Monday, 10 November 2014

CryBabyCry EP launch

First of all, a disclaimer - I love this band. I've seen them a shed load of times over the last couple of years. They have had an incredible twelve months, shoehorning their own gigs around hectic diaries and a summer including really well received sets at Reading and Leeds and a smattering of London gigs but tonight we finally get to hold a CryBabyCry record. And while it would be overly dramatic to say that it has all been leading up to tonight (this would also do them a disservice as they are clearly going to have bigger and better nights than this EP launch), the sense of anticipation around the gig was palpable. 

So yeah, my words are going to be biased. Everything the three of them touch is awesome, every other project, band or solo is tinged with brilliance. But my aim is to make you feel that they are special and you need to check them out.

Unusually for me, I got to the gig in plenty of time and really enjoyed the set by The Ainsley Band. Four guitars and drums, making a tremendous sound, inspired (in my mind at least) by The Pixies, The Clash and, erm, Tenacious D, probably but with vocals channelling Springsteen. I wish I'd seen them with The Subways a couple of weeks ago but I'm pleased I have now and I'll definitely be looking out for them again.

A little before 10 and we were finally ready to go. The band assembled on stage, Nici all angles and attitude, Rose wearing one of the band's influences on her chest in a Black Keys T-shirt and Jonny in standard gig uniform, vest, skinny jeans and Docs along with trademark hat. 

For a change, lead EP track Go Go wasn't the opener, the band opting for Wasteland tonight instead. Open chords and bluesy vocals before crunching into a powerful riff.  

We didn't have to wait long for Go Go and quickly on to Shine before the band finally drew breath, checking that Wakefield was "All Right?" It was. Every song was received with thunderous applause, the crowd much louder than it looked like it should be. 

There was a couple of new songs launched tonight but next was The Ballad of Donnie and Susie, still a relatively new one but destined to be a favourite I think. Starting out with vocals in unison over a drum beat, no guitars at the beginning giving an urgency and a drive, telling the tale of their 9 -5.

Next it was time for the first guitar swap, Jonny taking the bass for The Tramp, sparing us for once the tale that this is a song about a man in a sharp suit with an expensive haircut getting his dinner out of the bin. Then on to a song I know as Gimme Some More, they probably have a different name for it but in it Rose oozes sexiness, urging to "Gimme some more" and asking "What you gonna do baby?" all the time moving behind the guitar in a way that she seems to save for this song.

Once the guitars were back in their right places and a blast through Everybody Knows Your Name (again, probably not the correct title, it sounds a lot like Idiot Bastard by Knuckle but pretty sure it isn't that ;-) ), we came on to the much promised brace of new tracks. Cross My Heart (And Hope To Die),is on the EP and Love Has Got Me Wrong. Both fit in to the set beautifully and I can't wait to know them and love them like the rest of their songs.

The greatest treat of the night though came right at the end. After the familiar ending of O' Daddio and a song that may or may not be called Where are you from/Where are you going, the band realised they weren't going to get off stage without a fight, the noise from the crowd was huge. Hastily they got back into position and delivered a song they covered for a mental health charity CD, David Guetta's Titanium. I loved this track when they put it out a year ago but have never seen them do it live and I was blown away. The guys will modestly say it wasn't a great version but Rosie's vocal is immense, Jonny's guitar is filth and Nici binds it all together superbly.

And then it was over, until the next time. And you should be there too.

Oh, and Rosie never asked for more vocals in the monitor. That is unheard of! ;-)

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Last chance?

Tonight marks 2 events of cultural significance. In Manchester, The X factor has it's finale played out in front of a live arena and several millions viewing on TV. I however will be at the other side of the pennines, at Sheffield Arena for the homecoming of one of their finest products, Pulp.

Andy Abraham, Johnny Robinson, Mary Byrne, Kitty Brucknell and Melanie Masson. All artists that went on to the X Factor claiming it to be their last shot at stardom. Consider this though. Pulp formed in 1978. They eventually hit number 80 in the charts in 1993, 15 years later and it wasn't until the following year when they sneaked into the top 40, "Do You Remember The First Time" hitting number 33.

Now those X Factor contestants may have craved success for 15 years but what did they do about it? Early Pulp toured up and down the country, self releasing records to sell at gigs, recording sessions for the mighty John Peel and tinkering with the line up loads of times before they got it right. I can't imagine Kitty Brucknell playing in some of the toilets Pulp played.

And would Pulp even get to the first stage of auditions for The X Factor? I absolutely doubt it.

I enjoy the X Factor. I see it for what it is, Saturday night entertainment. I don't take it seriously (except for when the really talented singers go out early, then I go mad). It isn't a new concept, talent contests have been going on forever. I will be recording it tonight and no doubt enjoy it tomorrow. Those that get wound up about it's popularity and influence on modern music need to get over themselves. It isn't important. I do wish though that they would ban the term "Last Chance". It is an opportunity for massive exposure but graft, dedication and talent will always provide opportunities, eventually.

Can you imagine, Jahmene, James or the other one triumphantly headlining their local arena in 2046?

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Completing The Grid

This blog is about one of the challenges a geocacher might undertake, that of completing the D/T grid. Each cache is given a specific rating for both difficulty and terrain, incrementally in halves from one to five. This means there are 81 different possible combinations and within the statistics section of our profile pages we have a grid that shows how many of each we have found. One challenge is to find a cache of every different combination, thereby "completing the grid" and that is the challenge that three of my caching friends and I took on a few weeks ago.

Some of the combinations are pretty rare and we covered a lot of miles to find a few but we all got into a position where we needed the same 2 combinations. The sensible thing was for us all to go and get them together as they just happened to be at the top of 2 of Yorkshire's 3 peaks, Pen-Y-Ghent and Ingleborough. 

We scrutinised diaries and calendars and finally came up with a date that we could all make, Sunday 19th August.

I have completed the three peaks challenge (to get round the 3 peaks in 12 hours, climbing over 5000ft and walking around 25 miles) twice and walked the hills individually several times but never as a cacher. The plan was to climb Pen-Y-Ghent and then to move the cars to Clapham to assault Ingleborough, returning triumphantly into Clapham later to host an event in their local pub and celebrate our achievement.

The day arrived and we got to our starting point of Horton in Ribblesdale at 10am. The forecast looked promising, perhaps a shower over lunch time. The view of our first mission was imposing but bright and clear.

Pen-Y-Ghent from Horton In Ribblesdale

Pen Y Ghent is a reasonably short walk but very steep and we were wheezing our way up, the scramble towards the top looming and threatening as we approached.

Pen-Y-Ghent summit

We did get there and made short work of finding the couple of caches that are up at the top, although explaining to DesertFoxUk which one of them was, was a task that took the whole day! He got terribly confused with acronyms and a WhereIgo...

Me at the top of Pen-Y-Ghent

As we stood at the trig point we could see rain heading our way and it didn't take long before it started spitting and we were soon in cagoules. We walked back in to Horton along the famous Pennine Way and moved our cars round towards Ingleborough. By now we had made a couple of decisions. Firstly PrinterFixerMan was feeling pain in his ankle and was to sit out the next ascent (fortunately, he had completed the grid a couple of weeks earlier, his job taking him to more exotic places than we get to. Scunthorpe mostly, it would seem) and secondly, we had spent too long on the first peak and to meet our objective of being in the pub for 4 we needed to take a more direct but much steeper route up Ingleborough. It was not a decision I took lightly, it is a very physically demanding climb up and not much preparation for this sort of walk had been done by any of us. Bravado kicked in and I felt confident we could do it.

Pausing for a drink and lunch by the Ribblehead viaduct we got parked near to the Hill Inn, a famous pub on the route of the three peak walk, between Great Whernside and Ingleborough. The spitting had got a little heavier now. The approach to the climb up Ingleborough takes you through some amazing limestone features and by a massive pot hole, "Braithwaite Wife Hole"
Souther Scales Pavement
Then you get to the steep climb, zig-zagging up the side of the hill. I won't lie to you dear reader, I hate this climb. Even when I was young(er) and more sprightly I found it difficult. I think the look on my face in this picture shows my pain!
Despite the persistent drizzle, we had taken our coats off, we were so warm through our exertions. However, as we reached the point where the steps end and the peak starts to level out a little, the weather really took a turn for the worse and cagoules were quickly back on. We could see the low cloud from the bottom and we were right in it. Our visibility was very poor and the cache where our friends Mel&Freddie17 had just a couple of days earlier logged as "giving amazing views" yielded us nothing but a thick mass of fog!


From here we still had about 250 yards to our final cache and it really was follow the arrow time. The trig point and a weather shelter jumped out at us when we were pretty much on top of them. As we approached ground zero I thought crikey, that looks like it's off the edge of a cliff. It wasn't quite that steep but it was at the base of an outcrop that was pretty tricky to get around, particularly in the weather. We found it , our task was done, our grids completed, our challenge concluded but we still had to get back to the cars.

The three of us at the summit of Ingleborough

Coming back down, it is clear how flash floods can occur. The stream that was crystal clear was now a deep brown colour. Our paths were now mini rivers. Pools had appeared where there were none 45 minutes previously. The power of the rain and the sides of the hill give the rain water an opportunity to really gather momentum and cause mayhem.

We got back to the cars and moved them to the New Inn in Clapham. RebekahMarie73 seemed to be wearing something of everyone's to get her dry! I was delighted to find out it was a Copper Dragon pub, one of my favourites. We chatted about what had gone on, what we had achieved and what the next challenge might be and enjoyed a couple of excellent pints.

I was really happy at the end of a fairly prolific (for me) weekend to be logging the last gap in my DT grid as my 1500th find another great milestone on an awesome day.

Thanks to my father in law, Gerry Symes for the photographs I have used.

Also see my blog about The World Wide Flash Mob for more caching goodness!

Sunday, 10 June 2012


Innocently answering a question posed on UK Cache Mag's post about who would be attending a flash mob this afternoon with an "I will", I appear to have been enticed into writing a few words about the event, so I thought I may as well blog about it at the same time...

The "World Wide Flash Mob" has been running since 2007, to begin with a twice yearly event but just once a year since 2010. This was the 9th event. It has grown from a mere 20 events in 2 countries to what appears to be 312 in 31 this year, the UK hosting 24. There were 9940 logs last year, surely this year the 10,000 barrier will be smashed.

The concept is simple, people turn up for a synchronized time, the UK's was 18:00. You get there early and look as inconspicuous as possible (not particularly possible in our case!). At the stroke of 18:00, everyone approaches ground zero, places a named card in a bucket, poses for a picture, has a brief chat and 15 minutes later disperse. Any onlookers are left scratching their head as to what had just happened! 

We planned to attend the event at Kilburn's White Horsenear Thirsk in North Yorkshire

Picking up RebekahMarie73, we made our way the forty miles or so north, through some pretty ominous looking dark clouds. Never mind we said, it looks a lot brighter where we were going. We were even optimistic after driving through a huge flood on the A168 where it looked like the River Swale had burst it's banks. 

We parked up at the Sutton Bank visitor centre, about a mile away from our final destination. There is an earth cache, and a multi that I wanted to try and get on the way there, which along with a  traditional cache virtually where the event was taking place, had given me an idea for a bit later on...

In the time it took for me to put my boots on and get my lad out of the car, some clouds came right in, giving us a lovely mist to walk through. The multi I wanted was very close to the car park and didn't take long at all to solve and grab. As we approached GZ we could see quite a few cars parked, sensibly, in the car park much closer than we were as the rain had really started to come down now. We gave them a knowing nod and a wink as we passed them, grabbing the nearby traditional cache as we were a little early. I didn't know any of the faces, we had come a little way out of our normal patch but Rebekah recognised a couple from a recent event. What is lovely about the geocaching community though is the diversity of the participants and the openness there is with relative strangers.

As the clock turned 18:00, out of the mist appeared Dave of Micky n Dave fame, holding a bucket. He reiterated what we had become a part of and gave us the log book to sign. Up we all queued to scribble our names...

This was followed by the usual geochat, who has seen what, who needs help with which etc but then Dave had a great surprise for us. Somehow, the planets had aligned (or perhaps it was just arranged with the reviewer...) for Dalesman to publish a cache very close by for us all to claim joint FTF on. What a great idea!

Afterwards we all dispersed, back to our cars, bumping back into people doing close by drive bys and a semi planned drink in the local. Well, every good caching day ends in a pub and very nice it was too!

And my plan from earlier? Well, knowing of an easy virtual and a solved but not bagged puzzle on my route home, I finished the day with 6 different cache types (a new record for me) and a First To Find. All in all a cracking day, roll on WWFM X!

(this photo was kindly supplied by "Muggle" Andrew Benson)

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Monday Night Listening Club

It will come as no surprise to those that know me, that I like gigging. A lot. But since my second lad was born, opportunities are far less frequent. To give that some perspective, for the last couple of years, 10 gigs a month was not uncommon. This year I have seen Band of Skulls and got to go to The Great Escape. for which I am very grateful, but that vast reduction is a massive culture change. I know that it has affected my mates too. So what I wanted to replicate, within my own four walls, was the social element of chatting with friends, maybe with a beer and listen to some brilliant music.

And so, with consultation with my good and possibly most affected friend Mark and Rick who is a prolific user of the #nowplaying hashtag, the idea of Monday Night Listening Club was devised, all of us listening to the same album at the same time, Monday night at 10pm UK time.

We went through a whole host of different ideas on how best to simultaneously listen and converse. We knew we wanted to use Spotify, one of the initial rules was that any nominated album had to be on Spotify but how best would we chat? We used the comments box in a Facebook Event and a Google Site and used Twitter, starting tweets with #mnlc and then @mnlclub but are now settled, using a fairly new application available within Spotify called Soundrop

Soundrop allows one of us to control the tracks being played, meaning that we are all listening to the same music at precisely the same time and a dialogue box gives us real time chat too. One of my frustrations using twitter was the delay in comments being shown, Soundrop alleviates that. It has been great to have Johann, one of Soundrop's co-founders join us on a few of the sessions. Sadly one of the frustrations amongst some of the Apple product users is that the app for the iPhone and iPad doesn't seem to be as effective as the desktop product but I am sure that it will catch up.

So now we have the software to play and chat, how do we decide what to listen to? Well, quite simply we take it in turns to chose. We all have reasonably similar listening habits so nobodies tastes have been too offended yet!

Communicating the choice of album has been done using events in the Facebook Group we set up and it also gives us an idea of who will be joining in. Lots of people hate facebook but there are some instances when it is useful, this is one of them. 

We have had up to 8 people listening together, although there has probably been about 15 different people getting involved at different times, possibly when the chosen album matches their taste. 8 is a good number for everyone that wants to be heard to get heard but it would be great to get some more, maybe you would like to join in after reading this.

It is worth pointing out that I haven't invented the wheel here. I found out after setting this up that there is a really well run group, The LP Group that listen once a month after a huge and very well managed voting process. I have enjoyed participating with them since I learned of their existence. I imagine there are several more, I read a tweet from someone in Northern Ireland that do something similar too. 

Some useful links...
Facebook Group
Google Site (although won't always be updated)
@mnlclub on twitter
My Twitter Page

NEXT LISTEN: 5th November 10pm UK time 
Something For The Weekend by Meursault

Previous listens (first is most recent)
World, You Need A Change Of Mind by Kindness
Battle Born by The Killers
Devotion by Jessie Ware
Be Set Free by Langhorne Slim
There's No Leaving Now by The Tallest Man On Earth
Lady's Bridge by Richard Hawley
Good Health by Pretty Girls Make Graves
My Head Is An Animal by Of Monsters And Men
The Vaccines Come Of Age
The Lateness Of The Hour by Alex Clare
The Blue Album by Weezer
Blur By Blur
Twilight As Played By The Twilight Singers
Different Class by Pulp
Up From Below by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
Hope Is Important by Idlewild
An Awesome Wave by Alt J
The English Riviera by Metronomy
Cults by Cults
This is PiL by Public Image Ltd
Yukon Blonde by Yukon Blonde
The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night by The Besnard Lakes
Specials by The Specials
Licensed to Ill by The Beastie Boys
Boys and Girls by Alabama Shakes
Point Of Go by Jonquil
The Sebadoh by Sebadoh
The Libertines by The Libertines
Elastica by Elastica
Port Of Morrow by The Shins
Everything Must Go by Manic Street Preachers
Rise Ye Sunken Ships by We Are Augustines
Pablo Honey by Radiohead
Surviving The Quiet by Seafood
Word Gets Around by Stereophonics
Showbiz by Muse
Distraction Pieces by Scroobius Pip
Given To The Wild by The Maccabees
Weathervanes by Freelance Whales
Architect Of This Church by Hope And Social
Young The Giant by Young The Giant
Too Slow by Tom Williams And The Boat
Union by The Boxer Rebellion
Days by Real Estate

Monday, 28 May 2012

An amazing day for album releases!

Good grief, a quick check to see what was out today and found this lot;

2:54 – '2:54'
Alt-J – 'An Awesome Wave'

Amore – 'Stand Together'
Architects – 'Daybreaker'
Citizens – 'Here We Are'
Colourbox – 'Colourbox'
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – 'Here'
El-P – 'Cancer For Cure'
Exlovers – 'Moth'
Grand Magus – 'The Hunt'
Kill Devil Hill – 'Kill Devil Hill
Joan Armatrading – 'Starlight'
Joey Ramone – 'Ya Know'
Julia Stone – 'By The Horns'
Marcus Millar – 'Renaissance'
The Murder Of My Sweet – 'Bye Bye Lullaby'
Paloma Faith – 'Fall To Grace'
The Pond – 'The Pond'
Public Image Ltd – 'This Is PiL'
Regina Spektor – 'What We Saw From The Cheap Seats'
Scissor Sisters – 'Magic Hour'

Sigur Ros – 'Valtari'
Ultravox – 'Brilliant'
Viking Skull – 'Cursed By The Sword'

I'll definitely be having a listen to the highlighted stuff as soon as Spotify wakes up!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Great Escape - Day Three

As Friday began, so did Saturday, in Wetherspoon's for a full on breakfast. I cannot imagine a trip to The Great Escape now with a bed and breakfast hotel, thereby missing their greasy goodness.
Day three of the festival turned out to have the best lunchtime shows with the most frustrating evening...

Our first venue of the day was The Warren. The Warren isn't simply an ironic name, it really was a maze to try and find, beginning with us turning the wrong way out of the pub and being halfway to the clock tower before we noticed. Having said that, it was a really gorgeous venue, a pretty garden in a courtyard, with a marquee erected to provide a temporary bar. There was a massive picture of a rabbit on a wall leading Nat to comment that it was just like something out of Alice in Wonderland. It was the nicest morning of the weekend, really quite warm and the courtyard was a suntrap, it was a shame to have to go inside to the pitch black to see the bands!

It was a Scottish showcase, the first band of the day was Paws. I had had Paws recommended to me by Jamie Skelton, however when I told him we had gone to see them and it was on his head if they were rubbish, he soon backtracked and claimed he'd only seen them under the influence of T in the Park... He needn't have been concerned though, they were very good. They are a 3 piece from Glasgow, lo-fi verging on punk but with a fair bit of melody. I have a feeling I may have missed them opening for Yuck in Leeds, which is a bloody shame...

They were followed by Bwani Junction. Nat knew of these and pushed for us to stay for them. I'm very glad we did as they were excellent. I will be listening to their album "Fully Cocked" soon. They put me in mind of Vampire Weekend although I am fully prepared to believe that they will only remind me of Vampire Weekend, nobody else... There are some Afro Caribbean influences, which I concede are thousands of miles away from where the Cape Cod band take theirs.

Now, we had a shift on to get to the next set, way over to Blind Tiger in a little less than half an hour to see the excellent Hooded Fang. I thought Mark and I were going to be the last two allowed in and as I looked back up the road, there was no sign of Chantal and Nat. I felt bad briefly but then remembered that we were only late because Chantal had left her bag in The Warren and we spent precious minutes fannying around getting it picked up! I did feel bad for Nat though, it wasn't her fault! It was ok though, they did both get in. Hooded Fang were a band that I really wanted to see, Canadian's with a couple of terrific albums under their belt, most songs coming in at well under 3 minutes. I didn't think that the sound was that good in Blind Tiger today but that might just have been that the vibe was a little understated in comparison to Django Django. They benefit from one of my favourite sights in music, a female bass player, they move so much freer than, say, John Deacon... Have a listen to "ESP", not a true representation of their sound but a belting good song.

From here, it went a but tits up. Across the road for a pint in the King and Queens then down to a beachfront bar to meet the rest of the gang and of course no trip to the coast would be complete without a chippy tea from a chippy recommended by my cousin Helen, Cheers Hels!

And then to Komedia to see the mighty Howler and the omnilistened Alabama Shakes. Like fuck we did. The one session that all 10 or so wanted to see but as we approached the venue, shortly after opening, the queue was already sizeable. We spent a good hour, queueing, barely moving. Some smug fucker came down the line to give us regular, tedious updates of how only 15 people had left the venue in the last hour and how we will never get in. The Dunkirk spirit pulled us through for a while but eventually we decided to sack it off, the group splitting once more into it's smaller factions. I knew it would be busy. The album has been pretty massive, they were just on Jools, the Corn Exchange line up was fairly underwhelming and Rev and The Makers had cried off with a stubbed toe or something, so there was going to be lots of displaced people and loads that just wanted to see them. I still believed that we had got there in plenty of time though. We found out later that people were still queuing 10 minutes before the scheduled end to the gig!

After a period of moping, including an cracking pint in The Victory we decided to go to bizarrely named Sticky Mike's Frog Bar to see Admiral Fallow. We would have seen them earlier in the day had we not seen Hooded Fang and while I really really wanted to see Howler and Alabama Shakes, I was pleased to be seeing Admiral Fallow. Their new album "Tree Bursts In Snow" has just been released and is a terrific listen. I love the way the male and female voice work together, just wish she'd smile a bit more! We were absolutely treated to an a capella version of "Four Bulbs", captivating and moving. By now, I was well and truly over my earlier disappointment!

Briefly. There was more to come. We reconvened with Mark after a quick one in the Waggon and Horses and tried to see We Are Augustines. Again, we got nowhere near.

I was determined not to let my main memory of this year's festival be one of disappointment. It was part of the reason for getting it into blog, to go back and remember all the great stuff. Yeah, Alabama Shakes probably should have been in The Corn Exchange and We Are Augustines was a bit gutting but it was still a bloody great festival.

I saw 22 bands in 13 different venues, 6 of them I'd not been in before. With my ticket price, it worked out at around 2 quid a band. That is some value! We'd had good weather, good banter and ace beer. I managed to stay, amazingly, hangover free. I had been more sensible than previous years but not at the detriment of having fun. We had done it on a better budget than ever before with 4 in the car and sharing hotel rooms for once. In summary, it was fucking ace and I can't wait for next year!

And to top it off, Mark got back to the hotel room, several hours after the sun came up with tales of an attempted bumming...