Sunday, 24 January 2010

Live: The Golden Filter at Pure Groove // Piney Gir at the London Transport Museum

I’ve long held a theory that the thing that puts the beauty of going to gigs apart from, say, going to the cinema, is that you never know what’s gunna happen. Even in a venue you’ve been to loadsa times, seeing a band you’ve seen loadsa times – maybe even a band you’ve seen in that venue loadsa times still present something different, exciting, new people, a bum note, a longer set, a new support band, the potential to find an artist that engages so much that whole swathes are your life are soundtracked differently. It’s always a possibility.

So this weird combo was very welcome. First we dash up to the beautiful Pure Groove, the record shop/cafĂ© in Farringdon which has put out so many great records it’s almost sick, to see an ‘in-store’ (cue images of thousands of teens queuing up outside Virgin Records to see Mel B sing solo or some shit) which is thankfully busy but without any acne-covered scamps armed with a black marker and crop-top they’re desperate to get signed. The Golden Filter, an NY three-piece fronted by model Penelope featuring synths and nice, heavy drumbeats take some time to drum up an atmosphere in the un-clubby atmosphere near the twee-tees but their sheer class shows through their net-happy hit Hide Me evoking the most reaction. Favourite Things, with its New York, Sydney, London, Paris mantra evokes both joy at the simple song at envy at the well-travelled gits. They’ve certainly been provoking plenty of reaction and there’s no doubt there’s any extra something, maybe in the league of St Ettiene, in there, I’ll be watching with interest.

A quick dash to the Transport Museum in Covent Garden (yep, that’s right) brings one-time ShadowPlay agony aunt Piney Gir happily to our ears. As part of an Arts Council funded monthly night the fulsome folkster follows a glorious screening of a video of some couples dancing in the 50s (on a screen 20ft up above a light up London 3D map). Piney, aka Kansas hailing and London-living Angela Penhaligon, takes the stage amongst the red buses and old taxis with a welcoming crowd cheering on her every accordion stroke. With some fine backing singers and a beefed up band in the shape of the Age of Reason, Piney has moved away from her original electronic-y ways to a much more traditional, perhaps ironic given her quite stringent upbringing outlined in several interviews, country-style with the twee but lovely duet Of All the Wonderful Things, the new single, a particular highlight. And as Gir finishes her set choo-chooing around the rather splendid, if nerdy, museum singing you have to say there’s a lot to say for having a night less ordinary.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

The Wire: "No one wins. One side just loses more slowly." - Prez

What felt like an important chapter in my life ended yesterday…yes, I finally finished what appears to be the last series of The Wire. First off, I realise how silly it is for me to be so involved about a television programme but then, when people are so crushingly earnest about films, it only seems fair that the only programme I’ve seen ever approach its style in novel form is worth it.

Quick background – The Wire is an American police drama set in Baltimore, Maryland largely following detectives as well as drug dealers, gangsters, politicians, judges, blue and white collar workers and solicitors – the whys, hows and wherefores of its background are too variant and, as the programme outlines, unsolvable to go into but I wanted to look at my response as a viewer.

Firstly, as a white, middle class viewer in the UK, it’s fair to say my life is far removed from those on the stoops and corners of Baltimore, let alone the courts and city homicide department. But it is the meticulous detail in which the show approaches each episode which evolves and reveals this unfamiliar world for me. I have often been critical of the extended series that are produced in the US, many comedy series are flabby where series like Peep Show and Black Books show you can say as much in six episodes as you can in twelve. But The Wire is different. It’s not just passive, each series is a project as they deal with the issues of the drug trade, smuggling, reform, education and journalism in turn. It is with this trust in creator David Simon that the viewer goes with each addition to the plot, each unsolved particle, each heartbreaking killing or smeer on the progress of evidence.

Ultimately, few series will engage the viewer in the next few decades. It has had me hooked when I should have been going out, on trains when the power cuts out and you’re begging the laptop battery to hold out and, amusingly, in an airport lobby in Egypt when I had to trail the wire (ironic huh?) across an escalator to plug it in. I don’t watch much TV these days, preferring to watch either catch up at my own leisure or, as this, hoards of DVDs, and in characters such as McNulty, Bubbles, Stringer Bell, Bunk, Kima and Omar Little (pictured) my faith in modern television, and the excellent HBO, may just rest. Adios.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

ShadowPlay..slowly, slowly slowly

So just a quick update as to where I'm up to with the latest ShadowPlay, I'm sure regular readers will be aware that it's been over a year since the last issue - a fact I find painful but also realistic. The problem with having a day job in which you both expend a load of energy and also, y'know, give a toss (previously unheard of for me) is that it really does test the energy levels.

Anyway, excuses over, its shaping up to be a really good issue under the particularly vague and pretentious theme of "darkness" and submissions are most welcome. Articles of 400-500wds most welcome, likewise, am ALWAYS on the look out for new artwork on account of not being able to draw and the like - do get in touch at ahead of submission. Just on a bit of a hunt for printers in London at the moment, any suggestions of cheap places welcome though I reckon there's one in Holborn that might just do the job. Cut'n'paste zines are always a struggle what with copiers usually needing to feed the page through a machine for double-sided - never too friendly towards the carefully tacked together proof it must be said. So any thoughts and ideas welcome and fingers crossed for a spring birth for the little un. Alex