Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Durham Open Mic 24/8/11 - Enter The Hot Dream

As well as good performers, an open mic always needs a good audience. Last week though, the audience became the main attraction. I have no idea where the party of refreshed ladies at the front came from, but their spirited dancing and interruptions on the mic added a Bacchanalian vibe to a hot and jam-packed sesh. And despite the best efforts of Honest Jack, Fishburn Mafia and Crème Brulee, the evening's most memorable performance was undoubtedly their a cappella version of 'Ernie, The Fastest Milkman In The West'. Dionysus would have been proud.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Unfurl The Mystic Umbrellas

Connoisseurs of Ambient Dub Goth will be delighted to hear that the legendary Mystic Umbrellas CD is now available as a free download. You can get the entire 'Langton Freeman's Summer-House Tomb' album, plus cover artwork, from the following page:

On this ambitious concept piece, the Umbrellas recreate the unorthodox funeral rites of the Rev. Langton Freeman of Whilton, Northamptonshire. When he died in 1783, his body was interred in a garden summer-house as requested in his will. He had also asked to be placed upon a feather bed with a walking stick by his side, so he could enjoy his favourite country walks after the Resurrection. Now that's what I call forward planning.

Imagine Augustus Pablo jamming with The Orb in a haunted gazebo and you may get some idea of the Umbrellas' otherworldly but strangely restorative sound.

Durham Open Mic – 17/8/11

It was a quiet midsummer night’s scene at The Market Tavern this week with many artistes away on holiday. However, there was still a sizeable audience to be entertained and Honest Jack and Fishburn Mafia to hold the fort. I missed half of it as I was at the Elm Tree Pub Quiz, but despite being considerably refreshed, I was called upon to do two sets. I think I got away with it…

Monday, 15 August 2011

Exit Through The Gift Shop

The highlight of Channel 4's recent street art weekend was the new Banksy movie 'Exit Through The Gift Shop'. It purports to tell the story of a video-maker from LA who rises to fame as a clueless street artist and features not just Banksy (in hoody of course) but also US artist Shepard Fairey, best known for his Obama election poster. It really is a must-see, but like so many Banksy exploits, maintains a strong prankster element. Is there really a Mr Brainwash or is it all a big hoax ? Look around on the web and no-one seems to be sure.

A different face of Banksy was shown on the Sunday night documentary ‘Graffiti Wars’, which tells the story of his alleged feud with graffiti artist King Robbo. It’s an amusing tale of clashing egos and spray cans at ten paces, with some interesting points to make on the differences between stencil and freehand work and even street art and vandalism. Sadly, there is a shocking twist at the end when it is revealed that Robbo was badly beaten up just when he was on the verge of making it in the commercial art world. He is currently in hospital in a deep coma. As the tags say on walls all over London: ‘Get well soon Robbo !’

Durham City Open Mic 10/8/11 – The Seven Impressions

1 – Crossing Framwellgate Bridge at around 9.45 in the evening, I see Durham Cathedral silhouetted by a full moon behind the western towers. Storm clouds scud past at speed adding to the Goth vibe. Was that Nosferatu gliding through the graveyard ?

2 – Enter The Market Tavern to the full-on strumming of a visitor from Croxdale. He does a great version of ‘Blaydon Races’ later in the evening. Proceeding to the bar, I see that Adnams Broadside is on. I consume in volume.

3 – Chatting in the back room with Nick G and Fishburn Mafia to a backdrop of public disorder scenes on BBC News 24. Nick gets up to play and turns in a killer version of Half Man Half Biscuit's ‘Trumpton Riots’.

4 – My turn and I stumble towards the stage. Have difficulty remembering the lyrics to my first tune. I get up to speed and finish my set with a robust version of ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’, pitched somewhere in between the Julie Driscoll and Siouxsie & The Banshees versions.

5 – Alan surprises me with two obscure classics: The Byrds’ ‘5D’ and The Hollies’ ‘King Midas In Reverse’. Pretty psychedelic or what ?

6 – On stage with Crème Brulee, we deliver a scorching ‘I Fought The Law’. After four days of rioting, our audience expects nothing less !

7 – Wake up next day with banging headache.

Monday, 8 August 2011

The Pink Panther Strikes Again

Thanks to Craig ( ) for this vintage portrait from the long gone Hogshead scene.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Durham's Best Open Mic - 3/8/11

Have just got in from another pounding session at The Market Tavern, unquestionably the best open mic gig in town. Hosted by Honest Jack, there was a full bill of local luminaries on stage tonight: from Chris with his avant garde re-interpretations of the Zombies' back-catalogue to Nick G and his bulging songbook of Half Man Half Biscuit & Soft Boys covers. Fishburn Mafia were cooking with gas on a scorching version of 'Ziggy Stardust' and to close the night, it was those post-punk veterans, The Creme Brulee, who climaxed with a psychedelic raga-rock version of Echo & The Bunnymen's 'Do It Clean'. Outside the venue, DC's crisis kids roamed free on their skateboards; whilst inside, the white light/white heat of rock n'roll performance expressed people's resistance to the Coalition Junta. On a sweltering night in August, The Market Tav was the place to be.

Durham City Buskers' Night By Andy Warhol

Thanks to 'Andy' ( ) for this Warholisation of me and the barcode from a tin of tomato soup. I would like to point out that I may occasionally have a few beers before getting up to play but I rarely get totally canned.

Digital De Stael

I am currently embroiled in writing an article about the Russian artist Nicolas De Stael (1914-55). As part of my research, I've been re-imagining some of his pictures using graphics software. OK, this may lose the impasto effect of oils, but it is an interesting way to get to grips with his unusual use of form and colour. The image below is my version of De Stael's 'Fallen Leaves (Les Feuilles Mortes)' from 1951.

From The Durham Miners' Gala To The Houses Of Parliament

One of the highlights of this year's Miners' Gala was the rousing speech by Dennis Skinner, the MP for Bolsover. Despite the relentless rain, he soon had the audience worked up with a trenchant attack on David Cameron whom he memorably described as being 'educated beyond his intelligence'. I could have sworn that there was steam coming out of his ears by the end.

Only a few days later, I was watching the Westminster debate on the News International scandal when I was delighted to see the Beast Of Bolsover take centre stage again. Amidst the usual to and fro of debate, it was Skinner who asked the Prime Minister directly: 'Did you discuss the BSkyB bid in any of your meetings with News International?' Cameron looked as if he had been caught with his hand in the tuck shop till and could only reply: 'I had no improper meetings'. Needless to say, the Opposition benches fell about laughing at the pathetic inadequacy of his reply. This is actually a key issue in the whole affair and if it can be shown that Cameron agreed to help Murdoch control BSkyB in exchange for his support in the 2010 Election, then it's the end of the road for his wretched Tea Party Tory Government and their Quisling Lib Dem collaborators.

By strange coincidence, I am writing this listening to the acid folk classic 'On The Shore' by The Trees. Suddenly the song 'Murdoch' has come on, with the lyric 'Murdoch tempted me...' This must be a sign! Thanks to Chris ( ) for this Gala pic of a miners' lodge banner on the way back from the speeches. Note how they are manfully resisting the urge to have a few in The Dun Cow.