Sunday, 31 August 2014

28/3/2012 A good day out in ol' London Town.

SubjectA good day out in ol' London Town.
DateCreated3/29/2012 6:49:00 PM
PostedDate3/30/2012 12:26:00 AM

Today I pretend to be a tourist. Here's some scenery seen from the train on my trip into town - Alexandra Palace towering over North London. A place with some history of it's own.

I've been meaning to visit Tate Modern for ages. Although art was my best subject at school, I've never actually been that interested in 'art' and haven't practiced it in any form (if you don't count music) since studying for A Level Art at Southgate Tec - I never took the exam. However, seeing various things about Tate Modern on TV since it opened has sparked my interest in paying a visit. It also happens to be FREE - and there isn't much in London for free these days, although most of the museums are free again now. I expect the government will put a stop to that again sooner or later as they don't seem to consider education being very important and certainly not something which should be free.

Although it's March and still winter, the weather has been unseasonably warm the last few days - it's T-shirt weather in London and too nice not to take advantage of.
Although my destination is south of the river (if only by a few yards) it takes by less than an hour to get there - well it would have done if I wasn't so fascinated by the 'new' Millenium Bridge.

I suppose it's actually been there about 12 years, but this is the first time I have actually seen it. Fortunately it's been fixed since they opened it and it turned out to be a bit wobbley 'cos the designers got their sums wrong!
This modern pedestrian only bridge is rather an amazing piece of engineering - although you can still feel it moving about slightly since they 'fixed' it, and tourists suitcases with those tiny wheels on can make a loud and really horrible noise on the metal decking!
It does provide some wonderful views, and in today's glorious weather I find myself loitering for quite some time - it's warm, there is no wind, and not a cloud in the sky.
I could have happily spent an hour enjoying the views from the bridge if I didn't have any other plans.

Eventually I finish crossing the bridge and end up at my final destination just a stones throw away from it.

Picture courtesy of

Tate Modern is situated in the former Bankside Power Station on the south bank of the Thames. It's quite a spectacular building in it's own right. Built post war to supply some of London's electricity - I wonder how long they thought it would be in use when they opened it? I've got to say I love the new role that has been found for it! I did actually take some pictures in the Tate Modern itself, but I respect their rules about photographs being for private use only and not for public display so I'm not putting any up here. If you really want to see what any of the weird and wonderful pieces of art on display look like then I strongly recommend you go and see them for yourself!
The building itself is interesting and unusual from the inside, from the way the gallery areas have been arranged over many floors to the VAST empty and unused space of the former turbine hall. Some terrific views can be had from the cafe and balcony areas on the upper floors.

Generally I'm not a fan of modern architecture, but one thing which takes me by surprise today is how well the best of the modern buildings in some of the landscapes I've enjoyed today have mixed with the oldest. Or maybe that's just me? There is still much building work going on in the area - including right next to Tate Modern. Even the cranes round here are high-tech and almost works of art!

Meanwhile, back inside; I've never been much of a fan of modern art. There is some I like, some I think is good even though I don't much like it, and some that I think is complete crap! All of these are to be found in Tate Modern - which is what makes it so fascinating. The works and installations on display range from paintings to sculptures of all shapes and sizes - and everything in between. And more. You don't have to be an 'art lover' in the conventional sense to enjoy a visit here - unless you don't have an artistic bone of any kind in your body you will find at least a few things of interest. There is plenty to see, and things are well laid out with plenty of space to stand back and take things in, or get in close for a good look. Some things could be better labelled up though, as sometimes you aren't sure which notice on the wall relates to which work. I think almost anyone will find one or two things they recognise - there are some world famous works on show here, and well as much more obscure but often fascinating stuff. Some things on display are genuinely brilliant - sometimes obviously so and sometimes not. Some stuff is fairly conventional, and other things are amazingly 'off the wall' - sometimes literally. There are items which are obviously the work of someone with a real talent, but also leave you thinking the artist must have been completely insane!
 Some are genuinely creepy or even scary.
The works here affect you in many different ways and produce many different reactions; From WOW! to W.T.F.!!!! and just ??????? There are things of beauty, things to amaze, things to move you, and things to puzzle you. Some it it will have you questioning 'It it art?' - a pack of AA batteries just like you'll find in your local shops for instance, or a used but apparently unmodified Panasonic radio? What 'work' went into those apart from at the factory they were made in? Some of the 'works' on display will have you saying "That's a load of bollocks!" - just some useless old bits of wood nailed together in an apparently random way and hanging on a wire. Or is it? Some of it will have you convinced the artist is taking the piss! But there are also things which leave you standing in wonder. There are lots of things that will have you asking questions - 'What is that actually made from?' or just 'HOW was that put together?' If it causes a reaction or makes you ask questions then that's what art is supposed to do. Right? Even the stuff that you think is total crap is causing a reaction and making you ask questions - even if the only question is "Are they taking the piss?" Maybe they are, but maybe that's art too...

I certainly found much which I found genuinely interesting as well as enjoyable even if there wasn't that much I would get any pleasure from having at home. Although I found some things baffling, I also found some things very amusing - wether that was the artist's intention I am not always sure! However, there is much to be found at Tate Modern that is thought provoking - for many different reasons, and much that I was still thinking about hours later - which means that it did it's job. I highly recommend a visit to Tate Modern - it's free - apart from a couple of special exhibitions which I thought were rather pricey and didn't bother with as I'd never heard of the artists. Access is very good with escalators and lifts to every floor. There is a large shop, excellent toilet facilities, and also are cafe and bar facilities. No - I didn't try the bar! The bar didn't stock anything to my taste - not that I expected it to, and anyway I planned to stop for some quality liquid refreshment on the way home...

After a few interesting and enjoyable hours pretending to be an 'art lover' I headed back out into glorious sunshine, but my day out wasn't over yet. After enjoying the Millenium Bridge experience in the final part of my journey to Tate Modern, I decided to enjoy the river in a different way as I started my journey home; Just yards from Tate Modern and the Millenium Bridge is Bankside Pier - there I embarked on the Thames Clipper. This was also a most enjoyable way to experience the river and taking in a few more sights. As there is no traffic to deal with the modern catamarans are quite a fast way to get around and also rather good fun! Well I thought so anyway.

They even take Oyster cards, although they aren't cheap. However, I wasn't too bothered about the price as I was planning to 'max-out' my Oyster card up to daily the Travelcard fare capping limit anyway. I soon arrived at Embankment Pier and got on the Northern Line just over the road. Camden Town was only a short trip from there, and although it was around 6 o'clock and still rush hour I was surprised to find plenty of space on the train even going through the west end.

Feeling in need of some refreshment as I had eaten or drunk nothing since breakfast I headed for the BrewDog pub in Camden. I was hoping to try some of their lovely Paradox Jura (16%) but they didn't have any on tap on this occasion so I settled for a guest stout at a mere 10%. And another. Then it was time for 'one for the road'. I was hoping to try the world's current strongest beer - BrewDog's infamous Sink The Bismark but that was unfortunately out of stock. Therefore I settled for the weaker Tactical Nuclear Penguin at a mere 32% instead. It was very nice!
Suitably refreshed it was time to head for home - a journey accomplished amazingly quickly for once. And I promptly forgot that I had planned to go to a new local jam night this Wednesday as I had no work the next day. Oh well - I certainly had a very good day out all the same!

24/3/2012 The Cut Outs @ Buffalo Bar

SubjectThe Cut Outs @ Buffalo Bar
DateCreated3/26/2012 4:32:00 PM

Another night that doesn't go according to plan.

A nice and easy venue to get to for me - what could go wrong? Unlike the last couple of weekends the trains I need are actually running.

I made a point of finding out beforehand what time the band are due on stage - not wanting to spend ages in the venue waiting for them as the venue bar is shit.

I arrive in plenty of time at Islington's Buffalo Bar and find the band's gear apparently set up but no sign of them appearing imminently. As it's still a while before their stage time I sneak out to the Wetherspoons pub round the corner for a livener before the gig.

I'm back by 10.00 when The Cut Outs should be taking to the stage. There is now a band playing, but it's not them!
It's some genric looking and sounding indie outfit - they aren't bad or anything - OK if you like that sort of thing but it's not what I'm here to see. I check the bar to see if they serve anything at all I may actually want to drink - it's still shit.

The support band must have only just started their set so assuming the normal 30 minute support set time and 15 minutes for changeover I have plenty of time to nip back upstairs for another pint or two in the pub - there's certainly nothing to keep me in the Buffalo Bar surrounded by indie kids and Xfm scenesters. So, half an hour or so later after sampling a couple more of the beverages on offer at the Wetherspoons Beer Festival (White Adder and Monkey Wrench - both quite nice)
I venture back into the venue. The indie band are still playing!
Fortunately they finish soon after I return. I notice a couple of other leather jacketed rocker types who are also here to see The Cut Outs and they are also less than happy about the situation as they too were expecting a 10.00 start time.
Eventually The Cut Outs take to the stage nearly an hour late - through no fault of their own. I had my evening well planned, and for once I didn't cock it up myself: See The Cut Outs and then get a particular train home in time to see the last few songs by the cover band and enjoy the late bar in my local. before a short stagger home.

Thanks to whoever is running tonight at The Buffalo Bar it's all gone tits-up.

The Cut Outs seem on good form and are playing some new songs. The bloke on the desk seems to be doing a decent job and the band sound great. There is a reasonable crowd and atmosphere in the venue, but it's not as full as it could be considering it's Saturday night.

This 2/3 female power trio have had trouble hanging onto their drummers over the past couple of years - the original girl departed after spending a long time with the band, and the guy who replaced her only lasted about a year. This is the second time I've seen the band play with the new bloke - let's hope they can hang onto this one. The band seem to give a good account of themselves and their distinctive brand of bouncy pop/rock is going over well. However, I have to leave halfway through their set if I'm to catch my train - very annoying as if they had hit the stage at the appointed time I could have caught their whole set with time to spare.

The next train would have meant me getting back two hours later and missing the pub completely - sorry girls!

Another evening bollocksed up by a promoter moving the goalposts - this happens too often.

I get off the train in time to catch the last half hour of the cover band's set in my local. They are competant enough musicians but their performance is very dull and pedestrian. However, there is another hour's drinking time after they finish and a few pints of Abbot Ale finishes the night off nicely as the hour goes forward to summer time. I'd already taken the precaution of turning my alarm clock off to sidestep the 'losing an hour' issue. That idea sort of backfired on me as I then spent most the next day asleep....

22/3/2012 Vice Squad @ Surya

SubjectVice Squad @ Surya
DateCreated3/25/2012 6:38:00 PM

Thursday night and punk legends Vice Squad are playing a London gig. This is a good thing in itself, but to make things even more interesting they are playing at a new venue. I'd never heard of Surya before, although as it apparently opened in 2008 - I must have walked past it in Pentonville Road a few times without even noticing it was there - probably because it didn't look like a 'rock' place.

However, things have changed and it's now being booked by promoters Glasswerk - so it looks like there will be plenty of rock acts appearing there now. They have The Dogbones coming up soon.

The venue is about halfway between Kings Cross and Angel tube stations so not too far to walk from either. Surya is apparently an 'Eco Friendly' venue - which I guess can only be a good thing. It's basically a small club venue like The Fly/Bowery with the bar upstairs and the bands on stage downstairs. For a beer drinker like myself the bar is very disappointing - not that I was expecting much to be honest.

Nothing on tap at all - bottles and cans on offer only, and not exactly cheap. A can of Strongbow was £3.50 and Guinness was £3.75, although to be fair many venues charge more than this. And you don't have to drink at all if you don't want to, although there is nowhere else closeby to sneak into for a crafty pint.

The place is clean and modern - even the toilets are OK so apart from the poor selection at the bar (no Newcastle Brown or similar) there is nothing to discourage you from going back. I only bother with one drink - purely to quench my thirst rather than the pleasure of alcoholic beverage.

I don't arrive in time to catch the first act of the four band bill - good value for money at £6 though. I can't remember the name of the band playing when I arrive, but they are a guitar/vox & drums punkish duo and are quite good. Next up is L.A.M.F. To most of my regular readers just the band's name will tell exactly what this band are like - yes, it's exactly what it says on the tin. I've seen a band of the same name a couple of times playing virtually the same set, but I don't recognise anyone from that band tonight so maybe they aren't related? However, as far as Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers tributes go this lot are pretty good.

'Johnny Thunders' himself is actually the best one I've seen apart from the real thing. The sound isn't that close even though they are using similar guitars - Marshall amps instead of Fender ones just don't sound right.

The bass player actually does a far better job of being 'Billy Rath' as far as his playing goes than the real thing when I saw him play in London last year. This guy looks kind of familiar - in fact he looks suspiciously like Justin McConville from the current lineup of the Heavy Metal Kids. L.A.M.F. play for just under half an hour and do a good job, although I think their setlist could have been chosen better - there are more than enough good songs on the classic Heartbreakers 'L.A.M.F.' album to fill a half hour set. I can understand them throwing in a New York Dolls song as well as one of two Thunders solo ones, but the cover of 'C'mon Everybody' is a bit unneccessary. If you are going to throw in a cover why not 'Do You Love Me' as the Heartbreakers covered that so well?

So, onto the headliners. Although Beki Bondage has for years been the only original member of the band Vice Squad are still doing a commendable job of 'keeping it real' and keeping the punk flame alive. The other original members of the band have long since given up on playing music, and sadly one of them is no longer alive - but Beki has never stopped making and performing music. Her uncompromising attitude has never made her rich or famous but she has stuck to her guns through thick and thin and is showing no signs of giving up anytime soon. And how does she still manage to look so good? If anything she looks better now than back in the day.

Vice Squad continue to make new albums, and play gigs in the UK as well as many other countries. The music is still punk, and very uncompromising lyrically. The attitude is still there, but the current lineup is far more competent than the original band ever was - although they are having problems finding and keeping a regular drummer these days.

However, the rest of the band is by far the best lineup of Vice Squad yet. This a a very tight and powerful live band with a strong back catalogue to pick from and plenty of good more recent songs as well - and unlike some other old punk bands who can be seen treading the boards these days, this is straight from the heart - Vice Squad still 'mean it'.

The venue isn't packed this Thursday night in a little known venue, but Vice Squad have still managed to draw a reasonable crowd of hardcore fans - and a moshpit forms - hence the lack of any decent photos from me. Still, at least that means there is some atmosphere in the place and the band's fans are out to have a good time. And the band seem to be having a good time too.

If anything, this lot are 'too good' to be a punk band, but if you've been playing and touring for as many years then you are going to get pretty good eventually - but they still have the attitude in spades. This is still a band who are doing this because they genuinely believe in what they are doing - and long may it continue.

11/3/2012 Stereo Juggernaut @ Nambucca

SubjectStereo Juggernaut @ Nambucca
DateCreated3/18/2012 6:28:00 PM

Sunday night - my third night out in a row at a gig, and my luck is starting to
run out.

The evening doesn't get off to the best start when I find out that Harringay doesn't seem to have any rail stations open tonight, and my journey requires two of them - so I end up having to walk from Finsbury Park to the venue in Holloway Road. Fortunately it only takes about twenty minutes.

Namucca has proved to be a very good value for money venue over the last couple of years - part of the reason it's just won 'Local Venue of the Year' at the Pure Rawk Awards. It's cheap to get in tonight, but when I get to the bar I get my second surprise of the day - the price of a pint has gone up by a shocking amount since my last visit!

One of the things I really liked about this place was that it served real ale (currently Bombardier) at reasonable prices - around what you'd expect to pay in the local pubs. It's now rocketed to well over £4 a pint!

That's around the same as most major music venues are charging now - the days of reasonably priced beer at Holloway Road music venues are well and truly over - which is a great shame as this is one way in which this area really scored over Camden.

I'm only here tonight to see Stereo Juggernaut and none of the support band's names ring a bell so I'm not too bothered about them - I've missed the first band anyway. Mick Monsta was on the door when I arrived and he said he could bet which two bands I was here to see; He was right about Stereo Juggernaut, but I'd never heard of the other band he mentioned.

The first band I manage to catch is a bad metal band - very generic super heavy outfit with a terrible screaming and grunting 'singer'.

It's not that I don't like metal - I love the classic stuff - the stuff with actual songs as opposed to some bloke screaming unintelligable lyrics over the top of some unimaginative and leaden riffing.

Half a song was enough to have me retreating to the bar - where some rather tasty homemade hot potato snacks were being served up for free - helping to take the sting out of the inflated beer prices.

Next up was a female fronted rock band - like the previous lot I had no idea who they were.

Unlike the previous band, this lot turned out to be pretty good!

The singer is excellent - not just a pretty face.
A real breath of fresh air after the previous act.

As well as being a quality vocalist, this girl has great stage presence - she really looks like she knows what she's doing - without appearing too 'schooled' like certain other career minded performers. They are all good musicians and play well together as a band. On top of that they actually have decent songs - unlike the previous act.

The band turn in an entertaining and enjoyable set - quite polished but still rocking hard enough to be very convincing. They look like they have been playing together for a while, so I'm surprised I haven't come across them before.

I make a mental note to find out who this lot are as I wouldn't mind seeing them again....

And so, onto the headliners. Stereo Juggernaut have drawn a reasonable crowd for a Sunday night in a less well known venue. Apart from my new gripe about this venue (beer prices) there is one other thing that has pissed me off on nearly every visit, although it's something that won't bother most people at all - in fact I'm sure some people like it. The bloody smoke machine!

This is the reason there aren't any decent pictures of this band tonight - the smoke machine might add 'atmosphere' but it makes photography virtually impossible. On another recent gig here even one of the bands complained that they couldn't see us and we couldn't see them!

Things continue to evolve in the Stereo Juggernaut camp. Newish bassist Asha is fitting in well and looks quite at home in the band. Keyboard played Dan has just departed and is yet to be replaced. I was thinking this might lead to a different and more guitar led feel to the band's show. In fact the opposite is the case. Instead of having a human being on stage to play keys and trigger samples, it's now all coming straight from a laptop - and it's far too loud! It just doesn't sound like a live band tonight. Rueben is a great drummer and could easily play in a full on metal band if he wanted, but much of the drum sounds we are hearing tonight are coming from the laptop instead of being played live - drum intros are heard - while the live drummer sits there and waits to come it. I'm sorry but I don't get it. Ben is a great guitar player, but he's almost completely inaudible tonight - and the same applies to his vocals. Stereo Juggernaut are actually a pretty good rock band with some quality songs, but you'd never know it underneath all the techno trickery. For all you can hear of the musicians tonight they might as well have stayed at home and somebody could just have plugged the laptop into the P.A. - and turn the smoke machine up just a little more to completely blot out the stage and no one would have been any the wiser.

Unfortunately the band go on over an hour later than than advertised, so I have to leave before the end to catch my train.

On the way out I ask Mick Monsta about the band with the girl singer - and I discover I was actually watching Lauren Harris! Yes, it's the Iron Maiden bass players daughter - who I have actually seen twice before at Hertford Marquee and Sonisphere with her own band. I didn't recognise her and had no idea! She has now reinvented herself and got a new band instead of trading on her name. The band is called Six Hour Sundown and I shall be looking out for them in the future...
PS: This venue closed in early 2014.