Monthly Archives: December 2012

So Long 2012

It is the tradition of this blog to provide an elliptical summary of each year’s events upon its conclusion, and this year is no different. This year I lost seven wheels, rode two past a canalside heron, mislaid a wooden smile, hung a sex toy on a christmas tree, did the voices in The Gruffalo, got disciplined by the guards at St. Pancras station, visited the most underwhelming standing stone ever, rescued a Justin-Bieber-loving helmet from a bin, discovered Moby Dick, sheltered two large documents from birdshit under my coat, drank four coffees and then watched someone buy darts,  strolled amongst concrete iguanodons, bumped into an old teacher in the middle of Dartmoor, stood in the rain in front of Stephen Fry, bedded down in a sixteenth-century banqueting hall, got supergator’d, walked barefoot through nighttime south-east London, swung on the world’s deadliest tree swing, coordinated a brass band, ambled through Digbeth with my Dad and a lightweight guitar case, offered refuge to a mechanical owl, had a camera shoved down my throat in a portakabin near Waterloo station, played a show in the Sea Scout headquarters, rode the front of the top of a red London bus, spent untold hours learning how macs work for no reason, heard distant sports, read up on palaeontology, rented a bit of an art deco library, discovered T K Maxx, had my legs adjusted for optimum dog comfort, ate sushi in a picturesque graveyard, got licked by cows, and noticed the cornices in a strange museum. I got hundreds of trains, avoided planes entirely, rented two cars (both cleverer than I am), and was party to approximately twenty-six billion crosswords. Watching Death on the Nile at least twice, I also got into Game of Thrones, read (nearly) every Discworld book, discovered Terra Nova, and learnt a lot more about One Direction than anybody should need. I saw Jeff Mangum and Kimya Dawson in concert and got inspired by them both. Said goodbye to my seminar series and my open mic night and the house with two curtain rails; hello to my home town, a new coat, and a sense of things to come.

Released a new record (although only a little one), redesigned the website, went on tour, played a Christmas Pantomime, wrote a bunch of songs (but not enough – never enough), dabbled in poetry again, and – as usual – made plans, some of which may come true in 2013. Of last year’s resolutions, I’m glad to report success on numbers 1 and 2; 3’s up for grabs, so I’m pushing it forwards as my only resolution this time. There’s lots to do, and it starts now.

Seasonal Cheer

Last night I found myself watching two guys – father and son – dressing as Boris Johnson in the back room of a pub in King’s Heath. Standard, I thought, I’m down with this. There were free energy drinks (not Red Bull – the budget equivalent, which I think might be called Razorfast or Jagged Edge or something like that. Anyway, I didn’t sleep a wink).

I’d been brought in to play a twenty minute opening set for the Dirty Old Folkers‘ Christmas Pantomime, now in its fifth year, and I had absolutely no idea what I was letting myself in for. If I were to pick a highlight, it would probably be the moment that a guy called Jason, who twice did the sound for the Dapper Swindler and I at Ceol Castle about five years ago, dressed as Ozzy Osbourne and sang an extremely loud song about the loss of his working tax credit in front of a giant picture of a canal. Can it be that I am home, in the arms of dear Birmingham, I asked myself. But more magical even that this moment was sitting backstage, feeling the theatrical vibes in the air, watching people pile into and out of various different costumes, the function of which I could only guess at. It’s a real treat to be thrust into the midst of a theatrical endeavour when you’ve no idea what’s going on. Everything magical about the experience is enhanced – the excitement and mystery of the stage and, in this case, the unabashed joy with which the cast and crew were going about their business.

Moreover, the house was packed to the rafters – not with London twentysomethings waiting to see how cool the act was before deciding whether to clap, but with pissed Brummies of every age who had turned up with the sole purpose of having loads of fun. The energy coming off the crowd alone, even before a note had been played, was fantastic, and also daunting – how do you open for this? How do you play to a room crammed full of people this excited, not one of whom has heard of you (the show had sold out weeks before I was added to the bill)? In one sense, the assignment wasn’t as tough as it sounded, though – so infectious were the good vibes that it was hard not to get on stage and just have a great time. I played a few of my own songs, then Ed Pope’s seasonal treat (which the crowd gamely sang along with):

…and then I gratefully became an audience member for the rest of the evening. The Folkers did two sets of their own tunes, trad numbers and Christmas carols as well as the pantomime itself, finishing with a rousing chorus of “Birmingham / Birmingham / We all live in Birmingham”. Exactly, I thought.

Christmas Shows!

FaceOmeter has a minor role in two forthcoming Christmas spectaculars:

  • At Railroad, East London, on Sunday Dec 16th. This show re-unites me with Ish Marquez, who is great, and there’ll also be a whole host of other bands for the café’s Christmas party, including Poivrons (OKAY?!?!), Manila Folder, and many more. Party starts at six!
  • At the Hare and Hounds, King’s Heath, Birmingham, on Sunday Dec 23rd, supporting the Dirty Old Folkers’ pantomime show. I have no idea what this is going to be like, but I expect your filthy imagination is already pretty near to the mark!

It’s possible that I will be playing some Christmassy material at these events. But don’t count on it!

The White Whale

So I’ve found something called the Moby Dick Big Read, which is a wonderful gateway drug into the rich and affective world of that novel. I hadn’t managed to successfully read it before, because like many others I found its digressiveness and the sheer weight of its prose extremely off-putting. It’s a different question, though, in audio. Unlike many ‘great novels’ I think it lends itself to this format extremely well. Here’s a picture from the site:

So what they’ve done is given each chapter to a different person to read – some are famous, some not – and they’re releasing one a day as a podcast. This is the sort of thing that the internet was made for, guys. The daily breaks and variations in reading style give the book the variety it lacks on the page, and hearing Melville’s prose slide along past you is a different thing entirely to being confronted with the weight of it. In fact, I’ve come round to the book’s scale completely, and am now seeing how effective all those tangents can be. They mean that by the time you get to something of significance, you’re so deep in Melville’s story, and in his world, that the emotional effect on you is striking. There’s a moment around Chapter 35 when Ahab first mentions the White Whale – quite casually, in a sort of “has anyone noticed a White Whale around here lately?” sort of way – and I was totally beside myself for several minutes afterwards. And I challenge you to face Chapter 51, ‘The Spirit-Spout’ (or, at least, Alexis Kirke’s performance of it) without having some fairly intense feelings about whales (I admit they’re intenser if you’ve listened to the preceding fifty chapters with the lights off first).

I know I’m late to the Melville party, and that I’m not saying anything new – but I know a lot of people who aren’t into this book, too, and for those willing to give it another chance I think this wonderful audio project is a great way to reapproach it. I’d love to be involved in a project like this one day – whether admitting of music or not – it’s an exciting chance to link old (out-of-copyright text) with new (podcasting and diffuse recording techniques), here executed with admirable precision. I think Melville would have liked it, too – it suits his style. I’m up to chapter 63 (invitingly entitled ‘The Crotch’) and I can’t wait to hear what happens next!