You know you're dealing with a class act when the headlining band, having had to cancel playing the show, still turn up to the last night to watch Chthonic one last time and then everyone is in tears when the aftershow, end of tour party, breaks up 'cause we have to leave for Amsterdam.
Just did some arithmetic today (for insurance purposes so the hospital gets paid for fixing my brane) and totalled up that in the 6 months I've been "living" in Amsterdam, I've actually been away for 59 complete or partial days.
First, I ended up in hospital. I got punched in the face in Leidseplein in the wee small hours of Saturday morning two weeks ago and ended up with a fractured skull. Don't ask me what happened, I really have no recollection. I wasn't even very drunk according to the hospital blood tests. Kudos to the hospital: they were AMAZING. X-rays, scans and extremely attentive care (they were concerned about meningitis and concussion). If you're going to be ill, be ill in Holland.
Then as I was getting out of hospital, my dad went in. It seems like it's a consequence of his rheumatoid arthritis medication (methotrexate, evil, evil stuff) suppressing his immune system and letting a chest infection get out of hand. He's now been in ITU for a week and it looks like he's turning the corner. What happens after he comes round is open to question, apparently RA causes lung damage too. My family have been amazing, rallying round, visiting and generally keeping the excellent ITU staff on their toes.
The path to Hell is paved with good intentions: it must be very soggy underfoot.
A couple of weeks ago, I'd volunteered to drive the Taiwanese black metal band, good friends and wonderful people, on their week-long UK tour, intending to keep a tour diary. Well, in between the gigs themselves, the driving and the sleeping, there was very little time to do anything else much!
In typical touring dartboard style, we did:
Telford - Not a gig as such but a PA for a Taiwanese businessman. Very surreal, but he paid for our motel so no complaints there!
Wolverhampton - good gig, lovely promoter, CJ got to meet his idol RIck Wakeman. I bought a totally Indie scarf. It was curry night at Yates' across the road and the band got their first taste and were hooked. The Hopwood Park Welcome Break on the M42 is LOVELY. Nice people, clean showers. Recommended!
Southampton - The guys got a takeout curry on their rider continuing the curry theme. The local support bands brought a flock of lovely young ladies who moshed quite adorably. The 3ioB guys were most taken at the way they kept popping out of their tops.
Minehead via Stonehenge - On to Butlins Minehead for Hard Rock Hell. But first, to take the rockers to the rocks where they were the perfect, if a little frozen, Asian tourists.
Now, Minehead was surreal. 5000 or so rockers, 50 or so bands. We were on pretty much as soon as we arrived, to a great reception on the stage to be crowned by Chthonic's heroes and mates Cradle of Filth later in the evening. Load-out and catering followed. Now, catering. Actually, it was a complete holiday camp carvery and rather good it was too. Again, curry on the menu but a bit mild for the band's tastes. Dani did however discover Colman's English mustard so all was well. I got to say hello to John McCoy but totally missed Bernie Tormé as he'd cut and dyed his hair!
There's a legendary piece of video on YouTube of Jesse wigging out in a chalet with some emo drummer. Priceless!
Alexis from 3 Inches of Blood managed to smash his elbow in a BRI (Booze Related Incident) and ended up in hospital, leaving Chthonic without a headlining act. After much wheedling of both 3IoB and MattC from Biomechanical (they knew each other from touring before and Chthonic were in the slot Bio would have had if they hadn't broken up), I got them to agree to rehearse and at least have a stab at the Camden gig.
Swindon via Bath - Stopoff in Bath. I gave the guys a quick run round my home town in the failing light. I think they were happy, they got to see the Abbey and the Royal Crescent.
And so to Riffs. Firstly, big kudos to Riff and Tiggy for their hospitality and especially to Tiggy for her eye-wateringly hot curry. If the drumming was extra-urgent that night, that's why. I've been to Riff's a couple of times and it's always been a nice cosy place but that night it was metal mayhem. Riff did the sound and it was possibly the best FoH mix I've heard for Chthonic so far.
Sadly, Brighton got cancelled so we got to hang out with the Taiwanese Conspiracy in Harrow again and CJ got to cook, which was nice :)
Camden Barfly - and so for the big one. Not just for Chthonic, but for MattC who, in two days had nailed 5 3IoB songs beat for beat and one cover. Took most of the guys over the road to the Brasilian restaurant to blow their PD's on big chunks of beef and then it was photoshoot and show time. And the show was immense. Really, really good. The place was rammed and the audience bouncy. 3IoB did amazingly well. Matt nailed 5 songs plus the Immigrant Song, as Matt quipped: "cheaper than a Zep ticket". I have some tasty video of both bands I may post at some point.
And so to Stansted - Having dumped the slightly bent van in Hendon earlier in the day, it was left to our chauffeur to spirit us to Stansted and a cold, hard floor for the 7am flights where we took our leave of each other: them to Vilnius, me back to Amsterdam.
It's pissing down with rain and I'm dodging the load-in because I've just done a 3 hour hurtle from Birmingham to Southampton 5 hours late courtesy of a lack of instruction about the van electrics and the complete unwillingness of the AA to be useful. Less said about the van hire company the better.
Chances of catching some Z's with the rain hammering on the roof?
I've fallen off the radar recently since I've been buried at work and my personal life has been turbulent to say the least, as anyone watching my "relationship status" flag on Facebook will attest.
That's all pretty much behind me now and through it all has been the constant of the support (and occasional healthy abuse and ridicule ;-) of my friends and the all-embracing gezelligheit of Amsterdam.
Ah, Amsterdam. Could one ever tire of it? There's always something new to do and interesting people to meet! And of that fails, just go for a walk and look around!
My Purple friends will know Pavel "SFMPE" where that means "Sorry For My Poor English".
Well, actually, his English was fine, if recognisably of Polish origin.
Tonight, I had a Taiwanese friend apologise for her English when I knew exactly what she meant.
I realised that maybe, the reason why English is so adaptable and why we not only tolerate but love to hear it spoken and mangled around that world is that English is totally distorted within this septic isle! From Geordie to Weegie to Brizzle to Mockney, there are dialects within an hour's drive. Why should we care if it's a common tongue for Chinese and Nigerians to communicate with taxi drivers in Santiago?
OK, so my colleague had been grumbling about trying to find a bar somewhere round Times Square where our crack-fuelled travel department had put us. I said no to many seedy tourist traps, trusting that my trusty beer compass would find somewhere decent. After a sojourn in the insanely huge Toys'R'Us, I started registering quality on the radar and we found the above establishment.
Superb antipasti and the bartender mixologised me a superb espresso Martini. Wonderful.
I have to say it. I'm really enjoying the left coast. There's annoying American stuff like the weird accents, pretty ordinary food and the really sleazy boardwalk but, like my hometowns of Amsterdam and Camden, this stuff is easily filtered out, leaving what you really want. In my case, the weather (30C and sunny), the ocean and the kitschy Venice canals. These are really hitting the spot.
Now to find something I can do from an oceanfront condo. Surely the LA's need yet another photographer?
A good day out. The "front of line" passes are recommended! We managed to hit everything we wanted to by 4pm. The Blues Brothers show made us smile, but Waterworld was probably the most impressive. With real "name" actors too!
Better than I expected, given the touristy nature of the area. Tempura doesn't start until 17:00 so I had the ebi fry, which was excellent. And the crab meat and sweetcorn soup was *excellent*: lots of meat and just the right hint of spice.
Not the cheapest in the world, but it hit the spot exactly for what I was after at that moment.
It's been a long time coming, and it's only a select few gigs so far, mostly Deep Purple and Fortune Drive. If there are any gigs you've seen me at that you want prints from (Quireboys? Planet of Women? Biomechanical?) then let me know and I'll prioritise them.
Playing pool and drinking beer Nothin more'n the occasional tear But this man's life goes on and he gets greased all over from time to time At the strip joint, where we met He said 'Hi, my name is Ted See that one over there That ball of thunder Every time she goes Vavoom, I wiggle in my chair Can I buy you a beer? What a guy
It was actually the middle of the afternoon, but at the back of the Waterhole it could have been any time of the day or night...
It looks like I'll be off to Toronto for a few days which means I should get a chance to hang with the Braintoy boys. I've still not seen them live and the last time we got to crack a few brews was when they came to see Deep Purple play my birthday in Toronto. This time we might even end up in the Bovine Sex Club.
Anyhow, they've got three new tracks for download. Check 'em out. I love 'em.
Anyone in the Bristol/Bath area need a banger? My trusty Fiesta 1.1 LX is for sale. Circa 1994 (L reg) it's done a hundred and mumble thousand miles has been very reliable (when it's used regularly) has MOT till the end of the year and tax until the end of August. Costs me £9/month to insure 3rd party.
Overall, I can't say I'm quaking in my boots. I know some people who are now boycotting US trips over privacy and Guantanamo issues (hi Alex!), but I've been back a few times since 9/11 and the it's asinine "being seen to be doing something" restrictions on hand baggage, liquids and so on and stupid, untrained, rude security that is more of a problem IMHO, even at the front of the plane.
Thanks again to Tech for the clue.
Sorry for the rant. We now return you to your regularly scheduled photographs.
I lost my denim jacket. It was special in so many ways. I'd lost my previous (and first!) jacket when it was pinched from Madam JoJo's on the Fortune Drive tour. I say pinched, it probably got unknowingly packed up from the backstage area by one of the bands. Still, I was down one denim jacket.
So, last Christmas me dad sent me a Next voucher and in January I wandered into Next in Covent Garden, found the "sale remnant" rail and there, the only item of clothing in a "medium" size: my new jacket.
Yesterday, I missed it and couldn't remember where I wore it last. Then again, I've only been out to three places in the last week so we hit them again and the wonderful Cuban Cigars on Utrechtstraat had it in the broom cupboard.
In 2001 after 9/11 I went on record that the "Muslim community", whatever that is, was reverberatingly silent in their condemnation of that act and there was a feeling that somehow America deserved it.
Finally, there seems to be an awareness that "something needs to be done" and that the community has failed its own young people who are turning to corrupt "leaders" for answers.
Could it be that the rising swell of a firmer brand of atheism, that as more people become intolerant of believers in fairies, they're realising how ridiculous and untenable their medieval superstitions are?
Googling to check that an old colleague's address was the same, the top hit was acutally a list of emails and addresses that looked like a direct dump from a mailer. Clicking on a link on that page brought me to a PDF of a dump from an Outlook address book. Which includes credit card numbers, assorted utility account numbers and PIN codes and so on.
Flying out of LHR at 2030, there was a purty sunset which lasted 5 hours as we chased it across the Atlantic. Worringly, it was out of the right (starboard!) window which I'm assuming was the North. I guess I could work out the geometry of it if I could be bothered.
An entertaining romp through the history of metal, touching on all the important stuff from Sabbath, Purple of Course, Priest, Maiden, Motley Crue and Metallica.
One BIG gripe: metal did NOT end with Metallica. It might have gone through one if its regular dormant periods in the 90's while grunge had a quick play, much like punk was allowed to in the 70's, but since the turn of the millenium, metal has exploded again with genres and subcultures drawing from the original roots. I should know, I've been involved with a load! From Goth-metal through Metalcore to epic Scandi-metal, the genre is completely alive and well. The Download festival I'm missing is testament to that.
It's been horribly sweaty today, even more so on the train back from Utrecht which got diverted via Hilversum and was packed and sweaty and ended up at the Central Station. As I was walking from the tram stop to my flat, the heavens opened with a huge electrical storm. In a hundred yards, I was drenched to the skin. Hopefully it's cleared the air!
It's not often you get the chance to turn the clock back ten years but, wrinkles and minor beer belly situation nothwithstanding, that's exactly what I'm doing.
As of Monday I'm off to Utrecht to lend Dave-fu to the Market Risk group at Rabobank; a team I was consulting at before joining the web 1.0 rush.
This came about totally by chance. I pinged one of my former colleagues to see what he was up to. That led to lunch. He described how some of the original team had been moved back on to the project, but they needed someone to bridge the business and IT and give the IT folks some leadership. "Sounds like you need me". Pause. "OK". A day trip to Utrecht to seal the deal and I'm packing boxes. Eat your heart out "six months to hire" Goldman Sachs. *That's* the way to do business.
I'm *really* looking forward to this: great people, really interesting project and of course, fantastic location. And it's long-term too: everything needs to be in place by 2010 and there's a lot to do. With luck, there should be some travel too.
There's also a good chance we'll be hiring more bodies and the Dutch tax system is awesome for expats. So watch this space.
I'll miss Camden. It's been an amazing six months of friends, gigs, emos and even some work in between!
Now the path to hell paved with good intentions:
1. I'm going to learn Dutch properly this time. Despite the protestations of the IT manager: "Noo! We need to improve our English!".
2. I'll get a two-bed apartment in Utrecht or Amsterdam so y'all can visit. I expect it to be booked out most weekends (and weeks!) when I'm not on the road.
3. On successful completion of the project I'll take a year and get that photography MA. For now, I'm retiring from serious photography.
If I sound full of it, it's because I am. This is going to be great.
...he's called Tee. I've just blown a not insignificant amount of money on a couple of sharp suits, dressy shirts, ties and stuff. I just want to give a big up to my man "Tee" down in the basement of Moss Bros at the TCR end of Oxford Street. He knew exactly what size I was, immediately picked out the right suit and got exactly the shirts to go with it.
Yesterday, Sunday 6 May, I was pootling up the M4 back to London having taken a small detour to Swindon to get some beer and nibbles for my "Leaving London" party. About a mile from the Chievely exit I saw a puff of brown dust and then what appeared to be a car going end over end.
I pulled over with a few other cars expecting the worst and called 999 to scramble everything. Two adults had been pulled from the car and were laying on the grass ,and a toddler was being cradled by a fellow passer-by. After checking that there were no more people in the car, I grabbed a little girl as she was about to wander into the traffic. As I carried her up to the verge and tried to calm her, there was some activity further up the bank as some cries had been heard. After a few moments searching, another child was found in a tree having been thrown completely clear.
It took at least 20 minutes for help to arrive but fortunately, two doctors had stopped and got to work with the triage, pulling first aid kits from cars and performing basic first aid.
Once help arrived, it arrived in force: two or three fire engines, several ambulances and plenty of police. The Eastbound M4 was closed, followed half an hour later by the Westbound to allow the air ambulance to land.
According to the traffic police, the car had been in the overtaking lane, so doing at least 80mph, wandered into the drainage gulley, overcorrected, crossed all three lanes, mounted the bank, flipped and touched down at least three times before coming to rest on its roof.
As a skeptic, I don't use words like "miraculous" very often but it certainly verged on it in that no-one was killed in this: either the occupants of the car or any of the cars whose path it crossed.
After an hour or so, I put the little girl into the ambulance complete with space blankets, firmly gripping a new teddy bear given to her by a fireman and donated by the local Lion's Club (I think!) and waved her goodbye. She had hardly a scratch on her, just a bruised finger.
Now the angry part: anyone carrying children in their car without proper restraint should be prosecuted immediately. In this case the parents could well be once they are out of hospital: the police were taking a very strong interest in whether the children were buckled in and the absence of child seats. This is too little, too late. [* Update: the father was driving while disqualified *]
On a personal note, the whole thing was completely surreal. Firstly, this stuff never happens to me, I really hope it's not the start of a trend. I was also frankly impressed with myself and everyone else who stopped, the situation was dealt with calmly and efficiently. It was only when I stopped at Reading searvices and had a cup of tea that the enormity of what had happened sunk in. On the subject of tea, and I realise this is totally trivial, but everyone involved could really have done with a cup of tea while the paramedics were going about their work. What's happened to the Blitz spirit, eh?
Lastly, and I don't know whether it's just the way I am, but I felt very sad that the connections that had been made in that brief time, the bond between the helpers themselves and particularly with the little girl would be so transient. After I file a pro-forma statement today, that'll be it, all over. We'll never know whether the endng is happy or not. Life isn't like TV after all.
[* Update: OK, I've got some closure now. Everyone is fine, the worst injuries were a fractured skull on the youngest child and a broken collarbone on one of the adults. All's well and all that, but it should never have happened in the first place *]
I hadn't seen Kumi since Montreux in 2000, then we met up after the Purple show at Wembley. Turns out she's moved to London and was playing Monkey Chews tonight. It'd be rude not to! Watch out for the video: three DV cams there!
Three Deep Purple gigs in three days is always hectic and this particular hurtle round the sea-sides and metropolis was no exception.
First stop Bournemouth in time for Purple's set. It's an all-seater, but the security clearly were on to a loser trying to stem the rush to the barrier, a nice little crowd-let formed and I spent the whole set on the rail dead centre. This is always a mixed blessing since it's nice to be up close but the sound is always dreadful, all drums and guitars, little bass and no keys. Most noteworthy though was the lighting: the biggest production The setlist had a disappointing two songs from the current album, but they're goodies and the rest of the set rattled along with the usual mix of classics and the occasional slight rarity. Afterwards we repaired to a nearby Wetherspoons for friendly libations with old and new friends.
Next up, Wembley Arena. Historically, Wembley arena has been a hateful venue: an echo-laden, soulless concrete barn with ignorant goons as stewards. Amazingly, only thing remaining are the goons. As part of the redevelopment of Wembley, the arena has been flipped so the back is now the front and vice-versa; somewhat disconcerting as the corridors are vaguely familiar yet disconcertingly veering off into unfamiliar room and stairwells. The house staff were as lovely and helpful too. And as a bonus, there are now wandering minions with backpacks of cold lager for sale!
This time I made a point of seeing Thin Lizzy. Or should that be White Lizzy, what with Aldridge and Mendoza in the band? Either way, a jolly good rock and roll romp provided you leave your Lynott nostalgia at the door. John Sykes is a good front man and almost has the vocals covered. His sparring with Gorham is great fun too. Recommended! Saw a fair chunk of Styx too, I can see they're very good at what they do but not having any history with the band, I found it tough to get interested.
Finally, ten minutes early, the main act. Gillan introduces the show with "welcome to the shit-hole Wembley" or somesuch. I'm hoping he got to eat those words. He even went walkabout as the goons try to suppress the enjoyment but finally the crowd is allowed to get to its feet and jump around. Pretty much a sell-out and a GREAT show. I took a wander to see what the sound was like around the hall and it was amazing. Even Mr. Sykes in the sound area enjoyed a good chunk of the show.
Best. Deep Purple. Wembley Show ever.
Finally got back to my place at about four (thanks for the lift!) and up again at ten for the tortuous trek down through the Southern suburbs to the "Southern tip of Wardour St" aka Brighton.
Back on the rail for this, enjoy Lizzy hugely, stoke up on coffee during Styx then on snapping duties for the main event. Again, very, very good. Tight show, smiles all round, lots of dancing in the crowd. Some cheeky chop-stealing side-stage from a couple of members of the other bands. Bad Marco! Bad Lawrence!
All in all, possibly the best clutch of Purple shows I've ever seen. The production was excellent, performances tight, band relaxed and smiling and a good selection of friends old and new to sit and have *one* with afterwards. Special mention to the crew with "Bad Roadie! No Red Bull!" t-shirts.
What can I say? Fantastic little show. Something like the the 15th time I've seen them (half as many times as I've seen Deep Purple but with fewer lineup changes!) and every time they get better in one way or another.
They also have this amazing personal chemistry. I've never seen a band act more like a family.
Was 99% bollocks. Of course you had to queue for five hours, or camp in a venue where a can of Red Stripe was £3.50, to see the teaser headliners, and the rest were camp NME poster boys. I could name names but I'll spare their blushes. Just to say, for crying out loud, learn to play your instruments and playground chants do not a song make.
There was one salvation.
I never thought I would see a rap act at the Underworld much less like it. But it was so good I went to see him again the next night. Who provoked such madness? He's bad. He's Angry. It's....Akala.
Right, so having attempted to cancel twice, once on the phone and once again in writing, I find myself on hold for OVER AN HOUR today trying to get through to someone who can terminate my service and get them off my back for £50 I don't owe them.
NTL/Virgin/Telewest: you suck.
I will NEVER be a customer of yours EVER again. You may even have polluted the Virgin brand to the point where I'd think twice about flying with Virgin again.
OK, so I've seen a lot of bands in the last couple of years: full of enthusiasm, a modicum of talent and a few pretty little fan girls. Very occasionally though, I get to see an artist with exceptional talent in a more intimate venue. This was one of those occasions. Pauline Taylor, for anyone not already acquainted with her work, has done 90's bangin' choons with Faithless and written for Dido and the latest wunderkind Paolo Nutini.
I'm not, generally speaking, a huge fan of outsourcing stuff. As a geek, I know how to set up and run stuff.
However, and as Greg recently pointed out, there's a spectrum of utility that makes these things compelling. Personally, I've gone from having two servers at Rackspace to a mashup of Dreamhost, Flickr, Blogger and a few other services.
Now I'm involved in a startup again, where there are only two developers and some freelancers, I'm finding the same model applies.
Today, I was mostly moving our mail over to Google Apps for My Domain, and very smooth it was too. With our marketing folks trialling Salesforce, the developers using Backpack, I can only see this spreading.
Where's the tipping point where you bring everything back in-house?
OK, so people do this all the time but it's a long time since I have on such a scale or with these folks before and the first time in my new manor.
So, Matt texted me in the afternoon that he, Tim "QPR" and Kez were up in London for a gig and would I be up for a quick one afterwards?
Do bears shit on the pope?
So we slope off to Paddington for beer so they're well placed to get the last train back at half eleven. The appointed hour approaches and no-one showed any sign of actually boarding the train. "Can we kip at your's, Dave?" Um, OK. So back to Camden and the after-hours madness that is the Dublin Castle. We lose several of the party in search of fags in the wee small ones and then having found them again, the lure of the kebab proved too strong.
Finally, back to mine for coffee and well-deserved sleep.
Of course, their train tickets aren't valid for today, so I ended up driving the posse back to Bath; the gas money will go towards an emergency bottle of Jack Daniels to sit behind an "In Emergency, Break out Glasses" sign.
OK, so Saturday night was a blast, what with the Quireboys and all.
I also happened to have my video camera there and shot about 20 minutes of Cavalar.
Wow. Matt is Ritchie and Luca is Jesus Christ Superstar.
People, there is no excuse for not having a £300 DV camera at every gig and putting one song on youtube/myspace/your site for every gig. You've got fan boys/girls who can do this stuff or if you need some tips I'm happy to share, but really, just watching a few minutes brought the whole thing back and I'm smiling all over again!
As a birthday treat for my daughter, I arranged for two of her favourite bands to play the Purple Turtle. Well, not really, it was just a happy coincidence. First, the Quireboys plugging their new DVD and rocking out as usual followed by the mighty Cavalar throwing out some good old fashioned naked thunder. They make me smile :)
I'm pleased to announce that I am now CTO at iSporty.com, a community site focused on sports participants. Better still, I'll be working with David Maher Roberts, formerly Director of New Media at Future Publishing, for whom I'd done several projects over last few years.
I'd been working at Venda for the last couple of months, hacking away on perl in a pretty large-scale e-commerce system. After a couple of months I started to seriously reconsider what I was doing. Having taken the decision to move on, the iSporty opportunity came up. I will however be keeping a very close eye on Venda and its progress in the US. There are very interesting and rewarding technical challenges ahead for them.
Camden will still be my base, although Bath might be seeing me a little more often now, and the music photography is still firmly on the agenda with my target of 100 gigs this year!
I've just received a demand for £76.06 from the above "debt collectors" on behalf of PayPal. Funny thing is, my PayPal account is in credit and anything I've bought from eBay has been paid for immediately.
This was a GREAT gig. It didn't matter that this was their first with this lineup nor that it was a sterile community centre with a scattering of people and a dog on a string. The guys totally kicked out teh RAWK! If you're in Camden next week, you MUST see them!