Saturday, June 30, 2007

So, I went along to The Folk House last night to see Lady Nade. I arrived early and was impressed to see that a very pleasant looking barbecue was being set up in the charming courtyard area, night lights were flickering pleasantly (it was a shame that I had eaten at home) my friend David turned up and everything was lovely.

Nade was on first, so David and I went into the cafe area where the gig was taking place, selected our seats and waited for gig to start. The place was pleasantly full and in the absence of any background music the gently hum of conversation filled the room. The band started, and a strange thing happened - the conversation level got louder. The music was subtle and intense or would have been if people hadn't been determined to talk over it. Why do people do it, is it impossible to stay quite for 3 or 4 minutes at a time? Nade and her colleagues soldiered on but you got the impression that they lost a little heart due to the lack of engagement from the crowd.

The thing that always amazes me when this happens is this, people talk avidly throughout a song and then clap and cheer wildly when it ends, as though it's been the best thing they've ever heard. Is that just a shallow attempt to assuage their guilt as deep down they know how charmless they are being?

When the main band took to the stage, it was disappointing to see that a couple of them had been sitting at one of the worst offending tables. It became clear that a lot of the crowd were friends of the band and they whopped and cheered as though Elvis, James Brown and David Bowie had wandered onto the stage. Brilliantly they then chatted all the way through the songs again - with slightly more enthusiastic applause between songs. I still can't work out why people pay to go and have a chat, why not just go to a pub?

Here is something I wrote a while ago on a similar theme:

“ Here we go, this is a great place.”

“Yep, can see it all from here.”

“Thank God, we got away from all those tall people, we never would have seen anything, stuck behind that lot.”

“You’d think that they would move aside, they must know that that people behind them can’t see.”

“ I love this one! It’s so gentle.”

“Yeah, I listen to it late at night, it’s almost like having a friend in the room with you”


“I know, but it is, it really is. It’s great when something really connects with you like that, not many bands can do it.”

“And have you listened to the words? I love the way the meaning can change depending on the mood that you are in. The other day I had a really bad row with Tony, and when I heard this again it said everything I wished I’d said.”

“But you didn’t?”

“No, you never do, do you. It’s only later that everything falls into place. I sometimes think that’s the reason people become writers.”

“What to make sure that they can win every argument?”

“In a way, wouldn’t it be strange if you had to argue like that. Right. stop! This is heading into a row - grab you pen and paper, go to separate rooms.”

“Could you do it via e-mail?’

“Oh no, that’s far too quick! The whole point of it, is that it gives you time to come up with brilliant, seemingly spontaneous, one-liners”

“Of course”

“Arguments could go on for days or weeks, but you wouldn’t be able to refer to them during normal daily life.”


“Yeah, so you don’t get any of that red faced, door slamming stuff”

“ I’m rubbish at that. One time the door just sort of went phhhwm. Useless! I wanted to rush back into the room and try again, loosing my big dramatic exit.”

“Sounds like you lost it anyway”

“I always do!”

“So under my new system, you could at least lose after a fair debate, not just because the other person throws more words at you.”

“That’s my other problem. I always end up using the same dumb words again and again. I know that each time I use them, they carry a little less weight, but I can’t think of anything new to say. I’m stuck in this ridiculous loop. In the end the other person doesn’t even have to say anything back, I whittle away at my own self confidence, seeing my reason and logic collapse around me.”



“Thesaurus. You’ll be able to use all those words, you’d never dream of using in a normal row.”

“Of course.”

“Wow, I’ll sound so clever, no-one will dare to challenge me again”

“Shh - I’d like to hear the band, not you two nattering about rubbish”

(Quietly) “If only he knew. We could cut him down to size”

(Quietly) “As long as he gave us enough time to compose a suitable reply. I guess we would have to get his address, we’re posting our response to him - right?”

(Less quietly) “Someone would take care of that for us, a central database would take care of everything.”

(Not quiet at all) “ Genius, not only do we solve all arguments we create thousands of jobs as well. It’s...


(Loudly) “Go and stand by the tall guys, they’ll give you all the peace and quiet you want! We’re coming up with a new way for the world to solve it’s problems.”

“Hey, not bad!”

“I’d still like to put it in writing!”

Friday, June 29, 2007

I’ve been the victim of lot’s of rather nostalgic flashbacks over recent weeks. Given that I’ve got a pretty sieve like head, it’s quite odd for me to suddenly have vivid images of 20 or even 30 years ago zipping to the front of my memory.

The main reason for these increased mental time travel is that my mum is thinking of moving into a smaller house, meaning that it’s time for me to finally remove some of my belongings from her house. Given that I moved out over 20 years ago I guess I can’t really complain about the sudden increase in the number of fully laden plastic bags which are scattered around our house.

The majority of the bags are filled with old copies of The Face magazine. When it started back in May 1980 it was an interesting mix brilliant graphics, astute (if rather pretentious) music features and an insight into a fashion world where zoot suit clad hipsters, stood alongside crew cut boys and girls wearing those all important 501’s. As the world of high fashion was (remains) something of a mystery to me those pages were rather less time consuming that the rest of the magazine for me.

Gradually the musical emphasis moved away from things that I had much interest in, the clothing and hair cuts became even more baffling to me so some time in the mid 80’s I realised that I was no longer really interested in what the magazine had to say and stopped buying it. Yet during all that time, I don’t think that I ever threw away a copy, consequently I now have in possession a collection of magazines, which is both fascinating and rather embarrassing.

There are some great features and photos but an equal number of woefully embarrassing articles on the things that those cool kids in London were doing, luckily many of which failed to make the journey down the M4 to Bristol.

Tonight my mum unearthed a collection of material relating to my cricket obsession of the 1970’s. In that special trainspotter way that teenage boys seem to have, I wasn’t satisfied with simply playing and watching the game I had to record everything that I watched as though I was my great hero of the time Bill Frindall (for those that don’t know, he was the scorer for BBC Test Match Special team on crackly old Radio 3).

Amongst countless scores sheets recording a succession of Gloucestershire defeats, all lovingly recorded in my dreadfully spindly spiders scrawl, I discovered a long forgotten letter from the great Mr Frindall himself. Also a list of members of the cricket statistician association, on which the name and address of a precocious 16 year old boy (me!) amazingly finds itself in the company of the extraordinary broadcaster John Arlott. Several invitations to association lunches are in the bag of goodies, it looks like £3.50 would have paid for a rather splendid 5-course lunch had I been able to make the journey to Edgbaston.

It is of course no surprise that a quick glance through the 12 page document reveals the list to be almost entirely male, although interestingly one female name did leap out at me, that of Eleanor Oldroyd, who is now a stalwart of Radio 5 Live, and occasional contributor to Test Match Special! I should have stuck at it, in the famous words on Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront "I could have had class. I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody (instead of a bum)."

Who knows what other treats await me?

Back in the present, it’s going to be a rather strange weekend, as Orynthia and the rest of her team from work have gone to Barcelona for a few days. Not too sure how I will be filling my time, but I may well nip along to the Folk House on Friday evening to hear the magnificent voice of Lady Nade in action with one of her many bands The Outfits.

Monday, June 25, 2007

We spent a considerable part of Saturday in the past, in the morning we had a fascinating insight into an important part of the history of Bristol, the evening saw some more recent musical memories being returned to the forefront of my mind.

The Arnos Vale cemetery is a place that we have been intending to visit for quite a while, a huge sprawling cornucopia of delights for anyone interested in social history and Victoriana it is gradually being restored of decades of neglect. A friend of ours lives next to the cemetery and was invited to take a guided walk around a few of it's highlights, luckily for us we managed to tag along.

Entering from the top end of the site and walking down the hill towards the main gate, we were insistently struck by the both density of the foliage and the graves. The cemetery is built in a fairly steep hillside and a fairly unforgiving landscape it must have been for the poor undertakers as they made their way to the plot of choice. Lots of interesting tombs around the place featuring the great and the good of bygone Bristol. It's well worth a vist if you are in Bristol.

The evening was spent in a haze of C86 nostalgia thanks to the splendid people at Big Pink Cake. We danced, quite a lot - it must have been good!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Another Grumpy Man event coming up this Synday at Mr Wolfs, here in nonance I wrote about the forthcoming entertainment.:

Bonjour, mes amis,

The world of international diplomacy is a strange and murky affair. I'm
sure that you know that from the days you spent living as a Bedouin
goat herder whilst secretly spying for the British government, that
wasn't you? Oh dear I've said too much.

Anyway back to the matter in hand, this Sunday the world will witness a
unique collaboration as the Grumpy Man DJ team join forces with the
mercurial Zed Van Traumat from Bordeaux at the famous Mr Wolfs Noodle
Bar here in Bristol. Zed, as I'm sure he is known his legions of fans
across the sea is known as an agitator and a free poet capable of
leaving audiences spellbound with his performances. He cites the likes
of Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, and Stravinksky amongst his influences as
well as the wonderful Jacques Brel and Serge Gainsbourg. He will be
backed by a trio consisting of sax, guitar and percussion and should
provide both an invigorating musical treat as well a chance for you to
brush up on your holiday French.

As ever, the Grumpy Man collective have trawled their collections to
find the songs from every musical genre to leave you quivering in you
seat, as you sip elegantly on that last ill advised glass of Pernod
before stumbling into the night. I'm not sure about the rest of the
gang but I've been searching extra hard for any French gems in my
collection and before you ask, NO - I won't be playing Joe Le Taxi even
if Venessa Paradis is virtually a local now!

What's French for Grumpy man? It's £2 to get in, hope to see you there.

Other than that, we've been asked to curate a night of VISUAL treats as
well as Dj'ing at The Cube in late August. It's also been confirmed
that we will be playing in Minehead at the start of December when
Portishead make their long awaited return to the live music world
(other than the tantalisingly wonderful little set they played for
Grumpy Man at Mr Wolfs in February) at the ATP festival. Coupled with
the 3rd Sunday of the month residency at Mr Wolfs it's going rather
well for a group of people who remain refreshingly capable of ejecting
the CD they are supposed to be playing, nothing beats the sudden "sound
of silence" to the get the blood pumping when your standing behind that
mixer. We like to think that we are keeping the spirit of John Peel

Had an email chat about opera with a friend from the band Aspen Woods the other day and decided to write him the outline for a Bristol based rock opera (you know the sort of thing, a show cointaing niether rock nor opera!) regarding his life in the Bedminster area of Bristol:

So how long before we see the first Aspen Woods rock opera - The Boy from BS3?

It's the tragic tale, which follows the life of a boy, who's promise as one of the the elite Dame Emily Park skateboard team marks him out for greatness at a young age. Sadly the attention and fame start to turn his head and he is slowly seduced by the bright lights of North Street, leading to a serious addiction to Caramel Lattee's and Clarks Pie's.

It's a downward spiral for the young man, and the emotional ride comes to a head in the the tear jerking Aria "Get I some smokes, if your going to Asdal". In a stroke of genius the producer of the show employs hundreds of migrant East European smokers in as extras to furiously puff away, as a distraught Richy sings about the good old days of watching bands in smoke filled rooms. The emotion of the song coupled with peoples lack of tolerance for smoke, in the current smoke free world means that there is not a dry eye in the house.

Sadly his beautiful young girlfriend finally loses her battle with her spiralling addiction to kitch 2nd clothing from the numerous charity shops in the area and is suffocated by a pair of red velvet loon pants. Richy is distraught and plunges further into his own cafe society hell, now he living purely on Double Espresso's, his wild bulging eyes scaring off even the closest of friends, his skateborading career in tatters as his sells his last board on ebay, to pay for his own crippling addiction.

Then a miracle, stumbling along in search of the latest new cafe to open in the area, he loses his footing and slips into the healing waters of The Malago, the magical stream first cleanses his body, then miraculously his body starts to rejuvenate. Within weeks he back to his best, and is determined to give other people the same chance to start again that he had. He becomes Bristol's own John The Baptist type figure plunging hundreds of unsuspecting local chavs in The Malago and washing the Burberry and Stone Island clothing away.

He become such a local hero that George Ferguson decides to step down as king of Bedminster, bequeathing all his red trousers to Richy in the process. In an emotional finale Richy and George are on the roof of the Tobacco Factory, as a huge crowds cheer from street level. The trousers are exchanged and then tragedy - Richy attempts a fairly straightforward lap around the roof of the building, but his board gets caught up with the ill fitting hem of the newly fitted trouser. Richy plunges to his death.

As the crowds drift away Aspen Woods end the show with a dramatic 45 minute version "Get Happy", reminding everyone that we are all heading to are own judgement day.