Friday, 29 December 2017

Sad Music Is Uplifting 5:52; A Writer Addresses An Audience

He addressed the crowd: “Please, listen.  I’ve got one or two things to say!
“Please, siblings, quell your clamouring excitement, for we must all hear the wisdom to be imparted!  Friends, please back up, lest we crush those most fervent believers down the front – move back, please, move back and be seated!”
Some at the corners of the crowd tittered involuntarily, perhaps labouring under the misapprehension that he had been joking.  The shocked, disapproving facial expressions of the faithful impelled them to still their guffawing.
There were thirteen people in the room.
He spoke up again, saying: “I tell you solemnly, as the prophets have told us: “Nothing is so good it lasts eternally; perfect situations must go wrong.  But this has never yet prevented me from wanting far too much, for far too long.  Looking back, I could have played it differently; won a few more moments – who can tell?  But it took time to understand the man.  Now, at least, I know, I know him well.”
That they said it over the overused synth pitch-bend and shrieking 70s electric guitar sound served up by them Swedish lads doth not remove its wisdom!  Lo, does not even the evil Sith Lord Lloyd-Webber have his place on the earth?!  For wisdom may be heard from any mouth.”
For he had come to tell them that he was leaving them.  “It’s not because I don’t love you!  But I must move on, for it is moving on that brought me to you, and you to I; I will still be with you, at a gig, at the office, or somewhere in town, or anywhere two or more gather in my name.  Not that you would.  Or should.” 
“For I say to you honestly, over time, jokes that only I get have become more frequent, and things anyone else might enjoy have gradually declined.  For one must, in any long-running endeavour, put things purely for one’s own enjoyment, regardless of their traction for an audience.  I respected and loved you too much to simply present you with Things You Might Actually Like.  (And The Capitalisation (and the parentheses) may have got a bit out of hand.)”
For it had been conceived as a challenge to speak to them every week, something maybe topical, hopefully interesting, but always original and new – and for one whole year.  Using big words to tell opinions for which no one had asked.
And yet, when they logged on did they see that the one year’s worth of rambling had been turned – by their faith – into five whole years of content!  And yea, did no one ever comment on The Thing itself but only on the social media posting of the link to The Thing. 
Ah, but wasn’t it good?  Wasn’t he fine!  Isn’t it madness……?
“And, yea, will it be nice to see or read something and not feel compelled to write a review of it.”
For I tell you solemnly, no review did he write that was so insightful as when he, The Reviewer, pointed out that Sibelius had stolen his most famous melody from Strawberry Switchblade.  And the people did laugh, thinking him to be some sort of clown, or performing monkey.  And lo, did they spit their coffee over their laptop screens and regret it not.  But then did they listen to the two tunes back to back and understand, finally, that prophecy had been fulfilled.
And, further, I say unto you, his followers, that the story about The Chimp & Gibbon probably as one of the best, but not his own personal favourite.  But there were many others you liked, and that’s fine.
And yet, would they tell him, when they saw him in the pub, that they did read it every week.  He would thank them profusely and not let on that he knew the numbers by the hand of the ISP and that some of them had not been reading.  But he held it not against them, for their time was precious, and his ramblings of varying quality.
Before he left them, he spoke again.  “But have I other projects on which to work?  Indeed I do.  For I go unto my heavenly father and mother, and the internet connection is patchy at best in the garden.  But, my friends, know this:  these things I have done, you will do – and greater things still.  For I am an esoteric pretentious and smugly self-satisfied blogger, where you shall reach The People with your superior relatability and vulnerability.  You will be an open book, where I have been an E-learning module available for the new lower price of $129.99!
“Massive Thanks to all those who have heard, who have read and who have commented or shared!  There are meanings and links here within, for those who would find them!  For no more can I stay and teach you.  You will go on, you must, but I will not.  I am to be raised up to the sky by a mighty hand, never to be seen in my physical, or written form.
“Or, I might just do this monthly instead of weekly next year. 
Is that OK?”

Friday, 22 December 2017

Friday, 15 December 2017

Friday, 8 December 2017

Review: Songhoy Blues, 1/12/17; Anson Rooms, Bristol

“As we say in Africa: Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something.”

I meet J on Stokey and we walk up the big hill towards Clifton.  It’s ruddy cold, but the stomp up the big hill takes our mind off it, as we head to meet O and her friend in a nice wee pub I’ve never been to before (I tell J I think I’ve been there before, with DL, but full disclosure:  I hadn’t.  You don’t get this kind of detail in your average newspaper/website gig reviews, do you?  No.)
It’s in a university, so obviously there’s a maximum amount of time-consuming bureaucracy: have you got a hand stamp?  Then you need to go round to the front entrance; you need a hand-stamp on the way in, please queue round the other side, go to the right, to the right!; no drinks downstairs, sorry; no glass, here’s a plastic cup, etc.
I haven’t been here for a show for years – the last one, I think, was Godspeed, at least five years ago.  I tell O & J that I saw my first ever gig here (Echobelly in 1994, in case you’re interested – I did a crowdsurf, and everything, it was brilliant), and subsequently saw a few of the British Indie bands of the mid-90s.  It was exciting in those days, wasn’t it, do you remember?  Being a teenager, going out to things like this, loud music, crowds, psycho-sexual hormonal adventures, anxiety, melodrama….
Those days are long gone, and good fucking riddance.  It was right for the times, and times were tough.
We wonder if we’re too early: it’s nine, and the tickets said doors at seven, which seems too early.  It doesn’t seem busy in the place.  (You never know when to arrive for these things, do you?  Small gigs are absolutely ALWAYS much later than advertised (except the few times they’re not, and no one’s there), and big gigs don’t tend to advertise a time, but do vary a lot from venue to venue, and depending on the day of the week.)  The room is like a school hall, but bigger.  I tell OJ that some people think the sound here is shit, but I’ve always thought it was very good when I’ve been here. 
J is waiting on a call from R, cos he’s got a ticket for him.  But J’s got no signal in here, so I text R: “Yo, J got no bars, so call me when you rock up. My bars is the sickest bruv, I got bars for days.”  (HahahahaI’mhilaaaarious)
The website where I bought my ticket invites me to review my experience, so here it is.  However, since they insist that they will own the copyright to my post, I’ll just leave it here so that I’m not providing free labour to be used for advertising purposes by a service industry giant.  Because that’s bollocks.  Even if it’s normal that we all review things these days, and make those reviews available for the discernment of our fellow consumers.  So, I’m just providing it for free on a platform where it will be read by seven people, and no one – especially not me – will make any money from it.  Because I’m an Artist, yeah?
Songhoy Blues are from Mali, and play a really interesting mix of rock n roll, R&B and Afrobeat.  Like, the sort of West African style of guitar, but playing rock n roll.  Or vice versa.  You know what I mean?  Well, look them up and check it out, then. 
Just in case you’re interested in this kind of thing, the band use Orange amps.  They’re supposed to be very good, aren’t they?  They look cool, anyway.  The lead guitarist has got a Gibson SG, the singer plays a Telecaster.  And late in the show, a wee white fella sneaks in on a Les Paul.  The singer plays guitar on some songs, but on the others, he dances and is a really energetic frontman.  But really, the wee lad at the back does look like he’s just sneaked on stage and no one has noticed.  Like me at Ashton Court in 1999, remember that?  CE and PM tried to stop me coming on from the back of the stage, they thought I wasn’t supposed to be there.  Great days. 
The singer is talking about all the terrible things happening in the word right now, and he lists a few of them.  To be honest, I find it a little bit tricky to follow what he’s saying, as he has a strong accent.  But his speech ends with something like:  “What can we do?  We are artists.”  But not in a plaintive, shoulder-shrugging way, more like he is answering his own question.  If we are Artists, we can make Art.  That’s what we can do.
My dear friends, we live at a time in which the Christmas adverts of companies who sell tea towels and dinner plates is a news story and some kind of “event”, because that’s how shit our culture is.  It’s hard to think about that without concluding that we are worse than the ancient Romans, more hubristic than the Vietnam war-era USA; but nights like tonight help to redress the balance – and that’s the role of Art, isn’t it?  To remind us that we are also capable of transcendent beauty, of making the darkness of our existence explicable, relatable.  To deal with all the awful things we do to ourselves and each other without simply diverting our attention away from them for a brief period (which is, I would argue, the purpose of Entertainment).  And to dance.  Because we are alive.
Well, it’s part of the reason anyway.  I think.  I’m only thinking that while writing this, I didn’t think about it at the gig.  So, it must have worked.
“We know you have worked hard all week and you need to have a good time on Friday night.”  
Well, exactly. 
We are Entertained.  It is also Art.  They are very good.
After the show, we get a drink in a local pub, which I remember being a bit of a shit pit, but is now quite nice.  Which is ironic, because it’s in the posh part of town.  When the process of gentrification reaches its zenith, maybe every post code from BS1 to BS16 will be posh, and 90% of us will be living in les banlieue.  And then we’ll make great art that dull posh people think is shit until it sells a lot, and then they’ll come and buy our Art and our houses and we’ll swap over and start the whole thing over again. 
In the meantime, we’ll make Art, I suppose.
“As we say in Africa: Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something.”





Friday, 1 December 2017

All The Blogs I Didn’t Write

Film Review: The Incredible Jessica James

I didn’t write a review of this film because, although I quite enjoyed it, it is like Every Film Ever.  I laughed a couple of times, mostly because I like the stars from other things they have done that are funny.  But every film is the same, isn’t it – there’s not much deviation.  And I didn’t want to write about that, because I already did in a previous film review.
Conversations Overheard in Pubs: Estate Agents
“Coal miners were told: “Fuck off, we don’t need you anymore, we’re closing down that whole industry, even though all your towns have been built on it, even though there’s no other jobs in your area and your pit might still be turning a profit. You’re not wanted any more, please fuck off and die – and yet, estate agents!  They do literally nothing – other than lie – and the only reason they still exist is that they always have.” 
All those True Stories from Berlin that time
I asked blog readers which one they would like to read, and then studiously ignored the very (very) few that responded.  Apologies to those.  The one about dancing in a Nazi airport was cool.  And the one about cycling drunk across town was quite good fun, although it had a weird ending.  Because it was true.  And true stories don’t need resolution, because life doesn’t have resolution, because resolution is something invented for Hollywood morality tales.  Which are, of course, mostly shit.  And I didn’t want to write about that, because I already did in previous stories.
Film Review: The Act Of Killing
Whenever I mention a film to my loved ones, one of them will inevitably ask: “Is it about war?  Has it got subtitles?” etc., assuming the answer to be affirmative.  (I think they take it in turns – presumably, there’s some sort of rota.)
I had been meaning to see this film for ages, and would’ve written another just-see-it-because-it’s-worth-watching-and-anything-I-tell-you-about-it-will-be-mostly-irrelevant type of reviews. 
And I didn’t want to write about that, because I already did in a previous film review.
Booking Agents, leave it out, I need a break from playing to thousands of adoring fans every single night, it’s tiring.
High-end music website journos, I’m not trying to boost your dwindling circulation with an in-depth interview.  Go and ask someone else the same tired, banal questions.
Papparazzi, seriously – another peep out of you lot and I’ll have to take out an injunction.  Stop digging about my bins and hassling my friends.  Enough is enough, alright?
Radio DJs, can you please stop bombarding me with emails begging to play my shit to your massive audience.  I don’t need your help, thanks.
TV bookers, I’m really not interested in being on Sunday Brunch or whatever.  Take the hint.
Managers, I’m not your meal ticket, give it a rest.
Pluggers, please plug something else and stop spoiling the selectiveness of my appeal.
Celebrity fans, stop wearing my t-shirt, waving my CD and bandying my name about to look cool.  If you keep it up, I won’t be cool or edgy any more, will I?  Stop gentrifying my brand.
But I didn’t want to write about that, because I already did in previous ironic blogs about the music industry and my (lack of) place in it.  #irony #meta #soverytired
Orange Is Not The Only The Colour
I’ve tried, every July since 2013, to write about the Orange Order marches, and their significance to the conflict in Northern Ireland.  And football in Scotland.  And religion.  People really think the conflict is about religion, don’t they?  Which is perplexing and maddening to me.  So I wrote the following, as the start of a very long rant about all this:
(A lot of people think that conflict is about religion, including world-famous biologist and hectoring bore Richard Dawkins, who glibly repeated this popular misconception (as inarguable fact) in his book The God Delusion, to prove how shit religion is.  I find this highly disappointing; to call this popular misconception ignorant would probably be too generous – and yet there it is, blithely mentioned by the world’s most (annoying) intelligent person.  To repeat a claim this blog has made many times (which is ok, since no one reads it anymore (if they ever did (some people were/are presumably put off by the propensity for self-involved parentheses)), there is a reason British schools do not teach the history of Ireland.  (Or the history of India, Kenya, South Africa, or anywhere else that enjoyed the benevolent attentions of the British Empire.)  And this ignorance plays out in the news media, as well as every conversation about it in England.  (Every time someone plays the “God, what a silly argument over religion, if only they got rid of churches, everything would be great”, I shudder.  (Surely to fuck there cannot be many people who honestly contend that the conflict in Northern Ireland, and between Britain and Ireland historically, was/is really caused by the theological difference between transubstantiation and consubstantiation, or the right of Henry VIII to divorce, or the infallibility of the Pope?  (God, I hope not.))))
But I have over-used parentheses in other blogs, and referred to that, in a self-conscious way.
I Met Stewart Lee In The Street
I have never met The “Comedian” Stewart Lee.  Although I did once pass him on Union Street in Bristol, as he exited the charmingly old-fashioned and dilapidated Odeon cinema, the one I used to go to and where I saw Naked Gun 33 1/3, as well as the re-mastered version of Return Of The Jedi, with a girl from school (obviously a disappointment, as it was just a re-hash of a previous outing where it was more innocent and sweetly enchanting and less concerned with money – and so was the film!).
I’m not sure why I didn’t speak to Stewart Lee, as I am a great admirer of his.  He’s the best “comedian” around – I made sure of this by watching several videos of his performances, for free, online, before paying to go to one.  If I had spoken to him that grey April Sunday a couple of years ago, I imagine it would have gone something like this:
Me:        Stew!  Sorry, Stewart Lee!
SL:          Yeah.
Me:        [Offering hand]
SL:          [Looking at hand]
Me:        Mate, I don’t normally do this – I was once within earshot of Rodney P, in the Artist camping      at Shambala festival, and I didn’t say anything to him.  I stood next to Howard Marks in the   backstage bar at the Jazz stage at Glastonbury.  And I bought a drink off Paul McGann in the           same bar.  So I had to talk to him. I did once speak to Stephen Merchant, mind, on Camden   High Road, but that was sort of a joke that got out of hand.  Thom Yorke was just coming out                 of a tent at Glastonbury just as I was going in, I didn’t even talk to him.
Me:        I know all of The (current) Blue Aeroplanes (and some former members), and my mate is in       Emptyset.  Anyway, as I say, I don’t usually speak to people just because they’re famous, but…
Me:        …oh, and I’ve met Sage Francis and Sole and both the dudes out of Themselves and Propaghandi and Pee-Wee Ellis and I once          met Simon Stainrod at a Scotland Under-21 match at Easter Road.  And I met Andy Crane    at Oldbury Power Station.  And my brother was presented with a trophy by Bobby                 Moore.  My Dad’s still got the picture.
But I didn’t want to write about that, because I already wrote about meeting a comedian in the street, in a previous blog – and that one was true.  And I wrote about buying a drink off Paul McGann, and that was also true.  And I also wrote about meeting Stewart Lee in the street, and that wasn’t true.
What I Did And What I Got On My Birthday
My birthday presents included:
A towel, featuring pictures of me and the person gifting it to me
A viral eye infection
A hair grooming product exactly the same as one given to me by the same person several years ago
A shot of tequila
A pint of beer
A bottle of whisky
A hat
A voucher for a(n independent) clothes shop
Peanut butter-filled chocolate
My birthday treats included:
Drinks and football with The Best Live Performer Ever
A visit to the new Grayson Perry exhibition at The Arnolfini
A visit to the Wellcome Centre
A visit to A&E
Dinner with someone wonderful, at a really good place
Pints with The Lads
An accidental meeting & impromptu Happy Birthday song/drink from several friends
Two hangovers
I Met A Famous Person Who Turned Out To Be Very Strange
Oh, I really wish I could tell you this one.  But I can’t.  Oh, God, it’s a beauty, though.
But I can’t. 
Aw, but I want to, though.  Ooh, it’s a corker!  And it’s true!
But, sorry, I can’t.
No, seriously, I just can’t.

But I have written a lot of blogs, and might be finished with it, for now.