkman with big orange spongy headphones. I would while away the hours and hours on the autoroutes, blissfully ignoring what was going on around me, wanting to get to the south of France beaches / home again. I've been to most places in Europe, and have memories of virtually none due to reading books and having my headphones on.

The interval (punctuated with some popcorn) was followed by a great reengineering of the legend of the Hitchhikers books (I believe by the man who adapted the original radio plays), sewing different acts together in different orders keeping the second half really fresh, which was much appreciated.

The highlight for me was Marvin, built very much in a retro style, reminding me of an old Bush radio, with the usual voice (he seems to be being kept a secret as there is not a single picture of him on the net as far as I can see). By the end he had joined the memorable ranks of the other versions, film, book, TV show. And the encore song he sang wrapped the performance up nicely. Amazing how affectionately you can feel towards a fictitious paranoid android.

A nice way to top off the physical products from Hitchhikers, books (coffee table and novel) videos, dvd's, cassettes and already complemented by mp3's and shortly to come the Radio Show Live performance on mp3.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

The Charlatans @ Manchester Apollo

The Charlatans: Manchester Apollo
Gig 30: 1 June 2012 

Going to watch the Charlatans on their home turf in Manchester, playing their Telling Stories album in its entirety, what better way to start the Jubilee weekend. Better still, this was coming on top of a long, long week and I was incredibly ready to unwind, and best still I got the opportunity to leave early and shoot up the M6. Sadly this being Friday afternoon before the Jubilee all of the travel reporters seemed a little to gleeful in telling me about the great British Getaway weekend and the delays that started at junction 8 (mine) and lasted to junction 19, ironically the junction I would be leaving the M6 on.

Still I was on holiday and heading north, nothing would dampen my mood, changing into jeans at the service station and I was totally relaxed, a short detour to see the Salford Lads Club site (see this post) and I arrived at the Apollo in Manchester for a debut at the venue. It's a venue I had read about regularly over the years in the NME and Melody Maker and the Art Deco outside made it look a quality venue compared to some of the sheds on the circuit currently.

I had read on the website that it was advisable to park in the secure parking by the venue so when the was a big car park next to the venue with official blokes waving shouting park here I was a bit disappointed to find this was a dearer unofficial one, cheeky chaps, which on leaving the venue I was totally blocked in on all sides, note to self.

Wandering in early to the gig, the venue was impressive, I was downstairs in what is evidently built to be a Cinema and so the stalls are on a massive slope, which means that everyone gets a decent view. Even when Andre the Giant decided to dance in front of me the the view was fine, my only complaint being caught in the grollies by his flailing dancing arm. So settling in at the back waiting with a beer I reflected how much better the New Order gig (see here) would have been in this venue compared to the Ballroom.

Promptly at 8 the support band, Deadbeat Echoes, came on and kicked off with confident drums, and is pretty good, the second song with a catchy woo hoo refrain sounding like the tune from Kill Bill, and again pretty memorable, in fact this is the theme for the performance, real hooks and catches in each song, impressive for such a debut band, such as the 'Twang Twang err, Twang Twang oooh song', probably not the best description but you had to be there. I suppose the swagger of the band is best summed up by the drummer, particularly impressive I thought with his drum stick twirling throughout, nice touch. Sadly the slab of 7inch vinyl purchased outside didn't really live up to the swagger.

Another half hour and on walked the Charlatans, and they were definitively coming home, they really looked at home. Tim front and centre, twirling his supremely dodgy blond raggedy bowl cut left and right, Mark Collins just standing coolly on his left, keyboards by Tony Rogers driving things forward and Jon Brookes behind the Drums. This was impressive to see as the last time I had seen the Charlies in Brum Jon was absent due to his Brain Tumor, returning to the kit for the encore of Sproston Green for his first appearance after successfully battling back from the affliction.

It's shocking that it's 15 years since telling stories, bang at the end of britpop and a great album that re-established my love of the Charlatans following my brief dalliance with 'the only one I know'. It was an important album for me, and the opening strains of 'with no shoes' zoomed me back to the days of Mark and Lard on the Radio 1 breakfast show. North Country Boy, Telling Stories, a B side, One to Another (resplendent with crowd whistles) and everyone was enjoying the party, I was slightly distracted by Andre stood in front of me dancing, as he danced exactly the same way as my brother in law, now dubbed Uncle Small by my kids, perhaps that is the best way for tall people to dance, just less swinging arms in a confined space please.

A recurring bonus for the gig was leaning against the bar at the back of the gig, like an old fashioned leaning post at the footie in the days of terraces. I got people walk up in the dark and try to push past, only to find their way blocked, not particularly amusing, that only happened when they saw the bar, ducked down to go under and bumped into the black paneling that was below the bar and slunk off sheepishly, amusing far more because most of them were people out in their Manc trendy finery and trying so hard to look cool.

A few more album tracks and B sides later, and the air had subsided a bit, only to erupt again with How High, a blistering song, with the crowd in full voice, after this out came the mouth organ and they we gone, with the crowd baying for more.

The band returned for getting on for an hour of the greatest hits, spanning the whole of their career, all stood up very well, and this was where Tim Burgess came into his own, whether it be the arms outstretched in white Tshirt messianic poses for Forever, or the failed golf swing dancing on Wierdo, Tim is a perfect front man, very at home with the adoration.

Another reason that the Charlatans hold a special place for me is the Keyboards, I can't think of another band I have seen that so closely pulls on the legacy of the Stax sound, this really shone through in 'Oh Vanity'  which owes more than just a nod to the Memphis sounds.

What better way to finish than The Only One I Know, being played true to the original which for a long time was an omission from the set list and then back as a re-imagined version, and then finishing on the obligatory Sproston Green.

My only criticism from the night, Tim should definitely work on his signature in the signed book....... And nearly getting run over when crossing a round (which would have put a dampener on the evening). Back down the M6 and I was in a great frame of mind to celebrate the damp jubilee weekend.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Famous Rock Landmarks No. 1: Salford Lads Club

A trip to Manchester to see the Charlatans and having half an hour to spare, I decided to go and see a rock land mark, so phoning the Missus to get the post code to Salford Lads Club headed into quite a rough area, turned into an estate (with significant metal fences up everywhere) and continued to follow the instructions to come to a stop at a fenced off dead end. 'You have reached your destination' chirped the nice lady from Tom Tom, 'I don't think' so I responded and drove off at pace. 

Stopping for a few minutes to surf the net I found a note to approach from the Coronation side so I tried again, drove past the little estate and then peering to my left saw the iconic front. It was again pretty challenging to get in (unless you ignore the one way sign outside) but after a few trys I parked up outside the entrance and stood where the Smiths had once stood. It is an iconic site, it really looks it. A nice couple took a pic for me and after a couple of minutes later I sped off.

The concept of the boys' club (lads' club being a term used exclusively in Manchester and the surrounding areas) grew up in the 19th century as a way of keeping young boys “off the streets” and encouraging them to become “good and worthy God-fearing citizens” The clubs were usually set up by local philanthropic businessmen, and it was soon realised that, to compete with the outside attractions of freedom from restraint and gambling, they must provide not only for draughts, bagatelle, and billiards but for more exciting pursuits that most boys could not otherwise obtain, such as gymnastics, boxing, fives, swimming and especially, outdoor games.

In Salford and Manchester a number of these clubs grew up in the most deprived areas, the first of which was Hulme lads Club founded in 1850. Salford Lads club was founded in 1903 by two brothers, James and William Groves from the family of brewers that were partners with Arthur William Whitnall in the Groves and Whitnall Brewery on Regent Road in Salford. Built and designed by Manchester architect Henry Lord, who was also responsible for the former Salford Royal Hospital and Salford Museum and Art Gallery, the club was opened on 30 January 1904 by Robert Baden-Powell, three years before he founded the scout movement.

The Club has held an annual camping holiday since 1904. According to club worker and local artist, Leslie Holmes: "Salford Lads Club has a remarkable tradition that predates the first scout camps set up by Lord Baden-Powell. Salford Lads Club first camp was at Llandulas in 1904 when 173 boys took part". The camps have been held at Tan-y-Bwlch, Aberystwyth during Whitsun since 1934. Famous members, who have camped at Aberystwyth include Graham Nash and Eddie Coleman, who, at 21, was the youngest Manchester United footballer to die in the Munich air disaster of 1958.

Membership has fallen to around 100 compared with 2,000 in its heyday. The club building gained Grade II listed building status in August 2003, as its tiled interior is virtually unchanged, with original fittings including a boxing ring, snooker rooms, and a gym with a viewing balcony. 

Music and film heritage
The 1960s pop group The Hollies used to practice at the club before they became famous. Allan Clarke and Graham Nash were both members and their membership cards are still in the club's archives.

The club gained international fame in 1986 when the alternative rock band The Smiths posed in front of the building for the inside cover of their album The Queen Is Dead. The Smiths' music video for the songs "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" and "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before" also featured shots of the building's exterior. The committee was said at the time to be furious, and solicitors acting for the club claimed that;

Inclusion of the photograph may generally cause any person reading the [album] or listening to the record to attribute the material to the club, its committee or its members ... we would cite for example the reference in the song Vicar in a Tutu to the singer being engaged in stealing lead from a church roof, or indeed the very title to the album itself and the tenor of the title song."

However, over the last few years the club has begun to embrace this more recent legacy and welcome the fans to the club. The photograph, taken by pop photographer Stephen Wright was accepted into the National Portrait Gallery in 2008. The club is on the corner of St Ignatius Walk and Coronation Street in Salford and is a place of pilgrimage for many Smiths fans. It also featured in the music video for The Dream Academy's "Life in a Northern Town".

In 2003 a film documentary was made as part of the celebrations for the club's centenary. The film, which was introduced by Peter Hook, bassist for Joy Division and New Order, who lived on the Ordsall estate until he was 19, was made with the help of elderly residents and young members of the club and is a mix of interviews and location shots.

The musician Vinny Peculiar, alias Alan Wilks, has a longstanding association with the club, supporting various club events, performing for visiting Morrissey fans with ex-Smiths bassist Andy Rourke, and rehearsing with his band, which includes ex-members of The Smiths, Oasis and The Fall.
The building has also been used as the location for a number of films and television dramas including Channel 4's Shameless, Granada TV's 2002 remake of The Forsyte Saga, a 2004 music video: Life in a Northern Town Life in a Northern Town,the film version of the Jacqueline Wilson's novel, "Illustrated Mum", the BBC police drama Conviction and, in 2008, the remake of the 1970s BBC series Survivors.
The club can be seen in the opening sequence of BBC Sport's The Football League Show and, on the 19th December 2011, the setting for BBC1's first ever live broadcast of Football Focus.