Linking Inkings – 13th November ’14

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writingA few articles that have kept me in cheese and crackers this week.

Sounds Around Town (Swindon Advertiser gig guide)

Waxing Lyrical with The Ghost of Corelli (Ocelot article)

Don’t Let Them Down  - Ethemia (Swindon Advertiser single review)

Mushi Features @Tiefgrund (Dancing About Architecture live review)

Atmospheric Disturbances – Casey Fallen (Dancing About Architecture review)

Questions – David Bronson (DAA/Swindon Advertiser review)

Belong  -  Susan McKeown (Dancing About Architecture review)

The Good Times – Jimmy Moore  (DAA/ Ocelot review)

Fragments from a novel yet unwritten

The world had changed, at least the bit of it that surrounded Chris had and he hadn’t noticed until now. In the same way that you don’t notice children growing up until you look at the marks and dates on the door frame where you ritually measured them off every year, it was only in long casted moments of reflection that he realised the problem. The world had moved on and he hadn’t, didn’t want to or maybe just couldn’t. Even most of his friends had dwindled away, not that they had ever been a great number, never one for the laddish pack animal mentality that came with sports and nightclubbing and the gang loyalty that came as part of the package. And now his single lifestyle was at odds with the child rearing couples whose focus was dinner parties, barbeques and family day trips to parks and beaches, and so he slipped further out of the social circle. Once he used to say that it is okay to be alone, alone was not the same as feeling lonely. Now he just felt lonely.

 

“Same again?” asked the barman, his nodded reply made him realise that he could order drinks from virtual strangers without even resorting to speech, yet the people who had known him for years still didn’t really understand him. He looked around the bar. The same faces in the same seats, having variations of the same conversations and the same drinks. Chris was bored. Bored with the routines, the small world he inhabited, the predictability of the people he encountered, but more tellingly, himself. He was bored with what he had become, or more realistically what he couldn’t be bothered not to become.

 

In his defence he had worked hard at the game that the powers that be had hoodwinked him into thinking was his best option. The years of nine to five, the magpie like ownership of all the shiny objects that flash across the TV between the reality cop shows and the latest brain dead quizzes, the savings in the bank. But when he had finally got to that once mythical realm of self-sufficiency; house ownership, self-employment and savings – all the things that he was led to believe would set him free – he didn’t recognise the place or himself anymore. Where was the young agitator who was going to make a difference, start the revolution, and change the world? The world had changed all right but it was not of his doing and far from leading that charge, a wave of fresh thinking to crash over the barricades of convention, he found he was left behind, sat in a bar at 6 o’clock on a Tuesday evening wondering when his fire had gone out.

But then the world had never been quite as he imagined it. To his mind it had more depth, more artistic quality, more richness or so he was happy to delude himself. But for every rare discussion about the works of Camus or Noam Chomsky, every nice meal in a bohemian restaurant, every moment spent in a pop-up art gallery, a hundred other occasions were filled with nights leaning on a fairly non descript bar listening to someone he barely knew waxing fairly non-lyrically at him in the deluded opinion that he cared about their problems. The post divorce child visiting rights, what medical benefits this wicked government had deprived them of, what the score was of any given sports fixture that had taken place that week; this was not the world he wanted to be in. On the other side of the coin though, when he did find himself in more highbrow company he felt a fraud. He might have rows of books by Genet and DeQuincey, Laurence Sterne and Anton Chekov, but he more than likely had picked up most of his knowledge on Wikipedia. As much as he made a great public show of pointing out the literary failings of popular writers such as Dan Brown or “that Game of Thrones guy” (it doesn’t pay to seem too familiar with their work) he had read them all, and if the truth was known had enjoyed them much more than anything he had attempted by any beat writer, philosopher or literary giant. Of course it always paid to keep a few stock quotes to hand, such as Capotes swipe at Kerouac’s style as being merely typing; once you had that and had seen the movie, in his opinion the work was done.

A response to criticism from local music punters.

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Any time you put your head above the parapet you are fair game for people to take pot shots at you. Anyone going into any sort of public expression, art, music, literature, journalism, any public opinion knows those are the rules and must deal with it accordingly. It is even more poignant for someone like myself who as a music writer takes it upon himself or herself to make critical judgement on other peoples work. As much as I have a right to judge the subject has a write to question my thoughts, it’s a two-way dialogue and sensible dialogue is always healthy. When my thoughts are called into question then it is up to me to justify them or retract them, again all part of the process and I accept that, though I rarely do, print and be damned as the saying goes. Recently however there has been a lot of discussion about bias in the work I do and as such I felt it was time to respond in the form of an open letter to explain where I am coming from. I don’t care if people don’t agree with my conclusions but I hope they appreciate my process and see that if there is any bias it comes from a justifiable place.

 

I also want to say that even though most of what I do is done in tandem with my business partner Ed Dyer, these are my own thoughts and any response should be aimed only at myself.

 

Sounds Around Town:

I write the regular gig guide for the Swindon Advertiser and as such make a choice as to what gigs to recommend to the readership at large. The key word here is recommend, these are my suggestions and not a definitive list and as such are subject to my personal preference. It is a bias of sorts but better described as personal preference. The age-old spectre of “you only mention your friends gigs” has been raising its ugly head of late but I think that the argument is the wrong way round. After years of working in local music, I have met, worked with, written about, helped promote, drunk with, debated with and become friends with a large section of the musical community. So the argument should of course be that many of the gigs I mention involve people who have become friends because I have worked with them and not that I work with them because they are my friends.

 

Also the conflict of writing about the gigs I put on has been called into question so here are a few thoughts. I am one half of the nights called Songs of Praise, an original music night that brings in out of town acts and mixes them with what we consider the best and more importantly most interesting on the local scene, there is no fixed genre just a desire to be creative, new, exciting and interesting. Because these gigs run on a Thursday and the gig guide comes out on a Thursday they do get a prominent position in the chronological make up of the article. It has also been questioned as to how much space is devoted to these gigs. As original music it needs describing to some depth, something I try to do with all original gigs. Cover and tribute bands already have their work done for them, after all a Bon Jovi tribute band by its very nature is going to sound a lot like Bon Jovi, but a new original outfit needs more discussion to sell the idea. If I devote more space to Songs of Praise it is because having promoted the gig, I have already done the research, have the descriptions in front of me and am able to wax lyrical about it. The amount of times I have tried to write up what is an interesting and original band but they have no music on-line and the only description I can find is their own would-be wit of “we make music” is beyond measure. Bands if you want a good write up by journalists, then give us something to work with. We may be good with words but mind reading is still outside our remit.

 

Songs of Praise:

As mentioned SoP is an original band night which takes place at The Victoria (with a little brother acoustic version every Wednesday at The Roaring Donkey.) Again there has been talk about which bands get to play and which don’t and to this there are two answers. The first, the blunt and honest truth is that it is our night; we are the ones who have to risk our own money as we have a very ethical policy when it comes to paying bands, even if it is out of our own pocket. Also SoP is run on genuine enthusiasm, if it was all about money then we would be hosting the safe bet cover and tribute bands that others resort to.

 

One accusation has been that we favour the same bands, though I would defy anyone to find a band who has played for us more than twice in the same year. And if we do favour bands it is because if we are going to have to spend 8 hours in their company then on top of all the other criteria that they have to meet in terms of interest, excitement and originality, they also have to be the sort of people that we want to hang out with. I think it is also safe to say that many of the bands we work with end up becoming friends with us and our paths then cross through out our other endeavours.

 

I have seen comments on Facebook from bands that I am only vaguely aware of moaning that people like me don’t give them a chance. Have you ever contacted me? If you have and I have missed the message I apologise but feel free to keep reminding me or better still, come to a show, have a chat, give me a CD to listen to, that will work far better than a link in the massive stack of e-mails I receive daily.

 

Also, accept the fact that you might not be our thing, musically speaking. We have a certain style and idea about what our night is, what works and what doesn’t and also it are not a democracy it is part of our income and as such something that needs to be protected to a certain degree.

 

The bottom line is that we are just a couple of music fans who have tried to add something to the existing music scene. We bring in bands that wouldn’t otherwise be found in town, many have gone on or are going on to bigger things – Manic Shine, Empire, The Cadbury Sisters, The Black Hats, Gaz Brookfield, Case Hardin, She Makes War and also acts from other countries – Rob Moir (Canada,) Zeptepi (Australia) Courtney Yasmineh (USA) Anton Barbeau (Germany) The Very Most (USA) and more.

 

We write reviews about local and not so local bands for national websites and local publications and we run a record label that helps local bands get their music out there, make videos and get better connected on the wider circuit. There are even plans afoot to take some of the bands we like into Europe next year. I guess we may not be doing everything you want to see happen, in the way you want to see it happen, but I don’t think you can say that we are not doing our best to improve things. And if after all that you still think you can do things better…go and do it. After all, that’s all we did.

Linking Inkings – 25th October ’14

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writingHere’s a few things that have kept me in Stilton and crackers over the last week or so.

Sounds Around Town – Swindon Advertiser  (local gig guide)

Opaline  by  Colour the Atlas – Dancing About Architecture (national review)

Space of a Second by Nick Nicely – The Sense of Doubt (national review)

 

I’m a Stone by LazyEye - Dancing About Architecture (national review)

 

 

Singing Songs of Praise – IV : Less is more, more or less.

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10678532_10153271579608677_6255445137771109484_nOne of the people who I always look to for inspiration when it comes to music promotion is a chap called Kieran Moore. He runs a promotional operation based mainly around Devizes called Sheer Music and for integrity, enthusiasm and sheer energy (see what I did there) can not be beaten. As our paths don’t cross that often these days, when ever he has a show in town I always try to go along, sadly his recent show coincided with that weeks Songs of Praise show, made all the more irksome by the fact that it is part of the tenth anniversary shows we is running at the moment. If I couldn’t get to watch the show itself, with the aptly named Decade headlining, I could at least do the next best thing and meet for a drink and a catch up at the soundcheck before heading off to set up my own musical concern.

So a few drinks at the newly re-re-named Level 3 (a club resorting to the name it had back in it’s heyday in an effort to lose its nu-metal/classic rock/goth tag of more recent, less imaginative times) and a nice catch up has had. The one thing that struck me about the difference in our respective shows was the amount of equipment involved, Obviously a four band, pop-punk line up in a 400 capacity room was going to generate a ton of equipment, especially as kit share seemed to be at a minimum and it made me glad for the nature of our show.

Arriving early for sound check at my own shows, or should I say our own shows as colleague Ed Dyer does more than his fair share of the work, is one of the pleasures of the night as you get to properly socialise and talk to the bands as they arrive and set up, something that is more tricky to do once the doors are open.

Emily Sykes opened the night with her wonderfully positive and often spiritual vibe, probably something to do with the fact that whenever possible she can be found standing on her head halfway up a mountain in India. Around her she had gathered some of her regular cohorts, Phil and Chris providing bass and guitars (and occasional clarinet) respectively plus Becky and Polly from Matilda on sumptuous and sensual harmonies.

Second up was one of our regular bookings Faye Rogers who unveiled her new sound as she moved away from the more pastoral folk that she is known for and went electric. Unlike when Mr Zimmerman did the same there were no shouts of “Judas” just a quiet appreciation as she blended chiming guitars and smooth saxophone into a set that moved from pin-drop atmospherics to full on rock outs. The birth of something new is always an exciting time.

And finally The Cadbury Sisters. Playing their first headline tour and fresh from playing at the recent ELO headed BBC Hyde Park show, they were a less in vocal harmony like no other. Chilled Americana to minimal beats and guitar work that framed the music rather than dominated it, they were mesmerising and all the more so when they de-camped from stage and played a couple of songs amongst the crowd. The great way to end the night, a full room of people and a pretty perfect gig all round. I know it is a total cliche but sometimes less really is more.

The smell of disappointment.

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As I did my usual trawl of the book, record and charity shops last week I had the sneaking suspicion that something a bit unusual was happening. Not only was the town busier than usual it seems full of pre-pubescent female teens in chav-ish attire, more tracksuits than a Romford sports bar or a theme disco in Harlow. Something was up. Brushing my way through the queues of expectant halflings I managed to get to a coffee shop to hide from the ghastliness of the squeals and screeching and on asking what was taking place was informed that Peter Andre, that well known smug bastard and one time singer of cheesy pop dross was in town to launch his new fragrance.

Over a large Americano I wondered to myself how many people had found themselves getting ready on a Saturday night thinking “if only someone would blend a fragrance that captures the olfactory delights that we associate with South-East Queensland and a Cypriot household.” Not many i would wager.

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