In recent months there have been a number of changes in my life. I find myself drawn to taking advice from other people as if it is gospel. What I really wanted was some advice for myself that I can turn to and so I created the below list. It is by no means complete but I can’t imagine that any list of its ilk ever should be. Here is my advice for my life.
1. Write about what you know but remember you know your own imagination.
2. There is nothing that can’t be solved by listening to The Beatles or a strong dose of antibiotics.
3. Wear all the black you can.
4. You don’t owe or own other people.
5. Cold hands, warm heart.
6. A weekend wasted is not a wasted weekend.
8. You will never get today back.
9. Cut out poisonous situations and relationship for your own good.
10. Never regret. It got you where you are.
11. Imagine a string emerging from the top of your head and keeping you up straight.
12. When wearing headphones it is best to imagine you are in a music video.
13. Season to taste.
14. Layers are important.
15. If it doesn’t bring you joy or serve a purpose then let it go.
16. Make mixed tapes for specific journeys. They deserve the attention of a soundtrack.
17. Always tell people you love them, especially as you leave.
18. Dog-ear the pages of your books to track down quotes you loved later. There is nothing a book appreciates more than being physically assaulted.
19. Take the time to appreciate both architecture and nature.
20. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need
21. It’s okay to be scared.
22. It’s very hard to get a good bagel in an airport.
23. Just remember, that body of yours is on loan.
For the past few months my life has been consumed by thoughts of Hank Moody, the foul-mouthed, womanising, near-alcoholic anti-hero at the centre of Showtime’s Californication. From the start I was hooked and have told almost everyone I have since been in touch with that it is indeed the series of the gods.
What Californication does so well is to take the story of a writer, or as far as I am concerned, a writer who doesn’t seem to be able to get a lot of writing done, and ramp it, to make it cooler, sexier, more worthy of screen time. It has genuine heart and wonderful character and you will the action along because you are just waiting for Moody to get his shit together and realise what has been waiting for him the whole time.
if you are yet to witness the power of Californication then I can assure you, you are missing out.
In the summer of 2006 I was in my friend’s car. It was the kind of warm that in retrospect you can never recall surviving through. He put on an album that he told me I was wrong. It opened a door that it was impossible to close. That album was I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning by Bright Eyes.
During Bright Eyes set at Glastonbury in 2011 I cried when they performed Poison Oak. I have no idea why but the moment and the rain and Conor Oberst’s beautiful Elvish cloak took me and ravished tears upon my cheeks.
Last week I managed to secure tickets to see Conor solo at KOKO in Mornington Crescent. Of course when you see Conor play solo there is a band onstage. That band was Dawes who had the pleasure of not only being Conor’s backing band but also being his support act. It’s fair to say that they won the audience over, particularly when we were advised they weren’t just a hack support act and as such had been handpicked by wimp rocker’s Jesus, Conor, himself.
I stood just five heads from the stage in the smaller-than-I-could-remember venue with my friend Sam who has covered more Bright Eyes covers than I could ever remember and awaited the arrival of the man we put on a pedestal. Fortunately he wasn’t knocked off of it when he took to the stage in a wide brimmed black hat and matching suit jacket and jeans.
Thrown into the mix of songs were Bright Eyes classics including Lover I Don’t Have To Love, We Are Nowhere and It’s Now and Hit The Switch as well as a number of songs from his newest solo album Upside Down Mountain. With each slither of downtime between songs it was impossible to tell where the set was headed and what we would get to experience. When introducing Governer’s Ball, Conor asked if we minded if he played something from the new album. From deep in the throngs came a voice.
“I love that album. It touched me.”
Without missing a beat, Conor simply said “no comment” which was met with giggles from the crowd.
The back line left for Lua before returning together for an encore of No One Would Riot For Less, Cape Canaveral and Another’ Travelin’ Song. It was an incredible set to witness and one that left me wanting answers to questions that had yet to form. He is a hero to me and a huge influence and I hope I never meet him.
Conor and his band played:
Zigzagging Toward the Light
We Are Nowhere and It’s Now
Hit the Switch
If The Brakeman Turns My Way
Lover I Don’t Have to Love
Desert Island Questionnaire
Old Soul Song (For the New World Order)
I Got the Reason #2
No One Would Riot for Less
Another Travelin’ Song
I often write about the smorgasbord of talent that Southend and the surrounding areas has to offer. It seems that all of my friends do a thing whether it be music, art, poetry, stand up, juggling, improv, DJing, yoga, script-writing or anything else. What an incredible thing Village Green is therefore for being able to represent these things and even better was my invitation to perform as an alumni of my college along with Adam and Lance aka Charlie’s Hand Movements who I wax lyrical about at every given possibility and will no doubt continue to do so later on in this post.
I turned up early to collect my trader’s wristband, have a cup of tea and wander around the site as the last items were set up and the hordes descended. How different the place is, how serene and noble before there is anyone in it but the vendors, traders and artists trying to batten down the hatches. I watched the sound check on the main stage, ran into an old friend and waited for the clock to tick over to 12 before enjoying my first Red Stripe of the day.
Beside our performance area (because I’m that self involved) was a face painting table set up by SEEVIC. I considered a Stipean (or indeed now Stampian) band of colour across the top half of my face but instead just shuffled around pretending I had important things to do and hiding behind a tree to practice. The invite had been a little ad-hoc and last minute. As such I didn’t have any idea when I was on, how many songs I would be doing or what songs they would be and it was only when sat with Sam, Cat and Freya later I jotted ten songs down on a post it note. After watching Mikey, Adrien and Jack it was my turn. The face painting table was packed out. It was going to be good.
Good To Dream
An Oblivion I Own
Broken Record Love Song
What Katie Did
Don’t Expect To Hear From Me
Wandering back offstage in a hot flush I sat and watched Charlie’s Hand Movements pull it all together. They played a blinding set including Missyerface which they assured me would be ropey at best. It remains one of my favourite songs of theirs because they pulled it off with such aplomb. There were also a couple of new tracks much the anticipated second album.
I loves Village Green. The complaints about the ten pound ticket fee should be laughed out of the park. Just think what you are getting for that ten pounds. Think where that is going and don’t forget the sunscreen.
My thanks to people who came to watch and to Cat and Sam for filming. Thank you to SEEVIC and especially to Charlie’s Hand Movements.
On a walk to school in 2003 my friend Mike bought a copy of the NME. On the cover was a bulb-eyed, shaven-headed young man who was apparently the coolest thing that had happened that week. His name was Peter Doherty. He had been arrested for stealing from his bandmate’s flat while they were on tour without him in Japan. Something about the image stayed with me and I resolved to give this band a listen. I got hold of Up The Bracket and fell in love.
Last night, The Libertines played together for the first time in four years. I was there at Reading. I was here now. Watching them walk out onto the stage in their ragamuffin finery took me back to where I originally got my faith for love and music. It was an incredible thing to be a part of. There was none of the distance or animosity that fans encounter from one another in most gigs, everyone dug in and became the stylish kids in the riots. I screamed lyrics into the faces of people I had never met and would never see again. We smashed into each other, twirling in Converse and Chelsea boot trampled circles as we became the boys in the band. Sweat ran down every face and contorted spine. It was absolute bliss.
Personally it was incredible for being able to share the gig with a friend that I have loved The Libertines alongside for a number of years. Their fans tend to be drawn towards each other, there’s a brothers in arms mentality when it comes to being a Libs fan, especially when you have to throw all the tabloid hoopla out of the way of anyone who dares query their greatness. Part of what makes them so good is that everyone is aware that the whole thing can implode or explode at any moment. It was only two songs into their set before they had to stop because people were being crushed into the barriers at the front.
Through Up The Bracket and What A Waster, two fans stripped stark bollock naked and clambered onto the lighting rig to my right. Soon a hundred other begging men and women had followed after them, mangled bodies pressed together, a number beginning to head up the rigging itself before the band were stopped once more and they were forced to climb back down. This left the band with the opportunity to take things down a notch and after a failed plunge of France, Peter took up the call of Albion and the crowd adored it, Carl singing a verse of the Babyshambles song in solidarity. The set ended with I Get Along and a reading of Sassoon’s 1918 poem, Suicide In The Trenches. There was no encore. There could be no encore. They had done what they needed to do. All that was left was the announcement of two shows at the Ally Pally in September for which we have already secured tickets.
The band played:
‘Boys In The Band’
‘Campaign Of Hate’
‘Time For Heroes’
‘The Ha Ha Wall’
‘Music When The Lights Go Out’
‘What Katy Did’
‘The Boy Looked At Johnny’
‘Can’t Stand Me Now’
‘Last Post On The Bugle’
‘Love On The Dole’
‘Death On The Stairs’
‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’
‘Tell The King’
‘Up The Bracket’
‘What A Waster’
‘I Get Along’
Last night I was fortunate enough to see one of my favourite and one of the most interesting, exciting and innovative live bands of modern times play the last gig of their world tour. I wasn’t lucky enough to pay just £2.50 for the privilege but that is another story for another time.
The first time I saw Arcade Fire play, at my first Reading festival in 2007 I felt as if I had experienced some kind of wake up in and of itself. There were more people on the stage than I could count as they jumped between instruments and beat their fists in triumph at their celebration of life, disorder and death. The show was sublime. I was a convert. When The Suburbs was released I couldn’t get tickets for their London show so joined my friend James in Birmingham to watch them and we saw them together again at Reading in 2010 where they headlined after The Libertines.
In December 2013 they put on a number of smaller scale gigs as The Reflektors and I saw them at The Roundhouse as they blasted through the lion’s share of the new album to an adoring and fancy dressed crowd.
The gig last night was the best I have seen them. It was the production they should have been afforded form the beginning. The songs were all there. The audience stuck with them. It was a spectacle as any large scale show should be. Thousands of sets of eyes scanned the mirrored wall to take in what was going on.
The set began with their now infamous bobble heads wandering out onto the stage and taking up instruments to begin what sounded like a bad version of Wake Up. They were quickly shooed away as the band appeared from stage left in their finery to rapturous applause and ripping through Normal Person, Rebellion (Lies) and Joan Of Arc.
Win took bottles of water, sipped from them and sent them hurling out into the crowd between tracks and berated the local ‘rich people’ who had complained about the BST gigs when they were announced earlier in the year. He seemed to have finally found a level of comfort as the frontman for one of the biggest bands in the world. Joan Of Arc was followed by three songs from The Suburbs; Rococo, the title track and Ready To Start, before the band dipped back to Funeral for Neighbourhood #1 and Crown Of Love.
After the call to arms that is We Exist they treated me personally to Intervention, an a’capella Antichrist Television Blues and No Cars Go from my favourite album, Neon Bible, before taking to Reflektor tracks. They finished the main set with a powerful version of Sprawl II, Regine performing her art school dance moves and spinning coloured streamers to cheers from the crowd.
With the lights out and the crowd screaming for more a bobble head of the Pope took to the stage to dance to Sympathy For The Devil before the band returned for an encore where Win told the audience to be quiet because the rich people were trying to sleep. The set ended with Wake Up, as they are almost obliged to do. Will Butler smashing his way around the stage before hurling tambourines and microphones into the audience. The crowd were still singing the refrain when the lights came up on our gawking faces and we were shunned towards an exit.
‘Joan Of Arc’
‘Ready To Start’
‘Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)’
‘Crown Of Love’
‘(Antichrist Television Blues)’
‘No Cars Go’
‘It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)’
‘Here Comes The Night Time’
‘Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)’
Last week I was in a world that seemed as if it had been designed with the tourist in mind, the series of islands that make up the city of Venice. A lot of the time whilst meandering through the cramped side streets in the way the water does I couldn’t help but wonder if what I was experiencing was even real, as though the whole thing had been set up with the intention of tricking the eye, some kind of bastard Truman Show experiment in sightseeing. The problem I have with Venice isn’t in how it looks, how it smells and especially not in how it tastes, it’s with the way everyone descends upon it as though passing through a checkpoint, it’s just another site to see and then they are off again, on the next point of their whistle-stop tour, another selfie by a landmark, another ice cream dropped on the steps, another crying homeless woman scurried around in the pursuit of personal accomplishments.
I understand that I am a massive hypocrite and in all likelihood an ungrateful shit. Whilst in Venice I was a tourist, complete with backpack, leather neck skin and zero understanding of the language or culture within which I was a guest but it seemed I was more self-conscious or indeed less oblivious than those around me.
Under my observation they seemed to strike up an iPhone, expect to be understand by the patient waiter and complain about the cost of a Bellini but where was the culture and heritage of this great city which I have been reliably informed is sinking? It’s there, but it’s all going down.
The key to visiting Venice is to suck it up. To accept that you are going to get lost in a hoard, that what you are doing has been done time and time before but to at least enjoy the individual aspects of your experience. You can visit the Basilica and be underwhelmed. You can huff as you pay 8 euros for a lift to the top of the Campanile but then you can find the sweetest spot in the city, with nobody but you, the girl you love and a bottle of the cheapest wine available in the packed out supermarket and suddenly it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. It doesn’t feel as though anyone, anywhere is doing anything in fact. Aside from the boats passing through automatically, you could be anywhere or nowhere, safe and alone, and that’s what I truly got out of Venice.