fatfakir's blog

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

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In lazy praise of bright young things

Sunday 19th May

As you may have noticed, the wintry weather that was hanging around at the end of January didn't really bugger off until the start of May. One of the results of the prolonged cold spell was the cancellation of a number of Crewe Alexandra matches. Mostly, this was a source of frustration but there was the occasional bright spot to make up for it. One of which was definitely taking up the chance to see Ian McNabb playing a solo gig at Telfords Warehouse in Chester. At twelve pounds and fifty of your English pence, he wasn't cheap, but he was certainly good value. Strolling on at about 9.35pm, after the earnest support act, he gave us a good 80 minutes of stuff before packing up and shuffling off at 5 minutes to 11. Whilst we were debating whether to have another beer and various people around us were grumbling about his lack of an encore, the man himself popped up by the bar, with acoustic guitar and gave us another half hour or so from there, aided and abetted by his roadie-cum-drinking-pal, Ian Prowse (former frontman for Pele and Amsterdam (the bands) fact fans). Top entertainment.

And talking of top entertainment, I went to see British Sea Power in that there Birmingham back in April. They were out touring their excellent new album, 'Machineries Of Joy'. I chose Brum because their Manchester date sold out before I could get a ticket. They did put a second date on in Manchester but I'd already got my Brum ticket by then. Oh well. The Birmingham gig actually worked out quite well, as it had an early finish so I was able to get an earlier train home without worrying about missing the last one. The drawback of the early finish was that we missed out on the BSP acoustic set due to time constraints. Instead it was straight on to support act, Totem, who were fairly unmemorable except for the fact their bass player looked like a cross between Kieran Richardson (the footballer) and Joel Fry (the actor). British Sea Power followed that with a set that was heavy on the new album (shocker!) but with a fair smattering of older stuff (although nothing from 'Open Season' which is my favourite album of theirs). They were, to nick one of their own lyrics, magnificent machineries of joy. And then some. I was particularly delighted to see that they closed their set with an appreance of the same giant bear that had caused chaos on-stage when I first saw them at the Leeds festival a few years back. Epic. The only downs of the evening were that I didn't stop to get hold of some merchandise (I particularly liked the British Tea Power mugs...) and the whiny bloke behind me complaining loudly about the "middle-aged gig-goers who claim a spot and stand in it on matter what." Clearly he meant me, as I'd returned from the toilet to the exact spot I'd been in five minutes earlier. Hey, it was still empty and had a clear view of the stage. I think I was probably blocking his view, but he should have just grown up a bit and changed his vantage point. Like I used to when I went to gigs when I was his age. Cock.

I did, a couple of weeks later, go to Manchester to catch a band. This time it was legendary cults Pere Ubu, who were touring their new album, Lady From Shanghai, at Band on The Wall. There were, it has to be said, some minor capers involved. Firstly, I set off later than I had originally planned, so was in a rush to get there. As a result, I neglected to check the route from the station and got a little bit lost on the way to the venue, due to mis-remembering the directions. Luckily, the old smartphone came to the rescue. Then, When I arrived at the venue, it appeared to be shut, which was worrying, but it turned out that the entrance was cunningly disguised as a separate cafe-bar next door. Once in the venue, I only had time for one pint before Pere Ubu were on-stage on the stroke of 9pm. Frontman David Thomas immediately drew us into his world with an opening monologue on how we were all dreaming and out in the real world, where only he was awake, Pere Ubu had become megastars, while Bon Jovi were playing truck stops and Madonna still dancing in small clubs. As per BSP, they were heavy on the new album with a fair helping of oldies and really-oldies chucked in. Have to admit there were one or two I didn't recognise, but that in no way detracted from the experience. After all you don't get a theremin and a man apparently triggering his keyboards using a toy raygun at your average gig. And I did have a little chuckle to myself when, as the band played 'Modern Dance', the woman in front of me broke into the Mumsy Two-Step. Definitely not a modern dance! Afterwards I purchased a couple of t-shirts from the drummer - he was manning the merchandising stall, I hasten to add, I didn't just randomly offer to buy his t-shirts - before getting slightly lost (again) on my way back to the train station... Top night, even so.

That's been the extent of my gig going so far this year. I have got a ticket to see Elvis Costello later in the year and there's Crewe Live coming up next weekend but in the meantime I'll have to make do listening to some of these albums that I have bought:

Yeah, I was going to review them and add a bit of info, but frankly, these updates take me long enough as it is. Google them if you're interested. I'm off to spend the week going to bed early to make sure I have enough sleep for the aforementioned Crewe Live festival...


Roundheads and Cavaliers

Saturday 4th May 2013

A little late but here's a bit of history for you...

Ye olde Battle of Nantwch. Celebrated, as it has been every year since about 1972, by a massed gathering of uniform fetishists and geography teachers, who stage a small-scale re-enactment of the battle on an island in the middle of town. That's a bit harsh, really. Holly Holy Day has been on the Nantwich calendar for almost 360 years, in fact, ever since the Parliamentarian forces of General Thomas Fairfax broke the siege of Nantwich by the Royalist army during the first English Civil War. Nantwich (or Namptwyche, as it was known back then) had been one of the few Cheshire towns to side with Oliver Cromwell. Back then it was no sleepy market town but an important trade centre and a strategic point on the route to Chester. Parliamentarian forces first occupied the town in January 1643 to protect it and by December 1643, Royalist forces had arrived and laid seige to the town. With reinforcements from Ireland on their way, the Royalist forces increased their pressure on the beseiged town. The Parliamnetarian response was to send Sir Thomas Fairfax and about 3,300 troops across from Lincolnshire. They engaged the Royalists just outside Nantwich, in the fields around Acton, on 25th January 1644 and won the day, thanks in no small part to atrocious weather conditions which had cut off part of the Royalist reinforcements. Grateful Nantwich residents declared the 25th to be 'Holly Holy Day' in celebration of the Parliamentarians win and took to wearing a sprig of holly (apparently) to mark the day.

Fast-forward 326 years and the Holly Holy Day Society coalesces around some civic-minded person's suggestion that the town should re-start the tradition and mark the day of the Battle. In 1971 the first modern Holly Holy Day was marked with a simple wreath-laying ceremony on the town square. From then on, the Sealed Knot and other organisations got involved and the whole thing has spun into a tourist-grabbing spectacular, with the battle re-enactment yards from the town centre, as well as a muster of forces on the town square, a mock trial outside the church, and various other events around the town. (This year we even had Morris dancers!) The only bad thing about this whole venture is usually the weather. There have been occasions when the battle has been cancelled due to a waterlogged pitch, but usually it's just blinking cold. Oh, and some pubs (usually the best ones) are always heavingly full with Sealed Knotters, quaffing foaming ale, smelling undesirable and in much need of a shave. And that's just the women... (Actually, I remember one year, back in the mid-80s, a couple had sex in front of the fire in the Red Cow, surrounded by a horde of other Sealed Knotters who were either politely pretending to ignore them or too drunk to notice. There was however, a small parade of us regulars, nipping to the loo and back and trying to catch a glimpse of the action...)

Anyway, this year, me old mate Kev, came over for a visit on Holly Holy Day weekend. So we went out, avoided the march down Welsh Row and the mustering on the Town square and instead watched a hundred or so men push each other about on a snowy field. The action was occasionally punctuated by bursts of musket and cannon fire. They were only firing blanks in both cases, which was slightly disappointing as the accidental killing and wounding of both participants and spectators would have livened up proceedings considerably... It's Health & Safety gone mad! I took a few photos of the action, which you can see in my Flickr Battle of Nantwich set, and after about twenty minutes of freezing our bits off, we retired to the pub. More ale please, stout yeoman of the bar!


98% True. Possibly.

Wednesday 23rd January 2013

After going through all my CSS, re-factoring it and re-testing it on my PC at home, I checked my website at work and realised that the black text on the grey background that looked OK at home, was almost illegible on my Work PC, so have had a little tinker to make the contrast better. Hopefully it won't look horrendous. I did also, very briefly, consider upgrading to HTML5 but decided that, in the absence of consistent browser support (or a final recommended specification), it was likely to be a bit of a pain so I've given it a miss for now. I may well have a play round with it tho, to see if I can migrate the whole site to it at some point. I have a more pressing issue to deal with - how should I handle the archive posts (which go back ten years or more) and the stuff that is no longer relevant? I have started pruning out the external links that are either dead or irrelevant, but not sure whether I should leave my own stuff up, or build some sort of virtual crypt it can all rest in. We'll see how that develops as the time goes along...

In my previous post I summed up most of the gigs I'd been to and albums I'd bought over the last year or so. I'm reluctant to fall back on the list format again to cover the DVDs I've bought, mainly because lists are a bit boring to read. However a list is a lot easier to write... To liven things up though, and make my update slightly less-long-winded, I've not listed all the shite that I've bought. (Mainly because I'm not sure I can remember them all, but also because I've not watched all of them.) And, instead of the usual tedious plot summaries that I write, I've tried to sum them up in a few words as possible, poster-style.

More capers to come. Possibly involving the Battle of Nantwich. Or possibly not. Stand by for further updates.


Another green musical update

Sunday 13th January 2013

The sharper-eyed amongst you may have noticed that I've made a few changes to the site. Well, to this page, mostly, to be honest. The most obvious one being the replacing of the red-on-black colour scheme for the updates. I didn't really want to let it go, but decided that readability ought to triumph over my design preferences, hence the black text on the cream-y backckground. I've also re-instated the underlines on hyperlinks to make them a bit more obvious and adjusted the positioning of the page elements. And put in some horizontal lines to break up the posts. I've tested it on IE8, Chrome and Firefox and it looks OK, so if you've got some other browser and it looks shonky, please let me know. Haven't tested it on a mobile browser but I reckons that's a whole world of pain that I probably want to avoid...

I was going to give you a bit of a run-down of my musical highlights and low lights of last year but, to be honest, most of it seems so far in the past and out-of-date, that it hardly seems relevant. For example, one of my favourite bands, REM finally called it a day more than a year ago... So instead here are just some potted highlights, starting with the gigs and then the music what I have bought. It is by no means a comprehensive list and, in order to save me time in writing this update, I've decided against providing hyperlinks to the artists mentioned. I have put them in bold, so if you're interested, Google them.

Gigs

Albums

I haven't actually bought a lot of music so far this year, as far as I can remember. Mostly, I think, because I've been spending more money on doing other things - following Crewe Alexandra and daft stuff like that. I have though, bought some stuff which you ought to know about:

And that's it, I'm spent... More to come soon, honest.