Saturday, July 25, 2009


I love The Proms!

Whenever I tell I someone love the Proms, I'm greeted with a curious stare and an "Uh, so you go waving a flag?" It's a pity that the ghastly pomp-and-circumstance of the last night is the only thing most people know about the Proms, as it's a truly democratic music event.

The Albert Hall is a beautiful building, a memorial to all that was most overblown and showy about the Victorian era. Queueing for two hours for the Arena brings you into contact with slightly shabby old men with elasticated waistbands, carrier bags and lunch boxes (ok, I admit it, I had a sandwich in a lunch box too), nerdy teenage music students, and, for last night's programme, a noticeable number of Japanese people.

The evening was about cross-musical links between East and West, and France and Spain, featuring Debussy's orientalist Pagodes and swirling La Mer, Ravel's mysterious Rapsodie Espagnol and fiery Tzigane, with rousing solo violin from Akiko Suwanai.

The East was represented by Toru Takemitsu, his dreamy Ceremonial opening the three-hour concert, with barefoot shō player Mayumi Miyata starting the piece. The shō is a small hand-held set of pipes, making a delicate ethereal sound, like a quiet harmonica or accordian. Mitaya also reappeared to play the shō on the UK premier of Toshio Hosokawa's Cloud and Light, and takemitsu was represented a second time with the Debussyesque Green.

Apart from the Ravel Rapsodie, the Franco-Spanish crossover was represented by Pable de Sarasate's 'Carmen' Fantasy, with a stunning virtuoso violin performance by Akiko Suwanai, who rightly had the audience whooping and cheering at the end.

Forget your Union Jacks and Rule Britannia. The Proms represents a fantasic value for money accessible event - a fiver for nigh on three hours of amazing music in a beautiful setting.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009


Post Office Blues - Lorraine Bowen's new video

London Road Co-Op closed about three years ago due to a falling demand for flat caps, nylon girdles and long johns. It's now a cavernous hollow shell of a building with just a post office tucked away at the back, used almost exclusively by the ghastly revenants who stagger the jagged lengths of the thoroughfare's toxic ley-lines.

So when cabaret performer, funny lady and all round good egg Lorraine Bowen asked me to lend a hand with her new video, "Post Office Blues", I was there.

Lorraine took her place in the queue, respelendent in leopard-print coat, and a good foot taller than everyone else, while I lurked behind with the video camera, traing not to laugh too hard and she pretended to be an aeroplane, huffed, pouted, mimed the words and generally looked rather odd.

In a typical display of Britishness, with the exception of an over-heated youth who bellowed "We're gonna be on YouTube!" nobody turned a hair, which makes the final video all the funnier, as you see these little glances to the camera from customers, and people looking sidelong at Lorraine without wanting to be spotted staring.

Anyway, I think the finished film is hilarious, and a fitting tribute to a British institution which may well go the way of the Co-Op before too long.

Here it be:
Lorraine Bowen's Post Office Blues

Lorraine's MySpace



Lady Carol in Hastings 4.7.09

Having seen the astonishing performance by Lady Carol at the Brighton Festival Fringe (review here), Erica and I decided to put her on in Hastings at our occasional night, Another Planet.

And she didn't disappoint.

The audience really didn't know what to expect as Carol's style is a bit hard to explain - comedy with cover versions of songs by Queen, Johnny Cash, Radiohead and Nirvana interspersed by originals, all played on a ukulele and with a huge voice with a delicious raw edge. The audience sat rapt, and while I'm not sure they entirely got the comic descriptions of growing up in Ireland, the temperature rose a couple of degrees when Carol whipped off her dress in the second half to reveal another one underneath and a rather stunning pair of legs. Phew.

On Sunday we did our tourist guide bit and took Carol over the West Hill for a pint in the garden at the Stag and a wander down to the Stade. This was in contrast to the horror of Robertson Street on Saturday night, which rather startled Carol as we walked back through its unrestrained Breughelian chaos and barely contained violence. Nasty.

Thanks to Lady Carol for a lovely gig, to everyone who came, and to Eat@ for their eternal helpfulness, and we'll definitely get her back next year.

Links: Lady Carol's MySpace
Another Planet's MySpace


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