Thursday, September 06, 2012

14 years ago today

An old friend of mine died 14 years ago, today.  It was 3 days before my 21st birthday.  I think he was 21 himself.  It was at a party in his flat.  He was drunk and he slipped on a polished floor and fell out a window.  He fell 3 floors to the pavement below.  He died in hospital, I think in the neurosurgical unit, but I'm not entirely sure.

He had been leaning out of the window to shout to some other friends in his bedroom.  They had locked the door to the room and he couldn't get in.  I had been at the party but I'd left a few hours earlier.  I think I was meant to work on the Sunday.

At about 6am I was phoned by a friend to tell me of the death.  I thought it was a sick joke. 

I wrote his parents a letter about what a good guy he was.  They read some of it out at the funeral.  I was asked to help carry the coffin.

Anyhow,  I'll be 35 in a few days and Eddie will have been dead for 14 years.  He was a good guy.  He got me a ticket to see the Ramones once.


Monday, July 16, 2012

normal service will resume in due course

I've not updated this blog much this year.  This is because I've been working in Dundee and nothing much interesting has happened.  I'll try and do a bit more when I get back to Glasgow next month.  I have got tickets for a few gigs already.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Philip Glass in concert at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

I don't listen to much classical music but I like the music of Philip Glass a lot.  I first heard his music on the soundtrack of an episode of Battlestar Galactica.  I was so impressed by the track that I identified it using google.  I then bought the 'solo piano' CD from Amazon.  I'm not sure how many times I've listened to it since then but I have listened to it a lot.

When I noticed that Glass was playing a series of concerts in Glasgow I knew that I had to see him play.  I was also very excited when I realised that he would play some of the pieces from 'solo piano' including 'mad rush' and parts of the 'metamorphosis' cycle.  I was able to get some decent seats with a good view of the stage.

The heat in Glasgow was extreme that day.  Thankfully the air conditioning at the concert hall made it very comfortable inside.  Glass looks good for 75.  He introduced and explained his music.  He played some tracks alone before leaving the stage as violinist Tim Fain played some solo violin pieces.  They then played together on a piece called Pendulum that is not yet available on CD.  I really enjoyed this piece. 

The crowd enjoyed the concert, hanging on every note.  Warm applause met the end of the main set and some further pieces were played.  Glass played another solo piano piece and Fain played some music from Eistein on the beach.

This was a great show and I wish it had lasted longer.  I am not a classical music enthusiast but this is probably one of the best concerts I've ever seen.  I'm glad I was there.

Guns 'n' Roses - Live at the SECC Glasgow

I have to admit that I've never been a Guns 'n' Roses fan.  I was about 11 when they first became popular with 'Appetite for Destruction' and I just didn't  like them.  Initially it was because I thought they were too poppy and later because I thought Axl was a twat.  As I grew older I could appreciate some of their songs.  They do have a few good songs but Axl continued to be a twat.

One of my friends wanted to see them.  He had a spare ticket so he asked me to go with him.  I agreed with some trepidation.  At least I would be able to tick another big name off the list of bands to see.  I was also interested in seeing Thin Lizzy (or at least a band that uses the name and songs of Thin Lizzy).

It was a hot day in Glasgow on Friday.  My friend and I went to the SECC at around 6ish to get parked.  A sign on the doors warned that Thin Lizzy would be on at GNR would take the stage at 9:30PM and play for a very long time.  We went for a meal before returning to see Thin Lizzy.  Phil Lynott is irreplaceable and probably embodied Thin Lizzy for most people.  He was missed tonight.  Ricky Warwick made a decent attempt but it really felt like a tribute band. 

Axl and band finally arrived on stage at 1035PM.  By that time the crowd was drunk and tired.  I saw a few very young children who were clearly out well past their bedtimes.  People drifted off at an accelerating rate throughout the 3 hour show. 

Guns 'n' Roses had a strange habit of spoiling their best songs with loud fireworks.  It's a bit stupid to let off a firework that is twice as loud as the band during your most famous song.  It sort of spoils the impact of the music.  It was really annoying. 

Axl had several costume changes and grand pianos were moved around the stage.  A number of models (?strippers) danced at the side of the stage.  Axl disappeared for a bit and the other guys played their own songs.  It was all very boring.

After 33 songs it finished at 1:30AM.  People were running out of the venue by then.  Many fans would have been unable to stay till the end because of a reliance on public transport.  I was just glad to get to my bed.  This could have been a great 80 minute show.  It was an overblown 3 hours.

Monday, May 07, 2012

New Order live at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh

I've been neglecting this blog recently.  I've been busy with work and I've just not felt like writing much.  I've also not been to many gigs recently but New Order are worth writing about.

I was born in 1977 so I remember New Order being on the radio and the TV a lot when I was a kid.  I started to listen to Joy Division when I was 11 or 12 and the crossover between these two great bands made them both seem even more special.  

This was the first time that I've managed to see New Order.  I was meant to be working this weekend so I nearly didn't see them but a fortuitous swap at work went my way so I got a ticket.  The Glasgow show sold out in hours so I had to travel through to Edinburgh.  This did give me a chance to check out the Usher Hall.

The support band played. I stood and waited for New Order.

They started with a bit of Elegia then they went into Crystal. Unfortunately the vocals were mixed down low so we couldn't hear much of what Barney was singing. The band sounded good but they were quiet.  In quick succession we got Regret, Ceremony and Love Vigilantes.  Later on we heard Bizzare Love Triangle, True Faith,The Perfect Kiss and Blue Monday with Temptation finishing the main set. An online look at the Glasgow set lets me know that 1963 was played the night before which is upsetting as it's one of my favourite tracks.

Overall they played well but I wish they'd been a bit louder. The light show was brilliant.  The crowd was middle-aged to a certain extent. Some very big men jumped up and down like teenagers.

They came back and played Transmission and Love will tear us apart for and encore.  Great end to the show.  I went home happy.  I didn't miss Peter Hook.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

76 views of my ATP review in 24 hours

Bloody hell - 76 reviews of my ATP review in less than 24 hours.  Cool.

I should post some of my photos.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My weekend at the ATP festival or why Scott Spillane is the nicest guy ever

I’ve been wanting to go to an ATP music festival for a long time.  The festival grew out of the Bowlie Weekender organised by Belle & Sebastian at the Camber Sands holiday camp and was rebooted as the All Tomorrow’s Parties (ATP) festival curated in its first year by Mogwai.  Cool bands would ask more cool bands to play.  The line-up is often a wet dream for music nerds like myself.

Sadly, circumstances have prevented me attending before now.  This has been due to limited finance and, limited holiday entitlement.  Thankfully, times have changed, I’ve paid off some debts and I get more freedom with my holidays that I did in the past.  When I saw that ATP was to be curated by Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel in December I picked up tickets as soon as I could.  

It wasn’t straightforward from there.  The festival had to be rescheduled for undisclosed reasons shortly before the initial date in December.  This change of dates was a two edged sword.  March is a better time for travel than December but two of my friends could not make the new date.  This triggered some frantic searching for other people to use the tickets.  I didn’t really want to sell the tickets to strangers and the market value of the tickets dropped.  Fortunately two friends stepped into the breach bringing their 2 year old son with them.

Despite these logistical difficulties I was still very excited about the event.  I counted about 20 bands on the bill that I wanted to see.  Below is a list of the bands I managed to see.

The Elephant 6 holiday surprise band
Jeff Mangum (twice)
Mike Watt and George Hurley playing the songs of the Minutemen
Thurston Moore
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
The Fall
Robin Hitchcock
A hawk and a hacksaw
The Boredoms (twice)
Yann Tierson
The Magnetic Fields
The Raincoats
Olivia Tremor Control
The American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME)
The Apples in Stereo
The Magic Band
The Sun-Ra Arkestra
Scratch Acid
Secret Surprise closing set featuring Sun-Ra arkestra, Olivia Tremor Control, The Elephant 6 holiday Surprise band, the Boredoms and friends.

Overall, this represents a very good weekend.  I saw a lot of bands I never thought I would see, I made some new friends and I had a lot of fun.  I will now labour this point in detail.

The Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Band opened the festival on the Friday afternoon.  The Holiday Surprise band is basically a pick-up/jam band composed of available members of Elephant 6 bands.  They play covers and songs from their individual bands.  At times they had more than 10 people on stage.  They play an impressive array of instruments including the saw and some form of horn that fits around a large man.  They played songs by bands like the Gerbils and Elf Power during a set which culminated in a cover of a Sun-Ra track called ‘enlightenment’.  They got the crowd singing along with this track before walking into the crowd while playing their instruments.  They then left the concert hall and walked about the pavilion at Butlins as the song continued.  This was a great thing to see.

After this set I bought some t-shirts and ate some food.  I then got myself into position to see the first Jeff Mangum set of the weekend.  For many reasons I never thought that I would see Jeff Mangum play live.  He has kept a very low profile for the best part of 15 years and it hasn’t really been possible to imagine that he would return to live work.  I have been aware of Neutral Milk Hotel since my friends were blown away by them at a Glasgow show supporting Sparklehorse in the late ‘90s.  I had a couple of Olivia Tremor Control records but I only picked up ‘in the aeroplane over the sea’ when it was reissued by Domino in 2005.  Since then it has been one of my favourite records.  I love it.

Seeing these songs played live was something special.  For the most part Mangum played acoustic guitar unaccompanied but at key moments he was joined by other Julian Koster on the saw or Scott Spillane blowing a horn.  Like many of the bands on this bill the sound is capable of raising goosebumps.  I was singing along to songs like Holland, 1945, The King of Carrot Flowers and two-headed boy.  My singing made me happy although I’m sure others would disagree.

After the end of the Jeff Mangum set I watched part of the Raincoats set.  I saw the Raincoats at the Phoenix festival in 1994 although I’ve only picked up their records in the past couple of years.  I managed to see 5 songs including their classic version of ‘lola’.  I then ran through to see the Fall who delivered an aggressive set of classic Mark E Smith.  This was the 3rd time I’ve seen the Fall and they’ve been good every time. 

After the Fall I watched the solo set by Thurston Moore despite drunken interjections from my friends who don’t like Sonic Youth as much as I do.  The set drew mainly from the 1995 Psychic Hearts album.  At present, this is the closest I’ll get to seeing Sonic Youth for a year or two.

The next set that I saw was probably the musical highlight of my weekend.  I saw Mike Watt and George Hurley play a set of Minutemen songs.  For the uninitiated, the Minutemen were an early ‘80s SST punk band whose career was cut short by the death of singer/guitarist D. Boon in a car crash.  The Minutemen were more expansive than most punk bands.  Musically they were self taught and they played with an almost psychic degree of precision.  They sounded like nothing that came before them.  Their songs had intelligent political lyrics and off-beat humour.  D. Boon and Mike Watt seemed to have their own private language.  Watt and Hurley will play Minutemen songs as a duo but they would never use another guitarist on these songs.

I started to listen the Minutemen on boxing day 1991 when I bought their post-mersh volume 3 singles compliation CD from Tower Records in Glasgow.  As soon as I heard ‘if regan played disco’ that they were nearly perfect.  I susbsequently bought up their entire back catalogue and spent several years trying to play guitar like D Boon.  I failed. 

Walking into a room and hearing the music of the minutemen is an amazing experience.   Seeing Mike Watt play bass is an amazing experience.  These songs are fast, complicated and tight.  Watt would play all the bass parts and sing the songs.  At points where we expected a D Boon guitar break he would pause and look at the other side of the stage.  It was really poignant.  At a guess I would say that more than 30 songs were played with few pauses of breath.  Many of my favourites were there but I could have watched them for 2 hours.  At the end of the set Watt thanked the crowd and suggested that we should start out own bands.  I’m too old for that sort of thing but the experience was spiritual.  I hope I get to see this again.

After that I watched the end of the Blues Explosion set before heading home to catch some sleep before day 2.

We started the second day watching A Hawk and A Hacksaw.  They were playing a soundtrack to some old Eastern European film.  The music was very relaxing, perfect for a hangover.  After that I went over to the main hall to catch the first Boredoms set of the weekend.  I was blown away by the Boredoms when I saw them in Glasgow a few years back and the experience was similar here.  The main dude, Eye, stood in a circle of 5 drummers, conducting them while 15 guitarists added further colour to the sound.  The Boredoms had also bought their strange percurive guitar machine which is always fun.  I urge anyone who likes interesting music to see the Boredoms if they can.

Later on that evening I watched Low who delivered the goods as they usually do.  They were followed by Yann Tierson who was a new name to me.  His electronic music made me think of Blade Runner and Air.  I popped out to see a couple of songs by Earth but I was unimpressed so I returned to see the end of the Yann Tierson set.

Scratch Acid were another band I thought I would never see.  I have a certain fondness for the Jesus Lizard, the band that Scratch Acid evolved into.  Scratch Acid are a good, aggressive, noise rock band and David Yow is a great frontman but they lack the razor-like guitar of the Jesus Lizard.  It was great seeing them but the Jesus Lizard are probably better.

On the Sunday morning I started the day by watching ACME – the American Contemporary Music Ensemble.  They are an instrumental group who played a few chilled out pieces.  They were helped on one song by Julian Koster of Elephant 6 fame.

After that we went for a bit of a wander and we met Scott Spillane, a member of both Neutral Milk Hotel and the Gerbils.  He is a really nice bloke.  I always feel like I’m bothering someone famous if I go up and start talking to them but Spillane was very genial.  We talked a bit about the dire state of American politics, health care in the US and the UK, what he thought various Neutral Milk Hotel Songs were about (he doesn’t know) and the possibility of new Jeff Mangum material.  He told me that Jeff has written some new songs that he might record and that there are still plenty of old songs yet to be recorded.  He thinks that Jeff sometimes doesn’t want to record because that means a song is ‘finished’ but he thinks we’ll hear something at some point.  Really nice bloke.
After that we went to the cinema to see 20 minutes of footage from a Slint documentary by director Lance Bangs.  The finished film should be out by the end of the year.  I’m really looking forward to it.  In the footage we learn that the Jesus Lizard song ‘Mouthbreather’ is based on a comment Steve Albini made about Britt from Slint after he trashed Albini’s house – ‘don’t get me wrong, he’s a nice guy, I like him just fine but he’s a mouthbreather.’ 

After this I saw the Boredoms again, followed by the Magic Band and Olivia Tremor Control.  Olivia Tremor Control were interesting to see but their set was hampered by slightly ropey sound.  I then watched the Sun Ra Arkestra before we all had to queue up to see the second Jeff Mangum set of the weekend.   The songs were slightly different from Friday with a cover of ‘true love will find you in the end’ by Daniel Johnston and the little known Neutral Milk Hotel song ‘little birds’ from the recent box set.  Very, very good.

Sebadoh closed the main festival with an energetic set.  I like Sebadoh so it was good to see them.  However the highlight of the evening was probably a secret show that wasn’t advertised after Sebadoh finished.   A friendly member of the OTC roadcrew told us that Sun Ra, the Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Band, the Boredoms and the Olivia Tremor Control would be having a jam in the Reds venue at the end of the night.  We ran down after Sebadoh finished and we were not disappointed.  At least 30 musicians filled the stage to play the Sun Ra song ‘enlightenment’ bringing a musical symmetry to the event.  Beautiful.

ATP is probably the best festival ever.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

2012 and all that

It's a new year and I don't have a hangover which is good.  I've been busy with work and I've had a bad viral infection since just before Christmas so I've not had much time or energy to update this blog.  I have done one or two interesting things that I may write about in due course but I didn't really manage to do the regular update thing over the last month or so.  I decided just to spend new year with  my family because I couldn't be bothered with Glasgow at the height of winter alcohol fuelled madness.

The past year has been busy.  I've been working in a clinical job for most of the year after spending two and a half years doing medical research.  I've been running a ward, seeing referrals and working in clinics.  I've learnt a lot and hopefully I've helped a couple of patients.  Hopefully all of this will make me a better doctor.  I've spent 11 months living in the hospital because I work 80 miles away from where I live.  The room in the hospital is a dump but it's what I need to do just now.  I should rotate back to a hospital closer to home later this year.

In a way it's good to be away from home because I have a massive leak in the roof of my flat.  One of the problems with being a flat owner in Scotland is that you need to deal with a factor who is responsible for building maintenance.  Unfortunately the factor for my  building is useless.  These arseholes are not legally regulated so they can get away with doing absolutely fuck all while charging victims lots of money.  Bastards.

So it's a new year and new stuff will happen.  Everyone will get older and the world will keep turning.  Enjoy it folks!