Wednesday, March 31, 2004

I and the rest of the gang at Imperial Music are getting very excited about our first ever in-store show! On Monday afternoon top blues/country man Charlie Parr will be playing live in the shop from about 4pm. Then in the evening he’s playing a gig at Marlows. If you live in Bristol try to catch one of the shows.

I am also really excited that the amazing Sufjan Stevens is going to be playing at St Bonaventures with Iron and Wine plus Rosie Thomas in May.WOW.

I went to see The Bees last night and have to say that it was a pretty disappointing gig. Messy and self-indulgent would be the words, which spring to mind. It’s a shame, I really loved their 1st album (they only played 1 song from that last night), but the new one does not sound half as interesting.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

It’s been a weekend to bring the memories flooding back for me. On Friday evening, it was short-term memory as I joined up with many of my former colleagues from BT. The whole team that I used to be part of is being closed down, so many of the old crowd have decided to do what I did 5 months ago – take the money and run! It was good to see so many old friends again and better still to feel the crackle of excitement in the air, as so many of them were excitedly looking forward to their new life. It was though sad to hear that BT is handling the whole situation in their usual haphazard and unsympathetic way. Why do big companies forget that they are dealing with individuals, who need to be told what the future holds in clear and simple terms, rather than the constantly shifting morass of conflicting information that they foist upon their people?

Late on Saturday morning we set off for a trip into the rather more distant past. As I have mentioned here in the past we have managed to see my cousin Robert a couple of times in recent months after a gap of at least 20 years. Well the time had come for us to head off to West Wales to see him on home territory, whilst also looking to revive a few distant holiday memories of my own.

Robert, like my mother is originally from Pontypridd, however he has to moved further west to the town of Carmarthen. So by mid afternoon we found ourselves trawling the charity shops of this bustling small town before heading to Roberts’s very compact (!) flat. As the afternoon started to disappear into the evening, Robert suggested that we head off to Llanstephan, to see the sunset in the lovely surroundings of the River Towey estuary, with it’s huge ruined 11th century castle dominating the proceedings from spectacular hilltop setting. Sadly the murky cloud cover meant, that the sunset was a gradual decent from grey to black, with none of the oranges and reds we were hoping for, still well worth a visit though.

This morning we took the short drive to small town of Laugharne, where I enjoyed a family holiday in 1970, however the major event in the towns history was not the arrival of the already dysfunctional Thomas family from Bristol, but the fact that several decades earlier it had been home to famous Welsh writer Dylan Thomas (no relation!). It was a strange holiday for us, the simmering tension between my sister and my parents was starting and come to the fore and even more upsetting for me at the time, I sat with my dad and watch England lose to Brazil in the world cup. It was an emotional time all round!

Whilst we were on holiday my parents got chatting to a man who held the key for the then deserted boat house which was the former home of the great writer and I well remember the nervous way we crept around the then unloved and dusty house. How things have changed, the house is now a small museum to his work with a large collection of artefacts telling the story of his rumbustious life. We stopped for brief drink in Browns Hotel, one of the favourite drinking haunts of the man who would eventually drink himself to death in New York. The place is pleasantly shabby at the moment and just ripe for some entrepreneur to sanitise the place and make a fortune from the literary tourists. Then it was back in the car to head further west, eventually ending up in Tenby, a partially walled city with huge beaches, which strangely brought back absolutely no memories for me whatsoever. We also spent a while trying to piece together memories of one of Orynthia’s old family holidays in the Saundersfoot / Tenby area without much success. Then it was time to head back east past lots of now, newly familiar place names.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Managed to pick up a full-blown cold after all, so I’m on a sicky at home today. Last night we went to see Zatoichi with Mark and Babs. It’s certainly not as intense as most of Kitano’s previous work. In fact a lot of it was really funny. Some great use of sound as well, culminating in an amazing final scene, which is like a crazy mixture of 1940’s Hollywood musical and a pop video set in 18th century Japan.

After seeing the movie we had an excellent meal at Bocanova. My Squid and Pancetta starter was lovely; the main course of Sea Bass with Fennel and prawn was absolutely delicious. The only slight disappointment was the baked cheesecake dessert, somehow the texture was not quite right and lacked flavour. All in all though I would certainly recommend this really pleasant restaurant.

Whilst snuffling my way through the day I’ve started to read The Fortress Of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem and it’s hooked me in straight away. Some very evocative pieces of on the politics of playing with other kids started me thinking about my own childhood. I never really did the playing in the street with other kids thing. I used to play lots of football with friends in our back garden, which I fondly recall as being absolutely huge; when in reality it’s a pretty average size. Occasionally I would wander up the road to play with a some kids who lived up there and we would play in the lane behind their house, but I never really felt like they were people that I really wanted to spend lots of time with. I never really saw the point of hanging around with nothing specific to do, even as a child I spent a lot of time reading and I always loved listening to the radio.

I would spend hours trying to pick up BBC world service or strange European stations, which always seemed wonderfully exciting and exotic. Later when my interest in cricket kicked in I would happily spend virtually the whole summer holiday period watching England taking a pounding from Australia or the West Indies. When we went away on family holidays, I would walk around with my radio and earpiece avidly putting myself in the strange middle-aged world of those marvellous old cricket commentators.

I think that I must have been a terribly snooty child, I always thought that most kids of my age were really just a bit dull and boring, I needed to be entertained by being taken to a world where everything was new and interesting and importantly for me, had a history. My friends and I all knew the same stuff whereas adults had lived a life, seen and done things. Consequently, as many of my fiends will know, when I was young (and having a fine time, despite the fact that all this may make me sound like some solitary kid), I really wanted to be middle aged. I longed for the tweed jacket, with the patches on the elbows and the contentment that comes with finding your niche in life. Of course now that I am middle aged, I know that things are not that simple and that life is constantly changing all around you. I suppose the first time that that fact hit me was when my parents suddenly divorced when I was about 18. Life was different after that, but no less interesting or rewarding. It was only then that I really discovered the joy of live music and suddenly I was hardly ever at home. Recent events within our family have shown me how little control we really have over our life, but long ago I decided that you really couldn’t waste time and energy worrying about things, which you can’t control. Sometimes. I fear that this may make look a little unsympathetic, but I don’t have much patience for people that wallow in their own or others misfortune.

My word, what a lot of waffle the first 30 pages of the book has prompted!

Anyway, would like to point out a couple of additions to list of recommended blogs. 1st up my old friend Mr P. has taken the plunge and will be entertaining us with his stories of guitars and Japanese cars, we share a mutual obsession with all things Japanese. Talking of which another interesting site, which I’ve been reading lately, is Apricot Says, which looks at life in the UK from a Japanese perspective. Finally the excellent Lady Lucy site keeps me informed of all sorts of interesting artistic things going on in Bristol and at The Cube in particular. All of them of worthy of your time.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

In an effort to put paid to various cold bugs, which have been lurking around us, we decided to have a pretty lazy stay at home this weekend. Apart from my wasted journey to Ashton Gate, to watch a shockingly inept City team lose to Oldham, we enjoyed a lovely homely weekend.

Over the past few days we have spent a lot of time listening to BBC radio’s excellent coverage of SXSW from Austin, Texas. Having done a few festivals based in towns in the past (Edinburgh and Hay On Wye), it certainly wetted our appetite and got us talking about making the trip ourselves one year. Marks and Bab’s did it a couple of years ago and had a pretty amazing time, my only worry is that with so many bands playing at the same time a lot of tough decisions would have to be made about who to see and who to miss. Everyone seems to think that Austin is a wonderful place, so it does look very tempting. We will just have to see how we feel next year.

During our determined batch of staying in, I finally managed to complete the excellent “Kavalier & Clay” book by Michael Chabon. At well over 600 pages it’s a daunting but rewarding read. I thought the climax of the book was particularly well handled; something that could easily have been overwrought was dealt with in a very subtle and moving fashion. Recommended.

This week we are hoping to see the latest Takeshi Kitano film Zatoichi, with the possible exception of Brother all his films have really involved and moved me. I not a fan of violent films normally but something about the way that Kitano handles his films takes them to another level.

This afternoon with had both our mothers over for lunch to celebrate mother’s day. We also had a surprise visit from some other members of Orynthia’s family, so pretty soon the conversation turned in a VERY loud conversation about food, which left my mum rather dazed and confused, but happy, I hope.

On a musical front I have really been enjoying the following: Nostalgia 77 – Songs For My Funeral, The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow, Charlie Parr – Criminals and Sinners and his brilliant new album King Earl. Also been enjoying a couple of great 12" singles, RSL - Wesley Music and The Free Design - Redsigned, The Remix EP (including remixes by Madlib, Peanut Butter Wolf and Chris Geddes from Belle & Sebastian!).

I just spoke to a very excited friend of ours, who went to Kraftwerk in London yesterday. They were of course fantastic.

Friday, March 19, 2004

The last week has summed up the craziness of the English weather. Last Thursday, heavy snow was falling and it was cold enough to prompt some visitors from Norway (yes up on the edge of the Arctic circle, Norway) that our friend Mark had, to complain about the coldness of the English weather. By Tuesday it was glorious sunshine, people eating outside and wearing shorts. Then this morning, it was absolutely throwing down the rain in the midst of gale force winds, talk about contrasts!

I have to say that I love these variations in climate, although it can cause great frustration and annoyance, when it rains at just the wrong moment, it really makes us enjoy the good weather when it comes. I well remember returning to England from a trip to Australia years ago, and the delight of waking up to a fantastic glistening frost of a December morning. It really made me glad to be home.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Last night we finally managed to catch up with Joe Pernice of The Pernice Brothers. To make things even better the gig was only a 10 minute walk from our house. Why can’t everyone play at St Bon’s? It was really packed in the small room and consequently really, really warm. Poor little Joe was almost lost in a pool of perspiration. As with the Pernice Brothers records, it was very enjoyable, without being particularly earth shattering.

On my morning walk through Redland Green, I’m ever more intrigued by the mass ranks of dog walkers that gather there. It’s increasing bizarre that on some days they all appear to be wearing red, then the next day it’s blue. Normally one lone walker can be spotted in the wrong colour jacket, of course they are banished to another section of the park. Are dog walking groups the new singles bars?

Looks like we could be going to Newcastle in May. The university is having a William Roberts exhibition, the first in this country for 40 years. Thanks to Easyjet, the Bristol – Newcastle journey is now very easily and cheaply accomplished.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Well as expected Friday was really kind of fab. Before our lovely lunchtime meal at Red Snapper, I had my first look at the flat which Orynthia’s mum is hopping to move to and it perfect for our needs. We then had a great meal with Crescentia, Petunia and Orynthia’s mum before driving to London for the gig. Managed to park within 2 minutes walk of Bush Hall and after sitting in a very entertaining local pub, made the short journey to the surprisingly lovely rococo surroundings of Bush Hall for the gig. The Contra Band were funny and cute, Camera Obscura were wonderful and Trashcan Sinatra’s had some moments of astounding beauty. The journey home in the alternating thick fog and driving rain was less than pleasant.

A lazy Saturday was crowned with a gathering at our place for the “Stars in Their Eyes” grand final. Several friends came round for a lovely evening of camp performance and Whisky Mac’s. We had a sweepstake for the winner and Matt went home £10 ponds richer after “Paul Robesons” startling winning performance.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Another little joy, which I have encountered since starting work at Imperial Music, is the lunchtime treats offered by the café within The Folk House. Unlike some of the trendier places around there, you can nearly always get a seat and the food comes quickly and cheaply.

The highlight is the magnificent apple crumble, which they serve a couple of times a week. As those that know me, will be aware, I am a real sucker for traditional English puds, so I was delighted to find this brilliant crumble. As with all great crumbles the secret is to have lots and lots crumble, with only a small amount of fruit. Served with lashings of hot custard, it truly is a wonderful thing.

Of course I really am lucky because Orynthia probably makes the best crumble in the world!

Lot’s of choices for gigs this week, not sure what we will actually end up going to. The only one that is certain is our trip to London on Friday to see Trashcan Sinatras and Camera Obscura. On Friday lunchtime, we are taking Orynthia’s mum to the lovely Red Snapper restaurant, in order to celebrate her 70th birthday. So Friday should be a pretty good day.

Friday, March 05, 2004

So we spent last night in the company of those rock and roll casualties The Libertines at the Colston Hall. When I say that we spent it with them, what I really mean to say that we shared a room with them and about 2000 others. Given their recent rather troublesome drug problems the band were kept well away from the bright lights of central Bristol. Normally security is used to stop people without tickets getting in, or to stop people getting backstage. I was told yesterday, a healthy amount of the security was purely concentrating on keeping the band IN the venue and out of harms way, with personal minders for Carl and Pete to ensure that they stayed in place!

So what about the actual gig? Well it was brilliant. The level of expectation when the band took to the stage was very high and the band responded with a blistering set. Loads of new songs plus all the gems off the album, all delivered with a swagger that only a band that know that they can leave the opposition standing can muster. At on point Pete through his guitar deep into the crowd, a potentially life threatening act, which luckily only resulted in one fan holding onto a rather special souvenir for the rest of the evening.

If they can stay (get?) healthy and keep out of jail, they could turn into the best singles band since The Buzzcocks or The Clash.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Well it had to happen, City lost on Saturday and then only managed a disappointing draw at home to bottom of the table Wycombe last night. Still promotion is still in our hands as we head into the final phase of the season.

I?ve really been enjoying the forthcoming album Seven Swans by Sufjan Stevens recently. It's a deceptively simple, plaintive album from a guy who came to our attention thanks to the excellent Michigan album last year. I and the rest of the guys in the shop have also been pushing a fantastic country/blues album by Charlie Parr called Criminal and Sinners which is full of brilliant gritty songs. The forthcoming Future Pilot AKA album ? Salute Your Soul, provides another strange but rather confusing listen. A wild mixture of styles, which sounds more like a mix tape then any album, I have heard for quite a while. Bonkers!

It was nice to see a couple of old friends in the shop today, Pete who had made the journey up to Bristol for the Brian Wilson gig last night, it sounds like it was quite a show, which is good news as the tickets cost £50! Then later in the day, Bo came into the shop and made me (and Orynthia) very jealous, when she told me that Mr P and her are now owners of the kitsch classic car ? a Nissan Figaro! We want one as well!!!

Monday, March 01, 2004

Oh my, still feeling a little bloated after Saturday night. We were invited to a pudding party, which was fab. Orynthia made a spectacular sticky toffee pudding. Ashton made a sort of bread and butter pudding, with banana and coconut milk, which was yummy. Also sampled banana fritters, fruit and cream meringue nests, an amazingly rich chocolate mouse, fresh fruit salad covered in yoghurt and the splendid home made fudge of our lovely host.