30 December 2009

new year's? I'm so over it.

I've been sick since Sunday afternoon, when I thought my body might implode on itself. TBH I wanted someone to put me out of my misery, my stomach hurt that bad. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess I picked it up from my cousin's kid xmas day, b/c I have the tendency to pick up germs really easily (lucky me and my immune system) and you know kids and germs.

so yes, I have a stomach bug of near biblical proportions.

lest you think I'm kidding, I haven't been this sick (not including when I've been ill due to chemo) since I was in the 2nd grade of Mrs. Lyons's class (I was 8). back then there was no way my mother would let me go to school, but in the working world sometime you have to hunker down and grin and bear it. before 2010 arrives, I've pledged to clean off all my writing surfaces in my desk - something really important to an editor! - and I really want to tie off any loose ends so I've got a relatively clear path work-wise at the beginning of the new year.

feeling poorly, I haven't been much in the mood to do any reviewing. (I really should be doing a review of a remix album so that we'll be in the good graces of a certain label b/c I'd like to work for them someday. but I just can't bring my body to sit at a computer any longer than necessary. my stomach is making some heinous gurgling noises.) I'm scheduled to see a bunch of bands next Friday (08.01). and I hope by then my mood will have raised b/c otherwise I'm going to have a real problem keeping the smile on my face, trying to cover the gig and take photos. I really like Locksley: originally from Wisconsin, they've got a fun sound and they're the band of the four that I'm really looking forward to most.

with this stupid bug, there's defo no going out for me for NYE. most likely I'll be sat in front of the computer trying to amuse myself with YouTube videos and a Region 2 DVD that only runs on my antiquated graduate school-era PC that runs Windows ME. (no joke.) and instead of champagne, I'll be drinking de-fuzzed ginger ale.

other things that are bugging me right now...

1) I was out sick all day Monday. I spent the day curled up in the foetal position on my bed, trying to sleep. I come back on Tuesday AM and notice the photos I have in frames on my desk had been moved, as have my xmas cards. there's no reason I'd have the back of a xmas card facing me. furthermore, it makes no sense that photos of me and my friends would not be facing where I sit at my computer.

that someone touched any of my beloved photos gives me murderous thoughts. almost as murderous as the time the new girl came into my office and grabbed one of my beloved photos from Nottingham off my desk *without even asking* and proceeded to gawk, "why do you have such cute friends?" er...none of your beeswax!

2) I work really hard in all parts of my life and have gotten to the point of asking myself, "what's it all about?" I mean, really? it reminds me of a quote from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn from Francie's mother Katie - "I want to live for something. I don't want to live to get charity food to give me enough strength to go back to get more charity food."

for the same token, I work so hard for everything in my life - and I guess that's why I've always been take advantage of, b/c I have this desire to finish what I've started, to do everything well. but is that all there is? not including uni, I lived in the same town all my life. I really want to get the eff out of here and over to blighty. but a discussion I had with my mum and other relatives at xmas regarding my insurance requirements that will make this dream of mine unlikely. so I'm feeling frustrated.

I've always had to work so much harder than everyone else to get certain things to happen in my life (especially when I've been sick) and for once, it'd be nice to be recognised and rewarded. everyone wants that. it seems the only times I've ever gotten recognised was when I killed myself to finish something to the best of my ability, like my B.Sci. (Hons).

I can't help but think that I'm sick right now b/c I'm so stressed out and my body's had enough.

3. I might need a break from all this blogging. dunno. I had no real expectations of what would happen once I started writing for music blogs, so I can't say I was truly surprised/stunned/etc. by what's happened to me in the last 10 months b/c I really had no idea, there's no way I could have even guessed. I sure have some great memories, but I also have some painful ones. I'm not sure if my personality is up to doing this (music writing) for a living.

I'm thinking back to the glorious letter I received from Stuart Maconie and his uplifting words of "Do what you love is my advice. And take care of yourself". at the time I had such high hopes but now, not so much.

I need a period of re-evaluation. I don't know *who* I love anymore, let alone *what* I love.

4. I hate rice. I'm eating it for lunch right now. I've been having it plain every day since I've been sick for nearly every meal. having a wheat allergy sucks, I can't even have a Saltine. and don't even dare tell me "rice cracker" b/c that's RICE!

5. I'm so tired right now from being poorly I'm gonna snap. like a twig.

I look at the stupid nail polish on my fingers and then my swollen ankle (for some reason, my left ankle has been swelling up over the last year and my doctor has no idea why) and get upset.

in any event...see you on the other side...in 2010.


and oh yeah, as a reward for those of you who have read this far, here are some links from D.C. gigs that have not been posted yet:

Fanfarlo @ Iota (Arlington VA)
PW review
TGTF review

Phenomenal Handclap Band @ Rock n Roll Hotel
TGTF review

29 December 2009

how to fight Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger, effectively

TBH I never have had a problem with Live Nation. strangely and happily, I've had v. good ticket karma with Live Nation. (this is the only way I can explain how I got a 3rd row ticket to see Morrissey this year, haha.) not so much with Ticketmaster. so I have this terrible feeling about what would happen if Ticketmaster effectively "ate" Live Nation and they merged into one. they're the two biggest national ticket sellers in America. if only for my being selfish, I'm sure my overall ticket karma would suffer!

but really, I'm writing this post because this has the potential to really stop the music business in its tracks and it will affect us as consumers as well as our friends, the bands we love to see live. as a music blogger, a music lover, and a lover of live music performances, I try to encourage people to go to more concerts and support musicians. my friends who are less keen on music will pass on concert tickets a lot of the time b/c of the high prices, no doubt with whatever's tacked on as "convenience" and "handling" fees. less people will be going out to hear good music. that to me is the greatest tragedy. not to mention musicians are already losing a ton of money on illegal downloading, so the only viable source of income they have left is with touring. if people don't attend concerts, they can't make a living. you may say "cry me a river" when we're talking about U2 or Bruce Springsteen, but for my friends who are just starting out, they depend on their royalty checks and whatever cut they get from a tour. so trust me, it matters to them. and while we're on the topic of the Boss, I hope you have not forgetten what happened to the fans that were mysteriously redirected to a resale Web site and paid higher fees than they should have. click here to read more from 50 concerned Congressmen. for more recent news, check out ticketdisaster.org.

I'm not happy with either company's "convenience" and "handling" fees. a recent purchase of a pair of Muse tickets ended up taking on an additional $28 over the face value for the tix. um...can we say ridiculous? I had already requested the tickets be mailed to my house for free.

us in the D.C. area who regularly attend club concerts know we can get around these by showing up in person to buy our tickets at the 9:30 Club (and pay an extra $1 per transaction fee - not bad, not bad at all) and the Black Cat (and pay nothing but the face value for the ticket). 9:30 Club has recently defected from Tickets.com to Ticketfly, and the Black Cat has joined the Rock and Roll Hotel, going with Ticket Alternative instead. if I can avoid any extra fees, I avoid them. but sometimes when you love a band, you'll pay extra...and presumably, Ticketmaster/Live Nation bank on us paying for the convenience. and you know if no one is competing with them, the fees will magically increase. and we'll all feel it.


us Washingtonians have already received the call from Seth Hurwitz and the 9:30 Club peeps about fighting the proposed merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation in this country. a similar merger has already taken place in Britain and we need to mobilise American music fans to fight the same thing from happening on our side of the pond.

problem is, the email we received gives an email address (antitrust.complaints@usdoj.gov) and no direction. like all bureaucratic red tape, it's actually quite complicated to draft an email or letter that has all the necessary pieces for them to take your complaint seriously. I doubt shouting at the DOJ will help, so I've done the legwork for you and snooped around their Web site to figure out what you need for a legitimate claim. so don't say you're too busy or it's too complicated b/c I've simplified it for you.

taken from http://www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm (my notes in red):

Information from the public is vital to the work of the Antitrust Division. Your e-mails, letters, and phone calls could be our first alert to a possible violation of antitrust laws and may provide the initial evidence needed to begin an investigation.

To report antitrust concerns to the Antitrust Division:

If you do not think your concerns involve the antitrust laws, you may want to visit the Department of Justice site for more information or send an e-mail to AskDOJ@usdoj.gov.

Please keep in mind that the Antitrust Division is prohibited from giving legal advice to private individuals.

Related items on this page:

Step 1: Fully Describe Your Concern

If you have information about a possible antitrust violation or potential anticompetitive activity, use the following questions as a guideline to describe your complaint:

  • What are the names of companies, individuals, or organizations that are involved? Ticketmaster and Live Nation.
  • How do you believe they have violated the federal antitrust laws? (For details on federal antitrust laws, see Antitrust Laws and You.) yes, they will be violating American federal antitrust laws if their merger is approved. specifically, they will be violating all three major antitrust laws - the Sherman Antitrust Act, the Clayton Act, and Federal Trade Commission Act.
  • Can you give examples of the conduct that you believe violates the antitrust laws? If so, please provide as much detail as possible. hmm. I guess this is speculation, since it hasn't actually happened yet. I suppose you could paint the bleak picture? see my discussion above.
  • What is the product or service affected by this conduct? Where is the product manufactured or sold, or where is the service provided? the product is concert tickets, the service is concert performances by bands/singers/entertainers etc. the service is provided at your local concert venues.
  • Who are the major competitors that sell the product or provide the service? this may differ depending on where in America you are. I believe in the D.C. area it'd be TicketAlternative, Tickets.com, and Ticketfly.
  • What is your role in the situation in question? I'm a consumer and I will be affected by the decreased competition between ticket sellers.
  • Who is harmed by the alleged violations? How are they harmed? other consumers and the musicians/entertainers themselves. consumers may not be able to afford tickets. musicians/entertainers will likely no longer have a viable livelihood.

Step 2: Submit the Concern to the Citizen Complaint Center

You may submit your concern by e-mail, regular mail, or phone.

Citizen Complaint Center
Antitrust Division
950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Room 3322
Washington, DC 20530

1-888-647-3258 (toll free in the U.S. and Canada) or 202-307-2040

How We Handle Your Complaint

The Antitrust Division's Citizen Complaint Center (CCC) facilitates communication of your concerns to the Division's legal staff. When you submit a complaint to the Antitrust Division, the following occurs:

  1. The CCC creates a record of the information you have provided.
  2. The CCC conducts a preliminary review of your complaint for possible antitrust violations.
  3. If your complaint raises sufficient concern under the federal antitrust laws, the CCC will refer it to the appropriate Division legal section where additional research may lead to a formal investigation into the reported conduct.
  4. If the Division decides to review your complaint further, you will likely be contacted within one month of submitting your complaint.

In some instances, the volume of mail, e-mail, and phone traffic on a particular issue is such that we cannot respond to each message individually. We would like you to know, however, that all incoming correspondence is forwarded to the appropriate staff within the Antitrust Division, and you can be assured that your voices and views are being heard.

Confidentiality Policy and Privacy Policy

Our Confidentiality Policy and Privacy Policy apply to all complaints received by the Antitrust Division.

Criminal Antitrust Leniency Program for Corporations and Individuals

Individuals or companies who (a) believe they may have been involved in criminal antitrust violations and (b) cooperate with the Antitrust Division can avoid criminal conviction, fines, and prison sentences if they meet the conditions of the Division's Leniency Program.

Leniency application instructions, the Division's corporate and individual leniency policies, model leniency letters, and other information regarding the Division's Leniency Program are available on the Leniency Program page.

Mousetrap: the Britpop dance that was(n't)

so Mousetrap is a monthly dance night at the Black Cat and usually it's the second Saturday, for anyone planning on a trip to D.C. and wondering if there's a groovy thing to go to. this time it was the day after xmas, entitled "Mousetrap: the Holiday Edition".

miscellaneous amusements of the evening:

1) the top three songs of the evening (in terms of getting peeps to the dancefloor) were the Ting Tings' "That's Not My Name", Peter Bjorn and John's "Young Folks", and MGMT's "Kids".

what's wrong with this picture? 2 out of 3 of those aren't even British. it should have been named "music that British people like to listen to" dance night, not a Britpop dance night.

there were some really strange selections beyond the requisite "Brimful of Asha" by Cornershop. I'm always a bit amused whenever they're played on the same night as the Smiths since back in the day during the Finsbury Park disaster, they claimed "Kill Uncle" was a racist album.

that said, I get a lot of satisfaction singing along to "This Charming Man" and "Bigmouth Strikes Again" b/c of course I know all of the words ::grin::

2) I love the Beatles and I love the Rolling Stones. but I find dancing to "A Hard Day's Night" and "Street Fightin' Man" a bit difficult. I can't be the only one.

3) there was a lit snowman sitting on the stage where bands usually perform. I guess that's what made it "Mousetrap: the Holiday Edition". ehhh...

4) the first hour and a half we were there (11 to 12.30), the music was great. then it started going south, playing songs from earlier generations (see #2 above). nothing wrong with that music, it's just not really music to dance to, you know what I mean?

I noticed a ton of people had already bailed by 1, which is usually a bad sign.

5) Morrissey's voice on "Bigmouth Strikes Again" sounds weird on a PA system. like it's stretched and whiny like a little kid's.

6) there was group of five or six guys who pointed in my direction. I'm not sure what they were doing, but I certainly smiled and hoped one of them would come over and dance in my direction b/c it would have been fun to have someone else to cut a rug with. I'm one of those people who don't need Dutch courage to get out there and dance, and generally, I don't care what people think of my dancing (remind you of anyone...?). in any event, nothing happened and the blokes disappeared (who knows, maybe they thought the music was a snooze too).

what didn't happen reminded me of this video. yes, it's full of Lee Press-on Nails, fluorescent clothes, and big hair, but it's from the '80s and it's Whitney old skool. still great after all these years.

not sure how these VEVO YouTube channels work, so if you get an advert, apologies.

25 December 2009

New England sojourn: Boston part 3b (+ gig photos)

so to continue...

Julie thought, and reasonably so, that maybe I'd be able to see one of the guys from the band and still get some kind of interview from them, once they knew *who* had been asking for the interview. I was after all the American journo that had headed out to Nottingham to see them and chat with them in May at the Dot to Dot Festival, to their near-speechless surprise.

so I'm standing outside by myself - freezing my arms off again (I'm never wearing that jacket in the winter, I swear!) - and then in the distance I see two blokes approaching in dark winter coats. they're too far away for me to make out their faces. (remember, it's dark, it's 1900 on a Boston night.) by the time they get closer and reach the bus parked outside the club I realise far too late that one of them is Ed Mac. (he's wearing socks, which also throws me off. if you look at any of FFires' gig photos of him, he's clearly not wearing any visible socks when he's dancing.) professional decorum prevents me from shouting at him - I'm sure he really did not need or want any fans mobbing him at this point - so that was that. I also see some other people in their crew that I recognise but they're all on their mobiles and it'd be rude to interrupt them. I mean, seriously. what if they were talking to their mums?

the bar opens finally and at last I can sit down and warm up a bit. a stroke of good luck as I spy Edd Gibson coming into the club's bar through the regular doors, as if he were one of us. I wave and as usual, he's as nice as can be. he apologised for being unable to give Julie a guestlist spot as he's already given his last one away eating out earlier. (so it ended up that Julie couldn't find a spare ticket. it was really that sold out. even the touts were trying to scoop up tickets and gouge fans. if you're sceptical, read Julie's "review" of what happened.)

so I go to the gig by myself. but you're never really "by yourself" at a gig, are you? I find myself surrounded by people who work for Converse, which explains why everyone is wearing fashionable Chucks on a winter's night. you know how if you go to a party and you see friends, and you have to introduce some friends to other friends if they don't know each other well? well these Converse employees did that, and then realised when they got to me they had no bloomin' idea who I was. so this one girl introduced me (seeing my photo pass on my arm) as "...and this is the band's official photographer." ::blush:: I wish! I explained to them to the more interested ones that no, I wasn't FFires' photographer, but that I was writing this up for two blogs and that I'd come up to Boston from D.C. because the tour was not stopping anywhere near us. it seemed to impress some of them about my knowledge of the xx (having seen them twice prior coming up to Boston) and where I've been on my blogging travails. one girl, an apparel buyer, told me she was a Capricorn and started asking me what sign *I* was - er...was she hitting on me? I was too busy faffing with my camera's settings and worrying about covering the gig to notice. (BTW, if you were wondering, I'm 100% hetero. sorry girls.)

here is a photo of the FFires set list (next to Ed Mac's synth stand) snapped by one of the nice Converse girls. five gigs now and I still don't have one! I've told my friend MB (who I gave the Big Pink set list to) that the next time FFires are in D.C., she is crawling onstage to get the set list for me (haha). it's somewhat amusing that I've seen Ladyhawke twice and I've gotten both her setlists, one for D.C. and one for Nottingham, with minimal effort.

all in all, a good gig. defo not the best I've seen of theirs, but v. good still. it had nothing to do with the band - they were giving it their usual 110%. (you guys were sick? really?) the crowd just wasn't excited enough. there wasn't the palpable, electric feeling of "OMFG, I'm seeing Friendly Fires tonight!" that I've witnessed from the audience at other shows. from what I heard about the Webster Hall gig the next night, I did well to avoid their screaming, fainting teenyboppers. so I probably made the right decision to head to Boston instead of NYC. I really like Boston! the people are really nice, unlike those crazy people I ran into in NYC in August. and I really like the Paradise.

maybe one day I'll get to interview them again. I hope so. maybe they'll actually remember who I am. I doubt they'll remember what didn't happen in Boston.

and here are the Paradise gig reviews, if you haven't read them yet (shame on you, b/c they've been featured in both places and on the Paradise Rock Club blog!)...
on PopWreckoning
on There Goes the Fear
on Paradise Rock Club's Blogspot

when I'm preparing to post a gig review, I go through my photos and pick out the best ones. this being the 5th time I've seen FFires, I've gotten my technique down for photographing them (if I do say so myself). they're such a photogenic band and have so much energy that you can't really take a bad photo of them, unless it's framed improperly. (let's say someone's head or arm got cut off while the shutter snapped, or I've got a great view - of someone's back. heh!) or someone's moving around too much (which of course is possible since this is, after all, dance music). but I had so many beauties to choose from that many just didn't make the cut. so this is where you benefit, oh dear reader. in addition to these that I posted earlier this month, here are some more gorgeous shots from the night.

el Gibson readying himself on guitar

Moog love

can you feel the emotion from Ed Mac? can you feel it? (apparently my mum cannot. she sees the photos I take at gigs and says, "ew, sweaty!" um...you'd be sweaty too if you were giving it your all, performing.)

I love how the light glints off Edd, banging away on his guitar, in this pic. sometimes "mistakes" make for compelling photos.

are you "On Board" yet? (Edd and Rob)

the Mac introducing the encore, "Ex Lover"

in all likelihood, doth endeth my travelling far for FFires. 2009 was a good year. bring on 2010 and whatever bands charm their way into my heart.

24 December 2009

New England sojourn: Boston part 3a

so here is what you're all waiting for - my thoughts and feelings about the Friendly Fires / xx gig. I'm going to be as objective as I can about it...


Day 3 (4 December)

I had another glorious lie-in, knowing full well that I'd be up late that night and I'd also have to be up early Saturday morning to catch my flight back to the D.C. area (to cover the Big Pink at home Saturday night - gig review here). another check of my email - no joy there. I printed off my boarding pass, then went to go collect my wristband for the in-store. the clerk gave me the false impression that there weren't going to be too many people there for the performance. (terrible misconception.) I did some more shopping down Newbury Street (got some rad nail polish at Urban Outfitters) and walked a bit more along the adjoining streets. it's a whole lot more interesting than D.C., I can tell you that.

Trinity Church had been closed when I had passed by there in the morning, so later when I went back and I went in and took the self-guided tour. little creepy that the organist was practising as I was examining the stained glass windows. gave me chills, the wrong kind to have when you're touring an old church.

by the time I went back to the hotel at 2, I still had not made contact with whom I needed to for the evening. I tried not to let it worry me as I got dressed for making a good impression over the next 10+ hours, representing the blogs, representing D.C., and of course representing myself. figuring there wouldn't be much time between the in-store and the Paradise gig, Julie and I decided to have lunch/dinner at Trident Booksellers, and I'd just play things by ear and take them as they came. just as we were walking into the store my mobile rang, and I'm hearing on the other end, gruffly, that I'd been misinformed about having any interview with Friendly Fires in the first place and it'd be impossible because the boys were ill and that was that. was I upset? sure. who wouldn't be? I'd traveled all this way and had psyched myself up for what I figured would be a really great interview, considering how candid they'd been the first time I interviewed them in England. don't have all the details on what was going on behind the scenes, but yeah, it was disappointing to say the least. it just wasn't meant to be. oh well. that's how the music biz works sometimes. (my hero/friend Stuart Maconie a couple years ago had a scheduled interview with Morrissey at South by Southwest and got rebuffed, and he's interviewed Moz loads of times. so I don't feel that bad, especially if it happens even in the higher-up echelons of music journalism.) at least I had the in-store and gig that night...

the in-store. oh, I can laugh about it now, but feeling like my arms were going to freeze off in an ill-advised slip of a brown corduroy jacket was not funny at the time. we saw a bloke with a wristband in the cafe, typing away on his laptop, so when he packed up and left, I thought we'd have plenty of time. we got outside at about 1600 to see this huge queue already forming. a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. it didn't help that 1700, the time for the start of the in-store, came and went. we inquired why it was taking so long, and we were told the xx's equipment was late. not knowing what the queue situation would be like at the Paradise, I fought an internal battle as to when to cut our losses and leave for the other gig. finally, sometime after 1750 we were finally let in.

rather than rehash what I've already written, you can read, view photos, and watch video on my published posts at PW and TGTF:
PopWreckoning review
There Goes the Fear review

shortly before 1900 we headed back to Julie's car and we headed over to the Paradise. Julie didn't have a ticket and the gig was airtight, completely sold out. I'd been unable to get a ticket for myself as press (though I was v. lucky to be granted a photo pass so I could photograph without fuss during the gig). I'd purchased mine from the Live Nation Web site months prior to make sure I'd be able to get into the show, b/c I just knew it would sell out. Julie dropped me off outside and went to look for parking, and there was no one about except a local couple who was waiting impatiently for the club doors to open, and several other would-be punters who were looking for touts b/c they didn't have tickets either.

to be continued...

22 December 2009

call and response - Two Door Cinema Club vs. Friendly Fires edition

I do believe I have a new favourite band. for the moment anyway, until some other bands put out their next albums.

I have been entrusted with a sampling of Two Door Cinema Club's debut album, 'Tourist History', to make its debut on 1 March 2010, the same day I am in Fairfax, VA seeing Muse. I've been listening to the sampling of songs on repeat for the last couple of days, following on for a near fast of everything musical except Morrissey and the Smiths. (I was in a weird mood when I came back from Boston.)

I got this idea from Eddie Argos of Art Brut. in addition to being an exceedingly nice young man (he wrote me and Tweeted me with get well wishes when I injured my knee!) , he has a side project with his gf Dyan, Everyone Was in the French Resistance. and what they are doing with their music is all about responding to stories in songs we never knew the ending to. For example, what happened to Jimmy Mack, and did he ever come back? for more info on their amazing work, read his blog here.

I won't divulge too much what I think of TDCC's songs b/c I'm saving that up for the review I will unleash to the world on TGTF the first week of 2010. but I will say that their song "I Can Talk" seems to me a chilling, almost vengeful response to the almost happy-go-lucky "Skeleton Boy" by Friendly Fires.

ok, first watch and listen to FFires's "Skeleton Boy":

okay, so my impression of the song is this. he's been wronged by his gf, yet he wants to give her another chance. being on the dancefloor takes his mind off what's going wrong in their relationship/his life, so he lets the music take him away ala Calgon. I particularly like the chorus "your love is out / believing despite it all / give me your hand / let's face this night and see it through" because it's incredibly optimistic. he wants to see if giving the relationship time will allow it to continue. frankly, if this guy was my mate, I would have already clawed out this girl's eyes out already.

and now we get to TDCC's "I Can Talk":

the lyrics? ouch. whoa mama.

you won't believe what I tell you
white coats and clever minds will choose
you get a lot from this

loose tongue and arrogance

it's not appropriate

don't think that this is it

now I can talk, no one gets off
(I know how you like to)

now I can talk, no one gets off...

obvs this guy is pissed. he's been wronged all right. and his girl has an acid tongue. THWAP there's your slap in the face, biotch.

the song is so ingrained in my head, it's crazy. I shouldn't be singing such a vitriolic song with such excitement, but what can I say. total earworm.

(may I also mention that the way people keep saying TDCC sound like Foals is driving me crazy. I don't think so. so stop already. if *anything* they sound KIND OF like Vampire Weekend.)

not sure which band would win in a fight, but surely 3-on-3 basketball would be hella interesting. COMMENTS/OPINIONS WELCOME.


and oh yeah, have I mentioned how annoying Kanye West and Justin Timberlake are? they (or rather the people who actually write stuff on their Web sites) both have given props to FFires and Kanye likes TDCC. would you guys stop trying to jump on the bandwagon? you're too late, all right? thankyouverymuch.

20 December 2009

New England sojourn: Boston part 2

note: day 2 was a lot less exciting, owing to the fact that I did touristy stuff.

Day 2 (3 December)

had a nice lie-in. (normally I'm up and at 'em by 630 for work.) went downstairs and filled myself with oatmeal and tea from the comp brekky as I saw the rain pouring down outside. I figured it wasn't worth leaving the hotel until it stopped. then I parked myself in front of the lounge's computer to see if I had received the email I had been waiting for. nope.

finally left to go to Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market (the one big Boston tourist trap). unfortunately, the maps I had did not show every single street, so I was walking around fruitlessly for an hour and I thought following a trio of women trying to find Macy's would be the answer. whoops. finally made it over and by then, it was 11 and I was starving. a bewildering display of food from every corner of the globe beckoned. cookies from the famous Boston Chipyard were way too ridiculously expensive IMO so I decided to find chocolates somewhere else for certain friends of mine. I finally decided on a Italian sausage with onions and peppers and sat myself down at the top of the marketplace with my knife and fork to dig in (and boy was it delish). but before eating, I snapped this. (you don't understand. D.C. doesn't really get itself in the xmas spirit. we're really that bureaucratic.) I thought the way they'd decorated the place looked beautiful.

the weather had turned amazing. Boston hit a record high of 67 F - unheard of for Boston in December! - and I took advantage of this by hitting Boston Common. the web of footpaths reminded me much of Hyde Park. I started to miss London terribly.

and this would be the famous ducklings of the book Make Way for Ducklings by Richard McCloskey. I dunno about the Brits, but if you're American, you defo remember having this story read to you when you were a kid. awww. I sat on the park bench directly facing the ducklings and thought back to 28 May, the last time I'd sat in such glorious sunshine, in London.

on the way back I went to my favourite chocolatier to pick up some tasty morsels for my friends to nom nom on their bus the next day. (seriously though, what are the odds that the store was *across the street* from my hotel? FATE.) somehow, I managed NOT to buy anything for myself. (gotta keep up my girlish figure somehow, haha.)

took the Red Line train to Harvard Square to meet Julie for dinner. on the way there, I looked on the walls for signs of something funny. I had been "warned" by my friend H that her hubby A was on the advert posters for Boston Uni graduate school on the train. I thought, hm, I bet I won't even see these posters! I got on the train, the doors closed, and yep, there was A's silly mug. I had to laugh. at least they're not as embarrassing at Joey Tribbiani's VD New York subway adverts!

I commented to Julie that the town was dolled up like Candyland. really. it has this charming, small town quality. not a fan of all the uni kids that were smoking. too bad. we ate at Grendel Den's, a little pub right near the square that was really hopping for a Thursday night. disappointingly, I wasn't carded. those days are over I guess.

however, all was not lost. I noted the English accent of our waiter and asked him, "what part of England are you from, my love?" he smiled and laughed, "everyone thinks I'm from Scotland! you're the first person that's asked if I was from England. I'm from Leeds." we traded "my love"s all night, which was fine by me. I loved being called "my love". is it wrong that I always get this warm feeling when I talk to polite English boys?

New England sojourn: Boston part 1

it seems rather inappropriate to be writing about my 3-day trip to the then-shockingly, sunny Boston the first week of December while the entire East Coast is recovering from the snowstorm of the decade (and possibly the snowstorm of my lifetime). but...I do want to write this because over 2 weeks have passed already since the Paradise gig with Friendly Fires and the xx and I feel like if I wait any longer, the memories will fade. so here goes with part 1 of 3 of my Boston trip diary.


Day 1 (2 December)

getting to BWI via mass transit relatively peaceful. defo much cheaper than hiring a taxi (it would have been upwards of $70 plus tip), I paid $7. BWI looked a lot different than I remembered it. they've turned it into a mini Heathrow, with all the yellow signs. a little creepy.

plane ride was uneventful. in fact, we arrived almost 30 minutes early. signage to the Massport shuttle (to get to Airport station on the Blue Line) was virtually nonexistent, and one of the security women inside the airport was entirely unhelpful. it was windy too - boo. I ended up stood next to these two burly construction guys who were smoking and making small talk to some out of towners. finally the bus arrived and I hopped on. armed with loaded Charlie card, navigating the T was almost a breeze, except that I missed the outbound Green Line train I should have taken. no worries though. I figured out which cars were wheelchair accessible, which made lugging my suitcase and carryon up into the train much easier (instead of climbing stairs). being a small girl defo has its challenges.

alighted at the Copley Square stop and then realised - with a large groan - that there was no lift and I would have to hoof myself and my bags up the stairs. once to the top, I gulped the fresh air and then looked around. I immediately missed the D.C. and London arrow signs that point you in the direction of the major sights. I walked a block down Boylston, then realised that I'd stupidly walked in the wrong direction. (of course.) walked the other way and then found my hotel.

with happiness I learned my room was ready (despite the fact that I was hours early of the check-in time) so I got unpacked. (to this day I'm not sure where an entire set of badminton birdies (shuttlecocks) made of actual bird feathers went, because I had brought them as a xmas present for a particular drummer who likes to play badminton in Hackney. at first I thought maybe I'd forgotten to pack them but when I returned home, I didn't see them anywhere, so I think someone must have nicked it from my room :P well, it's the thought that counts, right?)

after unpacking, I went out and explored the famous Newbury Street. I had a mobile chat with my friend Julie, who writes her own blog Boston Musings and planned to meet her the next day. I went down to Newbury Comics and had a nice chat with the blokes behind the register to get information on the xx in-store on Friday. after I left, I was grinning from ear to ear, having had a v. nice discussion with them on how great the xx were live. oh, and I'd finally bought Camera Obscura's My Maudlin Career and was going to listen to it later on the ace sound system back in my hotel room.

like this sign? it was posted outside a new age store that sold "the softest stuffed unicorns, ever". and of course, garden gnomes. (and yeah, if I'm being honest, they are the softest stuffed unicorns I've ever touched. haha!)

the sun sets a lot earlier in Boston than it does in D.C. and since I hadn't eaten lunch yet, I had a way early dinner (1500, haha) at the Atlantic Fish Company - oysters on the half shell and some massive broiled scallops to die for, plus some kind of cheesecake thingy that I decided I just had to order for my belated birthday. sorry, no picture here b/c 1) it felt weird photographing in such a chichi restaurant and 2) if you saw how much food you'd probably gasp or die laughing. granted, I hadn't eaten anything since 5 in the morning when I'd left the house.

I bought some ginger ale at the supermarket down from the street from the restaurant (I know, so v. rock 'n' roll!), and headed back to the hotel. it was way too early to turn in, but it was so cold so I headed over to the Copley Square "mall" thingy - overall, overpriced and full of other posh people (though I had a good laugh at seeing a Boston outpost of Thomas Pink/Jermyn Street whose stores I thought only existed in London. what can I say? I appreciate well-dressed, well-groomed men.) after that, I went into the Boston Public Library and poked around a bit. it's really beautiful inside, all that amazing stone that was molded by human hands to make a monument to the written word.

still freezing outside, I tried to take photos of the decorated xmas tree in Copley Square (didn't turn out too well) and the tortoise and the hare. this photo the next day turned out much better, once the kids stopped clambering on top of the poor creatures (click the pic for the full view):

returning back to my room, I drank several glasses of icy cold ginger ale, then laid back on my bed, happy and tummy full. "Honey in the Sun", sung by that amazingly talented Traceyanne Campbell, blasted through my speakers, and the beauty of the song (and what it meant to me) made me weep. after drying my eyes, I finally curled up and went to bed.

18 December 2009

this week's Roundtable (part 2 of 2 of 2009 review)

a day late due to pesky office potluck. apologies.

Roundtable saw (Radio 1 BBC Introducing host) Huw Stephens, Milo Cordell from the Big Pink and our very own (6music breakfast show presenter) Shaun Keaveny

1. Phoenix - "1901" - I like this. I'm disappointed I didn't see these frogs when they came to D.C. (the show was sold out).

sidenote: Mssr. Cordell has a sexy voice, I wish he would use it onstage. just saying. (fangirl speaking, haha)

2. Arctic Monkeys - "Crying Lightning" - I didn't like the song at first (never been much of an Alex Turner girl) but it's grown on me. it's defo memorable, with mentions of ice cream men and Pick 'n' Mix.

3. Speech Debelle - "Spinnin'" - my, how the mighty have fallen. when she won the Mercury Prize in September, the music world collectively gasped in surprise. at the time, I was happy that Florence and the Machine didn't win, after being the odd-on favourite for weeks.

everyone gasped again when she ditched her label last month, claiming they weren't supporting her and her vision. not sure where she's going for now. right now I think she's just spinnin' her wheels. (::rimshot::)

nd yes Huw, I agree with you, Friendly Fires should have won the Mercury Prize. ::grin::

4. the Drums - "Let's Go Surfing" - now tipped as a BBC Sound of 2010, funnily enough Huw is saying he prefers Frankie and the Heartstrings. (he'd seen both bands, with Frankie opening.) hmmm...! and further, Milo didn't enjoy it, so Lammo is predicting fisticuffs on the NME Shockwaves Award Tour in 2010. oof!

I've heard the Drums purportedly dumped their original handlers once they hit it big in the UK. doesn't sound v. kosher in my book...I haven't heard both sides of the story, but it's upsetting to hear things like that - if it's true of course.

5. Editors - "Papillon" - this song made me study the band from Brum closer. and added "it kicks like a sleep twitch!" to my list of favourite phrases. not sure if that's what Tom Smith had in mind...

6. Mos Def - oops, missed the title as I was drumming to it with my fingers on the desk - FYI any drumming on my part means it's good!

7. Florence and the Machine - the winner (::groan::)- "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)" - it's ok, but the fist pumping action going on at discos when the song goes into the chorus is pure wickedness. I just wish she'd stop screaming.

8. the Big Pink - "Velvet" - LUSH.

Julian Lennon / James Scott Cook charity single for lupus research

Watch Julian Lennon talking to Harry Smith (CBS Early Show presenter) about "Lucy", the charity single he and James Scott Cook wrote and recorded to raise money for the Lupus Foundation of America and St. Thomas's Trust (the UK equivalent to the LFA). "Lucy" of course is a nod to Lucy Vodden, Julian's childhood friend and the inspiration for John Lennon to write "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" (no, the song is not about LSD. really.)

I encourage you to buy the song from iTunes as I have a personal connection to this illness, in more ways than one. all proceeds go to lupus research. thanks and happy holidays.

playing "Lucy"

the PSA they recorded for LFA/STT

ugh, Christmas covers, make them stop.

I wanted to be put out of my misery after hearing Florence Welch's cover of Wham!'s "Last Christmas" on Lammo's programme just now. UGH. I'll give her that she was performing it as part of some special xmas show thingy but still...really no need. her voice squeaks and I'm sorry, I just don't like the way she sounds. "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)" is a good choone for the disco but other than that, I can live without her really.

but this isn't the only offender this Christmas. there is also an acoustic version of "Don't They Know It's Christmas" (aka the Bob Geldof/Band-Aid 1984 Christmas charity single) this year being put out by Badly Drawn Boy. don't mess with thar classics. ever!

there's a Thea Gilmore xmas-themed song playing on Rad/Mac and Radio2 as well. but as seeing it's not a cover (I don't think?) I'll leave that one alone.

only one more week left. THANK GOD.

16 December 2009

"trying to keep an eye on you" (sucky MOR format)

during my usual soul-sucking commute this morning, I heard "Losing My Religion" twice, on two different stations. mind you, I love R.E.M. and it's a great song. but do I really need to hear it twice within minutes of each other on different radio stations in the SAME radio market?

this is why the American middle of the road (MOR) radio format sucks.

perhaps we've got it worse in the D.C. area, which is choked by corporate-owned stations. thank god there are internet radio stations.


once in a while, they get it right. I was in a terrible mood leaving work yesterday - just dog tired and not willing to put up with any crap - and "Alone" by Heart came on the groanworthy-titled "Fresh 947 FM". never mind the stupid station name. it reminded me how great some songs of my past really are. and how wonderfully apt some lyrics are for specific time points in your life.

watch it. trust me, you'll thank me for it. I mean, what girl HASN'T felt like this MULTIPLE times in her life? well, I guess if you're the "go out and get 'im" type, this may not apply to you.

I hear the ticking of the clock
I'm lying here, the room's pitch dark
I wonder where you are tonight
no answer on the telephone
and the night goes by so very slow
oh I hope that it won't end though

'till now I always got by on my own
I never really cared until I met you
and now it chills me to the bone
how do I get you alone
how do I get you alone

13 December 2009

reflections on 2009

we're getting ever closer to the end of 2009 and 2010 is coming up fast, so I thought I better write my "how was my year" post. I've already had to think about what my best albums and gigs were of the year and that was hard enough, but to think about what emotions I've had and crazy medical stuff I've been through this year is another ball of wax completely.

it's probably not the best idea to write this post now considering I'm in a weird mood:

1. I'm shattered from two v. late nights of gigging (excellent gigging I might add - Friday night at a sold out Iota for Fanfarlo and then Saturday night at a not-as-full Rock 'n' Roll Hotel for Phenomenal Handclap Band, who was missing Sean Marquand, who waves to me from the stage every time he sees me - so boo),

2. it's raining here today, which means my whole body is aching (my body is like a barometer, every time the pressure changes, my joints feel it),

3. got into a terrible row with my insomniac mother this morning for reasons unclear to me (so I have nothing to be sorry for), and

4. last night was my last gig of 2009 and for over a month (until the Cribs on 19 January), and I'm a bit sad about that.

...but I'd like to do this before I forget.


so what happened in 2009? top 10 events, in chronologic order:

1. I started this blog here. I hope it's been an interesting read for someone out there.

2. my love of music turned into "professional" blog writing. and I joined up with Popwreckoning as one of their writers. I've been working so hard for them, I have over 100 posts in less than 9 months. not bad eh?

3. I fell in love with Friendly Fires. This is not to say I haven't fallen in love with other bands or singers this year but if we're talking major "head over heels" falling in love, this band is it. That's the only way I can explain that I've seen them 5 times, 4 of those times in a town that is not my own. or theirs for that matter. at this point, I joke that they should give me an honorary bunk on their tour bus.

4. I met my first "rock stars" - Noah and the Whale - through blogging and because they knew me, I hung out with them after their D.C. show. still sad that Doug Fink has left the band and has become...a doctor (?!?!?)

5. I went to my first music festival - Dot to Dot - in Nottingham, England. Why? Because Friendly Fires was headlining and I was given an offer to interview Edd Gibson and Ed Macfarlane there. It was my first major interview, and since then, I've had the opportunity to sit down and chat with a lot of people, and I like to think that the FFires interview has helped spread the word around about me as a knowledgeable interviewer and a good-at-what-she-does type of journo.

It also helped that my friend Matt's Skint and Demoralised were playing, as well as Patrick Wolf and Ladyhawke. I also saw the Pains of Being Pure at Heart as well - Kip Berman laughing about this later, saying I must get around as much as they do :)

6. thanks to my condition, I hurt my arm on the way back from England and lost the use my left arm for over 2 months. I wrote to Stuart Maconie in Manchester when I was in so much pain that I was crying as I typed up all 7 of the Dot to Dot articles with my right hand. he wrote me back (I couldn't believe it) and he wished me well on everything I was doing with music.

I had to undergo a ton of physical therapy, and lots of treatment were required to get me back into shape. somehow I was a-ok when time came for Friendly Fires to play two shows in New York in August. so I went and had a great time.

7. I was asked to become USA editor for There Goes the Fear and agreed. Have been working really hard for that on top of everything I do for PW. It's been tough sometimes, especially with my health.

8. I reached a birthday milestone last month that, if I'm being honest, that I had predicted when I was 12 I didn't think I was going to make. every day for me is a struggle. I'm pretty private when it comes to this stuff so the people I work with on the blogs or because of the blogs (the bands) aren't aware of what I'm going through.

sometimes I wish I could tell them...because I dearly wish them to know, if only to be aware what kinds of things I have to give up, the chances I have to take with my health in order to go to them and see them play. music is really the one thing in my life that I can always count on, because I've learned that you can't - and shouldn't - always count on others. apologies if I sound cynical but that's just been my experience.

9. Fate stepped in and prevented me from making a fool out of myself in the name of love (this is conjecture but somehow I think it's likely).

10. ...

I'm leaving this blank for now b/c there's another 2+ weeks to go in December 2009 and maybe something nice will happen to me before 2010.

10 December 2009

this week's Roundtable (part 1 of 2 of 2009 review)

been out for 2 weeks but raring to go in the first of two "best of 2009's tracks" shows.

Roundtable sees Elly Jackson from La Roux and the NME's Jaimie Hodgson (+ Matt Everitt of the Music Week) discuss some of 2009's best tracks

1. Empire of the Sun - "Walking on a Dream" - I appreciate Elly's insight into EotS's amazing clothing lineup during live gigs. of course she would know!

funnily enough this is now being used for a Vizio advert here in America. plus, Jack Savidge is a fan. good enough for me.

2. Morrissey - "Something is Squeezing My Skull" - I am in agreement with Matt Everitt that "Years of Refusal" has some gems but as a whole isn't a great album. ooh a 1 from Elly - harsh!

3. Doves - "Kingdom of Rust" - oh man, this brings back great memories of seeing Doves at the 9:30 Club in June (read the review.) bloody amazing.

4. Bat for Lashes - "Daniel" - I like the sound of Natasha Khan but having seen her live and not being impressed - all pomp and no real musical substance - I'm not sure what her legacy will be in years to come.

5. Lily Allen - "The Fear" - this album came out the same week as Moz's YOR so I skipped buying her album b/c I was so mad at Best Buy for running out of YOR copies. I do like her, I think she's gotten better songwriting wise.

6. Dizzee Rascal - the winner, ugh -"Bonkers" - it's not really my thing but everyone seems to love it...?

7. Friendly Fires - "Jump in the Pool" - I admit it, the first time I gave the album a spin, I hated this song. THEN I saw them live and watched Ed Mac banging away on his agogo and everything changed.

...why are they even debating Klaxons vs. FFires??? is that a rational argument?

8. La Roux - "In for the Kill" - iTunes single of the year says Lammo. really? I'd like it to be true, but I doubt it.

07 December 2009

FFires photo teaser

to whet your appetite until the gig reviews are posted, here are a trio of pics from Friday's Boston show to keep you happy.

Edd Gibson about to let 'er rip on 'In the Hospital'

Jack Savidge getting ready to beat on an agogo on "On Board"

Ed Macfarlane playing bass and singing on "Ex Lover"

06 December 2009

BBC Sounds of 2010 list out now...

the BBC were semi-accurate in their predictions in 2009. White Lies did well at the start of the year but their profile dropped like a rock by the summertime. does anyone even listen to them anymore???

BBC Sounds of 2010 long-list

what do you think? of the list, I agree with Delphic (whose album does battle with Vampire Weekend's "Contra" on 11 January), Two Door Cinema Club (whose debut album is scheduled to come out on Kitsune Maison in February), and Manchester's Everything Everything.

in general, I turn to Lammo for hot tips. though I wonder if the xx did so well because they were simply mentioned by him as a band to watch in 2009. not sure...

Boston to D.C. by way of Baltimore BWI

my calves hurt. the last two nights - in two different cities - have been spent standing for hours on end first outside in really cold weather (I spent Friday night in a thin corduroy jacket, which in hindsight was a mistake b/c it was so cold but fashion comes first, haha) and then inside a venue in somewhat uncomfortable shoes.

the intervening time between the gigs was spent trying to get back from Boston to D.C. by way of Baltimore. was furious when my Smartrip card (equivalent to London's Oyster but stupider) wasn't readable and I had to use a fiver (losing half of that) to the bus's fare machine in order to board the bus to the Metro. and it was snowing like crazy, the first snow of the Washington winter. YOU try dragging a suitcase through wet snow.

the Big Pink gig at the Black Cat was excellent. Robbie Furze is seriously ripped. talk about biceps. the veins popping out of that guy's arms are something ridiculous.


my trip to Boston was good. it could have been better but Friday night was mostly saved by Edd Gibson (total sweet - he wished me a happy birthday and was glad I was there - awww!) and two other fantastic guys that only previously knew me from Twitter and I hope to see again in England soon ;) (no, it wasn't *those* two guys...)

disappointedly, the audience was a bit stiff until "On Board" and "Paris". I hope D.C. has a better showing the next FF come to town. we should, because I've already informed every single one of my friends that they MUST be there with me. haha.

more details about the gig coming soon...I'm still going through the pretty of my photos from the night and almost finished with my PW review. watch this space.