Sunday, 21 December 2008

Atrocity Exhibition

There is not a more perfect picture of man's ugliness than that of S**********. The scourge of all things striving toward beauty and absolution. A tick the size of a city. An invading species of suffocating kelp. A farm of subsistence misery, encapsulates forgotten terrain.

Dissonance reeks in every shadow, while grace cowers in neglected reservations. Traffic lights abound, as breathing apparatus for the ignominious. Lice, behind painted slabs, breed without hesitation. For boom and bust, in fog we trust.

At the General, the grand frame, the wicked altar, a palace of filth, all the glaring instances of vulgarity this hateful mess contains are held. As if on show in a state museum, a pageant for successful mutations, an atrocity exhibition.

What a place for one to die. What a place to say goodbye.

Friday, 12 December 2008

A Summary of 2008

Now the year of Two Thousand and Eight is drawing to close, I thought it might be an appropriate time to take stock of the musical happenings of the past year. I can't quite muster the correct amount of enthusiasm for this, but as well as it being a cathartic process for myself, the documenting of the quality of venue and general experience of over 40 gigs I have played this year in London, may prove useful to others that are about to embark on a similar endeavour.

20 Dec 2008 - Mutate Britain @ Cordy House, 87-95 Curtain Road, Shoreditch
Not yet played.

09 Dec 2008 - Bourne and Hollingsworth, 28 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia
See below.

07 Dec 2008 - Sensual Earthly Women @ Ryan’s Bar, 181 Stoke Newington Church Street
See below.

20 Nov 2008 - The Last Days of Decadence, 145 Shoreditch High Street, Shoreditch
Awful sound, rude staff, full of vapid wankers with unhinged jaws. No redeeming features. Would never return, not even for a drink.

19 Nov 2008 - Cirque de Crème Anglaise @ The Cross Kings (Upstairs), 126 York Way, King’s Cross
Pleasant set of coves that run this night. Good sound on stage, messy back room, lots of things scattered around, custard creams aplenty and London Pride on tap. Would certainly play here again.

05 Nov 2008 - Chicken Royale @ Bar Monsta, 18 Kentish Town Road
Awful bar with a stage, devoid of any character, though the promoter was reasonable enough. One of those nights where you'd rather stay in an watch Strictly with your fiancée. Would never play here again.

18 Oct 2008 - Biddle Bros, 88 Lower Clapton Road
Back room of a quaint bar in an unlikely area. Reasonable sound, agreeable audience. No payment, though I think a few drinks are provided if not playing as part of a Saturday jam session, which I had no idea I was playing. Piano exists in this bar, but not sure of it's tuning. Would play here again, but on a dedicated night, not a jam night.

10 Oct 2008 - Sensual Earthly Women @ Ryan’s Bar, 118 Stoke Newington Church Street
Excellent sound downstairs, run by SEW, always a pleasure. Would play again in a shot.

09 Oct 2008 - Boogaloo, 312 Archway Road, Highgate
See below.

04 Oct 2008 - Power Down VI, Islington Arts Factory, 2 Parkhurst Road, Holloway
The birth place of the Power Down movement, the Islington Arts Factory is an arts space in a converted church. The huge cavernous hall lends itself perfectly for the divine acoustics when using unamplified instruments. Wonderful people working behind the bar, and a great feeling of well being amongst the audience. A working, in-tune piano and other instruments provided. Candle lit as standard and low on carbon emissions. Performers get paid very well, in my experience. Would always play here, as it's my initiative.

25 Sep 2008 - Boogaloo, 312 Archway Road, Highgate
Unfortunately one is not tripping over Shane McGowan's comatose body when entering this notorious north London boozer. Always a crowd forming irrespective of your act, usually some guest list and some drinks. PA is wholly ineffective and strains under the weight of more than 2 inputs. Don't even think about putting a bass through it. It will probably never get upgraded either, as there is a limiter that cuts all electricity once the levels in the room reach speaking volume. There is a neglected piano usually piled with guitar cases and leads, not sure how in tune it is. Would play here again, but would have to choose instrumentation wisely and consider logistics of amplification.

20 Sep 2008 - Decasia Club @ The George Tavern, 373 Commercial Road
Pleasant and enthusiastic promoter, free drinks and a guest list, who would have thought such privileges exist?! An old east end boozer with a lot of character. Full of dirt, the stage a happy after thought in the corner of the room. Good sound, plenty of vibe, an audience that comes not just for the bands, so one finds new ears for a thrashing. They even have bottles of Shepherd Neame behind the bar, albeit at ludicrous prices. Would love to play here again.

05 Sep 2008 - Viva Viva, 18 High St, Hornsey
A restaurant with a stage in the middle of nowhere. Very difficult to get to for all involved. Bar staff and owner are most agreeable, and the sound is crisp. Would be reluctant to play here again.

21 Aug 2008 - The Betsey Trotswood (downstairs), Farringdon Road
Always had grief playing here in the last few years, mainly from promoters who are passing on their own problems to the acts with the militant and unreasonable venue regulations and hire price. Why promoters should be paying to hire out a venue, let alone one smaller than most people's living rooms, is beyond me. When the promoter is reluctant to give you £20 for the taxi to move all the gear you're sharing with everyone, and regardless of the fact that you've brought an audience of a more than decent size, been given no guest list or complimentary lubricants, you can only wonder why you bother. Though the sound is surprisingly good for such an intimate venue, the persistent hassle undermines any enjoyment one might have had. Wouldn't play here again.

17 Aug 2008 - Barden’s Boudoir, 38-44 Stoke Newington Road
Shoddy sound in here, though that may be to do with the rectangular shape of the room and the placement of the stage, and the hard flat surfaces everywhere. Empty it's rather disheartening and pointless, full, I can imagine a right raucous occasion with perhaps an improvement in audio quality. Reluctant to play here again, but probably easily persuaded.

14 Aug 2008 - Power Down V, St Mary’s Church, Stoke Newington
As stated before, an incredible place to play, and even better unamplified. To hear your voice naturally reverberating around the church walls is a heavenly experience. Audience sat quiet and attentively in the pews and candle lit. One of the high moments of the year. Would jump at any opportunity to play here again.

26 Jul 2008 - Stranger Than Paradise, DEX, 467-469 Brixton Road
Played on the rooftop under a small tent at the height of summer, very romantic, sipping Gin and Tonics on the terrace overlooking the immediate Brixton skyline. Promoter looks after you well, lots of other interesting and entertaining things to do and see. Surprisingly easy to get back to North London at 4am: 2 buses but plenty of them so not much waiting. Would play for them again.

24 Jul 2008 - The Lock Tavern, 35 Chalk Farm Road
Awful sound, rude staff, full of vapid wankers with unhinged jaws. No redeeming features. Would never return, not even for a drink.

15 Jul 2008 - Bourne and Hollingsworth, 28 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia
A wonderful basement bar in a most underrated part of town. Old wallpaper, tea room vibe, jovial coves serving Asahi and Gin and Tonics. Sound done behind the bar, simple yet clear. Tiny room makes for a heaving pack standing on the toes of the performers. Just as it should be. Would play again whenever possible.

12 Jul 2008 - Feeling Gloomy, Islington Academy, N1 Complex, Angel
Awful sound, dreadful beer, abysmal selection of drinks and served in an unapologetic savage fashion: plastic cups. Stirling chaps that run the night, but the venue, owned by Carling, can in my opinion, go to hell. Would hate to play this place again, but fear it may be one of those compromises.

05 Jul 2008 - The Wilmington (supporting Yeti),
See below.

02 Jul 2008 - The Defectors Weld, 170 Uxbridge Road
There's rarely a good reason for heading west, and despite the horror of the flowers on the bar downstairs invoke, it's a decent pub. The upstairs venue is tiny, quaint and warm, crammed full of vintage sofas. The sound is excellent, free beer was provided. Would certainly play here again, though because of it's western location, pulling a crowd is difficult.

28 Jun 2008 - The Lion, 132 Stoke Newington Church Street
Half a PA, dreadful acoustics. Would not play here again.

26 Jun 2008 - Tommy Flynn’s, 55 Camden High Street
Grubby, loud, full of oddballs, about as good as Camden gets. Would certainly play here again.

18 Jun 2008 - Jrink, 62 Frith Street
Soho cocktail bar devoid of character. Not even worth a drink let alone the bother of performing.

13 Jun 2008 - Wilmington Arms, Roseberry Avenue
Reasonably established intimate venue that didn't live up to expectations. Bad sound, lazy engineer, and a bouquet of flowers on top of the bar. Would prefer not to play here again but wouldn't rule it out.

08 Jun 2008 - Maggie’s, 98-100 Stoke Newington Church Street
Awful bar with ghastly decor, mirrors everywhere, pvc covered seating and where visible, orange walls. Sound dire. Ruthless harridan that runs the place will throw anyone out without hesitation or logic. Would not play here again even if my life depended on it.

07 Jun 2008 - The Deptford Arms, 52 Deptford High St
Probably the least disturbing of pubs in Deptford, with a vague connection to the arts. Reasonable sound, strange audience. Hard to get yourself down to Deptford, let alone any fans or friends you may have. Held a certain raw charm to it. Would prefer not to play here again.

05 Jun 2008 - City Hall - World Environment Day
A real highlight of the year, and a gig never to forget. Though we only played 2 songs, I bellowed across London's Living room, while the sun went down on the capital. Made many contacts in sustainable industries here. Very attentive audience. Free organic wine. Would play here again in a shot.

29 May 2008 - The Hideaway, 114 Junction Road
See below.

18 May 2008 - World’s End, Opposite Camden Tube Station
See below.

11 May 2008 - Rock Garden, Covent Garden
A Sunday afternoon of a hodge podge of genres. Good sound, little vibe. Would be apprehensive to play here again.

05 May 2008 - The Green, 29 Clerkenwell Green
See below.

29 Mar 2008 - Sensual Earthly Women @ St Mary’s Old Church, at the start of Stoke Newington Church Street
Sensual Earthly Women is a night run by Saint Natasa of Stokie. Through her nights I've met what I believe to be the cream of London song writing. Equipment provided, lots of familiar faces in the crowd, free grappa. No payment, but always good times. This particular venue is a dream to play in terms of atmosphere as it's over 500 years old. However, the sound, when heavily amplified is quite muddy.

16 Mar 2008 - Above the Clock @ The Green, 29 Clerkenwell Green
See below.

17 Feb 2008 - World’s End, 174 Camden High Street
A Sunday afternoon gig, playing to the weary shoppers of tat from Camden Market. Usually quite busy, full of people you don't know and refreshing in that respect. Stage set up in front of the fire escape. Flat stone surfaces all around this pub make the sound lack clarity. Couple of free can's of Carling and Strongbow. Pleasant fellows that run it. Would rather not play here again.

15 Feb 2008 - Deptford Birds Nest, 32 Deptford Church Street
Dreary old pub on the side of a dual carriageway. Deptford isn't the most magnetic of places at the best of times, and this hovel does the village no favours. Wouldn't play here again under any circumstances.

10 Feb 2008 - Above the Clock @ The Green, 29 Clerkenwell Green
A big airy room with pleasing acoustics, little amplification needed. No hassle to arrange or perform. Food was served for the performers, a few free drinks too. Many enjoyable Sunday afternoons playing here. Would love to play here again.

31 Jan 2008 - The Hideaway - Tango In The Night, 114 Junction Road
Yet another gloomy basement, as all venues should be. Wonderful people who run this joint. For an intimate setting this is splendid. Unfortunately, there's an irritating neighbour directly above that rains terror down on the whole place, forcing music to be kept to a level barely audible. Would play here again once neighbour has been dealt with.

18 Jan 2008 - The Constitution, 42 St Pancras Way
Easily the best pub in Camden, though that isn't saying much. A charming beer garden overlooking the canal, and a dingy basement where bands cram onto a stage no bigger than a coffin. Awful sound, easily remedied, but no will to do so. Heaps of charm but would only play here again as a 3 piece.

13 Jan 2008 - 93 Feet East, 150 Brick Lane
A large cold hall out the back with little character. Good sound as I remember. Highly unsuitable for my act. Would prefer not to play here again, though it appears I am.

Make of that what you will. If you are a promoter that has read this far, first of all I congratulate you! You've done more research on your acts than most. Secondly, you should know that I enjoy playing live as much as possible, but obviously to a point. I've never demanded money or anything else from anyone, least of all had expectations. A few free drinks and money for transport if one is providing the equipment, is obviously much appreciated. I love dives, any place with character, and stocked with genuine types will have me chomping at the bit.

Thank you to all that have made this year one to look back on with delight. Have a merry Christmas and good will to all.