South-East Asia

Some visuals from my recent trip to south east Asia – Bali via Kuala Lumpur- with some accompanying words for context. Enjoy!

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Kuala Lumpur. 

I met Nick at Heathrow T4 at about 6AM of Easter Monday morning (Tom had travelled a day earlier) with nothing but a backpack. The longest flight I’ve taken in my adult life is the 2 hour and 45 minute journey to Lisbon, so I wasn’t really prepared for the 17 hours that laid ahead of me. The first flight (Heathrow – Doha) ran like a dream. The novelty of the plethora of films and abundance of free food and drink lasted throughout the 6 hour flight, and we touched down in Doha later that day still high on excitement for our trip to come. That soon wore off in Doha. We had 3 hours to kill in the essentially deserted airport, and we made the mistake of not reserving our seats for the next flight, so once boarding, we spent 7 hours happily wedged in the middle two of a four seat.

Anyway, we made it to Kuala Lumpur at 8am on the Tuesday (including the 7 hour time difference) running on fumes (2 hours sleep) and we were eager to make the most of the trip. We made our way to our first hotel, the Federal in Bukit Bintang, after navigating the brilliant KLIA express – the 30 minute fast train from the airport, complete with wifi, at a paltry 40 Malaysian Ringit (£7) – the fact we got the KLIA was a bone of contention with almost every taxi driver we came across, who couldn’t believe we’d spent that much on a trip from the airport. After some investigation, it turns out a trip in a taxi would cost similar for 3 of us, and would take 3 times as long. Once we dumped our bags at the Federal and changed out of the clothes we’d travelled in for the last 24 hours, we made our way into KL city.

IMG_4864 Bukit Bintang, near Jalan Alor. Kuala Lumpur. 

IMG_4866Jalan Alor, Kuala Lumpur. 

We made it about 100 metres before the heavens opened, and we were introduced to tropical climate of Malaysia. Whilst it was outrageously humid 24/7, when it rained, it rained. We waited in a café while the downpour drenched outside and waited for it to pass. We then used the covered walkway from Pavillion shopping centre all the way to Suria KLCC, the mall that sits at the foot of the Petronas Towers. We declined scaling the towers due to the extortionate entry fee, and got the mandatory tourist pics from the ground, before heading back to the Pavillion mall to start on the beers.

After a day of stopping in between various bars around Jalan Alor and Bukit Bintang, we made our way to Petaling Market, south of KL. Being westerners it helped that we were a few beers deep, as shouts of ‘Yes boss!’ came from each and every stall as we were seen as easy prey, clearly in the market for the fake footie shirts, Rolex’s and Nike Yeezy’s on offer. To be fair, some of the fakes on display, especially with some of the watch traders, were very believable. These were at the £300-£400 end of the price bracket, which is clearly a fraction of the £20-£30k some of these watches go for, but an obscene amount in comparison to most of the other fair at the market. Most shirts were going for around 30 ringitt, which works out to around a fiver.

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IMG_4873A selection of street food stalls near Petaling Market, in the heart of Chinatown, KL. 

Worn out from haggling without any real purpose, we stumbled on a roadside eatery in Chinatown just outside Petaling, and had some glorious clay pot chicken – a favourite in KL. Being hardy Londoners, we’re no strangers to street food and eating from plastic tables and chairs on the side of the road, but this was real authentic street food at its finest, and a price much more fitting. So authentic, a little (read huge) rat brushed past my foot.

Bali – Seminyak. 

As soon as we’d completed our mammoth trip, we’d packed our bags again and were back on our favourite KLIA express, as we swapped the cloud and smog of KL for the sun and sea of Bali. We flew with Air Asia, and the flight was pretty much business as usual, apart from a bizarre moment when the pilot came out of the cockpit, grabbed a beret, some shades and a guitar, and revealed how it was his lifelong wish to play some songs for an audience. He then knocked out three ballads. I won’t do a Simon Cowell on the lad, he tried his best. Full marks for effort. 11 minutes into his last number, an Ed Sheeran medley (he’s big in Asia*), I started to worry about who was flying the plane.

*Ed Sheeran, not the pilot. 

We did land, thankfully, at Denpasar airport and it was there we met one of the many people who would come to make our trip – Wahyiu. He clearly saw us for the three westerners we were, and shouted that he could take us anywhere for very cheap price and he stayed true to his word, getting us to our hotel in Seminyak for 100,000 rupiah, which sounds like a lot, but really is only £7. Wahyiu was 22, and came from the ‘best rice village in Bali’, north of the island. He was a fountain of knowledge, and we swapped numbers, as he promised to take us anywhere we’d like for a good price. This was our first introduction to the friendly, hospitable nature of the Balinese which we were fortunate to experience almost every day whilst we were there.

It was on this journey that I also got a first glimpse of how the Balinese drive. Whilst much of KL is predictably gridlocked, when the cars move they do so at a fairly mild mannered and safe pace. Here on the other hand, we quickly realised that lanes aren’t really lanes and red lights aren’t really red lights. Either way, Wahiyu got us to Seminyak safe and sound.

IMG_4971Seminyak beach, Bali. 

IMG_4966Jalan Batu Belig, Seminyak which leads down to the beach. 

Seminyak is one of Bali’s party capitals, along with Kuta. Whilst Kuta has a reputation for being the Aussie Magaluf, Seminyak is a bit more upmarket, and by default a touch more expensive. It’s also a bit more hipster – on our first full day I took a little walk from our hotel down to the beach, and en route passed two barbers, three tattooists, a Quicksilver and a Volcom shop, as well as the obligatory shacks serving Indonesian food, petrol stops (with petrol, presumably for scooters, lined up in Vodka bottles) and Bintang vest stalls. Bali is a great surf destination, and it seems surf culture has found a home in Bali.

People come to Seminyak for the party. By day, that’s most likely to be had at Potato Head Beach Club – the daft sounding day club that boasts a restaurant and a club, as well as its crowning glory, the infinity pool with built in bar. The novelty of having a bar in the pool didn’t wear off for us, and even though you’d be lucky to get change from 200,000 rupiah (£14) for a three beer round (very expensive in these parts). People generally flock here for the sunset views, but we managed to spend most of our days here whilst we were in Seminyak.

By night, we’d turn to another Bali favourite, and by all accounts, the only place to go in Seminyak, La Favela, a tropical maze that snaked indoor and out. Being a bit keen on the first night, we got there early (8pm) and it was a bit civilised compared to what we’d heard. We carried on the theme of spending rupiah like it were water and had dinner there as we were early, and we were told by our waiter man that the party don’t start till 11, which kinda makes sense when you think about it – Just before 11, we made our way outside to try a few more bars before coming back, to be greeted by an army of Aussies outside the previously empty 7 Eleven, as they smashed back a few last cheap Bintang’s before getting in the mixer.

Most days and nights ran as above – Potato Head by day, La Favela by night. We also managed Ku de Ta, another Potato Head like beach club, as well as Motel Mexicola, the only other place to be at night bar La Favela. Cangu Beach (particularly Old Man’s bar) is worth a shout too, for a change of scene – take an uber there from Seminyak though, not a blue lit Taksi- one of these charged us 100,000 rupiah to go all of about 200m. Our fault for not knowing where we were, and fair play to the chancer for getting as much out of the westerners as he could. I made the ignorant suggestion that Bali’s should change two things – their currency (I still stand by this, when my pockets are full of essentially worthless 2,000 rupiah notes – 11p in sterling) and the amount of taxis on the road. Bali thrives on tourism, and for the Balinese, servicing the tourist trade is most likely to be done as a taxi driver or in the beach bars, clubs and hotels.

Gili Trawangan. 

After 3 days in Bali, we were on the move again. Our man Wahiyu picked us up from Seminyak early Sunday morning and took us on the two hour journey to Pedangbai, an eastern tip of the island to catch the Eka Jaya fast boat to Gili Trawnagan, or Gili T as it’s known, the largest of the three Gili Islands just off the coast of Lombok. When we got to Pedangbai, we realised quite how our man Wahiyu had sorted us out. Everything from recommending the best (cheapest) boat company to use, to getting us there on time and more importantly, to the right boat. the journey itself was fine, nothing like the horror stories we’d heard back in Bali.

We hopped off the Eka Jaya onto Gili Trawangan beach, and we were greeted by a smiley chap holding my name on a piece of paper. He took us all for a short walk up the beach front, down a little left and right until we reached Banana Leaf Bungalows. As we approached, two similarly smiley Balinese chaps were singing to us, one on the guitar. This will easily live long as the best welcome to any destination we’ve ever had. The Banana Leaf bungalows were a bit more, er, rustic, shall we say, than the places we’d stayed so far (hotels, basically), but for what it lacked in locks on the room doors, air con and even a toilet roof in one of the rooms, it certainly made up for in character. These lads had no worries, and welcomed us with open arms into their home. For 3 days, we had no worries either.

IMG_5033An unforgettable welcome from the staff at Banana Leaf Bungalows, Gili T. 

IMG_5071South of Gili Trawangan, looking onto Lombok. 

IMG_5064There are three ways of getting around Gili Trawangan: By foot, bicycle or horse & cart.

IMG_5068East side of Gili Trawangan, looking onto Lombok. Gili Air is to the left, out of shot. Here be possibly the bluest ass water I’ve ever seen. 

The Gilis are another world entirely. I was just about getting used to island life in Bali, but the Gilis took it to a new level. First of all, there’s nothing to them – the islands are tiny. On our first full day, I took a little walk on my own, similar to how I did in Bali, and managed to walk round the entire island in about 3 hours, including stops – once to swim in the bluest of blue seas I’ve ever seen at the southern tip of the island. They’re also very basic. Aside from the main strip on the east side which has all of the islands bars, theres not much lighting at night in land – the only thing I can liken finding the Banana Leaf bungalows at night to is finding your tent at Glasto at night. There’s not cars or scooters, either. There are only three ways of navigating the island: By foot, by bicycle and by horse and cart.

It’s amazing how diverse a small island can be, too. Whilst the East boasts the island’s nightlife and main draw for western tourists, the West is where the sun sets and therefore where people flock at 6pm to catch some of the most stunning views on the planet. Sunset photos are a big deal nowadays, with swings dotting the shore right the way down the beach for that purpose. Getting on said swings is easier said than done, though, and after watching Tom and Nick make arse about tit attempts to get one, I declined my chance to have a picture of myself gazing wistfully into the sunset. I took a picture of some other bugger instead.

IMG_5017Crowds gathering at Sunset Point for, well, the sunset. 

IMG_5014Swings line the west coast of Gili T, perfectly placed for sunset snaps. 

The nightlife in Gili T is something else too. Very different to Bali, there are only a handful of places on the East side of the island – and given the island’s so small, each of them takes a turn in holding the late shift. On our first night, we went to a genuine beer pong bar, with especially created beer pong tables and an endless supply of (ping pong!) balls. The tables were shifted a few hours later, and the place just became one huge dance floor, with screens high above showing El Classico, and a balcony full of locals peering suspiciously down on us. My favourite place on the island had to be the reggae bar – a house band played for what seemed like hours, chopping and changing the singer every few songs. Reminded me a bit of temple bar in Dublin, but a Reggae version.

On our last day, we took a little snorkelling tour by boat around all three of the Gili Islands : Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. We stopped just offshore each island to see coral, turtles, fishes and that – it took me until the third stop before I figured out how to equalise my ears and actually use the bloody snorkel properly. We met an aussie couple Nick and Katie, who had been travelling around for 6 months around Asia having the time of their life (bar a brief low point when Nick shattered his elbow from a scooter accident, spending 4 weeks in a thai hospital). A quick look at their joint Instagram account is enough to make anyone weep with jealousy. Like most other travellers (and us), Nick had a GoPro, a bunch of accessories including some big dome thing that sat on the front which he used when snorkelling to get above and below water footage in the same frame, as well as a drone (a bloody drone!) which really put the quality of our holiday video to shame*.

*our holiday vid is still great. Shout out to Tommy for putting this all together. Have a little watch here. 

Bali – Ubud. 

The days and nights of beers in both Seminyak and Gili T have taken their toll by this point, so we get the Eka Jaya back to Bali – annoyingly we ended up going via Gili Meno, Gili Air and Lombok, adding at least another hour to the return trip, which was through some choppy ass waters. Half way through the journey, I looked back at Tom and gave him a little thumbs up to check he was alright, but all I got back was a stare that said get me off this f*ing boat. In defence of the trip, yeah it was choppy, but the boat itself was kitted out to the nines. It had aircon, for a start. It also had fellas running round serving juices, Bintangs, snacks (I smashed back a pipe of Paprika pringles) – It even had films. First up was Tarzan, where a grown man who used to be friends with giant Gorillas goes back to the rainforest as an adult and literally gets beaten the shit out of by said Gorillas (even though he’s meant to be their mate or brother or something), but then they make friends and turn on real baddie played by Christopher Waltz. We then continued the theme of gorillas by moving on to Kong : Skull Island, which had an even more far fetched story line where a Gorilla the size of a four story building (Kong, duh) was caught in the middle of some strange battle between lizards who slept underground, and the US Army lead by Samuel L Jackson – the US Army incidentally didn’t really want to be there and were massively duped into going. The boat pulled up half way through Kong so I don’t know how it ends.

Anyway, where was I – yes, by this point, the days and nights of our trip had taken their toll, so we took a taxi from Pedangbai to Ubud, the spiritual centre of Bali – less party, more culture we’re told. They’re not wrong either. We get to Ubud and, despite the traffic in the main part of town, it’s a million miles away from the bright, frenetic bustle of Seminyak or the even Gili T, it was just calm. After a day by the pool and a short walk through Ubud streets (which are lined with temples) to get some food, we hit the hay, as the next morning we had an early start – the alarms went at 2am and we were picked up by our reliable man in the know Wahiyu who drove us to the summit of Mount Batur, towards the north of the island.

The trek itself took about two hours, and I kinda underestimated how steep it’d be. I underestimated the rocks, too – my flyknits really weren’t the best choice of footwear. We were guided up by an 18 year old Indonesian lass who was so small that I worried a big gust of wind would knock her off the top of the mountain, but she made 3 (supposedly) fit young lads look fragile the way she bounded up the mountain paths. We reached the summit at around 5.30AM, and the sky was ever so slightly lightening. We picked our spot and waited for the sun to come up – our view being blocked every 5 minutes by a batch of cloud cover. As soon as the sun came up, the cloud lifted and suddenly about 20 little monkeys appeared from nowhere. They took it in turns teasing a couple of stray dogs that were knocking about, as well as pinching bananas and crisps from people’s bags. I think we paid about 700,000 rupiah to the tour guide office for entry and a guide up the mountain, which comes to about £15 each, and I think we agreed that was the best £15 we’d ever spent. We tipped our little guide lass 300,000 rupiah between us too, and it was worth that alone to see the smile on her face after.

IMG_5170Monkeys survey the pack of tourists for food. 

IMG_5164Monkeys of Mount Batur, with the hot spring from the volcano providing the backdrop. 

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Our man Wahiyu waited like a champ for us in the car park for the whole time we were up there, sleeping in the car. At about 9AM (although we’d been up for half the day already) he took us for breakfast, and then on a tour of the island’s top attractions : The Rice Terrace in Tegalalang, the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud, then the waterfall in Tegenungan. We powered through each visit, taking it in turns to catch some shut eye in the car in between each stop. The rice terrace was a bit of a blur (think I was still half asleep) and it was starting to get outrageously hot. The monkey forest was fascinating, if a little unnerving. I like monkeys (or at least I think I do), but one little lad was hissing at me right at the entrance, protecting a little bottle of Evian that he thought I wanted. I told him I didn’t but that seemed to anger him even more as he kept hissing and looking at me. I then saw a sign warning visitors not to look directly at the monkeys, and not to dangle anything from pockets – and basically, if you have food anywhere, then good luck. I saw one geezer filming some monkeys jumping into a little pond on his go pro, while two others jumped onto his back and swiped some eggs out of his backpack. Another little guy robbed a lighter quick as a flash from a girls backpack. She cried ‘no, that’s not good’ in an American accent and looked to one of the park wardens pleading him to get it back, and he looked back at her with a tough shit sort of look as the monkey ran off with his new lighter into the distance. Quite what she thought would happen, I don’t know. Blaze up a joint? Burn the forest down?

IMG_5183Mount Batur sunrise

IMG_5160Tegalalang Rice Terrace. 

IMG_5226Tegenungan Waterfall, Ubud. 

After the little trip to the waterfall, we’d seen about as much culture some people squeeze unto a fortnight, so we said our farewells to Wahiyu and chilled back in Ubud, with only a few more days of the trip left.

We tied up our trip with a last day and night in Seminyak. I got probably the best haircut I’ve ever had from hipster barber Shearlings (zero back and sides, nothing off the top), and met the lads at Potato Head. We spent the rest of the day there, then a quick change and the hottest noodles I’ve ever eaten in my life before heading to La Favela, where we spent our last in Bali. On leaving Favela, I convinced Nick to walk back to our hotel instead of Taxi – it said it were a 15 minute walk on google maps. After navigating a few dark alleys, a dog started chasing us (or he barked at us, I’m not really sure), either way we pegged it down the road as fast as we could until we’d turned the corner. No sooner had we turned that corner, when two more bloody dogs came out of the woodwork from the opposite direction – this time these were actual dogs running toward us, so we ran back the way we came. We were then caught in a bit of a no-mans land, too shit scared to go either back fully the way we came, or the way we should’ve been going, past the other dogs. We flagged down a scooter thinking he was a taxi, but he wasn’t. Nick did some negotiating and we hopped on. He was a kiwi lad – ‘I could see you boys were in a bit of bother there, so no worries’ he said as we hurtled through the windy streets of Seminyak. ‘I’ve never taken three on here mind!’ he added. It took all of 2 minutes so we can;t have been far away. We waved him off into the night, as he declined our offer of some rupiah for the short journey. We both knew that the both of those dogs were only a little bit smaller than chihuahuas, but we didn’t say anything.

 

Next day we were back to Denpasar airport, on one last emotional ride with Wahyiu. We said our goodbyes, promised to visit again, and we departed Indonesia for a return to Malaysia once more. Tom sorted us out with some ridiculously 5 star accommodation in Kuala Lumur (presumably because it was booked on the day) a stones throw from the Petronas Towers. Our last full day of holiday before travelling home was my 28th birthday. I picked up some Levi’s gear from SLCC mall, played chess with Tom in a bathrobe by the pool of our hotel and watched Chelsea beat Everton 3-0 to round off a great couple of weeks.

Till next time!

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Where we stayed:

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La La Land : A Musical Appreciation

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Another Day in the Sun – Opening freeway scene

I hate musicals. The words ‘ooooh, let’s pop on Singing in the Rain’ or ‘you know what I fancy? Mamma bloody Mia!’ have never, ever come out of my mouth, and long may that continue. Yet, with this knowledge of my own mind and character at 27 years of age, I didn’t give any of those preconceptions a second thought when I agreed to go and watch La La Land. I’d seen the Oscar hype. It’s got Ryan Gosling in it. It must be good, right?  Ignoring the promo poster has Gosling and Emma Stone, mid embrace in what clearly is the mid throws of a dance, I thought, let’s give this a whirl, it’ll be a blast. So I sat down in Fulham Broadway Vue with nearly a tenners worth of sweets, and we’re off. The first scene starts nicely enough: a widescreen view of a gridlocked LA freeway, pale blue skies with barely a whip of cloud, bright, bright sunshine, baking tarmac, downtown off in the distance, very clearly present day. You’re transported right into the searing heat of LA, pure escapism from the off. Little heart eye emoji right there. I start to relax into my seat, picking out a strawberry bootlace and BAM! Some bird gets out of her car and starts singing. Singing, as if it’s a completely normal thing to do in a traffic jam. Then a few more berks get out to join in, as if the only way to combat a nutter singing in a traffic jam is to join in. And that’s it, right from the off. Berks singing all over the shop as if this is the most normal thing in the world. And then there you are in the cinema, being brought up to speed very quickly that this is a shitting musical, and you still have about two hours left of it. Christ.

But you know what, I bloody loved it.

I know what you’re thinking. Why should I give two shits about some bloke-who-doesn’t-think-he-likes-musicals-but-enjoyed-this-one’s review of a film that has had, at last count, 14 Oscar nominations, won every Golden Globe it was up for (7) not to mention countless further gongs from the Screen Actors Guild and critics Choice Awards. Don’t worry about any of them: Industry experts. Critics. Nor the 294m dollars in Box Office takings to date. No. Forget about all of that. Instead, read Josh’s shitty little blog that nobody reads which he only even writes once every few years, because he reckons it was alright!

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When you’ve got Jazz club at 6 and hearts to break at 7. 

Anyway… I was trying to rack my brains as to why I’d enjoyed this film so much. Or at least why I became so emotionally invested in it. What was it? The dancing? Not a chance, although it was all pretty harmless in the end. Gosling’s tweed suit game? Possibly. Gosling’s retro bowling shirt game? Better still. The narrative? Not the most complicated, even with the ending. No, it wasn’t until I listened back to the film’s soundtrack, that it all clicked and fell into place. Quite how many Oscars La La Land picks up this weekend remains to be seen, but none will be more deserving than Justin Hurwitz’s dead cert for Best Original Score.

Hurwitz, a classically trained pianist, turned to Jazz at Harvard, where he met Damien Chazelle (Director, La La Land) and became his roommate – Chazelle himself was a Jazz drummer, and they got together years later to collaborate on Whiplash, with Chazelle as Director and Hurwitz with the score.

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Justin Hurwitz – Composer, La La Land score

We were discussing how good La La Land was at dinner, and I started to bang on about how the music made it. My brother suggested that it was the ‘same song that played throughout,’ and he meant City of Stars – whilst he’s technically wrong, he is on the right track. The repetition of key melodic ideas is key to La La Land’s genius. These ideas are all introduced within the first hour of the film (except for Mia’s audition song), and are all reasonably simple melodies that are catchy enough when played on their own. But the reason you’re probably humming any one of those melodies is due to their expert repetition and the way they weave in and out of major emotional landmarks in the film.

Take the film’s opener, Another Day of Sun, which to paraphrase Alan Partridge, had me by the jaffers from the off. It starts big, bright and bold, in G Major, with an irresistibly catchy note sequence of three ascending notes each two notes apart, building around the ascending chord pattern of C, D, then up to E minor and down to B minor. Simple enough.  Then take Someone in the Crowd, where we’re first properly (musically) introduced to Mia. This starts in C Major and in a similarly brash and sightly corny, with a similarly full production manner. This song takes a melancholic turn half way through and we’re introduced to another ascending melody, around the chord progression of Fmaj7, G7, Cmaj7, Am7. Both songs similar ascending note patterns here at differing tempos, but they’re so catchy because whilst the notes climb up with that ascending chord progression, a minor chord gets chucked in half way – on the 3rd chord for Another Day of Sun and the 4th chord for Someone in the Crowd. That’s what makes them sound alike. That’s music right there. This lad doesn’t mess about.

The way these melodies are introduced and re-introduced, either as part of huge orchestral pieces and then isolated on their own (or vice versa) is more akin to the structure of a classic symphony than a film/musical soundtrack. You have an exposition at the beginning introducing the main melodic themes (Another Day of Sun, Someone in the Crowd, Mia and Sebastian’s Theme, A Lovely Night & City of Stars) which are then brought back later on at various points and rounded up with a coda at the end. Hurwitz notes himself the classical influences on his work – “Beethoven and Chopin and Bach and Schubert and the repertoire I played influenced me as a composer for sure.”

Melodies that appear in the film’s first hour are weaved back in later, but in different contexts, inviting different meanings. The aforementioned ascending note pattern from Someone in the Crowd is reflective and melancholic, sure, but it’s one part of an ultimately happy, upbeat and hopeful song. That melody is then repeated at the Engagement Party for Sebastian’s sister, where Sebastian plays the ascending melody on it’s own as a separate piece, shortly after his separation from Mia after their handbags where he made her dinner but she told him Jazz is shit, or something like that.* It’s a beautiful piece of music when played so bare, and completely different when played in a different context.

*I’m writing all of this from memory. Some of the detail might be wrong. 

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A Lovely Night – the film’s lead promotional image

Mia and Sebastian’s tune – the rogue number Sebastian plays on the piano that makes Mia stop in her tracks but also makes everyone’s favourite Jazz nutter J.K Simmons fire his sorry ass for going off repertoire –  is thoughtful, broody, a little bit showy, but simple too, probably like him. Yet in the Planetarium scene, it reappears, this time fully orchestral, with the melody played between a clarinet and an oboe. Their relationship is fully realised in the orchestral version of this tune, which I got from the music, but just incase the deaf buggers in the audience didn’t, Chazelle takes the bizarre step of pausing gravity and hoiking Seb and Mia into the air in one of the film’s more ridiculous moments. That melody comes back again at the end during the film’s coda, the Epilogue, the (ultimately heartbreaking) montage of what could’ve been for Seb and Mia. When he sits down at the piano with Mia’s eyes burning a hole in the back of his head, you already know what he’s going to play. We hear four versions of that melody during the ending: Played at the start as Gosling sits at the piano, similar to how it was introduced at the beginning of the film;  then evolving into a fully orchestral piece as we go into the montage, similar to how it builds in the Planetarium scene; orchestrally again half way through, but with added choir; and finally it closes the sequence with Gosling sat haunched over the piano, but this time the notes of the melody are played slower, bare and in an almost haunting manner, to give the perfect accompaniment for the film’s denouement, and the audience’s realisation that this relationship didn’t last.

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Mia at the Epilogue

City of Stars is the film’s most recognisable song, and along with Mia’s Audition (the Fools Who Dream), up for an Oscar for Best Original Song. It begins as a piano & vocal number early on in the film, and being in the key of E minor shows a slight departure from the major keys of the previous songs in the film, with a very simple chord progression of Am, D7 and Em to begin with. The repetition here is less subtle. As well as featuring in the Epilogue at the end of the film, City of Stars comes back half way through the film as a Mia and Seb duet in one of the film’s more defining scenes, at the height of their relationship – when introduced, the song doesn’t stray from the up and down melody with a few vocals over the top (bum bum bum, city of stars, are you sing just for me, bum bum bum etc), but when we hear it as a duet, it becomes a completely different song – a new staccato part comes in about half way through, not too dissimilar to what we hear half way through Someone in the Crowd, making the song already twice as good and showing us that Sebastian is ultimately better for having Mia sat beside him.

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Oooh it’s John Legend!!

 

The only song from the film that stands out as an anomaly is the one Gosling plays on stage with John Legend, Start a Fire, but that has an important role all the same. Dramatic to begin with, it then explodes into this ridiculous poppy over-the-top affair that Seb doesn’t quite get, but for some reason we like (kinda like John Legend IRL, am I right?) Start a Fire serves to encapsulate Sebastian’s slide from troubled Jazz pianist with nothing but iron clad credentials serving as his compass, to sell out to make ends meet. It also serves as the musical tipping point where the balance of Seb and Mia’s relationship starts to go south. There’s no repetition of this song’s melodies later, so this really is a one off, but it strikes a balance between catchy and cringe. You want to hate it, but it’s actually really good. There’s a Buzzfeed article that argues whether we’re allowed to like this song in the context of the others.

‘That was a tricky song to write. It can’t be a bad song—but it also has to make us feel a little uncomfortable, because it’s not the music Sebastian should be playing. It’s not the music he dreamed about playing. And it’s not really music that belongs to our musical. It has to feel like an outlier.’ – Justin Hurwitz talking to GQ. 

 

Funny how the listening back to the La La Land soundtrack, the repetition of the key melodies, the interweaving of all the film’s brilliant music, is a really positive experience. You’re placed back into the film, into the arc of the story, yet the album plays as a collection of music from start to finish in it’s own right. You can picture the narrative of Mia and Sebastian’s relationship without having to see it – the joy in its inception, sadness at it never quite making it. Compare that listening experience then, with that of the Whiplash soundtrack, Chazelle and Hurwitz’s previous collaboration where they played the same roles of Director and Composer respectively. I recoiled as I had to listen back to the film’s two chief numbers: Whiplash and Caravan. I was back in the midst of Miles Teller’s pain, picturing J.K Simmon’s evil glare, but that’s entirely the point. We’re meant to feel that emotion with Whiplash – and we’re meant to feel that again when listening to the music. The music in La La Land is also attached to the same idea of emotion, just very different ones.
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J.K Simmon’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar role in Whiplash

Back to the film’s coda : The Epilogue (as it’s named on the soundtrack). The masterpiece final montage, where this film turns from great into Oscar winning. Mia clocks eyes on a Sebastian she used to know and hasn’t seen for years, and as he catches her eye when onstage, he’s stopped in his tracks. As he sits down to the piano, he plays Mia and Sebastian’s theme exactly as it is played when she first sees him, which then takes us straight into a flashback-y type montage that begins with their first encounter. From there, their relationship as we’ve seen it throughout the film is played back to us as it happened, to the backing of the film’s key melodic ideas one by one – a coda that was imagined before anything else in the film.

“The first things I remember were the big set pieces of the movie,” Hurwitz recalls. “It’s gonna start with a big huge musical number on a freeway in a traffic jam. It’s gonna have this big balletic sequence in the Griffith Observatory Planetarium, and they’re gonna float into the sky. There’s gonna be this big fantasy in the end, where we kind of rewind the story, and we relive moments of the relationship set to music. I remember those big moments being pillars of the story.” Justin Hurwitz talking to Vice.

As Mia and Sebastian’s theme builds into an orchestral version, the pace then quickens into the melody of Another Day in the Sun, and we’re taken back to the bright eyed, bushy tailed hope and joy of the film’s beginning, as well as the beginning of their relationship. The tempo slows down slightly as we’re taken into the more melancholic melody from Someone in the Crowd, and then we slow right down again to hear Audition (Fools who Dream) back for the first time, which takes on a whole new level of complexity with a Jazz arrangement that develops into a flourishing trumpet solo. This acts as a break, as we’re taken back into the original Mia and Sebastian theme melody from the start – this is a fully orchestral version similar to the one we hear in the Planeterium scene earlier in the film, but with added choir arrangement that has a real grandeur to it. At this point in the montage we’re watching a Seb and Mia who have grown together, and we’re almost tricked into thinking that maybe they did end up together after all. That scene with her walking into the Jazz bar with another man was a rouse, they were together happily ever after until silence… and back down to the City of Stars melody played on a lone piano which then serves to be the final image of Seb’s what-could’ve-been vision for him and Mia.

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A wry Gosling smile

The montage ends, and we cut back to a lone figure of Seb, hunched over the piano where he started, playing the original piano melody that first caught Mia’s attention, but now it’s played with a real emptiness. The bare bones of the notes ring out hollow as Mia watches on aghast, and we’re now left to realise the heartbreaking reality that the only thing they share is a memory. It’s not Sebastian sitting next to Mia after all, it’s someone else.

I’ll look a right tit if Hurwitz doesn’t get that Oscar now.

 

Glastonbury 2013

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Summer’s been kind to this young lad. I say young, the cold has crept up on me over the past week, without so much as a whimper of a warning. I’ve been wearing leggings for christ’s sake. LEGGINGS. Little caveat to that point, I’ve worn them whilst cycling to work, so I’m not entirely mental. But yes, it’s been a bit cold hasn’t it. It ‘s rained a bit too. My feet got wet on Friday, as did my leather man bag and I was fed up. It made me pine for summer just passed – and weren’t it a good un. I discovered Breaking Bad, the mrs bought me a skateboard and I re-discovered the beauty of the kickflip (and how much more painful falling over is now I’m 10 years older) I won meself a free ticket to Benicassim and randomly got a tattoo of an eagle (why wouldn’t you). Can’t complain at all. Cheers. This sort of activity is more befitting of an 18 / 19, pre uni gap year shit, not a care in the world, blissfully unaware of real life or anything outside their parents house. But no, I’m 24 and managed to sandwich all this joy and merriment in between working weeks, at a real job. Who’d a thought it.

All of those nice things I listed above were all nice and lovely, and might make you a bit jealous. Saying that, lots of people had nice summers, and proceeded to brag brag and brag about their adventures via social media outlets. Ibiza this, Croatia that. New York this, Bicester Village that. I was probably guilty of it myself, sure. This year though, there was one event where you wouldnt have possibly been able to avoid the endless timeline activity of, unless you just didn’t have electricity – Glastonbury. They call it fomo, apparently: Fear of missing out. I was fomo’ing all over the shop way back last October on that nerve wrecking Sunday morning when the tickets for Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts went up for grabs. 6 of us sat round my living room table at 9am, surveying the wreckage of the preceeding night’s house party, repeatedly hitting reload as the agonising cries of GLASTO 2013 YEAAHHH trickled through on Facebook and Twitter and we were seeing frozen screens and loading messages.

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Maybe it was the fallow year. The Olympics kept us entertained just about enough for us not to go batshit crazy about their being no Glasto in 2012. But this made the necessity for tickets for 2013 even more, well necessary. On a personal level, things had changed too. First time for most of us, back in 2010, there was a small bunch of us. Second time, there was the original crowd plus a few more. We had no major dramas getting tickets either time. There were a few frantic phonecalls, and people buying other people’s tickets here and there, but the common tales of woe and wasted mornings didnt resonate, for we had always got lucky. With even more of us this year, I had the suspicion that this would be the year my luck would run out. And with rumours, strong rumours of the Rolling Stones being teed up to headline the festival for the first time in their existence, I had fomo big time. Nervous, nail biting fomo. To draw this fairly tedious opening gambit to a close, we all got tickets about 10 minutes before they were officially announced as sold out, so again, no dramas. Third time lucky, indeed. It turned out that even me mam was going, in the van. Every man and his dog got tickets, happy days.

That is, every man and his dog bar our dear pals Mike and Rosie. Very much part of the ‘crew’, this was a difficult loss to take, and made bragging of our luck through aforementioned social media outlets difficult, for fear of sending Mike to an early grave, and this carried on right up until, during and after the best festival on earth. I had to temper my excitement and adulation through public mediums out of respect for those who wouldn’t be attending.

Now with announcement this week of when the tickets for Glastonbury 2014 would go on sale early October, I thought it time to write my retrospective glance. No festival would be complete without a Josh Moore Blog tale of the week that was – it really wouldn’t – so here are the moments that made the greatest Glastonbury that ever was, for me.

Arctic Monkeys – Do I Wanna Know

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I’ve already written in depth about the Thursday of Glastonbury. My pals in Foreign Affairs graced the Avalon Cafe stage to an audience of passers by and well-wishers from Keynsham. That kicked the festival off for me well and truly, but for most of the 135 odd thousand people at Worthy Farm, the place wouldn’t really come alive until Friday, when the stages officially opened in their splendour.

From my vague memory, Friday this year was a bit damp. A few of us opted to watch Jake Bugg on the Pyramid Stage in the early afternoon (as opposed to his late afternoon slot in the Acoustic Tent) – where he just looked a bit lost. A boy almost, not quite ready for this moment, at this point, so early in his career. The same comparisons could be drawn with the Arctic Monkeys of 2007, who then headlined the Pyramid stage on the same Friday they would headline six years later. Whilst not terrible then by any standards, they were an entirely different outfit, boys almost at the beginning of their musical career, two amazing albums deep – and only just, Favourite Worst Nightmare had been released only two months previous.

Fast forward 6 years, and the band have struggled with the inevitable second, third, fourth season syndrome that those bands who release their (arguably) finest album first have to contend with. The Monkey’s, whilst not quite being able to do an Oasis with Favourite Worst Nightmare, have managed to churn out more consistent records with Humbug and Suck it and See, and the anticipation of their set tonight is more heated now than when they were the country’s hottest property those few years ago. We’d managed to get fairly close to the front (by Glasto standards) and shortly before they came on stage, we were blinded by bright white light, which slowly turned into the design from the new album cover AM – after about 5 minutes they opened with Do I Wanna Know, a song I barely knew at the time, but grew on most of us, especially me and my brother, as our song of the summer.

There were so many highlights to their set. Frantically jumping up and down with Big Dav and Clarkey to Brianstorm and Dancing Shoes, shouting DO DO DO DO at Teddy Picker as loud as we could. They even brought back an ‘old Monkey’s tune’, and tarted it up with strings (Mardy Bum) – the set was flawless, possibly the best set I’ve witnessed with my eyes and ears.  It’s something that’ll stay with me forever as the best thing I’ve ever seen at Glastonbury, and Do I Wanna Know kicked it all off. It’ll take some beating.

James Blake – Retrograde

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There was a huge group of us by Sunday, having all packed the cars up ready to piss off straight after Mumford, and everyone seemed intent on hanging around the Pyramid for most of the afternoon. Knowing that James Blake was on, I dragged Gabs over to the John Peel stage for his set. I’d only had a couple of tinnies on the Sunday, knowing I’d be driving back later that night and a bit jaded from everything since Wednesday. Perfect slot for James Blake I think.

I’ve seen a few crap acts on the John Peel Stage over the years. Choosing Jamie T over Muse seems an odd one looking back. It’s location left a little to be desired too. It’s no Park stage by any stretch, but unless you were camped over that way, it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere. The wrong side of the Pyramid if you like. I cant confess to be Blake’s biggest fan, I know a few tunes from the first album, and only this one off of the second – but it’s the opening melody that gets me every time. Twinned with the nonchalant piano, it’s a tune (and indeed he’s an act) you’d feel more suited to an intimate indoor setting, but it completely worked. This summed up my Glastonbury this year. Dizzying, forgetful, but punctuated with moments of magic and brilliance.

Mik Artistik – Sweet Leaf of the North

Mik Artistik is something of a Glastonbury stalwart. This year he played the festival 15 times over the entire weekend. I first came across Mik on a visit to Gaz’s Rockin Blues at the St Moritz Club on Wardour St about 5 years ago. As you can imagine, this was a blues night. Mik isn’t blues. Still, it was that night I discovered the absurdity of Betting Shop Pens, the beauty of Window Cleaner and the ridiculousness Jimmy Saville’s Got my Album (although this has now, as you can imagine, been scrubbed off the set list)

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So imagine my delight when we bumped into Mik at Glastonbury a few years ago. There we all are. Clarkey was with me that night at Gaz’s so he knows who he is, and Adam had already seen one of his many sets on our recommendation that weekend, so he knew who he was too. Geoff is possibly the only man in the world who is permanently smiling. Or worrying. But mostly smiling. I think Mik was slightly taken back, and probably a bit concerned at being hounded like a ruddy one directioner by three grinning berks.

This year, it wasn’t the Stones or the Monkeys I was most excited to see. No it was Mik. And there’d be ample opportunity (did I mention he was playing 15 times?) The first I was aware of was a slot a couple of hours after Foreign affairs at the Avalon Cafe. Written in the stars I thought, perfect! Anyone that has read the previous blog will know that I got a bit excited on expensive american pale ales, and has to be taken back to the tent for a nap and a bit of sick. So I missed my perfect moment, and quite frankly lost track of when and where he’d be playin through the rest of the weekend so forgot about it. Sorry Mik.

 

On the Saturday morning I think it was, running low on beers and phone charge, me and Nath decided to trek over to the mother’s caravan (well it’s actually just a van) which was with all the other caravans, in the caravan bit. Now the caravan bit is at the farthest reaches of the east end of Glastonbury. We were camped at pretty much the most north western point, meaning a voyage across the vast city the place becomes for the weekend. I had to leave Nath at the gate to the caravan bit (you needed your ticket) for what seemed an eternity. The caravan bit involved a lot of hills and a lot of waiting, so on making it back down to the gate and reuniting with long lost brother, I needed a tinnie and a sit down. And sit down we did, stumbling across Mik on a random stage. Actually it wasn’t even a stage, it was a platform, as he did his final number Sweet Leaf of the North. The above isn’t this moment, but it’s the same song at another Glastonbury, another stage, another time. I got to see him, and my weekend was complete.

Rolling Stones – Sympathy For the Devil

 

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It is ridiculous that the Arctic Monkeys of 2013’s presence at Glastonbury could be completely overshadowed by any other band, but the greatest rock n roll band of all time did their best to steal the limelight. There were rumours before tickets went on sale that this would be there year. First Ronnie Wood came out and said he’d like to do it. Then Keith said it’s be nice, and Mick reminisced about how he’d been before and stayed in a yurt. Everything was pointing toward the unthinkable, and then it was announced.

Thinking back to the ticket morning, it wasn’t just Mike and Ro who didnt get them. At this point, it was Clarkey too. When the Stones were announced as headliners, I of course was over the moon, but had the sinking feeling of knowing Clarkey wouldnt be there – it was in his garage where we first practised Jumpin Jack Flash and Gimme Shelter as high as our amps would go when we were 14. Alas, his luck came in when Foreign Affairs were announced to be playing the festival – he’s the bassist. Happy day.

So there was a sense of anticipation to the set like never before. I’ve never really been arsed about the headliners at Glasto, I’m there for the experience MAN, but one of my favourite bands of all time playing the Saturday night slot was just a dream come true – especially when tickets to their gigs go at around £400 a pop. I mean I like em, but not enough to spend 400 notes on a bleedin ticket. Anyway, I digress. I was excited.

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Now I full well know that they were going to sound like, in all probability, a bit of a dodgy tribute act – but it was the sheer enormity of the moment, seeing the actual Stones with my eyeballs regardless of whether they were shit or not, which made it so important. And they were much better than I thought they would be. Ronnie Wood, the epitome of rock n roll, nonchalantly puffing away on his fag on stage. Keith playing real guitar, open tuning nice and loose, not too slick and polished. Mick strutting around the stage, working the fairly sizeable crowd. Their collective presence really puts some bands in their places. This is a band whose rock n roll days are far behind them in the 60s and 70s, yet ooze more cool than every act at this festival combined.

It got to mid way in the set when they brought on Mick Taylor for a fairly lengthy rendition of Midnight Rambler. At this point, after seeing off the best part of a brewery throughout the day, Gabby needed a slash. The beauty – or horror, whichever way you look at it – of being male is that you can whip out your one eyed trouser trout whilst the Rolling Stones are headlining Glastonbury, safe in the knowledge that everyone is watching the Rolling Stones headline Glastonbury, and not looking at you directing a jet of cider piss towards the neck of a 2 litre plastic bottle. Sometimes there’s a momentary misfire where a bit of piss brushes a ladies leg (Purnell) but it’s too quick to notice. There’s also the clean missing of the bottle entirely (Ben Grounds) and the consequent streaming of hot urine all over some lasses feet while her husband turns around and asks you plainly, ‘Why are you pissing on my wife’s leg?!’ – to which you audaciously insist your not, when you clearly are.

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Anyway, where was I. Oh pissing, right. So Gabs needed a piss, and she in this instance is cursed with being female. She considers the squat, but even in this environment of freely slashing uber lads, she opts against it. Now the Rolling Stones are headlining, so there’s pretty much every person at the entire festival stood in front of the Pyramid stage, making the exit route to the shitters a difficult one. Green momentarily considered chaperoning her. Clarke made him stay. 20 minutes later, I have a sobbing woman on the phone, completely lost, unable to decipher my directions – ‘by the welsh flag, not the first one, but the second one, next to the Jamaican flag’ – ‘what’s a welsh flag?’ – even thinking back to these flag exchanges is making me feel a little ill. I went to find her, by a black flag nonetheless – probably the least jazzy but ironically, most universally accepted for what it is. Sobbing her heart out, overwhelmed by talk of flags. We made peace and barged our way back to the crew. I could see Clarkey’s head, and then I heard it. Chants of ‘Woo woo’, ‘woo woo’ – Beats of a samba drum – fans of Josh Moore blog (something that I’ve worryingly said twice now) will know that I’m very close to this tune. I made it back to the gang for ‘killed the czar and his ministers’ and all was well. The crowd was bathed in a deep, bright red, and the strange metal bird that sat on top of the Pyramid itself came to life, breathing fire, confirming to everyone that this wasn’t just any old Saturday might Glasto headliner. They did Cant Always Get What You Want, and closed with Satisfaction. No superlatives can describe that night, so I won’t bother. it just was. And I was lucky enough to be there. Absolutely amazing.

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On Sunday, none of us had any real desire to see anyone in particular, so ambled from stage to stage as a big group, taking in the last day of the greatest festival on the planet. Having trekked over to the Park stage the previous day and going right up to the Glastonbury Hollywood esque sign, I made us all trudge up there again. Overlooking the Park stage, behind the Rabbit hole, next to the Stone Circle is the hill where the Glasto sign sits, which overlooks the vast festival in all it’s splendour. We got up to the top, found a spot – for a good 10 minutes, we were all silent, just looking, taking it in. This was probably my moment of the festival. Words cant describe how small you feel, but how lucky you are at the same time, to be part of something so bloody massive.

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There were so many moments which will live with me forever. The music is what people go to festivals for, but my best moments looking be have to be just hanging out with my mates 24/7 for 5 days straight. Right from having a random picture with Dav and the Keynsham train station sign…

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…to watching from the comfort of the car, the poor bugger who chose to cycle to Glasto, in his wellies, on a road bike, with his tent on his back, wobbling allover the shop. Brave lad.

When we got through the gates, we ventured a bit past pour usual spot and camped up next a Pylon which wouldn’t stop fucking buzzing all night. On arriving, I was defeated from carrying the beers that I couldn’t imagine anything worse than putting up an 8 man sodding tent. It’s fine though I thought, every man and his dogs at Glasto this year, even my parents – cue me phoning for help. My Step-Dad comes bowling up the hill with my mum, barely able to walk. What’s wrong? I asked. ‘I’ve had a hundred ciders’ he says. ‘Oh for fuc….’ He still put it up in about 10 minutes. Different breed that chap.

There was also the delight of waking up to Big Dav every morning ‘eh up sister’ who I shared a tent with for 3 nights until Gabs arrived. We would be up around half 9 most mornings when we heard the ring pull on Clarkey’s strongbow. Despite bucking the trend and not camping with us this year and having to be elsewhere due to performing duties, Clarkes made sure he was at our camp most mornings to bring back an old Glasto tradition, wine at nine, much to Greeners delight. This picture shows one of my favourite moments.

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That’s me with a rubber horses head on there, and Green laughing at it. It’s the littlest things. Green and Amy, like my 8 man tents, are veterans now, passing on our wisdom to other Glasto go-ers. Like Ben for example, who repeatedly disappeared of his own accord, but would always end up back in his own tent (to his dismay) every morning after.

My little brother, now in his second stint, stepped up his game this year and added a lot of value to the squad. MVP, or MIP – most improved player, I think I’ll daub him. There were a few things that annoyed me, as with most siblings – his persistent singing of any song under the sun, despite not being able to hit any of the 7 basic notes in the musical scale – there’s only 7. That grated on me. As did the repeated use of his new catchphrase ‘why don’t you shut up and fuck off’ – a really over the top riposte to the question ‘does anyone want a coffee?’ Dav did have a hot chocolate at the end of each night, but he’s nearing 30 and was doing a good job just by keeping up with us. Bless im.

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But Nath showed his worth by coining the phrase Englishman in Den Hag, to the tune of Sting’s Englishman in New York for Clarkey, our english friend who was soon to be moving to the Hague (and has since moved) – inspired, genius. As was his recounting of the legend of Galahad, Lancelot’s bastard son, and the noblest of noble knights. Known for his gallantry, Galahad was chivalrous, courteous, pulled the sword out of the stone but most tragic of all, died a virgin. Nathan’s speech took us all by surprise, and we were in awe of the lads knowledge and delivery of it. We forced him to repeat his knowledge of Galahad over and over again, but neither time was as good as the first rendition. Still it is Glastonbury 2013 where his new moniker Young Galahad was born.

One morning when me and Gabs were making our way through the Pylon field, she overhead a few people walking past. ‘It’s funny,’ she said ‘with there being so many people here, with all their own in-jokes and banter, but if you overheard them, you’d just think what a load of shit’ – I’ve paraphrased her there. I can’t remember her exact words (it was months ago, chill out) but she was basically saying, so many people, so much chatting shit. What would people think of us then, banging on about Lancelot’s bastard son, wearing a rubber horse mask bought from Amazon for £8 specifically for this weekend, or shouting THE LIGHTS ARE ON over and over again. They’d think, what a load of shit I imagine.

But it’s our shit. Glastonbury 2013, you’ve done it again.

A Very Personal Affair

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A few of my mates owe a lot to this summer. Not Big Dave, who sadly didn’t get to use even one of the eighteen johnnies he bought from Balham pound shop in hope of dirty festival buggery. Not Ben Grounds neither, although he does owe a lot to Geoffrey Green for being kind enough to offer taking him back to his tent half way through Arctic Monkey’s headline Friday night set, due to him being so far gone he couldn’t stand. Ben did offer Geoff £10 ‘taxi fare’ though, so I wouldn’t feel too bad for him. Not my little brother Nath neither, who enjoyed a weekend of debauched mayhem in the sweltering Spanish heat of Benicassim town, courtesy of a free ticket from moi. No it’s two of my oldest mates, Adam Purnell and Martin Clarke, who owe a lot to this summer.

Wind back this time last year, and Adam was setting up a Facebook page for a musical project of sorts, Foreign Affairs, which he was working on with his brother Lawrence at the end of the third year of his music degree. Fast forward to the here and now, and that duo have become a fully fledged band, having played 30 shows this summer, 7 of which were festivals, 1 of which was the biggest festival in the world: Glastonbury.

Back again to last year, I didn’t give them much hope. The pessimist in me thought nobody would get anywhere with a name like Foreign bloody Affairs. Sure, it wasn’t as bad as previous band names I’ve conjured in the past. There was the self indulgent phase of my first year at uni with the shower of shit that was The Upper Echelons. There was also my coming into puberty, discovering black nail varnish phase many years previous, with the unforgivable Sadamun Gomorrah –  No, in hinesight theirs isn’t the worse name in the history of music, I bet the Arctic Monkey’s had their detractors too when they first named themselves. However FA though are certainly no Rago Bell though (in a name sense anyway) who were pretty much un-rivalled as the best band of Wellsway school years 2000-2005. Anyway, moving on. Adam lived in Brussels for a bit, sampling local delights like Kwak and over zealous bouncers armed with tazers in his second year of uni – hence the inspiration.

After setting up this Facebook page, he uploaded a couple of demos: Sticks & Stones and Days, which went down fairly well, but the clunky platform that is Facebook pages made it pretty difficult to connect with what the lads were up to.

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They took a few moody shots of them looking whistfully into the future on Kelston roundtop (rural, sure) to go on the EP. Adam (below, right) also started to wear lots of hats…

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…maybe to remind people that he was in a band. Only musicians can really pull off this sort of head attire. This is all I really remember from the early Foreign Affairs days. There was one gig at the Bookshop in Bedminster – not to be confused with an actual bookshop, I’ll add, but not to be confused with a music venue either – it was little more than a restaurant with a small stage. I think Adam regretted inviting me in the end. About 15 of us, all from our year at school turned up. The barmen greeted us with ‘no stag do’s please lads‘ as we walked through the door. They probably played a decent set – none of us would’ve remembered.

And then it was all a bit quiet up until Christmas, and then this happened…

They roped in the help of an old mate, Mr Matt Fez who did a great job setting the church up and directing the video. Until now, we’d only heard them play their own songs. I think the thing I was most impressed with was the total confidence in which they took on such an iconic, and almost unchangeable song, daring to change it and make it their own. Gone was the playful and cheeky counterpoint between Kirsty and Shane, a careful balance between angelic and shambolic. Now it was replaced with a completely confident voice played against a melody played on strings rather than through lungs, backed by a booming bass drum and a tambourine. As soon as the lads covered Fairytale of New York, the offers started pouring in. Kind of. They featured on Bristol radio on Christmas Eve morning (meaning Adam was late for St Sleeves day) and were approached by Paloma Faith’s manager. So far, so good.

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It was clear from that cover, that the addition of the bass drum was welcome. So far it was just two brothers as an acoustic duo. It was clear they needed a band to take things further. Lawrence’s mate Isaac was drafted in on drums, and they drafted in a lass called Serena to add a bit of strings and lady lungs to the set up. They also called upon the expertise of Martin Clarke on bass, one of my oldest and dearest pals, and former lead guitarist to my rhythm offering in our teenage band Rago Bell. Clarke is actually a bloody good Bassist. I know this from A-level music, and the bassline exercises Mr Page used to assign us – his were always the best.

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It’s also worth noting at this point that Wellsway School’s class of 2005-2007 A level music only featured three people – they were me, Clarkey and Adam. Hannah Ingram was on about doing it on the sixth form open day, but she bottled it. I think we helped collectively age Mr Page, Miss Dennis and Miss Valentine by a decade. We were a triumvirate of disappointment. Well not quite, more like a duo of disappointment: me and Clarkey never lived up to our potential. Aside from him excelling at basslines, Clarke was often vexed by Mrs Valentine’s lessons on the history of the baroque period. I was a bit of a last minute merchant too, still putting the finishing touches to my reggae-jazz-african fusion piece about 20 minutes before it had to go off in the post to the exam board. Clarkey at one point tried to turn the conventions of education upside down by taking the reigns from Miss Dennis and teaching one of our popular music lessons himself. This particular lesson was on The Beatles’ Day in the Life. Hardly surprising then, if you know the lad. The less said about Adam the better though. Anyone who can play the Nokia ringtone as a classical guitar piece is always gonna be the golden boy of the class.

So given our history, I was intrigued to how the following months would pan out. Here are my three favourite moments of the summer that followed…

The Opener

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Back in April, Adam rang me to let me know they’d be playing their first London gig at the Old Queens Head in a few weeks time, and whether he could crash at mine the night before. That weekend turned out to be the JMBW (Josh Moore’s Big Weekend) 5th annual invitational, so friends old and new from all corners of the world (well, only Bristol and London really) came along to show their support. I was really intrigued to see how they’d perform as a fully fledged band, whether it would translate effectively from their previous experience as an acoustic duo.

A few weeks previous, Adam played me a demo they’d been working on. It was a bit rockier, apparently, but I couldn’t really tell at the time. Up until now, everything the lads had done had been a bit vanilla for my taste. I was yearning for a bit more edge. They opened this set, as well as every other gig I’ve been to since, with the Opener…

The above acoustic version, recorded on a bleary eyed morning after their Glasto set (more on that to come) doesn’t nearly do the song justice.

‘meet me in your finest clothes tonight, don’t worry my dear just be on time, 
we’ll go back we’ll forget life, just do me one thing girl be looking fine’

Lawrence, for his age, is very well aware of his appeal to the fairer sex. He’s confident and arrognat in equal measure – they’ve arrived, and they’ve done so in style. I turn around to all the London lot – ‘they’re my mates’ – which is met with ‘they’re quite good actually!‘ Glowing praise indeed. Their first London gig was a success –  it might not have had the same impact as Hendrix descending on the Scotch of St James club in London on September 24th 1966 – but it was the start of something. The band minus Adam packed up the van and drove back to dear old Bristol, while me Ad and my little brother stayed up till the early hours drinking gin on a sofa in Putney. Rock & Roll at it’s finest, there.

Pretty Girl

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So the London set was a little warm up for Glasto if you like, although they did some gigs in between. The anticipation in the week leading up was too much to bear. Clarkey text me Wednesday morning of Glasto week saying he’d been up since 6am. It may aswell have been Christmas. Actually, Glastonbury is better than Christmas, it’s the new Christmas. Nothing else matters. As if I wasn’t excited enough at the prospect of Arctic Monkey’s and the Rolling Stones playing consecutive headline slots, the lads were due to kick off proceedings for the weekend with a slot at the Avalon Cafe stage on the Thursday. We all arrived and camped in various areas of Worthy Farm, and met up that night at the top of the Stone Circle, where the sun was setting. Adam had a bunch of flyers in his hand, so I duly offered my services, and galavanted off around the stone circle with Clarkey with the aim of handing out flyers and speaking to as many people as possible, in order to persuade a few more people to get down to the Avalon cafe the following day. Me, being the confident salesman cum media expert I am, (take with a pinch of salt, please) bowled over to one group – ‘Hey guys, how’s it going alright, how’s it going, what are your plans tomorrow, do you fancy seeing a great upcoming new local band?’ – It was more of a magaluf strip club promoter than savvy music pr jobby. ‘That was really awkward mate,’ said Clarke. Everyone’s a critic, christ. Although not in earshot, Adam could see us out the corner of his eye. Well, he could see Clarkey giving me an appraisal, and not a very good one at that.

‘I think it might be better if me and Clarkey get this done on our own, mate’

In the most diplomatic way, I was just sacked by my mates, on the first day of Glasto. Fantastic. They walk off as the sun sets, and I’m left to find my way back to whoever I’d trekked up there with, on my own, in the dark. That was a low.

So next day, despite my newfound resentment to my former employers, I thought I’d be the bigger man, let bygones be bygones, and I dragged all of my lot over to the Avalon cafe a good half hour before their set. It was like a who’s who of Keynsham in there. By the time they went on, there was easily 2-300 people in there – and by this point, probably the largest crowd they’d ever played to so far.

The anticipation was palpable. We were right at the front, and I was already four tinnies of Brooklyn deep. They opened with the Opener, and the crowd was theirs form the off. It was nice to see so many familiar faces from home, but also loads of new faces, people chilling out in the Avalon cafe and people wandering by, enticed and drawn by the buzz coming from inside the tent – or just escaping the ominous looking clouds which were soon to drench Worthy Farm. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes, stood at the front of the crowd watching two of my best pals on stage at Glastonbury, the biggest festival in the world. Me and Clarkey used to joke that we wouldn’t cut our Glasto bands off from previous years until we played the pyramid stage. I since had them cut off by a nurse in St Thomas Asquinas hospital after slicing my hand open during a drunken altercation with a window in China Town – that story requires it’s own post. Moving on. It wasn’t quite the pyramid stage, but an amazing experience nonetheless, given that Foreign Affairs were only known as a musical venture to a small handful of people. About 4 songs in, Clarke breaks the silence in the room with a walking bassline – the intro to Pretty Girl sounds as if it could just as easily go into You’re the One that I Want from Grease – Isaac comes in soon after with a a shuffling drumbeat, and then the vocals – ‘Sunday morning sun siesta, oooooh, my coffee cup’s fill to the brim’

This is their strongest, and most catchy tune for me, and one they could easily end the set with. Above is the E.P version, but they played this with a lot more angst and tenacity at Glasto. Out of everything I’ve seen and heard from the lads so far, this is their defining moment. Pretty Girl (with your hair in a bow) at Glasto – can’t get much better than that. Fans new and old singing along. All of the excitement of that set got to me that day. Shortly after, the heaven’s opened (something I hadn’t prepared for when setting off in flip flops at the start of the day) I vaguely remember stopping by a brown tipi with Big Dav and Ben Grounds, bouncing away to some random reggae cum dub cum house tunes, when my world started to spin. I had to make an early exit and count myself out – back to the tent I went, for a quick TC (tactical chunder) and a power nap. I woke up to Clarkey, Dav and Adam in my tent (apparently it was raining) – I thought it was Friday. It wasn’t, Foreign Affairs had only finished their set an hour ago. It was going to be a long weekend.

You Said to Me

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Glasto came and went. The lads, after their defining Thursday set, had to get up early doors to trek over the farm to Michael Eavis’ house, and record a few live numbers for Worthy FM. I didn’t catch it (we were on said farm, so there wasn’t a radio in sight, sadly) but by all accounts, the presenter made life difficult for Lawrence. When he was doing his best PR job for the band, directing listeners to their Facebook and Twitter pages, he was told that he was making a rookie error. ‘It’s not in the spirit of Glasto’ bla bla. Now the festival is well and truly over, it might be worth following them on Facebook and Twitter if you don’t already.

A week after the most famous festival on earth, we had the pleasure of catching the lads again, this time at the U.K’s largest non-ticketed music festival. That’s right, it was Keynsham Music Festival, which technically runs from July 1st – 7th, but in reality only really exists on the 7th, the Sunday. They had the midday opening slot of the main stage – me and Clarkey had this slot nearly a decade previously, on the neighbouring Time Out Stage with the previously mentioned Rago Bell. It’s a tough slot – lunchtime gigs are always the worst – it was certainly a more sedate affair than the one a week previous. It was one for the family, if you like. Kiddies danced next to their pushchairs, and grandparents listened eagerly. It’s easy to forget, with all the drunken, debauched, youthful exuberance that was rife at Glasto, the people who couldn’t be there – the parents, grandparents and extended family that have so far supported the lads on their musical journey. Indeed, this was one for them.

Adam said to me a few days beforehand, that he was still on a high from Glasto. He wanted every gig to be like that. I tried to bring him back down to earth – that’s why it is one the most special and unique places on the globe – because it can’t be replicated every week. This is just the start now, really. Whilst the crowd werent necessarily as veracious as last week, the lads didnt disappoint. Same set list as the last few weeks – kicking off with The Opener, bringing in Pretty Girl early on. Half way through the set, they apply a tried and tested live music tactic of doing a couple of slow uns, bringing the mood down a bit. All about balance you see, a set.

You Said to Me is their slow un. It’s their ultimate slow song (see above video of the track recorded in the snow a few months ago) It always requires a token introduction from either Adam or Lawrence, as it has a back story – a very personal back story. The lads’ mum was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, and this song is directly about that time in their life, and how it affected them. The lyrics are painfully, and heart wrenchingly acute:

‘You’re eyes were red, you’re hair was thin, it’s growing back, so you’re gleaming again, You’re made of rock, you’re set in stone, you didn’t move when they bruised you to the bone’

I’d been so mix in the drunken, frenzied appreciation of these lads that I hadn’t properly listened to this song, nor appreciated it’s meaning. Lawrence delivers lyrics about pretty girls swooning after him with ease, but he also connects with real emotion in a way too mature for his mere 19 years. Val Purnell, Ad and Lawrence’s mam, was given the all clear last year, and was in the crowd listening to this moment in the set surrounded by the rest of their family, wiping away tears of complex emotion, I can imagine – pride, joy, relief. I had a lump in my throat too, thinking back to the days where Val would be pleading with me in her kitchen to look after Adam shortly before I was due to take him away to Majorca for our first boozy lads holiday. The fact that Val is here at all watching her boys, is such an amazing feat.

Three different sets, three very different tunes – they’re the moments that defined them for me over the past 6 months. Other people will have other memories, and different favourites I’m sure. Cutting Ropes is another favourite, with a playful interplay with Lawrence and Serena, with some expert stand in harp accompaniment from Clarke in the link. They throw a classy cover of Pumped Up Kicks near the end of the set, which keeps the crowd going, and they tend to end things with Piece of Work – it’s a song so good, that you think you’ve heard it before – you might have to be fair. Written by Will Kimbrough, a singer-songwriter from Nashville who Adam met when on his travels to the deep south a few years ago, it’s a fairly unknown song in the U.K – the lads got in touch with Will directly to see if he’d mind them covering it, putting their own personality on it and playing it live. He was more than amenable, encouraged by the enthusiasm of a young band 3000 miles away.

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They went on to play a few more gigs since, namely Wilderfest, Frome & Harbourside festivals. They also hit the studio to put the finishing touches to their next EP, and summer drew to a close. Having graduated from the university of life, Clarkey’s now moved over to ze Netherlands to study international law, meaning that FA will have to recruit a new member to the fold.

This is definitely just the beginning for the lads…

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Sympathy for the Devil

Beggars Banquet opens with the words ‘Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste,’ – This line, from Mick Jagger’s enigmatic Sympathy for the Devil, is one of my favourite lyrics ever, up there with ‘Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see’ (Beatles) / ‘I gave her my heart but she wanted my soul’ (Dylan) /  ‘Castles made of sand, fall into the sea, eventually’ (Hendrix) / ‘I’ll feed you strawberries and cream, and your friends will all go green, for my lasagne’ (Oasis) – ok, maybe not the last one.

With inspiration taken from Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and the Margarita (“‘Please excuse me,’ he said, speaking correctly, but with a foreign accent, ‘for presuming to speak to you without an introduction'”) this deft line of subtelty and intrigue, from one of, if not my all time favourite Stones tracks braces us for an anthemic, almost operatic masterpiece, bound by a hypnotic samba rhythm. A wild, mad and erudite incantation that jutted the Rolling Stones towards the dark side of rock n roll, and miles away from the clean cut Beatlemania that had engulfed and transformed England throughout the 60’s.

Beggars Banquet came out 10 days after the Beatles’ White Album – which too attracted fervent analysis of its darker elements – Charles Manson was convinced that Helter Skelter was a coded prophecy of an apocalyptic vision, wherein the world’s white population would exterminate each other, leaving Manson to rule over the remaining black race, as they were supposedly unable to rule America. Popular music in England throughout the 60’s had little obvious darkness, especially when the Beatles were concerned. The allure of Lucifer was apparent in delta blues, but hadn’t migrated as such to England, yet the blues influences that shaped the Stones are apparent in Sympathy. Robert Johnson was a massive influence on the Stones, his technical mastery in particular shocked Richards when Brian Jones first introduced him to the blues legend – “I was hearing two guitars, and it took a long time to actually realise he was doing it all by himself.” The legend surrounding Johnson of course is that he took his guitar, or was instructed to rather, to a crossroads near the Dockery Plantation in Mississppi at midnight, where he met a large black man – supposedly the devil – who took the guitar from him, tuned it, played him a few songs and handed it back. This deal with the devil gave Johnson a mastery of the blues, in exchange for his soul.

Jagger doesn’t introduce himself as the devil himself however, despite the giveaway in the title. He teases us, by describing himself as a ‘man of wealth and taste,’ who has been around ‘for many a long long year,’ who ‘stole a man’s soul’ – Johnson at the crossroads – ‘and faith.’ The narrator goes on to reveal that he was there when Christ had his ‘moment of doubt and pain’ and moreover, he ‘made damn sure that Pilate, washed his hands and sealed his fate,’ before introducing the familiar, teasing refrain – ‘Pleased to meet you, hope you guessed my name,’ – coaxing, and urging us to think the unthinkable, that it is the devil himself narrating these events.

The narrator goes on to mention the Russian Revolution – ‘Stuck in St. Petersberg, when I saw it was a time for a change,’ and alludes to ‘Anastasia, who screamed in vain,’ the Russian princess who was murdered along with the rest of her family, yet it was believed throughout most of the 20th century, and certainly when Sympathy was written, that she was the only surviver of the incident, and became a legend in her own right. Our narrator then moves onto World War II (‘the Blitzkrieg raged,’) the holocaust (‘and the bodies stank,’) the hundred years war (‘your kings and queens, fought for ten decades,’) and the Kennedy assassinations. The allusion to the ‘Troubadours’ are the hippies who traveled the Hippie Trail. Many on them were killed and ripped off by drug peddlers in Afghanistan and Pakistan, ‘before they reached Bombay’. The traps were set here by the devil himself, it seems.

Jagger manages to flex his historical knowledge, quite astonishingly, into just 6 minutes and 19 seconds – “I knew it was a good song. You just have this feeling. It had its poetic beginning, and then it had historic references and then philosophical jottings and so on. It’s all very well to write that in verse, but to make it into a pop song is something different. Especially in England – you’re skewered on the altar of pop culture if you become pretentious.” Jagger (1995)

Jean Luc Godard’s film One Plus One is an amazing insight into the growth and development of a song, and the meticulous nature of the Stones as songwriters. Filmed over five days in June, 1968, it shows how the song grows and grows, takes on different versions, and eventually gets to the version we know today. The soundtrack is one song, essentially, for 1 hour and 35 minutes. Yet you see Sympathy begin as a folk song, with Richards messing around with slide fills and open tuning picking over the top. Then the song goes down a horrible direction with Charlie Watts providing a backbeat, and Nicky Hopkins playing the chords on an organ. Hopkins was then put on piano for the version we now know. It’s hard to imagine Sympathy without the samba beat, which gives it a tribal, uplifting, party atmosphere. Jagger notes that ‘It has a very hypnotic groove, a samba, which has a tremendous hypnotic power, rather like good dance music. It doesn’t speed up or down. It keeps this constant groove. Plus, the actual samba rhythm is a great one to sing on, but it’s also got some other suggestions in it, an undercurrent of being primitive – because it is a primitive African, South American, Afro-whatever-you-call-that rhythm. So to white people, it has a very sinister thing about it. But forgetting the cultural colors, it is a very good vehicle for producing a powerful piece. It becomes less pretentious because it’s a very unpretentious groove. If it had been done as a ballad, it wouldn’t have been as good.’

The ‘Woo-Woos’ add a faux spookiness to the track, reinforcing the dark subject matter. In Godard’s One Plus One, we can see how Jagger lays down the master vocal, with a board to the left of him, and the other side the woo-wooers – Bill Wyman, Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, their producer Jimmy Miller, and to add a female touch, Anita Pallenberg and Marianne Faithfull.

Jean Luc Godard’s film, whilst slightly tiring at times given the incessant repetition of the extended shots of the recording attempts of Sympathy, has some dark asides – A girl who spraypaints random walls and windows – shots of African-American leftist group the Black Panthers sitting in a junkyard, tossing rifles to each other as if getting ready for battle, whilst reading passages from revolutionary texts, including Amiri Baraka – a repeated voiceover, narrating Marxist messages.

You certainly get a sense of the devil in these asides, but also a sense of revolution, confusion, foreboding – all of which is found in Sympathy. Keith Richards summed up the song and its apparent meaning, in 2002 – ‘Sympathy is quite an uplifting song. It’s just a matter of looking the Devil in the face. He’s there all the time. I’ve had very close contact with Lucifer – I’ve met him several times. Evil – people tend to bury it and hope it sorts itself out and doesn’t rear its ugly head. Sympathy for the Devil is just as appropriate now, with 9/11. There it is again, big time. When that song was written, it was a time of turmoil. It was the first sort of international chaos since World War II. And confusion is not the ally of peace and love. You want to think the world is perfect. Everybody gets sucked into that. And as America has found out to its dismay, you can’t hide. You might as well accept the fact that evil is there and deal with it any way you can. Sympathy for the Devil is a song that says, Don’t forget him. If you confront him, then he’s out of a job.’

The first track on Beggars Banquet, a year before Altamont, began the transition away from the Peace and Love era of the sixties, and remains one the Rolling Stones most anthemic and critically acclaimed tracks to date, and lyrically, in my eyes at least, Jagger’s finest work of art.

Christmas Special

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On the last day of the year, I do a special Christmas come New Year edition of Joshmooreblog. Well, I did this on the last day of 2010, and am doing so again exactly a year later, so call it tradition if you will. This also gives me license to be a bit lazy and re-use the same form as the previous Christmas special, as it clearly worked so well last time. It’s a heinous act of self-indulgence, where I will look back at my favourite status updates, or tweets now that I’m spreading Joshmooreblog around as a multi social-media platform entity, and look ahead to the new year to give you all a perspective on my thoughts for the future.

This is the year we’re about to leave behind, in 5 ‘less than 140 character’ snippets

‘He used to go out on the rob but now he’s got a proper job, Fernando Torres Chelsea’s number nine’ – 31 Jan 2011

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So the year started, for me anyway, with a shrewd bit of business by Roman Abramovich and Carlo Ancelotti, with the signing of el nino. The Spanish maestro, world cup winning Fernando Torres was bought for a mere £50 million from Liverpool, smashing the British transfer record in the process. Nobody told Roman that he was good a couple of years ago, and now he’s utter shite. It’s always hard to come into a team in Jan, and we were all thinking that the summer break would do him a favour and we would see the nando of old in the new revamped Chelsea, under new manager Andres Villas-Boas. Yet, to my chagrin, and the deficit of my fantasy team (I had him as my captain for THREE months) he scored a superb goal against UTD, missed an open net minutes later, received a red in the following game, and duly went missing thereafter. Lets hope 2012 brings more fortune for Fernando.

‘Bit of side boob? One can only hope!’ – 29th April 2011

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So this weekend was the weekend of the year, easily. Josh Moore’s Big Royal Weekend, or JMBRW for short, kicked off with the wedding of the decade. All anyone cared about that morning was Pippa’s arse, Becks’ hair and what colour the Queen was wearing – the favourite, Yellow at 7/4 with William Hill on the 29th, turned out to be spot on, by the way.

‘It’s only Jamie bloody Redknapp buying milk in eurospar, but I didn’t ask him if he’d smash it’ – 30th may 2011

The fact that I met our Jamie isn’t important. The reference here is of course to Richard Keys, and the scandal that surrounded him and Andy Gray at the beginning of the year, which ultimately lead to Gray’s sacking and Keys walking away from their high profile roles at Sky Sports. Following this, we had the years best video, shown above, where Keys comes across as half uber-lad and half try hard Dad.

‘Rastafarian wiring, yellow green & red, he doesn’t do it right, he might end up dead #mickartistik’ 26th June 2011

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My post this time last year postulated Glasto 2011, and the possibility of the Rolling Stones headlining. They didn’t, U2, Coldplay and Beyonce did, much to my annoyance. My highlight from 2011 was probably watching Primal Scream play their entire Screamadelica, whilst being completely off my tits for the third day running (it was only Friday) – but it’s those gems in and around the main areas of the festival that make it the greatest place on earth for 5 days. I’ve been following Mik Artistik since I saw him at Gaz’s Rockin Blues on Wardour St. I say saw him; he was playing by chance on a night when I stumbled in and caught his set. I missed him last year at Glasto, but we bumped into him by chance this year near the entrance to Shagri-La. Check him out, notable lyrics include ‘Jimmy Saville’s got my album’ and ‘Betting Shop pens, never bloody work’.

‘Playing Amy Winehands in honour.’ – 23rd July 2011

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A somewhat insensitive tweet in hindsight, but this was how most of the country marked the death of one of the truly great musicians of the last decade. We heard a throwback to the 60’s in her voice, and saw it too in the last few years of her life which turned into a car crash. She was rock n roll through and through, but shouldn’t be remembered merely as another talent gone to waste in the 27 club.

A reminder of what’s important next – Memorable family encounters are much more poignant than anything global or newsworthy. ‘Fitting to see my grandad on remembrance Sunday, his medals are still gleaming #hero’ – 13th Nov 2011

Plans, resolutions, wishes for 2012? More of the above, and to see Ian Holloway in the prem once again.

Agfa Isolette II

I stumbled across a stall selling cameras a few months back on portobello, and found a funny little camera, the lens of which folded in – a prehistoric compact camera concept if you like. Anyway, the little old foreign lady who was running the gaffe let me haggle her down with my charm to a tenner. It’s an Agfa Isolette, but medium format also, which is a shame as the film is dear – to buy and develop – even if the results are quality. Below are some snaps from London and Espana –

 

 

 

 

 

 

I predict a bloggin

So for all the rent-a-mob’s scouring the streets since Saturday causing destruction in every orifice of London’s body politic, there were equal amounts of opinion courtesy of the general public plaguing Twitter and Facebook. I say ‘was’ purely because, with the speed and frenzy into which the riots themselves, the reportage and the public furor have been whipped up, all opinions, comments and ‘breaking news’ became a bit old hat. Switch off for 10 minutes, or maybe even fall asleep, and there’s a chance you’ll have missed the entirety of it . By the time you’ve read this, you’ll have heard all the jokes – “The Kaiser Chiefs predicted this,” to the pictures on Facebook doing the rounds of some god damn thuggish youth showing off his Basmati rice, some sort of wooden spoon prize I’d imagine what with all the Nikes and plasma tellies doing the rounds. The Nando’s defence league group for everybody’s favourite chicken emporium which had been targeted by a few rioters in various areas, and that bloody Seagull video, which was clearly some sort of ‘you’ve been framed clip’ which had been resurrected from 25 years ago and placed into our viral consciousness with contextual genius.

There was also the harrowing – The scenes of the burning buildings in Tottenham and Croydon. Distressed shop owners who told tales of their pleas with the mobs to spare their livelihoods. That disturbing video which showed a normal looking Asian boy on his phone one minute, to being on the floor surrounded by the cast of Kidulthood the next, to being the helped up by said cast in a bizarre display of conscience, and back to being mugged again, with the contents of his bag being swiftly seen to as he cried his eyes out, pretty much oblivious.

This sounds very much like the ramblings of a middle class white man from the suburbs rather than a seasoned Londoner. I, like many, am sat on my high horse condemning this violence and thuggery. There aren’t many who’d link these riots with the events which were apparently the cause. Those citing a political undercurrent to all of this have been questioned too. Whilst I can understand concerns with our current government, linking queues of kids outside staff-less branches of JD sports with political motive seems laughably tenuous – Ken Livingstone, who usually offers erudite and insightful opinion against the often childish whim of Boris, looked to be all but drumming up support for Labour and against the Tory government. When the country needs clear guidance and solidarity, it’s leaders (well at one point at least) can only think about scoring points off of each other on Question Time.

To foreign countries watching these events unfold, the same thought must be going through all of their heads. This once glorious Empire, champion of two world wars, has cowered back into it’s shell, at the mercy of a few council estate muppets. Russia, Iran, maybe even China must be licking their lips…right? Perhaps. Those screaming for the army may have been right. I was one of them. Zero tolerance, stamp it out, old school. But, believe it or not, I don’t think this riotage (yep, made that word up right there) is all that bad.

Yes it’s bad, it’s deplorable. But I don’t think it’s bad for us. Us being the nervous law abiding public to which this madness has disrupted. Stick with me on this one.

Esquire ran a brilliant article this week on Osama Bin Laden, and the legacy, or lack of rather, than he’s left behind. Stephen Marche looks into Terrorists from previous eras, your Che Guevara’s and Jesse James’s, and how nearly every single terrorist has always been painted as some sort of romantic freedom fighter, fighting for some sort of comprehendible cause perhaps, if a little bit warped and twisted.

“Terrorism is the most literary of political acts. It has always relied on the poetry of optimistic despair.”
Read more: http://www.esquire.com/features/thousand-words-on-culture/osama-bin-laden-legacy-0911#ixzz1UZCyYoR6

Osama officially ended all of this, with the single greatest and barbarous act of terror in memory. After this, Marche goes on to argue, the romance with a bit of death, destruction and bombs had fizzled out. He backs this up with a few stats on various non Arab terrorist organisations and their activity since September 2001. He goes on to note the comparatively quiet capture and assassination of Osama ten years later, on May 1st 2011 – quiet in light of the enormity of the event, minus the media fanfare and the brilliant recent New Yorker article that detailed the capture and kill mission. The navy seal member who shot Bin Laden hasn’t been named, and a quiet hush it seems has been brought over terrorism once and for all.

Now this may all be a bit of naïve jingoism on my part. Wishful thinking too perhaps. But my point isn’t about terrorism at all. My point is that, with a truly disgusting and monstrous act, Osama Bin Laden took all the romanticism out of fighting for a cause. Thinking back to the events of the here and now, the riots which have plagued our capital and indeed the rest of the country, have those rioters sparred a thought to the consequences?

Now call me a fuddy duddy old man sat in his living room to be talking of consequences to actions, but with all the CCTV, all the Sky News in action reporting, does anyone think their going to get away with it all? Some will, most will. But perceptions have changed. Those you will have crossed the street to avoid in the past, you’ll really avoid now. There’ll be a picture painted by the media and there’ll be a backlash of even greater proportions perhaps. Whilst this is nothing on the scale to full blown Jihad terror-war, I’ve got a feeling that romantic undercurrent of protest and youthful aggression in the face of parliamentary injustice has fizzled too. There’s nothing but contempt now. In a way, the Tories could be as conservative as they wish in the next few years, and with full justification from the majority of the public.

If this was about an attack on a flailing government, then you’ve only gone and won them the next election. If not, then you’ve shot yourselves a bit in the foot either way I think.

#stayonyourtweet

Here’s a post I did for Dexy’s Den last Friday. Slightly lazy re-posting I know, but it’s a topic worthy of debate I think. Me and Groundsy postulated the use of twitter by footballers phenomenon over a burrito in Islington’s branch of Chilango. I was picking his well educated sporting brains about this player interaction – the pro’s, con’s and the future of this form of communication. I think it’s fair to say that this coming season will see a considerable buidling upon the format’s original premises from last year, with the idea of a manager getting involved either directly with twitter themselves by broadcasting messages on it, or a player being in the firing line of a manager for a poorly timed comment (Scholes needn’t bother creating an account in my eyes) which happened a few times last year with Wenger and Fergie both speaking out, and players being fined for comments against individuals, managers and referees.

Rio Ferdinand tweeted earlier today – ‘Pre season training is in full effect! Hard running + football today….legs are feeling it! #stayonyourfeet after the long runs!’ He recently, in the past 20 minutes or so, followed this up with – ‘Muscles are aching from pre season #oooff! (I love it though)….a soak in the bath + a good book about Google I’m reading coming up!’ Familiar Ferdy, as we all know and love. Familiar #oooff and #stayonyourfeet hashtags for which he’s become synonymous with. The coming season is creeping around the corner. We know this because Rio says so. He’s in pre season, his legs ache, he’s working hard. So must every other footballer, right? Well his tweets would suggest so.

The big media tool of the past few years has to be twitter. A voice for everyone, from fan, journo to player, it seems we’re in an age where we increasingly obtain our news from the internet and twitter rather than dwindling print. Football felt this seismic media shift perhaps more than any other sector. Wenger postulates the danger of player outbursts via tweets, giving advice more akin to the green cross bloody code – ‘The key is to think before you tweet’, Fergie went all ruddy cheeked and angry, not understanding this technological advancement from a basic way of life he’s more familiar with – ‘I don’t know why anybody can be bothered with that kind of stuff. How do you find the time to do that.’ Giggs still hasn’t confirmed whether he will be creating an account. Ha ha ha, had to get that in there. The size of the cloud twitter has held over the Premier League throughout the previous season is undeniable. The argument for the site is clear – Essentially, twitter allows players to cultivate an image and perhaps more vitally, connect with fans, followers, regular peoples of the British Isles in an age of distorted weekly wages and huge egos. The player will bypass any middleman – a journalist for the paper or a club manager for example – and be able to communicate with fans directly, in plain, clear (badly spelt in Rooney’s case) English. Everton fans quizzing Sylvain Distin on the Owen Hargreaves rumours for example, lead him to respond with a fairly safe but clear, all I know is what you know – reassurance that the fans aren’t 100 steps behind the insiders perhaps.

Players are the main attraction on twitter – 1’253’058 follow Rio who is the biggest attraction – then Rooney, who attracts 999’364 followers. 645’756 follow Wilshere, 501’892 follow Owen and only a paltry (by the previously mentioned’s standards) 12’641 follow Distin. They would be the main attraction though, obviously, however twitter is an invaluable tool for all those connected with football. The fan, the aspiring journo, the more established journo – Bryan Swanson of Sky Sports for example, the pundit – Robbie Savage being an extremely popular and (influential??!) twitter presence. Even the odd, unlikely comedian can break through the ranks and offer genuinely funny snippets of satire against the current footballing climate – Not Jamie Redknapp being the pick of the bunch here. But it is the players for whom this medium benefits, or indeed hampers. The Giggs debacle brought about the ugly side of this medium to the forefront the invasion of privacy, of someone who otherwise had no involvement whatsoever with twitter. He certainly hadn’t whored himself through the medium like Ferdinand or Rooney. I wonder if Giggs has a stayonyourfeet shirt? This was an example of a futile attempt to gag the press, in an age where the press are growing increasingly redundant – the printed press anyway. What about someone who is on twitter – Rooney, and his very public spat with a Kopite who had threatened to come down to Utd’s training ground and cave his head in? Not that I’m worried about Shrek for one minute, but the fact he retaliated to who was probably a 14 year old sitting behind a computer in Kent, speaks volumes of the dangers players get themselves into. Play it right and you can cultivate a new, approachable image – get it wrong, and you can look a complete tool. For those of you who havent seen this bitchy twitter fight, Wazza is as dim & as perplexed by the English language as he seems on the telly. Rio – official chief of the twitter universe, a role model for all aspiring footballer-cum-wannabe tweeters, bit back at a detractor who had suggested he was unapproachable and rude – to which Rio replied that he is indeed approachable, but not when having dinner with his family. Fair enough, I’d say. The problem with this barrier between fan and footballer being broken is that the fan assumes the player is now sort of public property, their friend in the same way as everyone on Facebook is your friend. The lines therefore are becoming increasingly blurred. My good pal Groundsy suggested format solely devoted to player communication. A football only version of Twitter – http://www.Foottweet.com if you like, http://www.I’m just like you.org, or http://www.Rio’s network.com. Something football-centric, or moreover player-centric, with all accounts being verified & authorised. This happens already, but the danger with bringing out something like this is that, should it be successful, it risks over saturating player & sponsor endorsed ads (this happens already too), and also an over saturation in general, with too many players giving too many voices and opinions, and therefore too many characters. Would Ferguson oust a player whose twitter persona outshone his playing credentials? (cough, Rio, cough) We don’t need 11 players from each Premier League club on twitter. Premier League teams don’t need 11 players with opinions, comments, thoughts and little picture moments so important that they need to be posted immediately on the internet. Rio announced that SWP has become the latest player to join the twitter ranks. That is Shaun Wright Phillips, of rivals Man City, who Rio endorses as a fellow England international. It seems that Ferdinand, being stripped of the England and Utd captaincies, has found perhaps a greater calling. The next step you’d suggest would be managers. As far as I’m aware, there are no Premier League managers on twitter – apparently Dalglish (of all people?!) tried, but has had his account removed. I can’t see managers signing up to this in the immediate future – but with the dangers of speaking out in post match press conferences, this doesn’t look like a completely alien prospect. Whether the whole notion of twitter detracts from the football somewhat, and promotes the celebrity persona is up for debate. What’s for sure is that there is a whole new avenue of communication no doubt to spark controversy in the coming season, maybe even before.

Whaddup Glastonberrrrrrry?!

Your not gonna write another bloody blog about this are you?! This coming from either Clarke or Purnell, can’t remember who exactly. Yes. Yes I bloody am. What can I say, another year goes by, we’re older and wiser, and embark on a new Glasto adventure. The photos in this one are borrowed from my fellow Glastogoers by the way, so thanks in advance.

I moaned about the headliners a few weeks ago, about the current music & festival scene, and the lack of quality out there. Nothing like a good get together in Somerset to help me change my mind. The majority of us last year were all students, with the exception of a couple, and weren’t really in a place to appreciate 5 days away with mates, let alone 2200 music acts thrown in. In hindsight I’m probably only talking about me, after my first brutal year in the working world, I hadn’t realised how much of a sceptic I’d become. Glastonbury is one of those occasions that change your year. You come back refreshed, with a storybook lodged in your mind of the banter, music and beers, the general attitude of the place. You also come back depressed. The Glasto blues hit harder this year, with some of us rushing back to London to get straight back to work for Tuesday morning. But for those few days, your view on music, people and maybe even life changes. It may be the wine @ nine that helps, sure, but it’s a unique place that farm. I can’t imagine this generosity of spirit, this togetherness in attitude and enjoyment happening anywhere else in the country than in the South West.

Our Glasto 2011 journey began back in October with the mad dash for tickets. All laptops in our house were primed an ready to go, with about 10 windows open on each, all queuing to get through the registration stage for what seemed an age. Eventually, yours truly’s computer seemed the only one that was successful, so I went ahead and booked my ticket, along with about 10 other peoples. The morning was made all the more entertaining by Liam Southall, who decided to host a webcam show of him and his mates trying to buy tickets. This was basically a webcam of four boys (I cant accredit them as men I’m afraid) eating bacon, with the main protagonist Liam in nothing but his little pants. Needless to say they probably wasted all their bandwidth on this rubbish weird show and didn’t get tickets. Liam had to get through on working duties like the previous year. It came around so quickly.

We all lead fairly hectic, rudimentary lives up until the beginning of the week, when everyone made their separate ways back to Bristol (some were already there) and we all converged at our dear ol’ Manor Park on Wednesday evening at about half 5, a whole 20.7 miles away from Worthy Farm. We all set off in convoy, losing cars and finding each other along the way. Bailey made the wise decision to take a small detour once we got to a queue of cars, to ensure we’d go in the same entrance as last year, in the hope of being able to camp in the same place as last year. All was fine until we arrived. See Gay had the foresight to bring a wheelbarrow, as she had a massive bloody Landrover to bring all her stuff in. Now we were all aware that the walk to the camp wasn’t too far, but it was muddy – very muddy by this point. I didn’t really want to do two trips, but it is fairly difficult to lug a tent, bag and 80 cans or so all that way. So this wheelbarrow, containing all her crap, now contained a lot of my crap. But this meant I had to push it. I don’t know if you’ve tried, pushing a wheelbarrow through sludge thick mud, carrying enough stuff to move a small family into a holiday home, uphill, is hard. There’s quite an uphilly bit leading up to the entrance to Darble field, which obviously proved problematic. Through the gates, the sludge, the wide load entrance, and about an hour later, a grassy patch to pitch camp. I won’t go on about the shit parts any more, we put the tent up, which is a boring and painful task, and we’re under way. I spent the next night and two days embracing the Glasto spirit, and chinning beer after beer for a solid 48 hours, much to the chagrin of Gabriella, who had a minor argument with my brother as to who’d look after me by Friday evening. Clarkey took over I think.

So Wednesday evening we wandered, and made the mandatory pilgrimage to the Somerset Cider Bus. Whilst I’m a massive fan of this busses produce, some of the group didn’t concur, so it became less of a meeting point this year. We also found the Beat Hotel, a little slice of Americana en route to the John Peel Stage from the Pyramid. Thursday morning I rose at an early 9am, and started straight away on the sauce. Now this is unusual for me, I usually wait until midday has passed, even at festivals, and leave the early morning drinking to the likes of seasoned veterans Clarke and Green. ‘This is a new JM!’ I proclaimed, ‘I’m gonna be up at this time every morning, maybe even earlier and earlier as we go on.’ I must’ve been annoying people already. The problem with Thursday is that there’s no bands, well not really anyway, unless you count Miss bloody Dynamite. It hammered it down aswell, well and truly hammered it down. Problem three (yes there’s more) is that my wellies were stupid pseudo-fashionable slightly shorter than usual wellies which I stupidly wore without socks, thus giving myself raging welly rash. With all of this combined, the only plan of attack was to drink, a lot. We had our chairs out and our fags, piss and empties tray courtesy of a blow up paddling pool Gay had brought along, presumably thinking it’d be beaming sunshine and we’d all whip our tops off and have a little frolic. Sorry Kirsty, but a paddling pool makes for a perfect little fags, piss and empties spot.

Nothing much to report on Thursday from me really, I can’t remember the rest. Friday started in a similar manner, not at 9 though, and no not an hour before. We set off for Two Door Cinema Club for the first bit of music for the day, and for the weekend. Whilst last year we had the hilarious but at the same time extremely tiresome Rolf Harris, this year’s festival openers (for us anyway) played one of the best sets out of the entire collection of acts. I didn’t have their album, but for some reason knew all of their songs, which obviously helps. Maybe from the work playlist, but they felt a part of my wider consciousness, which I knew inside out but had no idea why, nor who they were by. Well now I know, signed to French label Kitsune, their funny little Northern Irish frontman seemed humbled by the experience. They all looked happy to be there, which is always nice. We danced away, got up on each others shoulders, and I spotted something which made my whole weekend – A flag with a stencil of the Edge’s face on it, with the word ‘DE EDGE IS FOINE.’

From here we went onto the Vaccines, and by this point I was already on my way to oblivion, again to the annoyance of Gabby. Whilst I may not have been the best judge at the time, I’ll stand by my reckoning that the Vaccines are a poor man’s Two Door Cinema Club. We made for the tent to pick up some more supplies. I had about 4 wees on this one walk. The rest is a bit of a blur, up until Bright Eyes who I’d dragged everyone over to. No-one was particularly happy about this, as they knew none of Conor Oberst’s songs, and it was still raining. They played Four Winds and I was happy. We then made the mental decision (I think initiated by my brother) to go and watch Radiohead at the Park Stage. Now the Park Stage is miles away from anywhere in Glastonbury. Actually miles away. Throw in mud, rain and drunken stumbling, the walk takes an age, an hour at least.

Glasto had pencilled in two ‘secret sets’ for Friday & Saturday. Pulp were strongly rumoured to be one, alongside Arctic Monkeys, Prince, David Bowie and Radiohead. With a helpful text from mother dearest, we got confirmation of Radiohead and made our way there. It seems 30’000 people had the same idea, and we stood in a crowd listening to a band so far away that we couldn’t tell if it even was Radiohead. We couldn’t see the stage either. Then I fell over in the mud, we missed Morrissey, and we missed Jimmy Cliff. Bad Times.

Friday did have one saving grace though. Gabby had had enough, so left me to the care of my brother and Clarkey. I was adamant I was going to miss headliners U2 in favour of Primal Scream. They were touring again, playing Screamadelica in it’s entirety. Out comes Bobby Gillespie in his shiny silver shirt and they launched into Movin’ On Up – everything seemed right. It was still pissing it down, but it was possibly the best set I’ve ever seen. I was slightly coming back to my senses when Loaded came around, and we danced away till the end, when they finished with the newer Country Girl.

Saturday, and I was going to take it a bit easier. The last two days and three nights had taken their toll a bit, so I didn’t partake in wine @ nine today. Highlight of the afternoon was Purnell’s box of tricks, pretty much a rucksack filled with joke shop paraphernalia. He’d promised Batman and Buzz Lightyear costumes for a bit, and judging by everyone else, it looked like Saturday was fancy dress day. We’d all agreed to do a smart sort of Gentlemen’s Day, but nothing materialised. Instead we had a fake moustache, face paints and tattooed knuckles courtesy of eyeliner to entertain. It did the trick though. The food is worth a mention here. There are hundreds of little food stalls dotted around the festival site, and the mornings were ruled by the obligatory but fairly underwhelming bacon bap, with the afternoons being up to things like Pizza, Hog Roast and Burritos. There was, however, absolutely no sign of Giant Yorkshire Puddings filled with Sausages, Mash & Gravy. This was a staple last year, complete travesty that they didn’t return. O well. This year was the turn of Curry Goat. What a dish. Yea it had a few bones and cost £8, but everything’s expensive at Glasto. They need a Jamaican Jerk Chicken / quslity food stand on Carnaby St, it’s the culinary future I’m tellin’ ya.

There’s so many funny little tents at Glasto. We wandered past this tepee which was the size of a small shop, but louder than the Pyramid. Loud thumping Drum ‘n’ Bass which reminded me of living with DJ Boniface in third year filled the tent, and we all stopped for a little dance. There was a nice little bookshop too, so I browsed it quickly in the evening air, and picked up Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, a great read I’ve heard. I then saw Green, Purnell and Clarkes spriting past me, toward a giant conga line which was circling the bandstand area near the green fields. We joined in and danced away to this little eletric hardcore Indian bhangra bass band. I felt like I’d done a couple of e’s, and I was pretty much sober by this point. Bit of a weird experience that one.

O yea, Sunday the Sun came out! Like properly came out. We all got up early to make the most of the last little bit. Suddenly, Clarke turned his head to the group. ‘What time is it?!’ ‘5 past 9,’ someone replied. ‘It’s Wine at Nine!’ he shouted in a bit of a sad voice, as if he was foolish to have nearly missed it. I joined him with my final Eroski carton of Vina Blanco – rude not to! We did the whole camp at the Pyramid stage all day with chairs. It was fine, but it was hot on that hill. I’m a hardcore tan machine, and I found it too much so sat with my back to the sun for a fair chunk of the day. Don McLean sang American Pie, Laura Marling played some very fitting country melodies, Paul Simon gave us You Can Call Me Al, and Plan B offered us a funny little beatbox backed version of Stand By Me.

In reality the last day belonged to Beyonce. It was always going to, the first woman to headline the Pyramid Stage – which is a pretty staggering feat when were talking about the world’s largest music festival. There were rumours aplenty which kept the women nattering away, wondering if Lady Gaga would come on, if Jay Z would join her onstage, if Nelson Mandela would run out, do a shit and run off. None of them materialised, but it was a pretty outstanding set. Bailey impressed us all with his vintage Single Ladies dance, which if filmed, could signal a return back to television for the lad. Green also later noted that Beyonce had a very worthy sponsor floating behind her for the majority of her performance. A big red triangle, the symbol of Bass – a homage to real ale, and Britain. She should’ve chosen a Cider company really seeing as she was in the South West, but we can forgive her.

There’s so much I’ve missed, so much I’ve skimmed over, so much I’ve given little narrative attention, but it was an occasion too grand, tiring, spectacular and memorable to put into words really. Only question is, what the blue ball we gonna do next year?!