Friday 12 March 2010
Tired this morning.
The drizzle is back.
As I drive to the station an ambulance goes whizzing past. Somebody somewhere got a head start on the day.
Once I shake off all this ill feeling omens for the day suddenly begin to look good as I manage to snag a premium parking spot close to the entrance of the station and under cover. It’s the small things.
Today while standing on the platform I spot the damaged Jonathan Ross lookalike, the goofy beanpole that just looks like life has beaten him to a pulp. I’m beginning to see him regularly now, he is my latest extra.
The train journey up to town turns out to be a breeze thankfully, no plate crowders just goodness.
Eventually I get into work in good time with a spring in my step. Quite frankly I should be exhausted but by now I have picked up and with arrival into London I just am not flagging.
On Radio One we get the weekly Golden Hour section on Chris Moyles and today “Smells Like Teen Spirit” gets a run out. For the win!
It seems weird hearing such a big and important song on such a moronic and simple radio show. In many ways I can’t help but feel that Chris Moyles is exactly what Kurt Cobain railed against throughout his career. Then I realise that next year this song will now be officially 20 years old. The defining song of our generation is scarily old now.
Operating in a very good mood this morning today turns out to be the day that I finally fork out for a BFI membership. Hopefully I will get some kind of priority booking privilege on the HBO weekend next month.
Beyond this the day is a disrupted one, a Friday where I find myself unable to focus even though today I am beginning work on the new company’s January accounts and I really have something substantial to sink my teeth into, work that does not necessarily occupy my entire attention, concentration or knowledge. Still even despite this I am worryingly and pathetically stunted.
For our department all the action occurs in the first hour of the morning beyond which our boss heads off to Sussex and the angry boss heads off to do his rounds (definition of rounds is open to debate here). Once they all go I am in effect left in charge. That never works out.
Soon the day reaches lunchtime with the others in the room moaning claiming that the day is dragging. On the contrary for me it appears to be flying by (much like my life). This is most definitely a blur day.
For lunch I plump for burger and chips, the first chips that I have had at the restaurant this year. I just feel the desire and need for something heavy today, especially in the light of being out yet again tonight and the likelihood of having any dinner seems low.
Just after lunch the Filipino gets a call from her daughter’s school to say that she is feeling poorly and with this she shoots off to collect her and take her home leaving just me and The Girl to run out the remainder of the afternoon and get on each other’s nerves. The sad truth is that we actually get on really well when we have to, who knows what all our constant ribbing is all about. Perhaps it is done in the name of entertainment for others or just the natural tedium and boredom of accountancy.
The afternoon turns out to be another dead zone of distraction and impatience. After wasting the majority of the day around 3PM I finally bed in and find some concentration to tear into work. For some reason there is something about Friday afternoons that makes me work hard, lends me the opportunity to be at my most productive. This is wrong.
When 5PM arrives The Girl leaves running out of the door while in comparison I remain, lingering in no rush or hurry as I don’t want to get to the AVANT! NOIR event too early.
As a result of having the office to myself I potter around for 45 minutes, trying to do some writing and stuff of my own. In the background Scott Mills plays his Wonder Years and all feels right with the world.
Eventually I head off just before 6PM and all goes well until I reach Baker Street only to discover that the tubes are fucked and come with a ten minute wait/delay.
Just as I stomp to check out my options at a better platform with a better line I see The Korean. With a striding panic I acknowledge her as I sense we mutually do so reluctantly but as we both make clumsy gestures to speak eventually we stop for a chat.
It actually turns out to be very nice to speak to her. She is a lot more friendlier than I recall and to be honest I always wanted to get on with her much better than we actually did. When I point out that next Friday is my second anniversary of leaving Baker Street she responds in shock.
We leave on good terms with saying how I thought of her when I began watching Entourage last summer (she was a fan).
From here I endeavour to get across to Liverpool Street but tonight the tube lines just aren’t making this trip easy. After waiting at Baker Street for far too long a time I end up getting back on the Jubilee Line and heading across on the Central Line. This move actually works out as I eventually arrive at Liverpool Street with a little bit of time to kill so I snag another Starbucks for dinner (such is my thing these days).
With coffee in hand I proceed to get lost in East London as I attempt to find the Toynbee Theatre on Commercial Street. Why didn’t I just take the obvious route? I wind up passing Whitechapel Gallery (and Aldgate East station) before finding Commercial Street by accident and then soon thankfully Toynbee Theatre. Really though this is making quite the meal of things.
There is a noticeably older and smarter audience attached to tonight’s event (as opposed to Wednesday) which is AVANT! NOIR. All the long this has been the event to really stand out for me as part of this year’s London Word Festival and with each addition over the weeks the bill has only improved.
After an awkward wait in a pack bar area we are handed a programme of proceedings and step inside the Toynbee Theatre which is an amazing old school building smelling of must and reeking of history. There is a distinct air of literature attached to the venue as impressively two sets of instruments sit either side of the stage. The vibe feels set for a night akin to those classic radio nights Woody Allen featured in Radio Days. Truly this magnificent venue feels like something of a best kept secret.
AVANT! NOIR opens with GET THE BLESSING taking to the stage and launching into a solid set of modern jazz. With an electric bass player on board he perfectly frames the sonic activities of the other three players in the quartet as it gives proceedings a distinct shape for the wail.
There is a true ferocity to their playing, one that l am in a way unaccustomed to as so rarely these days do I encounter it in the playing of any music act. This is how post rock was supposed to go, to achieve such levels of proficiency and intensity all at the same moment in time.
The first reading of the night comes via CATHI UNSWORTH. With her splotch of black hair in her blonde hive she is confusingly alluring, definitely a trier. She deals in an interesting style of sixties noir, the kind of Soho fantasy and nostalgia that now feels long gone and a real loss to the value of London. Things were seedy in a much better way in the days she endeavours to recount in her work.
All in all it’s a tough sell, one that’s difficult to envisage in the way that she delivers it. Perhaps this is due to it being from the female perspective, from the victim perspective. Maybe even it is just down to the writing being bad, too trite and too laboured (but who am I to talk). It’s a very sexualised delivery detailing the kind of uncomfortable encounter I can’t help but think/feel people secretly fantasise about and desire.
With her contribution out of the way the screen behind the stage lights up into action with the HUZZAH NOIR video comic strip. It is a truly exciting piece of work as the story plays out on its own giant stage with magnificent penmanship being displayed in the most unique of methods. As GET THE BLESSING continues to expertly accompany the tale this is a truly revolutionary way of portraying an enormous piece of work, one most complimentary and fitting, everything is great about the arrangement, truly breathtaking.
The following reading is performed by COURTTIA NEWLAND who in the process proves something of a revelation. As GET THE BLESSING continue playing they proceed to back his prose where there is a true authority to his description of a modern day criminal encounter set in the heady days of the rave scene and organised guerrilla parties being held in fields. The words his uses and the manner in which he delivers them lends a very tangible degree of authenticity in a scene of disingenuous wannabes. His tale of selling drugs at the outdoor rave which gets messy after a raid and ends in murder is hyper realistic and very convincing. There is no glamour in this verbal assault, just a true onslaught of desperation and treachery. This is not the literature equivalent of Mephedrone.
At the close of his reading GET THE BLESSING wave off and an interval assumes. As the lights get raised on the room the exquisiteness of the theatre truly rings homes as the words remaining hanging in the air creating an exciting atmosphere pointing to this being greatest place in London right now.
The night resumes with LED BIB taking to the stage where they fire out a looser brand of jazz but remains just as driven. Within their ranks they possess an organ player which positively overdrives proceedings reminding me of Sun Ra and Tortoise playing at their height of their powers.
The first writer to take the stage is RAY BANKS who turns out to be a nasty looking writer from Scotland. I have to admit I had not heard of him prior to this event but I have now and that is the main thing. The short story he delivers addresses modern times, the credit crunch and running a failing business while everything falls apart at the seams. As times begin to become desperate he wicked describes a plot being hatched to do an insurance job, to benefit from wicked means and cash in using illegal measures. In other words burning his fucking place down.
Soon from his description it becomes apparent that the star of the story (the owner of the business) is not an expert at such things and as the hatched idea reaches fruition something goes wrong, things get worse and it all ends in a very sticky manner fitting of a noir conclusion and a wasteful fatality.
From here comes part 2 of HUZZAH NOIR as the story progresses amidst the smoky soundtrack of a perfect LED BIB accompaniment. The tale these guys have come up with and a weaving on screen is full of visual vitality and uncovers a time and a place so foreign to these days.
The readings end as TOBY LITT takes to the stage and reels off a story describing an individual stalking an ex one evening along the length and breadth of the Northern Line. Along the way the he mulls over what his actions are going to be as hesitation and confusion rains, hinting at homicide all the way.
LITT is a master of encapsulating a scene and a moment, taking in the small details and delivering them to create an ambience leaning towards a sinister outcome. In the end the mind prevails as more is insinuated of the event conclusion than revealed. Of the information offered though, you just know it’s not a nice ending.
As he exits the stage from here we get the final segment of HUZZAH NOIR which decamps to wartime France before concluding itself as a drunken dream.
The night concludes with GET THE BLESSING retaking the stage and endeavouring to blow LED BIB off the stage as the two bands go head to head and create one of the most powerful and majestic music moments I have seen in a very long time and the first to cause me to get goosebumps since Tortoise at The Garage back in August. The sheer intensity of the two bands hitting the max serves as some kind of sonic tornado that moves me in my seat and knocks me head. It is a truly astounding way to close proceedings.
When I emerge onto Commercial Street I am almost breathless, still reeling from the manner in which the set concluded.
Tonight this part of the world looks amazing. The lights of Commercial Street continue the trend of noir eclipsed by rare glows of neon and suspicious looking individuals passing as I head back to Liverpool Street station. There is a genuine buzz in the city air this evening.
The train ride home involves being sat next to a girl who spends the entire duration of the journey with her head in her hands between her legs. Then fifteen minutes in she begins to gurgle. It transpires that she got wrecked at a works do tonight and the guy with her is just some colleague accompanying her, making sure she gets home safely. Chivalrous.
Eventually we get back to Colchester without her being sick and it is being still a good decent hour (10.30PM). Once home I sit at my computer desk pumped and excited about proceedings, almost in the mood to write. In the background Jonathan Ross interviews a new thin Charlotte Church and all appears right with the world.
Soon I find myself heading to bed the happiest I have been in weeks.