Monday, 24 December 2012

Vic.ism Part 3 Glasgow and London

As I've said before I love visiting Scotland and the reception is always amazing but up until this trip I will admit to an Edinburgh bias for all sorts of reasons but that all changed this time.After the delays from Newcastle to Edinburgh it was a relief to see the shuttle to Glasgow was running to schedule and one ready and waiting so we hopped aboard, however Sect lore decrees that no travel experience goes without a hitch so inevitably we were delayed- police were called aboard to deal with an 'incident', I think removing a reluctant inebriate. 15 mins later we're on our way,journey's end in sight, joined at Falkirk High by a friendly hen party, champagne flowing and the infectious Glasgow vibe starts to kick in. It was getting dark when we arrived at Queen Street, wind a tad biting but braved it to walk to the hotel on Jamaica Street. It was the first time I'd stayed IN Glasgow, usually stay near Anniesland at the Pond (recommended, especially for twitchers, but check first for weddings, one stay the bride was late and a piper played the same piece over and over for about an hour) and the streets were buzzing with activity. There is definitely something in the air here.
Stayed at the Jurys Inn and if you are not a smoker you may not care or appreciate the utter joy on opening the room door and seeing an ASH TRAY on a table by the window ( did ask for a smoking room when booking but didn't ask at check in as usually disappointed), no braving the elements to have a fag, luxury as far as I'm concerned (helpful staff,comfy and clean also v important, all present here, def stay again). Some might be put off by having Central Station about 30 feet from the window but it was a home from home and enjoyably surreal watching the trains pull slowly out from the platforms THAT close. Stereo is literally round the corner and as leaving from Central, add staying 2 nights and it was pretty perfect all round. Not having to think about repacking before unpacking, worry about next day's check out time, etc, all contributing to the growing sense of well being. First order of business- real milk, Vic can't abide uht, so off to lidl, conveniently just over the road. As he waited in the queue to pay someone tapped him on the shoulder, he thought he was going to be accused of pushing in but no it was a fan just saying hello and that he'd be at the gig later, that's what it is like here. No sound check so could chill for a while, then 5 min walk to Stereo for the Sounds in the Suburbs gig, which are always goodies thanks to Alan and the first vic.ism event in it's spiritual home. Stereo is a great venue in a Rennie Mackintosh designed building, previously home to the Daily Record Glasgow. Bar and veggie restaurant on ground level and music venue underneath. Starving and having rejected the 2 options on offer, weren't appealing on a cold night, so said hellos, dropped off merch and went in search of sustenance, not proud to admit chose a chain burger establishment but hit the spot and was nearby, after all the forecast was for snow. Back in time to set up merch near the stage* and catch Thee Potato Four's set, love their rendition of Pretty Thing, Lee M literally lending Mark B a hand to hold the lyrics for him on stage. Their debut has in deed been impressive and their 7" single Living in the past was doing a brisk trade.
The Sexual Objects played a blinder and by the time Vic and Sobs took to the stage it was packed, with a growing sense of anticipation that this was a memorable gig to be at. The atmosphere was- just all smiles. *After the first number I relocated to the entrance lobby so didn't hear a lot of the rest of the set (think Vic might have thought I'd been spirited away, he didn't see me move and then I seemingly disappeared, may have added a certain frisson to his performance), but heard snatches and got updates as people came and went to the loo, stopping for a brief chat but keen not to miss anything and get back to the action. Thanks to Lee and Tracey we've got the videos and recording. The general consensus was that this was probably Vic's best gig in Scotland so far, and the mutual 'lurve' filled the air. I can't define exactly what it is, you've got to be there and feel it. Back to the hotel, a feeling of well being, wrapped in a metaphoric Glasgow hug of loveliness, even the Arbroath fans in the next room one of whom serenaded us for a while in the early hours didn't spoil the mood and actually slept like a log.
Sunday 2nd December- so nice to have a lie in, missed breakfast, didn't mind, had some decent coffee with me, always do. No rush for anything today, it's all about the laid back vibe, looking forward to the Tea Party do at the Poetry Club. Got there at 1pmish, another great little venue, met some new people including Andy Alston, he and Vic only got to run through the Jazz numbers once, so fingers crossed, and James Kirk, honoured he came out to play with Vic, Andy, Douglas, Davy and Simon, making it even more of an event-fitting that Vic did Holiday Hymn. Once the doors opened the space filled up pretty quickly, standing room only and a different demographic to the average gig, a really good mixture, including sprogs, impressed to see they start music appreciation so young. First up Davy, Douglas and Graham doing a Sobs acoustic set, their harmonies really are fantastic. Then it was Vic and Andy's turn- loved hearing Vic sing the jazz numbers, it's been a while and the VU numbers went down a treat.
Photograph by Barry McLuskie. I think everyone involved wants to do it again. We caught the bus from the PC back to the throbbing metropolis, invited for dinner with Stephen and Katrina and friends(Monorail)before Pierrot Le Fou,much appreciated.
It has been a buzz to have been able to socialise on this trip, there's not normally time or opportunity. GFT very comfy cinema, they really do the arts well here, seems a hot bed of creativity and energy of all sorts. I admit I kept falling asleep during PLF, personally think it is stretching pretension to it's limits, a lot of 'cool' posing though. Q&A with Stephen P could have been livelier, not many questions for Vic to answer, though Stephen did his best, it was the first shy Glaswegians I've come across! I was going to offer some questions but it was being filmed so kept incognito.Photograph by Tracey Holloway.
Finished off with drinks in the pub and then tired and happy back to the hotel. Great Day All Round. Love and Thanks to everyone for the welcome. Didn't want to leave and decided could definitely live in Glasgow, can't pin it down, people mostly, but would suit Gertie. Left Glasgow wanting more of Vic and the Sobs, can't wait for friday for Symptomatic presents. Week sped by with a mountain of washing, etc and 'catching up' on all things lap top. Comme d'habitude come Friday things didn't quite go to plan. Vic and the Sobs were hoping to record a couple of songs at Edwyn's studio in the day but illness intervened and put paid to that so they rehearsed there instead, except Vic didn't have a working mic, lost without Seb's expertise. Still all sounding good. Straight from there to the BA, Mat and Jon from Symptomatic always good hosts. Sound check then dinner at the Italian restaurant opposite,The Spaghetti House, freshly cooked food, my crab and linguine was delicious, can't recommend highly enough, no license but offie next door. Decided to have a Xmas shop at the Boston Arms so took all peripheral merch don't normally take including tote bags/note books/pads/pens/keyrings, it being the end of vic.ism and the last Vic gig of the year so there was quite a display. Many thanks to Jeanette for caretaking while I was eating. It was another superb night, probably the best set they've done as the last in the series. Vic set the night's mood by surprising us all with unexpected(not really sure why I was surprised at V doing the unexpected on stage) by reading from A Song from Egyptian Nights by Pushkin over a Sob's instrumental, certainly caused a ripple, of what I'm not sure, anticipation of what was to follow perhaps. Photographs by Alistair McKay
And it was a hugely enjoyable night, went home buzzing again. A bit sad saying farewells to the Sobs after but what a great way to end the gigging year and plans are afoot for more of the same, roll on 2013.

Monday, 17 December 2012

So Goodbye to Manchester and on the train to Newcastle via York, mildly uneasy- still delays on York to Newcastle line due to the recent deluges but fingers crossed. There were significant delays in York and freeeeezing, ho hum. Delays meant Vic had to go straight to rehearse at the S+S while I checked in. Stayed at the Staybridge Aparthotel, great position, staff and view of the Tyne and bridges. Downside? It was hermetically sealed, and I can't be doing without fresh air, so although I wouldn't stay again if you don't mind air conditioning I would recommend.
Mixed feelings about this one and turned out a bit of a roller coaster of highs and lows, energising, inspiring and deflating. I was on a personal pilgrimage and had an emotionally charged mission to carry out in Newcastle as well as being there in the Vic 'management' (ha ha) capacity for Vic.ism at the Star and Shadow. I have close ties here, my dear sorely missed Pa, Charles, was born and brought up in Hetton-le-Hole, he played cricket for Durham at the Riverside, Chester-le-Street (earlier this year it took 6 and a half hours getting here on the way home from Dundee-ended up near Carlisle at one stage-still got to see a lot of countryside and villages probably wouldn't have visited otherwise) was scouted by Sunderland FC (his mother wouldn't hear of it as he was destined to study medicine at Edinburgh University and be a dedicated and much loved GP, retiring at 79) and he was a life long Newcastle supporter. Always looked forward to the many holidays spent with my grandparents Gertie and George and all the aunties and uncles and the places Easington, Easington Lane, Seaham, Peterlee, of course Durham, many more. Anyway I've kept relics in my bag since May, planning to leave them in places important to Charles and here in Newcastle I planned to make an offering to the river gods of the Tyne on his behalf. So while the lads were rehearsing I took the opportunity to go down to the Quayside. I walked towards the least inhabited stretch, where it was darker and mist rose over the river, the lights from Gateshead and the Tyne Bridges receding and it being so bloody nippy there weren't many people about anyway-luckily- had been a bit concerned that any passers by might think I was going to hurl myself in as I was blubbing a bit and as as soon as I had said my piece and thrown my offering in I was a bit of a wreck. Glad I did it and was on my tod as had time to recover the equilibrium, though the melancholy mood lingered on.
Had to get back on track, it was a short rehearsal/soundcheck a lot to fit in- as well as Vic and the Sobs, there was Pauline Murray and Thee Potato Four. Time for the 'hunt for food' quest. In fact after a short parky fruitless stroll back along the Quayside (Pitcher and Piano was full) had a delicious meal practically opposite the Staybridge at Dadyal 2 Howard Street-highly recommended,rarely eat well on gig days but this was an exception. Sufficiently sated and mood lifting so headed to S+S, great venue and Michael Clunkie always a convivial host, hope to get the Catalan doc on there next year. Was a bit late and missed Pauline M and TPF but heard they were much appreciated but the Sobs and Vic/Sobs were a revelation, up there as one of the very best gigs I've been to. The sound was exactly right and the atmosphere buzzing, Vic and the Sobs were obviously enjoying themselves immensely and it showed with Vic, Davy, Douglas, Graham and Simon sparking off each other. It looked like Vic felt right at home with them and vice versa, great performance- I mean look what it did to them- (Photo courtesy of Susan Mowatt)
The deflating part? Merch on small table, most of t shirts (all except 5)on said table on or in suitcase on chair- glass of red wine-bag knocks glass-wine sprays over table and open suitcase-tears before bed time!!
Fun at the station next morning on the way to GLASGOW. Apart from the cold and ongoing delays had a surreal 'conversation'? with a man working in the info office. Had lots of tickets and like to be sure that it's the right one for the right journey, these looked a bit confusing to me (I know, I know), anyway my question was 'Do the tickets mean a change in Edinburgh' simple yes or no was the expectation but noooo. His response 'Are you from Newcastle or Glasgow?' Me 'Neither, London' Him 'Where in London?' Me, Confused 'South West' Him 'And what underground line do you use?' Me, more confused, starting to worry about time ' District' Him 'And what stop do you get off at? Me, baffled 'it depends where I'm going' Him,dogged 'What is the final destination on the front of the train?' Me, losing will to live 'It varies and depends on direction' Him, persistent 'What destination does it have on your ticket?' Me, I've got you now 'None I use and Oyster card' This seemed to stop the flow and so, none the wiser, took the opportunity to flee, asked the same question of an East Coast employee on a platform who answered with a simple comforting yes. Train was already about an hour or so late and like nearly everyone else was anxiously scanning the board hoping for a platform and actual arrival time. Eventually the train arrival and platform were announced and hordes descended on the ANNOUNCED platform. We all watch as a train arrives on the opposite platform and then panic sets in as we all realise they have announced the wrong platform. Mass surge towards footbridge, and a race for the train on the verge of departing. Made it, though anyone infirm, with a lot of baggage or small children wouldn't have stood a chance. It was full and the odd squabble about reservations- 3 trains into one but generally very good natured crowd,glad to be aboard. Goodbye Newcastle, can't wait to come back. If you were there you know what I mean if not here are some videos courtesy of Lee McFadden/Tracey Holloway and the Star and Shadow to give you an idea of what you missed: Photo by David Hall

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Vic & The Sexual Objects-Blown Away & Still Smiling

I've been to 20 odd Subway Sect gigs in the last 12 months and there are personal favourites which have been tempered by several factors, things like this-
take it down a rung or two but easy gigs, ie great promoter, little to organise, everybody happy and everything going more or less to plan then the mood rises.
Getting lost at least once is mandatory and acceptable- if only the lighter thing in the car worked we could have a sat nav as it is we often have to rely on that antiquated method of finding your way-map reading, I can testify it is a skill fast dying out. Crowd size doesn't matter whereas crowd response is a definite mood enhancer. Oddly enough band performance doesn't generally come in to it as I don't remember any line up produce anything other than a crowd pleasing performance and it's the crowd who make the atmosphere that the band respond to but, I do think there have been some outstanding ones but that's subjective. So based on a combination of some, all or none of the above these are a few favs-
Two Spinning Chilli gigs in Brighton- their John Peel Night 29/10/2011, the 5 piece Sect's second gig with the 2 Paul's joining stalwarts Kevin Younger and Mark Braby to bring a real Northern Soul vibe to the party together with a great bill with Piranhas 3D, The Fallen Leaves, The Shapes (acoustic) & DJ Ian Part Time and the Green Door Store gig on 30/06/2012 with the 4 piece Sect, Yusuf B'layachi on bass and legendary I, Ludicrous on the bill. The trip to Scotland trip in March this year for Sounds in the Suburbs with gigs at the Accies Glasgow(my personal favourite) and the Voodoo Rooms (wins prize for most surreal gig ever) Edinburgh 23/24th March and Beat Generator Live!Dundee on 25th , in fact external factors notwithstanding I enjoy just being in Scotland, so I'm a bit prejudiced about my choices and Alan Suburb always comes up trumps.
BUT I'm not being prejudiced when I tell you how thoroughly enjoyable Vic.ism with the Sexual Objects has been and what a great way to end the musical year. Although still smiling I feel a bit wistful now that it's over, not the way I would normally feel after 5 gigs. It was great having Lee McFadden and Tracey Holloway along for all the dates to keep the 'records' and Mark Braby and Ian Holford's new group Thee Potato Four played three nights. There wasn't much to organise and there was just so much lurve. Thursday 29th November- Letting the train take the strain meant it was a comfy chilled trip to Manchester. Love the public transport system there particularly the tram system, so easy and so cheap to use compared to London , and they're extending it. The 'accommodation' was ok, not quite meeting expectation, had to pay cash up front which was a little peculiar, wouldn't stay again and wouldn't recommend so won't name, it might suit someone else. I didn't expect to be reminded of Coimbra Portugal, stayed near a prison there, where they woke the inmates (and anyone else asleep near by)at the crack of dawn with a klaxon and a stentorian voice booming through loudspeakers, and what does Manchester have in common? The Arndale Centre which did a fair imitation at about 8AM- what is that about? Vic had to shoot off (ok, he didn't shoot off, tea first) to rehearse with the Sobs and then go straight on to the Marc Riley session, my favourite number was Oh Alright Go On Then, recorded with Mates Mates in Vic, out as 7" with Castalasnas and Whip Rules on Famelic Records 1st February, download from 15th January.(Possibly already mentioned this)
The gig at Gulliver's went by in a bit of a blur, more like flashbacks, nice one's mostly, rather than a continuous stream of consciousness. I can only put this down to- I hadn't eaten much all day, perhaps distracted by the unexpected ligger alert, first night nerves/relief that the session sounded sooo good as Vic and the Sobs had had such a little time to practise, then again we are talking about the Sexual Objects- Davy Henderson, Douglas MacIntyre, Graham Wann, Ian Holford and Simon Smeeton. Each time I hear them I'm reminded just what an intuitive, tight unit they are-wall of sound.
I met quite a few people but names are not my strong point but I do remember Andrew of course (he of the website,the striking posters AND the designer of the soon to be released 7" on Aed Records- Caught in Mid-Stream and You Bring Out the Demon in Me, probably January), Steve Shy who organised the nights festivities, Cath Bore (her photo above) and Chris from Kill Pretty.I remember thinking how good TPF and the Sobs were but can't recall Vic and Sobs set. Any photographs of the night would be most welcome. It's lucky there are videos.Vic wrote Outrageous Things with Matthew Ashman:
Friday 30th November- Weather deteriorating as wending North Eastwards to Newcastle via York-the tickets were so much cheaper changing in York than going direct, there to join the Manchester train that left 20 minutes after mine-does this make any sense??? There was significant delay between York and Newcastle. Part 2 TO FOLLOW.