Monday, June 28, 2004

Les deux oeuf

From Tribal Gathering to Homelands to Glastonbury to the Albert Hall to Somerset House to Brixton Academy. I’ve pretty much nailed every one of Orbital’s spiritual homes. Friday was their last headline show before splitting up, which, given they’re brothers, seems a little odd.

Then again Orbital aren’t just two brothers, they’re a big U-shaped machine made up of keyboards, sequencers, erm, other machines that go bing plus two humans in light specs. As if to prove it, Friday’s crowd went apoplectic when the podium, on which the equipment is placed, was simply rolled to the front of the stage. The Hartnolls are just part of that entity. I’m not suggesting their Roland 303 has decided to go solo, but the human/machine relationship is pretty symbiotic.

At Tribal Gathering they played in a tent which had a stage at each end. When they came on, the crowd cheered and started dancing, it wasn’t until the end of the first tune that people realised they were facing the wrong end and were actually dancing to the lighting technicians (who were also wearing light specs) preparing for the next act (and not very well, Prodigy went on, after two songs someone invaded the stage, tripped over a cable and ended the show on the spot).

It’s a funny crowd, at the Albert Hall there was a bloke in front of us with no top on, punching the air, wearing a crash helmet, backwards. Next to him was the archetypal big fat computer geek sitting expressionless with a notepad writing down the track listing. It’s a varied horde, and one that’s getting older and podgier every year.

Perversely there’s so little fat in the Orbital live repertoire that the set was becoming fairly predictable. Perhaps they’re quitting for fear of becoming the Rolling Stones or Grateful Dead of Acid House. They only played two tracks from the new album, the Halcyon ‘trick’ (where Belinda Carlisle and Bon Jovi morphs and twists around the tune as it reaches its peak) was enhanced with a Darkness sample. The rest was exactly what we expect; Lush, Belfast, Impact, The Box, Satan building to their cover of the Dr Who theme (geeks in the house?) and finally Chime, a tune I’ve never really loved but was simply different class.

It was simply the best gig I’ve ever been to; Rage Against the Machine at Reading Festival, Depeche Mode at Crystal Palace, Radiohead at South Parks, Fatboy Slim at Brixton, The End and Brighton Beach, I’ve seen some good stuff, but this topped them all. The Plump DJs followed, for whom we intended to stay, but we were spent emotionally and had to leave them to it.

They say that the only thing great bands should regret is that they never saw themselves live. In a world of Amy Whinehouse, Nora Jones, Jamie bloody Cullum (watched his awful ‘corporate enfant terrible’ performance Glastonbury on Saturday and felt ill) the departure of Orbital leaves the world a darker place.

By the way, read this and this, and you'd have thought I'd just copied my post from these alone, but I was there, promise.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Royle pain in the arse

If it’s possible to drone hysterically, Joe Royle managed to demonstrate the art form in all its glory on Monday night. England were in full control throughout their Euro 2004 4-2 win against Croatia. It might not have gone exactly to the game plan, but they carefully eroded the Croatian resistance with superior passing, technique and a variety of attacking opportunities. They never really looked like losing.

OK, so the Croatian’s one-dimensional approach was rewarded with a scrappy goal, and dominant teams do lose from conceding scrappy goals. But playing percentages, teams with better technique win more games than teams with poor technique. Fact.

When the Croats took the lead, Royle lost his head. England were flat, without spark or flair, he said. He ignored the fact there was eighty-five minutes still to play and England were pressing constantly for a goal. Why Royle, an experienced manager, started panicking I don’t know. If Royle had been the manager he’d have had England engaging in operation Alamo before ten minutes had elapsed.

He ignored wholly that Michael Owen was unlucky not to latch onto a couple of probing through balls, or that Scholes had a chance to break his three year duck long before he actually did.

Rooney added the second and Royle was suddenly beside himself “He could well go on and score a hat-trick” he said turning arse about face in spectacular fashion. Of course, his jitters returned when Croatia pulled it back to 3-2, but it was never as panicky as his sweaty palms would have us believe.

Mind you, I was getting the heebee jeebees, we’re off to see Orbital in Brixton on Friday and whilst Switzerland and France were drawing, England topped the group. This meant a quarter final with Greece. On Friday. Thankfully Thierry Henry pinged in a couple of goals and our attentions turned instead to Thursday and Portugal.

Mind you, Russ and Sam must be wondering whether to hire a big screen TV for evening of their wedding. That’s when the final is.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Night at the Tower Hamlets finishing school

There are plenty of stories of great lives lived in London. From house parties in Clapham to Orbital at Somerset House there’s always something good happening. Medieval Night at the Ivory House is not one of them.

Out for a morale boosting company night out, we were served by wenches, entertained by jugglers and magicians, and greeted each course by banging on the table and toasting wildly.

I cannot describe how awful it was, the food was barely edible, there was endless free drink served in glasses the size of thimbles. I cannot count how many glasses I had, but the following morning I woke up with absolutely no sign of a hangover.

The place was full of hen dos, tourists and German families with their Augustus Gloop offspring gazing in disbelief at the proceedings. You suspect that the father’s last trip to London, as a back packer, was spent drinking in Raymond’s Review Bar and getting blow jobs from transvestites.

It was a forty minute tube journey back for the last train out of Marylebone. The last train out of town is a unique experience starting with lots of shouting and yelping, dieing down to silence punctuated by the odd bang and thump as people hit their heads trying to get comfy for a snooze or try to get off at a station which is three stops after the one they’re after.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Middle aged boy

It’s not often you meet a Viz character in real life. OK, so you’ve probably seen a few Fat Slags stumbling around provisional towns after closing time, but there aren’t too many half-men, half-fish goalkeepers outside Fulchester.

Last week I met a middle aged ten year old boy. Oliver is in Emma’s class at school, (Emma being a teacher, not an eleven year old girl, that would make this a very different site indeed). As part of some kind of national initiative they held a sleepover in the school hall.

The girls and boys, completely through their own volition channelled themselves down the gender stereotypes. The girls had a make-over with face packs and make-up, the boys played football. I went along to help out with the football (apparently my face pack making skills weren’t needed).

I wrecked my ankle, again, turning on it innocuously and feeling the unnerving crunch of the ligaments stretching in ways god never intended. So whilst Gareth dribbled his way through a forest of four foot tall Patrick Viera’s and Thierry Henry’s, I sat out and talked to Oliver.

The first thing he said to me was “I know I’m young but my favourite comedian is Lee Evans, he’s always got a joke to lift things when things are quiet” he followed that by telling me his favourite male pop star is Michael Jackson (I resisted a reaction). When I ventured that my favourite pop stars were Busted – figuring that Public Enemy, Depeche Mode, or even Polygon Window would be greeted with a blank face – I was told they were ‘so over’.

Hmm, it didn’t take long to get the conversation going again. Oliver scored two goals (his first for a year). I asked him why he didn’t keep playing to get his hat-trick. OK, here goes…

“I used to play for a boys team, years ago, but at the end of one game I got home and threw my stuff on the floor and said ‘I quit’. That was it; I didn’t want to play anymore. They wanted me to train all the time, but I practice with my brothers and I didn’t want to football to take over my life. I needed more time with my family.

You suspect he meant the wife and kids. Later he was seen wearing his dressing gown over his clothes, clearly resisting the temptation to bring his pipe and glass of cognac from his wood panelled bedroom at home.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Hi, I'm Pete Moss-Campion

You don’t know how pleased I am that conversations with my friends don’t circulate around our golf scores, expanding bald patches, or the relative loudness of my shirt.

Coincidentally, Spankee was on the same train as me last week, with barely a hello or how are you we embarked on a rambling conversation about everything from the origins of man and community to the perception gap of techno music (you always think it’s going to be loud, aggressive and abrasive, but it’s melodic, layered and emotional).

Spankee was slightly taken back by my uncharacteristic casual Gap work attire, and the fact I was working. I explained that was in full on crisis management mode at work trying to douse the flames of someone’s incompetence which threatens a fifth of our business. We mused about how our responsibilities had expanded, and how at work we’re almost entirely different people. “Perhaps we have working alter egos” Spanx suggested “Then I could be someone other than normal Graham Spankee”

He worked his way through a couple of monosyllabic American Christian names searching for an appropriate moniker: - Brett, Brad, Todd.

“I think I’m a bit of a people’s champion at work” I mumbled

“Yours is Pete Moss-Campion?”

We agreed that Pete Moss-Campion is a great work alter ego, then we giggled about it like twelve year olds for ten minutes.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Double maths, double Ninja

I lifted a heavy eyelid. In the half light was Emma looking out the window. It was 2am. She mumbled something and walked out of the room. I heard the front door open, then there was a slam and a clatter pierced the air.

As quick as she’d left, she was back, climbing into bed. I asked what she’d been doing. She’d heard some people outside taking the hub cap off her car, so she went to retrieve it before it was kicked into the road and destroyed.

Befuddled, I asked her how on earth she’d managed to hear it, recognise it as a hub cap being removed, identify it as coming from her car and how it all pierced through her normally impenetrable sleep.

“Teacher sleep with one eye open” she said seconds before closing that eye and snoring loudly.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Blinded by the light

Director Alfonso Cuaron has made a much better fist of Prisoner of Azkaban than Chris Columbus’ primary colouring of the first two Harry Potter’s. Banking left and swooping into the darker layered side of the story, Cuaron’s direction provides the texture JK Rowling surely envisages for the tale (and curiously, rarely captures in her books).

One notable technique he introduces is a series of analogies marking the passing of time through the school year. There’s the single leaf spiralling to the floor showing the onset of autumn, the owl swooping from an autumnal vista into a bleak snowstorm depicting winter, the snow melts around a snow drop portraying the oncoming of Spring.

The most intriguing of all, however, is in the opening scene. Harry, who in the film has just turned thirteen, is in his bedroom at the Dursley’s. He’s hidden under the sheets on his bed secretly playing with his wand, each time he successfully makes it light up he gives a satisfied smile. When he’s finished playing, he lies down and falls asleep with a grin on his face.

Now what in a young boy’s life could that be referring to?

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