Sunday, April 13, 2008

I Host The Second In A Series Of Experimental Vocal Nights At A Plush London Venue, Raise Money For A Respected Charity And Oh Yes, Turn 30

Level of conviction in own genius: 9
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: on the seventh day, I rested
Reading / Listening: ‘Mister Pip’ by Lloyd Jones / ‘I Didn’t Get It From The Lord’ by Camille
Hair Day: raffish

The landmark birthday weekend has passed: I am now 30. Hugely gratifyingly, four people in four days have expressed astonishment at me, fresh-freckle-faced and twinkle-eyed (or perhaps it’s the feckless immaturity and occasional chin-spot), being such a grand old age. But alas, ‘tis verily upon me. In truth, I have spent so long fretting about being 30 and all the things I haven’t done yet that it comes as something of a relief that it’s finally here and I can stop worrying and just get on with the damn thing.

First up, though was Gobsmack 2; the first had starred juice, semi-famous Jamie Woon and others and gone down a storm at the Spitz. That venue now being ripped to bits and replaced with another most vital and utterly craved-for gastropub (philistines!), we moved way out west for this one, to the gorgeously plum-interiored, chandelier-bedecked Bush Hall. I act as curator/presenter for this series, which involves much myspacing until my ears and eyes bleed, but brings me into contact with lots of musicians, including this time as mentioned previously, the lip-whetting prospect of meeting folky glitchtronica genius Leafcutter John, our headliner. Or that was the idea, until he rang on the day to cancel, suffering from migraines and vomiting like the wan and waifish artistic genius he is. So I was momentarily thrown into a sweaty and fish-mouthed panic until I remembered I had plenty of other very good artists on the bill too. And it went marvellously well, Bush Hall swelled nicely to hear smoky jazz-leaning Verity Standen, Peter Moran’s clever lecture on the rhythms of speech which went down a storm, Bunty’s soulful looping session, Laura Moody’s completely sensational crazy-woman-with-a-mouthful-of-voices-meets-‘cello set, Natasha Lohan’s contemporary piece with increasingly nasty, belly-rumbling electronics, Elizabeth Walling’s (best outfit of the night, complete with satin ruff and ankle-length spats) sublime Elizabethan-inspired stuff, and Mikhail’s Berio-meets-Arabic-meets-nu-rave thing. So job well done, and looking to the next ones already, probably featuring poetry and vocals, improvising and a cappella groups. Where to start…

As the birthday approacheth, Andy whisked me off to the Old Vic for a rare theatre visit to see ‘Speed the Plow’, which allowed me to see the once most-lusted after Kevin Spacey in the flesh. It was actually more exciting to see Jeff Goldblum, who seemed to be about 8 feet tall, knife-sharp in a suit that was all corners and angles and delivered all his lines with a super-laconic arch of eyebrow and made Andy and I sink into our seats at his extreme sartorial genius and coolness. The play being David Mamet’s responsibility, the two barrelled through it in volleys of bulleted barbs and ripostes: ‘A man, Bob-’ ‘A man?’ ‘Yes, a man –‘ ‘Sit down, why don’t you?’ ‘A man, Bob, came into my house – ‘ ‘A man came into your house’ ‘My HOUSE, Bob, a man came into my HOUSE and, you know I could have walked across the street with this Bob but you know I would never-‘ ‘So a man comes into your house and-‘.. repeat for an hour. Was pretty fab. The cultural side of my weekend was topped up with visits to Tate Modern to see the Man Ray, Duchamp and Picabia exhibition (verdict - early paintings: good; depiction of women: very bad) and the Natural History Museum for our annual viewing of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition which is perpetually stunning; this time a macaca pictured like a ghostly Japanese seer rising out of the mist and a puffed-chested corn bunting performing an aria that, in the frosty air, became smoke-rings of song, were my favourite this year.

But onto the main event, my birthday at the Fleapit on Columbia Road. My love of organising knowing no bounds, this time I’d decided to tie it in with raising money for my Mum, who’s doing a trek for Help the Aged in the Himalayas in the autumn. So people could pay money to do karaoke with a live band – DOLLYman – backing them, commission me to arrange a pop cover for Sarah, Rob and myself to sing or do the raffle. I’d made the small oversight of forgetting that all this meant large amounts of work for me so spent many hours chained to the computer on automatic arrangement mode. But it was a top night, tons of lovely friends came to join the fun and hear a cappella covers of Mr Bungle, Nine Inch Nails, The Proclaimers, All Saints and Simon and Garfunkel – something for everyone. Accompanied by LucyDOLLY, MattDOLLY et moi assortedly on bass, clarinet, melodic, keys and vocals, Tracy delivered a sultry ‘Fever’ on the karaoke, followed by Sarah and Ross doing a killer version of ‘Where the Wild Roses Grow’ complete with harmonies, Andy did an outrageous ‘Tainted Love’ (complete with me on stylophone) and Phil polished it off with a smoooooth ‘Ain’t That a Kick in the Head’ to a rapturous reception. The raffle was a high-octane affair, with cries of ‘fix!’ and hysterical celebrations at winning such delights as a magnum of champagne or tickets to the English National Ballet at the top end, and a 3D Connect 4 game and Harris Tweed tea cosy at the other. We all went home happy and by 1am I was in my jim jams with a cup of peppermint tea. Well, I AM 30 now… sigh.

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