Thursday, June 28, 2007

Glastonhurst Gravenblog Report

The previous three nights I played solo shows supporting Charlotte Hatherley in Birmingham, Bristol and Exeter. In Birmingham the audience was seated; this sometimes creates an atmosphere of slightly forced, Jazz Club reverence. It is difficult to tell whether the audience likes you or whether they are just staring at you like dead fish because they can’t really move without making a spectacle of themselves.
We got there late and I didn’t have my usual two hours of drinking and practising time to prepare myself, but I think I pulled it off.
The set was thus:
Cities Beneath The Sea
The Diver
Black Holes In The Sand
The Bristol show was bizarre. I was playing in my home town to an audience who mainly didn’t know anything about me (that’s the idea behind support slots, I’m told), and were happy to talk over me. I was happy to talk back.
“I’d like to dedicate this next song to the guy at the back loudly discussing the decline of Ceefax. Dude, you are so right about Teletext. Complete also-rans. I’m just as passionate about this as you are”.
But the same guy talked all the way through Charlotte’s set, and then fawningly got her to sign a poster afterwards. He hadn’t come to listen, he had come there to talk about being there whilst he was there. How blissful it must be to truly live in the moment like that.
Charlotte performed as a two-piece with band mate Charlie, ignored the buffoons, commanded 95% of the crowd with her own new material then reeled off clever acoustic cover versions of Wire’s ‘Outdoor Miner’, Simon Dupree and the Big Sound’s ‘Kites’, and Kim Wylde’s ‘Kids In America’. The following night we played The Cavern in Exeter. It sounds like a cavern. The room was empty so I made some noise and some people came in. We had to leave immediately afterwards, so we missed Charlotte’s set that night. The place was rammed though, and I imagine it was a triumph.
I reached the site at 9 am on Friday. After driving back from Exeter, my manager Michelle and I had been up until 3 am finishing the press release and biog for the new album. Even with special performers vehicle passes, laminates and wrist bands, it still took two hours, a couple of U-turns and some wildly conflicting directions from bewildered stewards to get to where the rest of the band had set up camp the night before. The wonderfully ordered chaos of Glastonbury is very egalitarian in that way. Artist, staff or punter, you will at some point find yourself deeply confused.
I reached my tent and tried to sleep. It was baking. Tranquilizers and Strongbow, woke up at 4pm. Drinking started immediately. As Charlie Brooker points out, for those of us who don’t count wading through rivers of mud and inhaling the gut-churning stench of shit amongst their hobbies, maintaining a constant, stable level of drunkenness is the best way to enjoy Glastonbury. Though this was nothing compared to what is currently happening up north.
Everyone but me was finding it relatively easy to remain upright. It turned out that my Wellingtons were in fact ‘deck boots’. These are flat bottomed and designed to provide suction on the wet wooden decks of sea vessels. Ignorant city boy. Then they split down the middle anyway, so I bought some boots from a fascist hippy (I assume he was a fascist, like thousands of other young rebels worldwide who hoist flags depicting the murderous totalitarian dictator Che Guevera)
Our first set of the festival was on the Late and Live tent, at 12 midnight
. Though we were delighted to be invited to play, it was a bit of a bummer because it made it impossible for me to see Hot Chip and Bjork, two of the acts on the programme that I was most excited about. It also meant that at least 100,000 Gravenhurst fans had to miss Bjork and Hot Chip too, and piled into the 200 capacity Late and Live tent. Seriously, the massive crowds at the main stages were a crude CGI animation hastily contrived by the panicking BBC producers who hadn’t done their research.
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and that guy Pete who won the last Big Brother was totally wigging out down the front. In our final track, a ten minute-long cover of The Kinks ‘See My Friends’, I closed my eyes, tilted my head back and had a private Spacemen 3 moment. Robin had extra ‘shape-space’ on the right-hand side of the stage, and the most adventurous shape he pulled made his fake moustache fall off.
The set was:
The Velvet Cell
She Dances (new one)
Hollow Men (new one)
Trust (new single coming out on 23rd July)
Song From Under The Arches
See My Friends
My mum tells me Pete from Big Brother is friends with Ken Russell. I want to meet Ken Russell. I want him to make a pop video for us.
At some point that day, the BBC team managed to pick the wrong people for a vox pop. They crossed paths with my band mates Robin Allender and Alex Wilkins.
BBC person : “what’s been your favourite act so far?”
Robin: “umm… Amy Winehouse… I didn’t see her… I read her name in the programme… it was really good”
This was broadcast live, and presumably discarded for the edited ‘Best Bits’ coverage on BBC 2. I saw it on the ‘TV On Demand – Watch Again’ function. Someone may have uploaded it to you Tube, I’ll see if I can find a link.

Eight years ago I found a coat in a club. It said ‘SPIEWAK’ on it and probably cost £300 as a result. It isn’t really waterproof, so I decided to go back to to the totalitarian-apologist and buy something more suitable. I chose unwisely; a £15 raincoat keeps the rain out but your own sweat in, so after a few minutes of slogging through mud you feel like a slug in a condom.
Around 4pm Ed Harcourt played The Park stage. Thankfully the rain eased off. Apparently, Ed hadn’t been to bed since Wednesday. I had spent some time with him the night before and he seemed, like me, Inclined Towards Having A Good Time. But Ed is a professional, and during the beautiful ‘Until Tomorrow Then’ the consummate showman climbed up onto the PA speakers and serenaded the crowd solo through an antique broadcast microphone.
At some point on Saturday we hatched a plan for me to watch my label-mates Maximo Park (oh my boys… my boys…) from the side of the stage, then invade the stage, give Paul Smith a Morrissey fan-style hug and kiss and then run off, and presumably be ejected from the site, or possibly arrested. Naturally we didn’t have passes for the main stages and hospitality areas, but two security guards and two simple Jedi mind tricks later, we were at the heavily fortified Other Stage Artists and Crew entrance. At the last hurdle all I could play was the nepotism card. Fortunately, Maximo’s manager Colin probably thought he owed me a favour after kicking me out of their dressing room at Brixton Academy when he mistook me for a drug user. Maximo’s drummer Tom quickly explained ‘who I was’ and Colin was unnecessarily gracious and apologetic. He hadn’t realized ‘who I was’. I reassured him that I barely knew who I was.
So the security guard went to ask Colin, and a few minutes later I was about ten yards behind the band amongst a gaggle of screaming girlfriends and some quite important looking people. It was suggested that I push as far to the front of the backstage viewing area as possible, to perhaps be caught live on BBC TV, pale, twitching, and chewing my own face off. A girl got cross with me.
Me: (shouting) : “WHAT?”
Girl (shouting) : “YOU’VE GOT TO DANCE! COME ON, DANCE!”
Girl (oblivious, shouting) : “YOU’VE GOT TO DANCE! COME ON, DANCE!”
Girl (oblivious, shouting) : “JUST DANCE!”
I carried on doing what for me counts as dancing, and mercifully I ditched the extremely ill-advised stage-invasion plan. The crowd was going insane, Mr. Smith was totally in his element, and the band were properly rinsing it. They finished with ‘Going Missing’, which is my favourite track from ‘A Certain Trigger’. Looking at the BBC coverage, I was relieved to discover that I cannot be seen at the side of the stage.
After that I met up with my friend Sophie and brushed past a famous person -one of the blokes from Top Gear. On my way back to the tent I stopped off at a Portaloo. A sticker on the back wall read “THE OFFICIAL JO WHILEY TOILET’. I had a relatively early night; we had to get up to play The Park stage at 12.40 on Sunday.

At around 12.40 it started raining quite hard, and then eased off at around 1.10, when we finished our set. Most of the audience thought they were going to be watching Adele, because that is what it said in the festival program. Something mysterious happened just after it went to press and we were asked to play the slot instead.
I told the audience who we were, quite a few times, in case we gave Adele a confusing reputation. I said something along the lines of
“Hello, we are Gravenhurst from Bristol. We are not Adele. We are Gravenhurst. After 72 hours on this festival site we are now operating at optimum performance levels, and improving all the time”.
The set was:
The Velvet Cell
She Dances
Hollow Men
Song From Under The Arches
Black Holes In The Sand
I’m not good at counting audiences when I am in the process of Rocking Out, but apparently about 300 people were watching. This was truly touching; It was really pissing it down. Crimean War Field Hospital with better tunes and more effective medicines.
That night was the absolute high-point of the festival for me. I saw the fabulous Circulus, a medievalist prog folk band. Fairport, Jethro Tull and Early Music = Wickerman, Lake and Palmer. Fantastic. They were the only band I saw that truly rocked. And they were the only band I saw who wore wizard’s robes and animal masks. Then I got pissed with Martha Wainwright and Ed Harcourt. Networking? Name dropping? Sue me. It’s nothing compared to brushing past that bloke from Top Gear.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

'Clive Burr was a better drummer than Nicko McBrain' - Discuss

Maplin technician in not-pedantic shocker

I went into Maplin to buy a soldering iron. My flatmate's gas soldering iron melted itself. I asked the technician about the battery powered ones and he said 'For kids. Electrical is best, and it's cheaper'. When I told him the gas one had melted he said 'yes, bad design'. Then I asked him about a an S-VID to SCART lead and he recommended not buying theirs and showed me how to do it much cheaper using separate leads and drew three different diagrams for me. What a dude.

His name is Michal, he has lots of tattoos and is from Eastern Europe. Or he could be from France for all I know; these skilled, helpful migrants all look the same to me. If enough of them come here, they are in danger of wiping out the "Pffff....Nah mate, you won't get it... it's gonna be at least six to eight weeks for parts..." mentality that keeps our Nation strong, resourceful, efficient and welcoming to outsiders.

Ashton Court Festival

Very good news that Ashton Court Festival, Bristol's community festival will be going ahead. The extra costs incurred by the new licensing regulations, plus the ₤8,000 bill for graffiti damage and the ₤11,000 bill caused by people vandalising the estate, have left the festival owing over £100,000. As an independent and not for profit organisation they are entirely reliant on sponsorship and gate income to survive, so there is no margin for error. Find out more here.

I'm a little disappointed that the festival team rejected my specific strategy of wholeheartedly embracing corporate sponsorship whilst keeping Ashton Court essentially a community festival. By working closely with Imperial Tobacco, Bristol Community Festival could secure it's own future whilst giving the people of Bristol an opportunity to celebrate a key part of their city's rich economic heritage. But never mind.

The full line-up hasn't been announced yet but Gravenhurst are playing. I want Iron Maiden to headline. That's unlikely. Impossible, in fact. I've listened to Iron Maiden since I was eight. They got shit after Seventh Son of a Seventh Son though. People say Iron Maiden are silly. That's like saying a horse has hooves, and what sort of scoundrel would deny a horse his hooves?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The results of a rigorous two-week programme of lifestyle awareness

Week one - moderate consumption of beer and wine

Read this month's Prospect magazine. Read the Economist. Read half of Nick Cohen's new book 'What's Left? How Liberals Lost Their Way'. Watched two Adam Curtis documentaries, 'Pandora's Box' and the 'The Mayfair Set'. Watched Andrew Marr's 'A History Of Modern Britain'. Finished mixing two songs. Achieved various administrative goals.

Week two - bag of weed, cider

Read half of Viz. Listened to Iron Maiden. Watched 'Conan The Barbarian', 'Commando', 'Death Wish', 'Death Wish II', 'Death Wish 3', 'Death Wish 4: The Crackdown', 'Death Wish V: The Face of Death' (boxed set), several episodes of 'Walker: Texas Ranger' (starring Chuck Norris, solid performances over several decades), 'Roadhouse' (starring Patrick Swayze, who knows full well that his crowning celluloid achievment was playing a nonce in Donnie Darko), 'American Psycho' (yet again), and all six episodes of 'Garth Marenghi's Darkplace' with the commentary on. Found myself idly searching Ebay for a copy of Michael Winner's last film, 'Parting Shots', starring Chris Rea. Thought about buying a bomber jacket with a picture of a panther on the back. Failed to achieve various administrative goals.