gin soaked girl

This blog is about me and my adventures in the land of gin. Yes, gin is a country and I've visited it often. In fact I've conducted a passionate love affair with the place. Bought the t-shirt and definitely been to the duty-free. Along the way, I've been to a few gigs and undergone a bit of a personal renaissance. This blog celebrates the art of growing old disgracefully. Roll up. Roll up. Come join the fayre!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

From the pen of a semi-initiate

If the definition of festival is 'having a good time with much revelry, jocularity and possibly hilarity included', then the spring anti-folk jamboree (come 'mutiny on the bounty' style insurrection) did nothing to counter that supposition. From start to chaotic finish the nefarious congregation kept me rapt and entertained like an agitated schoolgirl dropped unceremoniously by parachute into a surreal Alice in Wonderland type landscape for lessons in bohemian excess and abandon. 

So how does the anti-folk festival differ from other festivals? Well for starters there's an almost despotic disapproval of all things sober and restrained. Not that other festivals I've attended have been temples of sobriety but this one in particular holds no boundaries for irregular and exceptional behaviour of all kinds ("that's not very rock and roll" the barman harangued me with when I started off the evening not with my usual gin but with a half pint measure of limited toxicity. "Yes, sorry for that", I replied, chastened).

Another source of singularity is the claustrophobic intensity of the setting; the 12 Bar leaves no place to hide for the introverted initiate or the mouse-like persona. Unlike other recent corporate sponsored festivals, there are no bouncy castles or chill-out spaces to detract form the musical onslaught. Just a subterranean bunker with a loud, shouty, scatological comic comparing a night of drink and debauchery, with some of the most bizarrely named bands you have ever heard of sharing in the scrimmage. 

Alex Newby (ok, not too bizarrely-named to start with)

The appropriately named first act is good looking, quite serious, and a young man with obvious ambition. His songs are kind of interesting (in addition to the afore-mentioned good looks), and I'm sure there's a lot more to be heard and appreciated from him.

Next up comes 'Naomi Hates Humans (with the Insufferable Fucks), who are one of those oddly named bands I previously mentioned, and whose misanthropic monicker is slightly less than enticing and seductive when first apprehended on the festival line-up. However, the titular Naomi has a gravely, throaty, earthy intensity that reminds me more of an authentic torch song icon than an offbeat, irreverent, outcast/insurgent (as do many of the other acts on the bill). Janis Joplin mixed with a smidgen of Alison Moyet and Eartha Kitt perhaps. The real thing, rather than the post-modern equivalent. In any case her tales of social deprivation and injustice indubitably recall another era's zeitgeist, confirming the miscellaneous nature of the acts on offer throughout this festival of lost souls. 

The Big Fibbers are big fun, no lie. Their songs are touching ('Booze, madness and the ghost of love'), relevant ('I want to be normal, why can't I be normal?' - a song that pretty much everyone in the audience can identify with I speculate), and not least, nostalgic ('I scream/You scream/beside the seaside...sorry,  didn't quite catch the full title). The lead singer's t-shirt says it all really; paying homage to the Monster Raving Looney Party, and it occurs to me that the festival itself could be construed as a fundraising enterprise for the aforementioned cult of eccentricity, flippancy and downright recklessness. Great British eccentrics they are indeed; with a medieval, Shakespearian feel to their merrymaking. I went to see King Lear at the Globe recently and some of Tom O Bedlam's rantings and ravings were not totally dissimilar in theme and import. They are the latter day Chas n Dave of anti-folk you could say, and might say, with a liberal dash of Keith Floyd thrown in. 

Malcolm Kakosis

I sort of come a cropper here, with my positivity and upbeat appreciative banter. I'm not really sure what to say about this set; except that I don't somehow think it was aimed at me and my kind (i.e. female). No, I'm not really the right kind of reviewer, being of the XX biological designation, to give a totally unbiased appraisal of good and bad features. What with all the songs about the perils of dating girls with big arses and slovenly personal grooming habits, etc. Not that I object to grittiness and authenticity in song writing you understand, but there's anger, piercing honesty, then downright unpleasant grossness, and the subjects under musical discussion on this occasion seemed to veer strongly towards the bottom end of the scale, excuse the pun.

Scrappy Hood (Milk Kan)

Those in the know; i.e. closer to the anti-folk bone/the heart of darkness, inform me that Milk Kan are one of the shing bright nuclear hopes of antifolk (in the wider commercial universe), so my hopes are high as the proverbial kite before this set. And I'm not disappointed. Luckily, for once, my hopes are not dashed cruelly against a 10 feet brick wall and shattered into a thousand smithereens. In fact I love the set exceedingly. The entire audience seems animated and enlivened and spurred into spring-like action (despite the miserable claggy weather being experienced outside) when Mr Hood arrives. Even Mr Filthy Pedro was seen to be strutting his stuff during the frenetic rendition of 'God with an ipod', a song that epitomizes the eclectic range, literary referencing and astute lyrical maturity on display.

First of all, GSG has to apologise to Filthy Pedro because for about 75% of this enthustiastic and vigorous set a befuddled and perplexed Irishman was quizzing me in quite some depth about the meaning, import and derivation of the term 'anti-folk'. To be honest, it was a bit of a struggle didactically to contain and explain the entire genre in a couple of condensed sentences (especially as I consider myself to be in no way a particular expert on the subject) at the same time as attempting to pay due attention to the music in progress, but I eventually managed to disentangle myself form what was turning into something of a high-brow conversation, just in time to catch the debut of a new song which seems to centre around the joys of Superfoods, broccali, carrots, and the 1980s chronicles of a fugitive antique dealer, Lovejoy.

To the sweetly named Mertle I would like to give a big hug (of purely platonic intent), because by the time that her set got going there seemed to be a bit of a disruptive element in the room that diverted her attention and undermined her confidence to quite an elevated degree. Which is a pity, because her songs, including what seemed to be an audience favourite, 'Splish, splash, splosh', were funny and touching and well worth paying attention to. She started off in a confident vein alright, telling some dirty anecdote about Kings Cross and blowjobs, but then veered off into a cul-de-sac of low self-esteem and aborted intros. Maybe the guy in the audience who said (in quite an unnecessarily loud voice) that "they should have put her on earlier" was right, but I blame the presence of far too many jeering, lairy, bloke-off-the-street types, which turned the atmosphere into something decidedly un anti-folk like. 

My last word

All in all, the bit of the festival I attended (there were four more bands after GSG crawled home in a musical stupour), was the usual whirligig vortex of the sublime and the ridiculous and the moderate entry fee would be more than worth it for anyone else considering sampling future events (they are held every quarter). Just don't come expecting anything in anyway mainstream or ordinary. If you like car crash telly and have what some people call a 'unique' or somewhat 'special' outlook on life, then you'll be more than at home here. 

Definately NOT one for the kiddies.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The last of the famous, international playgirls (Kate Jackson, not me)

The Long Blondes at the Kentish Town Forum, Monday 21st April 2008

In her Betty Grable/Paulette Goddard/forties bellhop come land girl outfit (it’s not many people that can pull off those high-waisted hot pants, fair dos) Kate Jackson is on fire tonight, working the crowd into the highest point of frenzied activity during the coquettish, outlandish (‘Come out with me and find out what you really want’) new punk classic, Once and Never Again. The sweaty boys at the front spontaneously surge backwards and forwards trying to get closer and closer to the vamped up librarian (not sure if that was ever true or not), now self-styled femme fatale, and gsg has to take a couple of discreet steps backward to avoid getting too much unwanted bodily contact. Urgh. It’s not so much a Mexican wave as a Kentish Town scuffle.

Anyways, the night is uber successful with the grittier tracks from the first album colliding not too cacophonously with the newer, sleeker, dancier, euphoria-inducing tracks like Century from the new album “Couples”. The effect is somewhat schizophrenic however; it seems like the band has perhaps been hanging out a bit too often with the likes of Allison Goldfrapp and the Klaxons and some of the tracks like the new single, Too clever by half, totally fails to impress upon me I’m afraid; it just didn’t seem to get going melodically or lyrically; what is it about for Jesus’ sake? I kept straining to catch the drift of it but it was a totally quagmire live (this could be down to my failing hearing btw so don’t take my word for it; it could be like Shakespeare or something). I guess I’m just going to have to buy the album now and give it another go.

8.5/10. GSG.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Center Parcs, Center Percs, Center-field? Gin-girl goes rural on your/her ass…

Hello, Hello, I'm back on the case after a short break away from the perils and tribulations of Blogland. What have I been doing with myself? Well, trying to avoid pecuniary disaster and damnation for one, but also getting all holistic and 'with the programme' when it comes to health and fitness. Not that I've given up the gin trail of course, but I've been trying to walking the tightrope between hedonism, reckless alcoholism and total despair a little more carefully. To be specific, in grand Dickensian style, I've just got back from Center Parcs no less! Me, hawking and falconing and even horse-riding! Stick a label on me and call me Priscilla, Tamsin (or some other pretentious horsey name)why don't ya?

Yes, I have gotten over my, definately partially class-based fear (me being common as muck and my parents, friends etc, never having done such a thing in my life), and made acquaintance with our equine cousins. To be honest, the horse I ended up with was a bit of a coach potato- 'She's a bit of a fat pony' the stable attendant said as she loosened the girth (I think that's the terminology); well, quite. In fact I have sneaky feeling that 'Secret' as she was called, would have preferred to have been tucked-up in a cosy stable watching Richard and Judy with a horse-sized bag of Quavers or cheesy Wotsits, than trudging my less than experienced bag of bones around a series of probably over-familiar fields. I tried to correct her once, in a moment of Grandstand-induced enthusiasm, and a desire to go slightly more than somnabulist-tortoise speed, only to be rebuffed with a theatrical 'I'll thank you not to tell me what to do' mane-toss. Anyway, we made friends and got to our destination without further incidence. I enjoyed the experience overall and 'Secret' tolerated me like a special needs tutor with a particularly remedial charge in tow. Guess she has to earn her oats somehow!

So what else was there to enjoy of the Center Parcs experience? Well, the falconry was good, and I correctly guessed that the adult male Barn Owl, Twinkle, weighed the same as my friend's recently newborn baby, Finlay, i.e. 71b. Not much to be sure, but I never win anything, so was well chuffed with this fleeting accolade. The 'Sub-tropical' paradise was also good fun, despite the numerous over-excited and excitable munschins that dominated the pool during the day (I recommend going after dark, and with a couple of glasses of gin-based cocktail in your belly to avoid them). I even went down the water rapids and the water slides with true Boudica-style bravado; kinda. There was no ransacking of Londiminium or savaging of Roman oppressors; just me on a kiddie slide, trying not to feel like a totally effing eejit. You see the truth is that I never did this kind of stuff when I was younger; my parents were slightly less than adventurous and I was a bit of a wimp truth be told. Riding on horses and shooting down water slides at top speed was not top of the agenda for mini-gin soaked girl, more's the pity. If I ever do have kids, and the likelihood is small at this stage, I'll definitely let them have more woodsy/adventurous/outdoorsy type fun. So there.

Well, back to the gin, sawdust lined pubs and other urbanite endeavours.GSG.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ice cream heaven since 2005(?)

Ben and Jerry’s Festival, Sunday 29th July 2007
It’s quite odd being at a festival on your own, not too mention a bit sad and lonely. Or at least traditionalists would have you believe. Indeed I thought so myself until very recently, when, grasping victory from the jaws of defeat (in the emotional sense), I found myself enjoying my rootless drifting around Clapham Common on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It helped that the weather was splendid of course, and that the village fete atmosphere had attracted lots of young families with babies and such like; not just paparazzi and moshers like at Reading or Leeds; but real genuine people who just want to have a good time in the sunshine and taste lots of free ice-cream. The timing helps make it feel special also- the 12 to 8 schedule is spot on for a more relaxed, chilled out vibe, and not having to scramble for a train at the end of an evening is very reassuring (does that make me sound old?).

So here I am with my camera and my determination to have at least some fun since the friend that was supposed to accompany me, redwineaddict, is suffering from an acute case of the spluttering-type lurgy (the evil demon). I don’t arrive too early, as being obviously on my own for that amount of time would undoubtedly make me feel self-conscious. But a 4.30 start suits me fine, and as I arrive I hear the bouncy fairground attractions that are The Holloways tuning up. I love the tub-thumping, social commentating, good time harlequins, and their catchy, but intelligent lyrics. Lyrics like

….May I remind you? That you don't live in poverty/ You got your youth/ and you got food in your belly.

Now you can’t criticise that kind of observational genius, can you? Anyway, an ice cream break is called for half way through their set and their rock chick girlfriends dutifully appear and deliver said dairy-based medicinal substances. Men it seems, must have their rock chicks and their substances…no matter how much of a social conscience they have.

After the Holloways have sung their latest single, Two Left Feet, and the ferociously paced track, Generator, not to mention the lovely ballad Most Lonely Face, I decide to go for a wander and take an amble over to the beer tent (I just happened to come across it), where I imbibe a spot of Magners, which is extremely good for the soul on a day like this. Then its ice-cream city, here I come. The flavours I sampled were (in no particular order): Berry Berry, Caramel Chew Chew, and Bohemian Raspberry. To be honest, that was enough for me (I’m an ice-cream lightweight, I confess). Anyway, there were all very nice in their own particular way, but Berry, Berry might have been my favourite for its overall fruity scrumptiousness (what more can you say about an ice cream, its not the Mona Lisa is it?). Seriously, you can’t criticise a festival where you get free ice-cream all day. The people that thought it up should be knighted, or given a dame-hood or whatever.

And so back to the stage, and its him of the chiselled features; the paparazzi favourite and Celebrity BB lover boy Preston (and the hangers on, sorry, Ordinary Boys). He’s a charmer in a East End, mockney, ‘I listened to lots of Madness records when I was young’ kind of way, and I can’t help warming to him a wee bit. He spurs people on to dance and even plays a rendition of the Beach Boys’ Do You Wanna Dance? to give us the opportunity to make hay whilst the sun shines. Unfortunately I think an over-indulgence of ice-cream has put the audience out of sorts and not much in the way of gyrating/twisting/shouting actually takes place (except for a man in a monkey suit who must have been sweating like an overheated crazy thing). I didn’t really know the Ordinary Boys' music much before this to be honest, but I quite liked their Seaside song, which seemed very appropriate. Bless their cotton socks.

Oh and there was some Scottish act (brothers I think) called The Proclaimers. Anybody know them? Sorry P and R. Yes, of course, I knew them of old and they delivered pretty much as expected. They were very jaunty on stage I thought and very prone to energetic clapping and stomping. I enjoyed classic Letter to America very much and also the new single Life With You is well worth a listen if you get a chance. In fact it was getting late and I fancied getting another look at the Vauxhall City Farm animals before I left, so I missed the last chunk of their set. Sound travels though, and I was serenaded by their Celtic warbling all the way to Clapham Common tube station.

Bye bye Ben and Jerrys. See you next year. GSG.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

It's all a bit of a whirl...

A long weekend in Amsterdam, 7-10 July 2007.

Amsterdam in my imagination used to be simple to define: big red cheese; boys with fingers in dikes; chocolate box windmills and oversized clogs. This is how the maternal liturgy went. So was it fair? Turns out that there’s a lot more to the Netherlands (to use its proper moniker) than I once thought, and I am now in possession of a much more sophisticated image and conceptualisation (ok, so I’ve been watching Shrink Rap) of the country.

Ok, there are cheeses of all kinds, not just Edam, and clogs, also of all kinds, (including furry clog-type slippers and clog-shaped plant pots), but the boys holding back torrents and chocolate box windmills were conspicuous by their absence during my visit. The truth is that the Netherlands is a prosperous modern country with a touch of Germanic Puritanism still, but also a great deal of the atheistic, laissez-faire spirit of the age and an enviable pragmatism when it comes to matters of transport and housing.

Question 1: what do you do when you don’t have enough room on the roads and need to get from A to B? Answer: buy a ramshackle but lightweight and practical bicycle and park it in a high-rise, multi-storey ‘bike-park’ that houses thousands of similar apparatus. Also, plan your city so that there are cycle tracks running along every main road and tributary and acquaint motorists with the idea that they do not ‘own the roads’ and have to accomodate different modes of transport when it comes to sharing space.

Question 2: what do you do when you run out of space to build new houses and apartments and there are lots of young people coming into the city? Answer: take to the (inland) seas and form a Bohemian-influenced houseboat community that brings a welcome touch of New Age quirkiness to the wider community. No need to worry about such insignificant issues as being seen naked or exposed in your domestic activities by passing tourists on candlelit tours of the canals and backwaters. Just give a short wave and go about your business.

Question 3: Feeling a bit fatigued on a Sunday afternoon, a bit down in the dumps with the sudden blast of torrential rain or thunder and lightening? Then take a seat at one of the many roadside cafe/bars (not to be confused with the plentiful collection of 'coffee shops' that serve a wholly different class of punter) and relax your bones. Order your favourite Belgian or other lowlander-type intoxicant (that's a Leffe Blond, Westmalle Dubbel or Palm beer for me) and think about your favourite things. Oh and if your hungry, indulge in some Bitterballen, but only if you're a truly dedicated carnivore.

In short, Amsterdam is the capital of a strangely antithetical city: both Bohemian/libertarian and stoical/Puritanical at the same time. A melting pot of influences just like every other major European city.
Oh and one small droplet of knowledge that I managed to collect on the trip; the Netherlands is definately not the same as Holland, which refers only to the western part of the country (2 out of the 12 provinces), so therefore do not use this term as it might be construed as a touch on the pejorative side to the inhabitants of the remaining 10 provinces. NB. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. GSG.

Monday, July 02, 2007

I was looking for a gig, and then I found a gig…

The Wireless Festival, Hyde Park, 17th June 2007

It’s dull and overcast and the party spirit should have long since made its excuses and left for sunnier climes, but we’re British, and the desire for outdoors activities, nay pleasures, abound. Maybe it’s all that scouting and guiding and running up of flagpoles that we all enjoyed (with clenched teeth and goose pimples) when we were young and reckless. Good training for life, my elders said, and so it has proved, time and frostily, again...

It’s trying to crack a half assed smile when we arrive (the weather), and I am bravely sport nothing but a handkerchief-style, wrap-around cardigan (and vest top) with trainers in my personal attire, and am determined to get some fun out of this experience, God dammit.

So it is in a windblown grass-denuded landscape that myself and redwineaddict, another trooper of the ‘stiff upper lip’ kind, sit with our half pint of Pimms in plastic cups and absorb the wonders of the Japanese via Guantanamo Bay-style shenanigans of live wires, Polysics. Oh my God. Yes, orange catsuits and endless star jumps. Are they trying to distract us from the cacophonous music? It’s a bit like the end of the world with an electro clash soundtrack; choreographed by a half-mad, neurotic commandant. I did like the green guitars and the recorder solo though (or did I dream that?).

Where next? The XFM tent and Kate Nash of course- or Lily Allen’s little sister as sometimes known. A bit more on the sweet side and less of the acid-tongued songstress/’kick your ass if you look at me sideways’ vibe than Keith’s daughter but good value all the same. Caroline’s a victim was much enjoyed by the crowd and there was also something about butterflies, or birds or something. Birds I think it was, yes definitely, I liked that one. In fact I quite liked her performance overall, and was definitely, NOT AT ALL influenced by the fact that it was threatening to rain outside, oh no.

The next thing I remember is rubbery noodles and greasy black-bean sauce. And chemical toilets. What joys! A wierdly drunken bloke zigzagging between lines and jumping in front of people made queuing just that little bit more enthralling and joyful than usual. Glory be. The nuts and bolts of festival partaking really does get you down sometimes; especially when you’re old enough to fancy a nice cup of tea and chips over a joint or other illegal substance.

So on to the O2 VIP tent. La la la. Nice boys! Pretty boys! And a free drink. The Alverez Kings were a nice surprise for old ginnie and friend. Leather jacketed youthfulness and vigour encapsulated. The days of wine and plenty, hormone wise. Here on display. I could have gone up and said hi afterwards, but the prettiness, indie-boy factor was just too high for me. I couldn’t pretend I was anything other than enraptured. I’ve missed having a crush on someone far too young and unsuitable for me. The hidden passion, the angst-ridden soul searching. Just stick a red wig on me and call me Lulu.

And so to the main stage. The headline act. The Kaiser Chiefs- who I had so much fun with when they played the Astoria in April 2005. Oh how we jumped and laughed and giggled and waived our hands about with innocent glee. So much for that. The Kaisers, and I hate to say this, have morphed into unadulterated stadium-bait; underperforming, overcompensating, and yes, just no fun anymore- dressing like The Killer and pretending to be serious social commentators? ‘This is for all you fans out there’, give us a break. You’re getting way too big for your boots now. They shone briefly when Ricky Wilson, our former deity in the fun factory department, started mimicking one of the Polysics who had joined him on stage. But it was only short-lived. Spontaneity, thy name is definitely not Kaiser Chiefs. Kaiser Chiefs, thy performance is now leaden.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Get Willy

Willy Mason at the Shepherds Bush Empire, 16 May 2007.

Willy Mason is the kind of singer/songwriter that makes you feel all warm inside. That is to say his songs are incredibly heartfelt, and ‘real’ in the ‘not at all pretentious’ sense of the word. He’s sings what he knows and knows what he sings, thereof, etc, etc. He’s a rough diamond and a good ole chap. I imagine him at home chewing on some old tobaccy and swinging on a front porch, with his guitar swinging right there beside him ready for a bout of creative inspiration (or maybe this is all just my fantasy world). In fact, both myself and my friend, redwineaddict, decided by the finale to this evening’s gig, that we’d rather like to just fold him up and put him in our pockets; that’s how down-to-earth charming he is.

Although young in age, he’s old in wisdom and learning- only 22, but about 65, if you just listened to his voice. It’s an earthy blend of bootleg whisky, solid virtue, denim dungarees, and political idealism. If that’s not good enough for you then I guess I’d say he’s part Johnny Cash, part Bright Eyes, and part Grandpa Walton. Whatever he is, we loved him. His performance is passionate without being manic. He talks to the crowd in a ‘gee, it’s so good that all you London folks came out to see me’ kind of way, and displays an attractive sense of modesty and bashful coyness. You feel ‘safe’ in his presence; protected in a mutual sense of altruistic good will and homespun philosophy.

This evening he takes the opportunity to play nearly ALL his material, both old and new albums, and I find myself singing along to almost every tune, especially my favourite candle-waving, uplifting ballad We can by strong with its swaying, deceptively simple lyricism. It’s like he really doesn’t want to leave us at all; he’s so taken with us, and we’re so taken with him. Everything feels so personal with Willy, and that’s what creates the afterglow of neighbourliness and civility that extends as far as the Shepherds Bush tube and into the next morning. There’s political content there, with the most obvious manifestation being his torch song Oxygen, with its overtly political message, but its never crammed down your throat- rather he leads to the message with a outstretched, beckoning hand.

The boy is just too good to be true…(and I got through the entire review without making a pun on his name). BRAVO.


Free Web Counter
hit Counter


Free Web Counter
hit Counter