Wednesday, May 28, 2003

First of all: attention googlers - you won't find any t.A.T.u mp3s here. Also, the f&%ker looking for this - I hope your computer gets confiscated and you do 20 years. There, that's cleared up.

Eurovision. What can I say? I liked the Jemini song, and I thought it would do ok. I certainly think there was a backlash, especially when I found out their dressing room got trashed after the show. And I know what it's like to try and sing when you can't hear yourself in the monitor (not that I've ever done anything flash enough to get one of those earpiece ones!) so with thousands of people cheering at you, it's no surprise Gemma was way off. The girls at my party had a soft spot for the Norway cutie - (as Mike predicted!) and Romania was a big favourite too with the Bomfunk MC act. I'd actually picked Turkey to come second (after Spain, ooops!) so I felt like I'd guessed pretty well.

Today, there are hundreds of Italian football fans wandering around my neighbourhood for that big match tonight. I think I might have had a few catcalls, but as my Italian is non-existant they might have been asking where the nearest cash point is...

Luckily, we're getting away from it all tonight as it's Broadcast tonight at the Hop & Grape (Academy 3, but I refuse to call it that.) I'm probably looking forward to this show more than anything in the last year, because the new album "Ha Ha Sound" is breathtaking. The bf scored a promo copy at Vinyl Exchange, thinking maybe he'd beat the crowds by a few weeks. But it's not out until 11th August! I'd say it'll be worth the wait, but I'm sure most people are scuttling off to WinMX anyhow.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Needle in a (soggy) haystack...

Catching up a bit, last Saturday we went to Liverpool to hang out with my friends who had travelled up from London to see the Velvelettes perform at an "oldies" revue. I hadn't known about it, as I would normally avoid any sort of nostalgia tour as I always think I'll be disappointed by schmaltzy backing bands, plinky backing tracks and "bands" featuring only one original member. But when my friends told me that the Velvelettes tour with all original members and blew everyone out of the water, I really wish I'd gone. They're coming back to Manchester later this year though, so I can make amends then.

Sadly, it was a completely miserable and soggy afternoon. After nosing around Quiggins (where Mick bought me a lovely present - an old programme for a production called "Charlie Girl", starring Joe Brown and some girls in fab Courreges go go boots!), Hairy Records and the Soul Cafe, we had just enough time to drive down to the docks for a stroll. It alternated between breezy greyness and heavy showers, and I snapped this during one of the dry bits:



As we wandered past the Tate Gallery, all of a sudden my friends stopped in their tracks. We had just bumped into their friend John, who was accompanied by none other than Carolyn Gill, lead singer of the Velvelettes. The bf and I stood there like idiots, mute with awe. I found myself shaking hands with the person who sang one of my favourite girl group songs ever, Needle in a Haystack (which also lead to Tawny Reed's ace britgirl version too!)

I'm not lying when I say she looked not a day over 40! Our friends talked shop for a while, dishing on backstage gossip about the other artists. I was dying to ask for a photo but I just lost my nerve. We said our goodbyes and carried on around the docks. And then the heavens completely opened. It was freezing, we were all soaked and my poor friends had to catch a 4 hour train back to London.

This week has been busy but not particularly blogworthy, which is why I've been quiet until today. But tomorrow...EUROVISION! We are having a small party, with two friends arriving from London tonight for a weekend visit. There will be a huge posh buffet (such as spinach, pine nut & feta galettes or baked brie with chutney) and of course, a camp dessert in the form of a bright pink strawberry cake with strawberry cream cheese icing from the Cake Mix Doctor book and a batch of Ghiradelli cookies.

Liquid Eurovision every night has really got me excited - last night's show was the best yet. Those naughty boys from Sestre (last year's fab air hostesses with the mostesses) and their "douze points backstage" tales... I can't wait for Saturday night! I haven't got a favourite yet, although Alf is the big underdog and I'm afraid the Ukraine's poor Olexandr Ponomaryof or Israel's Lior Narkis might be a nil points...we nearly had an "accident" when we saw the video. What was with the toothbrush?

Friday, May 16, 2003

The Hidden Cameras

Leeds Cockpit 15/05/03








My, isn't Leeds posh these days? We marvelled at the centre, which has clearly had loads of money pumped into it. I'd only been once before, years ago for a day's shopping, and I didn't remember there being so many grand buildings and squares. Everything seems to have been scrubbed clean. Our car park (which was conveniently right across the road from the Cockpit) was brand new, all gleaming white with sleek ticket machines and not a whiff of wee in the lifts.

Speaking of wee, the Hidden Cameras opened their set with "golden streams", but not before Joel had announced "Hi, we're the Hidden Cameras...and no, we don't have SARS."

I'd been promised by Brian that they would be a revelation live, and he wasn't wrong. Although I guessed that they didn't have their usual large scale entourage, the band was fleshed out nicely with an electric cello, violin, xylophone, bass, drums, guitars and various vintage synths. The band were amazingly versatile too, with everyone swapping instruments round on a regular basis.

They played most of the songs off "The Smell of Our Own" including a fabulous 'n feisty version of "Ban Marriage" as well as what seemed to be a couple of new numbers, including a brilliant drawn out finale with lots of guitar and lots of "heys" - they seem to be fond of those! They even allowed the two guys from the opening band (I believe they were a local group called the Hipsters, and they were really awful) onstage to help out with percussion - which they still managed to f*&k up! I had to smile as I saw them being gently chided by the cellist for starting with the jingle bells too early.

Afterwards, I'd had enough bitter to reflect that it wouldn't be such a bad idea to say hi to Joel, but the right moment never arrived. Sure, I could have nabbed one of the other members we saw milling around afterwards, but it felt too cheesy and I just couldn't do it. In the end, we decided to pass on the headliners (Sleepy Jackson) and take advantage of the early finish to make the journey back to Manchester before we got too tired.

The Hidden Cameras still have some dates left - if there's one near you, you should really go.

May 17th BEDFORD, Esquires

May 18th CARDIFF, Barfly

May 19th PORTSMOUTH, Wedgewood Rooms

May 20th LONDON, Scala

May 22nd CAMBRIDGE, Boat Race

May 23rd LEICESTER, Princess Charlotte

May 24th SHEFFIELD, Leadmill

May 25th NOTTINGHAM, Rescue Rooms

June 2nd LONDON, ICA, the Heavy Flow of Evil show w/ Royal City

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Last night, we went to a pub quiz at a Conservative club in Bolton. Trust me, I never thought I'd set foot in one! (To make a long story short, one of the bf's workmates runs the quiz occasionally and we thought we'd surprise him.) We were a bit embarrassed when we won the main quiz, but lost the betting round to save face and came away having had a great time in definite Peter Kay-ish style. I drank Tetley's bitter all night and had forgotten how yummy peanuts and Seabrooks crisps taste when you get peckish!

Tonight, we're seeing the Hidden Cameras at the Leeds Cockpit, because they're not playing Manchester and we couldn't go to the Liverpool show last night. And as I used to know Joel through our indie/britpop clubbing days in the mid 90s, I feel a bit of an unpleasant Toronto flashback coming on already and I'm not sure I like it. Nothing to do with him personally - just by association - but I will just shove it to the back of my mind, have a few drinks (and hey, I don't have to work tomorrow!) and try to decipher his lyrics. Now you probably want me to tell you all about it. Maybe someday.

Oh yes, some other bits of news:

1. I GOT MY VISA! It arrived 2 days ago and I have to confess I cried a bit out of relief. It's lovely and green and I never have to worry about renewing it again.

2. We just sold an early Inspiral Carpets demo tape on eBay for £51 - how mad is that?

Monday, May 12, 2003

I'm back, and what a productive visit it was. It's left me pretty drained though, so I've forgone my volunteer work today to recharge.

The two days at the London office of my new job were amazing - I couldn't get over how progressive, approachable, friendly and helpful everyone was. My days were packed with half hour slots so I could meet as many people as possible, and every single person was lovely. I was overwhelmed with offers of help, "call me anytime" and visits to our Manchester office once it's up and running. Yay for jobs that just seem better and better! Looks like I may get some more hours in the fall, too...and as the living on part-time money has gone from pinching pennies to full-blown annoying and occasionally worrying, I can't wait.

The social side of my trip was ace too. On Saturday, my host Mick showed me round the lovely Dulwich high street before we headed to Phil's to record some more songs. In less than 6 hours, we had another three done complete with quite a lot of double tracking and harmonies. I'm not sure when or where I will be circulating a Songs:Two cd, but we've got a nice handful shaping up towards some sort of finished product.

Then it was on to Kings Cross for Sophisticated Boom Boom, where I stayed amazingly sober (probably because of the evil hangover I'd suffered just days before!) and concentrated on crowd watching and enjoying their sets. It was lovely to see all the girls again, and they all cooed over my vintage specs, a present from my host.

(If you'd like to see a 20 second AVI movie of one of their routines that I filmed, download it here. I view it in RealPlayer, but I'm sure it will work with most viewers...)

One set was all Elvis songs, and one was a tribute to Nancy Sinatra. Although the Elvis set included a great version of "Devil in disguise" with Black Elvis singing while the girls danced around him, I enjoyed the Nancy set the most. I just prefer her music and, best of all, the girls were all decked out in blonde wigs. The good mood meant that everyone was quaffing drinks at an amazing rate, and by the end of their encore the Water Rats was a drunken chaos - including the girls! By that point I'd been on the go for about 13 hours, so I said my goodbyes and we nabbed our night bus back. A few pictures are below...



Delia, compere extraordinaire...



Emerald and Sue managing to dj and balance their wine glasses at the same time...



Simon and I, in the coveted specs


Sunday was basically just a travelling day, but one event of note was my complimentary upgrade to first on the train back. I know it's snobby and horrible, but I really hate travelling in the standard coaches on weekends. For some reason Sunday trains mean a crammed carriage that is usually filled with crabby people who've had to fight for a seat, drunken football fans and the constant yammering of mobiles phones and/or inane conversations bellowed out by gobby young girls. 3 hours of that is just too much to bear...

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Hungover. Bleurgh! But worth it.

So, Manitoba. After a yummy meal at Wagamama (and a forgotten sneezing task) we headed for the Rescue Rooms and settled in. I was having a good time and that's probably why I threw caution to the wind, in the form of downing Leffe. Which I forgot has 6.6% alcohol, or something like that. But it was easy to forget when you've got nice conversation and Manitoba racing around the stage in lion masks. The evening ended at Mike's with some more beer and records before we retired to bed.

But oooh, what a banging head when I woke up. I was really annoyed as I usually pride myself on being able to mind the beer threshold. Thanks to Mike, we had time for tea (liberally scoffed with nurofen) but it did nothing much to improve my condition. However we had to get going as I'd promised to pop into work briefly to check out my new laptop. I also hope Mike has forgiven us for sleeping a bit later than we should have - meaning he (very kindly) had to leave us a key to lock up. I was feeling poorly *and* mortified! I so rarely stay up past 11 on a school night, let alone drink too much.

I made it home ok, thanks to a few stops along the way for Irn Bru, cheese doritos and chocolate. I know, it's disgusting! But it's my proven hangover helper, and possibly the one time where junk food makes you feel better.

I've recovered just enough to pack for London - I'll be down there for two days of work and two days of play, including the Actionettes show on Saturday. Although I'm not performing, I've still planned my outfit and it's quite Clodagh Rodgers circa 1969. And a last minute surprise of some more studio time means I'll have three more songs under my belt, and enough for a Songs:Two cd once they're mixed.

p.s. A special hello to birthday Chig, who surprised me with a phone call as we were driving to Mike's.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Speaking of karma before, I forgot to say I have lots of different kinds. Oh yes. Today's karma du jour must be my penance for past life crimes as an evil medieval dentist - because what ought to have been two straightforward fillings turned into a horrible nightmare. And even worse, he couldn't finish the job so I've got to go back in a month to try again. Waaaaaah. Why are there not more dentists that offer total knock-out anaesthetic in this country? I really need one.

But onto happier things. Later today, the bf and I are heading out to Nottingham to see Manitoba at the Rescue Rooms with Mike and I can't wait. I really feel like I need to get out of Manchester to clear my head and see things from a different city perspective, if that makes sense. Anyhow, I see he's big on rhubarb today, so maybe I'll bring him some along with a cd of Ulrich Schnauss if I manage to transfer all the songs from minidisc to computer to mp3 to cdr in time. Phew!

Friday, May 02, 2003

During today's cold snap, I got snapping - and submitted my first ever entry to the mirror project, which was accepted straight away! You can see it here.

I'm currently sat in my house, *freezing*. I may or may not have f*cked up one of our electrical circuits by nailing up a small mirror using the SMALLEST nail you could imagine, which knocked out the boiler and all of the downstairs lights. This will be confirmed later, when our lovely electrician turns up at 5 pm. Until then, I will have to put up with an increasing feeling of numbness.

This the same one that zonked out last year when one of my cats peed in the computer room and the, err, trickling caused the hall light to explode. Clearly, we have bad electric karma.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

My first endorsement

Whenever I come across a bargain, I just can't shut up about it. Far below on the left hand sidebar, you'll have noticed me raving about Dr. Hauschka's skin care range. I'm sure some of the more celeb-hungry of you will have heard celeb endorsements from Madonna, Kate Moss or Cate Blanchett. I don't really pay attention to that kind of thing these days though, so I read and filed it away in my brain like most useless bits of trivia.

But a couple of weeks ago, an article written by a holistic therapist on skin care in the Toronto Star caught my eye. This therapist had suffered from acne as a teen and the spots stayed with her as she got older, albeit to a lesser extent. And let's face it, how many people do you know who have perfect skin after their teens? Most people I know still complain about it, and I was no exception. No one would ever look at me and think "ugh, craterface" or anything, but I definitely still got annoying flare ups on my cheekbones and jawline, particularly around That Time of The Month. I also have very sensitive skin that seems to eat up moisturiser and still seem dry, which can make it look irritated. After some research, I realised I might have a mild form of occasional rosacea, although this is a self diagnosis. I'm sure it was more noticeable to me than anyone else, but I still felt self-concious.

Anyhow, the article mentioned Dr. Hauschka products again, so I decided to look into it. I picked up a starter face kit from Selfridges' apothecary section (£11.75) and the results were amazing after just 3 or 4 days. There was just one problem - the cost. A full set of all the products I'd need would come to over £80! So of course I had to shop around. No bargains to be had from UK online stores, so I decided to look at German websites.

Armed with a German dictionary and the Babelfish translator, I discovered Bella Donna, a lovely apothecary in Berlin that stocks all kinds of natural beauty products. To my absolute delight, I found out that the same products would come to £48 including postage. Sure, it was a bit of a headache considering I only know a smattering of German words I learned off eBay, but it made bargain hunting all the more satisfying. Even better was their service - fast replies (in English) to my emails and lightning fast shipping. I ordered on Tuesday and the box arrived today, with some free samples as a bonus. Der kundendienst ist ausgezeichnet!