Support Local Talent

I wandered into a certain town centre music store the other day and asked if they’d be getting The Lovely Eggs new album in on monday.  No, it seems, nobody had ordered it, but i could if I wanted.  No I told them, quite plainly.  If I wanted to order I’d use the net and save money.  They’re a successful local band, HMV should at least get a couple of copies in. 

The same in Waterstones’ with Jacob Polley’s new novel Talk of The Town (as read from at The Storey and The Brewery recently.)  Wouldn’t get it in automatically.  I could order it…

So, here’s a proposal folks.  Let these corporate clowns who haven’t a clue if they’re selling CDs or Books or Carrots and couldn’t care as long as the money rolls in know what we think.  Next time you pass pop in and ask if they’ve got The Lovely Eggs, or Stuart Anthony, or Jacob Polley or Ian Seed.  When they say no but you can order it tell them no, you won’t order through them, they should have it in stock.  Keep nagging them, keep Lancaster and the areas presence in their minds. 

Meanwhile bands out there, I believe Jill at The Book Room will sell your CDs for you in her shop.

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Runt Hornet, Joyeux and Pick up The Gun — The Yorkshire House 29.5.09

I only caught the end of  Pick Up The Gun’s debut set, but they were interesting.  Feedbacking guitars and thunderous drumming dominanted the two songs I saw: the one that sounded a bit Nirvana-esque, and the one that sounded a lot like Smashing Pumpkins but heavier.  Give them a while to write some songs and see how they are then.

Joyeux haven’t rehearsed, but who can tell.  Their Killdozer-ish opener gives way to Black Flag-like riffing and screaming.  Pete and Thom’s intimate appreciation pf the essential homoeroticism of hardcore are fundamental to Joyeux’s appeal.  A stripped Thom screaming ‘No Fun’ in the faces of punters at the bar is definitely an image to remember.  Two women in their best dresses are clearly unsure how to take Thom, and the unexpected view they get up his shorts as he writhes on the floor only confirms their opinion. 

Runt Hornet I saw a couple of years ago, and mostly just recalled the amazing pip bass.  Tonight that bass thunderous rumble underpins some drawn out metal jams, but their set is enjoyable.  The drummer never stopped smiling as she pounded a driving beat.  Towards the end a bluesier number was particularly good.  

So three interesting bands each quite different but each enjoyable, powerful and heavy rock.

Six Poets — Jane Eagland & Ian Seed

Six Poets events are irregular, focussed around one of their number with work to celebrate.  Previously, I believe, they have been quite informal but decided on this occasion to take advantage of The Storey’s new space.  They take their poetry seriously here, which is not to say that it can’t be comic and funny.  It’s far from academic and dry tonight.

 

After a few brief open mic poems of higher than average standard, Keith Hilling opened the main bill.  His poetry contained curious juxtapositions of bleak and charming, clever control of his science imagery offering up ambiguities of decay and growth.

Jane Eagland has just had her new novel **** published.  Inspired by stories of women wrongly incarcerated in 19th century asylums she talked of women being strait-jacketed by society.  In her novel 17 year old Louisa finds herself in an institution, apparently mistaken for another woman.  The scene Jane read fascinated, Louisa’s voice clear and strong, leaving the listener sympathetic to her plight yet with doubts lingering as to her reliability.  Interspersed are scenes of Louisa’s childhood.  The encounter between precocious Louisa and spoilt Charlotte had the audience roaring with laughter.

After an interval Eliza Mood regaled us with linked poems part-related to her Northumberland childhood.  Vivid imagery became metaphors of the changing past.  Her life spent moving onwards looking for something left behind.

Eliza’s thoughtful verses were followed by Jan Paterson’s witty prose poems.  Her memories of her daughter leaving home poignant in its humour and pathos whilst the ex-boyfriend finding her on facebook darkly amusing.

Kim Moore, as I’ve said before, appears to have a bright future.  Her poems seem to fall into two strands; the overt relationship poems and the more naturalistic, verging on the Romantic idea of inspiration and imagination.  Of the latter, the crisp imagery of ‘Convent Attic, Normandy’ stands out. Of the former ‘Saturday Night’ is a particular favourite.  This time realism gives way abruptly to fairy tale, and like true fairy tale it is dark, nasty even, before its happy ending.  I’m reminded of Bettelheim’s reading of Snow White as metaphor for puberty, and Kim has added her fresh twist.

As if planned that way, Ian Seed’s readings from Anonymous Intruder are also full of dark sexuality.  As he says, he is obsessed with strangers, casual encounters, in his poetry he aims for that surrealist hinge between ‘dream and daylight’ and it shows through in his interpretation of these ‘almost’ moments:

‘On the crowded train, the accidental

Touch of a hand is enough

To pinpoint your loneliness.’

Seed’s verses are usually short, precise, but he also writes brief prose poems, static scenes designed to ‘make you feel like your heads gone all funny.’  Afterwards I recall the term for this: Cognitive Dissonance.  At the time I’m too concerned by poems which might be directly addressed to me, whom Ian has never met, or maybe to another me who is not me but us.  The stranger we recognise.

It’s a superb climax to an excellent evening of poetry.  Six Poets should get out more, and maybe now they found The Storey we will have more nights like this.

Spotlight At The Storey — May 2009

So Spotlight comes to The Storey after 14 years it has a new home, and for this reason or maybe others there’s a big turn out for the first night.  A fair few faces unfamiliar to me (though that proves nothing) which is good, and yet it makes me wonder where they all were those other nights at The Yorkshire House. 

The Storey is still a work-in-progress, far from perfect yet.  Ron struggled with the sound at times; the noise of the door as people came and went very distracting to me at the far end; and the bar wasn’t then in situ.  (It is now I believe.)  On the other hand, almost everyone had a seat, with a variety of options, which made viewing and listening more comfortable.

First to speak at Spotlight in The Storey was compere John Freeman, a man more sparing of his words than some hosts.  John’s economy left Ron Scowcroft to make the first real impact.  The first open mic reader of a new era, ‘Hope Cove’ set a high standard.  A nicely balanced metaphor, well-maintained, became first elegiacal and then regenerative.  An apt launch for the new venue.

 

Re-invention lies at the heart too of Kate Davies intriguing story of a boy who gradually be4comes less visible before re-emerging as a cowboy line-dancer in his twenties.

The open mic generally allows performers up to five minutes, but Pascal Desmond exceeded his allottance by a vast margin.  Worse, after a long, rambling, fitfully funny but more frequently repetitive story about a childhood hospital stay he then launched into a cringe worthy attempt at sing-a-long.  Pascal is not new to the scene; surely he knows his time limit?  His meanderings have a kernel of truth, moments of humour and profundity but desperately need an editor, some structure and savage pruning to remove that first draft feel.

Following on, Bernard Alves’ poems were both better timed and better formed.  His verses on a Spanish carnival demonstrated a certain craft at least.  And last up on the open mic, Nate Connolly’s solo acoustic songs led up to the break.  Echoes of Radiohead meets Elliott Smith in a pleasant voice show potential.

Nate’s father Arlon played the open mic last month, now he’s on the main bill.  Half a dozen instrumental tunes of varying flamboyant and delicate classical guitar versatility included a couple of his own semi-improvised tunes.  It has, however, been observed by others that some Spotlight attendees will sit in rapt silence through any old poetry doggerel but talk loudly over any musical act.  These people demonstrated their rudeness again tonight.  Arlon played well, if a little long-winded, and didn’t deserve to compete with inane chatter.

Rosie Robinson’s poetry is introspective, reaching into a dark place, albeit predictably in its punch line.  An ode taking Fireplace Love as a conceit is well-constructed and even toned, before she inverts the mood with the more successful, wry, teasing ‘Handcuffs Anybody?’  Such a shame that only on the latter verse does she animate and perform rather than read awkwardly.

Mark Charlesworth has no such difficulties as an experienced performer at such events.  Yet it remains Rosie’s work that I remember.  I made notes on Mark saying ‘bleak, sordid imagery’ and ‘expands from the personal to the global’ but that is largely it.  He is working on a book of poetry, reclaiming images of ‘The North’ which is a curious concept to me.  What is The North?  What is to reclaim?

 

Chris Newton (aka ‘Mr Wyrd’) seems to have no such identity issues.  His goth trappings and cute slightly camp delivery serve him well in attracting interest.  However all the gothic imagery hides an absence of Gothic sensibility.  There isn’t, for instance, any element of transgression in these poems unless in Chris subverting expectations by including a poem about ‘Tea’ and offering the audience a cup.  The irrepressible Pascal was first up.

Henry Korz….. also took inspiration in the Gothic,  Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,  This first person narrative in the creature’s voice talking about his rejection by Victor and his desire for a companion was clever.  There’s a nice note of teen angst and petulance, unsubtle jokes about his ‘father’ being a ‘goth’ and more.  Deliberately fusing ideas of the creature from both Mary Shelley and James Whale is frequently anachronistic and occasionally very affecting.  As with almost all tonight’s performers good editing was needed to cut out repetition and digression.

This length of pieces meant it was already late, and with no interval in the main bill (as was the case in the past) people were getting restless.  Blanket Apology played to half the audience Chris Newton had, many leaving en masse as they played.  Their brand of sub-Dire Straits pub rock didn’t really inspire though the singer has a fine voice and some presence.  The three middle-aged sleeperblokes behind her held the combined charisma of a corpse.  Focussing so severely on their musicianship they appear to have forgotten enjoyment.  Apparently formed to play songs by the late Dave Hockley, his clever lyrics and the singer’s voice demanded a better musical tribute.

 

Litfest’s space survived its first Spotlight without major concerns as a venue.  The bill over-ran due to sprawling material, with the result that opener Ron Scowcroft’s taut poem ‘Hope Cove’ was by far the best individual piece of the night.

I Am Kloot — The Yorkshire House (A Totally Wired Presentation)

It’s ironic, Paul Rhodes tells me, that two solo artists are playing as bands tonight in support of a band which is actually a solo performance by I Am Kloot’s John Bramwell.  But Niamh Starkey have been a trio for a while now, as readers of this review will know, and Moll Baxter has been backed by her band before. 

A grumbling bassline and tumbleweed guitar looped into something almost menacing form the basis of Niamh Starkey’s sound.  It’s shoegazing with a darker undercurrent.  Compared to last time I saw them Sam’s vocals are clearer and add to the hypnotic swirling groove of opener ‘Mystique’.  Songs evolve into jams, Harvey’s delicate drum filigrees an adornment to Cameron’s taut basslines.  Niamh Starkey have great potential, though their experimental edges may not be to everyone’s liking.  They’ll get better.

If the sound was clear, despite minor glitches, for Niamh Starkey it went all awry for Mollie Baxter.  I’ve felt in the past that playing solo Mollie’s passioned vocals and strident guitar work is a key part of their musical appeal.  So I like the idea of adding drums and bass to her percussive strumming.  Unfortunately tonight’s set is marred by a growing loss of clarity as it built in energy.  Rob’s drums overpowered the guitar too often, and the separation of the bass and guitar drifted in and out.  Not that it was all bad, Moll’s singing and the driving rythms held it up, the band tight enough that they do form a good unit. 

There’s a good crowd for both support acts and they get a good reception from a lot of unfamiliar faces who maybe haven’t seen either act before.  Each has a CD for sale and a few change hands for bargain prices.  The reason The Yorkie is virtually sold out on a Monday night is I Am Kloot singer John Bramwell.  “Better late than never” he jokes as he takes the stage. 

photo (c) Richard Davis

From the start the warm lyricism of ‘Your Favourite Sky’ is reflected in John’s distinctly Mancunian voice.  It’s not as common as you might expect for a voice to actually match the words being sung, but this does.  I am not as familiar with the recorded band versions as most of the crowd are, but in this contect they are strikingly effective.  The packed audience response to older songs like ‘Black And Blue’ and they reaction to the newere songs being road-tested obviously pleased John too.  His sincerity also came across strongly, he seemed to be enjoying the gig as much as anyone, and indeed a very good time was had by all.

Monday night in lancaster, nowt ever happens, does it?  It did tonight when TotallY wired brought I Am Kloot to town, and The Yorkshire House was packed.  That says something.

Paperweight At The Round Theatre

PaperweightThe Round Theatre – 21/05/09

 Theatre is not an art medium I am wholly familiar with having only seen 1 play 2 years ago at The Edinburgh Festival. On that occasion it was a friends’ production and I found it to be a profoundly underwhelming experience. However I decided to put my prejudices aside and give it another chance.

 

Paperweight is a play devised by The Top of the world theatre company. Top of the world was formed in 2001 by tonight’s 2 performers Tom Frankland and Sebastien Lawson and Tiernan Hanby who all met when they were studying drama at The University of Hull. In 2003 the founding members decided to try different directions and a chance to work with other people. Since 2006 Tom and Sebastian decided to team up again with the addition of director Jamie Wood and it is this new trio who devised Paperweight.

 

The play is about 2 workers stuck in a mundane and tedious office job. Tom Frankland plays the uptight and childish Howard, whilst Sebastien Lawson plays manic depressive Anthony. The play finds both characters at the end of their tether with their mundane office day job. Anthony enters the play by trudging into the office, slumped in his chair in the dark and looking very tired and miserable. Howard on the other hand breezes in with a broad smile and switches all the lights on indicating on the surface anyway all is well with him in his job and life. He has a happy go lucky demeanour. The play starts off slowly with the characters milling about performing your average office tasks. As the play progresses however, it becomes clear that both characters are increasingly trying to find ways to distract themselves from the overall dull routine of office life. Howard is more explicit in this by setting up childish practical jokes (IE – putting salt into Anthony’s tea, chewing gum on his chair, etc). In this way Howard reminds me as something of a Mr Bean type of character, particularly when he starts sticking little toys on top of his PC monitor. He is like a little boy trapped inside a man’s body. This is especially apparent when he starts talking to his mother on the phone who he asks to stop treating him like a child whilst unintentionally calling her mummy. He is a bag of neuroses and nerves, especially when it comes to women; particularly Natalie the secretary who he has taken a liking to yet has no idea how to approach her for a date. Thus implying that he has little to no experience with the opposite sex.  Anthony is a somewhat intense character, moody and sullen and prone to explosions of frustration and rage. This is not helped by the constant phone ringing and only seeks to exacerbate his outbursts further. He is more expressive in his ambivalence towards his job and unlike Howard is not content to just ‘put up with it’. However he does attempt to take part in Howard’s tomfoolery at times despite his disposition, if anything as a way of trying to preserve his sanity.

 

The play is brilliantly balanced between pathos and comedy. There is the aforementioned physical humour and this is contrasted to brilliant effect with tragedy such as Anthony having to make the difficult decision to put his father in a nursing home as well as Howard trying to convince his mother that he has a girlfriend and friends. The play itself builds the dramatic tension through devices such as the constantly ringing phone and it is in this way that the characters’ behaviour starts to become increasingly erratic and bizarre. All this leads you to wonder who will crack first. This ‘waiting game’ that the play creates reminds me somewhat of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Whilst the conclusion with Anthony stripping off and punching his fist through the computer monitor and pulling out sand, is a subtle nod to the famous ‘beach scene’ from The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin.

 

This is definitely a play that anyone who has had a job which they’ve grown tired and frustrated with can relate to. I for one am glad that I went against my ‘better judgement’ to go and see this remarkably well-acted and scripted piece of work. I am pleased to add that Top of The World theatre company are currently developing a new show called Free-Time Radical which I will definitely be catching the next time they swing through these parts. For more information on Top of the World productions, you can visit their website at http://topoftheworld.org.uk/.

 Reza Mills

The Damned United at The Dukes Cinema

Here’s what it says on The Dukes website about one of this years’ more eagerly awaited films:

Frost/Nixon screenwriter Peter Morgan’s confrontational and darkly humorous story of Brian Clough’s doomed 44-day tenure as manager of the reigning champions of English football in the 1970s, Leeds United. Previously managed by his bitter rival Don Revie, and on the back of their most successful period ever, Leeds had an aggressive and cynical style of football. This was an abomination to the principled yet flamboyant Brian Clough, who had achieved astonishing success as manager of Hartlepool and Derby County, building teams in his own vision with trusty lieutenant Peter Taylor.

Not a word mentioning the actual author of The Damned United David Peace whose ‘confrontational and darkly humorous story’ this actually is.  Nor that this is a film about far more than Brian Clough or Leeds United or Football, in the same way that Peace’s Red Riding Quartet transcends its crime plot to incorporate so much more about its time.