Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Parental festival

Glas-ton-bury – the word rolls off the tongue with those three heavy syllables. Like Man-ches-ter, a weight of cultural association lies behind those eleven letters, it’s more than a place. It has been a national institution for some years now, evident by the slurry of stories (usually weather related) leading up to and the daily reports during the festival. For celebrities, it is their job to be photographed sipping out of a plastic cup wearing deluxe Millets gear to big up their downhome rural chic. For the normals, two questions as signifiers do the watercooler rounds: have you ever been to Glastonbury?; and would you go now? The latter alludes to the commercialisation, the sheer size, the price of a ticket, the likely mudbath and other contemporary connotations. Those who go take leave on Wednesday or Thursday blessed and damned by their workmates in equal measure, objects of pity and envy.

The former question is a tricky one – if you say ‘I went in 2000, jumped over the fence every day and got off my box every night’ (as actually happened) you can be marked out as a dangerous munter – remember it’s not the 20-something whatever crowd who are interested in the festival these days but a more general demographic who now sees a minibreak in Pilton in the same light as a trip to Centerparcs, a leisure option. Same with my parents, occasionally I like to bewilder them with allusions to previous hedonism at such festivals, before pulling back from the conclusion to assure them that drukqs r bad and never dabbled in by their son.

And here was the marker of its institutionalisation. Mum and Dad, up for the kids’ 1st, freely discussed the crack habit of Pete (that’s not Pete Doherty to you) while eulogising the songs of the Kookkks (I damned their faux liberal Brighton ways on a text), and I explained how Amy Winehouse is so thin on account of her own predilection for rocks, booze and anything but food (BTW, they’re extensions in her hair). Edith Bowman’s look was discussed and I told them that Zane Lowe was a kiwi like myself, although I could never muster his level of enthusiasm for that mundane indie fayre. And even they could see that Editors were U2 clones.

By the end of Saturday evening, whatever potions were being pumped out of the videodrome seemed to work on my mum, who was adamant that she had packed me off to an early Pilton Pop, bags in hand and rain coming down. Absolute guff, dearest.

Glstnbry certainly doesn’t want for exposure. At peak times during the weekend it was effectively on five BBC tv channels – BBC2, BBC3, BBC4 and two interactive portals turning up as 701 and 702 on our Freeview.

More on the bands themselves then. I failed to be moved on Friday by Arcade Fire’s naturalised stomp, earning a text rebuke from Creams74 for saying No Car Go sounded like Prefab Sprout. We reconciled in our verdict on Kasabian (“processed gits”, quoth Creme); Saturday troughed further with the continuous harrowing of the Editors (the lead singer really needs to lose the 80s bankers’ haircut if the shards of glass Edge-guitar is to convey emotion), CSS ditching the icy cool of their records for a festival knees-up, Calvin Harris going round and round the Acceptable roads and the erstwhile Kooks doing their ‘just opt out with guitars’ act, before picking up with the clinical brilliance of the Arctics. Like the eds, those guys know how to transmute guitar musicality into industrialised sound but they’re not ripping anyone off, the drummer is shit-hot and they’re about the only indie rock act who make sense in a post-dance world.

Sunday had more diverse fayre – in the good corner were Gossip (like disco divas these guys are wringing emotion out of dance’s braindead pulse but they need to expand their instrumentation beyond guitar and drums) and Tiniwaren (desert sufism to the usual crowd), in the interesting was Mark Ronson (he had Tim Burgess, looking cooler than the nu-ravers in preposterous fringe and colourful hoodie, doing The Only One in the northern soul style as predicted, while I might have to rescind my view on Merriweather’s Stop) and in the turgid were The Who. When this more than ever is a time for skinny young things in tight jeans, Roger Daltrey’s huge muscular top torso just looks silly – audience reaction seemed muted too.

For the old dears, the televisual exposure was welcomed – they have never owned any records so always rely on the transmission of music to keep abreast of the pop scene and the hit parade (which is why they lament TOTP’s passing). So it’s still many different things to different people, people will still have experiences like mine (an experience of such alterity it’s still the only thing not to be reviewed in my diary, such regrounding seemed irrelevant and meaningless). But it would be nice if all the hype and coverage added up to something more than insatiable media appetite.

Now Czukay where’s the l!ve review?
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Tuesday, June 12, 2007


My blogger and Research.asp have been offline for a few weeks (the latter has been moving to a new server), so the last meaningful post will be weeks old. Apologies for this involuntary deplugging from the matrix. It has also been the same for Cull blogteasers Meeja Hoors and Political Peccadillo. I did talk about my dancing life over at the historically informative and generally excellent History Is Made at Night though. Check that, and the subsequent myriad other dancing posts .
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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Pedagogical imperative

I had a banjo lesson the other day, quite literally. Apparently, amateurish plucking at the sound-craving littl’uns is no longer sufficient and, with the advent of their first birthday in mind, it is time I stop annoying adults and learn how to play the bastard instrument. I've had the Stag-branded 'jo for a few months now.

It was a good hour lesson on Bluegrass banjo playing, going over some of the basic rolls, the chords and a few other things. We jammed like we were sitting on the veranda. He plays in different types of folk bands as well as the punk outfit Clitoris Allsorts.

But there was one moment after we was rolling when it hit me – that in my virtual mid-30s, after many false starts I could finally decide here and now in my head whether I want to play music in the grown-up sense. Or continue concentrating on this somewhat antimusical stuff that pleases no-one. The former option would involve diligence and practise on my part, so I’d question my motivation skills (especially at a time when my new boss is doing the same thing; a first-school flashback of failing to bother to go to afterschool lessons with my newly acquired acoustic guitar arises). But of course it’d would be great to learn more and combine this with the waste emissions, time permitting.

To hell with real instruments! I think Zinc has finally cracked Martin Hannet’s desire to play faster but slower, or the other way around, on his remix of Scream slow-mo fave Deep Concentration. It’s a fairly rudimentary piece of programming, but the fairly faithful version has the top-end scuttle of breakbeat jungle while the break lands on the fairly industrial dubstep style thud – both are eqd ok so it works well. And it adds another option to dancing time signatures; where in dubstep you can imagine the inbetween as you skank and in d&b you can dance simply to the break without getting involved in the hypercussions of the internal loop. He fails to repeat the trick on the Midnight Express Line treatment, simply deploying a standard sped-up and clean riddim over the futuresynths.
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