Sunday, February 15, 2009

Gig Guide 1 - Secret Machines: Rescue Rooms, Nottingham. Feb 14, 2009

THE Rescue Rooms has been a venue I've visited on a number of occasions - Julian Cope twice, House of Love, Shack, and a couple of others, and generally I've found it cramped, noisy, acoustically challenged and just a little grubby. Tonight was no exception; it's like the RR prefers that used, slightly crusty feel.

The support band, local lads called Filthy Dukes, who have just signed a record deal and were on the tour because Brandon Curtis (of the Secret Machines) is a fan. One has to seriously wonder how someone who can produce such excellent psychedelic rock as Curtis can be a fan of such a melange of trashy Eighties synth-pop and wannabe Ian Curtis-ness (obviously no relation). The half an hour set was made up of thudding beats that didn't inspire the audience and drew polite, but quiet applause.

The first impression from Secret Machines was that no expense was made. The band stood on a bare stage, with two spotlights behind them and no other lighting. This didn't change for the duration of the 70 minute set, except on the very last number when the lighting guy must have found the on-off switch, because we were treated to a kind of home-made strobe affect.

There is nothing slick about this band. While their albums are polished walls of progressive sound and psych reverb, live they are just energy. Josh Garza, the drummer, could be John Bonham in his youth and channeled more energy into that 70 minutes than I have seen in 30 odd years of gigging. Phil Karnats, Ben Curtis' replacement on lead guitar noodled and thrashed his way through a back catalog he had no involvement with and did it heroically, while Brandon Curtis switched between bass and keyboards, sometimes both.

The sound was poor and the band were far too loud for such a small venue. It took the sound engineer at least 3 songs to get the balance right and even then it was patchy at best and not helped by the fact that TSM are, as I said, not slick performers.

The only real positive reactions from the audience were with Now Here is Nowhere, the title track from their debut album and First Wave Intact, also from their debut. They performed an almost entirely new version of Alone, Jealous and Stoned, which took me almost a minute to work out what they were playing and followed this with Atomic Heels from the new album, which got some of the audience jumping around.

But on the whole it was a very low key affair; the audience didn't seem to be inspired; apart from a token Valentine's day wish from Brandon, there was no audience interaction and the band looked like they would have rather been anywhere else. The impression is that this is a low key tour of the UK attempting to re-establish the band after a promising debut here two years ago - they need bigger venues and improved sound to make any head way.

6.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Collapse the Light Into Earth

I could moan for England if I wanted. I have been accused on several occasions of being a Victor Meldrew. And, I suppose it's true, although I do feel I've calmed down considerably over the years. Yeah, I still shout at the telly, whinge while walking around the supermarket and complain bitterly about whatever is worth complaining bitterly about this week. But one thing I have stayed consistently loathsome about are drivers - other drivers...

How the fuck do these people get licences? I failed my first driving test, passed my second and think of myself as a pretty good driver - a friend of mine said she felt I was the safest, yet most aggressive, driver she'd ever driven with, which is a complement and she now drives so like me, I feel safe with her. The thing is, there are people who mesh with their vehicles and there are people who couldn't find their own arses if they had a map and a torch - and there's white van drivers.

I don't know if the first month of 2009 is anything to go by, but I've witnessed more demonstrations of idiotic, selfish and downright dangerous driving in the first month of this year than I think I see in any given year! They're either arseholes in boy racer mobiles or rabbits caught in their own personal headlights. The arseholes in boy racers, I can just about live with, provided they don't do anything too stupid with my close by; it's the rabbits that scare the living shit out of me. In the last month I have seen: a driver stop on a roundabout because he missed he turning and literally turned around rather than just going round the roundabout again; a woman pulling out into flowing traffic, in a rickety old Peugeot 106, directly in front of a Subaru Imprezza, causing a near mass pile up at rush hour; at least one example of ignorance a day; I watch people drive down my street doing upwards of 50mph and there's a 90 degree turn at the bottom of the road; and, remarkably, a man reversing up a slip road into oncoming traffic!

In fact, there is so much bad driving around at the moment, I'm surprised there isn't more accidents.

Apparently, they've made the driving test considerably more difficult, yet more and more complete and utter hopeless wankers get behind the wheel of a deadly machine and poot about oblivious the the comings and goings of every other road user. If this country hadn't allowed Thatcher to destroy the transport infrastructure of this country, we might have been able to discourage lots of incompetents from ever getting behind the wheel of a car; but now, because it costs upwards of 3 or 4 times more to use public transport, people would rather drive, which means there's more of these imbeciles than ever before and their numbers are growing.

* * *

I listened to a fascinating discussion on the Matthew Bannister radio show today; it was posing the question - has the recession been created by the media, or more specifically, has the media exacerbated the problem by focusing more on the doom and gloom and not giving us good news. The upshot was that many people felt the press, while still morally reprehensible, couldn't be blamed, as such, but by its continuous negative coverage, it has bestowed a feeling of hopelessness on those paying attention.

Wasn't it Martyn Lewis who quit his job as a BBC newsreader because he felt there wasn't enough good news being promoted. The problem is, people don't give a shit about others' good fortune, not any more, any how, what they want to see are people worse off than themselves.

* * *

I was visiting a young person last week, who lived right opposite a privately owned community centre - privately owned? I asked how that worked, and the young person's mother said the centre had been bought by a private company and it was used for private functions and paying customers.

This is in a place in Northants which has so little to offer, yet local people have approached the owners about making the building available for a youth club or for activities for the local children, to help promote a centre that sits empty and unused for up to 10 months a year. The owners asked for a higher hourly rental rate, purely on the basis that it would be used by local young people.

Remarkably, the building has remained unscathed - no broken windows or graffiti. The crime rate in this particular village is almost non-existent and the local council have even offered to supply youth workers to work in tandem with the parents and still the owners refuse to budge. Is it any wonder why young people get frustrated and say they have nothing to do? Not all of them can afford games stations, iPods or all the latest technology, and some of them actually want to do things that young people do - play sports, have a youth club, do activities.

With the world the way it is at the moment, you'd think that greed would become less of a factor in the lives of everyone.