Friday, 13 June 2008

Make Interviews Fair

Short-tempered punk revolutionary, Chris Martin, has walked out of a Radio 4 interview stating "[I'm] not really enjoying this" before adding that he doesn't really like "having to talk about things".

Perhaps somebody at the Beeb should have explained the premise of an interview before asking Chris questions about "things".

Martin, baritenor vocalist for background-hum-terrorists Coldplay, accused the interviewer of "journalistically twisting" things when he suggested the singer had a lyrical obsession with death.

This kind of underhand journalism is simply not acceptable. Particularly from Radio 4.

I want answers, and I want them to be delivered by an aging but well-hung Irishman.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Bianca Bohl, Cobden Club, Monday February 25

The Grand Hall of the Cobden Club in Ladbroke Grove looks more like a film location than the usual sticky-floored dive that most gig-goers are used to.

This is probably appropriate for Westminster student, Bianca Bohl and her 6-piece band.

Bohl's ensemble fill the high ceilinged hall of this private members club with sumptuous music fit for the cinema.

Audience members, numbering around 100 are drawn to the candle lit, leather furnished areas set back from the stage.

This creates an awkward gap between the crowd and the band.

You can tell the German front-woman feels this distance when she says, “I feel like a reverend up here”.

Her black necktie on white shirt and wide brimmed Stetson hat do nothing to dispel the image of a Southern preacher and nor do biblical lyrics such as, “change your ways and repent”.

Pinning down the Bianca Bohl sound is a difficult task but the array of instruments employed by the band may go some way to explaining their expansive music.

Piano, trumpet, trombone, cello, violin, slide guitar and the more traditional drums, bass and guitar all featured here.

It takes a fine touch to blend this many sounds and musicians without muddying the waters and the classically trained Bohl has this touch, with each element of the music giving something extra to the overall sound.

Bohl's voice has a sweetness and range which comes into its own as she hits the higher notes.

Parts of the gig are quiet enough to hear a pin drop, while others are loud and almost rabble rousing like the gypsy-esque ending, reminiscent of Gogol Bordello.

The sound swells from the quiet to the loud effortlessly, as if this tight band is being conducted.

Their togetherness bridges the physical gap between the musicians and the crowd, who offer rapturous applause at the end of the performance.

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Friday, 15 February 2008

I love Valentine's day... honest!

Valentine’s Day makes me sick, I just wish I’d kept that to myself and not told the girlfriend.

If you were out on Thursday night, I’m sure you all saw it – supposedly lovesick couples, fawning over each other everywhere you turned.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not averse to public displays of affection and have been prone to wretch-inducing behaviour myself.

What really gets my back up though is that you never normally see widespread smooching and hand holding apart from on Valentine’s Day.

I cannot believe that the stars and the moon coincidentally line up each year on February 14, supernaturally creating a desperate need for people to declare their undying love to the nearest person who will listen.

Social convention and the wide availability of oversized teddy bears have the remarkable ability to squeeze love from cold-hearted human stones.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not averse to public displays of affection and have been prone to wretch-inducing behaviour myself.

What really gets my back up though is that you never normally see widespread smooching and hand holding apart from on Valentine’s Day.

Suddenly everyone is gazing into each other’s eyes like opticians on ecstasy.

If you feel similarly to me I only pray that you were wise enough to bottle it all up inside and buy the goddamn roses.

Apparently, girls don’t get such a kick out of Valentine’s Day when their boyfriend keeps telling them what a ridiculous concept it is in the weeks leading up to February 14.

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Thursday, 7 February 2008

Theoretical Girl and The Equations, White Heat, 7/2/08

If a friend who has been playing a musical instrument for 6 months invites you to see their first gig, it is reasonable to assume that you will lie to them when they ask what you thought of the performance.

On Tuesday night I went to a club in Soho expecting to find about 15 to 20 friends and family waiting to see their loved ones make offensive noises in a newly formed band.

When I got to Madame JoJo's however, I was to discover a thronging club, full of achingly cool scenesters, hanging around for the music to begin.

What is more, I find out that my friend's band are headlining the popular White Heat night.

A few weeks ago somebody asked the friend how she was progressing on the bass guitar.

She said, "not bad but I can't play it standing up yet".

Now, here she is, about to perform a gig to about 250 people with a bunch of musicians she met a week ago.

The band in question are called Theoretical Girl and The Equations.

My girlfriend and I were more nervous than Julianna, praying that she wouldn't fuck up.

Once I overcame that, I found myself really enjoying what are a great girl group with a really engaging front woman.

Her between-song reparte was charming and funny.

Next week they are appearing on Mark Riley's BBC 6 music radio show and they have an Italian tour in April.

They got a 4 star review in The Guardian AND, they even have a roadie!

Some people make me sick.

The upshot of all this was that I didn't have to lie when asked what I thought of her performance.

I can't wait to see them again now.

This blog can also be found at The Word From Westminster

Wednesday, 30 January 2008


Everybody gather round and share in the delights of Foundphotos - a collection of accidentally brilliant images.

The photos are collected (or stolen as far as I can make out) from all over the world.

Users of file sharing websites for downloading music, often make their photo albums publicly available, along with their collection of rare Britney b-sides.

This seems to be an unintentional oversight by the users but the guy who runs Foundphotos has exploited people's carelessness to raid their albums for photographic gems.

All for a good cause though as the results are hypnotisingly good.

I have lost many an hour scrolling through this collection of pictures that bear comparison to a family photo album.

Not like your family or my family but like some kind of experimental family - a failed experiment of a family, full of freaks.

What I'm getting at is that some of the pictures are the kind of mundane thing you'd expect to see in an unimaginative, family photo album.

Somehow, the guy that compiled the website manages to see beauty or character or something fascinating in images that would otherwise be uninspiring if you were rifling through the collection that they were originally taken from.

This is why I think they are accidentally brilliant.

Rather than listen to me prattling on about it, why don't you just go and check out Foundphotos.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Press conferences

This week, my work placement at GP newspaper has given me a great insight into how the big media cogs turn as they churn out the news.

On Tuesday, I visited NICE offices in Holborn for a press conference.

That sentence is a little misleading because although the offices were indeed very nice, it is actually an acronym for the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (or the National institute for Curbing Expenditure as a cynical doctor once told me).

As GP goes to press on Tuesdays, I was sent out as the lone reporter to cover the story *gulp*.

Among the journos gathered were reporters from The Times, The Guardian, two from the BBC and er, one from The Daily Express.

When we were given the opportunity to ask questions, David Rose from The Times put his hand up quicker than me and said what I was going to say.

I felt like the nerdy kid trying to impress teacher and getting all bitter because someone else got in there first - particularly as they kept saying what a good question it was.

Cut throat stuff.

The next day I went to the Department of Health for a big announcement on tackling obesity.

(Tackling obesity - much easier than tackling skinny)

All the same faces from the previous day's press conference were there and it made me feel part of a community - albeit, one a bit like facebook where you have a passing recognition of the people there, can publicly see what they've written and avoid communicating with them in real life.

Two cabinet ministers, Alan Johnson and Ed Balls conducted the briefing.

According to my colleague from GP, it was quite a boring one as far as these things go.

In terms of seeing how the media operates though, there were a number of things I found interesting.

Firstly, the press are cynical bastards and rightly so.

An amusing situation arises whereby the media and the politicians take up these polar opposite roles.

Media-trained politicians try to answer questions with a breezy charm while the po-faced hacks get all angry cutting through the bullshit eminating from our country's leaders.

I think I'm still at the naive stage where I think the people at the front are actually trying to make a difference.

Secondly, cabinet members have some pretty impressive staff buzzing around them.

As soon as somebody asks a difficult question the guys at the front fob off the journalist with meaningless dirge, while the staff at the back start scurrying around looking for the answer.

Within a minute, somebody's hand goes up and you get a "would you like me to field that one minister?"

I want people like that for my exams.

Lastly, it's quite odd seeing what major point the papers pick out from the press conference and decide is the news.

Today's papers mostly said stuff like "fatties are to get paid to lose weight".

Alan Johnson said in the press conference that cash incentives for weight loss are a tiny part of a huge strategy on obesity but that's what the papers ran with.

Politicians and journalists both have their own agendas.

This makes it very difficult to understand the truth behind stuff being pumped out of the big, weird news machine.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Mark Everett of Eels, St. James' Church, Picadilly. 17/1/08

Warning - Drunk blog.

Thursday is my blog day at TWFW Towers and the whip-cracking mafiosi in charge are on my back for results.

Sadly, it is beyond the witching hour and I'm already 26 minutes past deadline.

A digit is sliced from our hand for every minute that passes without copy on the news desk.

I'm a cunning one though and I bought a family pack of Cadbury's fingers which I've surreptitiously blu-tacked to my arm, giving me precious extra minutes.

Having finished the day at GP magazine, where I'm currently doing work experience, I made my way down to the Ferrari-lined streets of London's Mayfair this evening.

I was going to a gig at St. James' Church on Picadilly, held in aid of Mark Everett's book launch.

Mark Everett, or 'E' as he is also known, has just released his autobiography and the price of a ticket to tonight's gig entitled the holder to a free copy of the book.

Pete Townshend's 'ead and Mark 'E' Everett

My brother and I took our place on the upper tier of the venue, which is still very much a functioning church.

Standing next to us was Alex James, of Blur fame.

Having acquired the signature of Graham Coxon for my girlfriend, after interviewing him a couple of summers ago, I thought it would be nice if I got another Blur autograph for her to add to the collection.

He was most obliging and scribbled a little note with no fuss.

E arrived on stage shortly afterwards, wearing his Sunday-best boiler suit.

I'm a big Eels fan but I have to say that the first few songs struggled to fill the space as he chipped at the guitar, alone on stage.

It was perfectly nice but when has that ever been a fitting description for a rock star?

As this was partly a book launch, E stepped up to the pulpit after his first few tunes and declared that it would be too pretentious to read from the book himself.

He then invited somebody from the audience to come up and read a section from the autobiography.

For those unfamiliar with Mark Everett, he's had a pretty unfortunate time of things and not like, in and emo way, yeah!

His genius father toppped himself, followed by his sister and then his cousin was on the plane that hit the Pentagon on 9/11.

Tonight E said that if he believed in curses, that plane would have hit the very office that his father used to work in when he was employed at the Pentagon.

Anyway, the first guy that came up to read was enthusiastic but bless him, couldn't quite convey the gravitas of the subject matter.

He frequently stopped to re-read parts and continuously apologised for his short-comings.

Somehow though, this seemed to add extra poignancy as he read out the circumstances behind E's sister's first suicide attempt, in his flat, monotone style (not in a pretentious way though, yeah).

The performance was a lot more engaging for having these very personal anecdotes read to the audience between songs.

Mr. Everett performed a lot of songs on the piano, which I think worked better without his backing band.

As he looked for a final reader to come on stage and deliver a passage from the book, a 'Pete' volunteered himself from the side of the church.

It turned out that 'Pete' was indeed Pete Townshend from The Who.

Shortly after this final anecdote, which involved E coming face-to-face with a vegetarian mountain lion, the performance came to a close.

All in all, a lovely evening in London's glittering West End.

Sometimes I feel very lucky to live where I do. (Mostly when I'm drunk and not stuck on the wrong side of town facing tube strikes caused by mercenary bastards)

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