Sunday, 13 January 2019

Things I Didn't Blog About In 2018 Part One: Stones, Skids, Seaweed

Yes, it's that time of year when I look back at the previous 365+ days of my time on this planet and, without any apparent shame, post stuff that would have been more useful if actually posted during that year of which we speak. Or something. Starting with the invasion of these terrifying, tentacled creatures which brought a Cthulhu-like creeping dread to the inhabitants of the South-West of England last December...

Okay, it's actually a load of seaweed washed up at Portmellon Cove in Cornwall... but it looks pretty Lovecraftian to me. Sarah and I had a long weekend down in the nearby fishing village of Mevagissey, during which we came across all this weed which had washed up right over the sea-wall at Portmellon and onto the road. ( We also had a very good roast dinner in the local pub. Seaweed wasn't on the menu. Or the floor. )
Although the weather was mostly grim ( well, it was December! ) we had a great time down in our beloved Cornwall, in a lovely little old-school B&B, and this was the gorgeous view from the terrace outside our bedroom:

Beyond Mevagissey we took a long walk through some fields to get to the idyllic Chapel Cove, where we spent some time watching seals basking on a nearby beach. ( I didn't get any pics of this since my phone's camera wouldn't have done it justice, but I did get some nice shots of the cove itself, chapel and all. )

It was a short but sweet visit to Cornwall, book-ended by a couple of adventures on Bodmin Moor. Here's what a traffic-jam looks like near Colliford Lake:

"Get off my mmmmoooorrr!"

Elsewhere in December, things got rather loud...

The mighty Skids were playing in Bristol again, this time in a venue new to me  -  Fiddler's, a former prison (!) just outside the city centre in Bedminster. Since this was only a 20-minute walk from Sophie's house she came along with me for a night of punk rock 'n' roll. I'm not sure she really knew what she was in for...

First up were those Borrowed Time boys, bringing their distinctive brand of metalpunk to the good people of Bedminster. They've been gigging almost constantly lately and, as a result, seem to get tighter ( and louder! ) each time I see them. They played a short, punchy set which was great fun but, like the whole gig, was unfortunately over-shadowed by the death of the great Pete Shelley the previous week. BT singer Rob gave a brief but heartfelt speech about Shelley which encapsulated everyone's sadness at this great singer's untimely demise. Borrowed Time were followed by the awful, Oi!-ful Knock Off, shouting at us about beer and football in their turgid, sub-Cockney Rejects manner, which at least gave me and Sophie the chance to go and have a chat with a few friends at the BT merch stall. And then one of the best live bands around came and saved us...

The Skids are definitely on a roll after playing many, many well-received gigs up and down the country and releasing the fine new album Burning Cities. Although, apparently, they will soon be going on hiatus again as a full band and just performing acoustic sets??? No idea why. Anyway, they tore the roof off Fiddler's with a muscular, anthemic set... maybe not as jaw-dropping as when I saw them at the late, lamented Bristol Bierkeller, but damn good all the same. All the faves were there  -  Into The Valley ( of course! ), Animation, Woman In Winter, Masquerade and even a brief stab at early single Sweet Suburbia. Richard Jobson was, as usual, the focal point: whirling, shadow-boxing, singing his lungs out and telling outrageous stories between the songs. ( But, Richard... please don't attempt that Forest Of Dean accent again. It really didn't work. ) The band were on fine form, tight, enthusiastic and as loud as a jet engine. In fact, this sheer volume, coupled with the extremely boisterous crowd proved too much for Sophie ( who's more used to the more genteel surroundings of musical theatre ) and we had to sit out the end of the set, including a poignant cover of Buzzcock's What Do I Get and ( for some reason ) an impromptu cover of Pretty Vacant. Still, it had been a great gig and a chance to catch up with some mates, and Sophie and I had a good time, walking and chatting to and from the venue. ( And a nice meal earlier that night in a cool, American-style diner. )
Borrowed Time will be supporting The Skids again next month at the good ol' Gloucester Guildhall. I'll be there! Can't wait!

In other December news I turned ( New ) 52. Yep, it was time to celebrate another 12 months in this crazy old universe and we headed to darkest Wiltshire to commune with the spirits in the stones at myth-shrouded Avebury. ( How's that for purple prose? ) Here's James standing next to an ancient, craggy, weather-beaten monument. And one of the Avebury stones. ( Of course, Sarah was here too but behind the camera. )

By sheer coincidence you can see a might fine comic strip over at the multi-talented Pete Doree's Kids From Rec. Road blog which uses some of my photos from a previous visit to Avebury.
( Actually it's not a coincidence at all... ) You might want to head over there to enjoy Pete's reminiscences of the sheer terror of that legendary '70s kids' TV serial Children Of The Stones  -  you know... the one that traumatised an entire generation. Just don't blame me if you have nightmares after recalling that slice of kid-unfriendly Folk Horror. Happy Day...

Friday, 7 December 2018

Pete Shelley

I was very saddened to hear last night of the passing of Pete Shelley, the lead singer, guitarist and songwriter of Buzzcocks. Shelley was one of the great pop songwriters of his time  -  the urgent, scratchy, punky sound of Buzzcocks never overshadowing his alternately heartfelt and ironic songs of teenage love and angst.

I only saw the band play live three times over the years but each gig was memorable and a lot of fun. I first saw them when they'd only recently reformed back in 1993 at the long-gone Northwick Theatre in Worcester, then at the Stroud Subscription Rooms in 2016 ( above ) and at Bath's Komedia earlier this year.
Each gig demonstrated Buzzcocks' mastery of deceptively simple, catchy, joyous pop-punk anthems, crafted with love, anger and often just a little knowing campness. At the heart of this was Pete Shelley, a pop poet with a wry take on love, life and relationships. There really aren't many like him left...

RIP Pete and thanks for all the wonderful songs

Peter Campbell McNeish ( aka Pete Shelley ) 17th April 1955 - 6th December 2018

Monday, 19 November 2018

Black Grape at Gloucester Guildhall 15 / 11 / 2018

Back to my favourite music venue for the first time in far too long to experience the dance / rock loopiness of Black Grape. I'd never seen the boys from the Grape before but had hugely enjoyed seeing Shaun Ryder's "other" band, The Happy Mondays, a couple of years ago. My good friend Glenn ( Borrowed Time superstar ) kindly gave me a lift into G-Town ( as I believe the youngsters call it ) and we found ourselves in a strangely half-empty Guildhall. The underwhelming support set by a clearly phoning-it-in DJ didn't help.

About ten minutes before the band were due to come on there was a last minute surge and the hall became about 3/4 full. Shaun, Kermit and the band ambled out onto the stage and the party started with In The Name Of The Father ( "and the Holy f###ing Spirit, amen" ) and a couple of new songs from their recent album, Pop Voodoo. Shaun wasn't quite sure where he was at the start: there was some debate as to whether Gloucester was in the North ( er, no... ) or the West. They decided we were honourary Northerners and played ( of course ) A Big Day In The North. Kermit then went on to chat about what he called the "noble art of shop-lifting" and to bemoan the fact that not enough people do that any more...

Kermit and Shaun are a great double-act, constantly taking the piss out of each other and generally acting like a couple of naughty, overgrown schoolboys. Many songs were preceded by autobiographical facts such as "We wrote this song while smoking crack in a cupboard in LA" and debates about whether Shaun should take off his puffer-jacket or not. ( I was melting from the heat in my T-shirt so God only knows how he felt! ) Luckily, the music was as as hot as the atmosphere  -  the new songs went down well and the crowd went mad ( well, mad for a Gloucester audience ) to such groovy classics as Reverend Black Grape, Tramazi Parti and the peerless Kelly's Heroes. Glenn and I had a pretty good spot down the front so had a great view of the action and had our ears blasted by the sound  -  I think the ringing has just stopped after about three days!
Finishing with a funktastic Shake Well Before Opening and a titanic encore of Little Bob ( "Boooom! Bang!" ), the two front-men left the stage, whilst the band played some outrageously over the top heavy rock, with the guitarist hanging over the crowd-barrier, much to the disgust of the glaring security men.
A fun gig then, although I'd like to see them with a slightly more engaged audience. Black Grape are touring well into next year so we may do it all again somewhere else...


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