Thursday, February 24, 2011

Best Gig Lineup Ever?

People of Gateshead, rejoice. You are about to be blessed with a superlative bill of punk and post-punk legends. Yes, Gina Birch, Viv Albertine and Helen McCookerybook are packing their gear into the latter's car (road trip!) to play Friday night at The Central Bar, there to be joined by Pauline Murray. Wow!!! Wish I could be there. It's rockin' oop north.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Buddha of Shoreditch

Hanif Kureishi reads at YARNfest; photo by Val PhoenixWhere does Shoreditch end and Hoxton begin? That's the question I asked myself as I trudged up and down the L-E-N-G-T-H of Curtain Road looking in vain for the elusive Queen of Hoxton public house. "It must be at the top end, near Hoxton," my logical brain told me. Nope. "Uh, then it must be by the bottom end, close to Liverpool Street," came the reply. Yes, there it was, sort of where I started some 25 minutes earlier, at the end of a rather long day, after a rather long weekend.

The occasion was Cover Wars, a live competition to redesign the cover of The Buddha of Suburbia, Hanif Kureishi's novel, courtesy of YARN, the multidisciplinary festival in its second year. I was curious to see what live cover-designing involved, and as Kureishi was also reading, thought it would be an interesting test of multi-tasking.

So, down the stairs I trooped, emerging into the darkened bar to find a veritable frenzy of activity, with two artists on-stage, beavering away at their easels, while compere/festival producer Gemma Mitchell verbally prodded them along, and Kureishi sat in the front row, occasionally offering a comment. He was put to work, coming on-stage to judge the efforts, reading some passages from the book and also signing in between judging rounds.

Alas, I had to leave before the tension-racked finale, but I must say I disagreed with the judges' choice in the first round. Fix!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Le Cinema des Femmes presents True Homance

True Homance poster
This month's LCdF screening, True Homance, celebrates female friendship in its most precious form: the homance. OK, so that's a bit of a trendy-street-slang word, but nonetheless it gets the job done. For a thoughtful consideration that takes in Daphne and Velma AND Oprah and Gayle, see my colleague Annette's post on the subject.

The films are Ghost World and Romy and Michele's High School Reunion. Rumours of broken-heart cookies and BFF badges have yet to be confirmed...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Free Duke Spirit gig on Friday

Should you be in London this Friday, the 18th, it may be worth making the journey down Tooting way to check out The Duke Spirit at Remedy.

Here's a LiveBuzz performance they did of "Surrender" last year.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

PJ Harvey on BBC 6Music

Today is Queen Polly (!) Day on 6Music. Don't know if she is a royalist, but PJ Harvey is getting some much-earned love from the station, ahead of the release of her new concept (!) album, Let England Shake. Tracks from the record are being played throughout the day, and she is also in conversation with Steve Lamacq after 16:00. Should be cool. I have only heard snippets, but it sounds as if she is pursuing an entirely new sound. Always worth hearing.

Here's the second in a series of videos, accompanying the album.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under

What do you do when stuck in the house? Well, review downloads, OBVIOUSLY. Don't know why I didn't think of it before. I downloaded this last week and my first listen of it was punctuated by loud mobile phone conversations from my bathroom occupants. I have now given it my undivided attention and my reaction is much the same as the first, distracted listen: very patchy.

Amanda Palmer is an undeniable force (one blogger referred to her as a phonomancer--had to look up the word, I admit). Her gig last year about this time in Vienna stands out as one of the best I have ever attended. She had such a strong connection with the audience, such mastery of stagecraft and such a great catalogue of songs, it was truly inspirational. And she is not above playing to the gallery, dotting her repertoire with site-specific songs and garnering big love points.

So, to Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under, her love letter to the people of Australia and New Zealand, which has come out..... just as she started a tour of Australia and NZ. Imagine that! Now, an album of songs about either of those countries could be great. As could a live gig recorded there. Or an album of songs written in those countries. What Palmer has opted for is a mish-mash of all three. Hmm.

There's the Nick Cave cover, "The Ship Song", that closes the album. A few songs recorded at a Sydney Opera House gig. And then songs that may or may not have a connection to her surroundings, such as "In My Mind" and the intense piano ballad, "On an Unknown Beach".

My personal favourite is "Vegemite (the Black Death)", which is f___ing hilarious. And topical. And recorded live at the Sydney Opera House, and therefore gets a lot of laughs from its target audience. Win all around. Unfortunately, nothing else on the album (12 songs, including a Vegemite commercial sung by the audience) really matches that, although "Map of Tasmania" is pretty special.

Now that she is free of her hated record deal, Palmer can record and release whatever and whenever she wants. And she certainly seems to be having a whale of a time in Australia, as her blog attests. Maybe she will do another round of recording and release a more cohesive album.

Until then, enjoy "Map of Tasmania" (now with added Peaches!).

Thursday, February 03, 2011


I've not been getting out much, so have little arts news to report (ah, being skint--it's like a permanent staycation). Granted, I have bit of a Brutalist installation going on in my bathroom, complete with AM radio, drilling and Russian accents, an exciting melding of form and function. But, that is only temporary and strictly private view.

I have also reached the midway point of my Shunda K challenge. No sign of any vows or even a Joy of Cooking. But, I have acquired a copy of the Qu'ran, shrink-wrapped, which seemed, eh, contradictory. #thingsI'vebeenhandedinthemarket