Art, Film Review, life, lists, Live music review, Music, Uncategorized

My Cultural 2017

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After a pretty dull and devastating 2016 I became determined to make 2017 more interesting and engage myself with human life.  So far so good

I have been fortunate to meet a new and good friend this year via my yoga class; a woman, 12 years younger than me, just out of a 12 year same-sex relationship.  We’ve been great for each other and I’ve even found myself, recently, sitting in pubs on a Friday night with a group of men talking drunken nonsense and frankly enjoying it.  I’ve always been quite shy and introverted sitting in groups of other men, finding myself becoming detached and uninterested but now I think, what the hell, and join in, contributing my own slant and opinion on completely unimportant matters.

I’ve been on 2 dates; one in a new town to me; Hebden Bridge and the other in a beautiful old pub in Manchester called The Marble Arch Inn.  Nothing came of either but I’m feeling better for getting out there again.

At the start of 2017 I made a resolution to myself to visit the cinema at least once a month and read at least one book per month.  Progress is encouraging.  Not only have I made six visits to the cinema already this year I’ve been watching more films on the TV; here is my list to date:

Julieta (Cinema)

Whiplash (TV)

Deadpool (TV)

The Survivalist (TV)

La La Land (Cinema)

Venus In Fur (TV)

A Serious Man (TV)

T2 Trainspotting (Cinema)

Hail, Caesar (TV)

Fargo (TV)

Toni Erdmann (Cinema)

Raging Bull (TV)

Jackie (Cinema)

Moonlight (Cinema)

I’m on course with my books too, with 3 completed so far and a fourth on the go.  The first book read in 2017 (or rather finished after staring it in 2016) was Peter Ackroyd’s Rebellion, a book I was inspired to read after visiting The Houses Of Parliament in London last year.  After watching Paulo Almodovar’s excellent film Julieta, I then embarked on the series of short stories which inspired the film; Runaway by Alice Munro.  That was followed by John Hopper’s The Italians and now I’m reading The Lonely City by Olivia Laing.  The Italians satisfied my taste for all things Italian and Olivia Laing’s part autobiography, part biography helps me come to terms with the loneliness and feelings of being alone I have sporadically felt since I separated in 2014.

BBC Radio 6 Music and BBC Radio 4 are my constant companions; the former for great music the latter for excellent political commentary; ‘that talking shit‘, as my ex used to describe it.  6Music continues to be a great source for discovering new music and this year I saw the outrageous Cabbage in Liverpool and Josefin Ohrn and The Liberation at The Soup Kitchen, Manchester.  Honeyblood, Blue Oyster Cult and Radiohead already booked for this year and mustn’t forget Austra later this month.

When I’m at one of my yoga classes I often get asked what I’m up to and we talk about places visited, gigs attended, films watched.  People say I should write a blog about my ‘interesting’ lifestyle.  Funny, I don’t consider my lifestyle interesting.  Like social media, for every photograph we post of ourselves in smiling posture for the camera there are umpteen moments of boredom, ennui, trivia and outright dullness.  That’s pretty much how I would describe my life currently.  I envy those in relationships talking about their holidays and trips they’ve made with partners or friends. It makes me realise my life is not complete because I don’t have the intimate contact of a partner or lover.

I separated from my 2nd wife in April 2014 and last year discovered the guy she was having an affair with was my next door neighbour’s son.  It was a seriously devastating discovery which had a profound effect on my mental and physical health.  The next door neighbour thankfully moved house in January so that perpetual reminder is no longer in proximity and my pursuits in 2017 are have helped put that distraction behind me (again).  But what I have learned is that no relationship is better than a bad relationship.  I deeply regret ending my all too brief relationship with MFM in April 2015 but there is no mileage in believing half-hearted physical intimacy is a substitute for a mutually loving relationship; for me anyway.

Art, Live music review, Media, Music, Uncategorized

Cabbage – The Shimmer Band – April. Live at EBGBs, Liverpool. February 10th 2017

img_0728The first time I heard of Cabbage was during an interview on BBC Radio Five Live between Christmas and New Year.  They sounded young and bored and decried the lack of royalties they receive from Spotify.  As reward, no doubt for their appearance on the ‘serious’ talk radio station, one of their songs was played; Terrorist Sympathiser.  I liked it.  Sing-a-long lyrics sung by a bawdy lad drawing out his vowels with little regard for standing erect at a microphone stand. I thought of Johnny Rotten with his sleeves pulled over his clenched fists.

Forays into the music press revealed Cabbage as a bit of an upcoming band earning affection from music critics writing in broadsheet and music papers alike.  After looking them up and finding their scant website I discovered they were on tour and playing at both Manchester and Liverpool in the North West.  Manchester was sold out so I bought a dirt cheap ticket for the Liverpool gig at EBGBs.  The gig was last night.

EBGBs is the basement bar to it’s more grown up looking sibling Heebie Jeebies on Seel Street.  The cheerful door crew waived me through, I’d shaven my hair completely for the occasion, thinking the lack of grey stubble might help me blend in more with the kids. EBGBs is tiny with a bar in one section adjacent to the auditorium separated by a low arch carved out of the bowels of the pub and what once was, clearly, the cellar to the pub above.

After paying £4.50 for a bottle of Estrella Damm I ducked under the arch to see first support band April in full swing.  April are aptly named as the callowness of the band members matches the month which heralds the first days of Spring.  I imagine the band I played in at school looked a lot like April without the stresses and strains of being on a national tour.  They looked like a bunch of kids whose soap their mums had packed for them had long since worn out and they couldn’t work out how to recharge the batteries in their bum-fluff razors.  I was reminded of Ant & Decs attempt to re-create an episode of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads with their appallingly applied 5 o’clock shadows fresh from make-up, in an attempt to make them look older and wearier.  These kids had it in spades.  They could play and their next single, Time, had a bass line worthy of a sample or two.  The bass player was probably the kid who took A level music and scored a grade 5 piano; there’s always one.

April dismantled and removed their equipment, The Shimmer Band moved  in and assembled theirs on stage.  Sound and light guys walked back and forth with tablets fiddling with the son et lumiere.  After much testing of microphones the Shimmer Band shimmied back off stage and the house sounds came on for another 10 minutes.  It was apparent the band couldn’t play their set without the benefit of sunglasses and they re-emerged donning cheap looking shades which suggested they’d spent the 10 minute hiatus in search of a 24 hour petrol station where they could buy emergency sunglasses.  A swirling opening worthy of the finest Dervish musicians began with the flabby arms of the  lardy singer emerging from a gold velvet t-shirt prodding towards the ceiling.   A stomp of his foot heralded the band joining in with the backing tape as it became suddenly apparent the boy could sing.  The white plastic sunglasses clashed strikingly with his velveteen t-shirt but the voice inside caused the audience to stop and register what sounded like an English Ronnie James Dio.  No sword and sorcery was this as punk energy met middle eastern rhythms during a noisy set of of well constructed songs.  I think they’re from Nuneaton…or was that April.  My listening and viewing pleasure was curtailed when a lady about 5′ 8″ tall stood on the step I was on at the back of the hall, smack bang in front of me with her 2 friends and they began to chatter and laugh loudly.  It was rude it was ignorant and I told them; selfish idiots.

Cabbage followed The Simmer Band.  I read a few live reviews of the band from their 2016 tour and to be honest they weren’t that positive.  The band’s antics were largely thought of as contrived and set them aside as rebels without much of a cause.  Another delay caused by the sound system and they arrived onstage at 10.10pm just after the chattering lady who’s rear neck I had become rather too familiar with had fucked off.   Cabbage continued the trend of the bands playing in ascending age order with their teenage years seemingly just behind them.  T shirts were quickly dispensed with by the two main protagonists of the band who between them shared lead vocal and guitar duties.  It was difficult to tell most of the time as the stage at EBGBs is only about a foot higher than the hall floor and even from my slightly elevated position, I could only see them from the neck up.

The moshpit was in full swing and I enjoyed the gig vicariously sharing the mayhem going on down the front which felt sticky and sweaty.  After two songs the road crew emerged to implore the audience to take a step back  as their momentum had caused something of a stage invasion.  The band said they were ‘fucking skint’ and couldn’t afford to replace any damaged pedals;  “There’s plenty of fuckin’ shit to go and smash up out there, but don’t smash up Cabbage’s equipment” the singer implored.  “Who thought this would be a good idea?” he rhetorically asked before bigging up the audience.  They were great; swigging beer and crowd surfing on an audience who provided backing vocals when the singer found himself po-going in the third row.  He amused me when he announced the next song was about dead people and ‘why we like shagging them’; I couldn’t restrain a reflective chortle.

The crowd, mostly made up of students (I think I was the 2nd oldest there), got their moneys worth with a set of blistering energy and well crafted punk-pop songs.  Cabbage 2017 are kids on fire who, if they took any notice of their critics in 2016, have learned to have a fucking good time on stage and let their music do their talking for them. If they don’t implode they have a chance to replicate fellow Mancs, The Happy Mondays as stardom awaits.  After it all finished the band came out and mingled with the departing audience.  I shook one of the singer’s hands and he seemed genuinely pleased when I told him I enjoyed the performance and what a great gig it was.  There was enough humility which made him likeable which, along with his talent should see them through.

Well done cabbage, you fulfilled my 5 a day.

Live music review

UFO – The Seven Deadly Tour

UFO were the first band I ever went to see live as a callow long haired 15 year old rocker back in July 1978 at the Nottingham Playhouse theatre. The line up that day included 3 of the line up at tonight’s gig at 53 degrees in Preston, namely singer Phil Mogg, drummer Andy Parker and guitarist/keyboards Paul Raymond as well as other founder member Pete Way on bass and the mercurial Michael Schenker on lead guitar. Michael Schenker is long gone and tonight’s line up included American Vinnie Moore on lead guitar plus A N Other bassist for hire. I have no idea who was playing bass as he was never introduced but he was a bit younger that the other band members (about 40) but had the skinny black tea-shirted look of a bit of a rock n roll survivor and the sucked in cheek-bones to match – and bad tattoos.

This was my first time to 53 Degrees which is on the edge of the relatively new UCLAN the expansion of which has gone some way into reviving Preston from a decaying Northern town into a slightly more vibrant city and appeared to be a modern, purpose built venue with good eye-lines and decent facilities (bar). Ticket availability on the door suggested the 1,500 capacity venue wasn’t quite sold out but there was a decent sized crowd there to see the band now in their 44th year!

We got there in good time to buy a drink and find a spot to stand before the band came on to open with perennial classic Lights Out. The one thing that immediately struck me was the pace of the song seemed slower than the original album version and other recorded live versions. Perhaps it was no wonder, Phil Mogg (who I recently discovered I share a birthday with) is approaching 65 while Raymond is only two and a half years off his 70th birthday! Lights Out was immediately followed by (think I’ve got this right) Mother Mary and Let It Roll and you suddenly realised you were watching a class act with a brilliant back catalogue of top rock songs. The classics were followed by a couple of new songs from the new album Seven Deadly but bar a track from The Visitor album ‘Hell Driver’ the rest of the set was made up of songs from the classic ‘Schenker’ years all appearing on the magnificent Strangers In The Night love album.

The last time I saw UFO when they reunited with Schenker to tour in about 1995 when Schenker and Pete Way appeared to take centre stage and Mogg very much remained ‘stage rear’ and appeared at times to hold the microphone some distance from his mouth which I felt was to avoid us hearing his struggling vocal. But tonight he was in great form (for his age) definitely leading the band with a great rapport with American guitarist Vinnie More and loud and clear on the vocals. Whereas he’s gone from skinny jeaned chanteur in his older age he’s become camper and grumpy who wouldn’t look out of place doing stand-up in a local comedy club! But it was a nice touch when he remembered a local musician now departed. UFO have had great guitarists in the path so it’s impossible not to compare Moore with his predecessors, especially Schenker and his successor Paul ‘Tonka’ Chapman. Chapman gave UFO a sometimes darker feel and also a pop-rock feel especially on the brilliant Wild The Willing And The Innocent album following Schenker’s melodic and thrilling riffs and soloing. Moore appears less fluid that especially Schenker and his CV suggests he’s played at the highest level with, amongst others, Alice Cooper, but never really played in a band at the top table. Not that I know much about guitar playing but I thought he might be a bit of a classicist at heart rather than natural born rocker but there were shades of Schenker when he held his guitar behind his neck and continued with a ripping solo, which it was great to see the mystery bassist joining in with. Perhaps a bit too much reverb on his solo during Rock Bottom and he certainly looked more comfortable playing his own compositions rather than from the UFO back catalogue. Raymond, in spite of his highlights and un-changing hair style looked his age at times and Andy Parker kept a steady beat at the back but there was no reason to fault them musically as they kept faith to the classics.

A great gig, much appreciated by us ageing rockers which also appeared genuinely received by the band members. Long may UFO continue to knock out the classic songs, here is what I remember to be the set list (not necessarily in order):

Lights Out
Mother Mary
Let It Roll
Cherry
Only You Can Rock Me
Hell Driver
Love To Love
Too Hot To Handle
Rock Bottom
Fight Night
Burn Your House Down
Wonderland
Encore: Doctor Doctor and Shoot Shoot