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peter docherty calamity shenanigan tryst

on a evening full of strangeness I headed out to the Least Charitable Room in the Zafira and as there were some Mongolian nose flutes or something playing on Future Radio, I gave Zane Lowe a twiddle for the 5 minute drive, only to find that Mr Docherty was croaking all hopeful about Libertines reunions and playing in Norwich tonight, which, I thought, is where he should be right now which he probably was but nonetheless it was the first of many strange occurrences that would take place during the course of the evening. I’d failed in a number of previous attempts to pin down Sir Docherty, from the being a bit drunk on stage and having lots of fights period, through the being a bit out of it on stage and having lots of fights period, and the not being on stage at all when he should have been and he was having a fight somewhere else period, but since Mr Douchery has determined that he is now reincarnate as the thing he first thought of in 6th form, then its from that point we might evaluate tonight’s performance. in Grace/Wastelands, he’s made a record that meets that 6th form objective very neatly, so we should all give him the chance to show us his art in the way he would like us to experience it, before he degenerates much further and crosses that very thin line he treads between Peter Docherty and Shane McGowan.

when you turn up to a venue the size of the Lethergic Clapping Room you might expect to see a couple of 18-wheelers with enormous cables hanging out of them, full of upside-down crates with something like ‘bloc party’ stencilled, banksy-like, on the side and in your mind you’re already visualising a show of such epic grandieur that you suddenly need to go to the toilet. so when you actually trip round some dug-up concrete fountain in the misty half-light and catch sight of a transit van with something like ‘a1 rentals’ stencilled on the side with a couple of coat hangers where the aerial should be, you’re not quite filled with that same sense of awe. still, it is a solo acoustic show, for that is what it do say on the listings, so maybe in fact a transit van is overkill. notwithstanding this mental setback, I’m making way through the doors expecting that the room will be the living embodiment of a facebook page dedicated to underage girls who think kilimangiro is that hill what that Cheryl Cole sicked up on. I’m a bit disappointed when in actual fact the rather less than full room is more of a homburg and cardigan festival, although there does seem to be a healthy contingent of scary stoners, so there might be a good fight later, if nothing else. it does occur to me that there is something inherently wrong about 17 year olds dressed as Tony Hancock. strangely, the house lights are already down between supporting acts, which is either because it hides the empty spaces quite nicely, or because it really is too distressing to see what everybody looks like when you’re standing next to each other in a place like this, for which I’m rather grateful. and so is everybody else, probably. a cursory glance around at tonight’s hardware shop reaveals a curious demographic. not for this crowd the trusty motorola, nokia or sony ericsson. not even the jesus phone. no, tonight Matthew, we’re Jill Furmanovsky. look, we’ve all got our digital SLR cameras. look, there’s a canon 450. there’s a d50. don’t you people just come and watch any more?

once I’ve been to the bar and wandered around a bit, of the overheard conversations around me, the most discernable was that of a couple looking wistfully at the door, bemoaning that fact that, apparently, he doesn’t come on until 9:15. which is, like, ages away. mostly the other conversations went something like ‘OI OI! PEEETAH! CAAHM ON SAAHN!’ and were accompanied by much large bloke posturing which was good natured in a fearing for your safety kind of way. in fact, as 9 o’clock approached, there was a strange violent tension building and at 8:52, we applaud the first beer lob. I suspect it won’t be the last. as another expensive camera that my dad got me fires off another flash bulb at the back of another person’s head, there’s a flurry of excitement and the sound of one hand clapping. there he is. hang on, no he isn’t. who’s that then? I don’t know. I think they’re his mates or something.

I tell myself that if I was at the arts centre on a thursday evening watching these three perform their alt.country.uk.banjo licks then I might quite like it, but I’m not, and I don’t. the couple stood directly in front of me start extracting each other’s teeth with their tongues and that annoying thing happens when you suddenly become a thoroughfare with an invisible drink in your hand. I think the last time I saw a banjo at the Lacklustre Country Room was at Gogol Bordello, but now, people are wondering if they’ve somehow stumbled into a fairy tent at the cambridge folk festival, but one full of agitated boors. by song 8 we’ve stopped pretending to clap. not even a spirited rendition of teardrop can disguise the fact that we’d quite like them to leave. so they do.

in another strange but subtle shift of mood, people are suddenly taking photos of themselves with their best gurning faces and there’s even a jovial half-baked slow hand clap being passed around like left-over celery. another overheard conversation goes something like ‘trouble is, first day of tour, been in Norwich all day, gets back here, nothing to do, jacks up and gets out of it’, which is plainly totally inaccurate. there’s plenty to do here. we’re starting to think the whole evening might be another no-show and the agitation creeps back in, making a fight seem the most likely significant occurrrence in the next few minutes, which might at least be midly entertaining in an I couldn’t possibly condone it kind of way. but then, just as you’re looking at the football scores on your phone, there he is.

Mr Doubtfire ambles on stage looking just like he’s already played for an hour in another room in some parallel universe next door and there’s nothing short of rapture as he launches straight into some song or other. the collective shrieky OMGOMG is almost palpable and overwhelms you for a few seconds, and in that short ecstatic period I’m led to think that right now he is a most curious mix of Bob Dylan and Rodney Bewes. after just a couple of craftily selected singalongs from the back catalogue there’s really no stopping him. anyone who had turned up having listed to Grace/Wastelands on repeat on Napster expecting him to be sitting Val Doonican style on a bar stool and just running through the new tracks really wasted an afternoon. not that I did that. there’s a healthy plundering of all that was and is great about the Libertines, Babyshambles and the erstwhile Peter himself, threaded randomly and with apprent ease throughout the set, for which everyone is spectacularly grateful. the performance effortlessly captivates what might as well be some north London bedroom packed with 1000 mates from down the pub, but there’s a nagging feeling that you’re witnessing the last and brightest of a light that will surely, sometime soon, go out. at one point during a sprited rendition of something or other, it feels eerily like being at Woodstock.

and then we get a bit bored. just like that. even our Peter looks somehow suddenly unclear as to what is actually going on. and he’s halfway through it. ‘you better be liking this’ he tells us, as if to remind us that actually, he’s baring his soul, thank you. so he throws himsef with much gusto into Kilimangiro and, for good measure, gives us Don’t Look Back into the Sun, after which there’s really no reason to doubt that to the people who paid to be here, he is actually the way, the truth and the light. at least, he’s done enough of this to know what makes a great show. the stoners go ape-like mental. there’s a fully-whipped frenzy. so Peter sits down for a bit. on the Val Doonican bar stool. but let this not sound the alarm bells of whimsy. he gets up again and gives us a splendid ham-fisted version of the Specials’ Gangsters. all together now. a fat drunk bloke looks at his watch and then looks at me. oh dear. not drunk. funny how people can take a dislike to you just for being taller than they are.

not even the appearance on stage of guests-that-aren’t-graham-coxon and a banjo reprise can detract from the delightful shenanigans that continued for the next hour or so. as we reached, passed, and waved our private parts in the face of the decibel meter hour, there seemed no end to the spontaneous outpourings of Pete and even though there were more false endings than the 17th series of Lost we mostly stuck with it, even though some people really had to get their last bus, like, you know, even though he was doing that song about Kate Moss what I do love. by the strange anticlimactic conclusion to the performance, he really didn’t care what was going on and were it not for the fact that he would have probably collapsed, would, I’m sure, have continued into the small hours, as if it were some kind of lock-in.

it was a glorious shambles.

lost last loss leaders

me 30
me 30 by Tim Caynes

ooh. I was just thinking yesterday as I downloaded about 4 mp3 albums from amazon in the uk for 3 quid a piece that it probably wouldn’t last. I didn’t buy everything I wanted and frankly I bought a few things I wouldn’t have bought at 7.99 or 8.99 but when they are so ridiculously cheap and are 320 kbps and are DRM-free then there really isn’t any reason not to. so I thought I’d get some more. I’d had second thoughts about the glasvegas album even though I’d been listening to it on napster but I thought I really couldn’t pass up the 3 quid loss-leader and so I headed back to amazon this morning to shovel a few more bargain-bucketfuls of coinageable purchases only to find that they had as was inevitable raised the prices on everything that wasn’t glen campbell or pendulum both of which I got anyway. I mean, they might have only increased some things by a pound or maybe 2 but in some cases they’d really exposed their primary loss-leaders such as the rihanna album which jumped from 3 quid to 7.30 overnight. I guess they’re pretty confident they can recoup large wads of cash on that one. maybe not so much on the simply red greatest hits which was rightfully stuck at 3 pounds which is in fact 3 pounds too much and does not really qualify for loss-leader status as they should be paying you to take it away and throw it in a virtual skip.

some things never really got the loss-leader treatment, of course. if you didn’t already have the duffy album, you weren’t about to get that cheap. or the coldplay album. or, um, the ocean colour scene album. not sure about that one. I did manage to pick a couple of things of my christmas wishlist at the 3 pound price tag, but, curiously, the 4:13 dream album by the cure remained steadfastly at a think twice price. and amazon don’t even have the late of the pier album so I snuck over to 7 digital for that one and the fabulous m83 saturdays = youth album at a knock-down price.

all-in-all if you were stuck for something to do between christmas and new year and happened to be sat at your computer, there were some fine savings to be had but they’re mostly gone now and mp3 downloads will undoubtedly match or approach regular cd prices on amazon from now on so there’ll be less chance of that girls aloud album finding its way into my library. well, the next one, anyway.

NME new noise tour

blimey. I was at that courteeners thing a couple of weeks ago and by 8:30 there wasn’t even enough room to flick your lank hair around while postulating about morrissey and pretending to be from manchester like everyone in the waterfront who knew where it was was pretending to be although when he said fallowfield and sung something about students I did have a moment of I was thereism. honestly, if you’ve been feted by morrissey you might as well hang up you guitar now and get down the longsight jobcentre. remember the primitives. if you can listen to that insipid album all the way through without spiking yourself with pointy instruments then you should be ashamed as it is possibly the worst record in your collection and you can’t imagine how you ever liked it. that’s what you’ll think about the courteeners in 10 years time even though you might rather like them now. they do mean it, but its just not worth the effort.

strueth. then I were at the air traffic shenannigans a few days later where I was quite easily the way oldest person in the waterfront by a considerable margin and conspicuously male to go with it. they did rattle out their emoplay pianotastic hits-u-like with some gusto and he is a very nice man but really if you’re going to spend all night sitting at a piano then don’t be surprised if all the 4 foot tall 15 year olds get a bit bored and start trailing out to the cloakroom to avoid the rush. as far as I could tell, it was exactly the same set they played many months before at the arts centre when I was by far the oldest person there but strangely inconspicuously male. they must have been on telly or something since then.

christ on a bike. now its the nme not-as-good-as-the-used-to-be tour which consistently broke bands on the verge of greatness like bloc party kaiser chiefs franz ferdinand arctic monkey etc but now just kind of breaks wind with a flopping rollcall of new music top 5 guardian reader list voted for by you not me ones to watch artists which will never be seen again on a bill which includes less than 4 bands. having deliberately missed the first band because I was washing up or something I arrived at the waterfront to the last few number from team waterpolo and acres of space in which to wander around like it was a pub in the 80s and your mates band were playing in the function room and nobody gave a toss. it was so empty that I was able to ask for a pint of red stripe at a decibel level normally reserved for actor in films in leather bars where the music is apparently quiet enough to hear the person sat next to you talking but loud enough for assorted 90s bad hair losers to go mad ape crazy to like, the sisters of mercy or something. anyway, team waterpolo supported air traffic last week and I didn’t really need to see them again so I read email on my phone like an arse. following an agonizingly pedestrian gap, friendly fires take the stage and I quite like them in a sideways-on sensible shirt proper alternative kind of way even if it was borderline flock of seagulls at some points but just enough this side of gang of four to be respectable and he had a lovely voice. nice man.

sadly, the evening was rounded off by crystal castles, who are, in fact, republica. they tried to pretend they weren’t by lasering out our eyes with permastrobe lighting and ultra magnesium flares, but they were. suffice to say, all I heard after the few of us left filtered out into the street was ‘oh my god, they were so, like, amaaazing’, which proves I’m right.

sacrilege

having invested as much effort as I possibly could in actually liking foals and deciding I don’t it’s that time in the afternoon where I’m hankering after something dependable to get me through to teatime which today happens to be joy division but wait there’s something not right with that its not like I’m just listening to closer which I ripped from the cd I bought to backup the album I got back in 1980 oh no its something much worse. I’m listening to ‘the best of’ on napster. now, if I were for a moment to put aside any latent musical fascist tendencies and step down from the pedestal marked ‘I was was there the first time you can’t really understand joy division like I do’ which is populated with middle-class art school envy types who now work in IT or online media and write miserable little blogs about IT and online media or worse still, listening to joy division on napster, then I might think that actually listening to ‘the best of joy division’ released in the wake of control was a perfectly acceptable way to spend an hour in your home office. but no sooner have I written that last dribblesome sentence than I’m slapping myself with the wet fish of procrastination and I’m telling myself that, really, I should know better than to defile the mighty division by not listening to the albums as they were originally released and instead getting drawn into the out-of-sequence vaguely cashing-in less-than-tactile experience of online recycled nostalgia.

but I have, so never mind. I think actually that’s what I’ve really wanted to do for ages, but being a middle-aged joy division stalwart is a bit like being a member of some insane catholic sect where you’re expecting some laconic thunderbolt to strike you down at the merest suggestion that you might be taking the piss with the back catalogue. I mean, I’ll dig out my 12″ of ideal for living later and listen to the whole miserable thing on a proper record player by way of self-flagellation, so hopefully I’ll feel better about myself tomorrow and continue stroking my chins about the relative merits of interpol or editors and whether actually its alright for the wombats to be quite so blasphemously ironic about it all when they weren’t even born, dammit (always good to finish with that chestnut).

caught by the fuzz

its easy to get overexcited about things in norwich because when they actually happen nobody seems that bothered. such was the anticipation/apathy contradiction at the Lightly Crowded Room at the uea last night as the mighty supergrass found themselves in east anglia when they probably expected to be in the astoria where everyone would go mental and clap their hands and things like that. the last time I saw supergrass was in 1994 when they were supporting shed seven at the boardwalk in manchester which was a spectacularly upside-down night as clearly supergrass should have played after shed seven who were already the also-rans of 90s british alternative music that hailed from york and miserably underachieved except for dolphin or that one about rainbows which chris moyles probably likes because they’re from yorkshire and what else you might need to know about them I’m not sure. the boardwalk was also was also a canny little venue which crammed students and townies in all week and had, well, a boardwalk kind of thing in it from where you could pour red stripe onto teenagers on club nights but was the right size for the amount of people who actually went to gigs like that in those days before everything was sponsored by o2 or top man and you have to barter on ebay to pay double just to see the congolese nose-flute orchestra playing hex enduction hour backwards at the art centre.

so there was a little squeak of anticipation as I left the house after putting the bins out and filling the dishwasher and sorting out the recycling. 14 years later, supergrass and shed seven are still shuffling around the country peddling their indiewear but supergrass never went away and have popped out some super sparkly albums in the meantime and so are now touring to support their new album which I haven’t heard and don’t know what is called whereas the aforementioned shite seven have recently ‘done an abc’ and reformed because they apparently had nothing better to do and are hawking some kind of greatest hits tour which must be a pretty short affair and is undoubtedly rubbish. on arrival at the uea I parked the zafira under a street lamp in the hope that the wing mirrors would still be there on the way out and tritted down the hill to the concrete bastion of acoustic deconstruction which was by the time I got there a little bit kind of full but with gaps in the way that says its not sold out but the middle-class middle-aged have bagged all the steps round the edge and so you’ll have to push through them to mix with the teenage fanclubs and stoners who will undoubtedly lob their plastic pint over you at some point which they do. expecting the support to come on at any time I took my nasty-but-cold pint of 1664 and sorried and thankyoud my way through 5-deep of people even older than I and after nearly failing to negotiate the last step down to the pit arranged myself neatly in front of someone who was far too short to go to gigs at the uea anyway. I checked a couple of emails on my phone, like a w*nker, and then suddenly it went that kind of half-dark and on trolloped the other band from oxford (I’m not counting ride), and proceeded to rock out with a track from the new album. and another. and another, I think.

even though they had a rather splendid lcd backdrop (although not, unfortunately, an lcd soundsystem), by the time they’d rattled off some tracks from the new album and gaz had informed us that we’d probably be regailed with pretty much the whole of the new album, people were getting a bit twitchy and shuffling around and rather than taking pictures with their phones they were talking calls with their phones. but wait, salvation. deep enough to submerge dubai is the back catalogue and so we will be treated to a smattering of hits-u-like which will keep us amused enough not to leave and amuse they do. they obviously save caught by the fuzz right until the end, but in between the borderline prog-foo fighteriness of some of the new stuff they clasped our hands and walked us right into the 90s when the sun was always shining and I had hair. it was at its best when members 4 & 5 of the live band disappeared off stage or picked up a tamborine and gaz poked us with the whimsy stick with sublime renditions of late in the day and a soaring moving and you remembered why you came. they can rock out just fine but you don’t want to be doing that at the uea because it just sounds like a jet taking off without any wheels when it gets mashed unceremoniously through that arcane speaker stack although brecon beacons sounded nice until my eyes started bleeding with the sonic james bond laser attackness of the sound system even though some people were actually jumping up and down a bit which must have meant something.

I make it sound half-hearted but it wasn’t but it was. they did what they do very well which is crack open a song box and let it pop all over the stage like a looney tune. we did what we do very well in norwich which is gawp like goons and start a mock fight while one hand claps and a stoner bounces of everyone shouting oi! oi! I think I may have enjoyed the whole experience much more if I hadn’t had to know in quite so much detail who I was surrounded by. there is an unfortunate trend currently to arrange a large number of lights on the rig so that they shine directly into the audience and mostly directly into your retina. at far-too-frequent moments in any given set, those lights will cascade over those assembled, presumably so that we can somehow join in with the signing bit where we’re supposed to join in but really, for about half the night we were bathed in an effervescent glow which only served to highlight the fact that you’re surround by people you don’t want to be surrounded by. I am quite happy for all the lights to point at the bloody band like what it always used to so that I can remain comfortably numb of my immediate surroundings and focus on the action. they do it down the waterfront too, but I don’t mind it so much there because in general what you see is akin to what you would see if david lynch made teenage pop horror, which is often better than what’s on stage, but at the uea, well, its just unpleasant. its not as if we need help in norwich to kill the atmosphere, but turning all the lights on like its the end of the school disco doesn’t really help.

holy fuck

there’s really no polite way of telling your children who you’re going to see at the arts centre without a calamatous verbal outage while saying night night following a group questioning regarding who exactly I was going to see at the arts centre which meant I wouldn’t be around to say night night at bedtime when it happens to be holy f**k, so I resorted to the eric morecambe school of coughing into a fist and saying something like ‘<cough>hollyfunk’ which seemed to do the trick as they lost interest immediately and headed upstairs.

but it was indeed holy f**k (nsfw kids) I’d crawled out of the hoovering to see and having only sampled the _radiohead nude remix and the myspace tracks I was curious orange too see how they would go down on a cold norwich sunday in a converted church, which sounds ironic but isn’t really. the 37 or so of us who decided to give the support act a one-hand clap were treated to a delightful brother/sister husband/wife partner/partner act apparently known as free blood (‘from new york, usa, new york, usa’), who ambled unto the stage and pressed a button, whereupon a dr rhythm backing track from 1981 exploded through a stack and rattled the inside of my chest like spanners in an empty bronchial metal mickey and they gooned about together like the reincarnation of blancmange as a brother/sister husband/wife partner/partner act from new york usa, frotting their mikes like gibbons and after about 5 minutes clasping strangers from the assemblage and manhandling them stageward. we all kind of liked them in the end and even after a few false crescendos involving bass drum 1 and some screams we offered them the dubious courtesy of clapping for a bit and then being quite quiet as they walked off stage amongst us and straight to the bar.

being the arts centre, the warm-up act between acts is actually the headline act putting their kit together and soundchecking while we all (more than 37 of us now) talk amongst ourselves or if you’re like me, pretend to be doing something important on your mobile phone which is actually something more like updating your facebook status with ‘…is at holy f**k with the people who actually have friends’. while the sound desk isn’t looking, they suddenly decide they’re ready and quietly stumble into the set as the lights dim around us and a couple of stoners (for there are always a couple of stoners at a norwich gig) amble into your field of vision where they will mildly annoy you all night by having a good time but not paying attention.

it’s easy to make comparisons for reference, but imagine you’d collected every piece of musical hardware that had passed through your hands in the 80s (after imagining you’re that old), which would be in varying amounts, casio keyboard/samplers (lots), boss effects pedals (lots), analogues mixers and switchy things (lots), the occasional 1/4 inch tape loop, cables (lots and lots), effects racks, random electronic devices that make noises like sawtooths or the clangers, and then meet some friends with real instruments (drum & bass) that can actually play them, and then daisy chain 17 4-way adaptors and then start playing everything at the same time and record the sound of you house exploding and play it backwards through a baked bean tin with a piece of string as the drugs start working.

actually, they’re unmistakably the reincarnation of the who. I mean, they’ve got all the best bits of add (n) to x, they do the triptastic glasto endofshow chemical brothers trance pieces, but are clever enough to start at the point where everyone goes ‘yeeeeah’ and then gets mental, rather than including the boring 10 minutes of intro, they stumble over the remains of numerous analogue forebears from the 70s to the 90s, check in with the fall, and even, worryingly, sound like lemonjelly at one point, but, when it comes to it, they are the new electro-mod. or something.

they did achieve the formally unachievable by way of me dancing on one leg and nodding my head without even caring what anybody else thought and mostly I was transfixed on the drummer, who was, albeit canadian, the living embodiment of keith moon’s bastard child with john cazale, but eminently intensely watchable. connecting him, the bass player, who did a grand job of playing one note over and over and over and over until your brain bled, and the crumpled shirts of satan, on fiddling duties, there was some kind of invisible lasso threaded through their ears which was held, at the other end, by a 30-foot argonaut that was constantly jerking their heads around like a stop-frame animation as waves of electropopocalypse washed over us from the effects box of the devil himself.

a good night then.

NME boredom

while I was at the NME tour in the Least Commended Room at the UEA the other night it occurred to me that I was a bit bored which I thought I might be but ended up going anyway and in a lull between the lulls of lacklustre new music I took some notes on my mobile phone. I mean. I took notes on my mobile phone. I might have well been in a conference call about product categorization and taking down things like “specifications” and “stakeholders” or “communication plans” but no in fact what I was decanting from my half-asleep brain unto a memory stick spake of the following experience:

Cribalikes, jonglers> strokes maximo 25 year cycle

I know what it means but I was so unmoved by the whole event that I can’t be bothered to expand suffice to say that being on jo whileys playlist do not make certain it might worth trouble be but who I you seemed to like it well at least the cribs the rest was rubbish but reminded me of a night in a hall somewhere watching jamie’s brother’s band in 1981 which was quite exciting but of course I hadn’t paid 15 quid or something and I also made a cover version of things keep on switching off no sorry summer days they were the golden dawn teenage alistair crowleyites or maybe just en homage to an ercol dining table nostalgia yes for a decent night out is that too much empty spaces on the dance floor lets have a fight instead nice hair

nearly cracked DRM

I mean, I’m not dvd tim, I’ve not cracked blu-ray or something, I’ve just nearly got to a point where I can arrange and rate all my music, download and purchase new tracks and transfer to multiple devices without having multiple versions of the same tracks or multiple lists or players or software or hardware or cables. I’m not entirely stupid but its taken me at least 4 years to understand why I can’t just have 1 track over here and put it over there but I’m getting close.

currently and for the past few years I’ve managed 10000+ music tracks with windows media player omg I should be shot or something because it does 3 things I want to do without breaking everytime I ask it to do it: 1. rip my cds, 2. rate and arrange the tracks, 3. transfer them to a portable device. 1 and 2 are probably no-brainers but actually the rating mechanism in WMP suits me just fine, as do the auto playlists, as do the manual playlists and sure there are other players out there which do both equally as well but you know I don’t care, because WMP is still there when I start windows and its remembered everything I did when I closed windows you can recommend something else but I’ve got bananas in my ears I can’t hear you blah blah blah. its number 3 that f**ks everything up.

I’ve always opted for sony portable audio hardware, every since the very first blue plastic walkman I had and then onto the magnificent DC2 ‘professional’ walkman in brushed metal with bass boost dolby b/c and metal gear solid quartz locked disc drive bits inside and through a growing collection of flash memory players. I buy sony because they sound like I want things to sound. but there is were the problem has been. if any of you have tried strangling yourself with a headphone cord rather that try to upload audio to a sony walkman with the lamentable sonicstage then you’ll know what I mean. first create an entire duplicate of your music collection in a stupid proprietary (but excellent compression quality) format, losing all your ratings and lists in the process, and then laboriously drag and drop stuff around watching as the sync list is updated and read from the device every time you breath in (see iTunes), and watch as the 2 instances of music libraries try to talk to each other, deleting each other in the process. this is much the same as my experience with iTunes. I also have an iPod shuffle, as does my daughter, which I bought to see what they are like and so most fridays are consumed with rebuilding an iTunes database because iTunes touched the tags on the source file when I made a playlist or something and now refuses to believe itself when it can see files in its library but they’re newer than the last time it looked so no you can’t transfer them and anyway whats with the ridiculous ordering and sorting in iTunes it makes no sense I actually want some order not designed chaos and the shuffle just sounds nasty anyway whatever you plug into it.

but I’ve not even got to DRM yet. notwithstanding the fact that I have to manage my own ripped cds with 3 types of file management, 3 formats of data and three separate libraries to use 2 different portable devices on 1 computer, I thought that I might just start buying tracks individually instead of whole cds. makes sense. I don’t the wombats, but I like moving to new york so I’ll have that thanks. but no. up to a couple of months ago, it was still sonicstage for the walkman, itunes for the ipod and windows media player for the computer. so, if I buy something via WMP, I probably won’t be able to add it to the itunes database and converting it to sony format for sonicstage will probably burn down my office or something (actually, it just won’t be authorized). what about if I buy in itunes? at least it’ll go on the ipod, shite as it is. but it’ll never get near the walkman and I’ll never get to rate it in WMP and send it back to itunes. I could buy stuff via the sony connect store, because it the walkman that I use all the time. I just won’t rate it and add it to playlists in WMP. no, dammit, I want to do that. I want to buy stuff somewhere that I can rate in WMP, add to the itunes database and transfer as often as I like to the walkman. not too much to ask, surely.

at christmas I got a lovely black 8GB sony NWZ-A818 network walkman. no change there then, I always get walkmans. however, only now have sony ditched the stupidly bad connect store and made all the latest walkmans compatible with (or the other way around) mp3 files, which mean you can use something like, say, windows media player to transfer tracks directly. you can also transfer those playlists you’ve spent 4 years building, including those auto playlists built from the ratings you’ve been giving over the last four years. you see that I’m getting somewhere now. but what about itunes? I don’t care about itunes anymore. I’ve always hated it, and so the ipods will just have to survive on tracks in the database before 2008. I might occasionally update it, but not if its going to touch all my files again and make the recently added playlist 10000 items long. so, can I start buying stuff? um, I think so. via window media player online services? HAHAHAHAHAAAHAAHAAAAAA.

no, the answer, right now, is napster. if I buy tracks, I want them to appear in my library in WMP so I can do all that stuff I like to do and then transfer directly to the walkman. that’s easy. I just set up a folder separate from my existing music folder and have WMP monitor it so that virtually, everything is in the same place. ok. lets get some tracks then. ooh, I like that british sea power track canvey island. I can download that straight away in napster. look, there it is in WMP. update the file info to get some nice artwork. there. 4 stars. add it to the indie list. ooh, and the gym list. whatever. so I can just transfer it now, right? I downloaded the full track, so I think I must have bought it – its paypal, so I’m never quite sure if I’ve bought things or not. hang on, what’s that annoying blue icon now. dammit! don’t have sync rights? what do you mean I don’t have sync rights? I just got everything how I WANTED IT . BOOHOOOHOHOOOOOO!

turns out I signed up for the regular napster service which lets me download as much stuff as a like and listen to it as much as I like, but stops short of allowing me to transfer it to a portable device – I have to actually buy it at the point. basically, napster wants me to use it as my music player instead of window media player and will, for a small fee, allow me to download everything, arrange tracks into playlists, provide recommendations and ‘stations’ and generally do most of what I rather like doing in windows media player. but it won’t do it all. it won’t let me rate stuff. so it can swivel.

so close then, but not quite lighting the fat havana. still, all I have to do is actually use napster to buy the few tracks I want and then rate and arrange the tracks however I like and upload them to the walkman, whereupon I can fiddle about with the equalizer while crossing the road and get run over by a bus.

jazz mangle

following a a referral by company girl to a referral by rolling stone that I came across while browsing a feed in google reader that I was alerted to by the gadget I was looking at in igoogle that is the aggregation of anything I look at these days I signed up to musicovery and let it loose in a kind of ‘slightly positive and quite calm’ kind of way. result: jazz!

now, if you’re just past 40 you probably have some internal switch which goes off inside you. that’s the jazz! switch. I think I’m supposed to get a hankering for art blakey and stan getz all of a sudden, but christ on a bike if it’s not just impossible to know where to start, considering that everything ever recorded ever is probably no more than a reasonably carefully crafted search away. having just ordered up a couple of tickets for supergrass at the uea and holy f**k at the arts centre, I’m not entirely sure I’m ready for too much chin stroking, even if it’s up tempo kid ory or something and god forbid I end up in the back alley of easy swing or suchlike with kenny g robbing me of all my gibbering faculties with his saxophone.

so this is where musicovery comes in. without any warning, it’s recommending I listen to lou donaldson’s ode to billie joe and artie shaw’s moonglow, and they’re just about perfect. I can see from the slippery slidy and slighty odd flash interface that I’ve got a good helping of jelly roll morton coming later but I’ll make do with peter tosh and lalo schifrin until then. and when was the last time you listened to the alan parsons project anyway? even if I change my mood everso slightly to, um, DARK, you get a healthy dose of sarah vaughn, for which I’ll probably need a large gin and tonic in a minute. you only slip out of the jazz! boundaries when your mood is more, well, DARK + CALM, but I did get ornette coleman’s all my life and billie holiday’s gloomy sunday squeezed in there, but by that time I was just lying on the floor with all the lights off murmuring about funerals.

I fiddled about with the mood selector long enough to find the point where your mood approaches null. it was all radiohead.

a year of looking like someone’s dad

with only 3 things already booked for this new year I figured I might take a look back at all the times I stood around in dark sweaty rooms trying not to look like someone’s dad but failing miserably last year to try and pick out a few highlights and lowlights like that woman’s hair that just walked past.

as it happens, the first thing I booked for this year isn’t in a small sweaty room at all but in a huge park in the summer sunshine in london which will be crammed full of people just like me wondering whether to stand just here, or here, or maybe go right over there and which piece of technology I’ll look at next to see how much battery life I’ve got left and I wonder what the train home will be like and, oh, there they are. that’s right, I only paid 8 voluntary quid for the download album, but I shelled out an enormous 100 quid for 2 tickets to see radioh_ead in victoria park or wherever it is. I could say that I saw them back when pablo honey just came out and there were 17 of us in a pub in camden shuffling around in front of his royal eye-wonkyness or something by way of establishing some kind of ‘before they were dead famous’ credentials, but that’s not quite true. but you would probably have believed me. as neil says, 50 quid for a ticket = payb_ack time for : free al_bum. I will also be going mental at the futureheads at the waterfront in january and stabbing ryan from the cribs with a knitting needle at the NME tour in february so there are already some guitar loudness calamities in the diary. I almost bought a ticket for the enormous NME gig at the O2 but as I’d seen all the acts last year in <1500 capacity venues (apart from the kaiser chiefs, but I feel like I’ve seen them a million times already even though I haven’t actually seen them), I decided against another 40 quid and the whole O2ness of it. I’ll go to the arts centre and see some kind of techno nose flute opera or something instead.

so that’s it for this year’s calendar so far. I’m sure there’ll be a couple of big band coups at the UEA to hustle tickets for and undoubtedly the waterfront will book somebody who will turn out to be enormous by the time the gig arrives but they can’t transfer to the UEA because due to phenomenal demand, a led zeppelin tribute act are already performing the entire knebworth set there.

but what of last year, I hear the 25 people who read this and have actually read this far cry, well, kind of moan a bit. you’re resigned to it now, you might as well read on. you might even have been to some of the gigs I mention later so you can disagree with me once you’ve worked out whether I liked it or not even if I give that much away or don’t get distracted by the person in the phone box over the road and start talking about pies or something for no reason when you thought I was talking about gogol bordello.

to be honest, I can’t remember what I saw last year, so I’m going to spend the next 10 minutes looking at a calendar I only started on june and various web sites that don’t have archives either just to work out what I did. nothing new there. I think it probably averaged 4 or 5 things a months, which is something like, erm, 50ish events. maybe. the easiest thing to do is to hand out the “crushingly awful can’t even be polite let’s leave” award, which goes, in a fanfare of bored one-hand clapping, to black rebel motorcycle club. oops. shame, as I was taken out by a friend who really wanted to go and see something and was pleasantly surprised to get tickets for something. but now we know why she could. it’s the first time I’ve walked out of a gig since I was trying to watch robert cray in a half empty UEA in about 1985 while extraordinarily drunk and I didn’t really walk out. I think the term is ‘expelled’, but I think it was for my own good.

as highlights go, if I’d written this a month ago, it would probably have been, um, I’m From Barcelona, who managed to make the waterfront seem like christmas in september. no, it was probably the Manic Street Preachers. except I got there late after a meeting and couldn’t get down the front. no no no. it was The Enemy. they were good. mind you, so were The Twang. and Editors, kind of. and Bloc Party, well, the were alright. ah, I know. it was the Pigeon Detectives. they were right good, and at the waterfront. hmmm. I did actually go and see Genesis in july…

an admission, if needs be needy be, that, as you know, even if you don’t, I’m mostly looking like someone’s dad who’s mistakenly wandered into a venue when I’m supposed to be waiting outside in the megane scenic at most of these gigs. but not at twickenham. having done a little bit of ebay negotiation with the 2 tickets I originally got direct, for ‘great view (behind pillar in the loft)’ and getting instead the pitch seated variety for 1, I did indeed proceed to corporate nirvana, past concessionville and into the midsummer middle-aged middle earth that is a genesis reunion concert. I have to say I became completely anonymous in that crowd immediately, which was fine. someone might have seen me. for the record, I was in that place because there was the smallest of chances that they would play at least a few pre-1975 tracks and maybe even not as part of a party mix medley. I’m not a great fan of the eponymous albums of the mid-90s, but peter gabriel genesis including the mind-bending (for an 8-year-old) lamb lies down on broadway evokes childish public school man delight in me. so there. coincidentally, I was due to see peter gabriel the following week in a field in norfolk, but I decided to go and the Stereophonics instead and the kelly jones got a cough and I ended up in the bar down the road from my house eating turkish slipper pizzas through a copy of the guardian. they did do early tracks and so I was happy. I also went to the 1982 reunion concert featuring a broke peter gabriel, but he kept forgetting the words and I stood in the pissing rain in milton keynes bowl for 7 hours for that and if you’ve ever done that, you know how miserable it is, even if they do the knife in full.

bonus prize for “concert that could have been good somewhere else especially if the seats were the other way around” goes to george michael at the norwich city football ground. as an extra double joker-played bonus, that concert also gets the “ludicrously over-priced no wonder the people in the upper tier are abusing security” award for the aforementioned reason. I mean, george does a good show, but it would have been better on the telly. I wouldn’t of had to stand up and do embarrassing handclap dancing like prince charles or something then. either. dammit.

but, since this it written in january, the best gig of the year award goes to Gogol Bordello. it was one of those where I bought the tickets on a whim about 4 months earlier and when it actually came to the day, I couldn’t really be bothered to go and there was a midsommer murders repeat on ITV4. still, I dragged myself out and when I got there and a french hip-hop collective was jibbering around on stage you knew immediately it was going to be nice. I’ve run out of inclination to describe what the thing was actually like, but if you imagine baz luhrmann directing the punk gypsy circus apolcalypse then you’re halfway there. the showmanship was unsurpassed and when you look back on all the other home-grown trying-too-hard middle class indie seriouscrats that I normally really kind of like, you thank god for this night. my friend nearly stabbed me over some stilton in cinema city when I told him just how good it was, as he had his office party that day and couldn’t go. he was going to go with me. I went alone, as usual. here’s to 2008. ooh! Gallows! get in!

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