Seen and Heard…

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1. Last Saturday, I saw the brilliant Duke Special live. There’s nobody quite like him; he combines pop, folk, cabaret, theatre and storytelling along with fantastic musicianship and a beautiful voice to make a great performance every time I see him play. And he has the best Belfast accent I’ve ever heard…swoon. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=queSqeVcLY4)

2. The week before last, I saw My Vitriol play their first gig in five years at Koko, London. While I was admittedly skeptical about the fact they are still touring an album 13 years old, they still sounded great and this week I can’t get enough of Finelines. It’s a true classic album that isn’t showing it’s age at all.

3. My band of the week this week, MS MR.

4. This week, I went to see the ridiculous Spanish comedy, I’m So Excited. It made me laugh out loud, a lot and I reviewed it here.

5. On Monday night, I went along to Longitude, a monthly night showcasing some of the acts that will be performing at this year’s Latitude festival. This month’s featured Luke Wright, an Essex lad turned poet with poetry covering subjects such as broad as the Essex Lion to Nigel Farage, Lucy Beaumont, a breaking female comedian with a host of witty one-liners, Pappy’s, one of the best sketch groups out there who had the whole audience in fits of laughter and Nick Mulvey, whose dreamy acoustic sounds provided a perfect close for the evening and made me dream of lying in a field. Hurry up festival season!
A busy week for me, what have you been watching and listening to this week?

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Film Review: I’m So Excited

It’s difficult to sum up I’m So Excited neatly. On the one hand, I found it to be a ridiculous and  highly entertaining, laugh out loud farce that could easily be described as nothing short of a camp as you like Carry-On film in Spanish. It really is as silly as the trailer looks. And yet, at the same time the film works because there’s more to it- in amongst the jokes and the camp, not only is there some pretty genuine social commentary about the ongoing financial problems in Spain, there’s also a storyline that I cared about. By the end of the film, I really cared about the characters and had become invested in their goings-on (as ridiculous as they were.) For me, that was what raised this film from ‘Carry-On Flying’ to the level of a laugh-out loud comedy that still manages to pack a punch of social commentary, not dissimilar in tone or style to the revered scripts written by playwrights such as Wilde or Sheridan in their time.

The whole film is based in the business class cabin of a flight on a fictional Spanish airline and focuses on the seven characters seated within. It soon materialises that due to a problem with the landing gear, there’s a good chance the flight may never make it to the ground safely however, before an emergency landing can be attempted, the plane needs to circle and wait for clearance to land at an airport safely, which takes several hours. During this time, the cabin crew decide to sedate the cattle class passengers and stewardesses and get themselves and the passengers in first class (and the pilots) blind on a cocktail of drink, drugs and promiscuity. Ridiculous, yes, but it goes without saying that this cocktail is a recipe for a highly amusing watch.

Nothing about this film really claims to be too serious, from the cartoon coloured opening credits, the token and almost entirely random appearance of Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz down to the vats of tequila making their way into the flight deck. But, there’s a fine line when dealing with such a camp, colourful extravaganza- it could easily become tiresome and empty. I like silly, sometimes but I can find it doesn’t take long for silly without substance to grate on my nerves. Somehow, for me, Pedro Almodóvar managed to completely escape this. Personally, I think there were two reasons; the carefully constructed story arc which meant the film didn’t linger on any of it’s fripperies for too long (although there was plenty of farce, it wasn’t long before something happened to keep the film moving forward) and the film’s warmth. Social commentary was ever present but mild, the stewards were camp and sexually promiscuous but kind and despite their many differences, the characters had a tendency towards open-mindedness and an attempt to understand each other and the people they get in contact with on the ground.

Ultimately, this is a 21st century farcical comedy and this means that Almodóvar can get away with more outrageousness and more scenes designed to make the audience laugh through the shock factor than many writers before have been able to be but his intentions seem to remain the same as the classics; to make the audience laugh big belly laughs and to think about the people and world they’re living in  a little bit while they’re at it. And for me, quite simply, it worked.

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Love Music?

Today’s post is a bit of a thoughtful one but it’s something that’s important to me and I think it’s important that the conversations on it don’t stop.

I’ve always considered myself a true music lover- whether I’m on the tube, sat at work or cooking dinner, there is nearly always a soundtrack to what I’m doing and my favourite past time is going to gigs and festivals and hearing new bands. Of course, I spend a large amount on gig tickets as live music is a passion for me but I’ve also been a Spotify advocate since it launched in the U.K. as I really do believe the opportunity to hear new music legally is so valuable- I consume so much music that it would simply be impossible for me to buy all the albums I want to hear, unless I win the lottery.  It’s a great way for bands to get exposure as you can stumble across things you would never have listened to otherwise and we have never had more freedom of choice or independence to discover new music for ourselves than we do with services like Spotify. But as a result, it became so easy for me to consume all the music I wanted at the push of a button that I stopped purchasing physical CD’s or even digital downloads.

However, recently a debut album I was excited about was released but, on the day before the release it materialised that the band were making  the brave decision not to put it on any streaming services for a little while, to encourage people to buy it.  At first, I was a little bit indignant; why should they be any different? There are so many bands fighting for us to hear their music, why should they expect that we would make the effort for them over all the others?  But I very quickly realised that it wasn’t them at fault- it’s me.  The particular band in question a band who are doing reasonably well for themselves and getting a good name amongst music fans and critics but  they have recently left their jobs in an attempt to make music full-time so they need the support of album sales and ticket sales to make that possible.  I happen to know that about them but  they almost certainly aren’t alone, I’m sure this is a common situation for a young band or musician to find themselves in. And, as a result, I wandered over to my local record store (the wonderful Rough Trade West, for anyone in need of a recommendation) and picked up their album. Not only did I feel good in the knowledge I was supporting them and hopefully enabling them to continue making and releasing music but I enjoyed the experience- there’s something to be savoured in flicking through the CD’s or vinyls and making your choice, listening to what’s playing in the shop and maybe coming across something you didn’t expect to find, then coming home with your new purchase and putting it on for the first time, while leafing through the sleeve notes- it is way more of an experience than pressing play on Spotify will ever be.

So, from here on in I’m making a resolution and I’m quite ashamed I’m only making it now: I am going to make a real effort to buy more albums. (Better late than never!)  And not from Amazon, either but supporting independent record shops, the lovely hidey holes that they are.  Record Store Day gets a huge response, every year, but how many people then go on to use those record shops on the other 364 days of the year, when it’s not so hyped?  You can go through every  overdone argument in the book- you wouldn’t borrow all your clothes, why would you borrow your music etc etc, but the fact is simple- if we don’t start paying properly for our music, someone has to and there’s a genuine concern that the money will run out. Of course, I won’t be able to buy everything I listen to, so my Spotify subscription is going to continue, for making my playlists and going on listening binges but I love music and I think musicians need our support, now more than ever.

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Voices of the City

I’ve recently really been enjoying the spoken word renaissance that seems to have taken place- all of a sudden, you can find young, passionate performance poets gracing the stage of festivals (and not just those that specialise in the arts,) poetry slams in ‘hip’ venues in East London and Scroobius Pip live on XFM with his very own spoken word/hip-hop slot. All of this goes to show that London is certainly making space for the bright young spoken word artists who are emerging and people are starting to listen. Poetry doesn’t have to stop when your exams are over and you don’t have to sit and study each rhyming couplet to appreciate the power of the word as an art form.  Most of my favourite poets don’t use Shakespeare’s English and aren’t too caught up in form, many of their influences are more hip-hop than Tennyson. For me, it’s the sheer power and force of the ideas they are expressing that is what draws me to hours on YouTube, absorbing spoken word.

If you ever get caught up in the urban rat race, here is your evening’s prescribed viewing…

George The Poet has a calming, mellow style of performance but an irresistibly strong message behind his words, which is something I love- he doesn’t need to shout for his words to be heard, they speak for themselves.

Scroobius Pip is perhaps a little more empassioned but for me, he’s still wearing the crown of spoken word at the moment. I really enjoy his mix of humour and sincerity- if you ever get the opportunity to see him perform spoken word live, take it as you will be amazed, laugh and quite possibly be moved to tears in the space of a few poems.

 

But it’s not just the boys representing. Kate Tempest is one of the city’s loudest voices and is making real waves, having just won the highly regarded Ted Hughes Award for new work in Poetry.

And finally, my latest discovery is Hollie McNish. She is going to be blogging about spoken word in the lead up to Glastonbury, so if this post has caught your attention, please follow it as she is much more knowledgeable about poetry than I am! (http://poetryandwordsblog.wordpress.com/)

This poem isn’t strictly about London specifically but it’s brilliant and should be heard by women everywhere.

 

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