Saturday, 13 June 2009

Saturday 13 June 2009

It is with a genuine sense of optimism that today is entered into.

Despite it being a Saturday I find myself awake at 5.30AM, which is a very stupid thing to be doing on my day off.

Soon I find myself getting into a spot of emergency flat tidying in the risk of having people wanting to stay at my crib tonight. Swiftly I paper up the cracks and give a surface impression of order and cleanliness although the work on the kitchen is an EPIC FAIL.

The original intention for today was to do the weekly Asda run at 8AM but as ever with the current trend I am running late. Instead I end up there around 8.30, tearing through aisles and avoiding the crab wondering if there is anything I need to buy in order to cater for today. With the prospect of flat guests tonight (can you tell that this stresses me out?) I buy some extra food in case breakfast or a late night snacked is needed at a later time.

Afterwards once back at the flat I call the old man to see if he will give me a lift to station to save my crippled feet. This is a slight mistake as the ensuing ride to the station is fucking terrifying as he does his cranky old man impression. The fear is illustrated by the manner in which I almost leave my iPhone in his car when I get to the station.

Today appears to be the first time this year that the trains are running cleanly to London from Colchester on a Saturday. We are almost halfway through the fucking year, what a pathetic reality/record.

For a second ride running the soundtrack to my train journey is the Tracy Morgan “Life, Love & Lust” album. This is the funniest new stuff I have heard all year.

As the train pulls into Liverpool Street around 11AM the day appears to be running with shocking efficiency with all omens pointing to WIN. Even when I arrive at the tubes to discover all the Metropolitan type lines are fucked I am still able to get to Moorgate and easily head up to Angel and get to the Union Chapel easily that way.

In a truly euphoric mood I begin sending out text messages alerting people that I will probably be turning up before the midday kick off time. This rules.

Eventually I get off at Angel and spewed out on Upper Street. There truly is an exciting buzz to London on Saturday mornings in the summer. Islington today is very hectic but infectious with it. As I begin heading towards Highbury outside the Upper Street Starbucks is a girl handing out free orange frosty drinks – breakfast is served.

We have a restaurant in our chain on Upper Street and today is the first time I get to see the place. I have to admit from the outside it does not look as large as I was expecting but as with most locations it probably has depth. Surrounding it however are various chain restaurants that are generally truly horrible but they do seem to benefit from some kind of corporate glisten.

At this point Racton texts to say he has just arrived at Angel. I immediately text him and suggest a meet up just as I see Pauly and Helen walking past on the other side of the road. I wave to them but they don’t see me, it is a very wide road (Upper Street). A few minutes later Racton texts to tell me he has just caught a bus.

As I pass the Upper Street location of our restaurants for the first time I have to concede that it is smaller than I was expecting it would be. I guess there must be depth/length to the site/location.

Passing where Justin and Helen got married three years ago as I near where the Union Chapel should be I find myself getting royally lost. As things suddenly become particularly urban I begin to envy those able to leave in these houses in Highbury. The mews always blow me away and the people with parking bays and garage in London truly offend me with their wealth. Obviously I imagine these people to be his end/level type individuals, more likely to be silver spooners as opposed to hard workers but the reality is that to live here probably would not quite be the stretch that I imagine it to be, just a nasty drain of all resources.

After managing to do some kind of complete circle of avoision of the Union Chapel I eventually find myself around the back of it. Finally I find the entrance and with it Racton and Pauly, Racton and Pauly with Starbucks. For this I envy them with hate.

It is Saturday at midday and the sun is out in force at the height of summertime and we are about to see our friends record label put on a gig featuring friends in a venue as amazing and unique as this. Could things possibly get any better?

As we talk and reconnect the door of the Union Chapel slips open and it is Helen poking her head out. We get exclusive early entry and immediately the whole event/scene is serving as some kind of exciting reunion. It is truly so great to be seeing Justin and Helen again, seldom does a day go by when I don’t mourn their moving up to Manchester.

This represents my first time inside the Union Chapel and it is breathtaking, this is not a venue this is a place of worship. Unlike the Colchester Arts Centre, here the pews remain. There could be no better place to hold the Front And Follow showcase at this time.

As I give Racton his birthday present (30 Rock DVD) I also jokingly give him another copy of JGRAM WORLD. This really is for our friend Sharpy later on.

In the distance Yonokiero are soundchecking. Tom sees me and waves and it is the first time in over a year I believe that we actually see eachother.

Soon midday arrives and the doors open. With it are 50 Front And Follow goodie bags containing various bumf including an eight song label sampler and a copy of the great Rothko EP that Justin (and Racton) released on Bad Hand.

Sharpy turns up and its good times. It has also been over a year since I last saw him so there’s lot of fizzle to turnover. Once finished soundchecking Tom heads over and suddenly it is just like the very good old days of Gringo Records.

Its weird seeing people that used to be so much in my life who these days hardly figure. We exchange nice nice but it is with substance and now with everybody becoming older and wiser there is less a sense of competition and more one of desired wellbeing for all and sundry.

YONOKIERO open the show sat on stalls delivering selections from their “Blue Apples” record in addition to some well judged cover versions. This is most definitely not Hirameka. As we congregate in the pews they plough through a perfect midday set to cure any hangovers that might be fermenting as the sun beams down through glass stained windows. This is a strange progression and maturity to stomach having known these guys to be noise band monsters for years.

The two covers that they perform are “Lay Lady Lay” by Bob Dylan and “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears, I suspect not in celebration of the release of Donnie Darko 2. With the delivery of these songs Chris is now singing in a much deeper voice than before and begins to remind of David Berman as a Silver Jews and Smog air to proceedings consumes the day. I believe I could five YONOKIERO songs in the set and the audience is left wanting more.

The congregation continues as more and more friendly faces arrive and this turns out to be a true reunion. Memories flood back to great times, times such as Justin and Helen’s wedding on Upper Street three years ago and the first ever Yonokiero set at the Green Man Roundabout Festival at their house in Leytonstone.

In between sets SONE INSTITUTE provide the background ambience as they slowly head towards being the next band to be released on Front And Follow in the not too distant future.

Next in the day comes ELITE BARBARIAN performing songs from his “It’s Only When You Get To The End That It All Makes Sense” album. Live now Ben benefits from having a bass player on board which lends a new degree of structure and form to the compositions enhancing the affect of the music on the listener.

As the electronic drone tears through proceedings it begins to feel a bit hard on the senses for so early on a Saturday. The sounds coming from his Roland feel unique and the arm/hand movements just appear perverse. In a way it would make a good ringtone and very much serves as a blanket for existence rather than the celebration at the centre. Futurism takes over as ELITE BARBARIAN phase bars like Miami Vice. Goalless draw.

The real winner of the day/event turns out to be ANDY NICE. Before he even takes to the stage I find myself excitedly pointing out the Fisher Price record player. When he does finally hit it is with the biggest smile and sense of fun you imagine allowable in such a regal building.

Today ANDY NICE does a set of songs from his forthcoming record on Front And Follow “The Secrets Of Me” and with it comes a mystique and charisma all of its own. His playing is stunning and within a few stabbing strums I find myself, as the listener, the submerged in a true thing of beauty, taken to place that is somewhat higher than myself.

Between each song his addresses the audience with a confident and likeable ease explaining the basis of each song and reasoning behind his set all with a grand sense of appreciation of the art and self depreciation of the delivery. Ultimately it only serves to add to the performance.

ANDY NICE ends his set using the Fisher Price record player as, after asking the audience if they used to have one of them, he chooses a plinking plonking classic before looping it into his sequencer (?) and accompanying the aural kaleidoscope with his playing. Obviously it works, the guy is a top performer and solid with it.

Afterwards we linger as people pack up and I get reacquainted with even more old friends. Certain people noticeably blank and I’ll be fucked if I know just what I have done to deserve that.

I find myself in conversation with Mark from Rothko for the first time in ages and it is great to see him again, stopping short of doing our Adam Gilchrist and David Blaine impressions.

When we finally leave the Union Chapel it is in search of food. Already half the group have moved on and now find themselves in a place called The Diner on Essex Road. Sounds a plan.

Upon arriving at the place it is as tacky as you could dream. Our large group crams into a corner booth and sets about ordering the spiciest and most exotic sounding/tasting burgers imaginable. I plump for the Mexican burger and fries covered in some kind of seasoning.

With the original half of our group now finished eating they decamp in the pub on the other side of the road called the Old Queens Head. As we hit the bar it is at this point Thom asks/reminds me whether I got my desired Facebook URL. Fucksticks I had completely forgotten to do that and as I scrawl over Facebook with my iPhone I find no joy in locating where I snag the address. Panic ensues.

All seats are outside are taken so as we all filter to larger chairs and tables inside I watch as a few of the people who remain (mainly Tom) appear to be suddenly flicking/leafing through the copy of JGRAM WORLD that I gave to Sharpy. You would not imagine how worried and uncomfortable this can make a person. Creepily I go out to see what he is doing, what bit are they reading. This also half serves as an opportunity for an egotistical pat on the head. People keep schtum though, ultimately I sense they were just taking the piss.

Inside gradually our small table gets joined by others. Matthew from Pappy’s comes in and as he goes for a stool I feebly pull one of his own Len Taunton jokes on him. He dates it back to 2007 and puts me in my pathetic place.

These are fun times, a sunny Saturday afternoon spent in a pub getting a buzz on knowing that a good night lies ahead. Justin and Helen unfortunately head back to Colchester early to reacquaint themselves with our wonderful town and eventually Racton begins suggesting that we should make moves. As he, Pauly and I get up to leave I shout at Tom to get a move on considering he has arranged to stay at my flat and everything. Suddenly though it turns out that he has decided he is not coming back to Colchester at all and that staying at mine had never even been a consideration it seems. I fucking wish he had told me that when I was cleaning up the gaff (to diminishing returns) and buying extra food from Asda this morning. Oh well, he’s just wrapped up in Tomland as he always has been. He gestures “lets not make it a year before we see eachother again”. Yeah, suits me.

Down to three now we storm over to Angel tube station along the hard pavements of Upper Street once more. Once on a train we zoom to Moorgate and when back at Liverpool Street manage to grab a speedy Norwich train.

As we occupy a table on the train the previous owner relinquishes it to us and gets up and leaves. The train ride is a quick and good one full of tales from Racton of Primavera and my friend and his beard.

Back in Colchester the sun is still wide open and the evening young. I should feel better than I do and suddenly I realise that it is the Mexican burger that is killing my insides.

By now the battery on my iPhone is now all but gone which means depressingly an evening ahead of not being able to take pictures.

As we reach the top of the hellacious North Hill I strike a detour leaving them to settle into their High Street hotel as I hit the can at my parents in Balkerne Heights. My insides explode as I prolapse uncomfortably. For many moons now there will be a stain upon that room.

Briefly I see Bobby and he is super happy to see me. Here I leave my Front And Follow goodie bag behind and when I get the good word from Justin it is that they are all meeting up at the Hospital Arms ahead of times.

We reconvene in the beer garden of said pub and when I arrive everyone already appears to have two drinks. Feeling a bit rough when I go to the bar I order myself a coke and a beer and it is obvious which drink goes down easier.

It’s really fun to be back in Colchester in this group taking us back to the heady days of 2004 and the height of the Bad Hand era. Even with the locals it feels like forever since I previously saw them. For Pauly I wonder how weird it is to be around so many Southerners.

Eventually we head over to the Arts Centre where the first band of the evening are SHITSOCK. I really like these guys, the (too) obvious comparison is Pavement as a weird, countrified two piece (drums and guitar) play slacker rock seemingly enthused and transplanted from the grunge era. At first they appear to be pretending to be American but then give up and begin to resemble Ten Benson or more preferably the Country Teasers. They’re fun and the guitar player is resoundingly making some good noises out of his instrument. The nonchalance is infectious.

The gig tonight has been named ABANDON SHIP II: SHIP OF FOOLS while elsewhere in the vicinity Blur are playing some railway museum in the sticks and surrounding area claiming it to be their Colchester comeback gig when the reality is that the tacky gimmicky nature of the gig could not possibly be any further removed from the Colchester music scene.

HISSING AT SWANS happen. Their set begins with a new black and white intro video about being zombies musicians. The performance is a very recognisable and comfortable set that now comes with swagger and a strange sense of confident incompetence. They have been doing this long enough now to feel at home at this venue and with a home crowd behind them it no longer feels like the awkward play it once was. With a sarcastic Blur theme running through the evening they are admirably the first act to play tribute with a very touching and accomplished cover of “Badhead” which provides the highlight of their set amongst all the old favourites. When “Dark Horse” hits it establishes HISSING AT SWANS as part of the furniture, albeit a comfy chair.

When SCORPIO SCORPIO gets wheeled out onto the stage in a wheelchair you can’t help but wonder where he has been and just what has happened to him to be in such a state. As SCORPIO SCORPIO sits the first song out this does not prevent the sheer horror and power from coming storming through, intimidating anyone insight that has never been involved in a drugs switch or armed robbery. With his patch established and territory confirmed having eyed up the audience and task ahead SCORPIO SCORPIO leaps out of his wheelchair to reveal himself as the greatest shopping trolley dole cheat since Alf Garnet.

As ever SCORPIO SCORPIO fails to disappoint as the crime spree of a set pounds off the walls amidst the sound of gunfire and sirens being used as essential notes and rhythms. At the entrance there are a pile of his album “Ith Zha Fith Zha” and these have been promptly purposely swiped like grey goods off the back of a lorry, a fit end destination and handling for such goods. As the set ends you sense that SCORPIO SCORPIO may not be around for much longer, this is a life lived too shared, too close to the edge, on the fringes released Minge Records. His victims can go spin but with his absence it is his supporters and fans that are the real sufferers from/for his future disappearance.

The big noise of the evening comes in the form of DISCO BITCH and their retro stylings. DISCO BITCH remind me of a bad episode of The Word, they’re loud and obnoxious and probably best left back in the early nineties. With their Sega Master System graphics in the background and purposely stupid outfits/ensemble they tear through an electronic fusion of rave and shouting. Eager to please they join in with the Blur mocking motif of the evening by doing a version of “Song 2” that adds beats and extra heaviness. Ultimately it is all too well adjusted and a pointless regression of people in their thirties reliving their youth. I just don’t see the point.

RANK SINATRA looks like Sting the wrestler (and NOT the Policeman) and sings fucked up karaoke pop hits in the style of a bruising/crushing death metal singer. He is The Bangles. He is Christina. He is what Robbie wishes he could really be. He is a dirty motherfucker. Decked out in some kind of dinner suit and coming from Australia he brings as nasty tone to proceedings, a joke that can be deciphered either way and only causes pain to anyone that persists/permits. Halfway through the set he yanks off his attire to reveal he has been wearing fishnets beneath his clothes the whole time – his is fucking with our minds. RANK SINATRA is a man without a band. Maybe he had a band and maybe he killed them. This reality would not surprise. I think in order to completely destroy the songs in the way that he does he has to have a real affection for them in the first place. As the set reaches a climax after jumping out onto the dance floor and endeavouring to scare the audience with stares as the final note results in Rank crumbling to the floor he holds his note for a painfully awkward eternity to the point that local toughs begin to get bored and pour their drinks on the hapless weirdo curled up on the centre of the floor. You can’t help but think if they were allowed to piss on him they happily would. All in all the gesture brings a nasty tone to the end of proceedings and a long day of music. When RANK SINATRA finishes up and re-emerges to the world of the living you half sense he wants to bite somebody.

With the night still in motion and with many people still around/about gradually plans slowly get hatched with view to moving on elsewhere for some kind of after show.

As we slowly get manoeuvred outside the venue I find myself in conversation with SCORPIO SCORPIO who is grimacing as his body physically aches and screams at him to give it up. I love this guy, I just wouldn’t lend him any money.

By this point of the evening I have now pretty much sobered up after hitting some kind health low upon returning to Colchester. I try to blame the Mexican burger but really I only have myself to blame.

After trying to get people to move somewhere out of the cold and slightly spitting rain eventually our drunken group wind up in the Hogshead where we get seated and begin firing perfectly constructed digs at each other. At this point I buy the Andy Nice album from Justin and then insist he give me a promo also (“I like the promo packaging better”).

At this point I hadn’t quite realised just how drunk everybody was. With everyone else abusing me Pauly is the hardest person to fathom as he perches himself at the bar calling out the next/latest round.

Eventually the remainder of the evening’s participants turn up. It would seem they went to the Hospital Arms instead and swiftly after arriving they desert us to head outside for a fag. Slowly we follow them but outside it is a truly miserable scene and our evening reaches a low as the locals stick with the locals and the revisitors (now tourists it would seem) find ourselves (me included) left to our own devices.

Talk now turns to how shit Colchester is. People begin quizzing/asking me what it is usually like and start encouraging me to move elsewhere because this does not appear to hold much for anybody other than the ageing scenesters indulging in smoking themselves into Cancer. I shrug as I always do, there are ways to deal.

My night in effect ends as I begin to watch a man that has just fallen out of a marriage and into the bottle with gusto get hit on by two fat women chain smoking like Viz stereotypes. Is it bad that I fancy the one in glasses? As he slopes off to the toilet to probably throw up and the reality of this existence hits me as I watch them exchange some kind of progress report and begin planning/plotting their next move making sure that one of them is the allocated slag shagger.

Once we get enough of a suntan under the beer garden heater we head off saying “goodbye” to the smoker scenesters on the way out. There is talk of food and I am enthusiastic for this but with nasty rain in the air I am also very enthusiastic for getting home even though the mention of a Sam’s Pizzeria pizza is golden to me.

We hit the traffic lights at the base of Balkerne Hill and Crouch Street and make our salutations and condolences. Vague plans are hatched to meet up for breakfast but this is piss talk. Hugs are exchanged and soon we are off in opposite directions feeling slightly defeated.

Upon arriving home to Bohemian Grove I soon fall asleep.

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