Monday, 26 October 2009

Monday 26 October 2009

Today I am up early and ready for action.

With things to do I find myself good to go much earlier than required so as a result I get to the station ten minutes earlier than usual. I’m dedicated to my field regardless of what the people at Baker Street might say.

I head into work praying that there will be no shit storm from my not meeting the loose last Friday deadline.

The train pulls into Liverpool Street at 8.05AM. Late upon late.

Once on the tube we get held up at Farringdon for a far amount of time. Later at Euston Square I notice a lookalike of The Teeth. Is it him? Am I being paranoid? Why am I thinking of him at this time?

I step into work to a definite vibe. I’m glad I am in early giving off the impression that I am really pulling my weight, pulling for the team.

I hit my desk in a grumpy fashion, it would appear that the IT Guy was at it on Friday and the feng shui of my desk has been fucked with.

Eventually our boss comes in relatively happy. In the absence of The Girl he asks me if I can make a cup of coffee. I’ve never really mastered the huge industrial coffee machine in the restaurant so as ever it is an adventure into the unknown for me. I manage to pull together three very strong cups of coffee along with one cup of warm milk residue. With results like these I doubt I’ll be asked to make coffees again in a hurry.

The big boss is in a shouty mood today. I half suspect this is off the back of watching the latest adventures of Malcolm Tucker on Saturday. This taints the atmosphere.

The mood gets established when my boss comes in and says that he is going to have to curtail our menu options for what we can have at lunchtimes. This doesn’t affront me too much but I do feel it is unnecessary as we don’t take the piss out of the privilege. He says it is down to a sudden rocket in food prices. I take this as the beginning of a dark period.

Bearing in mind that I am leaving at 1PM today to head to the London Film Festival to see the new Bill Hicks documentary I royally tear into duties and have a great productive morning that kicks the ass of my usual output. Later when I stroll out the building I do feel like a villain however.

Slightly concerned that I might not get to the NFT in time I overcompensate and actually wind up getting to the Southbank super early, such is how I do things. As I pass through the tube station they are already giving out the free copy of the Evening Standard of the day.

In the end I get to the BFI well ahead of time for the screening of American: The Bill Hicks Story and I take my seat in the cinema it is a really well positioned perch, central and forward. Just before the film kicks off one of the directors comes out and introduces the documentary announcing that Bill Hicks’ mother and brother are in the audience. I nearly wreck my neck as I turn around to peak a view and applaud ecstatically. This is a real coup. The director then says that there will be a Q&A session after the movie, fantastic this was not billed with the ticket. Suddenly this show becomes the biggest of deals to me.

American: The Bill Hicks Story turns out to be unsurprisingly fantastic. On screen it looks amazing as the billed graphic animation devices thankfully do not trivialise or ruin proceedings instead serving to glow and amaze. Later somebody points out the similarity of the method to what was used in the Robert Evans documentary The Kid Stays In The Picture and the comparison totally nails the movie.

A warm fuzzy feeling exudes from the story and despite the best efforts of the crooked nosed cunt sat behind me kicking my seat throughout the movie I find myself getting swept away by all the new footage and fresh take on a story I have revised several times before. Suddenly a tangible feels is being place to events and circumstances as faces are placed to names and scenes and locations are given a true identity.

Ultimately it is a tragic story. After the euphoria of breaking out of his hometown and becoming a success in America sadly it took far too long for Hicks to receive any major recognition and it was only when he came to the UK that he finally truly found his audience and with it came a glow after years substance and alcohol abuse. Indeed the vivid re-enactments of his tripping experiences truly exudes from the screen in a 3D manner that doesn’t require those funny glasses.

I genuinely feel blessed that I discovered Bill Hicks at such an early and formative age. The movie serves to remind me of just how much over the years he formed my view of the world giving me a methodology to sculpt my cynicism and scepticism into something that can be strangely quite positive. Over the years I have struggled to explain this gift to people, not least people such as my American Friend you could really benefit from finding a sense of humour about things the most.

As the movie arrives during the period in London despite the success and happiness he finds there a dark cloud still looms over proceedings but thankfully the movie concentrates on the amazing reception of his final moments choosing not to dwell on his illness and sad inevitable premature death. When the movie closes at a good time a rousing applause comes from the audience with the vibe thankfully grabbing onto the celebration of his life rather than the tragedy of his death.

I consider myself one of Hicks’ biggest fans and staunchest supporters (even fifteen years after his death) and as a result I thought I had seen everything there was to be seen but amazingly this movie digs up countless clips from performances I have never come across.

After a second bout of applause the lights come up and the filmmakers along with his brother Steve Hicks and original comedy partner Dwight Slade take to the stage for the Q&A. I have to say this is an incredibly emotional time lending something of a more tangible connection to Hicks.

Hicks’ brother and Slade take most of the questions as it becomes apparent that I am not alone in my hero worship of the greatest comedian of all time. Thankfully for once the questions are considered and sensible. The subject of Russell Crowe playing Hicks in a movie is broached and indeed the rumours turn out to be true as far as his interest but while Crowe sounds very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about Hicks the project does not sound feasible. Elsewhere Chas Early and his part in Bill Hicks Slight Return gets mentioned and it turns out that he is indeed in the crowd today. This genuinely feels like a true congregation.

As the questions continue coming it turns out that our audience is actually holding up the next movie so slowly we are eased out of the theatre and asked to reconvene at the Atrium area of the BFI.

On the way out we are handed goodie bags created by the Hicks’ that contain personalised items.

We all slowly filter into the Atrium and suddenly I find myself stood next to Bill Hicks’ mother. Again this is such an emotional moment for me as suddenly she resembles a similar kind of status that a friend’s mother does and a sudden sense of protection surrounds her. Likewise for the early moments I am stood next to Steve Hicks and Dwight Slade and in total awe of these guys and appreciative of their efforts I just smile and shy away from introducing myself. Who the hell am I to these people though?

Invariably during the Q&A people like to a point of saying how they saw Bill Hicks perform while he was still alive. In a way this seems like they are displaying a badge of honour but also in a way exposes their age. The worst question comes with a precursor as some strange looking lady apologises before asking the far too accommodating Hicks and Slade whether they thought that the government had infected Bill Hicks with his cancer and there was some kind of conspiracy behind his death. A brief heavy silence rings around the room as people cannot believe what the lady just asks but to his credit Steve Hicks responds unnecessarily warmly saying that people have asked similar questions in the past. The question though is just so off the mark and the woman should have been stoned for daring to ask it in such a tactless manner.

Gradually the group questions come to an end as a signing session kicks off. I don’t bother getting in line as signatures seem/feel unnecessary at this time. I leave the NFT feeling emotionally touched. Why does it take complete strangers to make me feel this way?

With a pretty swift ride I soon find myself back outside Kentish Town tube station waiting for Racton to turn up. I have so much to tell about for my afternoon, an excitement I eventually fail to transmit.

We head to The Oxford pub where we tear into the menu with me having the venison burger. What makes this so special? Is it a burger made out of Bambi?

When we eventually head into the Forum it is dead and empty. Realistically a cinema the Forum does not make as the rows of seats and so so screen are unveiled to us in a strange fashion. There is a distinct whiff of popcorn in the air and looking over this is coming from an old school machine where the person tending it is filling up square boxes of snacks to grubby indie rock fans. One day being so kitsch will be frowned up again.

Taking our seats sat behind us is a pretty Japanese girl sat on her own. There is always a pretty Japanese girl hanging out on her own at these kinds of indie shows for some reason. Where do these people come from? It always just feels so criminal that they aren’t with anyone.

Eventually the All Tomorrows Parties movie starts up without fanfare or introduction. The opening moments are a mesmerising collage of heavy old school Butlins holiday camp footage interchanged with Battles playing hard and footage that almost films up their noses. It doesn’t work for me.

The ATP movie turns out to be a frustrating affair. In some ways it is overreaching, spreading itself thin trying too hard to cover as much as possible from the past ten years of events. Unfortunately as it endeavours to cover both the bands playing and conveying the atmosphere attached to proceedings it fails to really nail either. I really don’t want to get sniffy about the thing but I don’t feel myself experiencing the desire to championing it.

The sad truth is that ATP is not the kind of Glastonbury experience that the movie appears to be trying to display. Neither is it the meeting ground for people of a higher set, those that are more intelligent and more talented that your usual festival fodder. Nope the reality is that I have only ever on the whole encountered pricks at ATP, two bit phonies from privileged backgrounds with astonishingly big egos and a devil may care attitude to proceedings/life that is often being funded and financed by their parents. These people are free but not from arbeit macht frei even if they think so. And annoyingly this is, unsurprisingly, something that the documentary is not showing.

Perhaps the worst thing about the movie is the footage that gets wasted. Over the years the festival has played host to some truly major moments in indie rock history but when you get barely 30 seconds of a Slint and Shellac performance you cannot help but feel cheated especially considering that without doubt this is probably the best footage that has ever been taken of these acts. To subject a viewer to a whole song might be pushing a person’s patience but to show just a tiny fragment of a band’s being is just unforgivable in the long run. What is it going to achieve? An outsider will not get a feeling for the band and an attendee cannot sit back and savour the memory of what they are seeing.

The viewer is the rub with regards to this movie. I can’t help but feel that tonight the majority of the audience in attendance half hates the thought of seeing themselves in this documentary but at the same time their egos also yearn that kind of recognition for the years that have put into attending the festival. Of course me and none of my various chalet mates appear but our friend Rachel from Silver Rocket pops up playing one of the arcade dance machines.

Ultimately I do not feel the movie represents my memories or experience of ATP. Instead it serves as an advert for a constructed faux existence and lifestyle where arty types and musicians can survive on their talent and intellect alone. Maybe I’m just getting too old for this now. I don’t want to be 40 and still attending these events.

From here the dance floor section of The Forum gets cleared so that the powers that be are able to remove the seats and the LES SAVY FAV set can get going. By this point I think we are now pooped, all partied out by what we have tonight seen on screen and now we are feeling a bit weirded out with view to facing the prospect of LES SAVY FAV.

Eventually LES SAVY FAV hit the stage and for a second time running they disappoint me, looking lost on the Forum stage and not really grabbing or slapping me with their performance or set. And with their repertoire this certainly is something of a backwards accomplishment.

On cue they tear into their new record and soon Tim Harrington is undressing and making himself familiar (overly familiar) with the audience. As ever it is a good job he brought his long microphone cable along with him tonight.

The band plough through the usual hits and people go apeshit. Behind us people in hats go mental which only serves to cause a bad vibe. What do these people come from?

I think the night finally ends when Tim Harrington throws his stinky fucking top into the crowd and it smacks Racton around the head. At other times this might be something to celebrate but tonight it just falls foul.

We leave before the set ends with the Forum looking uncharacteristically sparse. For some reason it felt wrong tonight. The day peaked too early.

On the tube from Kentish Town to Moorgate I spot a girl reading a Noam Chomsky book. She looks a true bundle. Later as noisy girls get off the train at Kings Cross a group of men wearing matching Sky TV jackets board, as obnoxious a group as you would expect. At first they look officious but soon they begin to represent what/who they really are: salesmen.

When I finally arrive back at Liverpool Street it comes with a sense of relief that I am soon on a train home back to Essex and upon arrival back into Colchester it is truly sweet to find myself in my bed.

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