Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Jools Holland's Picnic in the Park - Eastnor Castle 10/07/2010

"What a civilised way of doing an evening of live music": Phil.

Just a short and sweet blog update as I'm feeling tired. Travelled up to Eastnor Castle in The Malverns for Jools Holland's Picnic in the Park with Alison Moyet and Ruby Turner. The Malvern Hills providing such an amazing backdrop for the event. It was an incredibly civilised do, everyone having picnics of various sizes, some small, some absolutely huge banquette style.

The show itself was superb, the highlight for me was Alison Moyet, hoping that she would do 'All Cried Out', 'Only You' and 'Don't Go'. As it stood I was happy when she performed 'Only You' and 'That Ole Devil Called Love'. OK, I admit it, I was a tad disappointed that she didn't do 'All Cried Out' as it's one of my favourites of hers.

Later in the evening Ruby Turner took to the stage and showed everyone exactly how impressive her set of pipes were. Everyone was up and dancing at the front, including me after getting dragged in a neighbouring group of women!

The evening went really well, faultless stage production as expected of Jools Holland. The only problem came later when Phil was approached by a group of middle-aged pissed up women trying to get him to dance with them. He was happy to just take everything in and they ruined Ruby's performance for him as they wouldn't leave him alone, it was a great shame. People need to understand that everyone is different and not to go straight into somebody's personal space, it put a real downer on the latter stages of the show.

Jools, Alison and Ruby all belted out their songs with aplomb, absolutely superb show and ending with a big firework display. We retired for the evening to a 'cheap and cheerful' hotel.

On Sunday we explored Great Malvern, such a beautiful place, amazing scenery, gardens, riverside and huge houses, envy all round! Here's the Priory Gate House (spoiled by the pub's sign in the corner - get rid of it I say!)

It was quite a culture shock returning to the city's grime and dirt later in the day. Malvern is just such a beautiful place.

Soho Theatre - Dandy in the Underworld 08/07/2010

....‘I have invested ninety percent of my money on prostitutes, the rest on Class A Drugs, the remains I squandered’.....

I had, after arriving at the very last minute in a completely sweaty mess, pleasure of seeing this performance about the now-late Sebastian Horsley at the Soho Theatre which was being captioned in house. I haven't laughed in a theatre as much as I have that evening for quite some time. Sebastian was brilliantly portrayed by Milo Twomey, in almost the spitting image.

It's just a one man show, set in Sebastian's living room as he tells everyone about his past as well as waiting for one of his friends to take him to "Clarreeeeeeedddges" for dinner, who in turn fails to show and sends him some sunflowers as an apology instead (Sunflowers being Sebastian's favourite flower). Sebastian Horsley was a latter day dandy, known throughout Soho, a very, very colourful character and now very much sadly missed. He took no shit from anyone, dressed how the hell he liked, consumed copious amounts of class A drugs and was very sexually promiscuous, to the point where one of the woman in attendance at his funeral told the press reporter she was probably the only woman there that he hadn't shagged!

Never shying away from (self) publicity he told things as they were. The show has brilliantly written by Tim Fountain and is based on the book of the same name, Sebastian was also very closely on hand throughout the production before his untimely death.

One of the best parts for me, and a part I wholeheartedly agreed with, was when he discussed possible parenthood by quipping "The only time you will ever see me pushing a pram is straight into the Thames!". The play was a brilliant mix of witty, crude (especially about spying on his sister and her friends getting undressed, "Well, she has a fantastic pair of tits!") vulgar, rude and thought provoking anecdotes.

I also loved how Twomey combined the captioning screens (for the deaf and hard of hearing) into the show, staying perfectly in character, "I swear I've just said all of that", and how he kept giving the screens cautionary glances as though he was hallucinating that they were there, genius.

It comes to a point where you think about Sebastian's death. Close friends were noted, in regards to Sebastian committing suicide, that he would never do such a thing without writing a dramatic several-page long suicide note! No note was found, Sebastian had tragically overdosed and died. However, having said all of this and thinking back, could this show itself have been his suicide note to his friends and audience? No one will ever know. That aside it was superbly executed by Fountain and I hope that the Soho Theatre will do another run as I (and others I've spoken to) would love to go to see it again. It is so hilariously brilliant.

RIP Sebastian Horsley.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Gross Indecency - The Annual Duckie Ball, Camden Town Hall

I don't know where to start?! We had the time of our lives with this! I believe most of you are aware that both me and Phil are proud Duckie fans?! We absolutely love that club night.

OK, best to start at the start eh! Duckie was holding its annual Duckie Ball on the Saturday night of London's Gay Pride weekend, as per every year. For 2010 it was themed as an illicit 1960's underground pre-gay liberation club before the sexual offences bill was passed which legalised homosexual acts in private for consenting adults over 21. All attendees were asked to wear 1960's clothing. Me and Phil had such a time trying to find anything decent to wear so sadly were not in costume :( We've made a strong mental note to prepare FAR earlier for next year's event mind you!

Amy Lame and her merry Duckie posse struck gold by choosing to hold the event at the Camden Town Hall in King's Cross, it was just perfect. In order to get in, when purchasing the tickets, you're issued with a key and a password.

As per 'hidden' 1960's gay clubs you used a special key to open the first door and then were required to knock on the main door where a little peep hole opened up, you gave your password and were then allowed into the club itself. Sadly I didn't manage to get a photo of the fabulous Jay Cloth on the main door, sorry Jay. For those not in the know, the doors at Duckie at the Royal Vauxhall Tarvern are manned by 'The Cloths' who take your entry cash and stamp your hand. Jay is such a lovely guy, always dressed up to the nines in weird and wonderful guises, I've made a note to take a photo of him the next time we go to a normal Duckie night for you all.

Once in you're hit by the cavernous 1960's hall/ballroom, could Duckie have found a better venue? No, I think not. It's hard not to know where to look, huge dancefloor, a catwalk, 1960's podium dancers, The Readers Wifes DJs pumping out 1960's tunes (more on this later), long bar and of course the crowd all largely in 1960's outfits, it was just amazing!.

Before getting into this further I really must introduce the lady who makes Duckie possible, Amy Lame, seen here getting on down on a podium (There's a video to follow once it's converted and subtitled!!!).

This night is all her fault!!!! Now moving on, back to The Readers Wifes DJs, Chelsea Kelsey (the blond one) and Kim Phaggs (the dark one), for this evening known as 'Sylvie and Rube', perfectly in check.

They are the resident Duckie DJs, and I would like to have you all know that most of the London clubland owe these two some seriously big favours. These two were the first to mix such eclectic music, 80's electronica and alternative bands, they absolutely rock the nights at Duckie and this evening was no exception. They had their research absolutely bang on, a full set of 1960's songs, it was absolutely astounding, so a big well deserved 'THANK YOU' to those guys.

Not only had they worked their hearts out on this event they also put together a free CD for the ticket holders. They were put together with 60's tunes interspersed with interviews and sound bites about gay life and club scene in the 60's, the amount of research they have done is phenomenal.

Amy opened the night out on the catwalk, welcoming us all and giving a brief talk about 1960's clubs. The age range of the people there were from those in their 20's right up to the people who were there back in the 1960's and further. We all owe them a lot you know, and this evening was in its way a tribute to 'those who had gone before'. As soon as Amy left the stage we were treated to Dusty Springfield going through her hits.

*Sighs* it was such a magical night. After Dusty had finished we explored the hall, finding the nooks and crannies. Once you leave the main ballroom you're straight into a hairdressers where you can have your hair done in the latest 1960's styles.

Further on you have the Piano Bar, with the lounge singer (who was just superb). Again the piano bar is laid out as it would have been in the 1960's, the Duckie team had paid a LOT of attention to the details.

We stayed for a wee while and then went back to the main hall to be taken by surprise as the 1960's police had raided the club and were in the process of arresting everybody for gross indecency!

Needless to say they were all thoroughly heckled by everyone and, almost as expected, they stripped off their tops and went straight into performing 'Walk Like a Man' and 'Downtown'

(There is a higher resolution version of this on YouTube here: )

Dotted around were three podiums for The Actionettes dance troupe, the amount of energy these girls had put everyone else to shame.

Evening progressed and there was no let up, we were treated to a fashion show and the fabulous Actionettes dancers on the main catwalk showing everyone how it's all done.

Fashion show aside it was the people attending who completely stole the show, I'm disappointed that we didn't get more photo's, however to our defence the music was just too good not to dance to. There were some fabulous costumes being worn, many of which must have taken a very long time to put together, I think these two were some of the main stand outs there, that dress was absolutely superbly put together.

Of course with the football world cup going on at the same time one guy had the stroke of sheer genius to go in the 1960's team strip, very worthy.

And you can't have a 1960's event without the Hollywood stars Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?'.

Across the cider fuelled haze we spent most of the night dancing along to Frankie Valli, Dusty Springfield, Shirley Ellis (yes, it was 'The Clapping Song'!), Petula Clark, The Velvettes ('Needle in a Haystack' cue: Phil beaming as it's one of his favourite songs from the era!), Sandie Shaw, Tina Turner, The Ronettes, The Shirelles, The Crystals, The Shangri-Las, The Five Du-Tones, et al. It was an absolute ball. The Readers Wifes were amazing not only playing the mainstream acts of the time but also the little known/forgotten groups as well, it was, well, 'WOW!'. Me and Phil were just amazed, how much research had these guys put into the music, all I can say is 'mind blowing'!

In order not to let people there forget those who had gone before the Duckie team had put together a booklet of stories by the people around at the time detailing not only the hedonism but also the persecution of gays in that era.

Neither of us wanted the night to end, it was just so good.

Amy followed up the evening with a special talk show about the 1960's at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern on the 7th July. This revealed the social architecture of the 60's gay scene in London, it included sixties scenesters providing eyewitness accounts of the twilight world of the queer London underground.

Hats off to Amy Lame, The Readers Wifes, there's so many people involved who all pulled together to make this event happen. John Geddes for the concept, Simon and Dickie from Duckie, The Actionettes and The Police Squad (still can't get over the amount of energy The Actionettes have!), Russel Harris and his team for the Piano Bar and of course Michelle Moran for her dulcet tones there, not forgetting the hairdressers Sami Knight and Leila Mauro (of Nina's Hair Parlour for those in the know!).

So many other people, and it was obvious that everyone had worked their arses off to make it such a successful night, all we can say is a huge "THANK YOU" for such an amazing night! It was simply brilliant.

We'll be back next year!!!

Monday, 5 July 2010

Circus Summer Ball with Jodie Harsh - 3rd July 2010

Both me and Phil were really excited about this, having never been to 'Circus' before and having heard so much about it. I have personally admired Jay Clarke's alter ego Jodie Harsh for quite some time as he pushes boundaries and indeed people's buttons. He has stepped up into the more, dare I say, 'mainstream' limelight and is doing his bit to make queerdom more acceptable. ....and that I applaud. Which, when you think about his stature, a wee five foot something fella in a two foot (and immaculately coiffured) wig with perfect make-up, says quite a lot!

I had the pleasure of meeting Jodie on Friday night, although too briefly. She was busy hosting her annual 'Circus Summer Ball' at the Bloomsbury Ballroom in Holborn. It would have been nice to have had a longer chat, alas.

(I'm fading away against the glamour that is Jodie Harsh)

On arrival we were immediately taken aback by how beautiful the rooms were, just stunning Art Deco. The Circus crowd seem to be the late-teens to late-20's, I make no bones about feeling 'old' amongst these, oft weird and wonderful creatures. Some of the costumes and make up were absolutely fantastic. However couldn't help but feel that the venue was a bit mis-matched though.

Kris Di Angelis had his set pumping out from the decks in the cavernous room (Lady Gaga seems a popular choice, and for a reason!). With being a tad early we grabbed some beers and relaxed near the bar, bear in mind it had been a looooooong day for us both so were quite tired.

We started to draw parallels between Circus and The Blitz club in the 80's with the New Romantics movement, probably looking into this with more depth that we should have done! We were also expecting something a bit 'more', a bit more of the Circus 'branding' I guess, as opposed to just a set of decks on a stage in a ballroom. Having said that the music was superb, they all know their shit. Jodie was giving her all on the stage and later Peaches too. I took a good few photo's alas not very flattering ones so they're not going to be posted, sorry! In regards to the venue, would the London Vaults (where Shunt used to be), as an example, been a better choice? Obviously we have never been to a Circus night before, not knowing what to expect and having nothing to compare it to.

There were quite a few photographers there, both taking photo's and filming, ample photo opportunities to be had by everyone. Personally I was happy with just the music as it got a bit tedious having a camera in your face every other minute. Sadly we had to leave before the end of the night as we were shattered, blame the 9 to 5's. All in, it was a great start to London's Pride weekend.

Photos from the night can be found here:

Jodie's website is here:

Scissor Sisters - Brixton 23rd June 2010

Thank god the day at work went quickly, shot across to Brixton as fast as my Etnies would carry me, stopping off at Boots for some sun tan lotion. It was absolutely scorching and on arriving at the venue suddenly clicked that the queue was in the shade on the building, d'oh! Oh well, least I was prepared, and ten quid of pocket, dang!

Once in the queue (thankfully near the front, phew!) I swapped all my cochlear implant parts around for the show (as had my headphones on earlier which use different parts) and managed to snap one of the little brass connection rods in the processing unit that slot into the batteries. I absolutely shat myself in blind panic, "How will I 'listen' to the show, ARRRGGHHHHH"?!?! Tried another battery, no luck, swearing at myself and the blasted thing in my hands, "Why now, WHY?!?!" OH BOLLOCKS!!!! Soon calmed down after bodging the original set of parts back together finding it worked again, and thankfully it lasted throughout the show! *Huge sigh of relief*.

Now, need to get something to get off my chest first; the 'door staff/security' at Brixton Academy (some people out there had already guessed didn't they!?).

Having encountered them before at a previous Skunk Anansie gig where they said I couldn't take the two cornish pasties I had in my bag into the auditorium (what did they expect me to do, slap someone around the head with a limp pastry?!) I kind of knew what to expect. So...... I was stopped and searched, they confiscated my bottle of water and binned it (surely this is classed as 'theft and handling'?!), ironically they didn't touch my sun tan lotion!!! Explained to the guy that I was deaf, that I lip-read and he went into this long spiel. I had to stop him, pointing out that I'd queued for several hours in order to be at the front of the auditorium to lip-read Jake and Ana! He finally obliged to let me into the auditorium, sheeesh! Once inside I was stopped again as had 'wires coming out of my head' to what would look like a bizarre contraption attached to the front of my shirt (it's all my headphone implant gubbins). They told me I was "not allowed to make audio recordings of the concert" and "could I please remove the recording device"!! Where the hell do they find these people? Had to explain what it was and why I need to use it. Needless to say I complained promptly once I got home. I encounter ignorance and prejudice on a daily basis but to have so-called 'professional people' giving me stick really takes the biscuit! Brixton Academy have since apologised to me for the ruckus.

Now onto the show! Little Dragon was the support act.

I don't 'know' any of her music and only knew of her via her collaboration with Damon Albarn and the Gorillaz, last seeing her when I was at the recording of the BBC's 'Later... Jools Holland'. So I was just bopping up and down as she did her thing, talking to a lass next to me that I was in the queue with.

Soon done and dusted and the excitement started to grow as the stage crew changed everything around, really wished that Phil was there but he couldn't get down for the night :(

Lights go off, crowd go mad, on comes Del, the new drummer and Babydaddy, crowd go madder, enter stage right Ana and Jake, crowd go absolutely mental. Straight into one of their new tracks 'Night Work' it paved the way for the rest of the evening.

The first thing that becomes apparent with their new material is how much darker it has become, that is so apparent even with my implant. There are some, what I always call 'Filthy Riffs', you know the guitars that gives a load of 'grunt' along the lines of Prince's '1999' as an example. This is an evolved sisterhood and by god it was good to see them back. Jake pulled no punches, the band ploughed with aplomb through old and new tracks, it was all just so seamless. The audience were bouncing, dancing, singing along, thumping the air, it was just one huge disco..... as it should be.

So let's see, 'Night Work' gave way to 'Laura', 'Whole New Way', 'She's My Man' and 'Something Like This', they all just whizzed past in a heavy pop juggernaut. It wasn't long before Ana, being the delightful and oh-so-innocent person that she is, brought up one of her favourite subjects, fisting! Which lead to the introduction of 'Any Which Way', which is fanTAStic! (And I still can't believe you guys got Kylie singing about fisting at Glastonbury, that was naughty!).

From here on in the setlist continued with an awesome 'Tits on the Radio', 'Harder You Get' and 'Running Out'. The latter of which had me stood astounded at Ana's stamina, running on the spot continuously in four inch high heels for the duration of the song, completely bonkers, but very effective!

Another thing I've noticed with the new music is how much more prominent Del Marquis' guitar work is, I feel it's being pushed a lot more. Granted, he's a hell of a guitarist, it's so easy to get transfixed, watching him play, it's just 'wow'.

Time now for some old school tunes but in no way winding down, the disco-powerhouse tore through 'Take Your Mama', 'Kiss You Off' and 'I Don't Feel Like Dancin'. It was so hard to get a good photo of Jake as he's running all over at 300mph, my pocket camera couldn't take it! Relentless energy, not just with Jake but with all of them. I was happily singing along, bouncing up and down, thumping the air, it was an amazing night, they never fail to impress.

Whilst the show was going on, various Robert Mapplethorpe photos were projected/draped at the back of the stage, all beautifully taken and indeed very homoerotic images. They all tie in perfectly with the 'feel' of the new material and indeed the album cover itself, also a Mapplethorpe print. I definitely sensed influence by the Bee Gee's, most definitely 80's Prince and a touch of the Pet Shop Boys, this is what the band do so well, take old school riffs and put a big contemporary twist on them. So many bands have a singular 'sound', these guys don't, yet in the same breath it's all cohesive, their music is just fucking amazing.

'Fire With Fire', the first release from their new album, was a little bit of a slow burner with me. Having this mental picture of the bombastic 'Filthy Gorgeous' or the uber-camp pop of 'I Don't Feel Like Dancin' it took me a little while to click. Guess it was just an unexpected song, however when it was being performed live it was an unexpected pleasure. It builds and builds and builds then just soars magnificently, they just knew how it was going to sound live.

Coming into the final set we saw them through 'Skin Tight', 'Skin This Cat' and 'Paul McCartney', closing the show with another new track 'Night Life', which sounded quite Bee Gee's crossed with Neil Tennant to me, all good. We knew that once the band had left the stage the show was far from over, and we were right.

To much rapturous applause and screaming they're back, tearing straight into 'Comfortably Numb', can't believe how well they've covered Pink Floyd, they turned that track on it's head into a club anthem. Ana really meant business with the encore, you want proof huh? Here's proof...... you do NOT mess with Ana!!!

Up next was another new track 'Invisible Light' to a pretty downright dirty beat. I actually got a bit emotional during this as my implant was working so well. It hits me every now and again with how lucky I am to have it, so many able-hearing people take what they have for granted. My implant means the world to me, anyway back to the show.

They closed the show with 'Filthy/Gorgeous' as confetti and thousands of Scissor Sisters' Three-Dollar Bills rained down on the audience. The whole auditorium was shaking, everyone going absolutely crazy for it, this is their anthem and it was most certainly their night. It was just a perfect ending to it, sheer elation.

It's a very big welcome back to the mighty Scissor Sisters, you have been certainly been missed. The new material is absolutely awesome and we're hoping, and indeed keeping our fingers crossed, that we will see you guys again at London's O2 Arena like you did with 'Ta-Dah!'.

(No sooner had I posted this blog they announce their December UK Arena Tour, need to cross reference dates, I know we won't make the O2 Arena one as we're away that week :( )

Thank you so much for such an amazing evening.