Thursday, August 26, 2004

Well following on from my last entry, here is more about music – well sort of. On Tuesday evening Orynthia and I went to LeRoc classes at the nearby Elmgrove Centre. Now I’m sure that some of you will be thinking what on earth is that. Well LeRoc is a slightly more modern form of Jive dancing and following out Jitterbug experience the other week, we thought that it would be fun to have another go at this dancing thing.

I have to say that I was initially sceptical, but the evening turned out to be great fun. I was pretty hopeless, but all the people I danced with were very forgiving (quite a few were on their first visit as well), and we spent a lot of time laughing. Sadly we won’t be able to make it next week, but I think it could become quite a regular Tuesday night event.

We won’t be able to go next week because that nice Mr Stapleton has arranged a gig by the intriguing Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players at The Polish Club. All the reports about them make this sound like a must see gig, which is strange as I have only heard one track by them (which was great). Next week see the return of the wonderful Charlie Parr to Bristol, when he plays The Cube on September 2nd.

Looking further ahead, Saturday September 11th is Bristol doors open day, it’s always one of our favourite days of the year, because you get the chance to look around lot’s of interesting buildings which you cant normally gain access to. It’s been going on for several years now, so we are always on the look out for new places to see. This year we can go behind the scenes at the Colston Hall and visit the beautiful looking 1920’s retirement home known as St Monica Trust amongst others.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Before Imperial Music moved into 58 Park Street, it was the home of Tony’s another great record shop which moved from it's smaller location in the basement of Focus in Clifton village. Tony himself is a former rock n’ roll musician who staffed the place with people who would go on to becoming luminaries of the Bristol music scene such as Si John and John Stapleton. As such it was one of the places at the forefront of selling records from the emerging New York Hip-Hop scene to the impressionable young people of Bristol.

In those days (early 80’s) Hip-Hop was more about sharp electro beats and breaks than boasting about all manner of things (guns, drugs, treatment of women), which sadly most of it has become today. That’s not to say that you can’t still find brilliant Hip-Hop as albums by the like of Madvillian and Masta Killa have proved this year. So it seems right that one of the last new release albums that we are taking in any quantity before Imperial Music moves into the history books and 58 Park Street stops selling music for ever, is a wonderful compilation called “Dread meets B-Boys downtown – The Hip-Hop sound of New York 81-82".

I was never cool enough to be a B-Boy, but I did pick up my share of 12” singles around that time. I well remember my amazement when I first heard the Grandmaster Flash – “Adventures on the wheels of steel” record on the John Peel show. It’s hard to imagine now, but we really had no idea how records like that could be made. It really sounded like music from another planet rather than continent. As soon as I tracked down a copy myself, I forced everyone I knew to listen to it, even my poor confused mother! I’m not sure what people who are in their 20’s will make of the music now, but to me it all sounded fantastic yesterday as we pumped it out in the shop. It was one of the things that fired my fascination with New York and helped to prompt the excitement that resulted in my first visit to NYC in 1984.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Last night I think we witnessed something rather special! No, not a first win of the season for Bristol City (though maybe it could happen this Saturday) nor was it a gold medal for a member of the British Olympic team (may never happen), it was an absolutely amazing performance by Joanna Newsome at St Bonaventures.

I must admit that on first hearing her album had most of us in the shop confused and not a little scared. However over recent weeks most of us have come to love her wonderfully individual and idiosyncratic approach to both singing and song writing, when these talents are aligned to her beautiful harp playing you start to realise that something wonderful is brewing.

Although she was nominally the support act last night, it was pretty clear that a hefty chunk of the audience had come to see her. If they were anything like me, they probably approached the gig with high levels of anticipation, mingled with the apprehension that she would not be able to produce the atmospheric beauty of her recorded work. Well we need not have worried! Her performance started with an exuberant acappella song, accompanied by only her wild, swinging handclaps and joyful grin. The next 40 minutes provided us with a real treat as she worked her way through her album. Undoubtedly her unusual vocal style will draw comparisons with Bjork, can she achieve the same level of success as the Icelandic visionary? I’m not sure, but I’m delighted to have had the chance to see her at such close quarters. One to watch, although I do warn you that on first hearing you well be somewhat perplexed.

Tomorrow night we are off to see one of the many bands, which feature our favourite drummer, the marvellous Steve Dew. He will be in action with Wilma at The Prom. Reports on the band are good, although we are yet to see or hear them, luckily that will be rectified within the next 24 hours.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Sometimes a good weekend can feel more like a mini holiday than just 2 days of work. This weekend was one of those occasions; it started on Friday evening when we found ourselves at “The North” for the second Friday in a row. This time we hooked up with our old friend Ian + Maria for some simple but hearty food (sausage + mash for me, pie, mash and mushy peas for Orynthia), before taking the short walk to Café Bar Unlimited for the latest evening of entertainment from those splendidly misnamed Grumpy men.

On Saturday and Sunday the area around the industrial museum was turned into a bizarre 1940’s zone. Loads of old army vehicles, some fantastic clothing and jitterbug lessons were the highlight of Saturday afternoon. We had a couple of goes and I have to say that my two left feet were up to their normal standard, it was good fun if a trifle confusing for a simple champ like me. Then on Saturday evening a rouge hot air balloon from the balloon festival flew very low over our back garden, whilst I was watering the tomato plants, before floating gracefully off into the sunset over Bishopston, it's burner lighting up the sky in dramatic fashion.

On Sunday we returned to 1940’s land for a fascinating talk by Margueritte Patten, an amazing lady. 83 years of age, she stood and talked for an hour without any notes about food rationing in Britain during the second world war (and after). It was amazing to hear about the inventiveness (mock banana, made from parsnip!) and to hear that it was ILLEGAL to sell cream until 1953! Following the talk, we made our way to the small art space near Redclffe caves to see the “Tom, Dick and Harry” installation by our friend John Pym. It’s another amazing and unsettling piece involving crawling through tiny dimly lit tunnels attached to a very average looking sitting room. He really does incrediable things with “space” and never fails to provoke and amazing series of thoughts and reactions with his work. We wandered home looking very dusty, which must have confused people.

Oh and one small thing on Friday lunch time I was with Orynthia in M&S, and I think I saw the writer of was of linked blogs “Open Secrets” in the queue. She is not someone I know but she is a local journalist who occasionally has her picture in the paper. The thing is, should I go and say “Hello, I enjoy reading your stuff” or would that make me look like some mad stalker? Anyway maybe it wasn’t her, which would have been worse – “Hi I really like your blog” “Blog? What are you talking about? Security! Security!”

Friday, August 13, 2004

We almost had an interesting additional feature in the shop yesterday. The monumental downpour, which hit Bristol at around 1pm, briefly gave us a couple of waterfall features. Luckily all the action took place in the back room rather that on the shop floor, the storm also meant that the people who were in the shop had to hang around waiting for it to stop, consequently we took a bit more money than we had done on the previous days of the week. By the way I should mention that we have started to mark some stuff down in preparation for our closure at the end of September, so if you are looking for some bargains pop down to Imperial Music.

Talking of music, I had the spookiest dream experience the other night. Whilst in work on Wednesday RLF and I were discussing the exciting news that Tom Waits will be releasing a new album in October. Several years ago a few friends and I decided that should the great man ever deign to play in the UK again (his last visit was in 1987), we would do everything we could to catch one of the shows.

On Wednesday evening, I had a really vivid dream, which consisted of my friends and I dashing around Europe, only to discover that we had just missed him every time. I woke up feeling tired (wouldn’t you be if your sleeping hours had been spent zipping from Paris to London to Berlin to Rome.....) and yet intrigued. So imagine my amazement when I checked on his record company website and discovered that earlier in the week, three dates in Berlin had been announced (and sold out) and that further dates were going to be added, including dates in the UK!!!

I’ve spoken to all my Waits pals and we have agreed to keep our eyes and ears open in an effort to track down some of these tickets, as they are sure to be in short supply. So anyway I’m taking it as a sign of good fortune that I had the dream, lets hope that the reality is slightly different and we do actually manage to catch a show!

Monday, August 09, 2004

Fame at last! If you look very hard, and you know what I look like, you will be able to find a picture of me on the Bristol City website!! Go to this page and look at the picture of Paul Heffernan being tripped, those of you with eagle eyes will find me in the crowd. Sad to say it was a bit of a dull start to the season, a very average performance giving us a 1-1 draw,the only way is up.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

BBC radio gives more coverage to music made in this fine city of ours, this time it's on radio 4!        
Tue 10 Aug, 13:30 - 14:00  30 mins   Hip Hop Central    
Music journalist Nige Tassell investigates how the global phenomenon of hip hop found a particularly welcoming home in the city of Bristol, where bands like Massive Attack and Portishead reinvented the music and exported it back to the world and where contemporary bands and DJs continue to refresh the insistent rhythms and verbal dexterity of this distinctive urban soundtrack.

Friday, August 06, 2004

It’s been an interesting week in the shop, I reckon at least 50% of our customers have been from overseas. Loads of French people, plus plenty of Spanish, Greeks, Germans, Italians and a Dutch women who visited on several occasions, listened to loads of stuff but did not actually buy anything in the end. I always enjoy chatting to these people, as I am curious to find out how they ended up in Bristol.

Much as I love our wonderful city, I have to admit that it does not have the highest profile in the world, so when you are from say Paris, how do you end up here? Often people come here on a work related trip, sometimes for a couple of days often for longer projects. We do get some who are on the tourist trail, so they have been to Stonehenge and Bath and may be stopping in Bristol before heading over to Cardiff. I’ve spoken to quite a few people who are on a general trip around the UK and wanted to come to Bristol due to the success of people like Massive Attack, Portishead and Roni Size. Undoubtedly the additional airline services, which Easyjet and others have bought to town, also have an impact. A few years ago it would have outrageous to think that so many of the major cities in Europe could be within such easy reach and at such affordable prices. I really like the diversity and excitement that these tourists bring to the place. I just wish that we had a transport system, which was as affordable and efficient as many of those which we encounter whilst on our travels. I also hope that we don’t get too carried away with the idea that every retail place has to be a bar or restaurant, we need to keep small, quirky, independent shops otherwise we lose our identity.

Obviously my time working on Park Street has exposed me to the problems, which small shopkeepers encounter. I just hope that the people who run the city realise that creativity and individuality does attract people to Bristol and help the ambience of the whole area; it feels as though we are currently going through a phase when the highest bidder gets all. Sometimes that’s not the best solution in the long term, we have so many creative people in this place sometimes it would be nice if they were given a bit more encouragement from above.

Enough whinging! Talking of overseas visitors, we shall once again be grabbing the phrase book and the maps, as we are heading to Bilbao in October. We had to squeeze in a visit before Easyjet switched the route from Bilbao to Madrid, so we thought we would link it in with the Magnetic Fields + The Real Tuesday Weld tour. It’s always good fun seeing bands when on holiday and this should be no exception.

Tomorrow sees the start of the football season, Bristol City start off with a home match against newly promoted Torquay United. The team has a new manager and several new faces competing for places (including a couple of young lads who have come through the junior ranks) and I can almost start to feel myself getting optimistic about the next 10 months, which is very different from the dreadful, hollow feeling which we were all left with after our shocking capitulation in Cardiff in May.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

When I was chatting to Mr Ng my physio guy last Friday, it emerged that he is from Malaysia. By the way, he said that it’s good to get the patients chatting as it stops them moaning about the pain as he pushes them into ever more awkward positions, not that I ever moan of course!

Anyway, we have been to Malaysia on a couple of occasions and were mightily impressed with the fantastic thunder and lightening storms, which we encountered, on a couple of occasions. Firstly whilst sitting on the veranda of tiny wooden restaurant, we marvelled at the storm taking place somewhere out in the south China sea and then back in Kuala Lumpur we got caught in the middle of a huge storm which cancelled any plans we may have had for going back to our hotel, as the whole of that enormous city ground to a spectacular halt. Mr Ng told me that Malaysia has more thunderstorms than anywhere else in the world and the world’s foremost expert on these amazing feats of nature and particularly the impact they have on the built environment is a Malaysian guy. It seems that for several years people have been trying to tempt him over the USA to carry on his work, but he is quite happy to stay in the place that he loves (which is the best place for him to work) surrounded by friends and family rather than take the bucket load of cash which is being waved at him.

I thought that this was a lovely thing to hear, as a football fan, I get really fed up hearing about players who earn a fantastic salary, demanding that they are allowed to move to a bigger team (for an even more obscene wage), whatever happened to those great days of player loyalty? Wouldn’t it be great to hear of more players who were prepared to follow the example of that fine Malaysian fellow? The superstars of the game could be spread around, rather than the top clubs having huge groups of players who hardly ever get to kick a ball in anger, because their team already has 20 international players.

The other day I bumped into an acquaintance of ours who has turned his back on a highly lucrative career for a while to try his hand at some journalistic work. He has the safety net of new job on the horizon in the winter, but thought that he would use this time to fulfil a long held ambition, which seams to be working rather nicely. He has already had a couple of features (complete with his own splendid camera work) printed. I think we were both slightly amazed to find our selves doing the sort of job that we dreamt of as schoolboys, although for both of us it will be a fairly short lived period of employment.

I’ve always fancied the idea of doing some sort of semi serious writing, indeed one of the motivations for my foray into the world of blogging, was to write something (anything!) on a regular basis, with the hope that this could provoke some latent talent to emerge. Well so far that remains a dream, still in the past year one dream has come true, who knows what could happen in the next twelve months?