Thursday, September 27, 2007

We picked up the new Edwyn Collins album yesterday, there was a time recently when It looked as though we would never hear the wry stylings of this maverick musical figure again. Near fatal illness left him walking a tightrope between life and death, luckily he pulled through to amuse and entertain us further still.

It got me thinking about the nature of the strange virtual relationship we enjoy with our musical "friends". Approaching an album from someone who's work you have really enjoyed in the past is a little like catching up with an old friend that you haven't seen for a long time. There is a feeling of excitement mixed with a degree of trepidation. Will the relationship sustain? Have you and the performer moved apart from each other, or will you still feel that special connection?

There where times in the past when the strange one-way bond was very close, when Edwyn was popular you'd be listening to the latest album and reading interviews in newspapers and magazines, hearing him chatting on the radio and performing on TV. For a short while everywhere that you looked or listened Edwyn would be there, if the music was good and chat was interesting and amusing the relationship would strengthen. Inevitably after a few months the flow of publicity would slow but the chance of a live appearance would rekindle the link.

Occasionally the performer lets you down, a sloppy live performance or a poor record leaves you feeling that your "friend" doesn't care about you in the quite the same way as you do for them. How could Edwyn release such a downright dull record as "Dr. Syntax" as he did in 2002, so your feelings change and you become a little annoyed about the time which you invested him, much like arranging to meet a friend who let's you down by failing to show up or putting you off at the last minute. Gradually you drift apart, interest wanes on both sides.You find new people to amuse you, time is rarely spent in each others company.

And then, the illness struck and you only remember the pleasure that the person has given you. His sense of style and individuality, the lyrical dexterity coupled with the withering sarcasm which marked some of his finest records, the great songs which would have you reaching to turn up the volume as you drove along with an admiring look on your face. Snatches of news about improvements in his condition are savoured and eagerly shared with other like minded friends. It's almost like having a friend or relative that lives overseas, this strange dislocated relationship which has the power to affect you, yet you can offer nothing in return.

The good news is that the "friendship" looks like it's in a good place again. The initial play of the album indicates that good times are ahead, the songs are strong and the arrangements interesting. Welcome back Edwyn, it's great to have you back in the fold again.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

So what about the rest of the Connect Festival I hear you ask, well Saturday was one of those annoyingly dry-damp-dry days, luckily we had some fine music we saw some or all of sets from 1990’s The Fire Engines, the Only Ones, Bat For Lashes, Dine Comedy, Teenage Fanclub, Modest Mouse and Primal Scream. Also had a very brief chat with Gerry Love from Teenage Fanclub and received a couple of text messages telling me that City were (briefly) top of the championship, obviously a pretty good day!

Sadly the rain meant that moving around the site was getting to be hard work, this was even more true on Sunday, however we did manage to catch Patrick Wolf, The Kissaway Trail, Tilly & The Wall, My Latest Novel, Bjork, Big Start and a smidge of LCD Soundsystem. So over the course of the weekend we heard lots of great music, just a shame that the weather made the site such hard work and although the food was excellent, some of the general facilities left a bit to be desired.

Monday morning saw catching the coach back to Glasgow and what a fantastic journey alongside the Lochs and through the mountains it was, of course the sun was shinning brightly now that the festival was over! For the rest of the week we were in new hotel on Bath Street, just around the corner from The Glasgow Film Theatre and The Glasgow Scholl of Art. We took of our boots and spent the afternoon on the bed watching The Rockford Files and having a long hot shower – lovely.

During the rest of the week we stayed in Glasgow apart from a brief trip to the west coast town of Largs (home of the “no poo on my shoe” campaign) and the nearby Kelburn Castle. Went to the cinema a couple of times and bumped into Carey from Camera Obscura at the GFT when seeing Calum Foe. Later in the week we meet up with Carey again along with Gav amd Lynsey and Tracyanne plus Francis from Teenage Fanclub at a small club where Tracyanne was DJ’ing. The band are taking a well earned breather at being on the round for the last year, then Traceyanne will start writing the next album and of they will go again. Strangely when we did hit the dance floor we had to share it with a couple of members of Belle & Sebastian, that sort of thing always seems to happen to us in Glasgow. It’s a great place to spend time and the people are always so friendly, I think it has become our 2nd home.

Since we’ve been back I’ve watched one the best games of football that I’ve ever seen when City drew 1-1 with a very impressive West Brom side, to go back to the top of the table again. After years, no almost a decade of watching some mediocre football it was such a thrill to watch such a pulsating game where the only thing it both sides mind was going for a win. All week whenever I meet anyone that went to the game the next 20 minutes would be spent discussing in ever-increasing superlatives that wonderful game. Yesterdays 2-2 draw with Burnley was more of a bread and butter game but to be unbeaten after 7 games in a season where survival is all we ask for is something of a shock.

Aside from that, we are watching the events in Burma with growing surprise and hope. Interestingly today we were with Orynthia’s extended family and someone who hadn’t met them before. He kept trying to bring up the topic of Burma but even at this distance no one wants to discuss the situation there. It’s something I’ve got used to over the years; these things are not just a topic of discussion for them, what happens in Burma affects them, their family and friends. However I could sense his bemusement at the stonewall responses he was getting from the older generation. After several false dawns, some of them appallingly crushed by a brutal regime, maybe things are about to take a change and the family here and everyone in Burma will be able to voice their opinions without fear of retribution.

Friday, September 21, 2007

So what happened to August and September?

Well we were really busy! Most of my computer time was spent either doing publicity for a host of Grumpy Man events or working in my new role as manager of our Sunday football team Bryan Munich F.C. In addition to that we managed to fit in a week in Scotland, including a visit to the Connect Festival.

Since I've last been here, we've had 4 Grumpy Man events, despite the lack of students and people being away from Bristol at this time of the year, we managed to get through them all without too much embarrassment. Grumpy Man is fun to do but the late nights can be a bit of a killer when you have to go to work the next day. The prospect of playing records until 3 am in the morning, then getting up at 7:30 is not a pleasant one when you are 45 years old! Maybe we need some younger blood that is happy to do the late shift for us?

As ever, we had a great time whilst in Scotland. The Connect Festival line up could almost have been hand picked by Orynthia, lot's of her favourite bands (mine to) were playing, so we set off on the early morning flight from Bristol to Glasgow with high hopes. It's a journey that we have made many times in recent years and one which has often been affected by delays, consequently we allowed ourselves plenty of time between flight arrival and the coach trip to Inveraray where the festival was taking place. As luck would have it, the flight was bang on time, meaning that we had several hours to kill in Glasgow before catching our coach, time for us to have a nice breakfast and grab a copy of The List magazine, which had a nice festival guide. None of this took too long, and we managed to jump on an earlier coach then we were booked on, so just after lunchtime we arrived at the site.

The initial feeling for me was of a little bit of disappointment, organisation for getting into the site was sketchy to say the least, and the first signs of mud had already appeared! Both of us are more than a little camping phobic so we had taken the plunge and paid for a pre-erected tent with airbed and sleeping bags provided. Luckily for us this also meant that were slightly apart from the main camping area, so as the site became stickier underfoot the area around our tent remained reasonably firm.

After dumping our stuff in the tent, we made our way into the main arena and were entranced with the local food offerings and the rather splendid Loch Fyne Whisky Bar. Then the wonderful Trashcan Sinatras took to the stage and all was well in the world. After that we actually got round to sampling some of that fine food before watching Jarvis Cocker, King Creosote and the unexpectedly wonderful Jesus & Marychain. We had a brief look at the Beastie Boys (middle aged men) before heading of to bed after a very long day. Of course being the first night of a festival, everyone was in fine voice, so despite the earplugs, it took a while to get to sleep