Funky Funke

September 29, 2013

So this little tale starts about 6 months ago when I was sat doing the ironing and there was nothing decent on the telly to watch and the only DVD I had to hand was Amour (ironing whilst trying to watch a film with subtitles is not to be recommended). So to the radio I went, or more precisely, to internet radio I went and a random blues station. Second track up was magnificent; full of an  energy and vibe that demanded attention. When it finished I quickly wrote down the name of the artist, Funky and the Two Tone Baby (or so I thought) and the laundry was forgotten as I hit YouTube to find out more. Having discovered that what I really wanted was FunkE etc. I played the videos I found and then it was on to Amazon to buy the album, Battles.

Battles

Battles

So I did finally get the ironing finished whilst listening to the new found joy of an album. The next quest was to find out if I could get to see this guy in the flesh. The internet had now furnished a website, Facebook and Twitter but these showed a preponderance of gigs in the south east and certainly nothing in the Lincolnshire area. Gig announcements came and went over the summer – a trip to Cambridge was considered, a gig in Nottingham was sadly missed and, due to prior commitments, a last minute gig in Lincoln couldn’t be made. And then, at last, a return trip to Lincoln. So on Friday I dragged Heather down to The Jolly Brewer in Lincoln for a pint and a chance to watch the man in action. As we sat just a few feet from two mics and an array of foot-pedals a familiar face appeared round the corner and the main attraction wandered in with a half drunk pint in his hand. Whether he recognised me from Facebook or Twitter but he seemed pleased to see a ‘familiar’ face and asked to join us. We chatted for 10-15 minutes before the gig began and again during the interval and I’m glad to say he’s as nice as he is talented.

And boy is he talented. Tap dancing his way across various loop, chorus, reverb and god knows what else pedals he builds up songs from layers of guitar, harmonica, voice, tambourine and stomp box. Be it his own songs or a choice selection of covers from Dylan, Led Zep, The Beatles, John Lee Hooker, Fat Boy Slim and The Stones everything is imbued with massive energy and belted out in a voice that belies his slender frame. All I can say is if you ever spot him playing near you then make the effort to go along – you’ll be rewarded with a glimpse of a singular talent which is deserving of a far wider audience.

Is there Hope for Walter White?

September 29, 2013

As the final episode of Breaking Bad approaches there is a huge amount of speculation on what those last 50 minutes will contain for the Everyman gone bad, Walter White. These are my thoughts, for what they’re worth.

I’d have to say that I don’t think Walt has made much of an appearance in the last series at all, rather we have seen him completely taken over by Heisenberg. Rather sentimentally I’d like to see that reversed before the final curtain. I believe that somewhere, deep down inside their shared body, Walt is finally fighting back, hoping to make things as right as he can before his demise, be it through cancer or some more violent means. Walt Jr’s denial of him has, I think, finally woken the decent guy who we met in that very first series who has been buried under the alter ego which he had to develop to protect himself but which he ended up being subsumed by. Now it is time for that mild mannered chemistry teacher to vanquish Heisenberg and right as much as he can of the wrongs he has committed before taking his leave. How he makes that journey is going to be interesting to say the least.

I think that it’s fairly obvious that he will be taking on Jack Welker, Todd and the rest of the crew and that this will be the terminal fire-fight. It wouldn’t be Breaking Bad if he didn’t use ‘science bitch’ to achieve his aims, probably taking the drug factory with them. This will probably need him to free Jesse and at least some of the money in the hope that he can use him as a surrogate to provide for his family. So – Walt cases the joint, takes the ricin to become a literal ‘dead man walking’, pushes Jesse out of the door and goes out in a massive, meth-lab powered fireball, taking the red-neck nazis with him. 24 hours will tell how wrong or right my guesses have been and I’ll probably add a second post after the event to talk about it. Until then; thanks Walt, it’s been one hell of a ride along.

 

Not Good

June 27, 2013

So I’ve been a very naughty boy and let the blogging slip big time. I’d like to say that I’d been working hard on some super secret and exciting project but that would be a lie; in all honesty I’ve just been lazy and gotten out of the habit but that’s all going to change (stop sniggering at the back, I mean it). Hopefully this will be the first post in what becomes a new, regular posting frenzy in which I get away from just reviewing films and gigs and actually talk about stuff – we’ll see eh!

Autumn Gigs

January 15, 2013

And three very different gigs they were too. Let’s start at the Drill Hall, 27th Oct and the juggernaut of fun that is Big Boy Bloater and the Limits. Word was that the new band was gelling well and rocking up a storm so we were really looking forward to the night. As we headed towards the bar for a pre-show snifter we chanced across Lil’ Lisa Jane manning the Merch’ Stall and stopped for a quick chat. After a catch-up we headed to the bar, picked up a drink and moved in to the main hall to join 100 or so other fans for the party.

The gig, not surprisingly, majored on tunes from the new album with a good sprinkling of old faves and the sort of party atmosphere that the big man excels at. It’s difficult to convey the sheer, unadulterated joy of a BBB gig through listening to his cd’s or watching the videos – this is music that is at its best in a live situation, drink in one hand, best girl in the other and the groove in yer shoes.

November 23rd and we stepped it up a notch with Bellowhead at The Engine Shed. This multi-award winning ‘folk’ band are beginning to really break through to the mainstream now and, with their latest single making the Radio 2 A playlist, they packed out the venue. Before the main attraction however there was an unexpected treat in the shape of Mama Rosin – a Swiss three piece channeling the spirit of Jimi Hendrix through a potent blend of Cajun and Zydeco tuneage.

Nice video too.

Having been nicely warmed up by the infectious rhythms of this Swiss 3 piece we then welcomed to the stage the 11 piece musical behemoth that is Bellowhead. There live shows have a well deserved reputation for excellent musicianship and we were not disappointed. From the opening theatricality of ‘Black Beetle Pies’ from the new album, Broadside, to the closing ‘Up to the Rigs/London Town’, band members played various assorted and strange instruments to thrash out their arrangements of an assortment of traditional folk tunes. And when they weren’t playing they were dancing or encouraging the audience to clap, sing and stomp along with them. It really is difficult to describe the atmosphere of a Bellowhead gig and the sheer joie de vivre that seems to grip the entire audience but if you ever have the opportunity to go and see them, leap at it.

 

26th November saw a visit to the opposite end of the gig spectrum – the mighty Elbow at Nottingham Trent Arena. I did wonder how Elbow’s music would cope with an arena setting for although it is, in many ways, quite epic in conception it also has a great feeling of intimacy to it. Fortunately my fears proved unfounded for which much credit must go to their sound engineers. When you think about how many small gigs you go to where the balance and mix is totally out it is an immense achievement to fill a stadium like the Nottingham Arena with a smooth, warm wall of sound and then float Guy Garvey’s vocals effortlessly over the top of it. The whole gig was beautifully staged and I can only say, if you get the chance to see them live you owe it to your ears to take it.

 

It’s Been a While

December 9, 2012

I could say I’ve been really busy, I could say that I’ve not really seen, read or heard anything that’s made me want to blog, I could manufacture endless excuses but in all honesty I’ve just gotten out of the habit. Time for a bit of a catch-up session…

 

Gangnam Style – the remake

September 29, 2012

Another September and another group of students begin A2 Media Studies. Now I don’t usually post any of our school projects up here but in this case I’m going to make an exception. The following video was storyboarded, filmed and edited in just 2 weeks. The students put in a huge amount of work and demonstrated a level of organisation and commitment that really bodes well for their own projects. Well impressed!!

 

Gangnam Style – Our re-boot from QEGS Media on Vimeo.

Was it really a good idea to book tickets for an outdoor concert slap in the middle of one of the wettest Junes on record? Probably not and as we approached Belton Park under grey skies and squally showers there was increasing trepidation that the forecast drier and brighter evening might not appear. We topped up the picnic basket with waterproofs and headed out towards the stage – was that a hint of brightness in the western sky? It appeared not as another squally shower whipped through, causing a flurry of umbrellas and coats like some sort of water repelling Mexican Wave.This turned out to be the last of the precipitation though and as the picnic hamper was cracked open the brightness was definitely there and growing.

The mighty Mr Minchin took to the stage with a full band and brass section just after 8.00pm and I do believe there was even a hint of (not very warm) sunshine by then.Don't call him ginger (unless you're ginger)

For the next 100 odd minutes we were treated to as much wit and intelligence as a body can sensibly deal with. From the self deprecating “Rock ‘n’ Roll Nerd” opener through the joys of Predjudice, Cont, If You Really Loved Me, Confession, Cheese and Darkside the time flew by. Inter-song banter was largely kept to a minimum so that we “can dance to keep warm” although the loony, purple haired heckler and the potential baby stealing woman did receive special attention from the stage.

All in all it was a truly outstanding night from one of the the wittiest performers out there and highly recommended if you get the opportunity.

Two Films

April 12, 2012

Two very different films fell in to the DVD player this week. Firstly…

The film KickAss could have been, but wasn’t. It’s really hard to describe this without talking about Kick Ass so I won’t even try. Frank loses everything, hallucinates and decides that fighting crime as The Crimson Bolt would be a good thing to do. He arms himself with a costume and a pipe-wrench and sets about the petty criminals in his home town. This leads to the eventual showdown with the kingpin, Jacques (played by Kevin Bacon – I like Kevin Bacon though I know not why) who also happens to be the guy who stole Frank’s wife (and his self-respect). Along the way he picks up a sidekick, Boltie (played by Ellen Page aka Juno) and a large dose of moral ambiguity. It all gets big and violent and rather messy as we have the inevitable fire fight and things don’t turn out quite the way you might expect them to. All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this although there were times when I wasn’t sure why. Give it a go; you might not know why you’re enjoying it too.

Next up the much hyped

STYLE

SUBSTANCE

: Film

Live in Lent

March 18, 2012

I like to go and see a bit of live music every now and again and usually manage about a dozen gigs a year but this year has seen a whole group of gigs in a short period of time. Whilst not all strictly in the Lent period they were close enough for me to get away with the snappy, alliterative title for this post.

First up was Horncastle’s very own Elliot Morris

I’ve followed Elliot’s assault on the music world with much interest over the last few years and try to get to see him when he’s playing locally. The gig at the Kind Bar in Lincoln was his ‘coming out of hibernation’ show and despite the technical difficulties was still enjoyable and it was nice to hear a couple of new tunes in amongst the familiar songs. His confidence as a performer continues to grow and I urge you to try and catch him if you can.

Next up was Big Boy Bloater, who I’d come across as the support act for Imelda May. His own tour took in some smaller venues, including The Hope Tavern near Market Rasen.

Again not everything was 100% – this time 3/4 of the Band were suffering from food poisoning but they still managed to put on a stirling, if slightly truncated, performance and the energy of a band going full bore in what was a rather small venue was awesome.

From a bit of swampy twang to a huge slab of blues rock. The Hamsters have long claimed the epithet “the hardest working band in the country” and have averaged over 180 gigs a year over the last 25 years. This show was towards the end of their farewell tour (which began over a year ago and included about 350 shows) and they are officially retiring on 1st April, 25 years after their first rehearsal. They are possibly the ultimate pub band and a mix of original material and Hendrix and ZZ Top covers is my idea of a good night out. Here they are doing one of my faves..

A couple of weeks later and it was off to Stamford Arts Centre to see Hazel O’Connor. A huge star in the early 80’s when she starred alongside Phil Daniels in the film Breaking Glass from which she also gathered a collection of hit singles including the sublime “Will You” and this little beauty

Her concerts these days are with a pianist and sax player and cover a 30 odd year career as well as covers of jazz standards. She is a great performer with a massively powerful voice which has lost non of its intensity over the years. The added bonus of this gig however was discovering a massive talent in her support act – Tensheds. Not, as you might expect, a band but just one, hugely talented, multi-instrumental guy. Not only that his songs are hugely catchy, possibly even more so in their stripped down one man format than their full recorded glory.

And if my own recommendation isn’t enough for you then Heather says that, “Crazy Beautiful is the best album since Damien Rice’s O”.

And there are still two more to go – Joe Bonamassa and Watermelon Slim are coming up in the next few weeks.

Update 1

Having got settled in to our seats in good time we settled back to see who would have the privilege of supporting Joe on this tour (last time we saw him it was the enormously  entertaining Sandi Thom) It was no surprise then when on the dot of 8.00 the lights went down and we could dimly make out figures coming on to the stage. It was, however, an enormous surprise when a single spot hit the central figure as the first notes of the night rang out and revealed the legend that is Joe Bonamassa at the start of what became a fantastic 2 1/2 hour set. There were many highs on the night – Sloe Gin, John Henry and new song Driving Towards the Light being amongst them – but my personal highlight was probably this tribute to the late Gary Moore

Update 2

Time to visit the Drill Hall in Lincoln for our final taste of live music for a while – the extraordinary Watermelon Slim. It’s difficult to know where to begin with this guy. He served in Vietnam, was wounded, learned to play lap slide guitar left-handed on a right handed guitar, joined the protest movement then spent most of his life as a truck driver or loader whilst playing his music, gaining two degrees and a masters and joining Mensa. He had a near fatal heart attack in his early fifties since when he has concentrated on his music, recorded five albums and garnered 17 Blues Music Awards nominations (including an unprecedented 12 in two years). The show was one of the most meandering, ramshackle evenings of music it’s ever been my pleasure to attend and if you ever see him playing somewhere near by I urge you to go – you won’t regret it.

Perrier’s Bounty

January 22, 2012

First things first. This is not a worthy, arty, sub-titled movie that requires full attention and a clear head to appreciate, but it is a cut above the average. The four leads all turn in good performances (although I’m not entirely sure where Jim Broadbent dragged that accent up from) which are in keeping with the tone of the film without going to the extremes of the likes of Lock, Stock.., Snatch etc.

It does, however, have a lot in common with those films along with In Bruges. The plot is almost classic farce; Cillian Murphy’s character is a bit of a wide boy who owes €1000 to Brendan Gleeson’s local gangster, the titular Perrier. His attempts to borrow the money from another loan shark in order to buy time lead him into a situation that rapidly begins to get out of hand, a situation only made worse by the intervention of his suicidal downstairs neighbour and his estranged father (who wants a reconciliation because he believes he will die the next time he goes to sleep). As events spiral out of control we are swept along on a blackly comic roller-coaster to the inevitable confrontation between the warring factions.

At a touch under 90 minutes the film is never in danger of out-staying its welcome and if character development is the price we pay for a rollicking tale then so be it – some sacrifices are worth making. Oh, and I love the way they manage to rip the mick out of the inevitable (yet blissfully short) mawkish funeral scene just before the end.

All in all a great Saturday night with a few mates and some beers film.

: Film