Thursday, 27 March 2008


Oh yes, awesome indeed. Just look at the setlist, as begged by me from the sound guy:

West Of The Fields FFS, off their first album! Ah, well, you probably won't understand why this was terribly exciting, but please just accept that it was. We were asked to have an audience vote on which of "the hits" we wanted.

Slightly strange choice of venue though, being as it was in a shop, so we were screaming and dancing amongst the shiny new demonstration Macs. Even more oddly, they didn't take out any of the display furniture, and so whilst I wasn't very far from the stage, and there really weren't many people in front of me, I spent the whole time stood immediately behind a large expanse of blond wood desk covered with highly covetable Apple technology.

I actually managed to smuggle in my good camera to this one, and so got some decent photos, mainly of Stipey as he stays still in a way that Mike and Peter don't seem to (which is a shame, as I'd rather take photos of them).

And we got interviewed by yet another newspaper afterwards, because obviously we are the most quotable-looking people in the fan club. All in all an amazing night, especially since it was a full hour-long set for free! It was being recorded for broadcast on XFM (at the weekend I think) and eventual sale on iTunes.

More reviews.

For those who were wondering, this was my fifteenth R.E.M. show (this site helped with the count), and I am now supremely depressed at having to wait until August for the next three shows to which I have tickets...

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Leaving New York, significantly easier than usual

I got back from my trip to NYC on Monday morning (I think, I'm not entirely sure what day or time the rest of me thought it was), having of course had a fantastic time, and there will be pictures and reviews over the next few days. So what, then, could have made me bound onto the plane with nary a glance backwards, pleased as Punch to be heading back to the UK?


That was last night's R.E.M. concert at the Royal Albert Hall, only the first of five times I'm due to see them this year - yes I am obsessed and I make no apology for it. Monday's show was to launch their new album, Accelerate, which is out next week, although, ahem, we of course would not be listening to copies leaked on the net now, would we, cough cough? Of course I'm still going to buy it, so they can't really complain. Thank god they appear to have made a decent rock album again after all the Around The Sun buggering about. I have been loyal all this time, in the face of much ribbing, on the basis that they've always been great live throughout, and finally they've returned to form. OK, it's not terribly groundbreaking, but rather that than another ATS.

So the concert was really fucking great and we were even interviewed by one of the Sunday papers afterwards, so my cheesily-grinning mug might be in there at the weekend. Oh yes, and Robyn Hitchcock with John Paul Jones was the support act, preceeded by The Foals and Duke Spirit. Here's Robyn performing with The Venus Three, ie half of R.E.M.:

But would that really have been enough to send me racing back to Newark with such enthusiasm?

Maybe, maybe not, but this certainly did:

A and I have fanclub tickets to a tiny little private show in the Apple store on Regent Street tomorrow night! Which is just about the most exciting thing ever. We had to go to Warner Bros' offices today, with ID, to be given our passes and wristbanded in advance so there's no chance of us selling the things (as if!) and we are now counting down until tomorrow night. So excited!

Serious amounts of back-blogging to be done as soon as I get a moment to myself, I promise.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Second socks finished!

Sing hurrah for my second pair of socks is finished!

These took slightly less time than the first pair, thankfully. I started them on my trip to Riga in mid-February, and finished them only a month later. That is and is likely to remain some kind of record for me. Oh, I know I was in the middle of the Tofutsies socks, but I wanted to try a new type of heel, the Sherman, and the Tofutsies ones are a different stitch count and I didn't feel brave enough to have to recalculate that for my first go.

The yarn is from Skein Queen on Etsy, who is a lovely seller from the New Forest, with excellent customer service and gorgeous yarn. I confess to having several skeins of her cashmere/silk just for stroking purposes. This merino sock yarn base is called "Divine" and it certainly is, being an absolute delight to knit. It glides through the hand and is not splitty at all. The colourway is "Clam" (not sure why) which is vibrant, jewel-toned blue, purple, pink and green. Just wonderful and even non-knitters have commented on it. My only sadness is that the colours did lose some of their vibrancy when knitted up - I think like quite a few variegated yarns it looks better in the skein.  Here's the skein versus another picture of the socks looking less vibrant:

But they're still pretty and I like them very much indeed.

For my last socks I made a list of items for improvement and I think I've nailed a fair few of these. I used 60 stitches again but on 2.75mm needles which has sorted out the slightly loose gauge and slightly too baggy problems. As mentioned above I used the Sherman heel, which for me was much faster than short-rowing once I'd got my head around the concepts involved, and really has nipped those holes in the bud. For the cast off I had my last round of 2x2 rib as kfb k1 pfb p1 before casting off normally but with a 4mm needle, which has made it lovely and stretchy. I think this will be my regular pattern for a plain sock from now on. I still have loads left over though, but better than running out. I still want sock blockers.  Oh, and I'm still absolutely devoted to toe-up!

Must knit more, one pair in a month is in no way going to dent that stash!

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Monday, 10 March 2008

Step aside, open wide, it's the loner...

How can you not love a song that starts with the lyrics, "He's a perfect stranger, like a cross of himself with a fox..."?

That is of course The Loner by the one and only Neil Young, who I was thrilled to see last night at the Hammersmith Apollo as an early birthday present from my daddy:

At a mind-boggling £75 a ticket (not that I was paying) we expected good things, but were wary given we'd endured the Greendale tour here. Thankfully this was a fantastic concert, pretty much a greatest hits set. He is the man, he really is.

Cameras were officially very much not allowed, but they had no objection to me taking shots before the show started. Here's the chaotic and colourful stage set, to which we will refer again later:

We were first treated to an hour long acoustic set, just Neil sat in a circle of eight guitars, reaching out to run his fingers across the necks of various ones between songs, making them "talk". There's a video of the epic Ambulance Blues here already, an amazing song which I'd never seen live. "You're all just pissing in the wind, you don't know it but you are..." There was also a crazy, pared down, spooky A Man Needs A Maid, and an ethereal, haunting Don't Let It Bring You Down, just stunning.

At the interval, off went Are-You-Ready-For-The Country Neil, and on came the Godfather of Grunge for an hour and a half of electric maelstrom. Nobody does this better, in my opinion. For no-one else would I tolerate, let alone enjoy, twelve minute long, extended, feedback drowned jams, but with Neil, well, it's Neil. He wrote the book on this stuff. It kicked off with The Loner, how awesome is that? Then a visceral Down By The River, Powderfinger and Hey Hey, My My (the song that Kurt Cobain quoted in his suicide note), another video of which is here (thanks marinade, whoever you are). Amazing.

The only disappointment for me was that we didn't get Cinnamon Girl (check out the 1991 audience!), a desert island disc for me, and played at several other shows on the tour. Oh well, can't have everything, can I? For anyone still interested, the set list is here.

Back to that stage set and a rather interesting concept. Did you see the painting in the background?

Neil had an artist, Eric Johnson, on stage throughout the whole show, painting these huge canvases, occasionally moving on to a new one, oblivious to the rest of the show. During the electric set, he would come to the front of the stage before each song, and reveal one of the giant canvases with the song name and a pictorial interpretation (as seen at the start of that Hey Hey, My My video). What a job, being able to create on stage during a rock concert every night. Wonder if he'd consider a knitter for his next tour?

Support was Neil's wife Pegi Young, who has just released her own album. It must be strange to be the wife of a rock star for so long, then suddenly take that leap to doing it yourself. She was reasonably good, she has a sweet voice and pretty songs, though perhaps uncharitably I don't think she got the support slot entirely on merit. But nice enough, and of course we all cheered her on.

Also did a spot of baking yesterday for yet another March birthday, this one for the lovely Anna of Rate My Cake. How nerve wracking, making a birthday cake for the Mistress Baker! I went with the chocolate sponge with peanut butter icing again, as it seems to go down very well, although seeing as I've made three on the trot now it might be my last for a little while. Happy birthday for tomorrow sweetie!

By the way, apologies for the lack of any knitting content lately. I have been knitting, I promise, it's just that I've been working on my giant green Clapotis and I don't think you'd be too interested in a big emerald quadrangle of slowly changing dimensions until it's done. Which will be soon, I hope, as the boyfriend is referring to it as my "death shroud" now.

Sunday, 9 March 2008


March seems to be the birthday month around here. This weekend was devoted to revelries for A, who has already had my early birthday present to him, so all that was required was to dress up, turn up, get drunk and wave a camera around. For such things, I'm your girl.

We started out at The King's Arms in Bermondsey, a gastropub bedecked with lampshades of all descriptions, gourmet burgers a speciality. Being a purist, I only had caremelised onion on mine whilst the others chowed down on Welsh rarebit or goat's cheese. Thoroughly excellent, pink and juicy with big fat chips. A couple of pints of Guinness were "accidentally" consumed here too.

Stomachs thus lined, we were off to Shunt just down the road, refurbished and reopened since your correspondent last went. Couldn't see much difference on the inside except one slightly bigger area - how this justifies that it now costs £10 to get in rather than £5, I don't know. Still, as ever, it was pleasantly surreal and most excellent fun.

The main act of the evening was a talk called The Ethics of Progress, a dreadful mishmash of quantum mechanics, teleportation and blatant unscientific scaremongering, presented by an actor, not a scientist. I didn't actually attend, thank the electron - given my field of research before quitting science for the City (aka show me the money) was quantum physics, and given how utterly wrong this guy apparently was, I don't think I could have stopped myself from heckling. If I may quote from the boyfriend's review (he actually did go to the talk):

"The title focuses on ethics, and we wait and wait and wait and this discussion never comes. After the science comes the scaremongering, the alarmist view that teleportation, quantum computers and other 'science-fact' technologies will create significant problems for society rather than just be used for humanity's gain. Rather than presenting the pros and cons together, the pros are glossed over in an almost sarcastic fashion leaving plenty of time for a lowering of voice and theatrical musings on how teleportation machines will be used to make people disappear for political gain. This is irresponsible presentation, clearly done for theatric effect away from public debate and disconnected with the reality that human beings do not need massive super computers or teleportation devices to commit genocide or subvert people's human rights."

I would have become quite irate.  I was far happier installed on our table drinking copious amounts of red wine (£10 a bottle, bargain):

And mucking about with the white balance and flash on my camera, which gave this interestingly blue-toned portrait:

The group included my fellow R.E.M.-fanatics, and we were rather overenthusiastic about the upcoming tour. Clinking of glasses and beer bottles in a hearty toast to forthcoming screaming fandom activities resulted in severe damage to my drink. Cheers guys!

Finally, pretty much the epitome of Shunt is that, when you go to the loo, you are glared at by a huge fibreglass hammerhead shark hanging over the unisex stalls:

Which leads us to refer to bathroom activities not as "powdering one's nose", but rather with a cry of, "Stop! Hammertime!"

Thursday, 6 March 2008


No, I'm not being rude to you. We've just got back from a gig/party with the amusingly-acronymed Southern Tenant Folk Union, to launch their second album, Revivals, Rituals & Union Songs, at The King and Queen in Fitzrovia.  Apparently Bob Dylan played here once.

Ah, country music, something, along with folk, to strike fear into the hearts of trendies everywhere. God forbid we cool kids should listen to anything with a banjo! Well sorry, clearly I'm only masquerading as a hip young thing, as I'm very partial to such things, from time to time. Good examples of what I really like are Uncle TupeloWilco, Vigilantes of Love, Emmylou Harris and of course Gram Parsons. Music with heart and an emphasis on brilliant musicianship. Whyever is this not cool?

STFU are a thoroughly good example of the kind of music that should be heard live. Not that they're bad on record, not at all, but this kind of thing is meant to be played in the upstairs room of a pub to a crowd of enthusiasts with access to good beer, better still candlelit as tonight's show was. They're a six piece, as you can see in this rather poor photo (candles being excellent for ambience but a bugger for photography):

This gives a line-up of harmonica, two guitars, a banjo, a mandolin, a double bass and our lovely contact Fran on violin (or is it "fiddle" in such circles?), and a variety of people on singing duty. They have an incredible warmth to their sound, and are really good songwriters. To hear them play, you wouldn't think they weren't authentic down-home country boys (and girl) from the good ol' US of A. Isn't it funny how people don't seem to have regional accents when they sing?

But no, I don't like Shania Twain, who is quite possibly the devil incarnate.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Warp Factor Ten

It's the most lovely Lotta's birthday today, many happy returns sweetie! To celebrate on Saturday night, she chose A Warped Variety Show, a production at a church hall, of all places, in Clerkenwell. We weren't sure what to expect from this at all, other than that there was likely to be a bit of burlesque, and that dressing up was generally A Good Thing. Excellent.

What we found was a tiny hall, seating around fifty people on little tables by a micro stage. People in costumes from every conceivable era drifted in, and that was just the audience. Much wine was quaffed on our table even before the acts started. Hilarity was bound to ensue.

The show itself was rather odd - our compere introduced acts and audience-participation games in the guise of a journey through time, which was only mildly funny and at times rather lame. The acts were great: a whip-cracking Wild West cowgirl act, a 1920's burlesque strip from Miss Polly Rae, a 1950's hula hoop display, an 80's-tastic magic show and an incredible futuristic ball balancing act with robot dancing (apparently it's called contact juggling - it's what David Bowie does via juggler Michael Moschen all through Labyrinth, but there's better footage here). But like so many of these shows they didn't give the acts long enough, and so there was a bit too much of the compere and his competitions to win champagne by making the audience do silly things - it was so like The Generation Game that we kept expecting Bruce Forsyth to jump out with a cuddly toy. Most amusing nevertheless, and we got the chance afterwards to bust our killer moves on the stage, in our killer costumes. Here's me in my corset and electric-blue chiffon getup, narrowly avoiding "wardrobe malfunction", with Anna in a top hat stolen from the boyfriend, and Ting in her fab knitted fascinator (photo unashamedly nicked from Lotta):

Party animals that we are, the boyfriend and I then headed on to Camden to a house party. It not being a fancy dress party, the reaction of the other guests when we flounced in dressed for burlesque was priceless. Jaws dropped. Well, it needed livening up. Suffice to say it was a very late night followed by the horrors of getting any kind of public transport back from Camden on a Saturday night. Eventually some random strangers enquired as to our direction and proposed sharing a cab with us, which worked out well in the end. Nasty hangover though.  A little worse for wear by this photo (nicked from party hostess C1, C2 resting her head on my ample bosom, the boyfriend doesn't mind):

P.S. Spaff the cat is still here - after visiting the vet this evening we've discovered he's not microchipped. Why do people not do this? Next stop is putting up posters and contacting whatever animal charities have lost and found registers. Poor little kitty. Still, he's happily asleep on my feet at the moment so he certainly seems contented enough right now.