Obersting at the seams.

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:

Time Forgot  
Zigzagging Toward the Light  
Moab
We Are Nowhere and It’s Now
Hit the Switch
Artifact #1  
If The Brakeman Turns My Way
Lover I Don’t Have to Love
Governor’s Ball  
Double Life  
Danny Callahan  
Firewall
Desert Island Questionnaire
Poison Oak
Old Soul Song (For the New World Order)
I Got the Reason #2
Lua
Encore:
No One Would Riot for Less
Cape Canaveral
Another Travelin’ Song

Village Green ’14

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.
I played:
Good To Dream
An Oblivion I Own
Listen Up
Charlie
Broken Record Love Song
What Katie Did
Scratchings
Coming Down
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.

The Libertines – Hyde Park.

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:
‘Vertigo’
‘Boys In The Band’
‘The Delaney’
‘Campaign Of Hate’
‘Time For Heroes’
‘Horrorshow’
‘Begging’
‘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’
‘Radio America’
‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’
‘Tell The King’
‘Up The Bracket’
‘What A Waster’
‘France’
‘Albion’
‘I Get Along’

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Arcade Fire – Hyde Park.

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.

Setlist:
‘Normal Person’
‘Rebellion (Lies)’
‘Joan Of Arc’
‘Rococo’
‘The Suburbs’
‘Ready To Start’
‘Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)’
‘Crown Of Love’
‘We Exist’
‘Intervention’
‘(Antichrist Television Blues)’
‘No Cars Go’
‘Reflektor’
‘Afterlife’
‘It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)’
‘Sprawl II’
‘Here Comes The Night Time’
‘Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)’
‘Wake Up’

When In Venice.

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.

Journ Baby Journ

This week I made a couple of tentative steps into my attempts at becoming a real journo. These involved being invited to the screening of a TV show, drinking too many of the complimentary beers, standing quite close to two men I admire but couldn’t pluck up the balls to talk to and then sitting on my own, at the back of an auditorium, pretending to take notes. You know what I worked out? I fucking love being a journalist.
The series in question was The Mimic, the beer in question was Becks, and the two men were Terry Mynott (who stars as Martin Huddle) and Matt Morgan (who wrote it (and also saw Russell Brand right through his darkest ages)). I admire them because they are both brilliant at what they do, funny and seem approachable, yet, I could not approach them.
I have discovered that the best thing you can do when at a press launch event type thing is pretend you know what everyone is talking about and say the name of your publication as often and as quickly as you can.
“Paul Schiernecker” I muttered to the girls in reception handing out the laminates. “I’m here for WUWO”. I took stock of what I was saying, issuing words like I was Doctor Gonzo with a cigarillo clamped between his grinding jaws, A man walked in front of me in a bike jacket.
“Hi, I’m really sorry but I need to toilet, can I just grab my pass?” he asked. I went to be annoyed, to issue some kind of disdain at being shoved down the line before I realised I was before the very man I was there for. It was Terry Mynott, the mimic, the talent, the man my friend Aislinn had described as being like a good looking version of Dan Skinner. He was there, right in front of me, and he needed a wee. I couldn’t believe it.
The reception girls threw their arms out over their deck, trying to find his pass and then handed it across to him, all crouched and lowly like Gollum. He walked off to the toilets. I stood, amazed.
I’m easily starstruck. I once told Simon Pegg that I wanted to keep my brother in a shed. I once freaked out when Simon Amstell appeared to acknowledge I was a person in a hallway of The Roundhouse. I was once onstage with Joe Pasquale in a pantomime production of Peter Pan. I am not yet cut out for the dizzying heights of being Mikey P (that’s what us journos call Michael Parkinson). I stood like a man possessed and watched someone I had seen on the telly a few times disappear off to the lav. I couldn’t believe I had come so close to an interaction. Maybe it could replace the time I saw Paul Gascoigne in an airport as my celebrity story. No, don’t be too brash Paul, think about what you’re saying!
I then had to repeat my name, annunciating effectively this time so they could dig it out for me. At the top it had a big double line through the words “Victoria Wood – writer”.
Fuck you Dinnerladies, I thought to myself and was ushered down the stairs in to the basement like an errant Fritzl mongrel child.
When I got down there I found a crowd of other unwashed, Converse bedecked and bespectacled writer types awaiting some kind of action. They each sat in a corner of the room which was seemingly impossible to the world of physics because it was a perfect circle. Outside the area was a bar. I got a Becks and sat down, pretending to be engaged in a series of emails I had received offering me Wowcher deals and the opportunity to review my own novel on Amazon.
Then in came the wonderful girls of the PR agency with whom I had received countless emails as they tried to keep the whole show on the road. They were only ever too keen to set things up, point things out and seemed to build a genuine rapport so quickly that it seemed inappropriate. They walked in amongst us like the girls of the Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, Disney critters fluttering between them, a choir of rose-like smells given off by their very presence. Fifteen guts were sucked in, smiles were forced, we aimed to please.
They began working their way around the circle, chatting to the writers on either side of me. I went up to get another beer. There was a strange knot of people stood to one side. Amongst them, now in a t-shirt was Terry, and with him, in a beanie hat and hefty beard was Matt Morgan. This is when I really started to freak out. There was a time, not long enough ago that I am ready to laugh about it, that my good friend Jocasta and I would sit in front of the wireless (a laptop at the end of his bed with some bodacious speakers) and listen to Matt and Russell in their 6 Music days. This was before they got over to Radio 2. It was before Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Sachs-gate and Katy Perry. It felt like they were chatting to us and we were there for them every week. Over the course of the following few days we would also download the podcasts and laugh again at their stupid comments and conversations, their between-track banter (god I hate that word) and their friendship and rapport. It was a very precious time. That’s why seeing one of them in the flesh freaked me out a bit. I had a similar incident when I saw Brand perform at the Cliffs last year and he came near me whilst on the prowl for his after-show feast.
I stood at the bar and pretended to be an actual normal human being and then scurried back to my seat with another bottle in my hand. That’s when the lovely Emma who I have been emailing decided to instigate a conversation. When I told her who I was working for she pointed along the bench at a couple of young rapscallions who were interns for my magazine. I joined them to pretend to know what I was talking about and to explain the strengths of The Mimic over conventional impressions shows. Then we got another beer.
We were ushered into the screening room where I once more shuffled past Terry and Matt, worried I was about to foul the whole thing up by letting my mask slip. I sat in the back with the most revered looking of the journalists and took out my notepad. I wrote THE MIMIC in my blotchy hand at the top of the page and then considered writing something else for over an hour.
The commissioning editor gave a short speech and then we watched the first two episodes. The strange thing about attending an event like that on your own is it feels a bit odd to laugh. Fortunately everyone else was laughing because the second series of The Mimic is even better than the first. The visual and written jokes are back, the voices have grown in quality and volume, the setup for them doesn’t feel as clunky. It’s a great show.
Afterwards everyone applauded, as you naturally have to, and there was a question and answer session. I, naturally didn’t ask anything but tried to capture a couple of the provided anecdotes in note form. As class was dismissed I ducked out again, bowing to anyone who smiled at me and leaving Victoria Wood’s pass with security, I walked back out the door and under the roaming chunks of metal that make up the structural 4 at the front of the building. I was out. I was done.

Two days later I did get to speak to Terry at length as an interview had been setup for us. This time I was prepared. I had good questions about voices and acting and things. To be fair to the man, he knows how to spin a good yarn. His anecdotes were bittersweet and brilliant, he laughed at my attempts at jokes and he even treated me to impressions of Charlie Brooker, Alan Carr and Walter White. I tweeted him which he duly favourited, the social media equivalent of a thumbs up. I will say this much, I’ve been given a glimpse of things to come and I loved it. This is just the tip of the iceberg but I’m ready to veer right for it and kill everyone on board.

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10 Things I Have Learnt Since Living Alone.

Today represents four weeks since I moved into my flat. It turns out that living alone has done some strange things to me, taught me some lessons and made me appreciate just what happens when I get stir crazy.

I treat myself like a cat.
You know how cat people like to leave a radio on so their cat doesn’t get lonely. I now leave the radio on so I don’t get lonely.

I have a lot of stuff.
I’ve blogged before about minimising possessions and being content, now I have an ironing board.

It takes a long time to get things sorted.
I’ve only got a washing machine and the Internet this week.
Paul, that’s disgusting you must be thinking, how could you go over three weeks without the Internet. I’ll tell you. I struggled.
Also, I don’t have a sofa, or a dining table, or a freezer.

Drinking alone is mandatory.
If I am ever going to pull this genius recluse thing off, I need to be drunk a lot of the time.

I’m really scared of oversleeping.
I keep finding myself waking up at 4am, worried that I have overslept. So far I’ve been really good, and I treat myself to some Cheerios.

I now say adult things.
I keep catching myself talking to people about property. Everyone has advice which is fantastic but yesterday I legitimately asked someone who did their windows. Who the fuck am I?

People who say moving house is the most stressful thing you can do clearly aren’t me
At the time of buying my flat and all the issues surrounding it I also found myself putting together the final touches on my first novel, editing the arts & cultures section for What’s Up, What’s On magazine and maintaining a full time job. I nearly fell apart like bread in a duck pond during the month.

Nobody steals my stuff.
When I lived with my family, nothing was sacred. Money, food and DVDs wandered off. Now they stay just where I left them.

I am weird.
It turns out that I will do the strangest things to entertain myself. One night while getting ready for bed I tucked my plaid shirt into my jeans, undid all of the buttons and danced for myself in front of the mirror.

I am very fucking lucky.
I don’t want any of you to think that I don’t appreciate everything that I have and everything that is going on for me at the moment. I feel very privileged. I was on my way home the other night and just thought of getting in and having dinner and watching Homeland with Kate and everything felt good. I could never imagine being in this position.