Sunday 30 December 2012

EMF at Gloucester Guildhall 15/11/12

As promised I'm going to do a few quick reviews of some of the great gigs I've been to in the last 3 months or so but was too busy / lazy to blog about at the time. And, in my usual disorganised fashion, I'm going to do it all in reverse order :-)

Let's start with the awesome EMF blowing up Gloucester's Guildhall Arts Centre a couple of weekends ago. I've submitted a review of this gig to Louder Than War but it hasn't been published yet, so here's a sneak peek:

It's a special night for revitalised indie-dance heroes EMF as the Forest Of Dean funkers return to their roots and play a homecoming gig at Gloucester's Guildhall Arts Centre. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of their second album, Stigma, EMF play that album in its entirety as well as its predecessor, Schubert Dip, in the venue where they filmed the Unbelievable video all those years ago.

 Bouncing onto the stage to the sounds of the Sesame Street theme like a bunch of school kids on alcopops, EMF are here to party like its 1991. And, in fact, singer James Atkin has that very date scrawled on his black and white-spotted T-shirt. They kick off with Schubert Dip Track One, Children, and the Guildhall goes absolutely nuts as the band proceed to rip through the album, song by song. The very epitome of the much-maligned '90s "indie-dance" scene, EMF show how to do it properly as they revisit their funky, punky whirl of sound, building up layers of guitars, keyboards and samples over a wicked backbeat and hitting us with anthemic chorus after anthemic chorus. By the mid-set high point that is I Believe / Unbelievable the band and the crowd are all grinning like mad men and women, gasping for air in the steaming hot venue, and still ready for more. Longtime EMF collaborator DJ Milf bounds onto the stage for a brief guest-spot before hurling himself into the audience, barely clearing the crowd barrier, before crashing to the sprung wooden floor of the former ballroom. Luckily he doesn't seem to be hurt... and confesses to me later that he only did it because "James told me to..."

All too soon the first set is over, the band disappear backstage, and the audience move on to the Guildhall's plush cinema room where a recovered DJ Milf is spinning some classic indie choons. Soon enough the buzz of anticipation starts again and we all return to the main stage for the Stigma set. The "difficult" second album is a tougher, rockier affair that comes alive with the gritty, paranoid sound of They're Here and the hedonistic Arizona with its exhortations to "love your state of mind." Guitarist Ian Dench's fluid, often bluesy sound is more to the fore here as the band tear into the never-before-played-in-public Dog ( Primal Scream meets Iggy Pop ) and the singalong Getting Through. James is now wearing a 1992-logoed T-shirt but, just to prove we're in the 21st century, one fan in the front row is Skype-ing the gig to a friend in Australia, much to James' bemusement. He frequently says throughout the gig that he can't believe this is all happening... but it is, and it's obvious to everybody that the band are enjoying this special event as much as the fans. After set closer The Light That Burns Twice As Bright is poignantly dedicated to late bass player Zac Foley, the band return to encore with a fine new song, Elephant, and the inevitable EMF, their eponymous bad boy anthem, prompting James to ask "Does anyone take Ecstasy any more?"

 After giving the band a rapturous send-off we return to the cinema room for the after-show party, where old skool rave and Hip-Hop is being spun and cans of Red Stripe are being drunk, while James and Derry sign autographs and pose for photos with grateful fans. To state the bleedin' obvious, it's been an unbelievable night...

I was accompanied to this gig by my good friend and  Chinese Burn superstar, Glenn. We'd seen EMF on this very stage 10 years ago and, in fact, had joined the band for Unbelievable when the crowd decided to invade the stage. Good times. ( Security was a bit tighter this time... ) We'd often er, raved about how fantastic that gig had been and wondered if EMF would ever be that good again. I can confirm that that this time round they were even better and this was one of the best gigs I've ever been to in 30+ years of gig-going. ( On the day after my birthday, too. ) And it was all being filmed for a DVD, too. Should be interesting viewing...

Update: the review is now available here at Louder Than War. Cheers, Guy!


I thought I might just scrape through the 200,000 Page View barrier before the end of 2012. I thought it would be quite an achievement, really. So, I was pleased that I hit that milestone just ahead of the end of the year... and then lost a Follower on the same day.

So, thanks to everyone who reads these scintillating scribblings  -  I couldn't do it without you!
And goodbye to Follower 71, whoever you are... you're going to miss loads of good stuff :-)

Doctor Who: The Snowmen ( Review with spoilers )

"The Doctor does not help people. Not anymore, not ever. He stands above this world and never interferes in the affairs of its inhabitants. He is not your salvation or your protector..."

Poor old, Doctor! After losing the Ponds to the Weeping Angel's temporal trap he's exiled himself to Victorian London, hung up the bow tie and become a sort of Time Lord Scrooge, parking the Tardis on top of a cloud (!) and withdrawing from a life of adventure. His only friends are lesbian lizard detective, Madam Vastra, her wife / surrogate Dr. Watson, Jenny, and mysteriously-reborn Sontaran, Strax. While they sleuth their way around London, apparently inspiring Conan Doyle's stories in The Strand magazine, The Doctor sits in his box and broods...

...until ( you knew there was going to be an "until..." didn't you? ) he discovers the grim Doctor Simeon ( a stony-faced Richard E Grant ) and his army of ice, who have terrible plans for the human race. And just who is the mysterious Clara? The girl who, at first, seems to be a Cockney barmaid but is also somehow a prim and proper governess to two haunted children? Why does the Doctor feel they've met before?

Although the Doctor himself is in a depressed mood at the start of this story, The Snowmen is a lot of festive fun, a flurry ( sorry! ) of running around, madcap humour  -  mostly at the expense of  "potato-dwarf" Strax  -  and the typically gorgeous BBC recreation of Victorian England we've come to expect from the show.( Most of it filmed in Bristol, just 30 miles down the road from where I sit typing these witless words. ) And then there's Clara...

Jenna Louise Coleman is a delight as the perky, determined, fun-loving Clara  -  a woman able to cross the boundaries of the Victorian class hierarchy with impunity and also to deal with such futuristic concepts as telepathic snow, humanoid lizards, Humpty-Dumpty-headed aliens and deceptively-roomy blue boxes. It now seems apparent that there are multiple versions of Clara across time and space  -  the Doctor realises when this iteration of Clara ( SPOILERS! ) dies near the end of the episode that he has, impossibly, met her before in the Dalek Asylum, and we also briefly see a modern day Clara at the end of the episode. This mystery, as well as the Doctor's guilt at letting Victorian Clara down ( literally! ), is obviously the spark he needs to reawaken his passion for life and adventure, even more so than saving the world from Snowmen...

The villains themselves are probably the weakest link in the story. Yet again the production team seem uncertain about how to present a credible threat in a Christmas episode. While not as weak as last year's festive episode in the menace stakes, The Snowmen is a story which sorely under uses its titular monsters, apart from the Ice Governess character who is admittedly quite creepy. Even worse, Ian McKellen's voice-over cameo as the Great Intelligence ( oh, yes! ) is a wasted opportunity... unless it is set to be a recurring enemy, which is a nice thought but unlikely. The wonderful Richard E Grant fared better, coldly restrained as the villainous Doctor Simeon, but with some hidden sorrows revealed in his final scenes. I still wish he'd called the Doctor a "terrible c***" though, a la Withnail :-)

Where the episode did get it 100% right, however, was the introduction of the new companion to the Tardis. In a twist to the familiar scene, the Doctor and Clara ascended a dimensionally-transcendendant spiral staircase ( try saying that after a few whiskeys! ) to find the Tardis resting on a cloud, below glittering stars. A very magical scene, followed by Clara's first glimpse inside the blue box and the introduction of the new Tardis interior. As I've said here the retro stylings of Michael Pickwoad's new design seem like a step back after the funky, junky Control Rooms of recent years... but I think it will grow on me. It just needs a bit more clutter to feel authentic. Maybe a hat stand?
Similarly, the new title sequence is also something of a nod to the past, with its very colourful '70s "Time Tunnel" effect and the glimpse of Matt Smith's face appearing from clouds of stellar matter. It's a very traditional take on the Who titles and, contrary bugger that I am, I loved it!

I'll give this one 4 Out Of 5 Bow Ties ( or mince pies )

The show seems to be gearing up nicely for its 50th anniversary year, with plenty of new trappings
( companion, Tardis, theme tune, titles ) but still with a definite sense of fidelity to its long history.
Bring on 2013!

Friday 28 December 2012

Smilin' Stan

Stan "The Man" Lee, maestro of the Marvel Mythos is 90 today! Excelsior!

Have a Fantastic and Amazing birthday Stan and keep the faith, True Believer!

Wednesday 26 December 2012


I hope everyone had / is having a great Christmas / Boxing Day / whatever you're celebrating :-)
Here's Sarah, Sophie, James and I raising a toast at our Christmas dinner yesterday...

And here are a few more festive pics, including our Christmas tree...

And some more decorations out in the garden...
Sarah had hung some peanuts, fat balls and dried pineapple rings ( really! ) out on our apple tree for the birds to eat, and then decided to add some Christmas decorations too. It certainly looked lovely during the brief period of sunshine we had yesterday, although I don't know what the birds think of it
We've seen some blue tits, a black cap, a magpie and a robin all going for the food, but they might be disappointed with the taste of the decorations...

And here we all are again, plus Sophie's boyfriend Will, at a Christmas carol service in Will's home town of Lydney on the night before Christmas Eve...

Tuesday 25 December 2012

Season's Greetings!

Merry Christmas to all you lovely people out there in the Blogosphere! I hope you've all been good this year and that there's a sack-full of presents waiting for you. And, as a special gift from all the hard-working elves here at The Glass Walking-Stick, please enjoy these beautiful pieces of festive artwork by the great NC Wyeth...

Thursday 20 December 2012

The Dandy Warhols are Louder Than War

My review of the Dandy Warhols gig at Heaven last month is now up on the mighty John Robb's excellent music website, Louder Than War. You can find it here as well as lots of other great stuff. Thanks to reviews editor Guy Manchester for sorting it out.

As ever I've been to more gigs than I've managed to blog about this year. Hopefully I'll get round to posting a gig roundup before the end of the year. So, if you're interested in The Beat, EMF, Penetration, From The Jam, The Twang or obscure bands from Gloucestershire you're in the right place...

Update 30/12/12
I posted my LTW Dandy's review on the lovely Zia's Facebook page and her very gratifying response was "Right on man, thanks! That show was a blast for us as well!"

New Tardis interior

The very retro, 80s-looking new Tardis control room from the upcoming 2012 Doctor Who Christmas Special. Hmmmm......
I'm hoping it will grow on me but I'm not too sure at the moment. It seems like a step back after the bolder, more organic designs we've seen since 2005. It might look a whole lot better on Christmas Day...
...but then, most things do after enough booze and mince pies ;-)

Saturday 15 December 2012

Another year older, if not necessarily wiser

Thankfully my birthday and Christmas presents haven't been combined, but then my birthday and Jesus's are separated by 11 days, which isn't too bad. It is a bit of a pain to have a birthday at this time of year with the weather tending to be so grotty  -  I'm always saying I should move it to June.

Anyway, I've had a great 46th Birthday, despite the rain and there being an over-abundance of dickheads on the roads today. I've had some pretty cool presents ( Doctor Who Series 7a and Amazing Spider-Man on Blu-Ray as well as the standard pants, socks, booze etc. ), had a good afternoon Christmas shopping and coffee-drinking with Sarah and Sophie... and then went to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey tonight with Sarah and James. Excellent film! ( Didn't expect anything less from Mr. Peter Jackson ) Review, as ever, to follow...
( Yeah, like all those films I saw this year that I haven't reviewed yet, including the latest about a certain Mr. Bond. I definitely need to play catch up soon.)

Oh, and thanks to the lovely Joanne Casey of I Have Seen The Whole Of The Internet fame for sending me the above card...

Sunday 9 December 2012

Star man

Sadly, we've lost yet another candidate for Greatest Living Englishman, Sir Patrick Moore, who died today aged 89. An eccentric, curmudgeonly and outspoken figure, Patrick Moore probably did more than any other public figure in this country to promote interest in space exploration and astronomy, presenting the BBC TV show The Sky At Night for over 50 record-breaking years.

In a long and successful career Moore also wrote over 100 non-fiction books on astronomy and science, as well as some juvenile SF novels in the 1950s and 1970s, with titles like Captives Of The Moon and Planet Of Fear.

Here's a quote from bird's-nest-haired Queen guitarist Brian May which sums up the great man:

Queen guitarist Brian May, who published a book on astronomy written with Moore, described him as a "dear friend, and a kind of father figure to me". He said: "Patrick was the last of a lost generation, a true gentleman, the most generous in nature that I ever knew, and an inspiration to thousands in his personal life, and to millions through his 50 years of unique broadcasting. It's no exaggeration to say that Patrick, in his tireless and ebullient communication of the magic of astronomy, inspired every British astronomer, amateur and professional, for half a century. There will never be another Patrick Moore. But we were lucky enough to get one."

RIP Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore ( 4th March 1923 - 9th December 2012 )

Friday 7 December 2012

The Dandy Warhols @Heaven, London 22/11/12

( Continuing your humble narrator's adventures in that there London Town with Chinese Burn superstar, Glenn L )

 A second visit to London in one year from Portland, Oregon's premier psych-rock / dream pop outfit is a rare treat, so a packed-out Heaven is buzzing with anticipation. First up are The Blue Angel Lounge, frighteningly young and intense indie gloom-rockers from Germany. They wear their influences on their sleeves  -  most notably The Horrors' crashing waves of sound  -  with hints of The Velvet Underground, The Cure, Killing Joke and even early Pink Floyd breaking through the clouds of dry ice and reverb. An initially wary crowd is converted by the end of their impressive set, In Distance's refrain of "I dream about you all the time..." echoing in our heads.

Appropriately enough for the Biblically-named venue, The Dandy Warhols kick off their crowd-pleasing set with the familiar washes of synth and George Harrison-esque chords of Godless. And from those first few notes the audience are entranced. The Dandys are notorious for embarking on extended, self-indulgent jams when playing live ( although the days of them sitting on the stage and spliffing-up are long gone ) but tonight they mostly give us the more tuneful, singalong side of their repertoire  -  and we couldn't be happier. Turning Heaven into one bouncing, bellowing mass The Dandys drop classic pop song after classic pop song  -  Bohemian Like You, Boys Better, Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth, Get Off  -  before getting heavier with an insane version of Horse Pills. Songs from the frankly disappointing new album, This Machine, don't fare so well, but at least keyboard player Zia gets a chance to strap on a bass and rock out to recent single Sad Vacation. Other highlights include Courtney Taylor-Taylor's one-man-and-a-guitar take on Every Day Should Be A Holiday, an audience member getting on stage to propose to his girlfriend ( she said yes, luckily ) and ex-members of The Specials and Adam & The Ants bringing extra dimensions to The Dandys' sound with trumpet and flute respectively.

For all their cooler-than-thou, hipster attitude, when on form The Dandy Warhols are one of the best live bands around and tonight they proved it, sending the Heaven audience out into the rainy London streets with a collective smile on its face. And, in fact, of the four times I've seen the Dandys this was easily their best performance. A great night in a cool venue.

Glenn and I went for a few beers in a pub with a leaky roof (!) and tried unsuccessfully to dodge the rain around Leicester Square. There was no after-show DJ set from the delightful Zia this time, unfortunately... but we still had a good laugh. A couple of touts tried to entice us into strip clubs with the promise of free drinks and "pink pussy" but we just moved on. Maybe next time...

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Fabian Perez

About three weeks ago, Sarah and I were invited to Whitewall Galleries in Cheltenham to view the new collection by superstar Argentinian artist, Fabian Perez. A chance to look at some beautiful artwork and drink free Champagne? Sounded good to me...

Perez is an outstanding artist whose colourful life story is crying out to be filmed... ideally with Johnny Depp in the lead role. After losing both parents at an early age, Perez grew up in poverty in Buenos Aires, surrounded by whores and gamblers, before moving to Italy and Japan to study both fine art and martial arts, and finally settling in Los Angeles. In recent years he has been artistically involved with the 2010 Latin Grammy Awards, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics.

His work is romantic and sensual with an old-fashioned, film noir sensibility. His moody, acrylic paintings are snapshots of the lives of beautiful Latin women and tough, sharply-dressed ladykillers. Images recur  -  cocktail dresses, wine glasses chiming in toasts, the tango, balconies with wrought-iron railings, snap-brim Fedoras, Japanese parasols, rain-swept streets, and always beautiful, strong characters...

As well as exhibiting his new paintings and prints, Fabian was also selling and signing copies of his new book, All The Romance We Left Behind. I treated myself to a copy ( that's my Christmas present sorted! ) and the great man signed it for me. Each book came with a signed, numbered print and above is a scan of my copy of  Saba With Glass Of Red Wine. It really is a lovely piece of work. It was great to wander around the gallery and see the artwork up close, and a real pleasure to meet Fabian who was friendly and charming  -  and actually walked up to me and shook my hand before I had a chance to stumble in his direction. I've got no idea what I said to him ( probably something inane ) but he was happy to sign the book and have his photo taken with the two of us... as fresh as though he hadn't been doing this all week in numerous galleries.
Below is an unfortunately out-of-focus photo of Sarah ( going weak at the knees ) and I with Fabian...

...and here's his dedication in the book:

And just a few more favourites ( sadly not in my "collection"  -  but I can dream )

Sunday 2 December 2012

Medication time...

I've been lucky enough to have avoided hospitals for most of my 45 years, apart from visiting other people who haven't been so lucky. In fact, I've only been in hospital twice before  -  once to have a birthmark removed when I was four, and once because I'd swallowed some poisonous seeds when I was about eight or so. ( More grey hairs for my parents... )

So, it came as a bit of a culture shock when I was admitted into Gloucester Royal Hospital last Thursday. I'd noticed a couple of months ago that there was something at the back of my mouth, near the tonsils, that shouldn't be there. I thought that maybe I was growing a new eye in there like those geriatric aliens in the Doctor Who episode, Amy's Choice. But it wasn't anything so interesting. To tell the truth it was quite worrying. I had an appointment with an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist who used words like "polyp", "lesion" and "papilloma" and booked me in for surgery.

Time ticked away slowly, as it always does when you're worried about something. Luckily, the pressures of work and a few gigs and trips away kept me distracted from thinking about it too much. Sarah was, if anything, more stressed out about it than I was.

The day finally arrived and Sarah drove me to Gloucester Royal for 07:30am and we waited... and waited...
After hours of boredom I was finally wheeled down to Theatre ( in one of those flattering gowns with the arse hanging out ) and went in at 15:10pm or so. I have to admit I wasn't as scared as I'd expected to be ( I'm notoriously bad with needles and suchlike ) and found it all very interesting. I had a chat with a very cute nurse ( there's an upside to everything... ) while the anaesthetist did her thing... and, the next thing I knew, I was coming round in the recovery room. Job done. I've always heard about how quickly you go under when you have a general anaesthetic but I was amazed at just how sudden it was. It was definitely a relief to have this horrible growth removed at last and well worth the discomfort. After a few more hours of boredom I was finally discharged and Sarah got me home for about 21:30pm. What a looooong day!

I've got nothing but praise for the staff at GRH. You hear so many horror stories about the NHS but everybody who dealt with me on Thursday from the receptionist up to the surgeon was kind, friendly and helpful. And, of course, my lovely wife was amazing  -  I couldn't have done it without her.
I've now been signed off work for a week so, hopefully, with all this spare time I'll be able to catch up with some blogging. Like I said, there's an upside to everything :-)


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