Saturday, May 31, 2003

A couple of my friends caught up with the latest bit of the Massive Attack European tour in Madrid on Thursday evening. Sounds like the gig was great and using that good old Bristol City football club connection, they managed to have a few drinks with the chaps after the gig. The band are really enjoying the tour, 3D was in a state of great excitement as he had meet the God like Ronaldo at a party the previous evening. They also said that when they play the big open air gig in Bristol at the end of August, they will be supported by Lupine Howl, De La Soul and pleasingly The Bees, hope that happens as The Bees are great.

Still on the music front, the line up for this years Glastonbury festival has been released, and for once I almost wish we were going. It features, The Flaming Lips, The Libertines, Interpol, The Thrills, The Rapture, The Raveonettes, Grandaddy, My morning Jacket, Calexico, John Cale, Kings of Leon, Radio 4, The Stands, Tricky, The Coral and The Delagados amongst many others. Then again 4 days on site with 150,000 people could be a bit much to take.

We are off to Devon today to catch up with my dad. The sun is shining looks like were in for another warm day.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

We spent yesterday in the glorious majesty of the Victoria and Albert museum in warm and sunny London. We travelled up yesterday morning, on the train with our friends John and Jane, in order to see the highly praised Art Deco exhibition. We arrived with plenty of time to spare, before our timed entry tickets would give us access to the exhibition, so taking advantage of the fact that we needed to be in the South Kensington area, we set off for The Conran Shop. Located in the gorgeous Michelin Building, we treat it more like a museum that a shop. Full of sublime furniture at outrageous prices, it's a place where we have wasted many hours furnishing imaginary rooms.

Then it was onto the V&A, the exhibition itself was a bit of a mixed bag. The initial rooms aimed to explain the roots of the Deco movement, which was a good idea but resulted in lots of displays, with only partial interest for me. Things picked up as we moved through the next room, the highlight being the restored former entrance to the Strand Palace Hotel. Many years ago we saw some pictures of the magnificent interior of this hotel, so on our next visit to London we were delighted to get a reasonable deal in the hotel. We arrived full of anticipation, only to find a bland and functional building with no sign of the beauty we had expected, everything had been removed in 1969! Still at least it was kept safely and this was our chance to see it at long last. The exhibition really came into it's own in the final, which concentrated on Art Deco in the USA. As I have said before, one of the reasons we love New York is the abundance of Art Deco architecture which still exists. Lots of fantastic things to see here, one highlight was a huge scale model of The Rockefeller Centre. The building is so vast that when you see it he flesh, it's difficult to appreciate the scale of the place. We also saw some brilliant furniture, I think that once the American bought into the concept of Art Deco, they did so in such a huge way that millions of objects and hundreds of amazing buildings were produced. Fantastically many of them are still with us today.

After that we had a drink and a yummy piece of cake in the amazing surrounds of The Gamble Room". Is there a more ornate café in England? Or indeed anywhere?

Then we went around the corner to The Science Museum where we spent several happy hours looking at all manner of domestic appliances from this century. You could play with lots of things and also watch some incredible American TV adverts from the 1950's and 60's. Great fun.

From there a quick trip of the top floor of a double decker bus took us to Edgware Road, where we feasted on huge amounts of delicious Lebanese food. Eventually we waddled off towards Paddington, in the warmth of a summer evening. Tired, stuffed and happy.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

The hospital visits and general inability to say no to any invitation, means that we have hardly had any time to ourselves, so on Sunday we decided that we weren’t going to make any plans at all, other than to just please ourselves. So after a leisurely breakfast, we did what we do best - watched an old black and film. In fact over the weekend we had a bit of a film festival, watching first of all from 1941 Mr & Mrs Smith, which was that rarest of all films a Hitchcock comedy. Enjoyable, but hardly a classic of the screwball comedy, Hitch was defiantly better at building the tension than he was at tickling the ribs. The next film on the agenda was The man who wasn't there, the Cohen brothers do film noir and do it very well indeed. Great understated performances all round from the brilliant cast. You could almost feel the quiet desperation oozing from Billy Bob Thornton, brilliant. Then last night I watched Kikujiro by the mystery man of Japanese cinema Takeshi Kitano. Radically different in tone to his earlier films such as the marvellous Hana -Bi and Sonatine. Although his work is closely linked with extreme violence, he has always used silence and solitude as part of his strong narrative lines. Kikujiro has more in common with "A Scene at the Sea" an earlier film of his than his art house hits with western audiences. It's a most unlikely road movie, featuring a small time, foul mouthed waster and his efforts to help a young boy find his mother. Surprisingly tender and often very funny, it was a real treat.

Monday, May 26, 2003

Some of you out there in blog land may not be aware of the bizarre phenomenon, which is the Eurovision song contest. For way too many years now, the countries of Europe have come together on one special Saturday every year, to judge each others ability to produce the lamest, corniest and downright bad pop music. It’s a contest which has produced any number of appalling songs over the years but has now become some sort of camp classic.

This Saturday, we went to our first ever Eurovision party. Jonny and Katja were our hosts. The idea being that people were allocated a country and would then attempt to dress in the style of that nation, also if possible to bring food and drink from the country as well. So far, so good, we drew Iceland! Now it’s fair to say that our knowledge of Iceland was pretty limited, so it’s lucky for us that we have the wonderful research facilities that the WWW can offer. Fairly quickly, we had found an interesting page of Icelandic recipes and an interesting sounding Pepper cookie recipe stood out. We could find no specific Icelandic drink, so we purchased an odd clove based alcoholic cordial to take with us. What to wear though? After a couple of fruitless days of thinking and searching for ideas, I woke up on Saturday morning with the blinding obvious idea of wearing very warm clothing. Obviously Iceland is a pretty cold place, so to show solidarity with our Icelandic brothers and sisters, we set off to the party dressed for sub zero temperatures, as the rest of Bristol was walking around in T Shirts!

Our glamorous hosts had bagged Russia for themselves, so we were met at the door by a great Joseph Stalin look-alike. Pretty soon most of Europe was represented in the house and the competition was about to start. Iceland was the first country to take to the stage and we tried to cheer on the rather lame song, which our temporary countrymen had adopted, but it was hard work. At least it meant that I could remove my hunting hat and coat (not that I ever hunt), scarf and extra thick gloves. Next up was the truly bizarre Austrian entry, a marked contrast from the normal “boom-banga-bang” euro song; it bought an amazed hush to the busy room.

Eventually all the songs were sung, the varied collection of drinks were being drink with great gusto by all concerned and the food of Europe was buying scoffed with vigour (those Icelandic biscuits were splendid by the way). The voting began, each nation post votes for it’s favourite song and it’s always great to watch the political elements of the voting. Hence Latvia gives Estonia 12 (maximum) points and vice versa. The race at the top of the leader board was pretty tight between Russia, Belgium and Turkey but it was even more interesting at the bottom. The UK for the first time in its history ended with 0 points a fantastic thing! Was is the result of a post Iraq backlash or was it just the awful song, sung so flat it must have been run over by a steam roller.

Anyway Turkey won, and we all got drunk (except Orynthia, who was driving) as strange fruit liqueurs and vodkas were mixed to produce potent concoctions. Next year it’s going to take place over two days. Can’t wait!

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

The other day I put up a link to an article on Haruki Murakami. In the piece, it mentions that Murakami translated the work of Raymond Carver into Japanese and spent some time living with him in the USA. Carver is a writer that I have been meaning to investigate for a while now, so at the recent Redland fair I was delighted to pick up a large collection of his short stories. Over recent night's I have taken my first tentative steps into the world of Carver. I can certainly see a connection between the two writers, they both share a deceptively simple prose style and an ability to drag you headlong in the story, within a couple of lines.

During the day I'm reading The Crying Of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon. Once again, this is my first encounter with one of the big names in American literature. After years of recommendations from many friends, one of them finally just slapped the book on my desk and told me to get on with it.

Monday, May 19, 2003

A friend of mine (one of the Monday night football gang) has been producing a new album for a very talented American singer over the past couple of years. It's been amazing for me, to listen to all the trials and tribulations of the tortuous process of making this record. My friend is actually in a different band and this has been a side project for him His main band are not exactly known for speed of their work, but I've been amazed at his ability to remain involved, enthusiastic and motivated enough to see the project through to a conclusion.

Most of us go into work and have a certain routine that we follow through, things crop up and get sorted and we move on. In my line of work, most things hang around for a few days, some last several weeks a small few are with me for a couple of months. So the prospect of working for several years on a CD which lasts about 45 minutes, leaves me with great respect for the tenacity of everyone involved. One of my other friends has been involved in the artwork and design side of the project, and it's been really interesting heading off to football every Monday evening with these two guys and listening to the discussions taking place at all levels of the project, from trying to get distribution in the USA, to what font size to use on the CD sleeve. They are both very talented guys, whose level of care and concern for the project is amazing.The whole thing was further complicated, by the fact that the singer whose album the name is in, lives in New York so obviously time difference's add further difficulties to the whole thing.

Anyway the album finally hits the shops today and on Friday evening they managed to get themselves onto the UK's only non chart-pop music show on Terrestrial TV, Later with Jools Holland. A pretty good show it was to, as they put in an excellent live performance alongside Lou Reed, Goldfrapp, The Kings Of Leon, The Vines and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The next step is getting radio play and creating a profile for someone that is pretty much unknown in this country. It's a fascinating process, made more interesting for me, because my friend is well aware that he is trying to create great soul/pop music in the way that someone like Aretha Franklin used to do, which in these days of short term, teenage, manufactured pop domination is a pretty difficult thing to achieve.

If you want to see and hear what the project is all about go to

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Great piece on the excellent Haruki Murakami in yesterdays Guardian.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Well Bristol City won’t be getting promotion this season. The 0-0 home draw with Cardiff on Tuesday night meant that the 1-0 defeat in Cardiff the previous Saturday was enough to keep us in division 2 for another season. No complaints really, on Tuesday Cardiff defended really well, so even though we had almost all the possession in the 2nd half, we seldom looked like getting a goal. Oh well, there’s always next year.

Whilst I was at the match, Orynthia was watching Evan Dando in action and very good he was by all accounts.

We have arranged a trip to London to see the Art Deco Exhibition at the V&A at the end of the month. From all that we have read and seen on TV the exhibition looks fantastic; one of the reasons that we love Paris and New York is that is gives us the chance to see so many great Art Deco buildings. We are going up on the train with a few friends; it should be a spectacular day.

Had a bit a shock in work yesterday, when we found out that one of the guys we deal with was the original (but short lived) drummer alongside the inspirational Pete Wylie, in the great Wah! Heat . He even co-wrote one of my favourite songs of all time, the epic “Some say”. How on earth did he end up working with us?

Monday, May 12, 2003

So this week it's 20 years since The Smiths released their first single, the brilliant "Hand in glove". I well remember hearing it for the first time on the John Peel show, It sounded like nothing else that was around at the time, pretty soon a Peel session followed and the next 3 years were dominated by the band. I'm still amazed when people say that The Smiths were miserable, sure they could be mournful and melancholic, but they were also one of the wittiest bands, although Morrissey was ultimately no match for his beloved Oscar Wilde, at least he threw his hat into the ring.

Having been unable to get into one of their gigs, in the broom cupboard like Moles in Bath, I first saw the band in September 1984 at the Anson Rooms in Bristol. By this time we all knew about the Gladioli swinging excess of Morrissey and the melodic charm of Johnny Marr, but I still recall being swept away with the focus and attack that drove the performance forward. They really sounded like a band who were desperate to show you that they were the best band in the world. A few weeks later my friend Simon Templer (not that one!) and I found ourselves in a Greenwich village record shop, listening to the two guys behind the counter arguing about whether "that Morrissey was a girl or a guy". After week or so, of our wide eyed innocence, as we gawped our way around the sharpest, cleverest and quickest city in the world, it felt good to know at least one thing that our American friends were not sure of!

By the time of the "Meat is Murder" tour, they had become an institution in the UK. Everyone one had an opinion on the band, I particularly liked the response of my friend Steve's dad Les. Whenever The Smiths would appear on the TV, he would shout out "here he is, one note Joe" before quickly leaving the room. The great thing with the band was that the records came thick and fast, B sides were often as good as A sides, artwork was brilliant and the interviews were always essential reading. A whole legion of people grew their quiff's, wore brogues with turned up jeans and started to wear national health glasses, meat was shunned (although not by me!), and we all became experts on 1950's and 60's English literature and films.

Although "The Queen Is Dead" was a fine album, the cracks were already beginning show. We all travelled over to Newport to catch the tour. About 20 minutes into the gig Morrissey was dragged off the stage and the lack of concern or interest on the faces of the other band members was obvious. A minor skirmish resulted from the bands refusal to return and that was the last time that I saw them.

So what legacy did they leave behind? I must admit that I seldom play the records now, although I'm always delighted to come across the band on TV or radio. The court case damaged the reputation of the individuals concerned, so that I could never really look at them with the same sort of affection again. Morrissey has recorded some great solo tracks but many, many more tuneless and worthless ones As for Johnny Marr, it's such a shame that he could never find anyone else who could inspire his guitar playing in the way that Morrissey could. It was great while it lasted and in someways it is better that they had such brief yet intense career. So many wonderful memories.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

On the way to visit Orynthia’s dad in hospital on Friday Night, we came across a very strange site. In the dock area, opposite Severnshed and The Riverstation, is a small building, which has been completely covered with pages from the Times Educational Supplement from 1961! Every part of the building is covered, the light outside the door, the step, the windows, everything! It’s makes for some fascinating reading, but what is it all about? I guess that it’s some sort of artwork, but we could not find anyone’s name on this most intriguing piece. On the way home we stopped for a delightful Japanese meal at Azuma on The Triangle.

Saturday was set aside for gentle shopping, we went to a weekly garage sale, which is held just off Picton Street. The flyer promised all manner of 50’s furniture, but in truth the stuff on display was disappointing, in fact we had seen most of it at Redland fair last weekend, after heading up to Park Street we picked up a few CD’s. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs album and the new EP from The Tindersticks for me. The new CD from the splendidly talented (The Real) Tuesday Weld, for those that don’t know (The Real) Tuesday Weld I would describe it as a mixture between, The Magnetic Fields and Mr Scruff, it’s great. Orynthia also became very excited, when she spotted an album by The All Girl Summer Fun Band, a rare sighting indeed in this country.

Saturday evening was spent at Blowpop. Thanks to the generosity of our friend John Stapleton we managed to get a blag to the latest Blowpop extravaganza. And a top line up it was, when we arrived DJ Format was entertaining the huge crowd. Later on the laid back hip-hop of Ugly Duckling provoked a great response from the grooving masses. This was all in preparation for the latest visit to Bristol of that San Francisco phenomenon Breakestra. They did not come on until about 1:15 in the morning, so good as they were, I must admit that we did not last for the whole of their set. On the Gawker front, Roni Size and DJ Krust from Full Cyle were checking out the show.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Well my ticket for the Cardiff game arrived today, so I am very relieved.

Forgot to say that we went to see the film Frida last week. We both thoroughly enjoyed the film, as you would expect vivid colours enriched the film throughout. Brilliant use of Frida Kahlo’s paintings brought stunning imagery to the film.

A little while ago I mentioned that Orynthia had started work on a new website. It’s going to record our memories of the best music festival we have ever attended. It was The Bowlie, put together by Belle & Sebastian; it featured an astonishing array of bands, in a wonderfully simple and intimate setting. Early days for the site but take a look at the work in progress if you fancy a touch of late 90’s indie nostalgia.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Well the sun shone, long and strong at Redland Fair, making for a very enjoyable afternoon. We picked up a couple of great 50’s serving dishes (matching a gravy boat which we got last year) along with a brilliant 5o’s tablecloth. I also picked up a couple of hefty books of short stories by authors that I have been meaning to get acquainted with, John Cheever and Raymond Carver. We also had a game of lawn bowls with Kevin and his daughter Libby. With only the smallest amount of help from the legendary Albert, our coach for the afternoon, we all managed to win one end each. So every one left happy. On the Gawker front, a couple of sightings, once again Adrian Utley was out and about along with another Redland fair regular, Stan Cullimore. The former guitarist with top 80’s jangly guitar fav’s The Housemartins, is now as everyone knows a pretty successful author of children’s books. More strangely his also wrights the scripts for the Basil Brush!

Yesterday Bristol City managed to confuse and upset most of the fans in the run up to the playoff games. I left work early and managed to get to the ground by 4pm, as the box office was open until 7pm I thought that this would allow plenty of time to buy the ticket. However, as I walked into the ground, I saw a long queue stretching out in front of m. When I tried to attach myself to the end of the queue I was told that no one else was allowed to join as they anticipated that they already had enough people in the queue to take them up to 7pm. So today I spent nearly 3 hours in a phone queue , before eventually getting through, allegedly the ticket is in the post. Lets hope so!

Monday, May 05, 2003

So City did end up in 3rd place in the league, which means we have to play Cardiff over 2 legs to earn a place in the play off final, which strangely will take place in Cardiff itself. I’m a bit annoyed with Mr Rupert Murdoch and all those people at Sky TV. They have decided that the2nd leg of the match is worthy of national TV coverage, so the game is being played next Tuesday rather than the original date of next Wednesday. Ordinarily that would not be a problem, however we have tickets to Evan Dando on the Tuesday night! Football normally wins in these situations and certainly I can’t imagine missing a match of this importance, so I’m going to have to miss out on Mr Dando. We saw him when we were in New York the Xmas before last and he was great. After the embarrassment of final Lemonheads gig which we saw, it was a joy to see him back on top form, even if he had gone for the long hair, big beard, wish I was in The Grateful Dead look. I have also been enjoying the new album a lot, but hey being a football fan is akin to have an addiction and I just can’t miss out on the biggest game of the season so far.

The Spike Island show yesterday was great fun, lots and lots of interesting stuff. Some brilliant sculpture and the shock of seeing the biggest live snail I have ever seen! It was a very social occasion and the time between 1pm and 6pm just flew past.

After reading celeb spotting updates for New York on Gawker I though I did do a brief rundown of recent minor celebs that we have spotted in Bristol!

At the Calexico gig, former Bristol resident and still the owner of a fine West Country accent, Polly Harvey watched the gig from the side of the stage, before enjoying a chat with regular gig goer Portishead guitarist Adrian Utley.

Last Wednesday, former Dr Who and star of many TV shows and films Paul McGann spotted whistling loudly at Bristol Temple Meads railway station.

Yesterday at Spike Island, another viewing of man about town Adrian Utley. Also spotted Bansky, who was happy to show us his latest purchase from the show, a brilliant little book for only £3 by the very talented OTTO.

Will we see anymore at Redland fair this afternoon?

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Calexico were just spellbinding. What a great band! The records are good but they really are a different proposition in the flesh. The use of trumpets and vibes was beautifully done. They made me wish that David Lynch would make a sort of Grapes of Wrath type film, with them providing the soundtrack. That would be sublime. We also enjoyed the look-a-like potential within the band. Who would have thought that Craig David and a young (but slightly chunkier) Tim Robins would provide the trumpet and vibes. Or that the pedal steel guitar would be played by the larger John from They Might Be Giants. The biggest shock however was to see that Russian premier Vladimir Putin was playing bass! How does he find the time?