Archive for the ‘London’ Category

Don’t be a fool! / And your big fat dog

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

It could be said that I’m a bit obsessed with the work of Claudia Brucken…

That was some of my Brucken stash, dating all the way back to my years as a strange child. I finally saw her perform live last night after being a fan for almost 30 years (am I really that old?) and it was an excellent celebration of a fine catalogue of work. This tour is to promote the latest album the Lost Are Found which is a ‘dreaded covers project that’ is thankfully not a sign of running out of ideas, and songs from that were interspersed with a greatest hits selection taken from her previous release Combined. In other words, a perfect set list!  Covers of mention included David Bowie’s Everyone Says Hi and Stina Nordenstam’s Memories of a Colour, mostly because they are songs that I bought by the original artists and are covered well. We had never been to the Borderline before and made the mistake of arriving too early so had a lot of standing around but we got a great view near the front and the achey legs / feet were only a temporary problem. The venue seemed to be 95% middle aged gay men which amused and fascinated me as I hadn’t realised the gay factor was quite so high with her fans but then I am a middle aged gay man so it makes sense. There’s probably an interesting study of music tastes and sexuality of fans somewhere but my media studies days are long behind me now despite finding this kind of thing worth pondering. Anyway…

Claudia was of course fantastic throughout and seemed to be having a thoroughly great time, and her band were impressive. Special mention for David Watson who excelled as co-lead vocalist on the Act songs Snobbery & Decay and Absolutely Immune, giving an energetic and entertaining performance. He shifted back into his other job of backing vocalist and occasional guitarist with a more subdued personality, getting it exactly right. The other Mr Watson (James Watson) provided several excellent guitar solos,  including the one during the old Propaganda song Dream Within A Dream which handily gave most of the band time to nip backstage for a comfort break. As expected, we had the joy of seeing three Propaganda singles performed and Duel was the slightly obvious but always appreciated encore moment where the crowd went wild (and we clapped a little bit more than usual).

As well as the Act and Propaganda singles we also enjoyed the nineties solo single Kiss Like Ether, some onetwo singles and the newish songs from Combined: Thank You and Night School. A faultless performance!

Specks In The Sky in a pub in Camden

Monday, January 28th, 2013

We went out on Saturday night like what the young people do, or so I am told.  Off to that North London for a gig in a pub in Camden Town via a series of trains and buses and footsteps, which at times was a bit stressful (obligatory bus nutter screaming at the bus driver because the replacement tube line bus was “not clearly labelled” despite being clearly labelled) but definitely worth it. What was it? It was Specks in the Sky, which is a night described on its Facebook page as this:

Not-for-profit music events promoter in London. We only book acts we love. We look after our artists and we look after our audiences.

That’s pretty simple and the evening was all about good music. I’ll plug the elements of that night as they deserve it…

DJ Sina played some tunes that were probably related to his All-Girl Pop Rock Indie Disco club night Debbie that I’ve never been to because I don’t like clubs. It sounds interesting though and he’s on Tumblr where you can see his great diary comics and pictures. Bonus points for playing Tori Amos’s cover of Ring My Bell which I had completely forgotten all about and now have to rummage through old CD-Rs to find.

Samantha Ashleigh Hayhurst can play the keyboard and sing and say “thank you” in at least three languages. Her music is on Soundcloud here and an example of it should appear below this sentence.

Ghost Carriage Phantoms are not as scary as their name suggests although I was concerned about how close I was to their glockenspiel. They did an acoustic set and kept swapping instruments between songs which kept it interesting, including the glockenspiel, two guitars, a small drum, a foot, some hanging jangly vibes-y things, a powerful male voice (whoah! ) and one of those hand-held mini keyboards that you blow into which I can never remember the name of.  An odd fascinating musical experience that has led to me listening to their album that I bought just before I started typing this.

The final band of the night were The Melting Ice Caps who seem to be available in a series of limited editions. Past live versions have included Full Band,  CD Walkman and Vocals (plus umbrella) and Acoustic Band.  This time is was Three Piece With Occasional Flipchart. I’m a big fan and you may have noticed other blogs on this subject using words and phrases like “super singer songwriter” , “occasional indie disco” and “quite good” but the music speaks for  itself so here’s some ‘speaking’:

If you ‘Like’ Specks In The Sky on Facebook you can find out more.

Plasticised camels / Nuclear Seasons

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

It was Jamie’s birthday last week and what says “birthday” more than looking at plasticised animals, dinosaur facts and equestrian skeletons? Yes, we went to the Natural History Museum  to see the plastic dinosaurs and my goth archaeologist sister who happens to work there. Here are some photos with a bit of new music because that’s what I’m like…

The plasticised camels were in the main foyer where photography was allowed so I didn't have to try and be sneaky.

I took a photo of a horse’s head. I am not the mob but I did get told off.


A different horse, also a lovely horse.

Musical interlude!

The new Jens Lekman has the perfect blend of heartbreak and beauty, if you like that sort of thing.

Charli XCX is our new Pop Diva of the Month. This single is chunky hooky electropop!

ToriBot5000 is back with a new album of old songs plus an orchestra! I shall buy this one.

MONSTA (who love the Caps Lock button) have made a video for their most excellent song from last year.

Gwenno has said that she won’t be in any future incarnation of The Pipettes (shame) but her new EP is lovely.

We ARE family!

An excellent horn clarification.

I found this funny because I am so very juvenile.

Sleep with the fishes (not asleep, also featuring mammals)

Careful now!

Animal Inside Out is only on for a few more days (until 16th September) but the whole museum is pretty amazing.


A Pointless trip to London

Friday, June 29th, 2012

We went on a mission to London yesterday for a bit of culture. Here are some photos:

A trip to ‘Baker Street’ which is actually just around the corner from Euston Square tube.

Speedy’s Cafe is appropriately named. The mushroom omelette and chips was quick and delicious… and about 40% of the sit-down customers were Sherlock geeks.

Speedy’s interior. Lots of Sherlock photos and even some drawings on those walls.

This is part of an interior wall in the Petrie Museum which is in the UCL campus. If you like Egyptian things from a very long time ago or enjoyed that documentary about Flinders Petrie that was on BBC Four a while back.

The Cats & That (plus a bit of Anubis) range at the Petrie was my favourite.

Eye of Horus please.

Then it was off to my museum choice which was actually Forbidden Planet. The plastic Barrowmans were extraordinarily lifelike.

After Westfield (it was air conditioned nicely but full of money-wasting orange types) we went to TV Centre for the first time in ages where I bought a nice TVC mug, we had some Unofficial BBC Victoria Sponge Cake (as seen at the Radio  Theatre Cafe recently) and then went into the studio…

No photography, how naughty! Well we used no flash, unlike several others. Do you want some Magic of TV facts about Pointless?

We saw episode 372 being made.

Unlike sitcoms and sketch shows which usually take up to three hours to record, Pointless only took 75 minutes for a 45 minute episode. It is a well-oiled machine.

Richard Osman has legs and is almost an actual giant.

The audience is actually tiny compared to every other recording we have been to. The standard rows of fixed seats were barely used (not even one whole row) and instead there were several rows of individual plastic chairs that made it feel a bit like a school assembly.

The shiny oval area at the front of the set is comprised of several sections of laminate, with a row of little lights attached as a blinky trim.

There’s a little pause before the Pointless tower starts to count down while a boffin does something important. Everybody does musical statues poses when that occurs.

When the tower counts down the audience have to do the “oooh” humming noise. I did a lot of oooh humming.

There are several levels of clap: disappointed light clap for a correct but not that impressive score, a big clap with an “ahhh”  when it’s good but not quite pointless, and a super clap with full scale whooping if they get a pointless answer.

The edging on the screen of the ‘podiums’ that the contestants stand behind is held on with velcro which makes it easy when the head to head requires the screens to have different colours.

No spoilers but one of the final round’s rejected subjects was ‘Katie Price.’ This rejection was not totally unexpected.

Round and round it goes inside my head / They say that they’re in love with synthesizers

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Maybe they’ll open with an album track / Or a top five hit no turning back

Like A Motorway only reached number 47 in the UK singles chart but it was a great choice to open the show with. The rescheduled Saint Etienne at the London Palladium last night was as magnificent as I’d hoped for. Sarah Cracknell in a shiny silver dress with black boots and a feather boa, Bob and Pete doing twiddly things with knobs and Debsey being excellent on the right hand side of the stage with her dancing, backing vocals, ooohs and occasional hitting a wooden thing with a stick. So many moments of joy from the band who I’ve followed since their debut single (I had the regular version of Only Love Can Break Your Heart but my friend Simon had the Weatherall remix 12″) through multiple editions of albums. My tapes are in a drawer somewhere but my b-sides tape with hand-picked film and TV extracts between the songs is long gone. If I had to choose one moment it would be Sarah singing Only Love Can Break Your Heart as I had never seen her do that before and it also featured Debsey playing the strange mouth organ with keys instrument that made the wah waaaah waaaah noise, but the quality of the whole show was astonishing, even down to the little films accompanying the music on the screens with their kaleidoscope moments of vintage footage, Cliff Richard and cassettes montage sequence and even a compilation of Top of the Pops chart run-downs with a certain not-quite-real version that I’ve been a fan of for a while…

Tonight when the lights are going down / I will surrender to the sound

From memory, they did the following classic songs:
Like A Motorway
Who Do You Think You Are
A Good Thing
Nothing Can Stop Us
You’re In A Bad Way
Burnt Out Car
Mario’s Cafe

Songs from  the new album:
When I Was Seventeen
Haunted Jukebox

The inevitable big pop tunes encore, with big balloons:
I’ve Got Your Music
He’s On The Phone

My friend Rod was down the front and took that great photo. He’s on Twitter and well worth a follow.

Adventures in merchandise led to this stash:

Yes that really is a tea towel


I was not off to see that bloody wizard


A pint of chips and a side order of fine music.

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Bank holidays are great, even if you don’t work in a bank as you still get the day off work. The most recent one coincided with the second Specks in the Sky night organised by my friend David at the Wilmington Arms so off we went to fancy London…

Me and my man in the pub before the gig. Refreshing alcopoppy cider was drunk.

As the tubes tend to hibernate at the weekends due to the endless repair work we had to drive into town which turned out to be quite kerfuffle-free. Parking the car is always the hardest part of this but we found a spot near the pub and met our pretend adopted daughter Cheryl for a drink and exploration of the journey to the toilets. The pub had a collection of indie rock style free papers which made me remember my London-living era of the 90′s when I would end up with piles of those things after going out and about.

Signage about signs.

There was a slight delay in the opening of the venue part of the building but that meant we could walk off some of the drink  by wandering about and then getting rained on.

This is a montage sequence

What about the actual gig? Well… there was refreshing ginger beer, Jonny Cola (formerly Alex of Luxembourg and currently the named man in Jonny Cola and the A-Grades) DJing on decks that included and old fashioned telephone as part of the equipment and playing Lucky Soul, Belle & Sebastian and more,  Owen Duff doing the opening set with a bit of guitar and then a bit of piano… and then a Melting Ice Caps ‘turn.’

One man, a Discman and a woman with flip chart sheets.

This was a more back to basics version of the ‘band’ with David accompanied by his backing tracks that were prepared earlier and played by the handy CD Walkman which sat on the stool. We got a couple of the old songs (available for free on the website) and a bunch of new material which I assume is from the forthcoming album (arriving soon). A mixed range of styles, speeds and tones including some that could be described as love song style numbers but still with the familiar sense of humour and that English thing of not taking yourself too seriously which I admire in my songwriters.  I have no song titles to rave about but the addition of Ice Caps guitarist Aurore with lyrics on flip chart sheets for two of the numbers definitely added to the entertainment value, especially when it was hard for her to keep up with the speed of what was being sung.

All these songs, on the floor

Key words for this performance: Witty, Arch, Thoughtful, Piano, Discman, Charm, Indie, Synthpop, Flipchart, Pop. Fantastic!

Not from the night but this post needs music so here are Tell Me I’m Wrong and Pavlovian Boy:

Souvenir, with Cheryl

What am I going to do with my flip chart sheet? I love my souvenirs. We ended up being rather hungry after David’s Ice Caps performance so it was off to the pub part of the building for grub, including a marvellous Pint Of Chips. Kind of a potatoey knickerbocker glory once I added the mayonnaise.

For more information on the Specks in the Sky nights there is a page on ruddy Facebook.

My Funny Valentine

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

It’s Valentine’s evening at The Leicester Square Theatre in London and Fingersnap have just had a standing ovation. Yes, even with my achy knees. How did this happen? We will have to go back into time….

Inspiring music as beautiful light. Not just a photo with no flash at a venue that I tinkered with, oh no.

Fingersnap are David McAlmont (vocals and finger snaps) and Guy Davies (piano / keyboard and foot taps) and they were joined by Robin on guitar for this particular gig. The joy of a squeezy bottle of cider was followed by the opening act John Reilly (check out his website for more information and great songs) and then the main event: that band again! This was the third time we had seen them in London and each time had a slightly tweaked line-up of additional musicians. New songs such as I Wanna Rise and Some Kind of Masterpiece, both from the recent EP, were joined by popular covers including Tears Dry On Their Own and Grapefruit Moon. The latter is particularly memorable for the magical sound of the long note towards the end of the song which will always make me shiver no matter how many times I have heard it. A new cover made its debut abd immediately became a Fingersnap classic : Whitney Houston’s Where Do Broken Hearts Go. I was always more a fan of Whitney’s uptempo work but the performance and context made this performance something special: both beautiful and haunting. New songs from the forthcoming LP were ever-present with firm favourites such as In Those Eyes and Kids In The Caribbean joined by a new (for this tour anyway) number: Blackbirds, which reminded me of David’s Craig Armstrong collaboration song Snow. Handy video of that below:

For me personally the highlight had to be a certain moment from the ‘Fingersnap Valentine Book of Luurve’ that David organised via Facebook as I had my rambling geek love tribute to my husband Jamie (I’m not going to go all soppy here though) read out and a song dedicated to us. I don’t think that can ever be beaten as a romantic memory. There’s was definitely a love theme that night in the choice of songs and numerous other dedications that would melt the hearts of the most humbug members of the audience.

This reminds me of old birthday cake candle photos. I am odd like that.

So many highlights but this session performance of The Bishop of New Hampshire just has to be shared!

After many magical moments and a slight neck ache for us right near the front it was time for the well deserved standing ovation. We’ll be ready for the next London show soon.

David posted a nice message on Facebook after the event:
“Thank you everybody who made it to our Leicester Square Valentine concert last night. It was without question a very special night. It may well have been the first great Fingersnap gig. Most of the people that I spoke to afterwards said that it was the best they’ve seen me. I know that Guy’s playing moved punters to tears. There was a whole lotta of crying going on. Everywhere I looked I saw big smiles and moist faces. I was just relieved that I didn’t do a third Leicester Square show with a bloody cold. The audience roared and the standing ovation was really electric, and somebody gave me the most exquisite New Orleans mermaid. You can’t just do whatever we did last night by design; it just happens. Thanks London for being such a great crowd. Exeter, Arlington, Basingstoke. Here we come.”

The tour continues and you really should go! The next locations include Nottingham, York and Stratford-Upon-Avon.

McAlmont in a kaftan (I know, I know) it’s Fingersnap!

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Last night was rather special as it was the London debut of Fingersnap performing their new songs, at the Jazz Cafe in foggy Camden. Perfect for a ‘little date’ with the husband! I’d somehow never been there before and was glad to find it was pretty good with refreshing lager beer, comfy chairs and a great sound system. We arrived a bit too early as we had a vague estimate of how long it would take from Rickmansworth but this meant I got to have a little chat with David McAlmont which is always a pleasure. He was glad that he’d not got a cold this time around and appreciated how social networking has made the relationship between musicians and fans much more immediate. I seem to only go and see live music performed by people I can talk to and I don’t think I could be bothered with those popular big impersonal arena gigs to be honest as the atmosphere at the small venues is far more to my taste. We met up with Twitter and flesh world pals Steve aka XO London (his Middle Eight blog is pretty essential) and Rod, had a drink with them and then moved to the front of the stage for the main event….

Setting up shot from Fingersnap Twitter

Rehearsal footage:

The band was of course the full line up from the recently released EP (which you can buy from this link) : David McAlmont as The Voice, Guy Davies on keys and special guitar solo, ‘Level’ Neville Malcolm on bass and ‘Bertha’ (the double bass), Robin Boult on guitar and John Miller on drums and percussion. Such a joy to see a band that work so well together and play with a combination of the ‘musician concentration face’ and genuine fun. It started on a high with Mister (a perfect blend of funky strutting music with a serious message) and Some Kind of Masterpiece (uplifting musical joy) from the EP and we were treated to some explanatory banter about how the songs grew into the versions that were performed, which is great for a music geek like myself. Other new as-yet-unreleased songs included In Those Eyes (their love song), Email To A Frustrated Singer (the title explains the narrative) and several more which led everyone to believe that the forthcoming album will be something special. The covers included some McAlmont and Davies standards: Yes (technically a half-cover as it’s a McAlmont and Butler song), a beautiful Amy Winehouse tribute of Tears Dry On Their Own and the Tom Waits song Grapefruit Moon (with the spine-tingling very long note). I think David McAlmont can pretty much sing anything and Grapefruit Moon shows the range of his voice very well. Thoroughly recommended (of course) and they are doing more dates next year.

The kaftan was white with gold patterns, with a gold giant star worn as a necklace (photo from

Uber-fan vodkaangel22 filmed the opening number and it would be crazy not to share it with the world dozen people who read this:

Gold stars all round.

All These Songs… in a Buffalo Bar

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

We went on an excursion to London for the first Melting Ice Caps gig in a while and also happened to catch some other bands due to it being one of those multi-artist events. This one was for the Frank Sidebottom Statue fund, at the Buffalo Bar, and it started with a free CD from Armadillo Recordings, a bottle of refreshing lager beer and then Dream Themes (Frank’s old London band) performing their versions of popular TV themes from mostly the past. As well as the music they also gave us a copy of Dream Zine which made little sense in the nicest way possible and I’ll never be able to hear the themes from Brookside, Bergerac and Cagney & Lacey without having a flashback.
Dream Themes performing somewhere that was not where we went:

Dream Themes, photographed by Chezza like all the photos.

One of the highlights from Dream Zine

The Melting Ice Caps have had another slight line-up change and are now in a three male and two female format like a reverse Steps. Terrible comparison of course as they can play instruments and do the music things very well.

The two Davids and a portion of the Samantha. Hidden: Steve and Aurore.

David Shah: Voice and hand movements.
Samantha Ashleigh Hayhurst: Keyboards and that (lovely solo work link here).
David Barnett: Bass (ex of Luxembourg and writer of that book about Suede I’ve got, interview here).
Steve Brummell: Drums (another Luxembourg player).
Aurore Sommer: Guitar (New member who also played on Between Eros and Agape a while back).

As a music geek I realised that there were four members of ex-band Luxembourg in the room as we spotted Alex Potterill aka Jonny Cola (link for his current band, oh yes) in the audience. He’s worked with David on some of the earlier songs so I would perhaps call them a music-based Justice League, calling on the people with the most suitable powers to fight crime but this is where my analogy fails. Anyway, they have happily reached the stage where not all the good songs get played in a set of this size which is encouraging. So no October, no My Wrong Turn and no Night School. They can all be heard on their website though so everybody wins! Two new songs made their debut and in an interesting contrast to their first full band gig last year where it was the opening number they have moved Selfish Bachelor to the finale and it works well as a kind of epic closing theme tune piece.

Here are a couple of their songs: Mise En Scene:

Pavolvian Boy:

After the Ice Caps had finished we moved from our position right at the very front as my knees were getting all gippy like they do and I wanted to move about a bit more. The next act was Mr Solo who we could hear but only see the top of his bouffant wig from the back of the venue. I enjoyed him enough to buy the album when I got home: comfortable earphone listening was required for this one without the distraction of my old git mind getting baffled by young folks with what I assumed were ironic moustaches and ‘funny clothes.’ We escaped before the final act arrived (Proxy Music) because of the tube + early start next day factors but I’m sure they were very good.
Mr Solo: Home Sick Home video:

Dan In An Exciting Adventure Without The War Machines (part two)

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

We resume after our cliffhanger where we  got up to  the 34th floor and found….. the bar! Right. Anyway….

Nice drinks were drunk. Look at that view, etc.

Happy face (well for me anyway).

The other humans seemed to be enjoying looking down at things.

We liked this view of the big space with a little building left in the middle.

They have cakes too? It would be rude not to...

People watching again.

Back on the street, then off to the new Gosh! Comics.

We did not see this.