Thursday 12 October 2023

Sleeper at the Gloucester Guildhall

A week ago ( 05/10 ) I went to Gloucester's gorgeous Guildhall for what was ( rather depressingly ) my first gig of 2023 in my fave venue. For once, they were showcasing a "real" band and not the standard tribute acts which clog up the schedules these days. And it was the super, soaraway, slinky Sleeper! Smashing! ( All alliteration courtesy of some imagined British tabloid from the bad old days. )
This was an unplugged ( kind of ) gig, so a bit different from the two previous occasions I'd seen Louise Wener and co.  -  interesting...

As it turned out, this wasn't quite an unplugged gig as electric guitars and keyboards were deployed as well as their acoustic cousins. It was also structured almost as a theatre show with an intermission (!), a Q&A session with the band and, yes, the dreaded seats. I think this is only the third time I've been to a seated gig at the Guildhall in the 35 or so years I've been going there. ( I previously saw Robyn Hitchcock in such a setting only last year, as well as alt-Country band Lambchop many years ago. ) I think this set-up works for comedy or spoken-word gigs but not so much for rock concerts, even semi-acoustic ones like this. 

But anyway, here were Sleeper with their effortlessly effervescent anthems, the likes of Lie Detector and Statuesque still sounding brash and bratty, even in this stripped-back format. Louise was in fine voice and, if anything, the lack of overpowering volume just highlighted her sensuous, breathy vocals. She was also clearly having a great time, as were the two guys. As she'd done at the Wychwood festival back in July, Louise thanked us for coming out to support live music and again said how the revitalised, 21st-century Sleeper hadn't known if they'd be welcomed back to the stage, but were thrilled that their audience was still there. The Q&A format prompted some entertaining stories as the band recalled the Britpop days and tales of being pulled over on the freeway by LA cops while extremely high, the accidental scratching of John Lennon's piano in George Michael's recording studio, and eating the cheese from Blur's rider and nearly getting thrown out of their support slot by an irate Alex James. That rock 'n' roll, eh?

While one or two of the songs didn't really benefit from the unplugged approach ( Nice Guy Eddie in particular was far too slow and dirge-y ) a lot of it worked really well: Inbetweener was still a cast-iron classic of suburban isolation, Alice In Vain was a tear-jerker, What Do I Do Now was reimagined as a mournful Country lament, and a singalong cover of Pixies' Wave Of Mutilation paid homage to one of the band's major inspirations. They finished with a crowd-pleasing Sale Of The Century, which finally got everyone out of those bloody seats and dancing. It had been a fun gig and lovely to see such close interaction between band and audience but I kind of missed the complete Sleeper experience. Hopefully I'll catch them again the next time they tour with the full band. Sarah was even less impressed than me so I hope this hasn't put her off seeing them again.
( Apologies for the dodgy photos. It all looks a bit blurred ( not Blurred, ha ha ) because the Guildhall's lights are so damn bright that they glare off people's faces. Plus my phone's rubbish. )

Monday 2 October 2023

Cornwall 2023

A week ago we were in our beloved Cornwall ( sigh! ) and I'm still thinking about that fair county as I'm sitting here in the rain swept Shire after a day back at work.

We had a couple of days in Newquay so we could spend some time with Sophie and then we drove down to the other coast for a couple of days on the Lizard peninsula. The first photo above is of the beautiful Lizard Point, the most Southerly part of the UK mainland. We hadn't been there since 2015, so the visit was long overdue. It's a very special place for us and we were so glad to be there, especially with such gorgeous weather.

Here are a few shots of wonderful Watergate Bay, just a few miles up the coast from Newquay, one of our favourite beaches and a surfer's paradise. ( We weren't tempted into the water but watched people "wiping out" from the security of a lovely restaurant overlooking the beach. ) Oh yeah, Miska the owl came along too for a photo opportunity...

The day before, we'd taken Sophie to St Ives for a day out. Here are Sarah and I on the harbourside, just after watching a seal frolicking in the waves, to the delight of us tourists.

 We stayed in a lovely hotel in Lizard village called The Top House Inn, a 200-year old pub which was very welcoming and had proper Cornish vibes, especially when a folk group started playing old songs in the bar. It couldn't have felt more authentic. It was the kind of old Cornish village where the neighbours have an actual Royal Navy helicopter in the back garden. Because why not?

Ah, Cornwall, we'll be back soon...

Sunday 1 October 2023

NICE Con ( Bedford ) 2023


From the Better Late Than Nearly Never files: here are some of the goodies I picked up at Bedford's wonderful NICE con a month ago. First off, a couple of issues of Stan & Jack and the only issue ( so far! ) of The Kids From Rec Road from my ol' blogging buddy, Peerless Pete Doree. As ever, these timeless tomes are frantically filled with splendid super hero satire, merciless mirth and creative cartooning, and will have you talking in agonising alliteration for doggoned days afterwards. Excelsior! You can order Pete's magnificent mags from his Big Cartel page here  -  and I think you should, Pilgrim.

And, speaking of British indie comics, I also picked up these beauties from the publisher of The '77 Comic. For those of us of a certain age, these artfully-constructed homages to British "papers" of the 1970s are like comics catnip. Evoking memories of Warlord, Action and Bullet ( Blazer ), and Misty or Spellbound ( Pandora ), they're an affectionate update of the boys' and girls' comics that were read in playgrounds throughout the UK back in the days of flares and hot pants. ( Calm down, it was only flares in my case. ) I had a long chat with the line's publisher ( didn't catch his name, unfortunately ) and we discussed the comics of our youth like a right pair of old fogeys. His sales pitch obviously worked as I bought these issues... which cost slightly more than their 1970s inspirations would have. But, they're good fun with a pretty consistent quality for indie comics. He told me that they'll soon be printing an original graphic novel from comics legend Ian Gibson, so that should be worth seeking out.

Of course, I had to trawl through the long-boxes for some Silver and Bronze Age mags. I was on a slight budget here, but I found some bargains, as you can see below  -  all under a tenner! Some fun stories with artwork from an array of industry greats: Ross Andru, Gene Colan, Jack "King" Kirby and the unbeatable Superman team of Curt Swan & Murphy Anderson. Excellent stuff!

This was my first comic con since the bloody pandemic and, as ever, it was lovely to be back at NICE, probably the most relaxed, comic-creator-focused event of its kind. I spent quite some time chatting with Pete, the first time we'd met in person in four (!) years, which was lovely. I'd hoped for us to meet up with former blogger, and Bedford resident, Mighty Joe Ackerman but he'd been ill and couldn't make it. He sounded gutted he couldn't come along, as we've been planning to all meet up for years now, but hopefully we can fix that next year. Sarah came along with me this time, and went shopping whilst I was in retro heaven, so we also had a look around the fair city of Bedford together... which also included a quick visit to the area's premier comic shop, Close Encounters, more of which in a later post.
A great day!


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