Friday, 22 December 2017

Ed Harcourt, Ren Harvieu, Romeo Stodart, Sarah Cracknell etal @ The Big Barn, Garsington Manor

Three evenings before Christmas, and the small village of Garsington, outside Oxford, population circa 1750, puts on a Christmas Concert. Location, The big barn that forms part of the Garsington Manor estate.
Some venue. The space is lined on four sides with panels from Glyndebourne when it was redeveloped, by Leonard Ingrams, the previous owner and has a little raised stage put in when Garsington Opera was staged in the grounds.
You would think that the performers would be just talented locals each stepping up to perform their party piece. How wrong could you be.
It all started innocently enough when Roger Heath-Brown the previous head of Mathematics at Oxford University read out three tracts that all had an anti-christmas message. This was followed by Kate Saunders (violin)& Simon Stafford (acoustic guitar and vocals)who did three songs, Richard Thompson’s I want to see the Bright Lights Tonight, followed by a tremendous version of Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean. A stonkingly good version to. The last number I cannot recall.
Next up were the Lagden twins, from the village and at 16 sung like they were already touring, They finished with a version of a Staves’s song. Amazing .
Then Hugh Blaza, a solicitor and lived practically next door to the barn, donned and acoustic guitar and sung three number including yet again a good rendition of Joni Mitchell’s River which begins with the lines ‘It's coming on Christmas, They're cutting down trees, They're putting up reindeer,And singing songs of joy and peace’ Hugh being one of the organisers.
Then followed Robin Bennett, who set up Truckfest and recently Woods Fest nearby but also with brother Joe form the g roup Dreaming Spires. Now a veteran of Glastonbury, he was then joined on stage by Sarah Cracknel of St Etienne and yet another local and but for a field, next door neighbour to Hugh.  A duet or two were sung before a break was held.
Break over and up stepped John Hall to read and extract from "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" to be followed by a young girl, Jo Jo Blyth who played the Harp. Standing ovation at the end which called for an encore. Unprepared and slightly nervous the encore was duly dispatched. I was left thinking where did that come from?
Then Ed Harcourt stepped up, we had missed seeing him at EOTR a couple of years back when he headlined the Garden Stage (where incidentally we had seen St Etienne in 2016) as we had gone to see Sigur Ros on the Woods Stage. He sang a couple of songs but was then joined on stage by both Sarah Cracknell and Debsy Wykes for another.
They then gave way to Romeo Stodart who I think did one number before introducing Ren Harvieu who I was currently standing shoulder to shoulder to, but worse still I had not realised. I had followed her from the release of her first album so I was pleasantly shocked. A couple of songs from them to be joined again by Ed Harcourt. A couple of Christmas carols were sung with prompt sheets before most of the singing performers joined them all on stage for a rendition of The Band’s The Weight. A great song with the obvious but modern reference to the nativity.
The final song performed by all was Slade’s Merry Christmas (which I do not like) with Ed H in the Noddy Holder role. A good majority of the 150 present got up off their feet and sung/shuffled along.
We walked home afterwards slightly stunned with what we had just witnessed. A big thanks must go to Martin Kelly, Sarah’s husband and director of Heavenly Records who must have twisted a few arms to get the likes of Ed, Ren and Romeo up to the village on a Friday night just before Christmas and to Hugh Blaza.  But also a big thanks to one and all who had all helped in putting the whole show on to such a success.
So with the departure of the Bloomsbury set before WWII under the Morrells,and Garsington opera going up to John Paul Getty’s estate nearby on the death of Leonard Ingrams, will we see another reincarnation of the artistry at the manor but this time with Indie music.

Video Links

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Ongals Babbling Comedy @ Soho Theatre, London.

Mix Comedy, magic,  circus and beatboxing skills,  this small troupe of South Koreans were a necessary winter warmer in the lead up to Christmas.
Sort of Benny Hill comedy on Ginseng. 
Babbling? because literally they just babbled, with the odd english word slipping out. This was an hour of fun suitable for all ages. I was sat in the front row and there were three magic tricks that still startle me. Bravo. 

Thursday, 2 November 2017

The Death of Stalin

Halloween, so what do you do? Go and see The Death of Stalin of course. For he was a real ghoul as was a good number of others in this film.
Simply, this is one of the most enjoyable films I have seen, was riveted from start to finish.
Is it a comedy though? For me, possibly not. The humour that is there is just the natural banter that would come between colleagues and rivals over the number of years they had been working together. Heard someone say that it was Pythonesque, no it is not, that was comedy of the absurb. This was comedy of real life.
Thought the cast was excellent, the mix of English accents duplicating the wide range of Russian accents they would have experienced I totally got, and whilst there must have been some cgi it was unnoticeable. But it was the performance of Sion Russell Beale as Lavrently Beria that stands out above all the others.
So in line with the Soviet theme, I will award it.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Blade Runner 2049

What can I say? it was just another shoot them up movie wrapped up in a load of bollocks.
Granted it was good to see that it was of a decent length to develop and some of the visualisations were exceedingly impressive especially the rusted city. (opening sequence however did not have enough smoke screen and a couple of settlements in the distance from where it was shot were clearly visible).
Sound was very good to but in a modern cinema you expect that, but otherwise extremely disappointed.

Friday, 29 September 2017

There Will Be Cake @ Omnibus Theatre, Clapham

There Will Be Cake
Marcus Brigstocke, Rachel Parris, Pippa Evans and Paul Foxcroft

So three evenings later after singing happy birthday to Nick Cave at Bournemouth here we are sitting in the audience at Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre singing it again to a woman called Clara whose birthday it is. Identified by MB and PF in their introduction to the evenings improvised comedy, the backdrop of a table laden with cakes’ party iced biscuits and balloons and bunting hanging from the ceiling, being the rather obvious clue.
A chance discovery the day before, of first the venue, and then the show has brought us here at 9pm on a wet early autumnal evening with friends we met earlier in the Sun pub opposite and where we also encountered the four performers having a pre show drink and possibly mapping out directions the show could take.
This was our first time for improvised comedy and had no idea as to where it would lead or indeed go. We had seen Rachel Parris earlier in the year at the soho theatre for her Best Laid Plans show which we had thoroughly enjoyed.  Brigstocke we had seen and heard on the tv/radio many times but never in the flesh. The other two probably had seen but their names did not ring any bells.
What followed was a hit and miss of improvisation, sometimes very funny like the culinary discovery of a sunday roast dinner and the two women gyrating in Brixton to then be confronted by a local of many years wondering what the hell they were doing. The sketch was replayed later with Shoreditch as the location but with the point quickly made, it terminated. The uber journey to Scotland was good also but the trying to become Scottish was somewhat flat.
Halfway in, a slight pause was taken when the four distributed party cake and biscuits amongst the audience which had its own amusement value.
Nevertheless, an excellent hour's entertainment and one that will be repeated.
But the question still hangs in the air, what was planned and what was improvised? How much of it were they trying out to find its way back in some later show? How much of it was just training to sharpen their skills for later performances? And how much of it was just for the simple pleasure of performing in a venue no doubt local to where they live without the spotlight of the west end on them?
The venue must however sort out the acoustic isolation between the performance area and the adjacent, rather pleasant bar. Would not take much.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds @ Bournemouth BIC

Wrote this two days after the event, first impressions after the gig that apart from the truly incredible end to the gig I was 50/50 about how good or not it was. I now believe that view then was clouded by what an awful venue the Bournemouth BIC is. True it has a very wide stage but otherwise not much to write home about including a bad echo, especially for percussion that came back off the hard rear wall.
It was also clouded by the fact that Cave favoured the other side of the stage from where we were standing on the barrier down at the front. I put this down to that he held the mike in his right hand and therefore gave less problems with a trailing cable when he was over that side of the stage, but more about that later.

Got into the venue that was heaving and made our way down to the front, stage right, with other half able to lean against the barrier but with a stage light obscurring the view of the band's set up. But there in front of us were the unmistakable steps of a walkway that run across the whole front of the barrier, 750mm in width. I said NC would be using that walkway and did he! Only problem was that he favoured the other end. But venture up to our end he did occasionally.
A subdued start running through the bleak landscape that is Skeleton Tree. I dont think I clapped any of the first three numbers.
Then came Higg's Boson Blues and things were beginning to get more animated with NC patrolling the forward walkway leaning into the audience with only there support. His heart went Boom Boom quite a few times. This was followed by From Her to Eternity (which I don't like) and Tupelo by which time the mood had changed, anger? perceived violence? I don't know but with the roar of the Bad Seeds backing him up to a degree rarely seen or heard, yes the mood had changed.
But it was put onto temporary hold, Ship Song followed by Into My Arms quietened the atmosphere but was this NC just catching breath? Two more numbers from Skeleton Tree.......

And then there was Red Right Hand.

I was lucky to pull out my GoPro for this number and did my best until security saw me videoing the song and asked me to stop. I did not but moved the GoPro to the side of my face which half obscured the second half of the number, fortunately the audio was not affected and it captures well Cave's slight change to the words of the last verse which in essence calls Trump the devil, brilliant.
Link to that video, it is a big file btw.
Here are the words to the last verse and worth watching the video with the words in front of you as it reinforces just about everything.
You will see him in your nightmares,
you will meet him in your dreams'
You will see him on the tv'
he'll even thank you for your tweets.
See him in your head, on the TV screen,
Hey buddy, I'm warning you to turn it off.
He's a ghost, he's a god, he's a man, he's a guru
We're one microscopic cog in his catastrophic plan,
Designed and directed by his red right hand

Such a great song, and now everytime I see Trump and everytime he joins his thumb and first finger forming the O shape, I will see it as the red right hand and the devil incarnate.
The audience took off!
 Mercy Street followed but the rendition of Distant Sky with, I take it with the Danish soprano Else Torp singing, but recorded, on the big screen behind the band. This was something else, the sheer sadness of losing his son whilst recording the album coming all out in front of us. The set ended with Skeleton Tree and the huge demand for an encore.

The encore started quietly enough after a huge singalong by the audience for his 60th birthday two days erlier with Weeping Song, Cave conducting the audience in the rhythmically clapping that lies behind the song. Song over NC walked up to our end.

But then, a guy close to us sort of complained about his preference for the other end of the walkway. NC invited him up for a hug, the guy sort of struggled to get onto the walkway and spent something like thirty seconds adjusting his clothes that he had wrapped around his waist whilst still on his knees. All to close to NC groin and all to close to the lyrics of the song to follow. He gives the guy a big hug.
But then NC announces that although security would not advise it, but he had no objections to others coming up onto stage. And then mayhem as I would say close to a hundred invading the stage by going over the barriers. We were right by the easiest place to get over and it was a like being at a football match. With everybody up on stage he launched into...
Stagger Lee
Can there be a more violent or offensive song than Stagger Lee? Possibly but I doubt it. It was delivered with a certain relish. The stage was jumping, Cave was jumping into the main body of the audience, everybody was jumping!
2 vids from others of the scene...Stagger Lee YouTube 1 Stagger Lee YouTube2
Then peace.
NC asked the stage audience to sit down, they duly obliged, and into Push The Sky Away. And that was that. Everybody behaved well which is a surprise considering.

So what can I say on reflection?
I have never seen any performer so fully engaged with their audience, never seen or heard a performer lay bare his obvious grief of a year previous. Are there any current lyric polymaths of Cave's standing, I hardly doubt it?

Awesome just does not get close to describing what I just witnessed.

Postscript regarding amended lyrics to Red Right Hand.
Bournmouth:  "he'll even thank you for your tweets".
Manchester: "angry little tweets".
Nottingham:  “here comes the devil with an iphone in his motherfucking hand!”

Set List
Jesus Alone
Higgs Boson Blues
From Her to Eternity
Jubilee Street
The Ship Song
Into My Arms
Girl in Amber
I Need You
Red Right Hand
Mercy Seat
Distant Sky
Skeleton Tree
The Weeping Song
Stagger Lee
Push the Sky Away 

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

End of the Road Festival 2017 @ Larmer Tree Gardens

There were two parts to this years festival, to quote Jackson Browne 'Before the Deluge' and Sunday.

Before the Deluge.
Volunteered to steward this year, earlies, from 7 to 10:30 from Friday onwards but to 13:00 on Monday. Very enjoyable indeed and great to see the other side of the festival which you miss as a punter. The out of their heads late returners at 6:15 certainly was amusing but the small down side as we glamped again but it was located the furthest distance away from the Stewards Tent. Ok, I lost weight and was probably fitter for it.
The great thing however which I would have missed is that Thursday has become the new Friday. Two acts on Woods and with four in the Tipi Tent.
The Moonlandingz started of brightly but quickly disappeared into tedium which the lead singer did even less to help and Slowdive, ethereal in sound and a group that had gone under my radar.  Did not light my fire so it was back to the Tipi where it certainly was all happening.
Slowcoaches(mmm), The Surfing Magazines (worth investigating further), Brix & The Extricated (oh did enjoy these ex Fall guys, Link to video shot for two numbers) and finally the mad mad, Bo Ningen. If you could think rock could get any stranger, then these Japanese guys certainly delivered.

Friday dawned bright and clear and the sun shone for most of the day, the gravelled roadways becoming increasingly dusty. Completed my shift and then waited for the other half to turn up on the coach from London which was on time. For us Friday consisted of just three acts, All We Are, Jens Lekman and Lucinda Williams.
All We Are were outstanding, not what I was expecting from my only cd. But when the drummer, Richard O'Flynn, who stood up to his sparse kit, removed his tee shirt, the other half was totally sold. And this the day of our wedding anniversary! Great set that was very well received. Left the Big Top, wandered around, grabbed some food, and wandered over to the Piano Stage where guess what, All We Are were about to do a quick acoustic set. O'Flynn kept his shirt on, but four numbers and it was over. We walked away around the back of the stage and the group were there, Shook their hands, explianed to O'Flynn that the other half was disappointed that he did not reveal his torso again where he went and planted a big kiss on her.
Went back to our boutique tent and had an hours kip. more food then made our way over to The Garden Stage to get into position for Lucinda. Jens Lekman was just about to start and made our way down to the front. Knew nothing about him, He came on with an all female backing band who rocked. I liked his Swedish pop and repartee but he sealed it with covering Boyz II Men's song 'End Of The Road'. Video of Jens singing that song at EOTR.  Did not know of the piece at all, but Lekman had most of the audience singing along. It bought a smile to everybody's face.
The crowd disappeared at the end of the set so we got to the front right on the barrier. Now was I influentual in bringing Lucinda to EOTR? who knows? Did she and her manager/husband, who I both bumped into in LA at a gig some three years previous remember that I said she should do the festival again who knows. Did the lobbying between her UK agent and the festival organisers pay dividends, again who knows. But here she was on a now cold evening.
She did not look 100% well, and certainly she dressed for the weather even sporting a beanie. The voice had changed a lot since I last saw her at the Barbican a few weeks before our encounter in LA. But that band of hers, Buick 6 were the heaviest of the whole weekend, so tight, Consisting of drummer Butch Norton, guitarist Stuart Mathis and bassist David Sutton, these guys, as is usual with American bands, are light years better than everybody else. A guy next to us just did not get her lyrics, especially when she sung Righteously....'When you run your hand, All up and run it back down my leg, Get excited and bite my neck, Get me all worked up like that' This was a 64 year old woman singing as if she was a thirty year old. He left.  One song however stuck out like a jewel, she sung ' The Ghosts of Highway 20' solo, it was a breath of fresh air and such a contrast. Lucinda, not the best performance I have seen you perform, but thanks for coming to my favourite festival.
And then it was over, we trouped back out only to witness a huge phalanx half running through the food arena, and there near the front, crowd surfing, was Mac Demarco who had just finished his set on The Woods Stage. The crowd carried him aloft, and we followed,  back down into The Big Top, and down into the pit in front of Pond who were playing at the time. I heard next day, that security ejected him not realising who he was.
Saturday also dawned bright and clear. Did my shift, and then we both went into nearby Blandford Forum for supplies, including suntan lotion. Lunch was had outside but sheltering from the sun. Back to the festival not feeling 100%, a little sun stroke possibly. so back to the tent and had a long kip this time. Suitably refreshed made our way first to watch Sinkane, who was excellant although he did not do his version of William Onyeabor's 'Fantasic Man' which was briefly played before they walked on stage, then over to the Garden Stage, to see Nadine Shah. Again did not know that much of her work, but she was thoroughly engaging, such a good voice, but I thought she could be better served with a less rocky backing. She could be big.
Cant remember much until we were back in the Garden for Car Seat Headrest. The boys delivered and the crowd loved them. It was packed. A number of blow up Killer whales were being waved in the air, so too was an actual car seat headrest. It did get rather lively in the mosh pit so we made our way to the other side and got onto the barrier to the extreme right of the stage. Could not see much except what was going on in the audience. Great set, a couple of years touring and they will be a great group.
We wandered over to Woods where Father John Misty was about to start. We just did not get him, a good voice yes, was it all irony, did not feel like it to us and we left for the tent and sleep. Sounded ok from afar.

6am, a sunny glow on the eastern side of the tent, but putting my head out on the west side, and there were dark grey clouds with a little rain in the air. As the shift progressed so did the amount of water coming out of the skies. By 12pm it was heavy and it just did not stop till at least 11pm some nine hours later. We sought solace in the comedy stage which had been moved to the covered 'discoship'. It was an inspired move and three hours were well spent under cover with a big smile on our faces. A big-up to Robin Ince who closed the the comedy for this year. a thirty minute set was not enough. We then dived into the cinema tent and watched a couple of films.
And that was that. Did not fancy standing outside so back to the tent and sleep.
Next day and it was a long shift, the sun started to come out and I watched the festival slowly pack its bags, bring down the stages and food stalls and disappear.

So my awards this year are short.

National Treasure.
Big Jeff.
Finally spoke a couple of times with Big Jeff, who I had seen  at previous festivals. Found when stewarding the entrance into the Tipi end that his tent was the closest to that entrance. A gentleman, veteran of so many festivals and gigs, and who a couple of days later hit his 35rd birthday. May all your festivals be good ones Big Jeff!

Best Band
All We Are.

Second best Band
Car Seat Headrest

Who to watch out for.
The Surfing Magazines and Sinkane