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.

Food And Drink, Music, travel

Grillstock…Meat/Music/Mayhem

I’d never heard of Grillstock before I read an article in the June edition of Lonely Planet magazine advertising it as one of the ‘must attend’ events during the month. Having never knowingly attended a ‘must attend’ event I entered it onto our radar and C duly bought tickets for us to attend the Manchester event on Saturday June 8th. The weather had been set fair all week and this weekend was no exception so it was lightly garbed that we set off on a walk to St Annes-On-The-Sea station to catch the train to Manchester Oxford Road via Preston. The train was running about 20 minutes late but we arrived in a very sunny Manchester at around 1.45pm before walking in the direction of Albert Square for the BBQ event of the year. C looked great in her new Italian silk frock from T K Maxx, I was in a Ralph Lauren shirt, Armani 3/4 length shorts and Keen sandals (for those who care about such things!).

We could smell Grillstock before we could see it as the aroma of barbecued meat wafted breezily towards us to herald the pleasures which awaited us. C had bought E tickets for the event which worked fairly efficiently but within a minute of queuing we were in amongst what was clearly a well attended local event.

We both experienced an immediate sensation of information overload as our visual, hearing and smelling senses were bombarded by a smoregasbord of sound, smells and sights with people milling around, drinking booze, chomping on meat and the aroma of succulent meats tantalizing our senses. After a walk round we both queued up at a tent run by a group of friendly South Africans and we definitely chose the right line to join as they kept us tempted by feeding us pieces of just cooked rib and chicken as well as engaging us in friendly chat about what they were doing and how they were cooking. Just as we reached to head of the queue, I gave C my order for pulled pork and barbecued corn while I went off to a little wine outlet selling New Zealand winf from Marlborough and bought us a glass each (£4 per glass). We sat on the steps under the statue of one of Manchester’s founding fathers as I tucked into my pulled pork, corn and slaw. It was a reminder to me how superior overseas coleslaw is the tasteless creamed vegetable stuff we tolerate when you taste a slaw made up of subtle flavours and the tang of red wine vinegar. The pulled pork was amazing; tender and full of the flavours it had been marinated in and C’s ribs were tender and sweet. Great food, great wine and blazing sunshine with the soundtrack of sweet soul music playing live in the background; what could be better?

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After the wine and food it was off to the beer tent for a pint of
Brooklyn lager and a glass of Chardonnay for C as we lay back against the plinth if the statue and drank in the atmosphere. After another drink we decided to go for a bit of a wander around Manchester City centre; the city was abuzz with people many in attendance for the Rod Stewart and Bon Jovi concerts also taking place in the city tonight and the ParkLife event at Heaton Park just outside the centre. We had a pee in House of Fraser and a mosey around Harvey Nics and Selfridges – C tried on some blue lipstick much to our amusement and another drink at The Mitre. We then had a walk down to Canal Street in Manchester’s Gay Village which always has a great vibe about it and we had a couple more drinks, sitting outside, manoeuvering ourselves to catch the last glimpses of the sun peering between the buildings.

We walked back to Albert Square, stopping on the way at a Tesco Express to purchase a bottle of Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc which I stuffed into my deepest pocket before flashing our ‘pass out’ stamps to the stewards and returning to Grillstock. We found a position under our statue again, the barbeques and stalls were still going strong and the music had changed to reggae. C found some plastic glasses and we slowly drank our bottle of sav blanc. There is nothing quite like being with the person you love, totally relaxed, drinking good wine with music, food and happy people all around. Perhaps it could only have been bettered had we been on a beach instead!? The next question was what food to try next as we wandered round the stalls some tempting us with their cooking smells, others with the site of their food. I chose a spicy sausage sandwich which I smothered in the spiciest chilli sauce I could which probably wasn’t a great idea and C had one herself. We had another drink each before fatigue and satiation got the better of us and with the last band still playing we made our way back to Piccadilly station. We still have time for another glass of Peroni before catching the train back to St Annes via Preston at the end of a quite fantastic day.

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Food And Drink

Booze

OK, is this too much to drink on a Sunday with a work day tomorrow? This is how it went. Big football match on television. Tottenham Hotspur Vs Manchester City. Spurs win 3-1; drink two 330ml bottles of San Miguel and one 660ml bottle of Peroni. C comes homevandvthe sun comes out so mix 2 cocktails – Harvey Wallbangers – a large measure of Swedish Absolut vodka, ice, fresh orange juice with a topping of Galliano. It’s still sunny outside so I make myself a second Harvey Wallbanger while C is still enjoying her first. Then for the record I make a single shot of Galliano which I enjoy in the sun. Then I have a cup of tea

C is making paella so we re-open the bottle of white South African wine we used last night in the lamb dish. There’s about 550ml left which we share. Then we enjoy the paella and open a bottle of Orvietto.

Work tomorrow but why compromise on the things we enjoy because we may feel less hungover at work on a Monday morning?

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travel

Berlin: Day 1

C informed me some months ago she was planning on taking me abroad somewhere as part of my impending 50th birthday celebrations but the window of opportunity of when and where we could go was limited due to it having to coincide wither her son’s school trip to Normandy and my son being able to be packed off to my b rother’s and parents’ for a few days (both 13 years old). C mentioned she’s booked the flights a few weeks ago but wanted tit to. Be a surprise but being unable to contain myself I teased it out of her and discovered we were heading for the capital city of Germany; Berlin. At first I was only mildly disappointed that we weren’t heading for my favourite country; Italy but as my research of Berlin increased I became gradually more and more excited at the prospect of visiting what appeared from the guide books, Internet sites and word of mouth on Facebook quite a happening and vibrant city. And so, as I made my lists, packed all my clothes in a rolled up sausage, dropped my son off in Nottingham following a 284 mile round trip and 6.30am return to my home town we set off to Liverpool John Lennon Airport in my Fiat 500C for a 12.50pm flight in the knowledge that Berlin was being affected by a Siberian weather front and we may face snow and temperatures as low as -11 degrees C.

I had overcome my laziness for this trip by being more utterly prepared than I ever had been for a trip previously. I had bought 2 pocket guide books on Berlin, one by the ubiquitous Lonely Planet and another I picked up in Manchester Waterstones by Wallpaper*, published by Phaidon in a plain brown cover, simply called Berlin.

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I highly recommend the Wallpaper* books; they had an array of them set out on a table in Waterstones and they looked quite a site with there psychedelic range of coloured covers like a block of tiles but they make recommendations of restaurants, sites and hotels slightly off the beaten tourist track but with a more artful theme and for the restaurant on out 1st night, did us proud. As well as that, C has a friend on Facebook called The Social Traveller who is currently in Berlin and describes how he fell in love with the city (C’s brother went on a charity tandem bike ride with him through Thailand dressed in sailor suits!).

I like looking at other peoples’s travel experiences to pick ideas from to hopefully enhance my own travelling experience and I certainly pinch some suggestions from the very brilliant web presence of Sara Rosso who has blogs here there and everywhere. It was her idea I nicked to have an espresso at the airport, post security with a snack so I chose a slice of carrot cake to go with my espresso from the Ritazza coffee stall. My previous experience of Ritazza coffee was a cappuccino from Preston train station which was pretty grim and this attempt was equally as poor. The espresso was Luke warm at best and the cake had seen better days…quite a few days from the first bite. Still, here’s a glimpse of the coffee and cake which I chased with a glass of tap water provided gratis free.

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One great thing about about having hand luggage only is that you don’t have to check bags in and queue up for ages although we were hit with quite a queue for security having to remove shoes, coats, the lot; but after a coffee the timing was pretty good because we were called to the flight practically straight away and I was on board reading my copy of Q Magazine and we were off!

C treated us to an over-priced on flight Easyjet snack and a small can of beer/wine and as I perused my magazine and saw photos people had sent in of themselves in worldwide locations reading the Q Mag, I wondered against which Berlin landmark I should have my photo taken to submit and hopefully get published in the magazine!

The flight was largely comfortable and in eventful apart from some young German who clearly didn’t like taking instructions from the female cabin crew and made a bit of an arse of himself to the point where after we landed the Captain came out and gave him a severe bollocking and rightly so!

Passage through Schonefelde Airport was easy enough and pre-preparation and notes made in the back of my Wallpaper* Berlin guide cribbed from our hotel’s website made it easy to find the train station which was the 2nd leg of our journey into Berlin. We bought a couple of 48 hour travel passes (note UK transport operators, 48 hour, not 3 day) and made the short walk to the S Bhan station where the train was already standing. With no bags to wait for we were quickly on the RB14 (or was it the RE7?) heading for the Zoologischer Gardens. For the first and only time throughout our trip, our tickets were checked by a guard on the train which we had necessarily validated before we got on board and after making good progress through the outskirts of Berlin we then found ourselves winding our way through the centre as landmarks made familiar by the guide books suddenly stood alongside out passing train as a foretaste of what was to come. Having arrived at the Zoologischer Garden station, we alighted for the next leg of the trip which was a no. 100 bus to Lützoplatz. The bendy-bus arrived after a few minutes but during the wait we were already applying scarves, hats and gloves as we were hit for the first time by the cold Berlin air before we hopped on. I haven’t really been on a bus in the UK for quite a while but not wishing to stereotype German efficiency, as soon as the bus passed a stop, the next one was electronically displayed so we knew exactly when to stand up and ring the bell. Right as planned, we found ourselves in Lützoplatz knowing our hotel was only a few steps away at Lützowufer 15. At this point I made my first tourist faux-pas trying to read a map while standing in a cycle lane and I was nearly knocked over by a cyclist walking his dog alongside…a narrow escape! C spotted the hotel and we walked to The 5 star Grand Hotel Esplanade with its huge and equally grand lobby. We were attended by a friendly English Speaking receptionist but as I was feeling a little tired and travel weary, in spite of her charm I just wanted to get the key and get into our room to chill out for a while. We were given the key card for room 505 which on opening was quite fresh until I noticed a window was open and after closing it the room soon warmed up. The room was spacious with a huge bed and modern bathroom plus ample cupboard and drawer space. I had a bath and checked in on Facebook.

We didn’t have long to relax though because C had booked us in for a tour of the Reichstag at 7.30pm so after a quick change we were soon hopping into one of the several taxis parked in the drop-off point and on our way. By the time we arrived at Germany’s seat of power it was already dark and to enter the building we had to pass a security check point that thankfully wasn’t as excessive as Liverpool airport and we picked up our free Audi guides to begin the tour. The tour begins as you enter an area covered by the huge glass dome with a circular photo-montage of the history of the Reichstag in words (English as well as German) and pictures. Without wishing to ‘mention the war’ this was my first encounter with Berlin and its National Socialist past, something I have an interest in as a period of history I studied at school and continue to read books about. The words were honest and appropriately critical of the 12 grizzly years when Nazi-ism held way in Germany with a particularly ugly photo of a meeting of SA members in their ghastly moustaches and uniforms. The audio piece was already over my ear and to reach the summit of the dome you have to walk up a spiral concourse which runs along the edge of the structure at which point the audio magically begins to start…in English. The audio talks about many of the buildings in view of the Reichsatg as well as its own architecture but unfortunately, as it was dark we were unable to see many of the landmarks it referred to. However, it was great to appreciate the juxtaposition of both the old architecture of the Reichstag against the modern glass dome, designed as much else of the building, by an Englishman …which I thought was ironic. As you walk up the ramp much of the inside of Reichstag reveals itself to you, particularly the main chamber of government, the German equivalent of our House of Commons but with cinema style purple chairs in receding crescents.

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At the summit you are literally in the dome as more of the functionality of the architecture is described through the audio including recycling the hot air and a huge sail which revolved with the sun to provide shade in the chamber. All good stuff but the chamber seemed to lack the authority of the House Of Commons and looked a bit dreary with its uniform seats and bland walls. Nevertheless, I was pleased to see the flag of the EU flying high alongside the German national flag as it is a reminder there are many good social aspects borne out of the EU.

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And so we left the Reichstag with a view to finding something to eat. I’d found details of a restaurant called Lokal recommended in my Wallpaper* guide which had only received 5 reviews on Trip Advisor all scoring 5 out of 5. On arrival in Berlin I decided to pay a fee of £5 per day to receive unlimited 3G Internet access and the Trip Advisor app really came in useful here as you find the restaurant and it points you in the right direction and tells you how far you have left to travel. In spite of the cold we decided to walk to Lokal and I think it was something like a mile away on Linienststraße (love using the German ß for double ‘s’. I was wondering if there were reasons for this symbol such as an avoidance of using SS and its sinister connotations?). Our walk took us along the banks of the River Spree and across a bridge and was pleasant if rather cold but most of the snow appeared to have been very efficiently ploughed from the centre to the edges of the pavements so there was no difficulty in walking at all. There are a few other boutiques and bars in this area recommended in ‘Berlin’ and as we walked along Linienstraße there seemed some fine looking shops which had we had more time we would liked to have discovered during daylight opening hours. I even saw a shop selling Moleskine notebooks and reminded myself I wished to buy one (thanks again Msadventuresinitaly.com) and as we passed other attractive looking bars and restaurants we eventually arrived at Lokal.

In ‘Berlin’ Lokal is described as being at the forefront of Berlin’s farm-to-table movement serving local fare available at market which they publicise daily on their blog http://www.lokal-berlin.blogspot.com with updated menus. We found Lokal on the street corner and opened a white door into an ‘L’ shaped room full of mainly young people sitting in rows at tables tucking into their meals with the din of conversation adding to what appeared a vibrant and confident atmosphere. We were hailed by an English speaker behind the bar and asked for a table for two. He directed a waitress over to us who again spoke excellent English and was a little doubtful at first whether she could offer is a table but luckily another couple were 45 minutes late so we were offered the only available table which we duly accepted, it being exactly the one photographed in ‘Berlin’ with a rustic wooden table and chairs, the one C sat in covered in what appeared to be an animal pelt (sorry vegetarians). The restaurant is run by Berliner Maren Thimm and American chef and Marem’s partner Gary Hoopengardner who I assume we had the pleasure of meeting on mout arrival. The waitress provided us with German menus but translated for us the fare being seasonal meats and vegetables with game and offal to the fore. C chose steckrübensuppe karottengrünpesto which translates into turnip and carrot soup with green pesto while I had kalbsbries and leber bacon, spitzkohl aioli, topinamber karottengrünpesto which was sweetbreads with liver and sauces which was superbly cooked and tasted amazing. We also enjoyed a bottle of Reisling! I’m not going to continue to show off by using the German versions of our main course although you can read them on my Trip Advisor review here: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g187323-d2721174-r156089422-Lokal-Berlin.html

However, C chose white fish which we thinks was whiting, it was beautifully cooked and sweet white fish, I ordered Perlhuhn which is…guinea fowl. The presentation ofmthismwas quite amazing because the chef had taken the skin off, crisped it up and manipulated it into an egg shell shape with the top cut off and packed it with the guinea fowl meat with what I assumed was carrot purée in it to resemble a yoke against the white of the meat…superb. The dishes were served with seasonal veg and it appeared beet and fennel were to the fore. The meal was excellent as was the Lokal which if I could own my own restaurant would resemble it. A vibrant informal atmosphere serving Michael star quality local produce, no wonder the place was full of Germans enjoying local German food!

After Lokal we walked back in the direction of the city centre, took a few wrong turns and a u-bahn for a couple of stops and walked into a German bar called Alt-Berliner Kneipe – Treffpunkt Berlin (I’m getting the name from my Facebook timeline check-in). I liked this place because as soon as you walked in there was a line of German men sat at the bar with their beers in bulbous glasses with empty shot glasses adjacent to them, it felt like walking into an authentic German environment where these guys come for their social maybe once or twice a week or maybe every night to while their evenings away. The place was still servicing food and there were a few Brits and Canadians in too. We had a couple of blonde beers, very refreshing, and people watched for a while noting how some people look exactly like some of the people we see who regularly frequent pubs back home. After a couple of beers we walked back down a couple of streets before happening across a bus stop with a familiar number 100 on it and lo and behold a bus turned up within seconds and we were on it headed back to Lützoplatz and our hotel.

Exhausted, I had been awake since 5.30am, we hit the sack to discover the double bed had 2 single duvets (or continental quilts as my mum calls them) so assumed this was a German thing and went fast asleep.

Our first day in Berlin and what a day. Great food, great wine, architecture and history, a couple of beers in a German bar and a walk along the safe and snow lined streets. Ich bin ein Berliner?