Friday, July 29, 2005

Black mood 

I know I will incur great vengeance and furious anger for what I am about to reveal - I headed home from last night's Black Seeds gig after three songs.

I guess the thing that gets me about Kiwi gigs in London - and the reason I usually tend to avoid them - is the wild-eyed jingoism that goes with them. I'm not saying the Black Seeds weren't any good (because all indications are that they are, very - and hell, what would I know from three songs?), but the revved-up patriotism in the crowd seemed to indicate that Great-Uncle Derek could have got up there with a out-of-tune ukelele and the place would have erupted. I don't know, it's hard to explain how I feel without sounding curmudgeonly and bitter.

Luckily, Nick Speakers seemed to understand my funk better than I did: "I think I know what you mean - a horrible sort of misplaced pride in the fact that the place you're from is small and shitty? (Much like the Welsh.) National pride is overrated, unless you can admit your country is actually a bit of a dosshole. That's how I feel about the UK - it's ace, but in many ways really crap."

And coming from Norfolk, he should know...

Anyway, put it down to the stifling heat, the fact I'm suffering absolutely snarling PMT, or a severe case of cultural cringe set off by the fact the Kiwi-packed Neighbourhood last night could have been any K Rd club (triggering alarm bells in my head that screamed, "You can't go back!"), but the Seeds just weren't rocking on my dime.

"I'm not feeling this," I remarked/whinged to my neighbour. "I've never really been terribly into that NZ dub sound, but tonight it's making the reality of the Great Move Backwards hit home... and I'm just not ready to deal with that right now."

"Oh no!" she chirped cheerily. "Well, you'll be hearing a lot more of this sort of stuff when you get back to NZ!"

Thanks. But hey, I'm not writing the Black Seeds off yet - I'll give them another go at the 17th August gig, and hope for a cooler night and a better time of the month. First things first though: I have to get my head around the fact I'm departing this fantastic city - and fast. (And hope I don't get lynched by indignant Kiwis in the meantime...)

The fact of the matter is I really don't want to leave London, but I've a new career to think of, which isn't going to happen here without a serious paycut, so it's time to put the head down, stop resenting practical necessity, lie back and not think of England. Unless anyone here wants to give me my dream job. You've got two months - all offers to the usual address.

> INTERNAL JUKEBOX: A Letter From Home, Ulrich Schnauss [MP3]
[Please, please, please buy Ulrich's sublime A Strangely Isolated Place - so, so very good...]

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Suspect packages 

Awaiting me on my arrival to work this morning, drenched up to the knee thanks to my too-long jeans having acted as a sponge and soaking up puddle water (though carefully avoiding the effluent pouring from the ceiling from the leaking sewage pipes upstairs - it's not normally like this at the nation's leading 'quality' tabloid, honest):

• a package from Amazon containing Peter Shapiro's Turn The Beat Around: The Secret History Of Disco, Geoff Dyer's But Beautiful and Rickey Vincent's Funk: The Music, The People And the Rhythm Of The One
• a package from Piccadilly Records containing Disco Unusual 2 and the UBs' Gotta Get Back To You
• a package from Nottingham containing two gold kazoos *
• a package from Devon containing a washboard zydeco tie *
• a package from Dundee containing a cowbell... *

Doh! I'm supposed to be selling off everything I own in preparation for the Great Move Backwards, not accumulating more. Actually last night, with D Day just two months away (and having decided to move out of Telford Towers a month before that in favour of sleeping rough in a revenue-saving exercise), I packed up the first of my belongings - my 40+ cookbooks and assorted rubbish - into two of the many cardboard shipping crates taking up space in our hallway. I'm not ashamed to say I shed a secret wee tear. :(

* In preparation for the grand debut of the Southsidesoul All-Stars at the next SSS, Friday 12 August at the Whitehorse - New Telepathics (live), Dr D-Lorean (A1 People/Haywire), Ajax (Funk Inc), Jamie Robertson (Music People), Jen Ferguson (SSS) and of course the mighty All-Stars' live percussion revue! Be there!!

> INTERNAL JUKEBOX: Turn The Beat Around, Vicki Sue Robinson [MP3]
[Yep, it's another MP3... don't you just love 'em? And well done on tearing the roof off the sucker called downloading - some 150 of you got busy on yesterday's Top Ten. Remember to buy the real thing now though, won't you? xxx]

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Top Ten Tuesday: You know you got soul 

Woo hoo - we have MP3 action! I was going to do a best-of list to celebrate, but I'm loving the Northern Soul monster that is Ace Spectrum's Don't Send Nobody Else so much right now I thought I'd cobble together a vaguely Northern Soul-flavoured Top 10 instead. I don't need to tell you, but obviously this is for sampling purposes only - for god's sake, if you like it, get out there and buy it. That's the disclaimer bit. Start clicking. [BTW: the MP3 links are a bit hit and miss, but they should work eventually - saves paying for web hosting, anyway...]

1 Don't Send Nobody Else Ace Spectrum
I had a 'moment' to this at the weekend, when we walked into the Rare Feast Spiegeltent at Lovebox and Dr Bob Jones dropped this. I would have immediately fallen to my knees at the sheer glory of it all, but sensibly I instead rushed up to pester him to find out what this rapturous tune was. And this was the answer.

2 The Only Way Is Up Otis Clay
Shameless fromage, unashamedly yoinked straight off the pages of the excellent Headphone Sex (cheers James). Like Yazz, but better.

3 Uptight Stevie Wonder
Ah jeez, this tune is guaranteed to bring on a spell of terrible 60s-girl-group-go-go-dancing, embarrassing for all concerned, least of all me. Just because I feel the funk doesn't mean I should try to interpret it in motion... I'm like a metronome crossed with a windmill on speed.

4 Tainted Love Gloria Jones
The original, the best.

5 The Love I Lost Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
Featuring the one and only, much-sampled Teddy Pendergrass (The More I Get The More I Want, You Can't Hide From Yourself), the ultimate heart-wrenching soul tearjerker.

6 Wrap It Up Sam & Dave
Yay, I grew up with these fellas (cheers Mrs F). There a great interview with Sam on the Beeb's brilliant documentary on the history of soul, Soul Deep - and man, those boys could dance. Unlike me.

7 You Can't Hide The Real You High Society
Lord knows how I stumbled across this corker, which can be found on the wicked compilation Rare Funk Uncovered, although I suspect it's probably through BBC 6Music's Funk Show, which I persist in listening to, even though it means sitting though loathsome Scouser Craig Charles' nonsensical chatter...

8 Brothers & Sisters (Get Together) Kim Weston
... Another Funk Show find.

9 Too Late Williams & Watson
Erm, as is this one too. Good to see I'm thinking for myself.

10 There's A Ghost In My House R Dean Taylor
It wouldn't be a Northern Soul-ish list without including this, one of the most famous NS tracks around, covered rather nicely a few years down the track by Mark E Smith and co.

Also recommended: Sack O Woe, The Mar-Keys; Nothing But A Heartache, The Flirtations; Rain, Dorothy Morrison; Heartbeat, Gloria Jones; How Can You Mistreat The One You Love?, Katie Love; Spellbound, Tamiko Jones; I'll Always Love My Mama, The Intruders; Soul Finger, Copy Kat, The Bar-Kays; Move On Up, Curtis Mayfield; My Baby's Got ESP, Four Below Zero...

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Feet don't fail me now 

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At 3pm today, when I splashed out on a bottle of ice-chilled champers during our half-hour break from getting sunburnt yelling at punters at the Lovebox Festival - yes, that was myself and Ms G in those sexy yellow T-shirts shouting orders at you like, "Can you get your tickets out for the lads, please girls?" (see, I'm quite the comedian) - I truly believed it to be the best £20 I'd ever spent.

Until I spent four and a bit hours at the Forum, listening to George Clinton and his band of nappy-wearing, sheepskin-donning, zoot suit-sporting funksters deliver the most incredible performance I've ever witnessed.

Two rows from the front, close enough to touch the great man, sweating like a pig and shaking my ass harder than lame old Groove Armada could even dream about, I was in a state of near-orgasm. I didn't leave my spot for the duration, not to go to the bar, not to go to the loo - to be honest, I temporarily forgot such bodily requirements existed.

I'd write more, but my dancing feet are throbbing almost audibly, and my head is still a-whirl - and I still can't forgive myself for dropping my digital camera a fortnight ago. The shots I could have got...

It feels like every gig I've ever been to up to this point has been a mere dress rehearsal for the real thing. This is what music is. Mind-blowing.

> INTERNAL JUKEBOX: Flashlight, Parliament

PS: Head here for a friend's comments on the bomb nonsense...

Friday, July 22, 2005

Things to do in London before you're dead - No 2 

Get decadent

Use the fact some idiots failed to detonate their so-called bombs and brought London transport to a standstill as a spurious excuse to grab a friend and spend an obscene amount of money on fine dining and expensive champagne. Then pretend you don't know all the transport links are back up and running, and check into a luxury hotel under the names Mr and Mrs Johnson. Then drink more champagne.

Patriot games? And how - it's the spirit of the Blitz(ed), I tell thee!

11.01am: Criminy! Thank the lord for Mr J and Regent's Park hotels! Otherwise I might very probably have been passing through Stockwell station. (We're not afraid? Piss off - we're fucking terrified!)

> INTERNAL JUKEBOX: Decadence, Pet Shop Boys

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

If it's not love, then it's the bomb that will bring us together 

It's happening again? Maybe. Reports of smoke on trains, man claims to have seen a bag explode, nail bomb at Warren Street, gunshots heard on platforms, Shepherd's Bush, Oval and Warren Street stations closed down, Victoria, Northern and Hammersmith & City lines shut down.. That'll make my journey home to Brixton fun then.

2.08pm: Ooh! The incident on the 26 bus happened right outside me and the Donkey's infamous Hackney Road abode. We would have had a bird's eye view. Or more likely no windows. If it really did blow up. Ah, it's all smoke and mirrors today...

5.11pm: The conclusion? What a bunch of incompetent dobbers. (Thankfully.) All a bit of an anti-climax really. (Thankfully.)

> INTERNAL JUKEBOX: Goin' To Hell, The Brian Jonestown Massacre

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Things to do in London before you're dead* - No 1 

Dine at Les Trois Garçons

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI walked past Les Trois Garçons many a time during my Shoreditch years, and vowed I would eat within its much-adorned walls at least once in my life. Foolishly, I relegated it to the category of 'anniversary restaurant', and since all of my relationships, like clockwork, hit the skids at 22 months, I'd never got there.

... Until yesterday, when I thought 'fuck it!', and enlisted the lovely Katey H to accompany me for a night of girlie gossip, fabulous food and wine, stuffed tigers, giraffes, bulldogs, and an awful lot of handbags (click the 'inside' link here to see what I mean).

More than a few critics have, in the past, grumbled about the quality of the food not matching the incredible decor, but Ms H and I were hard-pressed to find any fault with our meal at all. The D'Arenberg Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne was simply the best wine I've ever tasted (bar possibly El Bulli's Augustus Chardonnay), and my goat's cheese starter was so creamy as to make a rival cow cry, while Ms H's pork belly practically melted in the mouth. Our sea bass mains were superb, and as for the cheese board and summer fruit with black pepper ice cream dessert... Oops, I've just dribbled on my desk.

OK, so cheap night (Mon-Wed) didn't exactly turn out to be as budget-friendly as expected, weighing in at a hefty £112, but that's still not completely horrifying for three courses plus wine at a top London restaurant. And it's much better value than simply tipping it down your throat/up your nose down the local of a weekend.

Next stop, Gordon Ramsay's . Or more probably, Chickpizz...

* Or as good as, in New Zealand

> INTERNAL JUKEBOX: Call Me Mr Telephone, Answering Service

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Top Ten Tuesday: Audioscrobbling 

I only got turned on to Audioscrobbler a couple of weeks ago, but what a wonderful thing it is. Of course, one should never judge a book by its cover, but one should certainly judge a man by his iTunes playlist. From now on, I'm not getting romantically involved with anyone until I've assessed their Audioscrobbler charts and found them to be up to scratch. The only drawback is that many people use portable MP3 players a lot more than their iTunes, so you tend to get a slightly skewed playlist. Mine, for instance, is obviously slanted towards the early-morning end of the spectrum - I tend to leave the Plastikman for my walk to work... Anyway, here's 10 from the recently-played files - apparently.

1 Faithful Common
I got given a stack of Be samplers at the Rise festival on Saturday - but by dawn Sunday, I'd given them all away because I'm naturally such an altruistic person... or more likely, because this album is so good everyone should own it.

2 Are You Being Real? Bar-Kays
Four of the original Bar-Kays died along with Otis Redding in that 1967 plane crash, but the band kept on keeping on, even being termed the "founding fathers of funk" by some enthusiastic journo. This is from their later disco years, and though some might call it cheesy, I just call it great.

3 Multiply Jamie Lidell
Obviously I'm still thrashing Mr L. Not literally though, although the chance would be a fine thing indeed...

4 Ain't Goin' to Goa Alabama 3
Our love affair with the Brixton hillbillies continues apace. (FYI: Rob and Jake are DJing at the launch party for Republic Of Loose's new single at Cargo on Thursday - see also the A Certain Ratio gig on 11th August.)

5 Contact Off Funk Larry 'T-Byrd' Gordon
Ah wow, what a dude! I've only just discovered Larry's bio - seems the dude's also a doctor. Is there a doctor in the house? Well yes. Erm, anyway, this is a wicked jangly guitar-based funk track which has been on high rotate for months now round our way. Medically sound.

6 John I'm Only Dancing David Bowie
I had an argument to near-screaming point with someone over this a year ago, who swore it was Bowie's worst, most commercial track. But they were talking out of their arse. It rocks. Duh.

7 Moskow Diskow Telex
The best electro track ever written?

8 Zap Zap Cut Copy
It's taken me a while to get into this much-vaunted album, mainly because I couldn't quite get over the fact he steals from so many people so obviously (eg. try telling this track apart from any common-or-garden Daft Punk tune). But then it's the Sample Age innit, so I don't know what I was worrying about. I prefer the Joy Division-thieving Bright Neon Payphone though.

9 Trash New York Dolls
See here.

10 Keep On Truckin' Eddie Kendricks
There's just something about high-voiced singers - Eddie, Stevie, Smokey, Bill, Curtis...

PS: Thank god for iPods and iTunes - I very reluctantly offloaded my turntables last night in prep for the big move backwards. How I howled. :(

Monday, July 18, 2005

48-hour party person 

Rock on London! I've just had the best 48 hours of my life and I didn't have to leave town - or even my own southern manor - to do it.

Saturday saw Reilly and myself head over to the event of a thousand names, Unity/Rise/Respect/London United Festival, in Camberwell, via the Josephine Avenue Urban Art Fair. It was great - hundreds of artists and their wares on a quiet Brixton back street. I fell in love with Neil Burton, both the artist and his work, which is urban, stencil-like paintings on found objects, like street signs, rusted metal and even corrugated cardboard. Apparently he'll do portraits to order too - I quite fancy myself as a work of art (so what's new?).

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usNext, an absolute corker of a day was had in Burgess Park. We went along with few expectations, being that it was a council-run thing, merely hoping to see Billy Bragg and Madness for free. Except they weren't playing. Instead, we salsed (badly) at the Cuban tent, jumped about at the Urban Stage (<--), chilled to the Soul Jazz soundsystem, cheered the Palestinian youth group on another stage, got teary-eyed as Ken Livingston made another stunning speech, and waited in vain for Horace Andy, finally making a dash for it when that bird from M People came on and started squawking.

I was so overcome by the multi-culturalness of our fair city that I started spouting slushy gibberish like, "I really feel like a Londoner today" and "I've just realised everyone in the world dances to the same beat" to anyone who would listen. (Which was no one, obviously, with nonsense like that. Jeez.) So many great photo opportunities, not least with the prop of the day, a headless/armless/legless cardboard person on a stick (a stick figure?). If only I hadn't dropped my camera on the floor of the Whitehorse last weekend...

We flagged the jam-packed buses in favour of hoofing it back to Brixton by foot, with the intention of heading towards the fabulous good-vibes cocktail bar Mango Landing... But then Mr Atwell suggested we pop into the Prince Albert - where a closing-for-refurbishment Alabama 3 party was in full swing. I clambered up on top of a table and hoedowned like a hillbilly to Dave the Hat's band's country funk. It doesn't get better than this.

... Or so we thought, because our next move was to Jamm, where Mani (!) was behind the decks. Ooh it were super. I asked him how he'd enjoyed Glastonbury and told him Primal Scream's chaotic set had absolutely topped off the festival for me. "Wicked," he replied. "I can't remember a fucking thing." Top work. (He probably won't remember much of Saturday night either, thanks to Reilly's intervention...)

By this time the sun was up, so my new pal (not Mani, although that would have been quite a score) and I decided to flag after-party action in favour of walking home in the sunshine. Then we woke up and headed to Brockwell Park to do it all over again...

London, you thrill me.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Yes I know it's 2am 

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usIf there's one thing you do this weekend, make it going to the cinema to see Dig!. What a film. I hooted, hollered and generally made an ass of myself as I accompanied Courtney Taylor and Anton Newcombe (left, <--) through seven years of madness. Now, Reilly and I can't stop humming the Dandys' Hells Bells cover and feel like going out, getting loaded and having a good time. (Although we consoled ourselves with two Pina Coladas at Mango Landing instead.) And I'd marry Anton Newcombe tomorrow, despite his startling resemblance to a recent ex. What a genius. Accept no compromises - and why the fuck should you have to? (Plus I'm sure Joel Gion (right, <--) has been at every after-party I've been to for the past six months... I want his shades collection.)

If there are two things you do, make the second going to the Lambeth Country Fair. Farm animals, falconry, all manner of rural madness - in Brockwell Park! With reggae and ting. Get loaded in the park - without Shaun Ryder. See you there.

> INTERNAL JUKEBOX: Are You Being Real?, The Bar-Kays

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I love you, London 

[With thanks to Chuck for so blatantly filching his format... xxx]

Smacked Face: Whoa London, damn you're HOT today. You've got me all steamed up, girl, given me a hot flush.

London: Don't start with me, Smackie!

SF: I mean it, London. The sunshine really brings out the best in you - you're looking fine this morning.

L: So why won't you stay then?

SF: What are you talking about?

L: I know what you're up to, Smacked Face. I've heard you're planning to ditch me.

SF: Well, I can't lie, London. It's true. But it's not what you think.

L: Don't go, Smackie! You can't leave me now, not after what we've just been through. And god knows I've treated you well these past five years, I've shown you a good time...

SF: Hell yes, London! You're the most exciting girl I know. There's never a dull moment with you.

L: So why are you always running off to other women and threatening to leave? Don't think I never heard about Barcelona, San Francisco... Jeez, even that miserable cow Glasgow!

SF: Ah, they were passing flirtations. OK, so that hippy chick San Fran captured my heart, but it was only a little fling. So what if good-time girl Barcelona is vibrant and beautiful, and that dirty old whore Glasgow puts out? It's you I really love, London (even if you are a bit old and unattractive, and, well - I can't deny it - a little on the smelly side sometimes). You're the one for me.

L: So why are you going back to your ex then - that boring bitch Auckland?

SF: Ah man, it's complicated. Auckland's just got a lot of what I need right now - between you and me, I'm just using her for her career prospects. But I don't love her. Hell, half the time I don't even like her. OK, so she can put on a good spread and she looks mighty fine - when she's not raining tears, that is - but she can be dull, snooty, pariochial...

L: So you'll come back to me, Smackie?

SF: You know it, London. Absence only makes the heart grow fonder, and when I'm lying reluctantly in the arms of my small-town lover, you know I'll be thinking of you. I want to remember you the way you are today - happy, alive, brimming with hope and shining like a beacon in the sunlight... But hell, we've still got two months left. Let's make the most of the time we have together, you fabulous old floozie. I want to suck the very marrow out of you. Hold tight...

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Top Ten Tuesday: Life may sometimes be sad but it's always beautiful 

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usSo today's Top Ten title is a lyric from Jamie Lidell's What's The Use?, possibly one of the finest soul tracks we've heard in years. It's the song Stevie Wonder must be kicking himself he didn't write. And the album, Multiply, is surely the album Marvin or Mayfield would have got around to releasing had their lives not been tragically cut short. Indeed, Mr Lidell is surely some miraculous product of an unnatural union between Prince and Otis Redding. And just look at him. Look at him! (<--) Lord have mercy. But er, I digress, as per bloody usual. More raving about Mr Lidell below. And 10 poignant, melancholically beautiful or just plain old feel-good tunes that have been rocking the Smacked Face hi-fi over the weekend.

1 Everybody's Got To Live Love
"Everybody's gotta live. And everybody's gonna die. Everybody try to have a good time. I think you know the reason why..."

2 Summer Madness Kool & The Gang
Yes, you know this sample. And isn't it so much better without Will 'Fresh Prince' Smith rapping over the top? (Although we do still like his version, reminding us, as it does, of being 16 again - them were good days.)

3 Game For Fools Jamie Lidell
Blue-eyed soul has never been bettered. This man's voice causes women's pants to melt like old celluloid and disintegrate into a pile of ashes on the floor. If you can't get any love action with this on the stereo, then you're a damn fool and should give up now. Buy this album. Now. Please. You will not regret it.

4 Untitled 1 (aka Vaka) Sigur Ros
Too, too beautiful. A hymn for those who find their god in places other than church.

5 Places & Spaces Donald Byrd
The kind of tune - and indeed album - that just instantly makes life better. Aural Prozac for the beat(en) generation.

6 Open Your Eyes Bobby Caldwell
As Twitch at Optimo once said, it ain't easy being cheesy. But you can probably get away with this one, if only because Common sampled it on The Light. No, scratch that - it's a killer track all by itself. (And speaking of killer albums, Common's Be. Wah! So good.)

7 The Mule The Magic Numbers
Yep, still thrashing this album round ours. How can you not? It's summer on a platter.

8 Fly Nick Drake
The first time I heard Nick Drake I went out and immediately bought/downloaded all of his albums... then got so sick of him I couldn't bear to listen to him for a whole year. But I'm better now. And this song is just lovely.

9 Summertime George Benson
I wanted to put Deodato's Whistlebump in here, but realised I'd already Top Tenned that one a few weeks back... So instead it's Mr Benson's version of Summertime, a far-too-often-recorded song, the ubiquity of which has led me to loathe it in most cases - but not this time. George's velvet vocals finally do it justice. Sublime.

10 Angela (Theme from Taxi) Bob James
Take a load off. The most laid-back track ever written. Possibly.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Sigur Ros 

Or 'Smacked Face goes to Somerset House and has a religious experience'

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usRarely have I been moved to tears in the first 30 seconds of a performance, but Iceland's finest export, Sigur Ros, achieved this last night.

I've been to a few of the Somerset House gigs over the years, and sometimes the venue works, sometimes it doesn't - even the magnificent Royksopp didn't quite manage to pull it off a couple of years back - but it could have been tailor-made for Sigur Ros.

I always finding myself misting up whenever I visit a cathedral, despite not being religious in the slightest, and last night, Sigur Ros's exquisitely strange music and sheer force of presence transformed the already-beautiful Somerset House into the grandest of open-air churches.

We arrived during support act Amina, a string quartet-cum-percussionist foursome who also perform with the band. With Oriental chords, avant-garde rhythms and instruments ranging from a saw to bells to a Casiotone keyboard, they're definitely an acquired taste, and we took some time getting used to them.The fact the girls were dressed like they were off to Sunday school probably didn't help, and no matter how much you try, there's just no way to make playing the violin - or the saw, for that matter - look sexy (I know, I tried for 12 years - with the violin, that is, my saw experimentation only lasted a day with Dad's rusty job in the garage). But they won us over by the end, and thus there were huge cheers when the four later returned to the stage to accompany Sigur Ros.

As for Sigur Ros... God, what can I say? It is truly majestic, magical, other-worldly music these four men make. Singer Jonsi is blessed with one of the most remarkable voices in modern music, a bizarre, unique falsetto singing a mix of Icelandic and a language only he can understand (Hopelandish) - but to compare it to the voice of a strange, dark angel wouldn't be overstepping the mark.

On record, their music is ambient, hymn-like, but quietly powerful; live, it is raw, thrilling stuff. When it surges, it takes your heart and mind soaring with it, and when they rock out, they rock as hard as any traditional power-chords guitar band. More so, even, as their unconventional methods of playing provide even more visual impact - Jonsi's frenzied sawing on his guitar with a cello bow (and at one stage actually holding his guitar to his mouth and singing through it), bassist Georg beating his strings with a drumstick, drummer Orri bashing his skins surely to breaking point...

The crowd paid due reverence too, a hushed awe palpable between songs, absolute quiet during, everyone looking as though they had found God, faces raised heavenwards, mouths agape, heads nodding with eyes closed in silent worship.

Yet again my cheeks were moist. I really have to stop being such a crybaby at gigs. Please, please go and see this band.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Shock, awe 

What an exquisite end to a crazy week - Sigur Ros at Somerset House on a long, hot summer's evening (cheers to James @ Headphone Sex for the ticket). I'll write more later, but five hours sleep over the weekend means my bed is not just calling but positively screaming in a very insistent manner. In the meantime, go here to check out Sigur Ros's extraordinarily beautiful music.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Woke up this morning 

... to the sound of sirens. Am I just nervous and noticing them more, or are there actually more out there? There's nothing on the news reports though - so it's just another day at the office. The streets are strangely empty, most people taking advantage of the excuse to take a day off.

Down in the tube stations, everyone is looking ever-so-slightly smug, secretly congratulating themselves on having extended a middle finger to the terrorists by getting back on the Underground. As the trains (last week noisy, dirty and common-place; today, defiant symbols of the Dunkirk spirit) pull into the platforms, some people salute the drivers.

At work, everyone has a tale to tell, and people rush to connect themselves to the disaster, however tenuous the link: "If I hadn't stopped to buy coffee, I would have been at King's Cross, you know..." Those who actually made it to work yesterday share their 'horror' stories of trying to get home. A friend emails to tell how, rather than face a 90-minute walk, he went out and bought a bike. We all agree Tony Blair is a slimy toad, and Ken Livingston the new Churchill.

At the pub last night (where half of London seemed to be), everyone was shell-shocked, dazed, trying to make sense of a surreal day - but hugely relieved that "it hadn't been that bad". It seems 9/11 has raised the bar on what people expect from a terrorist attack. Five years ago, 37 dead (and rising) would have shocked and appalled. Now, it almost comes as a relief. Others take the approach of "Well, it's happened - that's our terrorist attack over and done with, we can all move on now." Although perhaps that's what 'they' want us to think...

But in the end, life goes on, as it always has. The good Gid Pigeonhold summed it up last night like this (and I hope he won't mind me quoting him):

"The sun is shining, the garage boys next door have just cranked up the tunes, I can hear kids playing, and all in all it's well on the way to turning into a beautiful evening... My point? That, despite the shockwaves sent out through London by the attacks, despite the utter lack of comprehension that anyone can do such a thing, and despite the fact people have been hurt, killed, bereaved, individual lives changed forever, for 99.9999% of people in the "West" (the target), NOTHING HAS CHANGED. Good or bad, the world continues to be exactly how it was yesterday. So I say again: a truly pointless act."


PS: Life does go on - so tonight we'll be throwing a very special Southsidesoul at the White Lion in Streatham. Amazing live action from Alabama 3's Be Atwell, Scott Laing, Oli Buckett and Jake 'Blues' McGoo, DJ styles from the legendary Leon Kryptonite of Bomba fame, plus I'll be digging out the most feel-good tracks I own - Good Vibrations and Love's Everybody's Got To Live are top of the list right now... See you there. xxx

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Under attack 

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us12.38pm: Just got home, after three-and-a-half hours spent going from one side of London to the other, trying to get to work, then just trying to get home. I would describe it as a nightmare journey - except I wasn't stepping over dead bodies, like others will have had to this awful morning.

What a maelstrom of emotions. When, on arrival at Brixton Station this morning, I first heard the Underground was down, it was vague annoyance, and curiosity as to what had gone on.

On learning there had been an explosion at Liverpool Street, and that four were suspected to be injured, it was an embarrassing feeling of disappointment, as a trained ambulance-chaser, that I hadn't been where the action was.

Then, on going from London Bridge to Bank to London Bridge to Greenwich to London Bridge, trying to get to Canary Wharf, an overwhelming feeling of frustration - why did I choose this of all mornings to skip breakfast, wear a flimsy jacket and don platform wedges? And what the fuck is going on?

Then - somehow finding a train still running and going back down south - on getting a couple of texts that managed to find their way through the network jam, finally telling me what had gone on, an impending feeling of horror. In that typical British tradition, there are no histrionics, it's all stiff upper lips - but in everyone's eyes there's bewilderment, panic.

Now, at home at last, I'm tearful and afraid. I can't contact my friends and they can't contact me. The news isn't telling us much, but phone calls from New Zealand reveal there are hundreds of casualties.

I just hope you or your loved ones aren't among them. Be safe, be strong.

4.52pm update: The shock has sent us all to the bottle. "We're under attack - retreat to the pub for reinforcements!" goes up the call. The bombings may not be as bad as we had feared (speaking from the fortunate perspective of having no one directly affected), but they've shocked us all - but, at the same time, brought us closer together, as everyone reaches out to their friends and loved ones in the confusion and drama...

Now, we all just want to celebrate life and luck. Except, that is, for Ms G's occasional employers, a very famous restaurateur couple who want her to babysit their children this evening, at their pad next to Liverpool Street station. Yeah right. On calling cab companies, the answer is, "North of the river, mate? You must be joking!" The shoe's on the other foot... You have to laugh. Here's to that Blitz spirit.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Good times in Dogtown 

Just got back from a press screening of Lords Of Dogtown, there's a riotous poker game going on in my living room and I'm mentally amped, so hell, why not whip up a review - or whatever constitutes a review on these pages... (And even better, it has nothing whatsoever to do with a certain music festival in Somerset.)

Lords Of Dogtown is a feature film - written by former pro skater and Sundance-winning filmmaker Stacy Peralta, directed by Thirteen's Catherine Hardwicke - based on the tale already told in Dogtown & Z Boys, of LA's teen skater punks who made skateboarding what we know today.

So why make the same movie twice, especially when the original documentary was so exceptional? And let's be clear here, I love, love, love Dogtown & Z Boys, I'd even go so far as to say it's one of my favourite films, so it's fair to say I didn't hold out high hopes for Lords, and only really went because someone told me the nibbles at Sony were top quality. (They weren't. It was Pizza Express.) But you know what? I liked it. I liked it a lot.

It's a flawed film, definitely. The pace is stodgy and predictable, the approach cheesier than my last boyfriend's socks. But it's saved by some amazing performances from its young cast, and the fact it captures the Technicolor feel of the original documentary footage - and indeed the 70s - perfectly. And though there's far too much excitable running about, making it look like a clip from Sesame Street at times, the skating action scenes are incredible.

Whoever cast the film did a brilliant job, with the younger characters at least [EDIT: and yep, Peter, Hardwicke had a firm hand in it] - Heath Ledger's portrayal of Zephyr surf shop owner Skip is like watching the world's worst Jim Morrison impersonator ("maaaan"), and Johnny Knoxville's character Topper is merely cartoon comic relief.

But having seen the original doco a gazillion times, I feel like I know Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Stacy P et al, and watching the young cast, you often forget you're watching a recreation of the real thing. Emile Hirsch, in particular, stands out for his remarkable portrayal of poor old Jay, right down to the sneer and the world-weary gaze (look out for his cameo appearance in the film, along with many of the other original Z Boys). Gorgeous Victor Rasuk (from the very wonderful Raising Victor Vargas) thrills (the eyes at least) as Alva, and for Peralta, watching John Robinson of Elephant fame in action must have been like looking into a mirror.

But hey, I may be biased. Though never a skater chick per se, I spent far more time than was necessary watching boys go back and forth on skate ramps, and still get a flutter when I see a bleach-blond doppelganger of my first teenage love. And I'm a child of the 70s, so anything to do with this seemingly golden, sun-soaked era suits me just fine.

Lords is corny, but it's fun. It makes you feel good, and sometimes that's all you want in a flick.

{PS: Speaking of skating, everyone knows I much prefer eight wheels - which is why I'll be checking out this rollerskating jam when it comes to these shores. Even if it sucks, you know the soundtrack gotta be fab...]

> INTERNAL JUKEBOX: 49 Percent, Royksopp

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Over and out 

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThat's the last of the Glastonbury diarised at last - back to real life... Read the long-winded day-by-day reviews (re-ordered) here (if, of course, you're not heartily sick of the subject by now):
* Pt 1 - Wednesday/Thursday
* Pt 2 - Friday
* Pt 3 - Saturday
* Pt 4 - Sunday
* Pt 5 - Sunday/Monday

Glastonbury 2005 - Pt 1 


Wednesday afternoon

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWe arrive at Glastonbury sometime around 4pm after a leisurely drive down with the dashing Freddie Fellowes Esq of Secret Garden fame. We leave our packs in his car, as he's managing the Glade Stage and can drop them inside for us, and skip off, burdenless, to the nearest pedestrian gate. It's absolutely roasting and the site is shimmering like a beacon in the late-afternoon sunshine. Our tent has already been put up for us on a fab spot on the top of Pennard Hill (<--), where we partake of a top-class dinner with our mates in the welcome shade of the gazebo. We look over the site and sigh longingly. Is this the most beautiful place on the planet?

Wednesday evening

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAs the sun sets in spectacular fashion (-->), a huge cheer erupts from the Stone Circle behind us - it goes right around the camp in a Mexican wave style and lasts at least five minutes. These cheers continue all night and most of the next day, annoying some, no doubt, but thrilling us to the core. We're at Glasto - and how we know it!

Wednesday night

We do a camp-wide reccy and are left speechless. It's vast and utterly awe-inspiring (though later we'll realise we've only seen a fraction of it). We grab a cider from the cider bus, but decide to be sensible and get a reasonably early night. There's a lot ahead, after all. On the way back to camp and bed, we see the first of many great shirt spots - a bloke sporting a T-shirt saying, "Arrest me - I'm Banksy". A Kiwi flag flutters in the breeze just along from us, so we shout out, "Kia ora bros!" on our way past. They look at us as if we're mad.


Thursday morning

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI wake to discover that overnight my tent has transformed into a furnace and my sleeping bag into a dank sweaty pit. We grab the watering can/shower and head to the nearest taps - which don't work. A chubby, woolly-haired teenage joker is chanting, "Water for all! Campers' rights!" - so in true Glastonbury spirit, we all join in as we march to the Stone Circle, where the taps are working. It's japes a-go-go, and we secretly congratulate ourselves on our rapier wit and acid tongues as assorted revellers attempt to jump the queue. We fill a young lad's bong for him and graciously let him dampen his dreads under our watering can.

Thursday afternoon

Most of our other friends have now arrived and have set up camp at the bottom of Pennard Hill (<--). Birthday boy Matt B looks worried about the site selection, but we reassure him it'll be fine. After all, it's 30 degrees and not a cloud in the sky - what could possibly happen? We hijack Jamie-In-The Band and head to the Greenfields for a crap instant coffee and some lunch before heading off for another big reccy. It's sweltering - will this heat ever end? We head back to our Upper Pennard camp, and start on the beers.

Thursday evening

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usImage Hosted by ImageShack.usEverybody needs good neighbours. We invite Jimmy from next door over for a drink, and on the way to the portaloos, Ms G and I meet young Mancunians Andy (<--) and pals. They invite us into their tent for a wee pick-me-up, then we all pose in their pink novelty sweet-shop tent before inviting them back to ours, where I give the venerable Ms G a tattoo (-->).Then the Lower Pennard crew arrive. It's party time - as evidenced by the fact all I can remember from this point onwards is the phrase, "Ms G's blown a gusset!" and a vague recollection of us all flipping the bird at the camera, yelling, "Sucker! Sucker-lucker-lucker!" in 2 Cars, 1 Night fashion. A visiting Hari Krishna is in luck as he hits us up for donations - all our good cheer (and good beer) means we give him far too many of our hard-earned readies.

Thursday night/Friday morning

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usHaving exhausted the thrills of the campsite, it's off up to the Stone Circle, where we loll about on the grassy slope looking like old drunks, thanks to relieving an enterprising fellow of some nitrus oxide. As a laughing gas merchant in a previous life, I kick myself for not having stocked up and brought the soda siphon - I could have financed my whole trip.

Somehow we end up at Lost Vagueness, where I'm snapped go-go dancing in a bonnet on the Deluxe Diner tables, before a few spots of rain drive us back to the Lower Pennard campsite. We sit round on camp stools enjoying a smoke, as the rain hits harder. We're now having to yell over the sound of the rain on the tent canvas, and through the steamy fug I suddenly notice the water flowing past our feet has reached the top of my boots. "Gadzooks!" I cry. "Time to move, kids!" We hastily alert the sleeping neighbours and watch their shocked faces as they unzip their tents and tidal waves of water pour in. We summon the troops and escort them up the hill, away from the rising flood waters. Hmmm. This isn't the kind of back-to-ours I'm used to...


Glastonbury 2005 - Pt 2 


Friday morning

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe flood victims either install themselves at our campsite or head back to London to dry off and restock, while I snatch a couple of hours sleep. On waking, I head off for a solo stroll to assess the damage - Pennard Hill looks like the Somme. Up by the Portaloos, a foul-smelling river is cascading down the hillside, having swept away everything in its path - including, I'm saddened to see, the Manchester boys' little pink tent, which lies forlornly in a crumpled heap halfway down the slope (<--). I pass them on the way back, looking all the world like WWI soldiers returning from battle. "What will you do?" I ask. "Fuck knows," Andy replies sadly. "We've lost everything. We've had enough of this shit right now - we're off." I give them all a hug and count my blessings.

Back at camp, tensions are running high, as it's still raining and no one knows what's going to happen next. Rumours fly that the Pyramid Stage has been struck by lightning, that all Friday's bands have been cancelled and that some people may have drowned in their tents. None of these turn out to be true, although we learn a set of Portaloos did actually overturn - and that the flood waters are now literally full of shit. Ew. The wellies won't leave my feet til Monday morning.

Friday afternoon - The Undertones, Pyramid Stage:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAfter all the palaver, spirits are somewhat shaken, but goddamn it, we aren't going to let a little rain - OK, a lot of rain - get us down. Wellies and macs/bin bags are donned, and we head down to get boggy with it at the (non-lightning-struck) Pyramid Stage. We arrive too late to know if Feargal and the gang performed an ironic Here Comes The Summer, but thankfully we're not too tardy for Teenage Kicks - it's so hard to beat. We leap about like pogoing mud punks and the mood is ebullient, to say the least. It's going to take more than a bit of rain and mud to stop this crowd having a good time.

On my return to camp, I overhear The Editors on the Other Stage (-->) - the boggiest venue of the festival. The five minutes I hear sound fantastic, and they are immediately odds-on favourites to become my New Favourite Band.

Friday evening - Babyshambles, Bloc Party, Other Stage; Elvis Costello, Pyramid Stage

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAfter a quick nap, we head back to the thick of things. It's stopped raining, but it's a proper mud bath, so very gingerly, we make our way to the Other Stage to catch Babyshambles. From our position way back in the field, however - and due to the Other Stage's ridiculous lack of screens - we can neither see or hear Pete (we later hear he's rubbish anyway). So we flag it in favour of a spot of dinner - which is postponed when we walk past the Pyramid Stage and hear the strains of Elvis Costello (<--) belting out Oliver's Army.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usNaturally we hotfoot it to the middle of the field - as well as one can with calf-deep mud sucking up your wellies (-->) - and stay there until the encore, Alison. It's a a fairly lacklustre, lounge singer-style attempt, but when it niftily seques into Suspicious Minds, I excitedly try to text double-Elvis fan Chuck Pettifogspot. Damn it, my phone's refusing to get reception again.

We pop back to the Other Stage for a bit of Bloc Party, including an excellent rendition of Banquet which I capture for posterity on video, and see the best sign of the festival - a big yellow sign saying "You are here". Classic. Then it's time to get on over to the Jazz World Stage for what I insist will be one of the highlights of the weekend - Alabama 3.

Friday night - Alabama 3, Roots Manuva, Jazz World Stage; White Stripes, Pyramid Stage

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usNot everyone seems totally convinced by the prospect of a bunch of Brixton cowboys-come-Southern gents instead of the gorgeous Kele Bloc Party, but they're soon to discover the genius of the A3 bunch, who play arguably the best set of the festival. We've obviously missed our mate Be Atwell doing his freestyle thing, but Ms Green and I funk in the mud to Woke Up This Morning while Ms G pops to the bar to procure us all delicious pear cider. Then we venture into the heart of the crowd to whoop it up to the brilliant U Don't Danse To Tekno Any More. Larry Love (<--) seems disappointed more people haven't dressed up as instructed pre-festival, but four boisterous tuxedo-wearing blokes behind us do their best to make up for everyone else's sartorial apathy. We scream, we holler, we jump up and down in the slurry, and thrill to the sound and vision of the Rev D. Wayne Love, Larry and pals, can-can girls and all. Simply superb.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usRoots Manuva's up next in a fetching hot pink jumpsuit and fedora (-->), and delivers an absolutely cracking set, although by this stage the pear cider has gone to my head and things are getting hazy. The response to Witness is unsurprisingly immense - when the intro kicks in, it seems the roof might lift off, were we not in the middle of a soggy paddock.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI want to hang about at Jazz World for 10 minutes of Roy Ayres, but the girls are antsy to get to the Pyramid for the White Stripes, so I acquiesce. I'm not really a Stripes fan, but even I am awestruck by their performance - not by Meg's abysmal drumming and off-key voice, perish the thought, but Jack White (<--) is nowt short of a genius. He's also amazingly sexy (albeit somewhat jowly - he's like a hybrid of Johnny Depp in Pirates and Robert Smith...). Woo hoo. This is what the Pyramid Stage was made for. I'm overwhelmed by all I've witnessed this evening, and bore everyone I meet by gushing how "absolutely privileged" I feel to have experienced a night of such incredible music.

Friday night/Saturday morning - Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra and Babyhead, Lost Vagueness Ballroom

Heading to Lost Vagueness via the Glade, Ms G and I lose each other. While I wait for her to surface at the Pennard Hill crossroads, I witness another classic Glasto moment when a bloke bellows out for his friend: "Dan! Daaaaaaan!" Suddenly, a random passer-by also starts hollering "Dan!", then another, and another. Soon, some hundred people are calling for Dan. I'm pissing myself. God knows what Dan is doing.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWe learn fab Brighton ska-funksters Babyhead are playing the Ballroom, causing Ms G to wet herself with excitement, having fallen in love with them at last year's Secret Garden festival. First up though, it's the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, who are great - full of energy and as insane as their name would suggest - but I'm having trouble keeping my mind on the job. It's 3am and I'm feeling the strain of three nights on the party bus.

I catch five minutes of Babyhead and head to bed, collecting a bean burger en route. On the way back from the bean man, I encounter a group of people by the side of the road holding an impromptu singalong to three guys with guitars, bongos and an accordion. Arms are waving, lighters are aloft, voices are raised and everyone is hugging each other. I rush over - and join in for the last chorus of Robbie Williams' Angels. It's a magic moment. Take that, cynics.

Next to the Pennard Hill flood zone, someone's posted this sign (-->). Adversity? Ha! We laugh in your face.


Glastonbury 2005 - Pt 3 


[BTW: Hurrah for me - today (1st July) marks my fifth anniversary of living in London, and in the words of Sir Elt, I'm still standing, which is nothing short of a miracle...]

Saturday afternoon - Taj Mahal, Goldie Lookin Chain, Pyramid Stage

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usEveryone else is still passed out after big nights or having watched the All Blacks/Lions rugby game, transmitted live on the Pyramid Stage in the early hours (as a half-and-half, I'm still not sure who I'd root for - probably no one, I hate rugby). But Ms Green and I are full of beans (me literally, after my 4am veggie burger feed), so we scamper off to the Pyramid Stage quagmire, where we encounter this poor fool (<--), who is talking to his bong.

We're just in time to catch Taj Mahal. I'm not too familiar with the man, so had been a little sceptical about the suggestion, but the multi-instrumentalist blues legend and his band prove to be exactly what's required on this muddy morn. These old gents evidently ADORE playing their music - the huge, joyous smiles on their faces as they jam act as sunshine for the heart. How we laugh as Taj adopts a Cockney accent for the last track of the encore, and I cheer myself silly as they bow and depart.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usNext up, it's what seems like at least 20 of Wales' finest youth, GLC - not a group I'd planned on seeing, but hell, today we all could use a laugh. Their one-joke puerility certainly won't please the purists, but once again, it's a perfect antidote to the sombre skies. "I shit three times today - blood came out the third time," reveals frontman Dwayne (-->), before launching into a piss-funny mash-up of 2 Unlimited's shocking No Limit, and introducing Maggot, who today - dressed in a fetching cape ensemble - has transformed into the 'Hip-Hop Vampire'. "Can you feel the love, Glastonbury?" asks Dwayne, who has written 'Chris Martin' on his hand in an hilarious parody of the drippy Coldplay fool. "Go on, turn to the person next you and give 'em a good fingering." Even the most miserable of cynics are forced to crack a smile.

On returning to Pennard Hill, Jamie-In-The-Band and I mount a successful mission to the drained flood zone to retrieve his sunglasses from his tent, which now resembles a filthy paddling pool. The ditch that became a river is now back to being a ditch again, albeit filled to the brim with flood debris - casks of wine, a baby stroller, anonymous tins of canned food, hundreds of packets of Wet Wipes... Unscrupulous looters could have a field day.

Saturday evening - Kasabian (acoustic set), Guardian Lounge; Mad Professor, DJ Format, GLC, Dance Tents

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWe round up the troops and head for the Dance Area, where DJ Format is set to play, with MCs Abdominal and D-Sisive, at 7pm. En route, after laughing heartily at the shoe graveyard (<--) next to the Millets wellies store, we call into the Guardian Lounge to see if Matty L is about, slaving hard for his money. There's no sign of him, but since "very special guests" Kasabian are playing a surprise acoustic set, the place is rammed to the rafters, making it impossible to hold your hand in front of your face, let alone see it. We lurk for a couple of tracks, but don't manage to catch even a glimpse of the band - who I'm unconvinced by anyway - so continue on our journey. Fresh straw has been laid over the path - it's a non-slip dream for our aching, wellie-clad legs, and we thank heaven for such small luxuries.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWe sit outside the West Dance tent (-->) to smoke to the sounds of the Mad Professor, appropriately enough. I arrange to meet the crew at East Dance, and nip over there to catch Monsieur Format. He's obviously doing a sterling job, but the acoustics make it hard to hear from my position at the back of the tent. Ill Culinary Behaviour never fails, however, and even from my slightly muffled vantage point it sounds great. I chat to a few folk around me and draw two conclusions: 1) yesterday's inclement weather has brought out the very best in people - everyone I speak to (all lovely btw) is inclined to agree the mud has actually made the festival better; 2) all the boys here are drop-dead gorgeous - does hip-hop bring out the honeys?

The kids arrive. Having slept through their Pyramid performance, Ms G's keen to check out GLC, playing again in East Dance, so she disappears into the thick of the crowd. I remain at the back with the former Lower Pennard crew, now back from London and all dry and toasty/toasted. (Jamie-In-The-Band has had a nightmare trying to buy beer - the bar had run out of trays, so he asked a woman standing nearby to watch two beers as he carted the rest over the field to us. When he returned, both she and the beers were gone, proving not everyone is nice at Glastonbury. He ends up spending £15 for just three pints.) GLC ends and the Lower Pennard kids split to check Kasabian and Razorlight on the Other Stage. It's us three girls on our own again. Time to kick up our heels...

Saturday night/Sunday morning - Random disco, Babyhead, People's Republic Of Disco, The Pussy Parlure; The Magic Numbers, The Go! Team, John Peel Stage

Until you've trudged through knee-high mud for 48 hours, you will never know the pure joy of a sprung wooden dancefloor. So when we stumble across the Pussy Parlure - an 80-year-old vaudeville tent, stained glass, velvet curtains and all - we can't believe our luck. Even better, it's absolutely heaving to classic disco. Gött in Himmel! These boots were made for, well, cutting a rug, so we throw Studio 54 shapes to Chic's Good Times and various other gems before it's time to get up the hill to the John Peel Tent (second only to the Other Stage as the muddiest venue on the site and as far away from our Pennard Hill campsite as it is possible to be) for the most anticipated act of the weekend - The Magic Numbers.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWe've done amazingly well on the act selection front - everything we've seen has been superb - but nothing can prepare me for what we are about to witness. On entering the tent, we see, in enormous letters to the right of the stage, the words: "Teenage dreams, so hard to beat" (<--). Uh-oh - the waterworks have already started.

The compere introduces The Magic Numbers as "the best band in the world" and receives a cheer that threatens to blow the roof off - but which is nothing compared to the mighty roar that greets the homely quartet as they take the stage. Sincerity isn't what normally comes to mind when talking about pop music, but these two sets of twins have it in spades. It's a rare, rare thing. I look around the crowd during Forever Lost - almost everyone is singing their heart out, and those who aren't are cuddling the person next to them and beaming like moony Cheshire cats. I lose it completely during Love Me Like You - my track of the summer - and have to turn away to wipe my eyes. Without resorting to Darius quotes again, the love in this room is palpable, and all of us know we've just witnessed something remarkable.

[The Thursday after we return to reality, Ms G emails me the following after I text her about an embarrassing teary episode at work brought on by reading a review of the gig: "I'm listening to Forever Lost and I've got tears streaming down my face! Far out, man - what is it about them? Do you think they really are magicians casting us under their spell?" Yes, actually, I do.]

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWe stick about for the Go! Team, but they're plagued by sound problems, so it's back to the Pussy Parlure to skank up a storm to Babyhead (-->, playing Jamm this Saturday, incidentally) and local heroes the People's Republic Of Disco. God knows how long we're there for - we're having such a great time the hours fly by - but somehow we end up back at the Stone Circle watching the fire pois (<--) and awaiting the dawn.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThere, it's nonsense as usual. Someone yells out, "I'm Spartacus!", spawning the usual flurry of "No, I'm Spartacus" responses - with the exception of one wit, who sings, "I'm Spasticus, I'm Spasticus, I'm Spasticus Autisticus..." Someone behind us calls out to a figure walking down the slope: "Hey man, you look just like Rick Stein!" "I am Rick Stein!" comes the amused reply. And indeed it is.

The sun comes up but there's heavy cloud cover, so the much-vaunted "Dawn at the Stone Circle" is a bit of a fizzer. As the dew falls, for the first time I realise it's actually getting quite cold, so I bid the gang goodnight/morning and slink off home to my steadily-deflating air mattress.


Glastonbury 2005 - Pt 4 


[I know, I know, I've even Glastonbored myself now - but I swore to blog it all for posterity, so in the words of Pete Sinclair/Bamber Gascoigne, I've started so I'll finish... Only one more to go, a nation cheers!]

Sunday afternoon - Van Morrison, Brian Wilson - Sunday afternoon, Pyramid Stage

It's the afternoon that promises much - but delivers little. I peer out of my sweatbox/tent at midday to find the campsite deserted and the gazebo MIA. It transpires half the crew are still asleep and the other half have started carting stuff back to their vehicles in preparation for Monday's departure, which explains the gazebo. My agenda for the afternoon was to involve a long session at the John Peel Tent, where Hard-Fi, Dresden Dolls and Sons and Daughters are playing back to back - but it's an unbelievably gorgeous day, and the last thing I want to do is miss out on sun action in the Peel swamp, so all plans are off. My head is banging like a rent boy on Viagra, so I head down to the Hari Krishna tent for free food (for which I guiltily donate nearly £5 in gold coins) and locate some freshly-squeezed lemonade. The site is awash with choruses of "Oh-ohhh-oh, oh-ohhh-oh", a la Hounds Of Love by The Futureheads, who played the Other Stage last night. I'm reminded of the old adage, "First time funny, second silly, third time a spanking."

Ms G resurfaces at around 4pm, and we agree to make the most of the sunshine by meeting the others for Van Morrison at the Pyramid Stage, to secure a good position for Brian Wilson at 5.30pm. I've never been a fan of the big man Van, but there are worse things one could listen to on a hot summer's day. I even rouse myself from my fold-up chair to stand up and chant along to Gloria.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usBut who better to herald the scorching sunshine than the king of California pop, Brian Wilson? It seems to take ages between acts, and I fear I might implode with anticipation. Suddenly, the crowd roars - it's Mr Wilson, looking bewildered and slightly shaky. Don't worry, baby, you're among friends here - it seems all 150,000 people at the festival have packed the Pyramid field to pay tribute. He takes a while to get going, and I fear he might be a bit past it, as he seems to rely on his band to carry him for the first couple of tracks. But my eyes still fog up when he plays Darlin', although it's a patchy affair. But soon he's back on form, and our hearts are fit to bursting as he sings Wouldn't It Be Nice, Good Vibrations, the beautifully-touching All Summer Long, my all-time fave, and, er, Row, Row, Row Your Boat... During the hour-long set and the five-song encore, he somehow manages to pack in all his hits, as well as some wonderful quieter numbers off Smile and Pet Sounds, leaving each and every soul in that field realising they have been in the presence of genius - and that such a moment will never happen again. We feel honoured beyond words.

On the way back to camp for a costume change - it's ballgowns a-go-go tonight - someone asks us if we'd noticed the person crowd-surfing - literally on a surfboard. No, but that's probably due to the huge black and white New Zealand flag that was fluttering in front of the screen (<--) - we appreciate the sentiment, but the bastards completely blocked our view. Grrr.

Sunday night - Primal Scream, Basement Jaxx, Pyramid Stage; DJ, Crown Bar

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usGlastonbury tradition dictates that Sunday is 'Mushroom Sunday', so who are we to argue? We don our cocktail frock finery and set off for Primal Scream by way of the John Peel Tent to collect Ms Green, who's been watching a mediocre LCD Soundsystem. Glastonbury once again outdoes itself with another spectacular sunset over the Pyramid Stage (-->), and we take a moment to appreciate its wonder - after all, it's the last one we'll see here til 2007.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usBobby and the boys have already started by the time we've installed ourselves on the right side of the hill (where we witness our first random naked man of the weekend - a Kiwi, quelle surprise), and at first I'm not too impressed. Gillespie is in top form (<--), obviously completely off his tits and in a right snot, mumbling nonsense about terrorism, calling us all "fucking hippies" and gobbing on the camera lens. (Obviously I fall violently in love and vow to have his children.) Musically, however, I'd prefer to hear more from the Screamadelica era, but that album has been largely shunned tonight in favour of their later, harder stuff. But when they drop the thunderous Swastika Eyes, I eat my words - and go absolutely nuts.

"Who came here for Kylie?" asks Mr Gillespie, and we cheer ourselves hoarse when he tells the idiots who replied in the affirmative to "fuck off". When Mani plays a Stone Roses riff, Bobby slurs, "Who wants to hear the Stone Roses?... Well, you should have been here 15 fucking years ago, you lazy fucking bastards." We're laughing so hard we're almost crying. By the time they launch into the sensational, glorious Movin On Up, every hair on our bodies is standing on end. We can do nothing but laugh, scream and leap up and down. Bobby continues to mutter obscenities into the mic and abuse the crowd, but it's apparently too much for the tech team, who pull the plug, and he's dragged from the stage. It's all over - but without a doubt, this has been the highlight of our Glastonbury. Bobby will come in for severe criticism from the press later, but they can all go to hell. In this sanitised, squeaky-clean popworld, we need more antics like his. Right now, however, Ms G and I can only clutch each other and gasp, "Rock and roll! ROCK AND FUCKING ROLL!!!"

I never envisaged finishing my 'official' Glastonbury with Basement Jaxx, but hell, we're here now, and they're sure to put on a decent show. Before, however, Ms Green and I make our way to the nearby She-Pee female urinals, which Ms G has excitedly described as "liberating". I dutifully perch over the plastic piss channel running around the walls, but it appears Ms Green, squatting nearby, has misunderstood the concept, and is pissing straight on the ground. We laugh so hard we should be rolling on the floor - if it wasn't sodden with Ms Green's steaming piss.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWe finally relocate Ms G after half an hour of wandering about looking out for her candle flare (-->) - only to find out every group on the hill also has a candle flare. When the Jaxx kick off, it's clear Felix has taken a leaf out of Bobby's book - he's absolutely twatted and is acting the rock star to the hilt. Get in! Sadly, our position on the hill means we suffer the worst speaker drift I've ever experienced - it's so bad I'm unable to concentrate on anything else, and spend most of their set wondering whether, in fact, the drummer or fucked-up Felix are to blame. That doesn't stop me going mental to their Ace Of Spades/Lil Louis mash-upthough, and it's certainly a spectacle in glorious Technicolor®. And hell, it could have been Kylie, so thank heavens for small mercies.

After it finishes, we, along with half the population of Glastonbury, attempt to head to the Dance field, meaning huge traffic jams and much hilarity. At the first roadblock, a boozy teen yells, "There is one person walking veeeery slowly at the front. We must find them and throw them in the stream." Soon, the entire crowd is chanting, "Throw them in the stream! Throw them in the stream!" At the next roadblock, we're held back by nervous security, who are doing their best to create a two-way flow, but are starting to panic. Someone starts singing Hey Jude and 200 voices join in, followed by a chorus of "Baas" as we are mustered like sheep. Eventually, we make it to open space and the Dance field. It's been emotional.

Typically, however, once at the Dance field, we find there's nothing going on that doesn't involve jampacked crowds or long queues, so we decide to wander back over to the Crown Bar (on the other side of the site, naturally), where we suspect the rest of the gang may be. On the way, we notice the moon hovering atop the Other Stage - until tonight, it has been enormous and full. Now, sitting low in the sky, it's still giant, but has turned red and is halved, almost like an eclipse. Someone told me about this phenomenon on Friday, but of course I've forgotten the details. It's eerily beautiful, and only adds to the magic of the place.

The kids are indeed at the Crown, and our time here proves to be one of the absolute highlights of the weekend. I don't know who is DJing, but when he drops a stunning treble of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, Champagne Supernova and Sweet Child Of Mine, I feel I've reached nirvana (and I don't even like Oasis). The crowd roars its approval as they join in a tent-wide singalong. It's like a mad love-in, and seeing each and every person in the room join arms to belt out "And if a double-decker bus crashes into us, to die by your side..." will stay with me forever. The pleasure, the privilege was mine.


Glastonbury 2005 - Pt 5 (the end!) 


[The end is nigh! Yes, even I'm sick of talking about Glastonbury, but I know I'll want to look back on it all in years to come, which is why I'm still writing about it weeks after the event (in answer to the 'friendly' commentator on the below post). Anyway, this is the last post. Promise. xx]

Sunday night/Monday morning - Silent Disco, Dance East; Ska Cubano, The Youngblood Brass Band, Lost Vagueness Ballroom; The Doodits, Chapel Of Love & Loathing

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAfter the rapturous singalong in the Crown Bar, we're re-energised and ready to roll again. Someone comes up with the genius idea of heading back to the Dance field (<--) to go to Silent Disco, so we brush the dirt off our bare feet, hitch up our skirts and don our wellies for the last time. Of course, by the time we arrive, the queue for Silent Disco stretches for miles, but we ask security guards if we can sneak up and watch. With all the participants wearing headphones with a choice of two different DJs, they move and groove to different drums - but ones we can't hear. The only sound is the occasional whoop as a killer (inaudible) track is dropped. It's hilarious.

The queue for the Pussy Parlure is long too, and the other stages are in the process of shutting down, so there's only one thing for it - Lost Vagueness via the Glade. En route, we discover 100 people dancing to dodgy trance outside a random burger bar's booming sound system, so we pause briefly to have a giggle and throw some shapes in a vaguely sarcastic manner. Sadly, when we reach the Glade stage we see it too is packing up, so it's onwards to lose ourselves at the Vagueness.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usA coffee would be good at this point, but our last experience in the early hours of Saturday morning, when Jamie-In-The-Band absentmindedly stirred in salt instead of sugar, has traumatised our tastebuds, so we decline the offer and head straight to the Ballroom for a taste of Ska Cubano, who do what it says on the tin, fusing ska with Cuban music. We spend the next few hours either dancing our arses off at the Ballroom or exploring every nook and cranny of the Lost Vagueness area. We encounter a young chap (-->), who, in the cold light of day, might be written off by some as a bit of a chav, but who now approaches a piano sitting unused in the road, and proceeds to play a note-perfect Beethoven sonata.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usImage Hosted by ImageShack.usAn hour is lost in the Chapel of Love & Loathing, where a band called the Doodits (<--) are rocking the church to its foundations - a singer dressed as Johnny Depp from Pirates (who one of our number falls in love with until she realises it's a girl), a scary trannie in a corset, the coolest, most ball-busting saxophonist chick on the planet, a bunch of degenerates pole-dancing on a platform... We love it. But then it too is over, and we end up rocking to Johnny Cash outside a small bar with a tribute to Joe Strummer on its roof (-->). It's a perfect end to a perfect weekend of music.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usImage Hosted by ImageShack.usAlthough it's not over yet, of course. There's still the dawn to catch, so we hurry to the Stone Circle to take our positions. There, everything we've witnessed over the past six days neatly comes full circle. On the way up, we pass Andy and the young Mancunians, and discover they didn't go home after the floods, but instead stayed and had the time of their lives. Sitting along from us, it's the chubby teenager who demanded "Water for all!" at the taps on our first morning. From our vantage point, we see the wit with the "You are here" sign. And fittingly, given that one of our first Glastonbury "moments" was the sighting of the "Arrest me, I'm Banksy" T-shirt, on the security fence behind us, we discover this Banksy graf (<--) . (Someone later tells us that the balloon man (-->) we saw on our first day was also a Banksy stunt.)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAnd as the sun finally comes up to a perfect sky, it's like we're back to the beginning again - but so much has happened in between, we know we'll never be the same again.

Over and out from Somerset. (At last.)

Top Ten Tuesday: Glastonbury moments 

1 Forever Lost The Magic Numbers
Cried when we heard it, continued to sing it all weekend.

2 Teenage Kicks The Undertones
No better way to say "fuck you" to the floods.

3 Good Vibrations The Beach Boys
Brian Wilson in the sunshine after the rain. Privileged. Perfect.

4 Movin' On Up Primal Scream
Eight miles high and rising. Gloriously gospel. The Glasto moment for us.

5 There Is A Light That Never Goes Out The Smiths
The most awe-inspiring singalong I've ever been a party to.

6 U Don't Dans To Tekno Any More Alabama 3
Best set of the festival. Gets '808', '303' and '909' into one song.

7 Where's Your Head At Basement Jaxx
Or "Where's your tent at", as became the chant that rang around the camp.

8 Your Mother's Got A Penis Goldie Lookin Chain
Just for making us laugh on a rainy day...

9 Banquet Bloc Party
Because they rocked and we wished we could have stayed longer.

10 Angels Robbie Williams
Yeah, we hate it too, but it provided more 'moments' per minute than any other track.

THE END! No more Glasto nonsense...

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