Saturday, June 30, 2007

Bourbon Street Preachers in Ramsbottom

I managed to catch the first hour of the Bourbon Street Preachers gig at The Royal Oak in Ramsbottom on this last wet night of a wet June. Amongst the numbers I heard was the excellent Buzz Me Blues, one of my favourites (in fact it was one of the blues I played and sang last weekend at The Crown in Horwich). Other numbers of note were a very good I Put A Spell On You and Mustang Sally, an impromptu rendering due largely to the influx of some twenty or more women out on a hen night. Two of them sang well and provided the backing vocals on Mustang Sally. By then the place was jumping.

The Bourbon Street Preachers lineup included keyboards, drums, bass, guitar and vocals/harp/squeezebox. At times, this approached a decent Cajun sound. I had the impression that the gig was going from strength to strength as I left for another appointment. You could call these mature players but they laid down a good blues beat and some tasty solos on harp, guitar and keyboards, just the tonic needed with our ridiculous weather.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Write Out Loud Poetry at Middleton 24th June 2007

From the top: poets Gemma O'Neill, Greg Rodrigo, Gordon Zola and Carol Pickering.

A warm welcome was given to some newcomers at this WOL event . We all hope that they will read next time. Only about 20 people this time, but quality work was performed. After MC Paul Gonzo Blackburn’s introduction, the first session started as Dave Morgan read ‘Promotion’ a witty rhymer about getting on and being ‘a complete and utter bastard’. Then Greg Rodrigo did his ‘London’ an interesting view of the impersonality of the southern capital. Gonzo delivered his ‘Economic Refugee’ where as usual he asks people for money.

Katie Haigh then read us her ‘Searching’, a thoughtful piece. Norman Warwick’s ‘The Cost Of Gold’ looked at funding for the Arts going down the drain while the Olympics gets everything. but who will ‘paint their portraits, tell their story’?

Carol Pickering’s sociopolitical piece ‘Reflections On Life’ looked at different individuals who cannot be made to write. Gerry O’Gorman’s ‘Engerland Expects’ dealt in nice juxtapositions: ‘there’s carnations round the lamp post and there’s holes in the road’. Then Mr G Zola performed his ‘Food Of Love’. This was excellent, typical, Cheese at his best. Seamus Kelly’s first telling, witty piece was called ‘Flash’. Gemma O’Neill read her ‘When I was Five’ a very good local accent piece that I’ve heard before. I read ‘The Keeper of Turton Tower’.

After the first break, we read in reverse order, so I started with one called ‘Leon’, then Paul did something which may have been called the Best Poem or it might have been his Intro Poem – sorry I missed the title. Gemma did her ‘Location, Location, Location’, good, competent stuff: ‘Everyone knows my street’. Amongst others ‘a middle-aged mini-skirted lush’ lives there.

Seamus read ‘Only In My Dreams’, a very good, powerful piece about habitat destruction in Western Ireland:’unnatural lines of unnatural trees’. Then Mr Z did his ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ ‘Not even Coldplay could fix you’. Gerry read ‘The Regal’ about past times at the cinema:’a panavision treat’. Carol did her ‘Lost Love’, a formal piece, (possibly a pantoum?) . I liked ‘in my Icarus fantasy I flew’. Norman gave us a chilling tale about a preacher who puts fornicators to the sword. I don’t know if it was deliberate but there was a distinct reference to Dante’s Paolo and Francesca for me in the line ‘He saw two souls that took to flight’. Katie’s ‘Awake’ struck a chord with her fellow insomniac poets: ‘Will I ever escape the madness, the chaos awake.’

Greg then gave us his political piece about Tony Blair’s smile which went down well. Dave finished the second session with his ‘Arrested Poetry’ a useful snipe at the ether-breathing upthemselves who cast nasturtiums at those of us who don’t write arcane, twisted-imaged, uppity bollocks: ‘doing time for committing rhyme is the doggerel poet’s fate’. The final session was a random one where Gonzo stuck a pen in the list to choose who read next. Briefly, because this is already a long review, Gerry: ‘I’m the joiner. When I’ve finished, it works, it’s fixed’. Danny Sleddon’s (hope the name’s right) ‘Slow To Go’ was also read by Gerry. We hope Danny will write more good poems and read them next time. Katie’s ‘Musicbox’ personified beautifully the little ballerina model in the box. Seamus gave us an excellent ‘Just Too Much’ with a killer last line.

Greg talked of war: ‘I am in the middle of reality’. Dave delivered an irreverent, punful ‘David Attenborough’s Deep Blue Sea’. Gemma read a piece about the leader of her gang ‘All she ever got at home was a Dad who was drunk’. Greg did more of his engaged approach to the world.

Mr Z then became Terry Dactyl in a plea for dinosaur equality. Loads of puns and dino jokes. I did my ‘Fast Crowd’ about locals in rough pubs. Norman finished the evening with a love poem called ‘This Is The One’ which really hit home: the safest road running south out of hope and north out of fear’.

My apologies if any of the names or quotes are wrong. This joined-up writing takes time. This was the first time I had heard some of these poets and they were as competent as any. As some of the newbies commented to me, there was a really good range of styles and deliveries. Middleton is not an event to be missed, people. My favourite of the night was Norman’s last one but there were many others that came close.

Artists at The Crown, Horwich Sunday 24th June 2007

From the top: Rachel Appleton Band, John Cleys, Sandra Cleys, members of Write Out loud including the famous Gonzo attempting to read the smudged notes on his hand.
24th June saw an extra Riders event at the Crown in Horwich. It was to have been in the beer garden (car park) but the weather forced us inside. This was an interesting gig as it coincided with Horwich Carnival, bike races, Morris Men, various drunken groups and all sorts of other attractions. Horwich was actually hermetically sealed for the day with only the more intrepid motorists getting anywhere.

Things eventually got underway when a tardy Gonzo poet surfaced and MC’d the occasion. After Paul’s inimitable ‘Intro Poem’, I was shoved on first, kicking and screaming, to play a few instrumentals and blues for 20 minutes. Then the magical Gordon Zola did a great stint including ‘The Mating Game’, ‘Folk song’, ‘Blackpool Rock’ and ‘Sweet Rapper’. All these went down very well with a loud, fluid ever-changing crowd.

Then the star of the gig, Rachel Appleton did her first set with her band. I’d heard these before but they were still great songs with that lilting, haunting voice of hers. She too seemed a little perplexed by the odd nature of this carnival gig but her stuff was very well received.

After the break, Paul read his ‘Economic Refugee’ then I did an old blues and two of my own songs, ‘Flustered’ and ‘She Knows’. Even Paul seemed to like ‘Flustered’, so now I know. Dave Morgan regaled us with his Hovis poem, one about daffodils, another about Harry San, a Green Party manifesto, the Shulpa Shetti joke and his anti-corporate masterpiece. All went down very well.

Gordonzola did his ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ then and Sandra Cleys had the audience in fits of laughter with her poems which range from an ode to dogpoo, Marlene Dietrich style to her excellent piece on being in your pocket. John Cleys proved his stamina and tenacity in the face of a rather chatty audience by rattling off a litany of works without pause for breath. Go , John, go!

Rachel’s second set was all new stuff which I really enjoyed. ‘Blackwood’, an A minor job, was excellent: ‘a year of isolation / summer’s stretching on’. ‘Let Good Things Grow’ was a D key droner which I would have preferred with some sort of middle eight but still very competent. Then ‘Here in the water’ in E and ‘Hideaway’ which was really good: ‘nobody’s gonna teach the kids about the sticks and stones’. The best new number which concluded the set was ‘Forever Long’ , an F modal job with some very interesting changes and some mint lines such as ‘Put all your tranquil vibes around me’. Rachel has a good sound going on here and the addition of percussion this time certainly lifted things.

I presume this was a one-off gig, but it did show that the artists concerned are well-received by the general public, not just the aficionados and no one was booed, bottled or heckled. Well done to all performers.

Withering Wakefield Saturday 23rd June 2007

On Saturday three of us went to Wakefield Theatre Royal. I love our provincial theatres. The foyer and bar at the Wakefield were pretty original and painted in a wonderful, sleazy green. The main auditorium had what appeared to be a cleaned or retouched ceiling and as much plasterwork and gilt cornice as anyone would want. A delightful little venue.

Our trip was to see ‘Withering Looks’ starring Maggie Fox and Sue Ryding who together with their team make up the Manchester-based Lipservice theatre company. This was superb performance. Both actors have an exceptional ability to interact with the audience. Maggie Fox combines the best of Joyce Grenfell and Frances de Latour, and Sue Ryding is equally adept at contorted expressions. As a duo they have that effortless timing and understanding which only few achieve.

‘Withering Looks’, now in its 22nd year has lost none of its appeal, being as witty and entertaining a tour of the Bronte sisters as ever. However, it is only one in a series of comedies that Lipservice has produced and fans will be looking forward to the forthcoming ‘Live and Let’s Dye’ (with Jane Bond) which starts its tour this autumn.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Trash Press

Today I found myself in a waiting area with only trash to read. On page 26 of the horrendous Daily Mail the headline reads ‘The British workers denied jobs because they can’t speak Polish’. This extremely badly written piece of tripe by Andy Dolan refers to a comment by a Tory MP Malcom Ross at a parliamentary committee session last week: ‘A woman came into my surgery and told me about her daughter’s experience when she was looking for work’.

Not only did this happen (allegedly) over a year ago, but the MP rather conveniently did not have any details e.g. the date, the woman’s mother’s name, the factory involved. It’s a bit like the Martian I saw yesterday in Morrison’s. I can’t quite remember his name but I distinctly remember him telling me that David Cameron was God. So it must be true.

Note how the Mail reporter extrapolates this single apocryphal statement into a headline implying that more than one person, fictitious or not, (‘workers’) was involved. Of course, a truthful headline such as ‘Tory MP alleges that one girl’s mother told him a story about a year ago but has nothing to substantiate the tale’ won’t sell trash.

Just in case I thought Andy Dolan to be an exception, today’s Daily Express carries yet more evidence of our garbage problem. Patrick O’Flynn (Chief Political Reporter) refers to the ‘tidal wave of humanity which has flowed here from Eastern Europe’ and to ‘importing two million extra people into Britain’. Even the Mail’s exaggerated figures can only come up with 800,000 which we are told ‘some experts’ have quoted – i.e. the racist far right Migrationwatch or maybe the one-cells from the BNP. But O’Flynn’s finest line refers to his abomination of ‘the liberal metropolitan types who dominate politics and the media’. Ah, if only they did!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Il gastronomo

He’ll be hovering over them, gazing into those
Tuscan cauldrons by now. No mere affairs of the mouth,
these, more slicing time with the gods
at the altar of the garlic-dressed bean.

A flourish of fennel, a dash of James Baldwin,
a kiss of balsamic, a twist of life,
patience cajoling magic deadly deep
within the eighth liberal art.

A week later he flies home, leaving behind
a seasoned wedge of his soul. In Cleveland,
Chianti sales triple as they queue for him,
for his mouthfuls of heaven.
(Firenze, giugno 2007)