Menace Beach, Pet Crow And Babe Punch @ The Hairy Dog, 21/7/16

Woohoo! Even though it was so hot that I nearly drowned in my own underboob sweat, I had a fabulous time last night. Three brilliant bands for a fiver! AND I caught a Porygon!

Babe Punch @ The Hairy Dog 21:7:16 - 05

First up were Babe Punch who I’ve heard a lot about. Do they live up to the hype? Yes, definitely, easily. Their set of songs was tight, punchy (heh) and, above all, super-catchy. I’m guessing they’re influenced by Hole, Sleater Kinney, P.J. Harvey and other ’90s greats but they move beyond those templates and create a punkier, more visceral sound. There’s way more energy here than your average slacker grunge band.

Pet Crow @ The Hairy Dog 21:7:16 - 4

Next up, Pet Crow. They played a superfuzzed set that still had room for space and melancholy, not an easy feat. They reminded me of Thee Oh Sees but also, when in full-on chunky riff mode, of Deerhoof. Recently signed to Reckless Yes records, I’m eager to hear a debut album from these peeps.

Mence Beach @ The Hairy Dog 21:7:16 - 11

Last on, Menace Beach. Firstly, let me declare my biases: I’ve known most of the band for years and Matt the bassist also plays bass for White Town. But I swear to tell the truth and the truth is that MB are simply a great pop band. They produced one of the best albums of 2015 and I think they’re destined to hit daytime Radio 1 soon, judging from the new songs they showcased tonight. So much poppiness! Their songs vary beautifully, you never have the chance to get bored of a “sound” as they hop between genres like lil happy frogs. There’s a new song, I have no idea what it’s called and it’s just SO HEAVY and STUPID that I love it in a little bit of a wrong way. All hail MENACE BEACH.

(For a full gallery of gig pics, click here!)

Posted in Gig

Tigercub @ Rock City Basement, 7/11/15

Tigercub by Jyoti Mishra
Via Flickr:
So, usually, I walk into the Basement and there’s a band on and I leave about three minutes later after some dreadful neo-Hair Metal or other atrocity.

But last night, I went in and a band were on. I gave them a song. And then another song and by the end of their set, I was at the front grinning like a loon.

Ladies and gentlemen: Tigercub.

Take a nub of Jesus Lizard, a pinch of Big Black, some slightly psych guitar tones and a whole load of awesome, catchy songs and that’s Tigercub.

Posted in Gig

Indietracks 2014

Indietracks Peeps 19

Indietracks 2014 was this weekend and, even though I’m straight edge, I’m still recovering from the mad swirl of it all. Firstly, it was DAMN HOT. GODDAMMNNN HOT. I honestly thought I’d pass out at some points in the shed! A contrast to last year’s downpours.

Indietracks Peeps 37

Then there was the bewildering array of music:  too many bands to see! I’ve given up on trying to see bands in the Church now, so I wrote off that stage. But that still left the train shed and outdoor stages as well as surprise jams in the merch tent. As well as the actual music, there was the core Indietracks activity: bumping into people who you haven’t seen since last year’s Indietracks. 🙂

Spearmint 6

The first band I saw were Spearmint. AND THEY WERE BRILLIANT. I’ve never seen them before and so it’s the first time I’ve heard songs I’ve known for years rocked out live. Apparently, they don’t get asked to gig much which is a fucking shame ~ sort it out, indiepop promoters!

The Chills 1

The same with The Chills, never managed to see them live way back when and then, boom, they’re on stage in front of me! I loved the old tracks but I also loved the tracks from the new album. Really, this kind of songwriting genius is rare nowadays. The only thing the set missed is ‘Rain’ which is my fave Chills song and simply one of the best indie songs ever.

ONSIND 4

I missed the start of ONSIND because of pesky travel shenanigans but the end was brilliant: passionate punk with an actual heart and soul. I hear so much (pop) punk which is utterly meaningless, just some nonsense about invented heartbreak and boohoo my emo life. ONSIND are the antithesis of that drivel.

Joanna Gruesome 5

Joanna Gruesome surmounted some pedal-based killjoyness to play a blazing set, full of excellent shouty bits and wonderfully floaty twee bits. I missed them last year because they were on the Church stage so I’m so glad I caught them this time round. They also had this feller guesting on stage:

Joanna Gruesome 9

That’s right DEAN FUCKING WAREHAM. Who’s actual set afterwards I had to miss because of more transport-based bullshit. ARGH. So annoyed.

The Hidden Cameras 2

Closing the festival on Sunday evening were The Hidden Cameras. Their half-naked stage gear went down very well with a frankly over-randy audience (YOU KNOW WHO I’M TALKING ABOUT) and their set was stuffed full of crowdpleasers. I loved their show, it was warm and human and full of life, humour and strange little hooty bits.

The Hidden Cameras 3

The only criticism I can make is that there wasn’t enough from the wonderful new album, I really wanted to hear ‘Gay Goth Scene’ live, it’s so beautiful. Also, even though they did an encore, the set was still too short. They have too many anthems we need to hear! 🙂

My memories of Indietracks 2014 will be of all the friendly peeps I met, old and new, the frankly overwhelming number of brilliant bands (too many to see them all!) and the whole vibe of the event. Indietrack 2014 was a like the best house party ever! But in a field! With bands! And owls!

(Click here for more Indietracks pics!)

Hit The Deck 2014

Woohoo! Hit The Deck was, once again, lovely fun! I went with my mate Emma:

We caught mostly the same bands but split up for a few – the worst thing about HTD is that there are always gig clashes! BOO!

The first band I saw was Hands Like Houses. Very poppy and confident, the Aussies played a great little set.

Next up were The Charm The Fury who turned out to be my second-favourite band of the whole day. From the first note to the end, they played with passion and energy, owning the room and getting the crowd properly moshing. But more than that, I’d never heard their stuff before and I loved the songs, they’re just so chock-full of killer riffs.

I missed most of Vukovi‘s set due to clashes but caught the end which was soooo much fun! They had a fucking whale of a time and so we did too. Wish I’d got to see a bit more!

Bastions were ferocious and intimate, a weird mixture but they carried it off. There’s something about their music, it’s obviously still rock but there’s something that’s very intensely quiet in the heart of all the glorious noise.

Dead Harts looked pure metal but sounded pure hardcore, slamming away through a set that seemed woefully short. I could have done with at least another two or three songs. They have a glowering presence that crackles and is as seductive as it is unhinged.

Next up were The Front Bottoms who I was so chuffed to be seeing after their album made it into my top albums of 2013. Live, TFB are confessional and transgressional: I love songwriting in which the protagonist is not a hero but an honest, fallible dickhead like, y’know, real human beings are. They got a huge reaction from the crowd and all around me kids were singing their fucking hearts out, completely lost in the lyrics. As they should be!

Now, that isn’t the last band of the day but I’ll save that for the next post… 😀

Indietracks 2013

27/07/2013 18:10

Last weekend was INDIETRACKS 2013! I wasn’t playing this year so I could chill and just enjoy myself. This year was also even more fun because my beautiful friend Kaypea came to stay for the festival. This is her being all gorgeous:

28/07/2013 16:27

The best thing about Indietracks is discovering new music. That being said, there are always famous (well, indiepop famous) acts playing. Bis, The Pastels, The Wake, Camera Obscura and The Brilliant Corners all played.

The Brilliant Corners - 2

I haven’t seen The Brilliant Corners in… umm? Twenty-four years? It’s always problematic seeing a band decades after you first loved them but TBC didn’t disappoint. Their set was just packed with the poppiest of popness. They always had amazing choruses and ‘Why Do You,’ ‘Teenage,’ ‘Brian Rix,’ sounded just as good now as in my hazy Trent Poly memories.

The Pastels - 6

The Pastels also played a glowing, effortless set. There’s something strange about The Pastels – whenever I see them play, they have this poise and connection with each other and with the audience that’s quite spooky. It’s also weird how they can integrate decades of music into one set and not have it sound forced or jarring; a testament to their prowess. They’re as much a Zen garden as they are a popular beat combo. They were playing the outdoor stage and I got soaked during their set but I didn’t care. Totally worth it.

The Wake - 3

And The Wake! Also veterans but you wouldn’t know it from their set. I’ve seen too many bands going through the motions on stage, too obviously on autopilot and probably unsure as to where they actually are let alone why they’re playing. The Wake were the opposite of that. They played the old favourites but it’s like they were playing new songs. James, standing next to me, hadn’t seen them before and didn’t know much of their music but he was converted. Now, *that’s* the power of a real performance!

Pale Spectres - 4

But there were loads of new acts that I’d never seen before and who I can now welcome into my extensive music library. One of them, Pale Spectres (named after a Wake song, fact fans) only formed in January of this year, after the drummer and singer met at this gig in Paris. Not bad going, playing Indietracks six months after you form!

Martha - 09

My fave band of this year was Martha, who I’ve never seen before. They came on and swept us all away, spunky punk pop with more of a lineage to Buzzcocks than Blink. Stupidly energetic, their set ended up in a stage invasion of laughing, jumping kids ~ the way every set by every gig ever should finish. Okay, maybe not goth gigs. And their drummer engaged in the first Indietracks crowdsurfing I’ve ever seen:

Martha - 16

So, another year, another Indietracks done. We came, we saw, we got soaked in the pissing rain, we danced to French synthpop at the disco.

Can’t wait for 2014! 😀

(Click here for a gallery of indiepics!)

Why I Love Paris

Gigging at Le Motel

Last Friday, I played one of the best gigs I’ve ever played.

I was in Paris, I’d gone there with my soundman Rich to play a couple of gigs to launch a 7” single issued by Another Sunny Night and Hands And Arms. It’s the first vinyl I’ve had out in years so I’m unreasonably excited.

Hanging out at Mama Shelter

After arriving via Eurostar on Thursday, Rich and I settled into our swanky accommodation, Mama Shelter. I’ve never stayed in a designer hotel before, let alone one designed by Philippe Starck. Thursday night we chilled and availed ourselves of the free films on the built-in iMac. Did I mention it was swanky??

Hanging out at Le Tiffin

Friday night was the first gig at Le Motel, a wonderful little venue in the 11th arrondissement. From the very start of the gig, the audience was amazing. Obviously, most people only know one song I’ve done because I’ve only had one hit record. But the audience at Le Motel were sooo happy and clappy to every song, songs most of them were only hearing for the first time. I played for an hour, twice as long as my normal sets and then did two encores! The second time, I played a very old White Town song called ‘Rainy Day’ which features a pentatonic ostinato riff. I can’t play this and the rhythm guitar part at the same time and it’s a purely acoustic track, no backing. On a whim, and because they’d been so responsive throughout the gig, I asked the audience to sing it. And they did! Perfectly in time and in tune, which *never* happens with audiences normally. Well, ever, to be honest!

Gigging at mediatheque d'Issy-les-moulineaux

Saturday, I played a gig at a library! More precisely, the Médiathèque D’issy Les Moulineaux! It wasn’t as raucous a gig as the night before, probably because it was at 4 in the afternoon and we were all seated in a very posh room. The audience was very lovely, though. I did three songs in the actual library proper before going through to the hall, it was quite weird singing in a quiet space, felt very wrong! Then, for the main gig, everyone sat very politely, apart from a few little kids who rocked out in the aisles which made me grin all through the gig. We sold and signed loads of the new single and the albums we’d bought with us, it was a cool day.

Eating at Mama Shelter

In between the gigs and after, Rich and I spent a lot of time exploring and… eating. We eat and eat and eat. Creme brulees, hot chocolates, pastries, steaks, marrow bones, crepes. And I finally had snails! We did some of this on our greedy lonesomes and some with the lovely Terpsichori, pictured below:

Terpsichori!

Terps took us to this awesome bar:

Hanging out at Le Dernier Bar avant la Fin du Monde

The Last Bar Before The End Of The World is a total geek-out. Inside is crammed with Dr. Who, Star Wars, robots and a seated area that looks like the deck of a starship. It was amazing! Later, Terps took us for the most awesome hot chocolate and cakes, after brunching in a wonderful little covered market.

On Monday, I met up with another lovely, Laura:

Laura

She was kind enough to take me to the Louvre where I saw, amongst other art, the Mona Lisa. Which was… okay. I liked it but I think I preferred the Delacroix near it more. Then I dragged her to the Pompidou Centre where I totally geeked out on modern art:

Hanging out at Pompidou Centre

It was an awesome day!

On the last night, Rich and I trekked to the Pied du Cochon where we stuffed ourselves for the very last time. I had this glorious meal:

Eating steak at Au Pied de Cochon

Rich, the n00b, ordered steak tartare without really knowing what it was. He looked slightly surprised when a plate of raw, minced beef turned up. I laughed, I posted it immediately onto Facebook and EyeEm and then the whole world laughed. So my main was steak but my dessert was big dollops of schadenfreude.

We left the restaurant and exited to a snowy, arctic Paris. It was bloody freezing, as you can see at the end of this video:

Yesterday, we said goodbye to Paris and travelled back to Derby. Today, I’ve been on a massive downer as I miss Paris so much. I loved both the gigs but Friday’s was truly one of the best shows I’ve ever played in the thirty-one years I’ve been gigging. It’s such an amazing feeling to sing songs I wrote in my little house to an audience of total strangers and connect, to see their faces understand and feel what I feel.

The EP is called ‘Three Songs About One Girl’ because, simply, that’s what it is. It was magical to be able to be in Paris, the city of love, to bare my heart on stage and see the love I feel mirrored and shared. I have no idea what she was doing when I was singing those songs about her but I hope she felt our love reach out and give her a gentle kiss. <3

Posted in Gig

London With Nat: Dungeons, Sealife, Blood Brothers, Hangover Lounge, Horrendous Fear

Off to London!

Nat and I caught the 9am train to London. We knew we had a lot to pack in but we had the freedom that the only timetabled event was the gig we were doing for the marvellous Hangover Lounge peeps on Sunday.

Nat finally exacts her terrible justice!

After a lucky early check-in at the hotel, we headed to the London Dungeon experience. I was a bit worried about this as I heard it was gruesome. And it was but on the right side of traumatising. Loads of laughs and the actors all did sterling jobs marshalling us around the ghastly exhibits. The bit that was the most grim was the Whitechapel / Ripper bit, I would advise you to skip that bit as it features actual pictures of the victims. I found it hard going. The best bit was definitely the Drop: a ride that drops you straight down as if you’re being hanged. My experience was made bit more painful because you’re clamped into your seat by a metal bar which, for some reason, features a big chunk *exactly* where male genitalia ride. As the actress checked we were in, she thumped down on the bar and my balls were pummelled, Bond-style. Still worth it but if I go on again, I might have my knackers cut off first, save some agony.

Yep, we rode a penguin ~ THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED!

Then we went on to the London Aquarium Sealife Centre, just next to the London Eye. And wow – it was gorgeous. Fish, crustaceans, molluscs, the whole panoply of swimmy, creepy, crawly marine life was on show. Obviously, the sharks and turtles were the best critters… until we entered a frozen area and came face-to-face with some penguins!

Penguin

YEP! PENGUINS! They were such inquisitive little souls, coming up to the glass to inspect us before flashing off back underwater. I loved seeing them but it did make me think of the scene in ‘Happy Feet’ where he’s going barmy in the enclosure.

Nat & Assyrian Friezes

We had a bit of time left over so we headed on to the British Museum. I really, really wanted to show Nat the Reading Room: the last time we tried in 2010, they said it was shut for refurb until 2012. So, we chanced it. Nope, still shut, probably till 2014. Awww, maaaan! Never mind, you can’t ever get bored at the British Museum, the fabulous artefacts it houses reach out and poke at you, forcing you to consider the epehmeral nature of your existence. I got a bit freaked out at some of the Greek carvings, tiny statues over 2,000 years old and yet looking like they were made yesterday. Who carved it? For what reason? How did they live, love and die? And will I leave behind anything that someone will be looking at in the year 4012? Unlikely.

For dinner, we went wandering in Soho. It’s one of my fave areas of London, I spent a lot of time there when I was in my early twenties and it feels like home in lots of ways. When I’m there, that’s when I’m most likely to wish I lived in London, the atmosphere is so amiable, particularly on warm, sunny evenings like Saturday. We found a good Indian restaurant, scoffed and then made our way to…

Blood Brothers!

THE PHOENIX THEATRE FOR BLOOD BROTHERS! Yep, this is probably what we’d both most been looking forward to. Willy Russell’s tale of separated twins is more than just a pondering on the old nature vs. nurture debate, it connects at a hugely emotional level. Some of my favourite bits where when the twins were young, the way the actors acted childhood innocence was flawless. Just the joy of being eight, where days are endless and all that matters is your mates and who can make the best machine gun noise. There were some heartbreaking moments, not just the end-point which we see at the beginning. I was very touched by the dissolving relationship between Mickey and his wife and how it’s mirrored by his estrangement from his blood brother. When he’s lonely and beaten down and doesn’t know where to turn, it really got to me and I admit I cried. And the songs! They dovetailed with the story perfectly, unlike some musicals where they seem wedged in as an afterthought. I was totally lost in the play, I kept forgetting I was watching live humans a few tens of feet away from me. It’s a testament to the power of the show that it almost made me forget how tiny the seat was that I was crammed in, I probably looked very peculiar to the people behind me as I was shuffling around, trying to massage the cramps out of my legs. Anyway, what a show! We were grinning as we headed back to Soho for some late lattes before heading back to the hotel.

Sunday, we got up bright and early and then hit Oxford Street. We didn’t do a marathon session as the gig was looming but it’s always fun being on that street for me, I love the bustle, the fashions, watching other shoppers. Surely Oxford Street is one of the best places in the world for people watching?

Finally, the actual reason we’d come to London: playing The Hangover Lounge at The Lexington. This, like all HL shows was totally acoustic, no mics or PA or anything. Which I love ~ there’s so much less faffing about than normal gigs.

Making Marks

Before us were the wonderful Making Marks, a Norwegian foursome whose songs are catchy, pithy and bright as buttons. I was actually watching them thinking it was a bit unfair, me having to follow this amazing act. I did ask John HL if I could play before them but he politely refused me! 🙂

Then we played. It’s only the second gig Nat’s done with White Town (and second ever, also) and she sang wonderfully. I was a bit all over the shop because I wanted to do new songs. So, Nat had to hold up the lyrics for one newie, ‘I’m In Love With You,’ as I can’t even remember my own lyrics. I had an amazing time playing and the audience was so friendly and warm, singing along and putting up with my often incongruous inter-song banter. We had such fun that I really can’t wait to do it again. It’s an honour to play!

And one of the bestest parts of the gig was the surprise appearance of my friend Laura Mac! She’d got back from South Korea and wanted to keep it secret so she just turned up. She’s the star of this video, bless her. ♥

Cable Car

We’d asked John HL what sightseeing we should do and he recommended the cable car from the Excel Centre to the O2 Arena which neither of us even knew about. But it sounded great so we headed over. (Note: if you’re going to do this from central London, get a water taxi or a tube, not a cab like we did, you might save twenty-two quid.)

The view

Well, it was fabulous. We were lucky it was a gorgeous day and as we boarded our car and headed up, the views were stunning. It felt quite surreal to be dangling over the Thames, seeing the Excel retreat behind us and the O2 loom larger ahead. If you get the chance to go on it, take it.

Next was the Horrendous Fear part of the weekend. On the way over, we’d spotted a whirly tower spinny thing, one of these:

I WENT ON THIS! I have a horrible fear of heights buti went on it, @nataliealice giggled at me cos I had my eyes shut a lot. Thought I was going to poop myself with fear. BUT I DID IT!

I have a terrible fear of heights. It’s ridiculous and totally out-of-control. I don’t even like standing on step-ladders. So, when Nat started squeaking about the ride, my first instinct was to run off or perhaps feign an attack of beri-beri, anything to get out of going on this mad looking gizmo. But then I thought, fuck it. I was terrified out of my wits so that showed I needed to do it. We sat in the bucket seats and I was dismayed to learn the buckle wouldn’t do up between my legs because of my porkiness. The bloke operating it said I’d be fine with just the saftey belt. My immdeiate thought was that I would just slide out and why did they have the restraining bar and buckle if they were superfluous? The machine spun up, we rose into the air and then started spinning. I kept my eyes shut a lot, all I could hear was Nat whooping as she waved her arms in the air and took selfies on her iPhone. I didn’t take any pics as my hands were gripped like superglue around the chains (I had imprints after for a while). I was almost getting used to it when the wind picked up and started twisting the seat all over the place. It was at this precise moment I wished I hadn’t been such a fan of the Final Destination films. I very nearly pooped myself.

BUT I DID IT. FUCK YOU, FEAR!

On the Thames

After I’d stopped sobbing, we caught a water taxi back to Embankment. This was the final outing of the weekend and we couldn’t have picked a better coda. The sun was setting over the Thames as we sped along the river, the riverside sights of London laid out before us. It was beautiful to see the city skyline painted with the golds and oranges of the sun retiring for the day.

Then we grabbed our bags from the hotel and caught the train home. We got back to Derby around 22.15. We crammed a lot into 37 hours.

What a perfect weekend! 😀

(Click here to see the pics from the weekend!)

Indietracks Festival 2012

Indietracks

Last weekend (or the one before, depending how you count) was Indietracks 2012!

Again, I had a fucking amazing time and saw some amazing bands like ORCA TEAM, The Vaselines, The Monochrome Set and… well, too many to remember. It remains the best British music festival for the atmosphere, the people, the sheer FUN of the whole shebang!

I also had the privilege of playing on the the train on Saturday the 7th. And, for the first time in some years, White Town wasn’t just me: I was joined by Miss Natalie Alice Barratt:

Nat Gold - 3

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll have seen a gazillion pics of my mate Nat but you might not now that she sang backing vocals on my current album, Monopole. She sings on the chorus on this track:

And she’s starred in two other White Town vids, here and here.

I felt it was high time for a baptism of fire so I asked her to sing *the day before the gig.* And, bless her, she did! It can’t have been an easy first gig because the train carriage was rammed. I was thinking, ooh, what if there’s only three of us in there. But, in the event, it was heaving and a beautiful gig! Definitely and amazing atmosphere, the crowd were all the loveliest of lovely people which is, of course, only natural for Indietracks! You can get a sense of their friendliness in this vid, taken by Chris Gillies:

I’ve played so many great gigs this year, Athens, Thessaloniki, New York and then on this steam train, chuntering through the rainstorms of an English summer. It was a magical little moment, the audience was sooo quiet, luckily enough as it was only me, Nat and my guitar, no PA! And the crowd loved the new songs as well as the one big hit, which always charms and disarms me.

If you were in the audience on that terribly humid train, thank you for coming along and being so wonderful! 😀

Why I Love Greece

Across Athens

Around an hour ago, I put the kettle on after returning from a gigging trip to Greece.

Rich (my soundman) and I left for Greece last Friday. I can’t believe it’s not even been a week. We’ve packed in so much into the last five days. It feels like I’ve been away years.

Tonight, this minute, I feel completely energised and alive. The last five days have changed me, they have displaced ruts of behaviour with an impatient shove, replacing them with new experiences and new friendships. It’s 2.13am as I’m typing this but I’m still on Greek time so it’s actually 4.13am and, to be honest, I’m fucked. So… bear with me. 🙂

Terps & Tony

The major reason I went to Greece was to play two gigs. I was invited by Le Page to play with them and I was flattered that they asked me. Le Page is Antonis and Terpsichori, two lovely people I’d met at that strange attractor for lovely people, Indietracks Festival. The fact that I’d get to gig with them was a big part of why I accepted because I love their music.

They met us at Athens airport at 2am and we immediately started rambling on. And we never really stopped. Most nights, we just chatted till 4 or 5am.

Monastiraki Square

Saturday was sight-seeing time and we couldn’t have had better guides than Terps and Tony. We wandered around Athens which is currently this strange mix of ancient classical architecture, modern capitalist uniformity and layers of anti-government and anarchist graffiti. The juxtaposition of these elements is often jarring but always energising: this is a city that is obviously in turmoil, as is the rest of Greece due to the vagaries of capitalism and the uniform corruption of politicians.

Alexandros Grigoropoulos Plaque

As we walked and coffeed and caked, Terps and Tony told us about the protests in Athens, the anger of ordinary citizens at the massive fuck-up their government is making of everything and how these same people were often caught up in repressive police violence. In Greece, the role of the police force in protecting capitalism and its state is nakedly, shamelessly obvious.

Tiki Bar, Athens

On Sunday the 25th, I played at Tiki Bar, Athens with Le Page. The show went beautifully, the audience were friendly and funny, singing and clapping and dancing along to songs. And not just ‘Your Woman!’ People also came and had a natter afterwards (yaaay!). I love when that happens post-gig. That night, after the gig, we all went back to Terps’ apartment and we never actually stopped chatting at all, we talked through till when we had to catch the train. We were all just too wired and happy after the gig.

Thessaloniki dusk

We mostly dozed on the five hour train up to Thessaloniki. When we arrived, the difference between the two cities was palpable. Whereas Athens feels on the edge, alive and scrappily defiant, Thessaloniki seems more isolated from the current unrest. It also feels far more prosperous. I kept asking how you could compare the two cities: was it Glasgow versus London, Manchester versus London or Gothenburg versus Stockholm? The answer I got more than once was that it was more like Barcelona versus Madrid which I have to agree with.

That night, the 26th, we played at CooBar. Again, the gig went hugely well. The audience all seemed into both the bands, shouting and singing and I even had song requests from the very first White Town album, which kind of amazed me. Unfortunately, I tried to play a cover of Felt’s ‘Bitter End’ and I fucking murdered it. Lawrence, I apologise and hang my head in shame. 🙁

Coobar Peeps!

After the gig, we hung out in the bar and had competitions to see who could walk most convincingly like a boy (girls only) and vice versa. I now realise I simply cannot sashay, I just haven’t got the pelvis for it. Terps and her friend Chrysanthi looked so cute when they were trying to walk like tough blokes, I think my heart did pop a little bit. But as well as being silly, I had intense conversations about postmodernism, the nature of human intelligence (the old Penrose versus Turing again) and the best way our future AI overlords could wipe us human scum off the planet. Another perfect night mixing music, politics, singing and no-holds barred chats.

Tuesday, we trained it back to Athens. We’d booked a carriage and so we were free to play music (on my doody iPod amp) and talk shit. And, believe me, much music was exchanged and much shit discussed. Some surprise revelations about who enjoys fucking monkeys shocked and impressed us all. You would *never* suspect!

The Community Park

That night, Terps, Tony, Rich and I spent hours wandering round Athens after a particularly tasty load of Goody burgers. We ended up sat in a park that was entirely constructed by the local community in Εξάρχεια. Apparently, the land was earmarked for yet another car park (there are many car parks in Athens, sprouting up in the empty spaces left when buildings are demolished). Instead, the local people fought the authorities and made a park that is both useful and full of fun. Of course, the police regularly hassle people using the park. *sigh*

Back to the apartment and more chat. We covered transitions of meaning over time in language, the sociolinguistics of gender in Greece versus the UK, indiepop and, of course, love. Always love.

Through The Window

Yesterday, we had a final lunch outing with Tony and Terps before we all headed to the airport. Even then, the time flew by because we continued to just talk and talk and talk over coffee and treats. So often, I feel like I’m boring people when I’m talking to them because, basically, I’m a massive geek and fascinated by pretty much everything. So I love to talk about Hugh Everett or Robert Mapplethorpe or the etymology of the word ‘quim.’ As I’m rambling, I’ll see the person I’m talking to begin to look bored and their attention wander. Inevitably, that will make me feel intensely lonely.

That feeling never happened once in the past few days. I ranted and raved, I had chats, discussions and out-and-out arguments. But through it all, the people I met engaged with me. As my music is basically me, I include the gigs in this: I felt a real sense of dialogue when I played. That is sadly rare.

Old And New

Today, I’m missing Tony, Terps and all the other lovely people that I met over there. I do love Derby but sometimes I feel so isolated here because that I can’t talk about what fascinates me. But, being more positive, 2012 is my year of pushing myself as hard as I can, of taking risks (which is why I went to Athens in the first place) and already it’s brought me this marvellous experience and people I would be proud to call my friends. If I’ve had such a fantastic time by taking a risk, this simply means I have to take more risks and be braver. After all, wonder is worth pursuing.

Leaning

The interactions I’ve had in the last few days, the things I’ve seen and the stories I’ve heard have made me re-consider so much of my life. I really am a different person now, I simply have to try and work out who that person is.

Thank you Terpsichore, thank you Antonis and thank you Greece!