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On Thursday, I attended the first ever performance of Bristol Old Vic's newest production, 'The Grinning Man'.

It's a musical, loosely based on Victor Hugo's novel, 'L'homme qui rit' , and is set in an alternative  17th Century Bristol, capital of a divided England, seat of an aging and despotic king, and his children of questionable character.

Our protagonist is Grympayne, an orphan, disfigured by his mutilated face, adopted as a child by travelling showman and puppeteer Ursus, (and his pet wolf.), and seeking the truth about his past. (which is, it turns out, complex and full of coincidences).

The play involves puppets (I loved the wolf, less so the two children, but happily they grow up and turn into people instead of puppets fairly early on, so that was OK!)

It very melodramatic, and at times somewhat surreal, and is very well done. It's pretty dark, with murder and mayhem to spare, but also very funny in places. I particularly enjoyed the foppish Lord David!  Being the first preview, there were inevitably a few minor glitches - one incident where the action briefly stopped and SM had to come on stage, and a couple of moments when players stumbled on their lines, but even with this minor hiccoughs it was well worth seeing.

Judging by the reaction from the audience at this first preview, I think it will be popular.

There is a sample of some of the music from the show, here, and the production runs at Bristol Old Vic until 13th November.

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Last weekend I went to London. I'd pledged via Songkick for Kim Boekbinder's first UK show, and the gig was on Friday night.
The show was at the Sebright Arms, which seems to be a pretty nice pub, quite apart from the cool musicians in the basement.
I met up with friends Mike and Sue, and some lovely friends of theirs.

She Makes War opened the gig - I hadn't heard of her, but I enjoyed her music. (and it turns out she is based in Bristol, so I may be able to see other gigs in the future.
And then ... The Impossible Girl herself!

Who played lots of songs from her new album, The Sky Is Calling, (which you should all buy, if you haven't already done so). I've been listening to the album a lot since it came out, and thoroughly enjoyed hearing it live.

What made it even more fun was that Kim was obviously enjoying herself so much. In addition to the music, she told us about bonding with Laura (SheMakesWar) over cheese, and about having a place on Mars names after her.
And at the end of the gig we all got to meet and chat with her, and get lovely posters.
And it was a relatively early end to the gig, so we had time to had about and chat and drink after the gig, too.
Lots of fun.
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Back in June, I backed a Kickstarter for Marian Call's European Adventure Tour. Because I like her music, and I hoped it might turn out that she'd be playing somewhere near enough to me that I go go and see her. But in my response, when I signed up, I did also say I might be able to host a house-concert.
Typewriter (and Ziggy the deceased cat)
Then, just over a month ago, I got an e-mail from Marian to ask whether I could host. I said yes, and we then e-mailed back and forth a little to arrange a date, which turned out to be Tuesday, 30th October.

So, on Tuesday afternoon, Marian, Patrick and Scott arrived, and there was time for us to chat, and to eat, and for Scott and Marian to set up in one corner of my living room, before guests started to arrive.

Marian Call and Scott Barkan
After half an hour or so of chatting and mingling Marian started her show - with 'Good Morning Moon'.

Jayne hat for Jayne song!
During the rest of the evening we also heard 'Dear Mr Darcy', which I think may be my favourite song on the album, ( not least for the wonderful line "I've been dropping hints like bricks on you"), the Avocado Song, and of course, "It's Good to Have Jayne on Your Side", complete with Jayne hat, and lots of audience participation!

Marian has a great voice, and I love the combination of witty, geeky, lyrics and 'folky' music. I also really loved the intimacy of having a show in such a small venue (and of course, on a personal level, having it in my own house meant no pesky travelling or queueing!)
In addition to accompanying Marian, Scott also performed some of his own songs, from his album 'Little Days'
Scott Barkan
It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed meeting the other fans who came to the show, all but one of whom were complete strangers to me!

Here's a taster for you - lots more of the music to watch,listen to and buy on Marian's  website.(and a couple of others on my youtube channel

If you have a chance to see Marian play, take it. You won't be disappointed.

(More of my photos here on flickr, plus further pics here from another guest, Andy.)
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The full title of the post should really be "In which there is family, and art and museums and friends and Rock and food and beer and meeting people and brownies and lots of fun" but that's a little too long.

You see, Wednesday was the day (night) that Amanda Fucking Palmer was performing in Manchester. when the tickets first went on sale, I had to decide between the London and Manchester shows, and picked Manchester because although it involved more travelling, I got to combine the gig with a visit to my brother, and to introduce him and his girlfriend to Amanda's music, which seemed like a good idea!

I drove up to Manchester in the morning, and was able to meet R for lunch (unfortunately, my visit coincided with the only-available-about-twice-year-and-very-useful training day he needed to do, so he couldn't take the afternoon off, which was a shame, but such is life. R works at the BBC, at Salford Quays. It was odd for me to visits the Quays, as they have changed almost beyond recognition since I lived in Manchester - the area was almost all industrial wasteland in my day...

After lunching, I went to look around the Imperial War Museum North -which has exhibitions relating to modern warfare, and in particular to the impact of war, so there were exhibits about victims of shell shock, and trench warfare, and about prisoners of war, and victims of concentration camps, (and those who were involved in liberating them) as well as about more recent events such as the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks. Not an uplifting experience, but both interesting and thought-provoking.

A little later, after nipping back to R's house to drop off my stuff and park my car, I got a tram into Manchester and spent half an hour in the Manchester Art Gallery. I only had time to visit a small part of it, but it was nice. They have some lovely Victorian decor - I liked the fishes and bees, for instance...

There are also some quite nice pictures - I didn't get as far as the Lowrys, but I did see the William de Morgan tiles, which were always a favourite of mine, and I enjoyed the juxtaposition of old and new art - the butterflies are by an artist called Claire Brewster, and are all cut from ordnance survey maps... I liked them a lot!

I didn't get to stay long, as the gallery closes at 5, and I then had to leave, after which I met up with R and his girlfriend, J, for supper (an American themed meal, involving milkshakes)

and then it was time to head to the cathedral. We went via Sinclair's Oyster Bar, which is a lovely looking half-timbered building (built in 1720, and moved a few hundred yards, after the 1996 IRA bomb and subsequent redevelopment of the area) We had some rather nice beer, and met up with my friend Hellie, who was also heading the the gig.

And so - the main event!

AFP watching the stage
I have been to Manchester Cathedral before, for services, but never for a gig - it made for a pretty awesome space.

 Once inside, we spotted Laurie Pink and Essers (which was good, because it turned out that Twitter had been hiding their DM's from me, when we were trying to work out if we could meet up!)

They had cunningly spotted that there was space to stand around the side of the stage, where there was a good view! So we did standing there, too.  There was some brass band going on at the other end of the nave , then the vicar came to welcome everyone. I suspect he doesn't get massive applause and cheering on a Sunday morning, generally...
Friendly vicar says hello

Jherek Bishoff
Then there was music. Jherek Bischoff played - including a piece called 'Cistern' which, he explained, was written in an empty, underground water cistern and rarely performed, but the cathedral seemed an appropriate space to try it in (for the record, it really, really, worked!)

After the second opening act, Amanda Palmer started her own set (having introduced the others) with an a capella version of 'The Wind that Shakes the Barley', sung from the top of the (medieval) rood screen, above an array of painted angels. It was stunning.

She then came down onto the main stage and was, well, Amanda Fucking Palmer. Most of the show involved songs from the new album,  Theatre is Evil, but we also got 'Leeds United'..

It was an awesome night. We didn't stay for the post-show ninja encore outside the cathedral, on account of having to catch the last tram home, but even without it I was on a high.

And when we got back to the house, R revealed that he had specially baked some chocolate brownies for me, as a bleated birthday treat, and he & J stuck candles in them and sang 'Happy Birthday' to me at midnight, which made for a lovely, if slightly surreal end to the day. (plus, I got a whole lot of delicious brownies to bring home)

(more photos, as usual, on flickr
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On Saturday night, Jonathan Coulton and Paul and Storm were performing at the Colston hall, in Bristol, and I went along to see them (and to help out with the Merch table)

As anticipated, it was a whole lot of fun. I arrived early and got my very first 'Access All Areas' pass, (sadly not an awesome laminate such as JoCo provided for the Fabulous Lorraine, but one must, I assume, start small and work one's way up, with these things...)

I met up with Kerrin, who is a long term fan, who acts as a roadie for Jonathan and Paul and Storm during UK tours, and with Angela, another hard-core fan, who had travelled from Switzerland for the UK gig, and who was responsible for the whole licorice penises thing, and Angela's friend Lena. We chatted, and ate swiss chocolate, and discussed licorice penises and panties (as one does).

And then we went up to the hall, to find seats and sell T-Shirts, before the gig started.

Paul and Storm opened for JoCo. Appropriately, they opened with 'We are the Opening Band', which was derailed when Angela orchestrated a certain amount of throwing of panties...

They also treated us to the wonderful new 'Write Like the Wind (George RR Martin')

and of course there was a song about pirates . .

After the interval, Jonathan Coulton took over - as always, he was fun and geeky. And soldiered on, despite a broken guitar string (which caused a capella 'Madness' songs by Storm) and Paul's nose-panty incident, and some slightly over-enthusiastic audience participation!

It turns out that the cake is a lie (who'd have guessed?) and I was a little disappointed that no-one seemed to have brought jaffa cakes, but one cannot have everything! 

We sold a lot of t-shirts and CDs, and I had a lot of fun, enjoyed meeting some new people, (and some who are not so new) and finally got home, very tired, around 1 in the morning.

Me with Jonathan Coulton 22.09.12

I would have preferred it if I had then been able to go straight to sleep, rather than then being kept awake by a very loud altercation between two of my neighbours. I may not have caught all the nuances, but it seems that Emily may have been gossiping about 'her', and apparently this needed to be addressed. At 2 a.m. At great length. *sigh* Still, who needs sleep?

More videos from the JoCo gig are up on my YouTube channel, if the ones here aren't enough for you!

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I booked a ticket a while back, to see Zoe Keating, at her one London show, Then this weekend I had a mild panic for fear I would be too ill to go (The panic was mild only becuase I had no energy to panic properly) However, come Monday I decided that if I was well enough to go into work, I was damn well well enough to go to London to listen to music.
I am not sure whether the logic of that decision would hold up to rigourous examination, but it seemed reasonable at the time.

I had prebooked an afternoon off work, and a rail ticket, so I arrived in London at around 3.30, and decided to head across to the Science Museum, which currently has an exhibition celebrating Alan Turing's centenary.

It was a small, but interesting exhibition. As well as the obvious points, such as Turing's work at Bletchley Park during the War, and his tragically early death after his conviction for homosexuality, the exhibition included some information about his childhood friendships, as well as about his work at Manchester University following the war.

One striking piece of information, new to me, was that 2 of the papers which Turing wrote during his time at Bletchley, were not released publically until April this year, apparently becuase it was felt that the work they contained was sstill too relevant and too important.

Which is astonishing.

After looking round the Turing exhibition I wandered into a few other parts of the museum. I admit that the section about vetinary history left me rather cold - it's hard to get interested in toothrasps and horse drenching bottles. I liked the Wellcome medical history gallery better, although possibly not for the right reasons. It is full of tableaux and dioramas, peopled by manniquins which appear to be rejexts from even the most undiscriminating shop display. The tableaux themselves range from an oddly unconcered Roman with an arrow in the neck, to a modern operating theatre, but are arranged, apparently at random. They also have some interactive exhibits where you can try out some psychometric tests, but without being told how you score, or what the normal reaction might be. I should like to think that the whole exhibition might be an elaborate psychological experiment..

The random Roman bath-tub was nice, though.

I then wandered back downstairs, pausing to take a look at the microscope made for George III (it has cherubs, and semi-naked ladies on it) and at Mr Babbage's Difference Engine, then I took a wrong turning past the Daleks (they label them as being V2 and other early rocket engines, but you only have to look at them to see the truth =>) and I found myself unexpectedly face to face with George Stevenson's 'Rocket'

It's pretty impressive. And I like how they keep it next to the Apollo 10 Command Module, and a few other bits and bobs of a similar kind.

There are Steam-Engines and Beam-Engines and great big Jet Engines, and bicycles and biplanes and all sorts of other fascinating things. It reminded me why I like this museum, and that I ought to come more often!

But, like all good things, the museum visit came to an end, as they like to close it in the evenings, so I took the hint, and headed out to Hackney, and the Vortex Jazz Club, where Zoe Keating was playing.
The venue is small, and was very full. Opening for Zoe was Ruby Colley - a composer / violinist who, like Zoe, uses a computer to allow her to accompany herself.
She played a short, but fascinating set, which left me feeling that she is a name to watch - I shall certainly be keeping an eye out for any future performances.
Then, Zoe started her set (with a slight delay in starting, due to a computer issue). I can only say that her music is even more stunning live than it is recorded - and she's a witty lady, too. And despite the crowded, overheated room, the uncomfortable chair, and the nagging anxiety that I might miss the last train back, I lost myself in the music for a time.
and, although I was forced to leave before the set ended, I did not miss the last train home.
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So, as everyone must know now, Amanda Palmer decided to fund her new album via Kickstarter, and was spectacularly successful. I initially signed up just for the CD level reward, but then, after failing to get tickets for the public gig on Wednesday, and realising that I really wanted the Art Book, too, Not to mention the fact that every Amanda Palmer gig I have been to has been so much fun that I would always go to one, given the chance, I decided to take the plunge and back at that level. All of which resulted in my getting on a train on Monday, to go to London, to the Kickstarter Backers' VIP Art Opening and Gig..
I think it is fair to say that the gig lived up to and beyond my expectations!
The gig was at Village Underground, in Shoreditch, and was easy to spot. For a start, the club has several Underground railway carriages on the roof, and to be going on with, there was a typical Amanda Palmer queue outside - lots of happy people, dressed in a vast range of styles from ballgowns and dinner jackets to the most casual of clothes. While we queued, we talked, and as we got closer to the entrance a young gentleman (who we later learned is AFP's cousin) arrived and serenaded the queue upon the bagpipes!

On getting to the head of the queue there was the inevitable frisson of fear lest my name turned out mysteriously to be missing from the guest list (happily it wasn't!) and then the pleasure of being given a goodie bag, which included a mask and a free book, and stickers, and a felt-tip pen (do not forget the felt-tip pen, best beloveds). And all of this before the gig even started.

Village Underground is a big, warehouse style space - all red brick and girders, and made a good backdrop for all the wonderful art.

There was time to look around, and admire it, and to trade the little cards marked with 'The Very Hungry Caterpiller' for drinks at the bar, and to admire the outfits of the other guests, and then, and then, the music started.

First up, Princessin Hans - who sang to us of passive-aggression, got lots of audience participation, and ROCKED in a wonderful silver dress and almost equally wonderful ginger beard...

And later, Amanda chatted with us, and encouraged us to talk, and drink, and admire the art, and swap books,
And we did. and I think it was round about that point in the evening that I got to meet up with twitter-friend @MsClara, who is even more beautiful and entertaining in person, (and her husband, the marvellous Mr. Mitch Benn. And then there was a further musical interlude, this time with strings, by Jherek Bischoff - wonderful, beautiful, wordless music.
and it was the kind of evening where you sit on the floor of this space, and close your eyes to focus on the music, and then you open them and realise that the person who just sat down on the floor next to you is Neil Gaiman...
Then - the invasion of the Grand Theft Orchestra - there were masks, and flashlights, and a beautiful woman in a beautiful dress, and saws and knives and a loudhailer and new songs and old.
And the music spilled out into the audience, and the audience surrounded the band, and at some point there was a singalong 'last christmas' too, although I can't quite recall why..
Amanda sang 'The Bed Song', and 'Trout Heart Replica' from the new album, and Neil sang 'Psycho',
and EVERYBODY sang 'Map of Tasmania' and the 'Ukulele Anthem'.
and then - did you remember the felt-tip pen, best beloveds?
This was the writing on a rock star part of the evening,

There was so much love and so much happiness and laughter...
And then evening started to wind down, and there was chatter, and hugs, and signing of books (did I mention there was a book in every goodie bag?) Amanda and Neil visited a couple of 2nd hand book shops in Charing Cross Road to buy books for everyone, and Amanda was telling us whether each book we showed her was a 'Neil Book', or an 'Amanda Book' (Mine was a Neil Book, and one day someone browsing my bookshelves is going to wonder why I have a copy of Micheal Chabon's 'The Final Solution' signed by Neil Gaiman, and I will explain it is because it has Sherlock Holmes, and because Neil was married in Michael's living room, and they will probably give me a funny look and move on. And I won't care, because to me it will be another reminder of a wonderful evening, full of friendly strangers and magical art, when Amanda Palmer kissed me.
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Back in August, Nail Gaiman tweeted about the shows he was enjoying at the Edinburgh festival. One of them was 'Fascinating Aida' - and he exhorted all his readers to go to see them. I hadn't heard of them before, but when  looked I them up, I saw they were due to play in Bath on 30th October, so I bought a ticket, and so, on Sunday night, I found myself in the Theatre Royal, not entirely sure what to expect, but hopeful I would have a good time.

The current line-up consists of Dillie Keane, Adele Anderson and Sarah-Louise Young (the newest member). The show was great -modern, topical cabaret.

The opening song "Companies Using Nifty Tax Systems" (enjoy those initials..) was followed by the wonderful Dogging song - (very much NSFW) which included Ms Keane's warning "For those of a sensitive disposition.... what the fuck are you doing here"  I loved the show, and also got a good deal of pleasure watching the older ladies sitting next to be going gradually from incredulity to hysterical laughter!

A little later in the evening we were treated to the song 'Cheap Flights' ( (after which the current tour is named) at which point I realised I had seen them before. Very funny.

All too soon, the evening came to an end. The final song was dedicated to Bath itself, "your Roman ruins are extensive, but your pumproom teas are too expensive"...

Watch the videos, they give you a far better idea of what these women are all about that I can. and in the event they play anywhere near you, go to see the, You won't regret it. (unless, of course, you are of a sensitive disposition!)
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It's been another very long week, but hopefully things will be more fun, and much less hard work for the next few weeks, as I have lots of things to look forward to, and several short weeks:

Way back in January, we saw that the wonderful Mr David Tennant was going to be appearing in 'Much Ado About Nothing' with the equally wonderful Catherine Tate, this year, so a group of us (Me, my sister, 2 friends, and 2 friends-of-friends) agreed to go - we booked tickets, way back then (Stalls, baby!) and on Tuesday evening, we are going! I'm so excited. I love going to the theatre, and I love David Tennant as an actor - I saw his 'Hamlet' in Stratford on Avon in2008 (about 2 weeks before I started this blog, as it happens!), which was anamazing experience, so I am SO looking forward to seeing him in Shakespeareagain, and also to see him with Catherine Tate, who I have never seen live before.

I'm also really looking forward to spending time with my sister & friends - we haven't yet decided what to do with the afternoon before the show - we may all be splitting up to check out different exhibitions & such, but we've then booked what should be a very nice restaurant for a pre-theatre meal, and as my sister apparently has zillions of points due to hotel stays (for her job) she and I get a nice hotel room for no money at all, too. It should be alovely couple of days, and of course having Tuesday & Wednesday off work makes for a nice, short, working week, too :-)

On Wednesday evening I am going to see  Jason Webley play, in Bristol, which should be fantastic - I gather this may be hos last European tour for a while, so I'm glad I can see one of the shows.

After that, we have a bank holiday weekend, and I'm planning to go down to Devon to spend the weekend with my parents, and I belive that my other sister and her fiance will be there.

Then the weekend after that, I am back in London once again, to see Amanda Palmer, and then to see Neil Gaiman at the  British Library, which also gives me a free day in london, so I shall have the opportunity to go see another exhibition or two, and maybe even a show, if I can get a last minute ticket for something on the Saturday night.

So all in all, I have a lot to look forward to. And that's before I even have my summer holiday! (This year, I am actually leaving home!)
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This weekend, I had one of the few (total:20) tickets to see Bitter Ruin play some of the songs from their work in progress, in their home in Brighton.

I've seen them several times before, most recently last June, in in Bath, and earlier last year when they opened for Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley's EvelynEvelyn show in London, and it seemed as though it would be a fun thing to do.

My trip didn't start well. Brighton is a long way away, so I planned to drive to my sister's place in Portsmouth, then get a train to Brighton. She & C were willing for me to stay there in their absence, and so the plan was to get the train back after the gig, sleep there, and have a leisurely drive home on Sunday morning.

Unfortunately Royal Mail let us down, and the keys to the flat which were posted to me on Wednesday (1st class, which is supposed to mean they arrive the following day) failed to turn up. Having stayed in until the post arrived (well after mid-day), I was not best pleased that the keys didn't arrive.

Having no option, I then drove to Brighton (which takes about 3 hours) where I inadvertently parked in the Worlds Most Expensive Car Park before heading out to look at Brighton.

The Royal Pavillion is one of the sights of Brighton. It was built for the Prince Regent (later George IV) between 1787 and 1822, and as it currently stands was designed by Nash, in the Indian style - the interiors are (mad) Chinoiserie, but I didn't go in on this occasion, as it's not cheap, and I didn't have time to do it justice.

I think perhaps we should be grateful that The Prince Regent did not allow his enormous debts get in the way of building such a lavish palace, as it gives us something most impressive to look at now! The pavillion was used as a hospital during WW1 - it must have been somewhat disconcerting, espcially for any poor soul suffering from fever...

After looking around the town a little I found a very nice restuarant and gorged myself on fresh whitebait, and wild mushroom risotto, then I walked along the promenade watching the gulls riding the wind, and the people on the beach.

I met up with 5 or 6 of the other people going to the show, outside Ben and Georgia's flat, and we all headed in.

We all settled down on the living room floor, with glasses of wine (and little bowls of dolly mixture, supplied by our hosts)

Ben & Georgia played us a selection of the new songs which they are currently working on for their next album - I particularly liked 'Child in a Sea Cave'. In between songs we talked, and they answered questions, then played more songs from the back catalogue, with more conversation and discussions in between. It was a lot of fun!
When the show ended, Georgia took a picture of the bunch of us, before we left.

(Picture taken by Georiga )
Then there was just time for a little more conversation before heading back to my car for the long drive home. It was twilight as we left the flat, and the amusements on the pier were all lit up.


It was well past midnight before I got home, and my dodgy shoulder is complaining about all the driving, and I still have the problem of how to get my sister's keys back to her (once they finally arrive here!) but despite all that, it was fun, and I'm glad I went.
I would also like to go back to Brighton at some point, and spend a bit more time looking around the pavillion, gardens and so forth..

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Thursday night was the night that Paul and Storm and Jonathan Coulton were playing at Bristol's Colston Hall, for the first date of their European tour. (it's a pretty short tour - only 4 dates, I think)

Last time they played in Bristol was in November 2009, (I  blogged it here ), and I ended up selling merchandise, so this time when I heard that they were coming back, I sent off an email volunteering as a Merch Girl again. And then I inveigled my friend Cheryl into coming along with me to help out.

We got there a little early, and the guys were running a little late, so we hung out for a bit first, then Paul arrived to talk us through pricing and how to use the credit-card-machine-with-the-carbon-paper. One of the things on sale was the Paul and Storm's " ________ IS THE NAME OF MY ___________ COVER BAND"  shirt (which comes with a washable marker pen so you can fill in the gaps as often as you wish). I made some comment about their channelling John Scalzi, and was immediately corrected, and told thatg it is, of course, Scalzi channelling them... which led, inevitabley, to the creation of the "John Scalzi IS THE NAME OF MY Paul and Storm COVER BAND" modelled here, and on twitter, by Cheryl!

The show was great - first half featuring Paul & Storm, with the 'Nun Fight', 'Frogger the Musical' and 'The Captain's Wife's Lament' songs being particularly well-recieved.

There was also the presentation by a member of the audience of the the World's Largest Jaffa-Cake....
Then, after the interval in which we sold many many shorts and CDs, came JoCo's portion of the show, which featured many old favoutrites such as 'Code Monkey' and 'Skullcrusher Mountain', plus new ones including 'Blue Sunny Day' (about a sad vampire) the new Portal II song (and, of course, 'Still Alive', sung with full choral  audience participation), not to mention the ever-popular 'Re: Your Brains' (also featuring much enthusiastic audince participation)

Jonathan also spoke a little about the Crushing Burden of fame, enocuraged us all to sell all of us stuff in order to buy tickets for the JoCo Cruise
It was a lot of fun!

After the show (including the not-at-all-planned-or-choreographed,-honest encore) we sold a lot more merchandise, and had the chance to chat a little with Paul and Storm and Jonathan, before helping to pack up the unsold shirts, and heading home. I normally aim to be home well beofre midnoght on days when i have to work in the morning. I failed completely on this occasion, but I have absolutely no regrets whatsoever.  it was a great show, and I am so glad I went. Looking forward to next time.

If I can ever remember my YouTube password, I will try to upload some video I took, but I know there was someone filming pretty much everything, and with a better camera than mine, so she may well have posted a ll the good stuff already..
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I don't often go to the theatre two nights running, but this week was an exception - Saturday night's 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' being followed on Sunday by a trip back to Bath to see Handel's 'Messiah', performed by The 18th Century Concert Orchestra who perform in period dress and on period instruments.
It was wonderful!

It's a while since I have seen any classical or choral music live, and this reminded me what a great experience it can be.

I enjoyed the fact that all the musicians were in period dress, each of them slightly different, and with slightly different wigs (although no real macaroni or beaus among them!)

The orchestra consisted of 5 violins, 1 viola, 2 cellos, a double bass, a harpsichord, an oboe, 2 trumpets and a timpanist on kettle drums, and there was a 13 person choir. The aim was to provide a concert which sounded as it would have done when Messiah was premiered, in 1741 - I am not (obviously) in a postion to say how successful they were on that front, but I'm willing to take in on trust - the rest of it was spot on!

I had been feeling tired and wasn't over-enthusiastic about going, but I am so glad that I did!

All in all, an excellent evening out.
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Last night found me in Bath once again, even though it was a work night and I was knackered and feeling somewhat battered, due to my visit to the Chiropractor on Wednesday (of which more later) 
I was in Bath because the fabulous Mr Mitch Benn was there, performing at Komedia. I haven't been to Komedia before. I've previously seen Mitch at the Rondo Theatre, which is a nice but tiny theatre on the edge of Bath - a bit like a pub with tiered seating. 
Komedia is a converted cinema, all red and blue and gold and fancy plasterwork, and an echo. 
And Mitch Benn is a comedian and singer, and if you don't know him and all his works, you should. Go here and look, go here and download. You know you want to. 
Anyway, I had fortified myself with a nice half of Bellringer Beer and some rather disappointing potato wedges at a pub down the road (Memo to the Westgate Pub - please check the definition of 'crispy' as it applies to bacon, and do not raise expectations which you cannot satisfy) and so was already beginning to de-stress by the time I got to Komedia.
Mr Benn certainly competed the de-stressing process! Having been to several of his gigs before I knew pretty much what to expect . There were lots of songs I was familiar with - 'Sing Like an Angel', 'Size Zero', 'African Baby' 'Now He's Gone' & IKEA.  
There was the wonderful 'Macbeth'

Mitch commented that if you hang around with Thespians, then sooner or later, one of them will come out with the old chestnut that if Shakespeare were alive today, he'd be writing Eastenders. Mitch's comment was that no he bloody wouldn't (Doctor Who, maybe, "he's been in it, after all, and Neil' s doing it, so Shakespear can't be far behind" )

'Macbeth' is his take on what Shakespeare might, in fact, write if he were around now. And it's Awesome!

We also had some newer songs; such as the topical "The Pope Wants Vicars" (Which won my heart by rhyming 'Saint Thomas Aquinas' with 'scared of vaginas', and the song which definitely got the biggest cheers of the evening - 
"Proud of the BBC" which is a response to all the selfish tightfisted bastards  individuals who begrudge paying the licence fee and want to destroy privatise the BBC.  It ROCKS. And I especially liked the 'FUCKFUCKFCKFUCKStart again' in the second line, although I suspect that may not actually be part of the official lyrics...
Mitch also did his 'write a new song during the interval' party piece - based on suggstions from the audience about topical news stories, which you've got to admit is impressive. 
All in all, it was a great evening, and I came home with my very own 'Proud of the BBC' T-Shirt.

Of course, the one small fly in my ointment was that being a Thursday night, I still had to get up & go to work in the morning, but what the hell..

More Music

Jul. 19th, 2010 03:00 pm
marjorie73: (Default)
Saturday night found me once again in Frome, for another Festival event, this time a joint concert by Bath Philharmonia and Bluegrass quartet Harpeth Rising, who were taking part in the Frome Festival as part of their first ever (I think) tour outside the USA.

The idea was to make a connection between the country / bluegrass music and more classical pices inspired by the same type of music.

The first half of the concert consisted of the Phil. playing Adams' 'Shaker Loops', with a song from Harpeth Rising between each of the movements; the second half involved the Phil. playing Copland's 'Appalachian Spring', again, interspersed with songs from Harpeth Rising. There was also one song, 'Abraham' in which the Phil provided full accompaniment to Harpeth Rising.

I really enjoyed the concert. I did feel that the 2nd half worked better than the first - 'Shaker Loops' isn't what you could describe as an easy or accessible piece of music, and I would have preferred to hear it in full, to concentrate, rather than with a different style interspersed. I also felt that the audience were less thean completely attentive.

I felt the mix of Copland & bluegrass was a much better 'fit', and as 'Appalachian Spring' is a much better known piece of music (and with more obvious structure) it didn't suffer from the "have they finished yet? Should we clap?" issue which was apparent during the Adams!

The concert was held in St John's Church in Frome: the seating may not be the most comfortable in the world, but it does make an attractive setting for a concert.

After my exhausting morning shopping I was in two minds whether to head out again - I'd been awake since 5.30 a.m. and the idea of a glass of wine, the weekend paper and an early night was very appealing, but I'm glad that I madethe effort to go, as I eneded up having a really enjoyable evening.
marjorie73: (Default)
=I suppose the good thing about starting your day by almost falling under a train, is that things will almost certainly get better.

In my case, they did.

I was able to check in early at my hotel, which gave me the chance to shower, change and count my blessings, then it was off to the Royal Festival Hall for the first show, which was a matinee and billed as a family show.

I remember coming to the Festival Hall regularly when I was a child, for the Robert Mayer Children's Concerts (short concerts designed to introduce children to classical music) - I belive that you were not allowed to attend unless you were accompanied by a child, and as this was in the late 70's when Red Ken was running the GLC they were probably heavily subsidised, too.

The Hall hasn't changed much and it felt strange not to be going to "our" seats up in the balcony, but as my seat for this show was in the second row of the stalls, I had no regrets!

The show is part of, or at least timed to coincide with, The Royal Society's Summer Festival of Science" and there were life-sized Pterasaurs outside, and all kind of experimenty stuff inside, the absolutely best of which was Festo's amazing Air Penguins one of which was flying in the foyer bafore the show, and one in the auditorium before and during the show!

There were lots of kids, some very young, and this was great as they were really enthusistic about the show.

By the end, there were lots of kids dancing and playing with confetti, although I noticed just as much adult as child enthusiasm for the audience participation and singing along parts of the show!

Most of the set was songs from the 'Here Comes Science' album, although there were others. I particulalrly enjoyed hearing 'Why Does The Sun Shine' sung in Pirate-Speak. (Who knew the Plank, Eye Patches, and Hook-for-a-hand were such important parts of the Sun's make up?

I had a fantastic time!

At the end of the show, not only did the amazing Air Penguin return, but so did its friend, the AirJelly.

The show ended at around 3.30, and I was then faced with the decision as to what to do fort he 4 1/2 hours until the evening gig (listed as a 'Rock Show', rather than a Family one) was due to start.

Originally I had planned to take in a museum or gallery but as I was still feeling rather battered I didn't feel up to a lot of walking around, so instead I spent a little time outside, admiring the Pterasaurs and the giant purple cow, and some more time inside, admiring the Science stuff. There was a fun microscope-y thing which you could put under your tongue, and see the little blood cells charging along your veins (Not mine personally - I decided it wouldn't be appropriate to push little kids out of the way to have a go), and a vacuum cleaner that could climb walls, and all manner of other things.

I also found time to eat, drink, and read. After all, one must the priorities right, mustn't one

Then at 8 I was back in the Hall - having paused only for a champagne cocktail on the terrace overlooking the Thames - this time, my seat was in the front row of the rear stalls - so about half-way up the auditorium but with a good view. Only slightly marred by the group of about 5 people sitting in the row behind who talked loudly throughout the support act's set. Very rude!

Again, the hall was almost completely full and the show was great - opening act was a guy named Mike Doughty (on Twitter as @MikeDoughtyYeah) - I hadn't heard of him before, but enjoyed his set.)

Then TMBG again. Cue more chat (this time with added swearyness)

I was further back this time, so didn't get as many pics, but Phil Jupitus was near the front and took this video of 'Why Does the Sun Shine' - this time with added James Mason...

It didn't take long before the audience were out of their seats, and dancing. I wasn't dancing, on account of my legs having stiffend up, but I did attempt to at least limp rhythmically on the spot!

Despite 2 encores, the gig was over all to soon.

I just hope that TMBG come back to the UK soon - I'd love to see them again.

(Originally posted at comment here or there)
marjorie73: (Default)

Thursday evening saw me heading into Bath, to meet up with Cheryl and together to go to Moles, to see Bitter Ruin.

I first heard of them (and heard them) when they played support for Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley at the EvelynEvelyn show at Bush Hall, and at the 'Underworld' gig, and really liked their music, so when I saw they were playing in Bath I booked tickets straight away.

Moles, as the name suggests, is to be found in a cellar (with a bar above), and is pretty small. When we arrived, 5 minutes after the doors opened, it was empty other Georgia & Ben (a.k.a. Bitter Ruin) so we had the oppotunity to chat to them briefly, then as other people started to arrive we headed upstairs for a drink.

The first band on were a local duo whose name, unfortunately, I didn't catch, but they were good - then Bitter Ruin were on - I really enjoyed their set - especially as they played two of my favourites - "The Vice" and "A Brand New Me", plus a new song - "Relief"

In between times I chatted to Ben's dad, who apparently lives locally, and learned that Ben went to the same school I did (although about 12 years later than me!)

All in all, a great evening, and if you get a chance to see Bitter Ruin play, take it!

marjorie73: (Default)
So, Saturday morning involved a fairly stress-free journey to London (after seriously confusing the bloke in the ticket office in Trowbridge, by trying to buy single ticket to go from London to Trowbridge on Sunday...)

Shepherd's Bush, where the gig was, is unknown territory for me, so I decided to head straight there to find the hall and my hotel, which (somewhat to my surprise, as I have no sense of direction whatsoever, I found them without difficulty, so had time to change, and find food, before heading back to queue!
It was an interesting queue. I met up with Roz Kaveney (having been introduced via twitter by a mutual friend), was given a small elephant by a passing pirate (only an elephant, not an ElephantElephant, as there are fewer of them..) and a twix bar, met a conjoined twin puppet, and all to the sound of ukeleles in the queue... There was even a very brief, fly-by appearance by a certain Crazy-Haired writer en route to the stage door...

Inside, Bush Hall is interesting - lots of chandeliers & mirrors, and small enough to feel intimate.
Opening for the twins were Bitter Ruin who I belive were originally only due to open for the twins at the 'extra' KoKo show - they were excellent - having spent all my cash on EvelynEvelyn CDs and beer I didn't invest in their CD at the gig, but I think I may have to do so now!
Then the beautiful Miss Holly Gaiman, wearing a wnderful black & red dress which I didn't manage to get a decent picture of, brought "The Lost Airman" (later unmasked as Thomas Dolby) on stage to MC the twins show, in place of Sxip Shirey, followed, after a little encouragement, by the twins themselves.
The right-hand Evelyn (from their point of view) was suffering from a nasty cold, (and even blowing one's nose can be tricky, when it requires the cooperation of one's twin sister...) but carried on like the trouper she is!

We heard of EvelynEvelyns background & birth (with visual aids)
And about the Chicken Man (which involved a brief appearance by a live chicken, which, I was later informed by a Very Reliable Source, was one which actually belongs to, and lives at, the Bush Hall... sadly, the chicken seemed to be a little publicity shy, and I didn't manage to take its picture during its brief appearance. The twins were sustained with Twixes, then, between songs, they answered some questions submitted by the audience, after which there was some singing about Elephants (with enthusiastic audience participation) I have been trying to get my video to upload, but so far, without success - I'll add it later if I can get it to work.
After a lovely rendition of "I just need MySpace" the twins left the stage, although the standing ovation they got was enough to bring them back for an encore (Love Will Tear Us Apart") sung from the balcony at the back of the hall.

If you haven't already got the album , go get it now. What are you waiting for?

After the interval, we heard from Jason Webley, (Who looks most unlike himself, without his beard!) and then by Amanda Palmer - first time I have seen her play 'Coin Operated Boy' live.
Then Jason was back, for the heart-felt duet (born of touring) "Electric Blanket" and not long after thatm the evening ended, with a wonderfully raucous, full participation rendition of Jason Webley's Drinking Song . .

It was a wonderful finale to a fantastic evening, and if I could have gone back and started all over again from the beginning, and done it a second time, I would have.

I headed back to the hotel, tired, but very, very happy. 
marjorie73: (Default)

In Which there is Jonathan Coulton, Paul & Storm and lots of Rock!

So, last night was the Jonathan Coulton and Paul and Storm gig in Bristol.

I've been looking forward to it ever since I saw that they were coming to Bristol, and I have to say that the show lived up to and beyond my expectations!

I arrived early having offered to help out with merchandise, and met with Paul and with my fellow Merchandise Minions, and started selling the occasional T-Shirt and CD.

The venue is fairly small - it's called 'The Tunnels', and, as the name suggests, is in, well, a couple of tunnels. They are part of the sub-structure around the railway station, although these particualr ones are arches under the station approach rather than under the railway itself. One tunnel has the bar and a seating area (and the merchandise table) and the other the stage & seating - I think for around 175 - 200 people.

I'd only previously seen Jonathan and Paul & Storm when they appeared as Neil Gaiman's support band when he did a Graveyard Book reading in Manchester last October, and on that occasion we only got one song from each of them. This time, I'm happy to say, there were lots and lots of songs. (although no tambourine-playing authors)

Paul and Storm opened the show with, appropriately enough, 'Opening Band' - they later asked how many of us had *not* seen them live before (answer: all but 3 of us!) and also treated us to lots more music, including 'Frogger! The Frogger Musical' , 'Live' and 'Nun Fight', before giving us 'The mother's Day Song' and 'The Captain's Wife's Lament' (With enthusiastic audience participation on all the Dejected Arrrs.

Lots of Fun.

During the interval I was kept busy selling lots of Dejected Arrr T-shirts (and other stuff. But mostly shirts) and had to dash to get back to me seat when Jonathan Coulton came on stage for the 2nd half...

There was, unsurprisingly, a lot of audience participation. In fact, Mr Coulton described us as the 'singy-est audience since Dublin', and let us sing 'Still Alive' by ourselves,

with hardly any Headline Singer participation at all - this led, inevitabley, to consideration as to whether there was anyone in the audience who could play guitar, which would allow for the possibility of a gig going ahead without any singer or band at all!

(Link for Video of I Crush Everything in case the embedding isn't working)

Lots of favourites - Code Monkey, Creepy Doll, Skullcrusher Mountain, I Crush Everything, Mandelbrot Set, You Ruined Everything, Mr FancyPants (with An explanation that 'pants' doesn't have quite the same meaning in American as it does in English..), I'm Your Moon -

There were people wandering up to the stage to leave little offerings of Jaffa Cakes at regular

The Future Soon, Shop Vac, and, then, as the evening was drawing to a close, we all had a quick lesson in how Zombies sing (ragged, none to tuneful) in order to perform our part...

After which there was just time for a couple of quick encores ('Talk with George' and 'the 1st of May' song, which I won't embed here as it's not exactly safe for work...) and lots of happy, clappy people joining in!

We were then very busy selling more T-Shirts and CDs as people left, and once eveyone had gone, were able to lend a hand packing up the unsold stuff, and to have a chance to chat a little to Jonathan and to Storm.

I didn't get home until almost 1.30 in the morning, totally exhausted, but I can't remember last time I had so much fun.

Oringinally posted at


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