fatfakir's blog

Heart of Gold. Nerves of Steel. Knob of Butter.

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Wednesday 16th November

That Was The Week That Was

Tempus Fugit, as they say, and during this last month or so the tempus has really fugited. I don't know where the time goes but go it does. Anyway, over the last few weeks I've been doing a few interesting things. So many interesting things that I'm sure I won't be able to remember some of them.

I've managed to have a fantastic week or so celebrating my fortieth birthday. Things kicked off on Saturday 29th October with a useful home draw for Crewe Alex against Crystal Palace. To be honest, Palace weren't that good but Crewe couldn't take their chances early enough to kill the game off. In the end it took a late, late goal for Crewe to secure the point that they looked good enough for for most of the match. Anyway, buoyed by the result I was looking forward to my rendezvous in Nantwich later that evening. I'd fixed up to meet up with a few old friends for a few quiet beers in the Red Cow, my former local. It was just a small gathering, and although sadly one or two couldn't make it, the evening was considerably enlivened by the unexpected arrival of Davey Dole, back in the country after six years living in Bermuda and, entirely coincidentally, back in Nantwich that very weekend. I bumped into him as he passed by the takeway where I was getting my post-match tea. So with him, Ironman, Muzz and Chrissy D, there was a reasonable enough gathering. Add to that Tammer phoning in, plenty of beers and finishing up in the curry house and it was a top night all round.

After the delights of an early birthday tea, complete with presents (including a magnificent life-size inflatable Dalek) and cake, on Monday night, it was off to the footy again on Tuesday night to see Crewe outplay Leeds United. In truth, it was marginal as to whether the goal was scored by Kelly of Leeds or Billy Jones of Crewe - and I thought the referee was going to rule it out for a foul - but the Mighty Whites took one hell of a beating as they were thoroughly outplayed. If Steve Jones had taken his shooting boots the scoreline could have been a lot more emphatic. So, a home win against Leeds and a birthday announcement, read out just before kick-off, meant I was a truly happy man.

On the Wednesday morning, I had a bit of an extra long lie-in and so didnt get down to that there London as early as I had originally planned. Still, I did get down there for about half past three and made my way round to Bethnal Green to meet up with my little brother, Eddy and his girlfriend,Stephanie. We had a few birthday beers and then made our way round to the Carling Academy, Islington to see The Fall in concert. We arrived late enough to miss support band Resist (partly deliberately, to be honest) and were greeted by the sight of John Cooper Clarke recycling old Bob Monkhouse gags to a bizarrely raucous reception. It was like watching a re-run of terrible 70s gag-athon The Comedians. Never mind the easy recycling of other pepole's old material JCC, give us some of your old material! Anyway, once he'd gone we were treated to some strange video-looping inna V/VM stylee, which seemed to go on forever. Add to that the loss of Eddy when he went off to the toilet and then failed to find us on his way back AND the number of twats who thought standing right in front of me was a good idea, and I was beginning to get a little annoyed. Fortunately the twats moved on before The Fall started. And doubly fortunately, The Fall did not disappoint when they finally hit the stage. Giving us pretty much only stuff of the new album, MES seemed in good form despite looking a bit pissed. Some other twat threw a pint of water or something over him but he wasn't phased. The band were really tight and I have to say the new stuff sounds good on stage. Whilst treating us to a couple of older songs in the form of 'Mountain Energie' and 'Theme from Sparta FC' MES indulged in his usual stage antics trying to disrupt the band. Things came to head when there was some malarkey with the drums and the drummer walked off, swiftly followed by MES and then the bassist, leaving the guitarist and keyboardist to complete 'Janet, Johnny and James' alone. They then left the stage. There was a brief return, of sorts, when the band reappeared and MES added vocals to 'Bo Demmick' from the side of the stage. The band then ran through a couple of numbers instrumentally before leaving the stage. It was all over in about 40 minutes. It was a disaster. It was brilliant. Exactly what I was expecting and a perfect birthday gig. The night ended with more beers back at Eddy's and late, late night chats.

Waking late on Thursday, me and Eddy had some restorative coffees and then ventured out down Whitechapel Road for some brekkie. You can't go wrong if you choose a caff based on the number of workmen in there. And go wrong we didn't. So after a nourishingly healthy fry-up and a couple of cups of coffee I was feeling a bit more human. So it was time to pack the bags and head off over to my hotel in Victoria. After checking in, I went off up to Oxford Road to check out the sales in Virgin and HMV, to see if they'd got any records or DVDs that I might want. You know, the sort of stuff that I can't get in Crewe or Doncaster. Well, you can't get it in London either apparently. There were one or two potential purchases but they were incidental to my main concerns so were cast aside. Then I went looking for Forbidden Planet, which has moved since I last went there. Admittedly that was about five years or more ago. Anyway, there was a bit more wandering around, including a stroll down the disappointingly poor Carnaby Street, before heading back to my hotel where I intended to take advantage of the Wi-Fi access to update my site and check out some of the other attractions of the fair city. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a decent reception in my room, which was a bit disappointing. In fact, it was a bit of a swizz as I'd only booked the hotel because of the Wi-Fi. (That said, when I did pick up a connection I couldn't do anything with it, so this Wireless Internet malarkey is obviously beyond me.)

Friday morning and it was time for a lie-in, a long lazy shower and a wander round to the nearest Wetherspoons for a farmhouse breakfast and a bottle of Koppaberg pear cider. Then it was off up to the Science Museum to meet up with Eddy and take in the ALIEN exhibition. The exhibition focusses mainly on the science of alien life and speculates on the sort of creatures that might evolve under different conditions. It was quite interesting and has some decent interactive features but I felt it was a bit superficial. I guess it was aimed at a slightly younger audience than a pair of cynical middle-aged nerds. The other thing that irritated me about it was that it was obviously part of a big promo puff for a Channel 4 show (Sundays 7.15pm) so why did it cost an arm and a leg to see it? Once we'd been round that, there was time for a quick coffee and then we legged it to see Magnificent Desolation, a 3-D film about walking on the moon, in the iMax cinema. That was pretty spectacular as 3-D films go and really well filmed, but it is written by Tom Hanks, so tends towards the overblown. Also, there are numerous qoutes from the men who actually walked on the moon, but we don't hear their actual voices - they're dubbed by numerous famous actors instead. Why? Most of these guys are still alive. Let's hear them. Anyway, the exhibition, the film and a wander round the museum took us up to late afternoon and it was time to go our separate ways. I went off up to Westminster to meet up with a couple of old mates from MAFF (now known as DEFRA). There weren't as many of them about as I expected but I still managed to get reasonably well drunk. Well, plastered actually. Plastered enough not to remember leaving the pub and getting back to the hotel. Top night.

Saturday morning I was feeling pretty rough. Despite a couple of cups of tea things didn't improve so it was off to MacDs for a burger. That wasn't much help either, so I went back to the hotel to crash out for a couple of hours. My chances of getting on the London Eye pretty much disappeared at that moment. Not that I really cared. After a quick kip, it was off to South Bermondsey to see my little smashers, Crewe play Millwall. It's not the most welcoming of places, although the approach from the railway station isn't too bad - there's a special walkway fo away fans, to save us from mixing with the locals. Once inside the stadium, it resembles a shed and the facilities can't be described as plush. Still, never mind because the view from the upper tier of the away end is pretty good. And it was made all the better as Crewe took the game to Millwall and looked to dominate from the off. Steve Jones popped up to take advantage of a great through ball and earn Crewe the lead but then Millwall started getting back in the game. They were on top for much of the half although their defence looked susceptible to the through ball. Anyway, about five minutes before half time Williams gave away a soft penalty, which Hayles put away without too much difficulty to make it 1 - 1. The second half was almost all Crewe. Gary Roberts finished off a good passing move to make it 2 - 1 and then Steve Jones took another defence-splitting pass and beat the keeper with ease to make the points safe. A good game and an enjoyable away win. The only thing left was to negotiate the crowded train station. Fortunately, the more vocal Millwall fans were still at the ground protesting against the chairman, so my return to Victoria passed without incident. I was due to meet up with Eddy again that evening but he was feeling a bit rough, so I had a nice nosh in the Paradise Indian on Denbigh St and an early night. I needed the kip, to be honest.

Sunday morning it was time to pack up and head over to Eddy's for dinner. We went out to the Cat & Mutton on Broadway Market for a very nice Sunday lunch. Stephanie was disappointed not to get a Yorkshire pudding with her chicken as it was on the menu. Turns out it shouldn't have been on the menu but we got the puds anyway. Result. Then it was round the corner to The Dove for a sampling of one or two of the 106 beers they have on offer. Moving on from there it was into one last pub for a few pints of Budvar whilst watching the Man Yoo vs Chelsea game. After that there was just enough time for a sausage sarnie before heading off to catch almost the last train home. And that was the end of the week for me. I was home, tired but happy and not looking forward to going back to work the next day.

On the music front, apart from The Fall there's not been a lot to tell. Well, actually, there has. There was no visit to lastfriday for me this month due to my birthday plans but I made up for that by buying a couple of dozen CDs and a few DVDs. The essential music purchases this month were:

I also received a copy of The High Llamas - Retrospective, Rarities and Instrumentals, from stroppycow, which I regard as a kind of birthday present, and The Fall - The Legendary Chaos Tape from Eddy, which definitely was a birthday present. Anyway, the essential DVDs:

I can thoroughly un-recommend the Texas Chainsaw movies - they're terrible. Bubba Ho - Tep, I Love Huckabees, House of 1,000 Corpses and Scanners, on the other hand, are all highly recommended. The Ramones documentary is interesting but probably only required viewing for die-hard Ramones fans. And Flight of the Navigator is just a personal favourite of mine.

One final thing that's been bothering me. The Darkness have got a new single out which includes the line One-way ticket to Hell and back. Well, there and back - that's a return ticket, surely? If I'd gone to the train station and asked for one-way ticket to London and back, they'd have looked at me like I was mad. Come on Hawkins, you just haven't thought that through.

Sunday 2nd October

The violence of strangers

Time flies when you're having fun. And, you know, as you get older time seems to fly by whether you're having fun or not. This last month I have spent most of my time working so there isn't that much new stuff to tell. I could go on about work, but quite frankly it's boring. I go to work, stuff happens, or doesn't, I moan about it, I go home. That's it. No really, that is it. These days there's not even any point in playing the 'Conspiracy or Cock Up' game, because it all seems to be Cock Up. Even the good news that a new customer had finally signed a contract was tainted by the fact that the couriers managed to deliver the signed contract to a sister company on the other side of town, who signed for it. At least that wasn't our cock up...

On the music front there's not much news. I was at the usual lastfriday event at The Civic at the end of September. Once again PapaKev managed to line up four decent bands for the bargain price of only two quid. First up were In Her Blood, who didn't make a favourable impression by starting off with the bass turned up too loud. They lost more points by not being particularly tight. Normally, I'd be OK with loud guitars and screaming vocals but I've seen too much of that lately and this lot didn't bring anything new. And if you're not doing that you have to be tight. Also they played too long, although to be fair they seemed to be having a good time. And their last song sounded terrible. I don't know if they were slightly out of tune or out of time but it was a bit of a mess. Second on stage were Sugar3 who have a reputation for tearing up the pubs of Doncaster with their frenetic, old skool, punk. They seemed a little flat but they probably weren't helped by the fact that most of the people who were enjoying them were about two-thirds of the way back from the stage. Their blend of Dead Kennedys/Ramones/Damned/Rezillos licks is enjoyable enough if a bit "1978" but there's something about them that just doesn't get me going. Sorry guys. Third band of the night were Dumpvalve, (from "Huuuurrrrrrggghhh!!!", according to Crazy Eddie) who were replacements for Hiding Place who cancelled not just this gig but their entire tour. They were proper heavy metal and tight as a gnat's chuff. Impressive, but not really my cup of tea. Last up were Little Miss Machete. Have to admit that I spent a large part of their set in the bar, talking to various people, but what I heard was pretty good. They're a sort of rocky Pearl Jam, I think I'd describe them as. I did note that their singer had to sit down for the entire set after damaging his foot, which can't have looked that good on the video they were making. All round some decent entertainment and a good night, although it ended on a downer for me after I sustained some superficial damage requiring a brief trip to casualty. I'm fine, just won't look quite as handsome for a week or so.

In other news, I finally decided how I'm going to celebrate my up-coming 40th birthday. I may have mentioned before that I was going to go to Las Vegas but my company announced, after the start of the holiday year, that they were changing the holiday and adjusting everyone's allowance pro-rata. This left me with three fewer days than I was anticipating and I'd already booked a lot of days off for my REM tour. So I didn't have many days to play with and the Leeds festival used up all the slack, so I don't have enough days to make it worthwhile going to Vegas. Instead, I'll be watching Crewe Alexandra at home to Crystal Palace and then having a few drinks with some old pals the weekend before my birthday. Then I've got to work for a couple of days before going to see Crewe at home to Leeds United on the Tuesday night and then heading off down to that there London. I'm going to see The Fall on my birthday (Wednesday 2nd November), which ought to be-ah really great-ah. (I would have put a link in for The Fall, but their official site seems to have been replaced by a page offering libido-enhancement products, and the MES-endorsed lyrics page hasn't been updated for a while.) And then I'll doing a few touristy-things on the Thursday and Friday. Not sure exactly what but it'll probably include a ride on the London Eye and a return visit to the Science Museum. I'm hoping to have time for a visit to the Tate Modern too. If I can get in touch with them I'd like to meet up with me old MAFF mates for a few beers on Friday evening, too. Then on Saturday I'm going to be running the gauntlet to see Crewe at Millwall. Probably not the best idea I've ever had but I've been to the Old Den so it's about time I saw the New Den. Hopefully, I'll survive that, I might catch a show or something if I do and then have a leisurely Sunday before heading off back home. Not exactly the week or so of gambling and licentiousness I had envisaged but it'll do.

I mentioned a while back that I'd seen an REO Speedwagon for sale at a Truck show and made a weak joke about them not being a 70s rock outfit. Scott very kindly sent me some more info on the speedwagon and a couple of pictures of his trucks. So I've put them together with my picture on this lovely little Speedwagon page.

Talking of Crewe Alex as I was earlier, I've been treated to some puzzlingly inconsistent performances at the home games this month. Following the capitulation against Sheffield United there was a hard-working performance against Derby County in front of the Sky cameras, that they ought to have won. It was a pretty tough game and if I'd been offered the draw before the match I might have taken it, but after seeing Derby go down to ten men and having what looked like a good goal ruled out for offside I felt a bit disappointed they didn't take all three points. Following that there were tough away trips to Plymouth and Reading which yielded only a single point although the reports again suggested Crewe were unlucky not to get more. The next home game was a dour 0-0 against Watford. Neither side really looked like scoring but there was some satisfaction to be gained from keeping a clean sheet. Then, inexplicably, the defence made four blunders in the space of twenty-five minutes in the first-half against Wolves to virtually hand them the game. I was not surprised they were boo-ed off at half-time. I took my nephew to the corresponding fixture last season and he wanted to go home after twenty-five minutes. Luckily he missed this game as I don't think I would have taken much encouraging to leave well before the end. They made a fist of it in the second half, but to be honest Wolves had taken their feet off the gas and were cruising for much of it. It obviously doesn't help when your best 'keeper gets injured, your nineteen strikers can't muster a goal between them, your defence is prone to at least one error per match and the manager seems intent on playing a 4-3-3 formation whose midfield has an average height and weight of about five foot five and 8 stone. They can certainly claim the luck hasn't gone their way but we've had chances against all these teams (even Wolves) and not managed to put them away. Yesterday at Ipswich we managed to score and by all acounts should have had more but once again the second half performance let us down. That's not to say the defenders aren't equally as culpable but, as last season showed, if you can score you've always got a chance. We managed to get up as high as eighth before Dean Ashton was sold and we've only managed to win twice since. I guess it's going to be another long, hard season.

And I'm spent. I'm sure there are more amusing anecdotes and interesting websites that I've forgotten, but that's a consequence of being old and not writing things down. Till next time - adios amigos!

Sunday 4th September

Slip inside this house as you pass by

I managed to survive Leeds Festival, as you can see. Overall, the whole thing was a great experience, with only one or two disappointments. I had a long list of bands that I wanted to see but, as with any festival, scheduling conflicts meant that I didn't get to see all of them. Nearly all, but not quite. Anyway, I rolled up to the festival on Thursday afternoon, met up with Dan and his posse (big Hello to Nat, Will and Matt) after some "comedy" directions, pitched my tent and settled into festival mood. I had been intending to wander up to the Comedy tent and watch a bit of the pre-festival cabaret, but instead we ended up staying up late, drinking, smoking and playing cards in the communal gazebo-cum-tent. Friday dawned sort of grey and overcast, with a distinct threat of rain in the air. After a late breakfast and a few beers we headed off to the main arena. We wandered around the site, popped into the Comedy tent, got a few beers in and then nicked off to see Turbonegro on the main stage. They were excellent, although I suspect they're even better in a small club setting - they looked a bit lost on the main stage. After that Dan and I went to see Towers of London who once pulled out of gig with Disarm. They were alright, nothing special. I had a bit of a break and wandered round the festival site, catching a couple of bands on the Unsigned stage and popping into the Nokia bar. Back on the main stage we caught a bit of Iggy Pop who seems to be stuck in the 70s. Very shouty. Not very good. I wandered off again to see British Sea Power who were one of the highlights of the weekend - any band who get attacked by a giant bear during their final song has to be alright by me. (And no, I didn't take a lot of drugs - there really was a man in a bear costume attacking them on stage.) Then it was back to the main stage in time to catch Marilyn Manson. Top pantomime glam-metal. We scarpered from there to try to catch The Futureheads but the tent was packed. We forced our way in but could still see nothing and they sounded terrible. Beating a hasty retreat from their woeful indie sound we went back to catch a bit of Iron Maiden. They put on a good show and are undoubtedly very popular but I'm not really a fan. After about five numbers we returned to the campsite for more games of cards, beers and smokes.

Saturday. Fried brekkie and a couple of cold ones to get us started and then it was off to see The Black Velvets in the NME Tent. Nothing better to kickstart the day than some good old rock'n'roll. From there it was into the main arena for those bad boys of rap Goldie Lookin' Chain. Not only are they absolutely hilarious but they're extremely well produced - the backing tracks are top quality cuts. Everybody ought to buy their new single 'Your Missus Is A Nutter'. There was an outflux (as opposed to an influx) of people under the age of 35 then as The Wedding Present were next up. As a result I got right down the front. They were brilliant - 'My Favourite Dress' almost had me in tears. Another highlight of the weekend. The downside of being at the front for The Weddoes was that I suddenly found myself surrounded as people rushed back in for Dropkick Murphys. Stereotypical Oirish punk-folk-rock, which I'm afraid is fairly tedious. The Pogues did this sort of thing so much better so many years ago. Saturday afternoon was a dead time for me - there wasn't anybody I wanted to see between Dropkick Murphys and The Coral. As it was I went back to the camp, found the rest of the guys there and we stayed there so long I missed The Coral anyway. We got back to the main arena in time for Queens of the Stone Age. God they were tedious - far too much guitar-wankery and vocal trickery. Some of their songs are alright but they drag them out so long you've lost interest before they finish. following them were The Killers. They were alright but, like their album, you get bored once you've heard the singles. Rounding the evening off were Pixies. Now some people have said this was a great show but I was disappointed. They seemed a bit lacklustre to me. Maybe I was expecting too much. Perhaps I should have gone to see Lemon Jelly instead. A downbeat ending to Saturday night.

Sunday. Dan had predicted a riot and it happened. ("It's the Foo Fighters - there's always a riot when they're on"). More of this later. First band of the day was Nine Black Alps in the NME Tent. Top quality indie-punk, kind of like Nirvana meets the Pixies. They were followed by Juliette and the Licks. For those that don't know this is Hollywood starlet Juliette Lewis' band. Now, she looked hot in her red catsuit but the music wasn't up to much. Bog standard rock'n'roll really. After that it was off to the arena to catch the end of Dinosaur Jr. They didn't sound very good from where we were and didn't look that good on the giant screen either. They saved their biggest hits (Just Like Heaven and Freakscene) till the end anyway so I heard all I really wanted to hear. Then it was off to the Lock Up stage for me to catch Dwarves. Top quality entertainment. Another highlight of the weekend. After that I went to the Comedy tent, where I saw Daniel Packyard do a very good set which climaxed with him crowd-surfing, and then I fell asleep when some other guy was on. Waking to find another guy on stage I got up and went to watch The Caesars instead. Their song 'Jerk It Out' is used on the iPod Shuffle advert. They were pretty good but very 80s. I went back to the Comendy tent to catch a bit of Mitch Benn but as he was late on I had to leave halfway through to catch Sleater-Kinney. Another highlight of the weekend - top quality all-girl power punk. Staggering over to the NME tent I thought I'd get to see Babyshambles but the place was rammed and it didn't sound too promising from outside the tent so I went back back to the Carling tent to catch The Raveonettes. Touted in some quarters as being the new Blondie, I'm afraid they're not even the new Sleeper. Anyway, once they'd finished it was back to the now-empty NME Tent to catch The Tears, Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler's new band. Yes, they sounded a lot like Suede, but that was hardly surprising. They didn't however play any Suede stuff as far as I could tell. They were brilliant though and 'Ghost of You' was my particular favourite song in the set. Top band, and a final highlight of the weekend. Yes, I missed the Foo Fighters and I didn't see Hatebreed as I was watching The Raveonettes, but apart from those two and the aforementioned Coral and Lemon Jelly, I did get to see everyone on my list.

Anyway after the bands had finished it was back to the tents to find the usual last night silliness going on. There were a lot of kids setting fires and then chucking anything on them, usually deoderant aerosols or camping gas cylinders. Every couple of minutes or so there'd be an explosion followed by cheering. The fires near us weren't that big but down at the bottom of the hill, by the market stalls, there was quite a large fire going. It was hard to see in the dark but it looked like there was a portaloo or something burning. Also, there were pitched battles going on between the festival goers and the campsite security. The security guys eventually retreated, the fire stayed burning all night and the "rioters" stayed up all night chucking stuff on the fire, looting the Carling trucks (liberating a lot of beer) and drumming on whatever they could lay their hands on. Once the noise showed no signs of abating by three in the morning the guys decided to retire to their tents. I stayed up, sitting in the communal tent, smoking my pipe and listening to the racket. At about quarter to five, I tried to get a bit of kip but the noise was incessant so I packed up my rucksack and once it was light enough packed away my tent and headed off-site as soon as I could. I wanted to get away early anyway but the noise and disruption made me doubly determined.

My main reason for wanting to leave the Leeds Festival early was to get back for the game between my little smashers, Crewe Alex, and Sheffield United. I was back in plenty of time alright but sadly my loyalty to the club went unrewarded as they lost 3-1 and put in the sort of perfomance that was dreadfully reminiscent of the the post-New Year slump that almost got us relegated. Clearly the 4-3-3 formation doesn't work against teams prepared to battle in the midfield and there didn't seem to be any Plan B for when we get out-numbered and out-muscled in the middle of the park. It's clearly going to be a long hard season for us again.

Here a curiosity for you. I'm a long-standing fan of V/VM, as you all know and even link to their site. Well, here's a news story from their site that you might well have missed. It's all about their involvement in a PS2 advert which sadly never saw the light of day. Feel free to download the actual advert - it's very good. Tip of the day though - if you browse the rest of the site and feel inspired to download the 'Anal Acid' video (it's perfectly safe except for the dodgy title) make sure you do it over a broadband connection - the Windows version takes for-fecking-ever to download over a dial-up, as I can testify. One hour and ten minutes of forever, if you're asking.

If you ever get really bored why not play The Killers' 'All These Things I've Done' word game. It's easy, just try replacing the words 'Soul' and 'Soldier' in the line I've got soul but I'm not a soldier with two equally unlikely similar sounding words to come up with a new nonsensical line. My own favourites so far are I've got dents but I'm not a dentist and I've got piles but I'm not a pilot. Feel free to make up your own.

Finally, lastfriday is dead. Long Live The Civic the new home of lastfriday and now a proper rock venue. It hosted it's first lastfriday event on Saturday (yeah, cue the confusion) and an eager 300 or so people packed in to see some fine bands. First up were Renowned To You. They play what used to be described as power pop in my day - catchy tunes with a bit of an edge of fuzzy guitar - but they're a bit more emo/punk than that. They've still got a few rough edges but very promising. They were followed by sukmunki, whose mix of metal, punk and funk put smiles on people's faces. They included with a fine cover version of Edie Brickell's 'What I Am'. And the guitarist bore a worrying resemblance to an old University chum of mine - it wasn't him though as he didn't have Andy's tattoos. Next up were the hardcore heroes Here Is the List of Your Dead Friends. This was their last gig before lead singer Jamie leaves for university and they pulled out all the stops. Top performance. A lot of people had come to see them and they weren't disappointed. Brutal. Topping the bill and closing the night off were fellow hardcore stars Test Switch Isolator. Equally brutal yet subtly different. Closer in sound to the Napalm Death of 10/15 years ago than the angular Converge-style riffing of Dead Friends, to my ears at least, they put on a good show, including plenty of audience participation. Hardcore indeed. So there it was, the first of the relaunched lastfriday events. There's another one coming at the end of the month - a proper lastfriday event - let's hope they're all as successful as this one.

That's it for this update - pretty much all talk about bands you may or may not have heard of, I know, but that's all I've been doing for the last fortnight. Well, that and working and you really don't want to read about that. I was going to put up some photos from Leeds but have run out of time. Maybe I'll do those at the next update. Or maybe I won't, that's how much of a rebel I am. Later, dudes

Sunday 21st August

Like Noah must have led

Mobile phones. Everyone's got one these days. And they've all got cameras and organisers and games and browsers. And yet somehow, they're not really that much fun are they? There's no comedy value in walking down the street talking into your Bluetooth headset, for example, and there's a limited amount of amusement to be had from ringtones. And whilst you might be able to pose in front of your mates with the latest super-slim, tri-band, Bluetooth-enabled, web-browsing, multi-tasking, video-taking, personal communcations device, no one is going to think you're funny. (They'll think you're a twat, to be honest.) So you can imagine my delight when I found you can get these entirely impractical Phobile handsets for your mobile. Sadly, my phone is incompatible because it doesn't have a jack socket. My boss, Miriam, then revealed her true geek (Burn Her!!!) colours by suggesting that I could get one and rewire a Bluetooth headset to fit inside instead... Anyway, this started me thinking that perhaps it would be even more amusing to take a traditional domestic telephone, something like the Trimphone say, and install a mobile in there instead. Imagine your mates faces when you whack that on the pub table in the traditional "mobile showdown". And the quality yoicks available from walking down the street going "Hello! I'm on my mobile!" Well, blow me if the geeks at Sparkfun haven't gone and done it. And you can buy one. For a shade under four hundred dollars! Luckily, they've included loads of diagrams and stuff, so if you want you can probably build your own. All you need is an old mobile, an old house phone and a bit of know-how. Easy. I expect we'll all have one by the end of the week...

As is usual whenever I update this site, I was back over in South Yorkshire this weekend to see some bands you've only ever heard of through this site. This time it was at a party held at The Civic in Mexborough, home of lastfriday. PapaKev, who organised the lastfriday gigs, now has the lease on the building for the next three years and has been busy redecorating and refitting the place to make it into a proper rock venue. Inside it looks mint. You can see a few pictures on this lovely webpage. It really does look like a home for rock'n'roll. It's got to be the best venue for miles. There are similar venues in Sheffield, but I can't think of anything this good in Rotherham or Doncaster. The gig was a kind of dry run for the imminent return of the lastfriday gigs. Fittingly, Disarm opened proceedings. They blasted through their set with the aplomb of a band with a serious number of gigs under their belt. Top rock'n'rolling metal entertainment. They were followed by the full throttle punk of New Generation Superstars. Top quality three-chord riffage that recalls the heyday of The Ramones and The Dead Kennedys. An absolute blast. Closing out proceedings were Imperial Vipers. They're metal, man, and there's no way you can get that wrong. They're also very bloody good. And were generous enough to invite Brad back onstage to share vocal duties on a cover of the Stooges 'Search & Destroy'. All in all, a top night - the venue looked great and the bands were terrific. Can't wait for the start of the proper gigs. Incidentally, if you're interested, check out the Gig Info on the lastfriday Forum for upcoming gigs. Dogs D'Amour looks to be one not to miss, for example.

Monster Trucks! Yeah! T'other Sunday we had a bit of a family day out (me, my sister, her kids and her boyfriend) to see some Monster Trucks in action at the MEN Arena in Manchester. It was quite entertaining, but due to limitations of space (the MEN isn't exactly huge) there wasn't actually that much the trucks could do. They did the car-crushing bit, had a doughnut (spinning on the spot) competition and then had a freestyle competiton, which involved car-crushing and doughnuts (but not both at the same time). In between times things were livened up by the appearance of a jet-powered car and the Freestyle Motocross team, who did a load of stunt jumps. Sadly though, once you've seen one monster truck crush a load of cars, you've seen them all. And whilst there's some comedy value in watching a truck in the guise of a dog spinning round chasing it's own tail, once you've watched one truck do a doughnut, you know what's coming for the next twenty minutes. Like wise the stunt jumpers - after a while you start hoping one of them will crash, especially that one who seems to love himself just a bit too much... I think we might have enjoyed it more if we'd been able to understand a single word the commentator-cum-compere was saying. We might have at least understood why the only truck to actually complete a proper doughnut (spinning on the spot as opposed to slowy pirouetting across the arena floor) didn't win the competition. Add to that the rip-off prices for souvenir merchandise and it was a day out that didn't really add up to good value for money. Especially as we'd seen Big Pete do the same for considerably less a couple of weeks earlier. Anyway, you can check out some photos from the event on the Monster Jam Europe website. There's more info on the trucks on that site too. Finally, we were afforded a cheap laugh by this picture of Bobby Z, the driver of Monster Mutt. Just what is that thing he's holding?

Bobby Z - yes, he's still single, ladies!

The other excitement that's been going on in my life is the return of the football season. My little smashers, Crewe, have managed an unbeaten start (one win and three draws) and currently sit in the relatively high position of 12th in the table. Not quite the vertiginous height of 2nd, where we were after one game, or indeed 8th, where we were on New Years Day, but decent enough. We've had two home games and two away. Unfortunately, I couldn't get to Norwich or Brighton but have seen us at home to Burnley and Leicester. The win against Burnley was pleasing as we played all the football and they resorted to thuggery in the second half, even so we nearly gave it away at the end, when only a spectacular save from Ben Williams prevented an equaliser. Against Leicester we took an early lead but once again the defence looked a bit creaky. Even when we went two-up, we were riding our luck. If the Leicester strikers had put their shooting boots on we could have been three or four down. Despite that, it was the referee who changed the course of the game. With Varney through on goal he was bought down. Penalty! No, the ref awarded a free-kick just outside the area and only booked the defender depsite the fact he was the last man. At 3-0 up and facing ten men the game would have been in the bag. It wasn't. Leicester scored just before half-time and then got a penalty early on in the second half. From then on it was anyone's game, with both sides hitting the woodwork, but no one could find a winner. Next league game is away to Southampton, which'll be a grudge match now as my sister's boyfriend is a Saints fan. I'd like to go but I've got a ticket for the Leeds Festival (see below for more details) so I'll be there instead. And I'll have to pack up and leave early on Monday so I can get back to Crewe in time for the home game against Sheffield United on Bank Holiday Monday. It's a hard life as a season-ticket holding, footy-loving, music-folllowing, pie-eating Crewe fan, I tells ye.

Slight aside: I've already referred to Miriam as a geek. Check out her reading list, if you don't believe me, although I daresay she's changed it since Friday (or will after she's read this). Anyway, to make up for the relentless teasing here's a site that I know she'll enjoy: StuffOnMyCat.com. Put as much stuff on your pet cat and take a picture. Featured in the Guardian this week so expect messages about exceeded bandwidth.

As mentioned above, I'm off to the Leeds Festival this forthcoming Bank Holiday weekend. I bought a ticket ages ago and have been having wavering thoughts about going. Obviously I want to see the Pixies and Dinosaur Jr again and for entertainment value the Friday "metal" lineup looks pretty good. (I could be wrong). But I could quite happily live without seeing Kings Of Leon and The Killers, for example. Also, I'm not that great a fan of the camping experience (living in a tent, that is, obviously, I enjoying putting on a brightly-coloured suit and screeching flamboyantly as much as the next man...) and if the weather is bad, the experience is doubly miserable. Add to that the fact that I'm using up three precious days of holiday and you can see why I was somewhat undecided. Anyway, having had a look at the website, there seem to be plenty of alternatives for when there's rubbish on the main stage (including a whole host of obscure-ish metal bands on the Radio 1 stage on Sunday night) so I should be able to find something worth watching for most of the weekend. Must just remember not to get too drunk and lose my phone/wallet/pipe/virginity to a tattooed biker from Goole.... If I survive, I'll be back in a couple of weeks to tell you all about it.

Wednesday 27th July

Find yourself a caravan

So, having spent a few days chasing a band you've all heard of, you'll be delighted to know that I've been back on the trail of bands you've never heard of. Taking advantage of the wonderful rail network I've popped over from Warrington to Doncaster on successive Tuesdays to see Empathy and Disarm in the annual Doncaster Battle of the Bands at Baileys public house. Empathy were up against Last Alley and Freebooting Profiteers in their heat. None of the bands was helped out by the fact that there was no PA provided so they had to rustle one up at the last minute. As a result the sound for all three bands was terrible. Last Alley were meant to be grunge but they sounded more like Hawkwind without the synths. And the vocalist had way too much echo on his vocals. Empathy were next. Top songs as usual but the sound let the side down. I'm struggling to remember anything about the music of the Freebooting Profiteers, although the lead singer did have a nice, cream Rickenbacker six-string. Perhaps that's what swung it for them, for on a night when mediocrity ruled they were judged the winners. The following week (last night) was Disarm's heat. They were up against Sugarcubed and Bambino. Bambino kicked things off and I thought they made a decent start with an edgy Fugazi-esque tune but then the singer opened his mouth and things went rapidly downhill. You can have the greatest songs in the world but if your singer is flatter than Norfolk no one will ever know. Or care. Still, they're young lads and they can definitely get better. Next up were Sugarcubed, who are keeping the punk fires burning. They put on a very good show. Very Dead Kennedys but there's nothing wrong with that. I'd certainly like to see them again. Last band of the nght were Disarm. Probably not their best performance but still top-notch rock'n'roll - the constant gigging has paid off as they're way tighter than either of the other bands. Still, at the end of the evening they lost out by three points to Sugarcubed, which was kind of disappointing, but then that's only the opinion of four peple in a pub after all. On the plus side, I did get a copy of the new Disarm CD and it's very good. It features two Disarm originals and their legendary cover of Blue Monday. Get it while you can.

Last weekend I went to TruckWest, which is a smaller truck-based show, definitely not related to Truckfest. There were a few trucks there, a couple of rides for the kids and a display of car-crushing in the main arena by Big Pete - the world's only lorry-bodied monster truck. Sadly this Not Safe For Work Young Lady was nowhere to be seen. Still, it was a good day out, albeit slightly expensive - the kids enjoyed themselves and I saw a genuine REO Speedwagon for sale. Yep, I thought they were a crap soft rock band from the 70s but no, it was actually the name of a 1930s truck. I've got a picture but haven't downloaded it from my mobile, so you'll have to wait till next time. Or look it up on the web yourself.

I went to see Fantastic Four at the cinema today. It's had some bad reviews apparently. Well, I can kind of understand that. If you're a bit of a fanboy, like me, you'll know they've mucked around with the back story and, indeed much of the front story. The cosmic storm that gives them their special powers still happens but Victor Von Doom somehow gets involved when any fule kno that in the comics he was scarred by an explosion when an experiment went wrong. But leaving that and the numerous other tedious little changes from the comic aside, it's a decent enough 90 minutes of no-brainer entertainment. Rating? Not as good as Spiderman but nowhere near as bad as The Hulk. If it's a wet Wednesday afternoon there are worse things you could waste your time doing.

Finally, just for PapaKev here's a link to the allmusic.com mini-site for Mighty Mighty who, as any fule kno, were one of the bands on the C86 NME compilation tape and can be classified as post-Smiths jangly-guitar indie pop. I can thoroughly recommend their BBC Sessions CD if you're a fan of that genre.

Sunday 17th July

In the stream that clears your head

I've been here, I've been there, I seem to have been every-flipping-where this past month or so. And I seem to have bought a pile of CDs or some other toss from just about everywhere I've been. Well, maybe that's not strictly true but I do seem to have bought an inordinate number of records over the last month. Anyway, more of those later, first my reason for travelling...

Last September/October time REM announced a series of gigs in the UK as part of their world tour supporting their latest album (the somewhat underwhelming 'Around The Sun'). At about the same time Tom Waits announced has doing one gig in London - his first since 1987. I failed to get a ticket for Tom so over-compensated by booking to see REM several times. This much you all know. The second gig of my mini-tour was at Old Trafford Cricket Ground. I managed to persuade my boss, Miriam, to give me a lift into Manchester after work. I checked into my hotel, freshened up, put on my Truckfest t-shirt and headed out to see them. I managed to arrive at the ground late enough to miss support acts Idlewild and The Zutons but, unfortunately, third support act Feeder were still on. Rather than listen to those Welsh windbags I wandered off in search of food and beer. The only stand that didn't have a huge queue was the milkshake stand, so I grabbed a strawberry milkshake and joined a queue for an over-priced hotdog. Then I joined the queue for beers - an experience I didn't fancy repeating so I bought as many beers as I could carry (4) and made my way into the arena. It was packed. And hot. I managed to find myself a space just to the left of the sound desk. The view was pretty good and the sound too, but for some reason I didn't really enjoy this gig. Maybe it was the long queues, maybe it was the sheer number of people around me, maybe it was because I was still hungry or perhaps just because my knees and back started giving me gyp from about 9.30pm...Anyway, their set was solid enough - there were a few changes from the Wednesday night gig, though. The running order was slightly changed and we got Driver 8, Wanderlust and I Wanted To Be Wrong in the main set and These Days and Leave in the encore with Final Straw, Rockville and Perfect Circle being the songs not played. I had the usual fun getting back to Manchester city centre on the tram afterwards, which didn't lift my mood. A couple of pints in the hotel bar and it was off to bed. Not the best of experiences, to be honest, which probably explains why I spent a fortune on CDs the following day...

Anyway, long weeks passed, July came at last, and I was off for a double-header - REM in Hull on Tuesday night followed by REM in Nottingham on the Wednesday. Given my experiences at Old Trafford I was a bit hesitant about what to expect but I knew that on the Tuesday, I'd be meeting up with me old mate, Kev, so even if the gig wasn't that good we'd be able to have a few beers and a bit of a laugh. Checking the weather forecast I noted that rain was due, so on the Tuesday morning I made an emergency raincoat purchase. Boy, I'm glad I did. The light showers that fell on Kev and I as we wandered round the town centre looking for a decent pub and a bite to eat increased in intensity as the evening progressed until it was absolutely throwing it down as we walked up to the KC Stadium. We were soaking by the time we got there. Fortunately under my coat I was as dry as a dry thing. Unfortunately, the rest of me was sopping wet through - my jeans, my shoes, my socks and sadly, yes, even my pants. But then it's not the first time I've wandered round with wet pants during a night out... Anyway, despite the rain, or probably because of it, REM were absolutely fantastic. True, I was a lot closer to the stage and a little more beered up but the band seemed to be trying a little harder to keep us entertained. The bulk of the set was as per the rest of the tour but we got a rough and ready version of 'I'll Take The Rain' followed by a lovely cover of 'Have You Ever Seen the Rain' by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Plus there was some unexpected old material -'Pilgrimage', 'Seven Chinese Brothers' and 'Welcome To The Occupation' - and as a special treat we got a cover of 'Teenage Kicks' in the encore, with Scott McCaughey doing the majority of the vocal work as Michael claimed not to know it. All in all, a great show despite the fact the rain hardly let up all night. And as a double bonus, we got back in town in plenty of time for a couple of beers before retiring to our (separate) beds.

The following morning it was off to MacD's for brekkie - I wasn't going to pay 14.95 for a hotel breakfast. Kev went off to work and I then had a couple of hours wandering round Hull shopping - I picked up some more tobacco for my pipe and a proper pipe tool, so I no longer have to scrape it out with a key or try to tamp it down with my finger (ooh-er, missus). Then it was off to Nottingham for the fourth and final instalment of this summer's REM-athon. It took a couple of hours to get there and then a few minutes more than expected to walk from the station to my hotel. In fact, it was sufficiently far from the station for me to stop and get my map out only to realise I was stood next to the blinking place! Anyway, I checked in about 3pm and put the news on just in time to to see probably the umpteenth replay of the moment that Jacques Rogge announced that London had been awarded the 2012 Olympic Games. Having not heard anything previously, this was news to me, so I have to confess I whoooped and did a little dance round my room. Excited? I nearly had a drink from the mini-bar! Not sure what event I'll be able to qualify for in 2012 though - I narrowed it down to archery or shooting as they don't involve much moving about. Mind you, if I'm competing I might not be able to watch the women's beach volleyball...

Anyway, back to the story. I had intended to get to the City Ground early to catch Idlewild and The Zutons for a change, but I needed some cabling for my laptop and something to eat so a shopping trip and then tea in a pub round the corner from the hotel put the mockers on that idea. Instead, I set off for a gentle stroll to the stadium at about half past seven. The City Ground was a bit further the other side of the railway station than I was expecting so the gentle stroll turned into a bit of a trek. Anyway, upon arriving at the ground I quickly located the beer queue and got in it. Whilst waiting to be served I had a very pleasant chat with a chap who was nipping off to a friend's leaving do (once he'd got the drinks in for his wife and her friends) as there was a free bar. He invited me along and whilst I was very tempted (hhhhhmmmm, free bar....*drool*) I decided to brave the rain and witness the REMsters in action one last time. The rain, it has to be said, was nowhere near as bad as the previous night, but here it was falling on the front of the stage. As a result Michael changed his shoes for trainers and eventually ended the evening barefoot. He also regaled us with the same tale about Cher he had told the night before, but it was no less amusing. (It was basically about her scraping the soles of her new boots before a performance in LA so that she wouldn't "fall on her ass" on a slippery stage. That doesn't really do the story justice though.) Anyway, the band were pretty good - they mixed up the set, again, threw in some old stuff and generally seemed to be having a good time. (If you're really interested in the setlists, check out The REM Timeline which has all the info.) I was having a good time, working my way through ten bottles of beer, dancing and singing along like a drunken idiot and generally enjoying the music. I wasn't as wet as the night before btu then, perversely, I didn't enjoy the gig quite as much. Almost, but not quite. Post-match I managed to get a bus back into town (much quicker than walking, obviously) and slipped into the hotel bar for a swift drink before bed.

Thursday 7th July dawned as expected. I nipped out to MacD's for brekkie again. I'm allergic to over-priced hotel breakfasts. When I got back it was to the terrible news about the London bombings. I then had a nerve-wracking couple of hours trying to get hold of my younger brother. He turned out to be fine, having worked late the night before and not being due in till ten that morning. It turned out that my brother-in-law also happened to be in that there London that morning but he was safe and sound at work. There's been a lot written elsewhere about these tragedies and I don't intend to add to it. Let the dead rest in peace and let the rest of us live in peace.

Anyway, that was it - REM-athon done and dusted. I had a quick shopping trip round Nottingham to finish my odyssey off and I was off on the train to Crewe. Back home for a ginormous cup of tea and a sandwich before retiring to bed to try to catch up with some of the sleep I missed over the previous couple of days. I have to confess I did take my laptop with me on my tour but the absence of Internet access in Hull and a combination of extortionate phone charges and faulty keyboard in Nottingham prevented me from updating my site. No great loss to the world that, I should imagine.

Also in the last month, I've been to the Cheshire Steam Rally - last Sunday (9th) to be accurate. If you click on the link above you can see some of my pictures from the event, taken with my new phone, so they might not be that great. I did take my digital camera but for some reason that decided not to work on the day. Perhaps it was too hot for it. It was a scorcher of a day and despite wearing a cap I forgot to cover my neck and ended up with a lovely sunburned neck... Nice. As one of the things not adequately covered by the pictures, I have to say that the Wall Of Death was spectacular. I was trying to be nonchalant when they started but the sight of a motorbike whizzing horizontally past about a foot from your face is a somewhat unnerving to say the least. It wasn't a long show, but for two quid it was great value for money. Also, the Carousel top bore the legend "Steam Golden Galloping Horses & Cocks Patronized By Royalty", so I just had to have a go. And yes, I have now ridden one of those steam-powered cocks patronized by royalty. Ooh, and indeed, errr, no, missus!

As mentioned earlier, I've purchased large numbers of CDs in the past month or so. Most of it obscure and some of it largely unlistenable (take a bow, The Berzerker and Screamin' Daemon, although for different reasons). The most fun CD has been Laibach's 'Anthems' collection which includes all their stomping, militaristic cover versions on one CD and a number of remixes on another. This is closely followed by John Cooper clarke's 'Disguise In Love' which includes classics such as 'I Married a Monster from Outer Space' and the surprisingly relevant 'I've Got a Brand New Tracksuit'. Other highlights have been 'Songs of Love and Hate' by Godflesh, Johnny Cash 'Live at Folsom Prison'and 'Closer' by Joy Division. There's been the obligatory Napalm Death purchases, a Carcass re-issue and some gap-filling in my REM collection thanks to the sales. There's probably some other albums that I ought to mention but I wasn't forward-thinking enough to make a complete list. Maybe next time.

Tip of the Day (Slight Return) - If you're discussing a department restructure in any meeting I'm in, don't suggest that in terms of experience you'd like to "get that Junior/Senior thing going on". You won't enjoy the next five minutes of me singing "Everybody, move your feet and feel united..." and asking who's going to be the little, thin, guitar-playing one....

Finally, it just remains for me to pass on my public congratulation s to my good friends John and Sue Ellam, who's son Thomas (are you gonna T.Ellam, or should I?) was born last Friday night. Hope mother and child are both doing well and look forward to pictures of the latest addition to the LUFC fan club in the near future. Cheers.

That's it - haven't time sadly to cover the story that almost twenty-three percent of the shares in Crewe Alex have been put up for sale, or to give my thoughts on Friday night's encouraging 3-0 defeat of West Brom in a pre-season friendly. Or that I've downloaded the Captain Pugwash theme tune from my PC to my phone as my new ringtone. Or indeed, much else. Not even time for a proper spellcheck. Ah well, c'est la vie. Bonsoir my Breetish chums!

Thursday 16th June

All surroundings are evolving

Last night I went to see a band that y'all might have heard of (for a change) - REM. Yep. Just to confirm my innate middle-class, dinner-party-holding, dad-rock-loving niceness, I "rocked out" to the alternative pop of those chaps from Athens, Georgia. This was the re-arranged gig from February when Mike Mills' ear infection caused the original gig to be cancelled. Thankfully they didn't bring back the original support band but instead we were treated to the relaxed lounge-pop stylings of ex-Pulp guitarist Richard Hawley. You could tell he used to be in Pulp - all his songs sounded like they could have come of their last couple of albums. (Think 'This is Hardcore' and 'Trees' and you'll be right there.) Not that there's anything wrong with that but I thought the songs needed a touch of Jarvis's wit to lift them above the ordinary.

Following that, at about ten to nine, REM hit the stage. They were in a very good mood and seemed determined to give us a good show in order to make up for the cancellation of the last one. There was plenty of banter about Mike being fit and well and "having been here before" and a storming mix of old and new stuff. The only gripe I have is that the sound seemed a bit poor to me - the guitars seemed to get lost in the rockier numbers. However, when you get such delights as the rarely-played 'Me In Honey, and 'Perfect Circle', two songs you've not heard before (Animal and I'm Gonna DJ) AND Mike Mills doing lead vocals, centre stage, on '(Don't Go Back To) Rockville', it's churlish to complain. Still wish I'd bought a standing ticket though - it was very difficult to stay jammed in my seat when all I really wanted to do was get up and dance and sing and throw my hands up in the air. At least I'll get a chance to do that at the rest of the REM gigs I'm going to this summer. On the other hand, staying in my seat gave me the chance to compile the following set list:

And then they were gone. Two hours of top tunes, comedy banter, freaky dancing from Michael and encouragement that I hadn't wasted all my money buying tickets to see them plug their somewhat disappointing last album.

Of course, my leisure plans wouldn't be MY leisure plans without there being some sort of comedy cock-up. You know - trains delayed, gigs being cancelled, that sort of thing. But this time I think I've managed to excel myself. I booked a day and a half off so I didn't have to rush back to work today. I managed to get over to Sheffield nice and early yesterday, went online and booked myself a bargain hotel room in Manchester for Friday night (The Palace for just over sixty quid on Expedia, if you're interested - not terribly cheap but considerably cheaper than the 180 I paid for a suite there last year) and sorted out trains to get back to work on Friday morning and then up to Manchester in the evening (if required). And then I found that I'd managed to leave my ticket for the Manchester gig back home in Nantwich, some 150 miles away. ARSE! For some, no doubt valid, reason I'd taken the ticket back there last time I was at my parents and had forgotten that until I went to get my ticket for last night and found the Manchester one was not with the rest of them. Double ARSE!! So, instead of popping off to the cinema to see Sin City, taking me time over updating the site and even seeing if there's anyone interesting playing at the Charters in Rotherham tonight (there isn't, luckily) I've got to get back home to get said ticket. D'Oh!

The latest addition to the links on the your left is the Crewe Alexandra Supporters Initiative (Crewe ASI for short). It's kind of self-explanatory, but if you haven't guessed it, it's a supporters' organisation aimed at helping the club by raising money, raising it's profile, getting more fans through the turnstiles etc, etc. No, I'm not a member yet but it's only a matter of time.

And on that note, that's yer lot for now - I've got to sort out my washing and pack my bag for the trek back across to the right side of the Pennines. Might be back for another update next weekend or maybe the weekend after that. who knows? Perhaps I might even find a place of my own where I can set up my PC and bore you all to tears with more regular updates. Don't hold your breath.

Wednesday 1st June

In the waters that you tread

Hey, hey, hey, it's t' month end, summer's nearly here, and I'm one month closer to reaching the big Four-Oh. And no, that's not 40 stone, you sarky lot. This month has a bit of a photo special theme - on the Rail Ale Trail page there are pictures of me and some co-workers having a bit of an outing, or on the Sibling Gathering page you can look at some picture from a recent gathering of my siblings to celebrate Mark and Kate's wedding. Enjoy.

On the lastfriday front, there was no gig this month, as expected, but fortunately, PapaKev has managed to obtain the lease for the place and it will be back, probably at the end of June, although when I spoke to Kev he didn't actually have any bands lined up for the night yet. He's currently hard at work preparing the venue for the relaunch and I wish him all the luck in the world.

Anyway, in order to make up for the lack of a good booze-up in Mexborough I dragged meself over to Doncaster on Saturday night to see Laruso and numerous support bands at The Leopard. The support bands were, I think, Soundless Till Dawn, Carbine and Mantra (or it could have been Manta). I have to say I got rather drunk, so I'm not too sure on that last one. I knew it was time to go when I tried to drink my beer whilst smoking my pipe - calamity. Beer and pipe all over the place. So, with my newly-purchased Laruso CD ("Bring It On" on Casket Records) I took my leave about halfway through their set. The bit I did see though was pretty good and their CD is worth checking out. So just do it.

Seen Star Wars III - Revenge of the Sith I have. Talk like Yoda now I will. Tired I was, when saw it I did. Even so, a bit poor it is. Geore Lucas good at dialogue he is not.Take heed younglings, unless enjoy swordfights and badly-written speeches you do, like this film you will not. Alright, that's enough of the Yoda-speak. The problem with this installment, IMHO, is that you know where it's going. It's not helped by the fact that Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen seem so wooden that they could be out-acted by a couple of chairs and that the plot is a bit patchy in places. Anakin's conversion to the Dark Side is particularly unconvincing, for example, and don't get me started on the Palpatine/Darth Sidious appearance thing. And even though he doesn't have a speaking part, the odious Jar-Jar Binks still manages to put in an appearance. That said it was still about a gazillion times better than The Phantom Menace - there are plenty of deaths, lots of lightsabre action and the final transformation to Darth Vader is done well. Even so it only makes number four in my list of all-time favourite Star Wars films of all time.

As mentioned in a response to an earlier post - I've finally moved into the 21st Century in terms of personal mobile technology and gotten meself a fancy new phone with a camera and polyphonic ringtones and all that jazz. In fact I've got a Motorola V3 RAZR in black. It's all very swish, except I've had it for a few days now and still haven't managed to get to grips with all the features. Not that I'll probably be making that much use of them, but it is nice to be able to finally get near "the cutting edge" for a change. That said, I spoke to a bloke who works for T-Mobile t'other day and he said they're virtually giving the black ones away at the moment, so in a couple of months everyone will have one...

Have you seen that advert for Whiskas Cat Milk? Now, it got me thinking, how on earth do you milk a cat? And are there a number of cat dairy farms out there with cats being forced to have kittens to keep on producing the milk? I think we ought to be told...

And on the subject of adverts, let me just assure those of you who thought that eSure's Michael Winner adverts were terrible, the replacement one with an animated mouse is much more irrtating. Much, much more. There's no way I'd buy insurance from that Mockney, wide-boy, wheeler-dealer mouse. Not that I'd have bought any from Michael Winner, either, but I'm even less persuaded by the mouse. Grrrr!!!!

And while I'm ranting on, the June edition of Uncut magazine has a cover-mounted CD emblazoned with the legend Gimme Danger! I feel I ought to point out, before too many of you make the same mistake, that this slogan should only be used in relation to the CD by those people who's idea of danger is having three biscuits with their cocoa instead of two. It's a bland mix of alt.country and dad-rock. Yes there's MC5, Iggy and the 101'ers on there, but three blasts of ancient punk do not a dangerous album make. The only danger this CD is likely to be involved in is the risk of hitting somebody in the head when you rip it out of your stereo and chuck it out of the window.....

Finally, here's a tip should you ever be over in Cleethorpes and fancy a decent curry, as I did when I was out for a few beers with me old mucker, Kevin, on Tuesday evening - don't have the Chicken Pasanda at the Tamarind. I know it's supposed to be a fairly bland dish, but this variant had absolutely no taste whatsoever. It was like chicken in a creamy wallpaper paste. It was no consolation that Kev said his Lamb Jalfrezi was really nice. Especially as the service had been so notably slow. It's not as if they were busy either. Mind you, pretty much the whole of Cleethorpes seemed dead. Some of the pubs were shut and there only a few people in the ones that were open. At least it meant there was no hassle getting served and we could always find a seat but there was a distinct lack of atmosphere about the place. And my train hoodoo came into play when the 18:36 from Great Coates to Cleethorpes mysteriously failed to arrive. We ended up getting a taxi into town. Still a good time was had by us both. And Kev knocked up a decent fried breakfast this morning and we even managed a couple of pints of De Koninck Belgian Ale in the Wetherspoons in Grimsby before I had to head back home to finish this update. Can't say I've got too much enthusiasm for going back to work at the moment...

So that's it for this update - I'll be back in a fortnight with a review of REM's rearranged Sheffield gig and probably some more inconsequential shite. So until then mes amigos, eat well, drink sensibly and rock out like your life depends on it.

Saturday 30th April

If your limbs begin dissolving

Yep, it's that time of the month, reader - I pop back to Mexborough for lastfriday and waffle on about the obscure bands that I saw there. Only this month, it's slightly different because, at the time of writing, this month's event looks like it may have been the last. The lease on the venue has expired and PapaKev has not yet been able to secure a future for the event. Still, if it was the last one, it went out with a bang, not a whimper. Five, count 'em five, bands, general mayhem and a level of drunkenness not seen since I was let loose on the free bar at my cousin's wedding... Part of me wanted to join in the mayhem and get blazingly drunk and yet part of me wanted to stay relatively sober so that I could record the end of an era. Which part won? Well, what do you think...

Well, actually you're wrong - there were so many people there, it took an age to get served at the bar, so I pretty much gave up on that idea two or three times. Anyway kicking off proceedings were Renowned To You, one of several new bands that seem to have sprung up around the lastfriday scene. They might have been great, they might have been awful, but by the time I got there they'd finished, so I can't tell you. First up for me was Crazy Eddie, the night's MC, giving us an impromptu rap by way of introduction to Subillis, who rose from the ashes of Swinton supergroup Sillibus and took us out there somewhere. Giving us a mix of the old and new, they were at times reminiscent of Rage Against The Machine. Sadly at other times they were reminiscent of a hundred other metal bands. Personally, I think they need to play to the strengths of their rhythm section because there's the basis of a decent band in there. Crazy Eddie just kept on getting crazier and the next act he introduced was Empathy who charmed us with their indie-flavoured rock'n'roll, mixing old and new stuff to great effect. Highlights of the set were Tell Me You Know, Aeroplanes and Thank You, all of which are sadly not done justice on their new EP. That's not to say that the EP isn't good, but it doesn't match up to the live experience. Changing pace/mood somewhat were The Fuckwits who gave us a good blast of old skool punk. Nothing fancy about these guys - heads down no-nonsense mind-blowing singalong punk rock. I started to party like it was 1979. If these guys were signed to Fat Wreck or someone like that they'd surely be spending the rest of their lives on stadium tours of the US. Closing the night out, fittingly, were Disarm. Legends in the making. Fronted by Brad, the most charismatic carrot shagger in Mexborough, they simply get better with each performance. Sadly, you've probably missed your best chance of seeing them. And with the end of their performance, lastfriday was over, at least for now. Crazy Eddie and Sam were playing Oasis covers as I left but, to be honest, I thought it was time for me to leave. I wish all the bands who have played there the best of luck and I hope that the event can continue. Cheers guys, it's been... emotional.

Mixed Messages: the (not so) secret of good advertising is to get your mesage across clearly and memorably. Sometimes I see adverts that seem to be sending a different message to that intended. Now, I'm sure there are dozens of Internet sites out there dedicated to this sort of thing, so I'm not going to rattle on about it, but I thought I'd mention the adverts that have been getting on my tits recently:

Er and that's about it. Except to say that my siblings and I are having a get together tomorrow (Sunday) to celebrate the wedding of my brother Mark and his partner Kate. They got hitched in January but didn't tell us till after the fact and this weekend is the first that we are all free in order to celebrate the event. Even my younger brother, the Notoriously Unreliable E.D.D is going to be putting in an appearance. I'll be taking my camera, so you can expect some pictures of said event here next time I update (probably in a couple of weeks or so).

Oh, and before I forget, there's a big 'Thank You' to stroppycow who's filled in a gap in my obscure '80s guitar band knowledge by introducing me to The Wake. I can't believe I missed them the first time round. Check them out.

Sunday 10th April

They slip inside this house as they pass by

Another fortnight, another update. Woo, the pace of change here is almost dizzying, eh Forbes? Well, alright, just about the only thing that's getting updated at the moment is this page, so perhaps it's not that exciting. Especially if you're not a fan of music, as this one seems to have turned into a "Music Special."" At least I'm a bit more sober and a lot less rushed this time, so there may be fewer mistakes. Then again, there may not. Apologies for the picture of Kelly Holmes, by the way, but that's not my choice - the Olympic bid website obviously change the banner images sporadically.

Anyway, last Thursday night on my way back to Conisbrough, I popped into Charters, in Rotherham, to catch another performance by Disarm on their mini-tour. The benefits of regular gigging are paying off - they sounded tighter and Brad looked much more confident in the front-man role. There was a fair turn out of regular support who helped set up a good atmosphere and there was even a mosh-pit of sorts although that didn't last too long after Crazy Eddie accidentally knocked out some poor unfortunate kid during the mosh. Still, the band were on excellent form and delivered thirty minutes or so the best godammed rock'n'roll I've heard in a while.

On Friday night I did a little light roadie-ing for the band in return for a lift to and from their gig in Worksop (well, there's feck-all to do in Conisbrough on a Friday). It's be fair to say that the Frog and Nightgown won't be winning any Pub of the Year contests. That said they obviously like their live music - they have bands on several nights a week and the sound was pretty good. It's a shame that the local audience, who were mostly too cool to affect any interest, spent most of the evening by the back wall or outside, chatting each other up. Warming up things tonight were Empathy, who manifestly failed to bribe me for a good review, so despite their excellent performance I ought to slag 'em off. On the music front though, I really can't knock them. Other people might like to make some Oasis comparisons but I think that's lazy and not particularly fair. Especially as Noel Gallagher would give his right arm for a tune as good as "Tell Me You Know" these days. Top stuff. Following that Disarm were, somehow, even better than the night before. Perhaps they had to work a bit harder to get the crowd going, but it definitely paid off. The set also confirmed something that had occurred to me the previous evening - their cover of 'Blue Monday' is excellent but it also serves to illustrate just how good their own songs are. They could afford to drop it and their set wouldn't be any weaker. They should blow the roof off at lastfriday come the month end. If these guys aren't massive in the next twelve months, there's no justice. Seriously.

On a side note, I was persuaded to buy a 2Ci CD on Thursday night, on the basis that it was only 2.50 and they sounded alright for the minute or so I heard them. Sadly, it's been mixed by the sort of cloth-eared joker who ought to be "accidentally" locked in the toilet at the end of the recording session and only released once the mixing process has finished and the master tape/disk has been securely locked away in a place he's never heard of. Well, maybe that's a bit harsh, but I suspect it was mixed in a studio using some top-quality speakers, whereas they ought to have listened to it on a pair of crappy headphones, like I did. The bass and vocals sit on the left and the guitars on the right and the drums sit right in the middle of the mix, which might make sense to people with normal hearing but if you're virtually deaf in one ear, like me, makes for a very strange experience. Swap the earpieces round and they alternate between bass-heavy metallers and tinny rockers. Except that, even over speakers, the bass is far too high up in the mix for the first four tracks (perhaps the bass player mixed it?). A shame really, because their punky Sonic Youth/MC5-influenced metal isn't that bad. At least, the CD did serve some good purpose in that I've adjusted the balance on my headphones to give me a stereo-like experience when listening to other stuff.

There are some who say that the Internet is being overwhelmed by trivial tosh and blog-related nonsense. And some who rightly point out that I am contributing to that. Indeed I am, and so is this - a handy guide to how to tie your shoelaces. Even as we speak I'm sporting the Ian Knot, and I'm not even wearing any shoes!

This weekend it was time for the bi-monthly splurge down in the record shops of Donny. Again, pretty much on a retro tip, picking up all those albums that I should have bought years ago. This month's pick of the pops are:

Not had much chance to listen to many of these, having mainly given each a quick spin and sample yesterday afternoon. The James album contains a lot of tunes I've already got on tape so I knew what to expect from that and I've always been partial to a bit of Suede. Mortiis is enjoyable techno-goth-metal but not as heavy as I was expecting. Suicide will definitely be the music of choice for the days when I don't want to talk to anyone at work.

And thinking of talking to people at work, my boss and I often have discussions which lead to the idea of some sort of website, usually based around some sort of Carry On-style innuendo, to be honest. Occasionally though we have good ideas and some of them really ought to be exploited. One of the sticking points for me has always been webspace, so imagine my delight when I got home to find a letter from those nice people at UK2 telling me that they've increased my webspace to 1000MB and my monthly data transfer allowance to 5GB, ABSOLUTELY FREE OF CHARGE! Woo! Hoo! All I need now is broadband and a decent web design program and I'll be away. Well, maybe not but you know what I mean. The broadband thing actually shouldn't be that far off as I've got to move out of my sister's place by the end of the month. Well, strictly speaking I don't have to, but she's off on holiday for a week in May and my parents are coming over to look after her kids and I definitely don't want to be there for that!

A couple of years back (1st January 2003 to be precise) I posted an entry about New Year's Resolutions and how I'd actually made some resolutions about my life a few weeks earlier. The other day I was reflecting on those resolutions I made, which were basically about the things I wanted to do before I was 40. I realised, I've actually done absolutely none of them. I can blame economic circumstances for my failure on a few (visiting places, buying a house and learning to drive, for example, are all quite tricky when you're unemployed) but there are others that I could have achieved without recourse to much expenditure. The upshot is, dear reader, that I've got about six months to cram in as many of those goals as possible, so I'm going to have to get busy. Ooh, watch me go, as I waste time deciding which of those goals can actually wait till after my 40th birthday....

Saturday 26th March

From disciples the unending subtleties of river power

'Tis only just over a fortnight since the last update, you lucky people, and here's another one - prepared earlier and amended and posted in a post-lastfriday haze of alcohol. There'll probably be a few spelling mistakes and it might not be valid 4.01 Transitonal HTML anymore either, but such is life. Still, I'll be back in a couple of weeks or so to fix it.

The reason for the early and somewhat rushed post is that I'm off to watch the England Under-18s play Denmark Under-18s at the Alexandra Stadium in Crewe. Kick -off is at 12.30pm, so I've got to be away by about 9am. The game should finish at about quarter past two, which should give us just enough time to get home to catch the senior England team make heavy weather of beating Northern Ireland. I'll have mixed emotions on this one - I want England to win, obviously, but I also want the Crewe boys in the Northern Irish squad (Colin "Howlin' Mad" Murdoch and Steve "Jonah" Jones) to do well. I think a comfortable 3-1 win, with Jonah getting the Northern Ireland goal in the last ten minutes would suit me.

Last night's lastfriday was possibly the penultimate one. The current leaseholders are not renewing when it expires at the end of April and at the moment there's nothing definite in place for after that. Anyway, once again the main man, PapaKev, has managed to assemble a cracking line up. Opening with The Fire Escape Routine's emo/screamo/nemo-rock. These guys were OK but suffered from the fact that there are a lot of bands doing this sort of thing (the entire Revelation Records roster for one) and they're not bringing anything new. A few tunes might have helped. Following them was Bhuna, who started off like Neil Young and Crazy Horse but then sadly went a bit downhill. Their vocalist is very good, sounding a bit like Paul Weller, but they seemed to be very samey. The same accusation could, of course, be thrown at that deadly blast of hardcore that is Here Is the List of Your Dead Friends but these guys know how to ramp it up. Kicking off with an intro from Crazy Eddie they started at 100mph and didn't let up. Pure visceral excitement. They've been gigging regularly since their last performance at the Civic and have also ditched a vocalist (something I thought they should have done after that first Civic gig, to be honest). This show was about twenty times better than their last appearance here. Top stuff and not just because my pipe got a mention... Following that, and finishing the evening off, we saw the return of local leg-ends Bullrush who have flirted with success in the past. A little longer in the tooth than the average band to have graced the stage (with maybe the exception of Abdoujaparov), but that's not a bad thing. Their infectious indie-guitar-pop was a perfect way to round the evening off. Awesome. I'm sure that up in Heaven the baby Jesus himself was joining in with the applause. Once the gig was finished, it was off to the Red Lion for a beer or two with Dan and then a pizza and back home. I'm afraid I was very, very drunk.

Speaking of football, my little smashers, Crewe Alex have continued their downward plunge towards the relegation dogfight with the points gap between them and League One football narrowing somewhat. The personal low point recently being the 4-1 defeat at home to Wolves, with my nephew asking plaintively at about the 25 minute mark if we could go home. And they were only losing 2-1 at that point. Still we've eased the pressure a little by getting respectable draws away to Cardiff and West Ham - not that there was anything respectable about the manner they were achieved in, but if you'd said we'd draw at those places at the start of the season I'd have been quite happy with that. And to be honest we were a little unfortunate not to get something out the game against Sunderland, who looked alarmingly poor despite the fact they were second in the table at the time. But Crewe are once again facing a battle to avoid the drop at the end of the season. It's hard to believe that we were eighth in the table on New Years Day.

Tag team Technical Authoring? Me old muckers from those wonderful, far-off days working at JBA/Geac will be pleased/perplexed/worried/scared (delete as appropriate) to learn that I'll be teaming up again with Fiona, who's joining my department at MDS this week to help me knock the other members of the authoring team into shape. A happy combination of circumstances meant that Fi was looking for a job as we were looking for a replacement technical author. She was the best candidate, she got the job and if she can put up with me for three months or so I get a handy-dandy hundred-and-fifty quid recruitment bonus! Result all round. Now to start on phase two of my plan for world domination....

In the last week or so, I have managed to read Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre. It's very good. It kept me gripped, even though the ending was half-expected. Worth checking out, especially if you can get it for less than the cover price. Musically, I've been underwhelmed by albums by The Killers and Franz Ferdinand. The Killers are alright but the bassline for 'Jenny Was a Friend of Mine' is a virtual lift from The Smiths 'Barbarism Begins At Home' and they follow that with another virtual copy - this time Placebo's 'Special K' returns as 'Mr Brightside'. After that I lost interest as the album sort of peters out (yeah, after the first two tracks). To be honest, if you want to hear this sort of winsome indie guitar-pop, you might as well track down The Field Mice or The Brilliant Corners, who were doing this sort of thing fifteen or so years ago. Franz Ferdinand on the other hand, are mining an older seam, happy to lift songs almost wholesale from the likes of Gang of Four and Wire, safe in the knowledge that only sad old gits like me will have heard them and that gullible students will buy them by the bucketload. Not encouraging. I've also picked up The Libertines second album, which is pretty good. Maybe not quite as good as their first but still much, much better than the other two albums I've mentioned thus far. Other than that I've been on a retro tip, picking up albums by Captain Beefheart (the essential 'Safe As Milk'), Heaven 17, and Bauhaus. All good stuff.

And that's about it. No new recommendations on the snack front this time, I'm afraid - I haven't had time or inclination to search out the weird and the wonderful on your behalf lately, although I can tell you that Diet Coke with Lime tastes disgusting in any state other than ice cold. You could probably have figured that out for yourselves. Check you later.

Thursday 10th March

State within the heaven shower

First up, an apology for not having an update at the end of last month - I was all set for a jaunt to lastfriday to see 6ft Midget et al strut their funky stuff, when I was struck down by a bout of 'flu. I was in no state to travel and indeed spent most of the weekend wrapped up warm and knocking back the Lemsip like it was going out of fashion. Still, I have made a sufficient recovery to return midweek for this surprise update as a result of the mighty Disarm, supporting Towers of London. more of which later.

Ah, patriotism - the last refuge of the scoundrel. And being a bit of a scoundrel myself, I'm refuging in some patriotism by adding the banner supporting the London Olympic bid (even though it broke my page validation and goes through to a registration page - skip that). Yes. it is based in London, the home of the shandy-swilling southern softies, but that's no reason not to get behind a bid to bring the spectacle of the Olympic games back to the UK for the first time since 1948. It's not like you have to actually travel that far to get to London and let's face some of the events won't even be held there. Go on - click on the banner and check it out.

If you're looking for a truly strange taste sensation and remain resolutely unimpressed by Walkers' 'Comic Relief' Crisps and their crazy flavours (which are actually quite nice), may I recommend Blackcurrant Matchmakers? A fantastically confusing blend of the traditional Matchmaker elements - dark chocolate and crunchy bits - and Ribena. The moment when the bitterness of the dark chocolate combines with the tang of the blackcurrant is one of those love it/hate it moments. It just doesn't seem right, and right now I don't know if I love 'em or loathe 'em. The Limited Edition KitKat Caramac on the other hand is all good. Not quite as good as the delicious taste of a Caramac bar by itself but in these woefully Caramac-free days I seem to be living in, it's a more than adequate substitute. Check them out. Or don't bother.

There's a special no-prize for me old mucker Richard, who's spotted the fact that I've been titling my entries with the lyrics to 13th Floor Elevators classic 'Slip Inside This House'. This practice will not cease - I'm going to see how long it takes to get through the entire song - which given that it's a lyric-heavy 8 minutes long might be a long time.

And another thing - I know that me and trains don't get on but why can't I get an open return ticket from Nantwich to Warrington? Is it inconceivable that anyone from Nantwich would want to spend the night in Warrington, or is it against the law? I only ask, because I've had cause to try to buy such a ticket and found that I can't. Not that I actually stayed in Warrington overnight but due to my trip to Sheffield to watch Disarm, I merely thought it'd be cheaper to get that rather than two singles for the journey to and from Warrington on separate days. Instead, I've had to buy a return to Earlstown which is more expensive than a day return to Warrington but cheaper than two singles. It just don't make no sense, Claude.

And finally, on to the business in hand - the return of Disarm. They've had a bit of time off following the departure of original frontman Brendan and have returned as a four piece with Brad stepping up to do the vocal duties. They've been writing some new material too, with a change in direction away from hardcore to more straight-forward rock'n'roll. Last night was their first gig in front of a hometown audience at The Room (formely the Fez Club). Pussies Towers of London pulled out, claiming illness, so Disarm ended up headlining the night, ably supported by the early 80s guitar sounds of Redshed (think Wire, Gang of Four, Franz Ferdinand) and the 60s garage band sounds of Void (think er, 60s garage bands...). Both of them were excellent. But not anywhere near as fantastic as Disarm. In my humble opinion, the Towers would have had a hard time following Disarm. They kicked ass, as the saying goes. And not only that, but they must have some sort of magical powers because my pipe only went out once during their set, which is a remarkable achievement. I look forward to hearing their new material on disc. Keep on rocking in the free world, guys. And keep your eyes open for pictures on the Internet of me supporting you with furious pipe-smoking action.

And now I'd better go and rest my poorly head for a while so that I'm in some sort of fit state to get back to work this afternoon. We're interviewing for another technical author and I don't think it'll look too good if I'm slumped at my desk with a hangover when the next candidate comes around. So, apologies for the spelling mistakes and TTFN!

Monday 21st February

Alpha information sending

Well, it's 10:15 on a Monday night, as The Cure almost said, and I'm back from my REM gig already (as they obviously didn't). Having endured the tedious sub-Flaming Lips/Eels/James (Stutter-era) guitar and keyboard stylings of support band Now Its Overhead (who ought to be renamed Now It's Sleepyhead), we were all caught a bit unawares when Michael Stipe strolled on stage with Peter Buck about halfway through the set changeover. He then announced that the gig was cancelled due to Mike Mills suffering from a combination of flu and an ear infection. "Not only can he not play but at this moment in time he can't stand up." was pretty much the gist of it. In order to compensate us in some way for our time and trouble Michael, Peter, Ken Stringfellow and Scott McCaughey (I assume) performed the following four songs in an acoustic-cum-Unplugged style:

All the songs went down a storm and when they finished they got a standing ovation - which must be the first time they've been applauded for cancelling a gig! Michael was obviously pretty upset about the whole thing and genuinely disappointed to be the bearer of the bad news. Apparently the decision to cancel had only been taken under doctor's orders whilst the support act were on. Having had one or two ear infections myself, I know how debilitating they can be, so I wish Mike Mills all the best and look forward to seeing them all again on Wednesday 15th June when they return to Sheffield to fulfill this engagement.

Sunday 20th February

From the egg into the flower

Not quite the end of the month and you're getting an update already. In fact, you'll be getting two updates this weekend and a further update next weekend, you lucky people. Calm yourselves - once again I don't have anything interesting to say, just the usual mix of music, random thoughts and diary-style diary entries. Anyway, I'm back up in sunny Conisbrough this weekend as I'm off to see REM at the Sheffield Hallam Arena on Monday night. I've been somewhat concerned that they were just going to play stuff of the rather dismal 'Around The Sun' album, but thanks to the rather wonderful REM Timeline I can see that they're playing a lot of older stuff too. Plus a couple of songs I don't know. Anyway, there'll be a review up on the site on Tuesday morning, before I head back to work.

On another music-related tip, I went up to the Cornerhouse cinema in Manchester with me old mate Charlie t'other week to see The Ramones - End of the Century. This fantastic film, by turns hilarious and moving, tells the story of The Ramones (obviously) from their pre-band days in Forest Hills to the deaths of Joey and Dee Dee. Even for a fan, like me, there's some interesting stuff in there, including hilarious footage of Dee Dee's short-lived rap career. If it plays anywhere near you, get out and see it, otherwise get it on DVD when it's released on April 25th. You won't regret it.

In non-music related news, last Thursday night I met up with the wonderful Fiona, an old colleague of mine from my JBA/Geac days. She's now living in Alsager, which isn't that far away from Nantwich, so we managed to find a window in our busy schedules for a drink and a chat. We met in The Red Cow, which used to be my local about twenty years ago. (I wasn't sure whether to be pleased or annoyed that the clientele still seems to be about the same age it was last time I was in there...) I didn't see any of the old crowd, but they've taken the pool table out of the back bar so I suspect a lot of the "regulars" have moved on. Anyway, I haven't see Fi for a few years so we had a good old catch-up. And discovered that we'd both used the word stuff in a technical authoring context recently - her in an interview and me in a draft manual that had gone to a customer containing the phrase that pays - "...and can produce some reports on stuff." D'Oh! And double D'Oh! Ah, at least we can laugh about it now. Can't we? Anyway, I had a lovely time and I look forward to seeing her again soon.

Whilst standing around at Crewe station one evening waiting for the train to Nantwich, I decided to have a look at the books on offer in the station shop. Having thoroughly enjoyed the BBC adaptation of Jonathan Coe's The Rotters Club, I was on the lookout for that, but it wasn't there. Eventually I settled on Andrew Collins 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now' and Mark Haddon's 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time'. I've never been a big fan of Collins, to be honest, as he always sounds so smug on the radio. Perhaps it's just his accent because 'Heaven Knows...' is an amusing memoir that must echo virtually every student's experiences. the soundtrack and the amount of sexual activity might change but little else. It's not an epic of Booker Prize proportions but if you can find it for around the five quid mark, it's an entertaining diversion. 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time' on the other hand is absolutely brilliant. I'd avoided it, despite the recommendations of friends, due to some inverted snobbery on my part and now wish I'd read it ages ago. By turns sad, amusing, horrifying and ultimately moving I got totally hooked - I couldn't put it down and ended up reading the last few pages at work. And then wishing I hadn't because it made me want to cry. I suspect that not everyone who reads it will find it so involving, but I did, so there.

Tip of the Day: If you are sat in a meeting with me, and are discussing the disadvantages of open-plan offices, never begin a sentence with the words "Pulling yourself off..." It will take some time before order is restored.

Unsurprisingly, my immortal beloved, Crewe Alex haven't been playing any better recently. Perhaps that's a tad harsh as they're now playing teams who are around or above them in the table, but the sad fact remains that they now haven't won a game since beating Leeds 2-0 on New Years Day. Having had a couple of blank Saturdays due to their opponents having FA Cup commitments, they haven't actually played as many games as you might think. Next up, on Tuesday night, are Reading, who haven't won since Boxing Day. I think one of those winless sequences is about to come to an end but sadly I don't expect it to be Crewe's. They could yet prove me wrong, of course, and I hope they do. It's not all bad news though - Luke Varney and Andy White are shaping up to be a decent strike pairing, new boy Colin Murdoch has added a bit more organisation and commitment to the centre of defence and Lee Bell looks like a useful midfielder. It's a shame that Dario's insistence on playing Kenny Lunt every week no matter how badly he performs, means that it's very unlikely we'll see my preferred line-up of Sorvel, Cochrane, Bell and Vaughan (or Steve Jones) in the middle of the park. There are plenty of games to go though so it might happen. And pigs might fly.

I haven't bought too many albums since Christmas, mainly because I've not had chance to visit any decent music shops. I've still managed to acquire a few though through the sale at Sainsburys, of all places. A complete list eludes me at the moment including The Best of Sparks, Laurie Anderson's 'Home of the Brave' Soundtrack, Beach Boys 'Pet Sounds', Blondie's 'Parallel Lines' and Duran Duran's 'Rio' (don't laugh). The standout album though has been Muse's 'Origin of Symmetry'. I'd written them off as Radiohead-wannabes but their continued critical success made me give them another chance. I'm glad I did. Very enjoyable, in a teenage-angsty way. Think I'll have to buy a few more of their records.

Finally, for today, if you like messing around with sounds, and have got some sort of remixing software installed, why not join me in entering this fantastic Fast Lady remix competition? I've had a preliminary go just using a cut down version of eJay and the results aren't that bad. If I come up with something I'm entirely satisfied with, I'll post it here. That's it for now - lookout for a brief review of REM, coming your way on Tuesday morning.

Sunday 30th January 2005

Bedouin tribes ascending

First update of the New Year and the sharper-eyed amongst you may have noticed that I've managed to correct that small error on the date of the last post. What-a mistake-a to make-a! Serves me right of course - I'd been patting myself on the back for managing to make an error-free posting for the first time in ages. The sharp-eyed might also spot that I've removed that naff looking border and changed the colour of the left-hand column slightly. And, despite now owning a laptop and a WiFi card, I still haven't managed to get round to updating with anymore regularity.

It has to be said that owning a laptop isn't all fun, fun, fun. Especially not when you own a second-hand one with a dodgy keyboard. Not that I really own it as it's on loan from my brother, but you know what I mean. First there was a problem with the a, s, d, and f keys occasionally not working, then some other keys packed up intermittently and finally, to much frustration, the Shift keys stopped working. I feared I'd be stuck with a high-powered Solitaire machine, but lo, one swift removal and cleaning of said keyboard and everything seemed to be working perfectly. Then the n, m, h, j, y and u keys seemed to pack up altogether. Well, rather than biting the bullet and actually shelling out for a replacement I disassembled the keyboard again and now everything seems to be hunky dory. All I have to do now is either sort out a regular night for visiting the local WiFi hotspot or find myself somewhere to live so I can publish more toss on this site.

As if to make me despair about the state of television, the first weeks of the New Year saw the start of not one but two "Celebrity Reality" shows. First up we had the lardy celebs of Celebrity Fit Club and later in the week we got the totally contrived celebrity mix of Celebrity Big Brother. Now, I don't know about you, but both programmes set me thinking about quite how you judge who is a celebrity and who isn't. And the way I came up with is this: Imagine the company you work for is launching a new product or service and Marketing have booked a celebrity guest. Now imagine said guest turns out to be one of the participants in either show, are you thinking "Nice One!" or "What on Earth were they smoking?!?" Simple enough, eh? And you have to admit that pretty much all the participants for the two shows fall into the latter category. That said, there is something enormouslyly satisfying about watching a bunch of blubbery, so-called celebs sweating their guts out, whilst you're sat on the sofa with a pizza, garlic bread and a nice, cold, beer or two. Of course, Celebrity Big Brother managed to redeem itself, despite its best intentions, by firstly allowing Brigitte Nielsen to behave with a great deal of grace and dignity when confronted with her ex-mother-in-law and secondly by having Bez declared the winner. Sadly, Celebrity Fit Club has shown no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

In complete contrast to ITV and Channel 4, BBC2 showed a spirit of adventure in screening 'Jerry Springer - The Opera'. Even before it was shown, they'd received over 15,000 letters of protest. Mainly thanks to Mediawatch and Christian Voice orchestrating an ill-considered campaign against it. They certainly swelled the viewing figures for a Saturday night on BBC2. True, it does contain a large number of swear words, but then so does Jerry's show. And the second half could be considered blasphemous, if you're particularly po-faced. But it was obviously a satire on TV and the values that spawned Springer and shows of that ilk. Even so, it's hilarious. Abso-fecking-lutely hilarious! And even more hilarious if, as we did, you watch it with the Ceefax subtitles on. Yes, they really did include all the swear words uncensored. Good work you Ceefax fellahs! My mate Jack had a link to help you send some positive feedback to the BBC if you enjoyed it. Nice idea, chief - wish I'd thought of it. It's a bit late now, of course, but you can still e-mail the BBC if you want.

Sometimes it's nice to go to work. For example, at the start of December it was nice to go in and be told that my hard work had been recognised in the form of a bonus. And just after New Year it was nice to find I'd been awarded a pay rise. Not an earth-shattering amount, true, but almost five per cent, which in this day and age is not to be sniffed at. Especially given that the company didn't actually get any new customers last year. It only works out at about an extra 50 quid or so a month, but that will at least pay for my WiFi access. Woo! Hoo! And it was nice to go to work the other week for my appraisal, which was basically "more of the same, please" apart from the falling asleep at my desk and excessive web-surfing, obviously...

After all my talk about my "lucky" shirt, I'm afraid my first two trips to see Crewe Alex this year didn't turn out to be so lucky. First up, they lost at home to a rather poor Preston team and then, on my first trip away of the season, they were well beaten by Coventry in the FA Cup. In between the two games Crewe sold their leading scorer, Dean Ashton, to Norwich, and looked a bit clueless in his absence against Coventry, to be honest. Not that Deano had looked to be in that great touch against Preston though - he missed a couple of great chances. He was obviously still missed for the games away to Watford and home to Rotherham although I'll still go with my initial impression that, given a run of games, Luke Varney may prove to be a decent replacement for the great man. And Andy White is a useful replacement to have on the bench. Still, I can't begrudge Ashton his chance of playing Premiership football, especially given the amount that Norwich have paid for his services. Three million pounds, in case you were wondering, with a potential half million more depending on appearances and England caps, AND a twenty per cent cut of any future transfer fee. Personally, I'd rather have kept our leading scorer and had a go at getting in the play-offs but then Crewe has never been a club for people who like to do things the easy way.

It's a fair bet that if you happened to study the English Civil War then the Battle of Nantwich didn't figure too prominently in your studies. Which is a shame as it was actually quite an interesting skirmish in the war and one the Parliamentarians won. Anyway, it was significant enough locally to be commemorated on January 25th every year, which is known as Holly Holy Day. Admittedly this tradition was only revived in 1973 after many years of neglect, but since then we've had to suffer an annual invasion by the Sealed Knot Society. On the nearest weekend to the 25th they pack out the pubs on the Friday night, demanding "pints of your very best foaming ale, landlord" and blocking your route to the bar in your own local; it's like the local rugby club and all their mates have come in but without bothering to shower beforehand. They then parade through the town on Saturday morning before heading off to Mill Island to "re-enact" the battle. I would have taken some pictures but, frankly, I've got better things to do and besides you can find some decent ones on this chap's website. It's actually quite an enjoyable spectacle, if you like that sort of thing, although I'm somewhat rankled by the fact that they now erect sightscreens around the battleground so you can't see it for free like we used to back when I was a young 'un.

It is, of course, that time of the month when I blather on about some bands that you've never heard of and possibly never will. As is my wont, I was up at the first lastfriday of the year. This month's event was kicked off by A Future Regret, who last played the civic in July. They've obviously got a few more gigs under their belt since then. Built on the foundations of the 90s US Punk sound, their brand of infectious, poppy, emo stylings went down a storm. Megaphone antics and audience participation are always appreciated. I would, however, just like to point out that their opening number was a virtual note-for-note copy of The Abs 1986 classic 'Grease Your Ralph', not that there's anything wrong with that, just thought you ought to know. Next up was the long-awaited return of Empathy. A mere 56 weeks after their last appearance at the Civic and somewhat longer since I saw them play at the Scarecrow Festival. Mixing up some old and new stuff, they were on top form, with their mix of indie, guitar pop and rock riffs. Very enjoyable, even if large parts of the audience seemd confused by the fact it wasn't nu-metal... Following that was Voice of Brain who were decent enough, although probably suffered a bit in having to follow Empathy. Last up were Milburn who surprised everybody by playing a very short set. They aren't exactly my cup of tea, but they are, again, decent enough at what they do. The whole shebang was done and dusted by 10.30, giving me plenty of time to get another pint or two in. Which probably wasn't the best of moves - I felt rough on Saturday morning, I can tell you.

Saturday night I ambled along to the Tsunami Benefit Acoustic Gig at the Ferryboat Inn in Mexborough. This featured a fine selection of local musicians doing their thang in an Unplugged stylee, culminating with an acoustic set by the near-mythical Bullrush, playing their first gig in ages. It was a lot of fun and there were some great performances (take a bow Steve and Kady B, Sam and Bullrush). Heck, even NASH put in a decent performance... And, despite doing his best to sabotage himself, even Crazy Eddie (of 6ft Midget) did himself proud. I think everybody enjoyed it and a fair amount of money was raised so that can't be bad.

Right, that's all the news that's fit to print. Besides which, I'm hungry and need to feed. You'll be delighted to know that there are a couple of Crewe games coming up that I'll be at and I'm going to see REM in Sheffield in about three weeks time, so you can look forward to reading about those things in the not-so-near future. And that's about it. Until next time - alway use the Green Cross Code, because I won't be there when you cross the road.