Friday, 9 September 2011

Kind Of Blue

Thanks to Dover ( ) for this Kodak Klassik.

Durham City Open Mic 7/9/11

In contrast to last week's low-key night, the Tav was rammed this evening and I ended up jacking my solo set to play a Crème Brulee giglet with Steve. We did four tracks, including our usual banging version of 'I Fought The Law' to finish. Can't remember much else, save a cracking version of 'Ziggy Stardust' from Ian. Apparently, he was nearly run over in the dodgy new market place/pedestrian death arena this week. I have been assured in a letter from our local MP Roberta Blackman-Woods that this will be sorted soon - but it was almost too late for Ian. Have the local Highways Department got no concern for the arts in our city?

Thoughts On 9/11 + 10

This Sunday is the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 atrocity in New York. The TV is full of documentaries on the subject, which must surely have been the best-documented disaster in history. In fact, I still find it incredible that I was watching it more or less live at the time from the other side of the Atlantic.

What most of these documentaries don't mention is that the building was a fire trap from the moment it was built. In 1968, the New York City building codes were changed to make it easier to pack in more lucrative office space into skyscrapers and to cut down on the non-profitable fittings such as staircases, fire towers and emergency lifts. As a result, the 110 storey World Trade Centre towers had only 3 staircases each to provide escape routes to ground level, compared to 6 in the much older 102 storey Empire State Building. It wasn't even fireproofed to the same standard. The Empire State has its steel girders encased in concrete and masonry, whereas the WTC had only a paltry half-inch thickness of fireproof foam sprayed upon otherwise exposed metal. This is crucial when steel loses a significant amount of its load-bearing strength at high temperatures.

One of the worst aspects of 9/11 was that around half of the 2,749 casualties were people trapped in the upper stories of the buildings with no possible way out. If the WTC had been built with better fire escape provision, many of these people might have had a fighting chance to escape. It's not as if the authorities weren't aware of the danger: in 1975 there was an arson attack on the building; in 1981, an Argentine airliner came within 90 seconds of hitting the WTC when it had problems communicating with air traffic controllers; and in 1993, there was a terrorist attack which claimed 6 lives.

Perhaps one important lesson the authorities should learn from 9/11 is that building regulations do matter and that safety should be given at least as much consideration as profit.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Back In Black

Big shout going out to Exposure Adjutant Dover ( ) for capturing the moment.

Market Tavern Open Mic - 31/8/11

The open mic after a bank holiday is often quieter than usual, but I wasn't expecting to be one of only two singers to turn up! In the end, Nick G and me did 14 songs each, whilst rather stupidly failing to re-negotiate the one free pint deal.

Nick ran through a substantial chunk of his Robyn Hitchcock/Half Man Half Biscuit song-book and even chucked in a rare Status Quo number from their 60's flower power period. For my first set, I did the six songs I'd actually rehearsed, but when I was called up again, decided to wing it with songs I hadn't played since my folk club days in the Tap & Spile. Luckily, the small but vocal audience got behind me as I ran through another eight tunes, including a corking version of 'Sweet Jane' that seemed to get everyone going (and not just to the exits).

Our hosts Honest Jack also did expanded sets in their usual close harmony style and Neil got up without his bandmates to do some fancy guitar instrumentals. A good night all in all and excellent practice at live performance. In fact, that's the beauty of these open mics - you get a chance to try out playing live without the bother of bringing instruments and people usually clap politely even if you're shite. So why not come on down and have a go.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Durham Open Mic On YouTube

Some kindly souls have been hard at work filming the Market Tavern scene for posterity. There's already five clips up, including these two of Honest Jack in flagrante: