Thursday, 16 September 2010

10 Reasons To Love Phil Collins

So I'm at work and we're in chats about a new music programme to pitch, making preliminary notes on who might appear. Working through our list, I mention Phil Collins, smiling inside as I think of gorillas that play drums. 'Phil Collins?!' is the horrified reply I get, as if the Genesis dude who tapes his drumsticks to his arms before gigs isn't cool or something.  
So before you I lay 10 reasons why you could never not love Phil Collins:

1. A keen supporter of PETA, he once donated a signed drumstick in a campaign against KFC
2. He is an absolute monster of reinvention having hits spanning Prog Rock to Dance Pop to the (super cool) new Motown album.
3. He can sing in 4 different languages
4. It only took one take for him to get the drums down for the original Band-Aid's 'Do They Know It's Christmas'
5. Taught himself drums!
6. At 19 he played drums for George Harrison and as a child appeared as an extra in 'A Hard Days Night'
7. Has collaboed with Crosby eek!
8. Once performed in Philadelphia and London on the same day
9. Donates all his royalties in South Africa to The Topsy Foundation
10. Raised important political issues like Apartheid and Homelessness.

He may also have crazy love for Alamo and model railways, but we forgive him, because he's Phil, and he's a ledge.

Friday, 3 September 2010

The Vintage Emporium: Brick Lane

 I always said if I ever had a coffee shop (hey, I used to work in Starbucks...) it would be an uber chilled mix of clean caffeine, vintage clothes and old records. I should put a halt on any plans though, took a cheeky trip down Brick Lane yesterday and found my way to 'The Vintage Emporium.' Sign of a good coffee shop = soya milk and not wanting to leave. The entrance holds a sign saying 'Welcome Home,' but far from being a twee sentiment, two hours later, curled up on the sofa with a rather friendly and greying dog sat at my feet, I could see why. The chai was fresh, the wall covered in a suitable amount of useless junk and the staff laidback and friendly. Escape the city today.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

This is England '86

This is England '86 starts on Tuesday. My bro was born in '86, too young to wear braces and listen to Laurel Aitken. This is England makes the 80's look, dare I say it... cool. Could I be more excited? No. Do I want to shave my head and get my bovvers out. Not half.

Monday, 30 August 2010

The Fake Factor

It's that time of year again, homes across the UK snuggle up on a Saturday as the evening draws in, judging the latest generation of stage seekers, hard to believe that August is not yet over and the X Factor will be gracing us with it's presence until Christmas. With poor Cheryl struck down with malaria for many of the auditions, producers have thrown in ever more sparkly stars than before to fill her perfectly formed space.

Chin up chuck.

Talking of Cheryl, it hasn't been the best week for the nations favourite Geordie lass. The auto tune debacle of the first episode was met with defensive whimpers from little Louis, whose eyes are starting to look ever so slightly frightening. He insists that 'Every pop star in the world uses Auto-tuning.' Not wishing to go back on his words, when asked whether Ms Tweedy mimes he quipped 'you'll have to ask her.' Oh dear. To add insult to injury, when Cheryls mountain climbing chum Chris Moyles heard her Live Lounge rendition of hit 'Parachutes' he remarked that 'she might not need a parachute but she could bloody do with some singing lessons.' The icing on the cake was the re-ignition of long term feud with a certain Lily Allen who, on watching the first episode told the world ‘It’s s**t. FACT! It’s everything that I detest about modern western culture.' Glad to have cleared that one up.

Nobody's perfect...

So will this year be more of the same? Contestants with menial jobs, tough upbringings, and a long lost deceased relative whose last wish was for them to be famous. The freakshow set up that is often exploitative in its execution had its first victim in single mother Shirlena Johnson, who after performing her rather questionable take on Duffy's 'Mercy' aired to viewers in the first episode of the series, was deemed too mentally unstable to find her way to 'boot camp,' despite having had her paperwork and performance approved through preliminary auditions. Big Brother was put out of its misery this year, will the time come for the X Factor format to be extinguished like it's predecessors? One thing is for sure, the stars of tomorrow shouldn't need to be enhanced to sound like robots, and Louis's belief that 'Jedward' may have won last year if given the same auto-tune privilege only backs this up.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

The World's Lost All Their (Virtual) Marbles

Those who know me, know I'm a bit of a technophobe. My mobile can sit under my bed for days, and I would prefer a letter over an e-mail any day. Although a friend pointed out that if we only contacted through letters, that cheeky spontaneous evening out would have lost any cheeky spontaneity. Anyway, I was idly watching that old piece of technology called the 'television' as I made a coffee when I nearly choked on my decaf. A cheery voice introduced a brand spanking new game for the Nintendo DS, Art Academy. The electronic game that teaches you to draw and paint… using a stylus. The press release states that you can learn ‘real-world art skills’ by using this clever piece of kit. Call me an old cynic, but what is wrong with actually getting a pencil and paper and doing it in real life? It’s just another one of those useless inventions that is supposed to make all those relatively easy parts of life, just that little bit easier, like all those apps.

Wow, I never would have known...

There are now apps to help you split the bill between friends, monitor the regularity of your monthly cycle, and even calculate how long it is till Christmas. The worst culprits though are the Nintendo DS ‘Imagine’ series. There’s ‘Imagine Babies’ where you can ‘Imagine’ that you're a student babysitter (because that is the most desirable position of them all), or ‘Imagine Cooking’ where, yep, you guessed it, you can imagine that you’re cooking, that's not going to fill the gap when you're hungry now is it. These used to be things one could do oneself, quite happily in the real world. I mean, what happens if you do a painting at your virtual Art Academy and you think ‘by George, that would look bloody marvellous in the front room,’ what do you do? Grab a couple of nails and jam it into the wall, hoping the batteries don’t run out, or is this when the 'real-world art skills' come in? I suppose you could take a canvas and some paints and copy it, or maybe, just maybe, you could take a canvas and some paints and do it without the Nintendo! Now that’s a novel idea…

This picture needs no words...

Thursday, 29 July 2010

The Shop-Hating Girls Survival Guide To Shopping

It is a foregone conclusion isn't it? If you are a girl, chances are you like being pampered, love having your hair and nails done, enjoy browsing mac counters and spending your day endlessly picking through sale racks filled with clothes made for a 6"2 size 22 lady with 32AA breasts, wondering why they don't look right. Funnily enough, not every female knows their Matalan from their Moschino, so here are a few survival tips for those who just have to find their feminine side, even if they don't really want to.

Bullet-proof vests at the ready

You know the ones before you enter. Jeremy Kyle cast-offs standing at the door, sharing fags with their herd of children as they discuss the GUM clinic. Inside, it matters not what time of day you choose to peruse, the outcome will be the same. Hours will be spent considering whether £1.50 cashmere will make you itch, rubber shoes make your feet sweat and how long it will take for the 'gold' necklaces to help you resemble the Grinch, and you will unashamedly try things on on the shop floor regardless of how many people are there. Armfuls of bargains and hundreds of conflicting thoughts later, you will make your way to the counter, pleased with your savings, knowing you have clothes to fill three wardrobes for less than a tenner, to find that the queue gently snakes around three floors of screaming children, couples fighting and elderly people wondering if that parallel universe stuff is true.

Think happy thoughts... just keep your eyes open

Cheapo Shops Survival Tips:

1. Take your ipod, it creates an almost inner peace, like meditating with your eyes open. You can pretend you are in a happy place and ignore the riots breaking out around you.

2. Don't go at peak times. Find out when the next delivery is, arrive first thing if possible, the clothes are less likely to have spent the past week sleeping on the floor and sizes that fit will actually be available.

3. If there is a childs floor, or mens floor, the queues for the counter are usually shorter.

4. Avoid hot days, people are more likely to be grumpy and therefore start fights in the queue, fight you for that dress etc.

5. If you get claustrophobic, are impatient with teenagers, toddlers, and casual shoplifters, try and limit the visit to once a year for essentials, IF ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.

oooh exciting

'Nooo, not again' I groan as I gingerly step into the make-up section of a department store. My mother insists on using her hand as a pallette for an array of overpriced, unnecessary and, well, pretty boring little tubs of powder. It's not that I don't agree with make-up, or that I don't like wearing it, I'm just not interested.
'You should like this, it's like painting,' she reassures me flicking through the brochures of endless diagrams of how to paint oneself. Then the girl comes over.

She always manages to look like she's getting ready to go out, architectural rules of her face are carefully shaded in specific ways to encourage her eyelids to be wider, eyelashes darker, mouth poutier, cheeks higher etc. She's always so smiley too, like she wants to be your friend really as she eyes up your make up free skin, which she secretly views as a bit androgenous.

Emily Haines doesn't need make-up!

'I don't like too much make up' I insisted, 'it makes my eyes itch. That's a nice colour though.' I spot a dark green glittery eyeshadow on passing. Nice because it's shiny, and I quite like Emerald green, not because I really wanted my eyeballs smothered in it. Before I could get out of it, I was perched on a stool in the middle of this rather white and brightly lit department as a group of shiny haired women peered over my face oohing and aahing about the length of my eyelashes and how I should get them professionally curled, how make up should be ruled by season and that this particular brand couldn't be more natural if it was an organic carrot. A short makeover and some nice chit chat later and a mirror is thrust in front of me for my opinion of my newly glittered face. 'Oh it's lovely,' I tell the nice girl as I consider that I look the same, except my eyelids are green. 'I'll have a little think.'

Make-Up Counter Survival Tips:

1. Ask for a sample, if you don't like the whole 'lets put it on you right here' type of approach. You can always ask later whether it's meant for your cheeks or your lips.

2. Ask friends and family for opinions. What makes do they like? What would suit you? Can they come with you and can you leave as soon as possible?

3. Avoid admiring the pretty colours distractedly as you walk past, or soon you too will have the joy of spending an afternoon on a stool, chatting about combination skin.


A friend recently regaled 'the most embarrassing moment of her life,' so like all good friends I'm sharing it over the internet. What could be that embarrassing? Mistaking your boyfriends bed for his parents? Realising that someones watching as you unhinge a wedgie? Finding youtube footage of your tequila-driven self proposing to the waiter in front of your baffled and sober colleagues at the Christmas do?

But no, this disasterous moment was the second that she, having spent all month at the gym, all day at the hairdressers, tanning, nail painting and earring planning to come face to face, with someone more tanned, more toned, and (impossibly) more coiffed than she, wearing the same dress. 'It was such a cringe!' she exclaimed, blushing at the thought. 'Why don't you try vintage shops for clothes?' I said, my high street lover friend was unconvinced. 'Second hand clothes?' she replied, horrified. Of course it might help to have a prior interest in alternative clothes or times gone by, but on taking a rare trip away from Per Una, even my ma found some nice things, and for a hater of the high street and a lover of recycling, I'm always in my element.

Vintage Shops Survival Tips:

1. Don't know where to start? Google is your mate.

2. Look for vintage fairs in your area or going to your uni. Quite often they will be open to haggling and have interesting stories about the items.

3. If the shop is large, or a warehouse, don't hesitate to harangue an employee for what it is you are looking for specifically. It is what they are paid for, and will speed up your seach and make the sifting process less painful.

4. Custom designs. Ask within the shop if the customise items on site (or know anyone who does.) In my opinion the best vintage shops are the ones that have employees who turn that rank floor length 60's dress that makes you look like your grannies granny into a one of a kind shift with a bit of chop and change.

5. Ebay. Ebay. Ebay. Sit at home, grab a chai, type in a keyword and buy. My favourite.

I should have more tips, I'm still learning on this one...


Monday, 26 July 2010


So Friday took me for the first time in my life down to Oxford! Oxford, the land of dreams, of charming old buildings enlightened tourists and anxious students on the verge of nervous breakdowns, I felt cleverer just being there. But alas no, I was not there to sample the delights of the colleges or indulge in a little splurge at the covered market, which I must admit I thought was called the cupboard market, a whole market for cupboards? I thought, those crazy clever Oxfordians, whatever next?! I had travelled down to this lovely part of the south to make my way to Hill Farm for the annual Truck festival. For England it was rather roastie toastie on the Saturday and much of the day was spent lolling around in the sunshine getting glitter tattoos and picking grass. This was a particularly lovely past-time in front of the main stage. Unlike the larger festivals, there was no oppressive need to get to know your fellow fans underarms or spend an entire set being nudged in the head by adolescent moshers (aren't you glad you aren't 5"3). Many festival goers were happy to lie on the grass and let the music come to them. Power to you hippies.

As with any festival, I didn't get to see every musically talented soul on this verge of grass, but I will pick out some of the highlights and regale you with tales from my whimsical weekend, in no particular order.

Borderville (boredomville is a bit harsh..)

I was pretty excited to see Borderville, had heard only good things about them and their self styled cabaret theatricality. Gracing the main stage is the perfect place to showcase this flamboyance. My anticipation was heightened by the fact that the four piece were joined by 'Glamour' a string quartet. Dulled by a false start, blamed by vocals, Joe Swarbrick on a hangover, they went on to deliver a rather tame performance, and in fact my companions had begun twiddling their thumbs and looking bored by the third song. To add insult to injury, Mr Swarbrick went on to shamelessly plug and encourage listeners to make their way to the front to purchase their piece of quirky heaven. I still think there is potential, perhaps a smaller stage would have been a better place for them to shine, but their slightly predictable pop riffs and lyrics didn't go down a storm on such a large space that they sadly just couldn't fill.

Good Shoes

Good shoes seem to be a vocalisation for indie teen generation dreaming, no matter how dark 'No Hope, No Future' (name says it all) is pitched. Besides 'Everything I do' which I consider to be just a bit strange, these London lads lived up to what they are meant to be, to fifteen year olds that is. Their small army of fans could be seen strutting in Good Shoes merchandise up and down the grassy fields, gulping down their underage beer and insisting on declaring love for Rhys Jones (or a strong steady handshake) whenever he chanced a quiet moment with people of his own age. Not my cuppa chai, but made a lot of young people happy.

La Shark, pretty insane if you ask me...

With zilch prior knowedge of La Shark, I didn't know what to expect. If I'm honest I only stumbled into their set as they were playing between two other bands I wanted to see. My first thoughts were, 'oh no, not another one...' by that I mean bands that take their so-cool-it-hurts level to the point of being plain ridiculous. Each wearing boiler suits, or playing half a set with your long hair (not on the undercut side) covering your face, wearing masks, that sort of thing, generally turns me off. But these guys were so watchable, particularly lead vocals, Samuel Geronimo Deschamps (surely not?) who informed the crowd that despite his erm... otherworldly behaviour and profuse sweating, this was the first gig he had played 'sober.' Before ploughing off the stage in a frenzy and leaping without forewarning into a backflip. Luckily for him, there seemed to be an intuitive crowd decision that this copacabana style shirt wearing man was going to do something unexpected and the best thing was to steer clear to avoid a nasty yet no doubt colourful accident. They all looked mightily pleased at their unwillingness to be ordinary, and I was pleased for them. Yet for all their exuberance and energy, on being advised to jump on the ground when Geronimo did on numerous occasions, he was left on his own to stand carpet burns as his trendy counterparts looked on. Better luck next time lads. 

Is Tropical

As aforementioned, I just don't really get group masking techniques. Watching these chaps set up, my time was spent wondering just how they get their hair quite so peculiar. But a short soundcheck later the faces that everyone had seen were covered up by a slightly pretentious Michael Jackson style masking device. Apparently this is to eliminate the idea of a front man within the band. I can see how that worked, because behind a mask they were all non-entities, completely... Singing through a mask lost any words, or meaning or connection with the audience, which was unfortunate, because having listened to their recorded stuff, they aren't all that bad, strange hair or not. It also kind of grossed me out to see them drinking through the mask, imagine the smell! I didn't really feel any the wiser for having seen them, but their stuff is good, check it out.

Egyptian Hip Hop (awww)

My first thoughts when I saw these foursome setting up, were surely not?! They look so young! But that should definetly not be a reason not to take them seriously, even if they aren't egyptian, or playing hip hop. Behind those nervous wrinkle free fresh faces are clearly tick tocking thoughts of complicated and intricate melodies. The rabbit in the headlights look that continued throughout their set was understandable for their instrument swapping, mac touching ways. The sound in the 'Village Pub' stage did them no favours. As with other bands I had seen in there, the vocals were not as clear as they could have been, but this was not the fault of the band. Recently produced by Sam Eastgate from 'Late of The Pier' fame. With a string of festival dates up and down the country this summer, I see bigger and better things for these seventeen year old darlings.

Ms Dynami-teeehee

My only criticism of Truck, was that before the Barn stage, the crowd control was useless, for want of a better word, despite about 15 'Crowd Safety Officers.' It was not their fault that there was a crush getting in, but it wouldn't have taken much for an event organiser to arrange a better queuing sysem for their ever inflating ticket price. There didnt seem to be much sense in a squashed single file queue where people were jumping the barriers, just to get in to find there was still a lot of space left. Once through the squish (holding onto my chums hands so as not to get swallowed in the bodies), 'The Barn' was rather civilised, despite the ever present smell of cow manure. Well, civilised until the douche in front of me peed on the floor and a rather intoxicated 80's throwback 'skinhead girl' decided to dance in it in a slightly strange slidey movement. The crowd chanted 'Dynamite' and I didn't know what to expect. Having not released an album since 2004, and my most recent recollection being her 2002 album 'A Little Deeper,' I was surprised about her popularity, especially since she made it to the stage nearly an hour late. This aside, when she did arrive, along with DJ Free and sincere apologies, my hesitations and pre judgements were entirely unfounded. She is a true performer and even the stoniest of trendy indie kids couldn't help but jump around. My favourite part was her drum and bass finale with DJ Zinc, and I can honestly say I would see her again.

DJ Zinc

I was most looking forward to DJ Zinc, and was not dissapointed. Happy memories of driving too fast to Arena albums came flooding back and his fill for Ms Dynamite's lateness was greatly received. Legend.


Already a fan of Stornoway and their infectious mix of Belle and Sebastianesque vocals and catchy easy listening set up, my review of them could be a little biased. I read recently that drummer Rob is on his gap year between school and university, but he's thinking about deferring his place at Birmingham University for another year. I think I can say quite safely, that lovely as Birmingham is, he can take that 'risk.' Having played the 'BBC Introducing...' stage just last year, the step up to the main stage in their home town is a great achievement. Onwards and upwards, I am a little bit in love...

Overall Truck was great fun and value for money, the food and drinks were not overpriced like so many festivals, and served by the local Rotary club. On top of that, all profits go to charity, which can't be a bad thing! Sadly I lost my watch there, but I am hoping event organisers may find it before a cow does. It can't be good for cow intestines. I was pleased to see families, although underagers could be irritating at times. If you prefer your festivals chilled out and chatty to hardcore drug infested raves, this ones for you. See you next year Truck.