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St Vincent @ PS14

I already mentioned in passing, St. Vincent, the band-shaped solo project brand thing of the super-engaging Annie Clark, was by far the best act I saw at Primavera Sound 2014. It was also the act I was most looking forward to seeing going in, it’s always nice when those line up.

I guess I’m a super-fan. I first spotted Annie playing with Sufjan Stevens' touring band. I next encountered her playing solo support for the National, touring her first St. Vincent release, upon which occasion I bolted out of the auditorium by the third song, in order to make sure I got a copy of the CD she was plugging from the merch stall before she packed away. I saw another couple of shows in Bristol, with the full band, and bought all the records, including an interesting collaboration with David Byrne.

Last weekend, while idly browsing the Glastonbury live blog, I noticed that they’d just updated their description of the current iPlayer feeds to include St. Vincent streaming on the iPlayer from the park stage. I’d been avoiding the Glastonbury video feeds due to a combination of not being in the mood, and the dullness of the tv schedules, but I wasn’t going to miss out on this, so I whacked it on the TV. True to form, it was a great set, live, risky, and peppered with amusing crowd-surfing and hat theft. Even with a bit of sound problem, and some streaming glitches I enjoyed myself, and was amused to see my enthusiastic tweeting duly included in the Guardian live feed on the next page refresh.

That was a really good set”, I thought to myself, afterwards, “but it wasn’t nearly as exciting as the Barcelona one. True, that lacked crowd invasions, and nobody lost a hat, but the lighting, and the sound, and the staging, and the lack of daylight, and the crowd being really into it…A pity there’s no TV-broadcast quality stream of that night archived away somewhere”. 

Yes, I do really talk to myself like that sometimes. Especially when I’m pretending to transcribe my inner voice for a blog.

And then, I ran into this on Youtube.

 

Full set, multiple cameras, properly mixed sound, pretty good video quality. I have not yet watched it enough times to see if I can see myself ( front of house, stage left, VIP pen ) in the crowd, but I expect I will. 

posted Monday, July 7, 2014 at 15:39 by cms in internet, music, travels | No Comments »

HMS OMG

This afternoon I went on a short guided tour of the decomissioned Royal Navy submarine, HMS Ocelot. It's in a dry-dock at the Royal Dockyards working museum at Chatham, just 20 minutes down the road from home.

Apologies for the poor quality of the photos. I only had my iPhone, with 15% remaining charge, and submarines do not offer much in the way of natural lightning.

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Despite having owned a year pass for the best part of a year, and frequently admired the Ocelot from the outside, this is the first time I've been aboard. The tour is short, cramped, and completely fascinating, although perhaps not for the squeamishly claustrophobic, and definitely not for the mobility impaired.

The Dockyards is a superb example of a modern lottery-assisted regeneration project. There's several large ships in dock you can wander around, huge warehouses full of boats and machinery to pore over, a ropery, an art gallery space, a working steam railway, several sub museums. Far more than you can do in a single visit, but your ticket, once purchased, is good for 12 months of repeat admission.

posted Friday, June 28, 2013 at 18:30 by cms in history, subs, travels | Comments Off

PS12

If it's the last weekend in May, then it must be time for me to go to Primavera Sound! Barcelona's premier eclectic music festival, or as I like to call it, only semi-jokingly, my annual trip to Spain to watch Shellac. It seems like I've been going forever now, but when I tally up, I think this year is only my sixth visit. Enough for the memories to blur together somewhat; I'm starting to find navigating around the site confusing; each year there is a gradual migration of stage locations, and a subtle shuffling of stage names.

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You can buy early-bird VIP passes shortly after they confirm the dates for the festival, which is far in advance of any lineup announcement. These sell for around the same price as the eventual full festival pass, but confer various privileges to reward the faithful. This year, I was finally smart and planned ahead. and I got us a pair back in July. Ah, hubris. Subsequently we fell pregnant, and had a baby just four weeks before the festival, making a mockery of my forward planning, and invalidating our usual routine of attending as part of an extended family holiday. I ended up scaling my visit right back down to a quick in-and-out just across the festival days, and after a couple of potential takers for my second ticket fell through, I ended up attending on my own.

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It turns out Barcelona is still pretty much my favourite place on earth. In a break from the usual routine, I was staying in a hotel out close to the festival site, at the far end of the Avinguda Diagonal, rather than an apartment somewhere more central. The facilities nearby are pretty excellent, if a little characterless, with the large modern Mall development el Diagonal Mar providing pretty much every consumer amenity you might need, including free Wi-Fi. It's still easy to reach central Barcelona on transit during the sociable hours of day, and it solves the problems associated with picking a time to leave the Festival, and locating a means of transport home, once you hit the small hours of the morning on the weekdays. Door to door from the festival to my hotel was a leisurely ten minute walk.

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Once again I had a really good time. I had a few reservations heading in. Last year was a bit crowded, and occasionally hard work. Being on my own was is a bit weird. I've done stints working away from home, but they aren't like this. Luckily I did find some people to talk to at Festival; I enjoyed the chance to spend some time with Matt and Anne, and I also bumped into a few friendly groups by chance; Mike and the Canadian islanders, and those nice chaps from Leicester from the Jeff Mangum queue. Hello to any of you who find your way to reading this!

The upside of attending on my own, it meant I was able to watch lots of bands. I overdid things  a little on the Thusday, watching upwards of twenty acts in a session stretching from 4pm through to 4am. I subsequently found myself flagging a little through the middle of the session on the Friday, and finally found a happy balance for Saturday. Weather was excellent, probably the hottest Primavera I've attended. I even managed a mild sunburning on the elbows on Thursday, and I rarely sunburn. The VIP passes turned out to be a good bet – subsidised bars, segregated rest and food areas, and easy access to the indoor concert hall for the posh gigs.

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Shellac completely owned it, once again. Year after year, always different, always the same. My other musical highlights were Kleenex Girl Wonder, Spiritualized pulling "Electric Mainline" out of the back catalogue in the middle of a perfect festival setlist, the pro-celebrity karaoke festival of the Big Star's 3rd tribute ( Mike Mills! Norman Blake! Ira and Georgia! Alexis from Hot Chip! ), and I need to pass out a special mention for the marathon Cure set. A bedrock foundation act from my indie disco days, they played a 30-odd song set of old fanservice and hit singles, and I nodded along from the VIP lounge, surprised by how much of it I recognised, given that I own precisely one Cure LP ( Disintegration, naturally ), and one single ( Inbetween Days, I'm predictable like that)

Here's everything I saw, replete with aribitrary ratings :

Baxter Dury ★★  Afghan Whigs ★★  Wilco ★★  Franz Ferdinand ★★  Death Cab For Cutie ★  The xx ★★  Spiritualized ★★  La Estrella De David ★★  Pegasvs ★★  Iceage ★  Grimes ★★  Danny Brown ★  A$AP Rocky ★★  Peter Wolf Crier ★★  Field Music ★★★  Kleenex Girl Wonder ★★★  Dominant Legs ★★  Bombino ★★  Lovely Bad Things ★★  Other Lives ★★  The Cure ★★  Afrocubism ★★  I break horses ★★  Dirty Beaches ★  Sleigh Bells ★★★  Nick Garrie (plays "The Nightmare of J.B. Stanistlas") ★★  Jeff Mangum ★★  Big Star's Third ★★★  Picore ★  Orthodox ★★  Sharon Van Etten ★  Justice (live) ★★★  Beach House ★★  Neon Indian ★  Demdike Stare ★★★  Shellac ★★★  The Pop Group ★  Atlas Sound ★★  Michael Gira ★★  Milagres ★★  Jenn Grant ★★  Cadence Weapon ★★

 There weren't too many low-lights. Occasional bar queues. The subsidy at the VIP bars meant that the occasional drink bought outside of those enclosures had a costly sting. A couple of occasions of queuing; to collect the passes, and to get a ticket for, and then gain access to the limited entry Jeff Mangum show. Aggravating cancellations , Björk, Death Grips, Sleep and Melvins – acts I wanted to see, and in the case of Sleep, probably my ideal of the biggest single draw of the festival. Luckily I'm a veteran, pragmatic festival-goer, I don't place too much weight on being able to see individual acts. If I hadn't already seen Sleep at ATP vs Fans:2, I might perhaps think differently.

Leading up to the festival I had been wondering if it was going to be my last year at Primavera. Logistically it's growing more awkward to arrange, I've been a serial attendee for years, and sooner or later the charm should wear off. The inaugural edition of the Portugese sister festival had been catching my eye, And then everything worked it's usual magic. I plan to head back to Barcelona for 2013 if I can. Maybe I'll see you there.

posted Thursday, June 7, 2012 at 21:23 by cms in gigs, photos, travels | 2 Comments »

Stratford

Since moving to Rochester a couple of weeks ago, I'm enjoying the commute into the city on the high speed train. Every morning we wait a minute or two at the perplexingly named Stratford International for a Eurostar to overtake us. Stratford is a weird conglomeration of pylons and glass astride a raw concrete gash. I like the way it looks.

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posted Friday, September 30, 2011 at 09:55 by cms in photos, travels | Comments Off

Barcelona, again.

Back at the start of the summer, I went back to Barcelona, for a second visit to the very wonderful Primavera Sound festival. I travelled with the rather pregnant Mrs S., and (Uncle) Danny came along for the latter half of the stay, and also joined us for the festival.

Barcelona is still a marvellous city, and Primavera is still my favourite rock festival. While we were out there, Barcelona FC won the champions league. I can't pretend that I have any sympathy, interest, or even understanding of football, but I really enjoyed the electric city-wide atmosphere on the day; silent, tense and concentrating, as countless viewers watched the televised match, suddenly punctuated by sighs and unison cheers as chances were missed, and goals won; culminating in the riot of celebration erupting from every door and window onto the streets when the final victory was realised.

The festival was another success. The personal highlight, for me was the chance to finally see Lightning Bolt, unusually for them, an on-stage performance, that was one of the most exhilarating live shows I have ever seen. Shellac, playing again on the same ATP stage as last year, as good value as always, another chance to see Oneida, and sample some of the "heritage" acts, giving it some legend, like Sonic Youth, Throwing Muses, and Neil Young. A suprisingly energetic Michael Nyman band set in the indoor auditori was an unexpected highlight, as were a couple of new-to-me performances from Andrew Bird, and Gang Gang Dance. I was amused by Sunn O))), but sadly unable to persuade either of my companions to stay and watch more than ten minutes of their set.

More disappointing were Marnie Stern, who I'd been looking forward to seeing again, seemed to be suffering from terrible sound and equipment problems, Deerhunter transforming a great album into a weak coldplay-lite live experience, an uninspired and frankly routine Art Brut performance, and a generically dull Jarvis set.

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It turns out that I edited and uploaded my photos to flickr shortly after returning to the UK, but what with all the busying and rushing around re-organising and home renovating, I seem to have forgotten to switch the set to public, at least until now.

posted Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 20:51 by cms in gigs, music, travels | Comments Off

NYC and Christmas revisited

Because I've been in the mood for photo housekeeping, here's the remainder of the photographs from our trip to Manhattan last Christmas. They're mostly concerned with a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge which occurred on the very morning of Christmas day.

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We took the train down to Brooklyn and just leisurely walked across. The weather and views were rather stunning, and the city much quieter than usual. We did run into a bit of footpath congestion at the Manhattan terminus; the comic image of a frustrated, lycra-enveloped cyclist failing to exert his right-of-way, in opposition to the crowds, camply yelling "Hello! Bicycle lane!" will stay impressed on my memory.

posted Tuesday, June 9, 2009 at 08:34 by cms in travels | Comments Off

Valentine's weekend in Dublin

Thanks to some free air miles obtained when I signed up for my last credit card, we managed to get an entirely free weekend's accommodation (self-catering apartment, right in the city centre), and flights (BA, return from Gatwick) to anywhere in the closest European zone. The only catch was that they needed to be cashed-in before the end of February '09. We elected to re-visit Dublin, as Mrs S. spent several months living and working there, back when she was studying towards her degree. That was several years ago, neither of us have been back since.

It hasn't changed much. Right before we left, we discovered the exciting news that we were in the family way. This rather curtailed the traditional Dublin entertainment of drinking stout (the Guinness does taste better, you know) and bar-crawling. Perhaps the most striking change was the effect of the recent economic turmoil upon the sterling exchange rate. Dublin was never the cheapest city, but now things were positively eye-watering; a pint of Guiness was pushing five pounds, a decidedly average meal for two (with no alcohol) in a vegetarian restaurant easily overshot the forty pound mark. Luckily with free travel and accommodation leaving enough elasticity in our spending budget, we managed a relaxed weekend break without risking bankruptcy.

The February weather was cold, windy and occasionally damp. Wind-swept and grey rather suits this city by the sea. On on the evening we flew in, the night of the 14th, we somehow managed to blunder straight in and secure a last-minute table for two in a little Italian bistro, minutes after we'd unpacked; saving us from having to hurriedly improvise a meal with limited shopping options.

Most of the rest of the time we just cruised around the city streets, feeding the ducks in the park, dipping into second-hand-book shops, cafe's and what proved to be an astonishingly well-stocked Gibson guitar dealer, where I ogled an array of the fancy new auto-mechanical-tuning robot guitars. I was particularly taken by the effect of the grimy, yet bright, winter sky reflecting off the mosaic-tile pools in the Garden of Remembrance.

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posted Sunday, June 7, 2009 at 20:01 by cms in travels | Comments Off

Some things I learned on my recent trip to Canada

  • Porter airlines: the only way to fly.
  • A song about the Spadina bus
  • As I suspected, Toronto isn't even cold in the wintertime. Barely dipped below zero, the entire time I was there.
  • Apricot Weißbier, nicer than it ought to be.
  • Prevailing man-hipster fashion trend: Button cardigan, bushy beard, and oversized pseudo-religious pendantry
  • Guitar hero is more fun than I'd have thought.
  • The prehistoric Trypilian culture from the Ukraine, was one of the earliest neolithic civilizations
  • If you own a Birks watch, as I do, you can get it serviced and the battery changed for free at any Birks branch.
  • Do not place your nose into any unusual looking fixtures attached to bathroom walls.
  • Iroquois false face societies, and why you cannot see their masks in museums.
  • My karaoke version of 'In The Air Tonight' was a surprise success, but perhaps even more suprisingly, my version of 'My Heart Will Go On', placed me in the final three.
posted Friday, February 6, 2009 at 13:01 by cms in travels | 1 Comment »

Like a kid in a japanese sweet shop

While I was in Manhattan, I happened to wander past the window of Minamoto Kitchoan, a fancy boutique translation of a traditional japanese confectioners. I'm endlessly fascinated by japanese culture, especially the old-world; I have a pet theory that Japan and the UK are peculiar reflections of each other, there's a lot of cultural resonance, but it's all distorted into wonderfully strange shapes. Nevertheless, I was initially a little too intimidated to enter, as the store was devoid of customers, and the interior looked rather cold and formal. Luckily for me, Mrs S. egged me on enough to overcome my trepidation, and in I went.

I'm not really experienced enough to count myself as even an amateur aficionado of japanese food, but I've eaten a fair bit, and their sweets are a rum affair; they're intended to please more than just a sweet tooth, designed as much to appeal to the eye, and offer textures to the palate. They tend not to be very sweet, and a large proportion of their construction would seem to be kidney beans. This does mean that they're better for you than many western sweets, I'd have thought. Far less fat and sugar.

I wandered about the shop a little, it didn't seem like the staff spoke any useful English (this could have been my British accent, of course), but I managed to communicate a request through the universal language of pointing and nodding. Every addition to my shopping list was met by the kimono clad shop-girl with a charming sequence bowing and nodding – and then the whole order was packaged up beautifully in a box to take away.

Here's what I bought.

  • Kohakukakanme (pickled plum in agar jelly, covered with flakes of real gold)
  • Kabochamanjyu (bean cakes, both shaped and flavoured like pumpkin)
  • Fukuwatashisenbei (a topographically curious biscuit)
  • Hanatsubomi(bean jelly in preserved lemon)

I then ate them in installments, back at the hotel. They were all pretty good eating, probably the pickled plum made the most sense to my palate – not really too far away from a fruit cocktail. The Fukuwatashisenbei biscuit tasted almost exactly like a custard cream, but was rather awkward eating because of it's shape. The bean pastes are a little bit of an acquired taste, but faintly addictive.

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The store is part of a chain, apparently there is a London branch, somewhere in Piccadilly.

posted Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 22:02 by cms in travels | 4 Comments »

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas one and all! We decided to get away from it all this year, and are therefore in New York city. It is tremendously Christmassy.

Heading to Toronto tomorrow to visit with the Lyles, back to New York for New Year's Eve (where we've a choice between two pre-booked parties to make – option a: Times Square, formal-ish dinner and comedy, option b: Tribeca, trendy club with cool bands playing). Back in the U.K. the day after.

Here are some of the photos I've taken, so far.

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posted Thursday, December 25, 2008 at 16:57 by cms in photos, travels | 2 Comments »