01 Dec

Graham Coxon at the Barbican

Bronwyn and myself went to the Barbican, London, on Saturday to watch Graham Coxon perform.

We both enjoyed the event. Bronwyn was excited to meet friends she had only spoken to online. Well, she’s been excited for the whole of the last week, but it’s all related!

London is big.

The weather was ok for the Friday and Saturday while we were wandering around taking in sights and sounds. We visited the National Gallery, and were handed a sheet saying a candle-lit baroque concert would be happening later, but it clashed with our previous plans.

Arrived at the Barbican. Bronwyn didn’t see any of her friends. We said we’d meet up around the bar, so that’s where we went, and sat opposite it.

We were there about five minutes when I spotted a huge amazing monstrosity of a drum-machine, Felix’s Machines. You have to see the videos of that thing!

As I stood there, Simon from Resigned (also the admin of the Graham Coxon forum) noticed me and waved to get my attention – ah, that’s where they are! We joined a group of Coxon fans.

We had two hours, so we gently infused ourselves thanks to the bar, with some opting for chips and complaining that you shouldn’t need to buy fish&chips just to get some chips (as a vegetarian, I agree wholeheartedly with this, and not just through a hatred of waste).

The show was to start at 8, so we headed down and got our seats.

Simon had thoughtfully gotten us row G (haha – G for Graham. very good. ahem…), which had a walk-space directly in front of us, meaning we could stretch our legs and walk to the toilets without stepping on people’s heads.

Bronwyn decided a new piece of policy was to be created henceforth: when purchasing tickets, people should be measured for height, and really tall people should be confined to the back of the auditorium.

The band came out and the place became loud with cheers.

The sound engineers didn’t do the best job in the world. The band played brilliantly apart from a few minor hiccups, but some of the sound problems were distracting.

When Graham spoke, it was difficult to hear. I was afraid that his singing would be the same, but when he sings, he crouches close to the microphone, and when he talks, it’s like he’s unaware the mic is there.

Some of the songs were technical, involving a lot of finger-picking. An example is Sorrow’s Army. Graham started out on that one, then Robyn Hitchcock joined in a few bars later. Robyn’s guitar, though, was louder, so it drowned out Graham’s playing. This was pointed out independently to me by Simon later on, so it wasn’t just my ears playing tricks.

There was a feedback problem later on at the beginning of one tune, which was quickly and cheerfully quelled and restarted.

One of the three female singers was very loud at points. I didn’t like that – it was like she was stealing the spotlight.

On the far left of the stage, Max Eastley was playing the Arc. At most points in the concert I couldn’t hear anything of what he was doing. Only in quiet songs with only one or two other instruments.

When the songs got loud, they got very loud. Graham was unintelligible at some points as he tried to sing above the sound of the other instruments.

Apart from these gripes (and they’re minor – Bronwyn doesn’t agree with any of the above points), I enjoyed the concert.

I think the only tune I didn’t like was the ending of Caspian Sea, where the band appeared to get stuck in a rut, repeating the same bar over and over and over.

I liked how the music was not perfectly in-tune or perfectly rhythmic, but was just a little off here and there. This gave the music a more natural and “used” feel, like an old rickety piano which is played when the pianist is surrounded by friends – you feel like he’s playing personally to you and it’s not a surgical procedure.

The concert was basically Graham’s latest album, The Spinning Top, with a few extra old songs played at the end.

One of the things I like about this album is the finger-picking. Graham has recently been trying to increase his finger-picking skills, inspired by his love of old blues and folk. His interest in Nick Drake really shines through in the singing, and Bert Jansch (of Pentangle) in the playing.

In a lot of the songs, there is not just one finger-picking “voice”, but two. This could be seen obviously at the concert where Graham was playing one finger-picking riff and Robyn was playing another, yet they meshed nicely.

Overall, I enjoyed this concert and if he does it again with another album, I’m sure we’ll be going over again.

28 Nov

resigned – the band

We were sent an invite to come see Resigned play (interesting name – does it mean “gave up”, or “was signed again”? I’ll ask them tomorrow) at the Water Rats Theatre.

Bronwyn commented, on seeing the dance-floor, that it was “very like Fibbers, except for the smell”. 😉 Fibbers (Parnell st) has a bit of a reputation – especially among those of us that have been frequenting the place more than 15 years.

I visited the toilet at one point there and can confirm that it out-fibbers’s fibbers. It was rank.

Having said that, the people that were there were eclectic. There were punks, industrials, grungers, rockers – hard to put a label on the place when everyone is so different!

Anyway – back to the band – I enjoyed it. I was expecting some hard punk, as “resigned” is a very serious name, but the music was actually quite interesting and not as harsh as I expected. There were interesting rhythms (listen to their track “Hangover”) that make you feel like you need to dance or at least admire it, and at no point did I feel they were copying anyone.

Their last track was dedicated to “someone in the audience”, and they played “Advert” by Blur. It was aimed at Bronwyn and a few other Coxon fans.

We spoke to Simon, Gary and John. The playing was perfect – no sign of effort from anyone; everything was “to a tee”. For example, while playing some tunes, I noticed Simon fiddling around with his effect pedals /at the same time/ as playing his part. Very cool. Not a beat dropped – I liked it.

John said that there was a bad gig a few weeks back where there wasn’t enough practice beforehand and it all fell apart, but it didn’t show tonight at all. Solid playing, and I’d love to see them play again.

We were handed a CD of their album which they refused to accept payment for, for reasons which agree almost with my own philosophy.

My belief is that people should be paid for what they do. Royalties are a bonus, but should not be considered as “earned”.

As an author of a book, this might fly in the face of reason, but the thing is – I wrote my book because I wanted to, and I enjoyed the act of its creation. Anything afterwards that I get paid is a bonus, but I don’t feel I’ve earned it (Yes, I’m very grateful for it (thank you!!), but I don’t feel I should demand people pay me if they accidently find my words online).

I suggested this to Simon, in the case that musicians should be paid for the gigs they play, and everything else is a bonus.

This appears to be the same model that large bands such as Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead are following recently – basically, it’s all free, but there’s really nothing that compares to seeing it live.

We haven’t gotten to listen to the CD yet, as this laptop does not have a CD drive, but I’m sure Bronwyn will have it on repeat for the next few weeks.

Well done, Resigned, on providing a very good night out, and we’ll talk to you tomorrow before Graham’s gig!

16 Feb

moving and speaking and stuff, oh my!

Lots of news.

Jareth, my three-year-old mute genius, who can draw houses and write whole alphabets in lower case or upper case, and can also write “daddy”, “mammy”, “jareth” and “boann” from memory (as well as the word “color”, which we will forgive him for (he’s too young to know how wrong Merkin spelling is)) – has said his first word.

Yesterday, he said the word “Two”. And it wasn’t a fluke occurance. When asked what each of a group of numbers was, he would “um-hmm” for every one of them except 2, which he would consistently speak.

Yesterday as well, we got word that the sale for our new house has gone through, so we will be out of our present one within a few weeks. It’s a massive house compared to all the previous places I’ve lived – two storeys with a converted attic, making four bedrooms, and something like five toilets (one for each work day). It’s in a perfect location as well – well off any busy road, so it will be safe to let Jareth out playing in the summer.

we’re in number 16 or 17 or something
two and a half floors of goodness

I bought Bronwyn a laptop, as she kept complaining when I brought mine to work, as she likes to sit in her armchair and read her Grahom Coxon and knitting forums. The machine I got her is twice as fast, and has more than twice the RAM and HD space as mine, and all she uses it for is her poxy forums! I want it! I could use the power!

Her machine has Vista on it as well. I’ll leave it on it to teach her a lesson… when the viruses start infecting her machine, I want her to appreciate it when I install Linux on it 🙂

After setting up her machine, I must admit, Vista is pretty polished-looking. Although – is that all?? After five years of development, you’d expect a bit more than just some glossy window decorations. After Bronwyn had gloated about how Vista looked, compared with my machine, I installed a Beryl theme which emulated the same decorations, but in a free and secure operating system.

Vista? Hah! We shall see… *steeples fingers*