Sunday, June 25, 2006


Current level of conviction in own genius: 7
Amount of creative activity acheived in last 24 hours: 30 mins
Hair day: now sporting terrifying asymmetric-hardcore-indie-lesbian cut after visit to new fave proper local hairdresser

Have had a gill-stuffed week of gigs, running the full gamut from sedate chamber music to head-exploding jungle. Business as usual, then...

Treated Pop to a Father's Day coffee concert at Wigmore Hall, which had us chomping loudly on our Fishermen's Friends (it's a throat-clearing sweet, you know) amongst the frowning blue rinse brigade, letting the Szymanoski Quartet's surprisingly feisty Hadyn and overlong Schubert wash over us, before gulping down our free medium dry sherry. Then on Wednesday it was off to support Andy in Step 13's second round of the nationwide Battle of the Bands competition, in which they have to suffer the ignominious surroundings of O'Neill's on the Green Man roundabout in Leytonstone for three rounds in order to play the Carling Academy Islington in the final. Still, they did play Mass in Brixton on Saturday, which is a damn sight cooler. The whole thing was hilarious, although slightly less so than the first round, with the night seeming very Phoenix Nights/Spinal Tap. Step 13 of course won this round too, being far and away the most professional outfit, ie a band who didn't a) get twisted up in their own mic lead and b) not fall off the stage whilst wearing very tight PVC and lace and being a size 16. Classy.

Thursday was the other end of the spectrum, with buddy Cat and I artily lording it in the ludicrously over-arch ICA for their monthly Roots 'n' Shoots night. I remain slightly unconvinced as to the ethos of the series, which I had taken to be a celebration of all things traditionally British and alternatively folky, but which put out a silly Brazilian singer with lyrics like 'oh sea, make love to me' and a po-faced sub-Polly Harvey singer. We also had, though much more engagingly, the Pink Floyd/Nick Drake producer Joe Boyd plugging his new book and playing unique tracks like a recording of Nick Drake's mum singin beautifully. It all became clear when the headline act, Leafcutter John (who we'd come to see after meeting very sweet promoters Enrico and Eric on a roof terrace at a party), appeared, although he is such a fragile babyfaced moppet we took him to be a trainee roadie when he first came on. LJ was fab, the perfect modern new English alt-folkie, with his mixture of acoustic songs about honey bees and night-foxes plus glitchy experimental electronica. Added to that was the great duo of a Jarvis Cocker lookalike who played lung-beating melodica chords and incredibly contemporary stuff on a wicked-looking bass recorder. AND a clearwater-voiced girl who blew bubbles into her drink which were then sampled. Oh, and they also miked and sampled a slinky and some cutlery and as an encore improvised songs about badgers and quince jelly upon the audience's suggestion. Fab.

Today, I decided I must visit the Vortex Dalston for their World Cup Jazz Ball events, in which, in rather hilarious high-London-art fashion, two trios improvise to the live football; thought I should go before the stakes get too high for our boys. However, for an avant-garde musician/extreme footy lover, I was surprised at how much I hated the combo. It was partly the incredibly distracting volume (two drum kits in small room = extreme ear pain), and partly down to the players really not seeming to know their football and not reacting sensitively to events on screen, but mostly because I cared far too much about the result. We legged to a friend's house at half-time and took in the rest as you should, over cans of Carling and Doritos, with much impassioned shouting and guffaws over Motty/Lawro's amusing double act, jumping around the room when Becks scored. The moral of the story: cacophonous free jazz and serious football-watching doth not mix. Better a chav pub and 50 sweaty pissed-up geezers slurring their way through 'Three Lions', I say.....

Thursday, June 15, 2006

a wapping good time

Level of conviction in own genius: 8
Amount of creative activity acheived in last 24 hours: 0.5
Hair day: Straighteners are hilariously brill, though fringe is so long now that I keep bumping into things (whilst looking very fashionable, of course)

Had an unexpectedly supercool time on what should have been an unassumingly quiet Wendesday night in. Andy and I took a post-dinner stroll past the satisfyingly pongy Stepping Stones City Farm and the villagey St. Dunstan's Green to Limehouse. Having previously viewed this area only as an out-of-the-way backwater for city lemmings, it's growing on me massively. The street names - Narrow Street, Ropemaker's Fields - seem to peel back the centuries, pubs creak invitingly, and joggers pass serenely down gleaming, non-Asbo-ed-up pavements n their way home to their converted docklands warehouses. It's sedate, sanitised even, but there's some history lurking in oily corners. We stopped at our favourite riverside pub, The Grapes (gloomy wood interior, proper smoke-riddled locals, posh fish restaurant, Dickens' old haunt), to gaze out onto an alien, steel-pink Thames, whilst birds were tiny black shards in the sunset.

We wandered to Wapping, with Canary Wharf a menacingly glittering Death Star to our left. Finding our target, the very ancient Prospect of Whitby, under refurbishment (probably into a gastro-tapas-tequila bar, but we can cross our fingers), we slipped down Pelican Stairs alley and onto the beach. We had the river and the night and the mud all to ourselves, with the football echoing over from a chav pub on the south side, and the odd booze cruise leaving a coda of waves. Most spookily, a hangman's noose is strung high on a mast at the back of the pub, and slapped a rather macabre silhouette on the night sky; maybe it's an alternative way to eject people after one too many Barcardi Breezers.

Leaving the beach, we stumbled on The Wapping Project, which I've been meaning to check out for a while. People, it is the most ludicrously edgy urban-swank hulk of cool I have ever entered. A converted hydraulic power station, the building is no glossy, clean-lined renovation a la Tate Modern. It's bravely kept its stark husk, with the industrial remnants right in your face: sitting on slim modernist chairs and glugging shiraz from almost square glasses, we were surrounded by rusting power generators, hulking old cubicles and thick trunks of pipes scaling the walls, all softened only slightly by dozens of fat candles dotting around the place. It was fall-about-on-the-floor hilarious hipness from concrete slabbed floor to crane-your-neck ceiling. Even better, the waiter covertly led us and our drinks to the artspace at the back of the building, and opened foot-thick metal doors into a dank, dark cavernous room, where we watched Angus Boulton's video-sound installations on run-down Russian Olympic gymnasiums before I got spooked when our shadow puppetry on the screen seemed to turn everything off with an echoey bang and we ran away back to the safety of the light and post-classical music. But what a space! Am desperate to stage my 1 and half year-old music-theatre piece sedna stories in there. Would be triple-cool.

That said, I'll already be double-cool next year if a proposed project in which I write for (gasp!) Antony from Antony and the Johnsons next year....

Monday, June 05, 2006

headlines of the day

Level of conviction in own genius: 10 (if you look at headlines 1 and 3) or 8 (if you look at headline 2)
Amount of creative activity acheived in last 24 hours: 9. Yes, NINE.
Hair day: Have silly 'punkpink' hair gunk in fringe, residue of yesterday's whack performance...

Phew. Not entirely sure where my half term disappeared to.Was far too busy being tossed in a whirlwind of creative shenanigans as usual. Headlines being:

For a lot of the week I was tiptoe-ing on the sleek floors of the National Gallery before opening time, co-ordinating the music side of a dance/composition project with my Junior Trinity talented wonders. Very strange seeing the morning netherworld of foreign cleaners, terrifying butch German secrity ladies and paintings the size of houses being wheeled about. There even seemed to be someone ticking off the paintings in each room, as if checking none had been swiped during the night. The event itself went marvellously, with 17 year-olds performing insanely hard-hitting contemporary dance to fab music from my lot. I, ever the show-off, got to be the calling boy in front of Seurat's The Bathers, doing minor vocal gymnastics whilst sporting a particularly fetching red hat.

This week I received a letter from the British Antarctica Survey peeps informing me that I had got to the shortlist of 4 from 40ish applicants for the Writers and Artists in Antarctica scheme, but that their first two choices had passed the rigorous medical exam. Alas, alack... Rather gutted at not being able to spend terrifying toe-numbing time being blinded by snow and ice and being inspired by seals and things, and am secretly hoping that one of the lucky twosome breaks several limbs or experiences sudden seizure of year-long artistic block, rather uncharitably.

After weeks of hardcore practice, managing visuals, madly advertising, juice pulled off a cracking performance at the fabulously groovy Cargo in Shoreditch. Had a great crowd of whooping fans, fat on posho BBQ, who were smacked in the face with post-classical/rock/electronica/jazz vocal insanity, complete with visuals providing everything from manga VJ-ing, kooky photos and film cut-ups. juice had a hilarious time slapping on dramatic make-up, wriggling into tiny dresses and then panicking about where the hell to put our cumbersome radio mic packs. Moreover, as well as singing our usual rumbly growling/harmonics/
stratospheric cluster-chords, we also finished the show with some very silly choreography which had us cavorting around the stage shaking our asses Beyonce-style and ridingg horses. Ohhhh yes. My knees are still trying to recover....