Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Reasons To Be Cheerful #11

(If you're wondering what this is all about, click here.)

Cafe Soya

One night not long after J first moved to Birmingham, nearly four years ago, we went wandering down to the Arcadian and the Chinese quarter on the hunt for a quality restaurant. We soon spotted what we were looking for. After passing a few near-empty joints, we came to a cafe packed full of Oriental diners and instantly knew that the Noodle Bar was the place to be - and so it proved, with enormous portions served up for minimal cost.

An evening in the upmarket Chung Ying Garden Cantonese restaurant nearby only convinced us even more - though the food was very good (incidentally, we passed up the chance to try "duck webs and fish lips" as a starter...), we didn't feel it justified the extra expense. So, for the next three years, the Noodle Bar it was.

Until, that is, Andy was kind enough to point us in the direction of Cafe Soya, just round the corner in the Arcadian itself.

Slightly classier and more restauranty in its decor than the Noodle Bar, Cafe Soya serves up absolutely fantastic Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine at prices to suit even the smallest of budgets, to the extent that it received a commendation in last year's Observer Food Monthly Best Cheap Eat awards. The ingredients are always incredibly fresh, the dishes lipsmackingly tasty and the service friendly, quick and efficient.

I highly recommend the lemongrass chicken skewers for starters, followed by the hot and spicy Vietnamese noodles - but, as the name might suggest, Cafe Soya is also a haven for veggies, the menu packed with veggie alternatives. Just steer clear of their speciality soya milkshake - I'm told it looks and tastes like frogspawn.

Unfortunately the cafe doesn't have a licence to serve alcohol, but for a small corking charge you can take your own booze.

All of which means that our allegiances have very definitely shifted - but, though we feel a bit guilty for being fickle and abandoning somewhere which served us so well for three years, it doesn't last long once you take a slurp of the hot and sour soup...

(You can read Andy's own proselytising in favour of Cafe Soya here.)
This week on Stylus

Cosmo Lee tries to give the Smashing Pumpkins' ludicrously titled double LP Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness liposuction. Of course it was flabby, but then its length and variety was always part of the appeal - I never found it "an exhausting, forbidding listen", and I never thought songs like 'Porcelina Of The Vast Oceans' and 'Thru The Eyes Of Ruby' were "turgid opuses".

That said, Lee's attempt to trim the flab makes for interesting reading, not least because some of what he chooses to keep I would have been tempted to bin if forced to make the choice. But is rearranging the tracklisting to give it a sense of linearity and direction really preferable to the seeming randomness of the original? There's only one way to find out - burn this new slimmer version to CD and try it out...

Anyone lamenting the demise of Auspicious Fish should be aware that Nick's still writing about music (despite contemplating jacking that in too), as recent reviews of albums by Maximo Park, Editors and Clor testify.

Also well worth a read: Jon Dale's excellent review of the recently reissued first three Dinosaur Jr albums. As a bit of a Johnny-Come-Lately, I've always preferred the later stuff (Where You Been being, for me, their finest hour), but Dale does a good job of convincing me to dig out my original copy of Bug and give it another whirl.
A Wales of a time

The definition of a good wedding reception: held in a hotel vaguely reminiscent of The Overlook in 'The Shining', situated in a beautiful part of the world, and with a DJ - by day a farmer - who is quite happy to play 'Back In Black' by AC/DC at the request of the bride's uncle Huw. (Though he did blot his copybook later with 'Macarena' and 'Mambo #5'...)

So, congratulations and best wishes to Stu and Vicky. Oh, and a word of warning for Leon: this weekend has got a lot to live up to...
Serendipity

A happy coincidence - no sooner had I posted a review of Alan Bennett's 'Writing Home' than Michelle of Black Dove finished Bennett's collection of novellas 'Three Stories'. You can read her thoughts on the book here (and mine here).

Michelle, an inspiring writer herself, is constantly on the look-out for interesting literary links, so if you consider yourself a bookworm then Black Dove is always worth a visit.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

"Taking the pith out of reality"

Alan Bennett's 'Writing Home' really is a treat, a feast of great writing which collects together assorted bits and pieces written over a period of nearly twenty-five years - though that description is in itself inadequate, as "bits and pieces" implies scrapiness and inconsistency.

Much of the material is about other writers and the business of being a writer and playwright - potentially tedious and masturbatory, but Bennett writes with such warmth and dryly self-deprecating humour about the profession that it's impossible not to enjoy: "'They fuck you up, your mum and dad', and if you're planning on writing that's probably a good thing. But if you are planning on writing and they haven't fucked you up, well, you've got nothing to go on, so then they've fucked you up good and proper".

The volume includes the prefaces to several plays as well as behind-the-scenes diary entries centering on rehearsals and filming - the bits which engrossed me least, simply because I haven't seen any of the plays concerned, but even then there were paragraphs that raised a chuckle. On 'Getting On': "In the event, the play won an Evening Standard award for the best comedy of 1971. It had never seemed to me to be a comedy, and at the ceremony I said it was like entering a marrow for the show and being given the cucumber prize".

Indeed, there are laughs to be found in the most unlikely of places, such as in 'Comfortable Words', an address given to the Prayer Book Society, when Bennett is talking about those who advocate the Alternative Service Book over the Book Of Common Prayer: "God is like an aged father taken in by this well-intentioned children. They want to keep him presentable and a useful member of society, so they scrap his old three-piece suit, in which he looked a little old-fashioned (though rather distinguished), and kit him out instead in pastel-coloured leisurewear in which he looks like everybody else".

So what did I enjoy most? The autobiographical reminiscences are certainly very readable, and the volume concludes with a fantastic piece entitled 'Going Round', about the theatrical tradition of visiting the dressing rooms of the stars post-performance in order to lavish flattering and insincere praise on the occupants. That it appears under the section title 'Stocking Fillers' hardly does it justice.

Then there is 'Alas! Deceived', the superb (and lengthy) review of Andrew Motion's biography of Philip Larkin (which has reinforced my feeling that it's a book I'd very much like to read), and the assorted reflections and thoughts left over from his two plays about Kafka and reheated under the title 'Kafka At Las Vegas'. This is what Bennett feels would fascinate the Czech writer were he alive today: "He is interested in the feelings of the squash ball, and of the champagne bottle that launches the ship. In a football match his sympathy is not with either of the teams but with the ball, or, in a match ending nil-nil, with the hunger of the goalmouth".

If the job of the writer is indeed "taking the pith out of reality", as Bennett suggests in a parody of a TV arts show interview, then he is a master of his art, and also of the art of taking the piss out of himself. The diaries in particular, spanning the decade from 1980 to 1990, are packed with the sharp and amusing observations of someone who looks slightly askance at the world in which he finds himself.

On his political leanings: "An article on playwrights in the Daily Mail, listed according to Hard Left, Soft Left, Hard Right, Soft Right and Centre. I am not listed. I should probably come under Soft Centre".

On theatre critics: "Steven Berkoff, who is currently everywhere, is quoted as saying that critics are like worn-out old tarts. If only they were, the theatre would be in a better state. In fact critics are much more like dizzy girls out for the evening, just longing to be fucked and happy to be taken in by any plausible rogue who'll flatter their silly heads while knowing roughly the whereabouts of their private parts. Worn-out old tarts have at least got past that stage".

On his own practical abilities: "I mend a puncture on my bike. I get pleasure out of being able to do simple, practical jobs - replacing a fuse, changing a wheel, jump-starting the car - because these are not accomplishments generally associated with a temperament like mine. I tend to put sexual intercourse in this category".

But in amongst such witticism there is serious and touching reflection, not least in 'The Lady In The Van', the diary record of an eccentric who lived in a van in Bennett's Camden garden for fifteen years and whose death affected him profoundly.

Perhaps most affecting of all, though, are those occasional entries which deal with Bennett's visits to his mother, whose mental health was steadily declining: "We have our sandwiches on a hill outside Weston with a vast view over Somerset. She wants to say, 'What a grand view', but her words are going too. 'Oh', she exclaims. 'What a big lot of About.' There are sheep in the field. 'I know what they are', she says, 'but I don't know what they are called'. Thus Wittgenstein is routed by my mother". Poignant enough even to conquer this cynical heart.
Blogwatch

Welcome...

Dr Migs, new to the blogging block.

Stephen Newton Diary Of Sorts, who - like Inspector Sands and Jonathan - was so incensed by today's outrageous Daily Express front page that he sent a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission.

Meanwhile...

Willie Lupin does what he does best - well focused indignation, directed at the People for their mock outrage at the "revelation" that 'Coronation Street' star Keith Drinkel once appeared in a gay porn film.

Elsewhere...

Happy six month anniversary to Alan's Random Burblings, a blog that has very quickly become a real favourite around these parts;

Jonathan's back from holiday, wiser on several fronts - "Those quintessential English villages that you see on picture postcards and in luxurious adaptations of Agatha Christie novels made for American TV really do exist. Or at least one of them does. It is called Thornbury and it is just north of Bristol, where we had booked into a rather plush Travelodge for the night. Out of our room window you could see the local cricket club pitch, and there was a real red telephone box and a very English-looking old-fashioned inn where you went to get your dinner. To complete the picture we came across a real live English eccentric, respendent in blazer and bow tie, who was checking in just as we came back from the pub";

Del tries manfully to justify his fondness for 'Linger' by The Cranberries (has anyone got the heart to tell him he's fighting a losing battle?);

JonnyB's concerned he's porking out a bit - "A sickening mass of blubber drooped over my belt, thrusting my tee shirt away from my body like a flared shade on an obese standard lamp that walks around and lives in Norfolk and has a widely-read Internet Web Log".
When weather attacks

Thunderbolts and lightning! Very very frightening! Oh, and a tornado.

Yep, that's right folks - early this afternoon, during a violent thunderstorm, Birmingham was hit by a tornado. Well, Moseley was, at any rate. Go to Andy Pryke's blog for added photographic evidence of the destruction.

Was it God wreaking spectacular revenge on the place that gave the world Ocean Colour Scene? Local residents must have feared that this day would come since about 1995.
This week on Stylus

Josh Love follows up recent essays on rockism and popism with a piece entitled 'The Problem With Indie': "Indie-rock does such a good job in general of projecting an attitude of insularity that it’s easy to forget: not everyone’s a killjoy, not everybody’s weird because they hate fun, and yes, some indie-rockers are here because they want to entertain".

Also on an indie rock tip, Ross McGowan writes about how he came to associate The Dismemberment Plan's 'Gyroscope' with having a tapeworm.

Ross has also reviewed the new Concretes release Layourbattleaxedown, "a miniature career overview of sorts".
Quote of the day

"Nothing is more fatal than the disaster of too much love."

Good ol' D H Lawrence, with a sentiment that's unlikely to be appearing in Hallmark Valentines cards anytime soon.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The legend of Legends

The weekend's stag do in Newcastle, which has left me feeling physically damaged, took in a football match, a trip to the dogs, a curry, a night out in a smart city centre bar / club, a fancy meal, three games of ten-pin bowling and an enormous amount of alcohol, as well as a night out at Legends on Saturday.

Legends was, appropriately enough, where Little Jeff had been DJing most recently prior to falling ill. Unfortunately the tribute night isn't until this coming Saturday, when - amongst other things - they'll be having a minute's noise in his memory. I'd have liked to have been there to pay my respects, as I think would some of the others in our party, but we still got a song dedicated to the great man.

As Apollo 440 once sang, you can't stop the rock.

Link: Family and friends pay tribute to Little Jeff.
An unexpected surprise

On the rare occasions I pick it up, I'm reminded what an awful little rag the Metro is. Apart from the music pages, that is - an oasis in the desert of badly written news articles and features.

For some strange reason, they always seem to review and feature bands of which hardly any of their readership can have heard, but which otherwise only really get coverage in the specialist music press.

Yesterday's issue was a good example. The main review was of Editors' debut album The Back Room (in which vocalist / guitarist Tom Smith came in for some serious stick, though the overall judgement was of its being a record to admire), while there were also assessments of new LPs by The Raveonettes, Clor, Black Mountain and The Shortwave Set. The singles section included a review of !!!'s new double-A side covers single 'Take Ecstasy With Me' / 'Get Up'.

Over the page there was a preview for a gig by Domino's new Next Big Thing, Test Icicles. "Bits of death metal, drilling drum machines and art-rock angularity" - hmm, debut single 'Boa Vs Python' could be one to scurry HMV-wards for, methinks.
Something fishy this way comes

Over on Danger! High Postage Phill's publicising the autumn / winter line-ups for enigmatic Frenchman Phillipe Bergeroo's A Different Kettle Of Fish nights...

Tuesday 13th September
Midas
Beats Capri
StrangeTime
Sinistra

Tuesday 11th October
Hooker
When Bears Attack
The Graham Parsnip Liquidiser Torture Think-Tank (Project)

Tuesday 8th November
The Rock Of Travolta
Smilex
The Program

Tuesday 6th December (Xmas Special)
Trash Fashion
And What Will Be Left Of Them?
The Pubic Fringe
MotorCycleStunts

Each gig takes place at the Flapper & Firkin in Birmingham and entry is a mere three English pounds.
Feel good hits of the 26th July

A bumper edition...

1. 'God Only Knows' - The Beach Boys
2. 'Now I'm All Over The Shop' - Maximo Park
3. 'Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)' - The Arcade Fire
4. 'The Boys Are Back In Town' - Thin Lizzy
5. 'No-One Knows' - Queens Of The Stone Age
6. 'Stockholm Syndrome' - Muse
7. 'Evil' - Interpol
8. 'Blue Orchid' - The White Stripes
9. 'Meantime' - The Futureheads
10. 'Best Of You' - Foo Fighters
11. 'Girls Girls Girls' - Motley Crue
12. 'Arabian Sand' - The Coral
13. 'Title And Registration' - Death Cab For Cutie
14. 'Only' - Nine Inch Nails
15. 'Dance Me In' - Sons & Daughters

Friday, July 22, 2005

Little Jeff RIP

Yesterday the sad news from Newcastle reached me that Little Jeff had died of a heart attack on Monday.

"Legend" is a word bandied about with far too little care and attention, but it certainly applied to Jeff.

Short of stature and with a pronounced limp, thick-lensed specs and hair down his back, Little Jeff was the DJ who made Saturday nights at the Mayfair so great. Stood on the stage barely able to see over his decks, he used to introduce nearly every record in his inimitable Geordie voice which, to me, became as synonymous with rock and metal as that of Tommy Vance: "Here's Korn for aal ye radgey bastads!"

On one particularly drunken visit, I encountered him at the bar and was only too happy to send him back stagewards with a new bottle of Dog, a small token of my appreciation and admiration of his work.

Following the Mayfair's sad demise he found a new home in Cuba Cuba, and that's where I last saw (and heard) him, about two years ago. On that occasion he came out with the immortal line, uttered with real gusto and enthusiasm: "Would so-and-so go to the foyer - your friend has been hospitalised, they're not very well! Here's Metallica!"

Like many a Geordie, Jeff's other passion was football. When not keeping pissed-up metallers entertained he could often be spotted on match days in and around St James's Park. It just so happens I'm "gannin yem" tomorrow, and I'll be going to the match on Saturday. There won't be a minute's silence, but there fucking well should be.

RIP Jeff. You'll have the Big Man Upstairs listening to Carcass and Slayer before long, nee botha.

The only consolation is the knowledge that for every Jeff that shuffles off this mortal coil, somewhere else someone far more deserving is breathing their last. So three cheers for the news that that horrible old cunt John Tyndall, founder of the BNP, has done the decent thing and died. Good riddance.
Not acting the part

Continuing in my bad habit of writing about new comedy series on the strength of the first episode...

'Extras' wasn't great, really, was it?

Gervais and Merchant are masters of the comic potential in social awkwardness and uncomfortable silences, and that's once more in evidence. And, as with 'The Office', there's also no laughter track. Indeed, the laughs seemed much fewer and far between - not necessarily a problem, but...

Whither characters? First episode and all that I know, but Gervais's character and his friend, who shouldered most of the screen time, are colourless.

My concern was that each episode would be very much hung around the particular celebrity, and that many of the laughs would come from self-parody and them making jokes at their own expense - and unfortunately that looks like being the pattern.

The fact that the film Ben Stiller was directing in this first episode told the story of an Eastern European widower allowed for some not particularly sharp satire on Hollywood recreations of war scenes - all of which left a rather sour taste in the mouth when I switched over to catch the second half of 'Dispatches' on C4, which featured horrific footage of the Beslan school massacre. Genuinely distressing viewing, and something that made 'Extras' seem even more like insubstantial fluff.
Podcasts made easy

Essential reading for a Luddite like myself: Mike's Handy Cut-Out-And-Keep Guide To Creating A Podcast. Now all I need is the software and some patience...

You can download Mike's very first effort here. I would, if it wasn't for the fact that my internet connection is steam-powered and continually breaking down. Not ideal.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Not so elegantly wasted

So, what were the chances of me enjoying a film which centres on the career of one band I dislike (The Dandy Warhols) and another I know next to nothing about (The Brian Jonestown Massacre)? Pretty slim, I guess - but I really dug 'DiG!'.

I've never been a fan of The Dandy Warhols, and Courtney Taylor, who is the nominal narrator of Ondi Timoner's rockumentary, has always struck me as having far too great a sense of how important his band is (see also: Molko, Brian). Thankfully, though the film purports to be about the parallel and contrasting fortunes of two like-minded bands, the focus actually falls on The Brian Jonestown Massacre - "the Velvet Underground of the 90s" according to Warhols' keyboardist Zia McCabe - and particularly on their frontman Anton Newcombe.

Not that Newcombe comes across as any more likeable than Taylor. A visionary musician, yet one fatally crippled by his fear of being successful and losing credibility, as a band leader Newcombe is also violently unpredictable and dictatorial in a way that made me think of a more out-of-control Jason Pierce. Or Mark E Smith, perhaps. The film shows him walking the precarious tightrope between sanity and insanity, delusional and often under the influence of hard drugs, fighting with band members and people in the audience alike during live shows.

Newcombe's supporting cast includes tambourine-shaking hedonist Joel Gion (spectacular hair, enormous shades, goofy behaviour), nerdy-looking bassist Matt Hollywood (Newcombe's most regular sparring partner in the band) and quiet guitarist Peter Hayes, shown doing his apprenticeship before Black Rebel Motorcycle Club took off.

Over the course of seven years following The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Timoner filmed live shows, backstage antics, publicity stunts, drug busts and recording sessions in the "house" (squat) they lived in together in LA. Perhaps the most memorable scene, and an early example of how they continually managed to sabotage any chance of mainstream success, takes place at an industry show at LA's The Viper Rooms - a spectacular brawl breaks out on stage between at least four members of the band, limbs flailing and equipment smashing, and it's all over.

Interspersed with the footage are interview snippets with managers, friends and record label A&R people - all of whom seem equally exasperated by the band's inability to get it together enough to make it, particularly given Newcombe's astounding productivity. Fucking up in style is what they seem to do best.

Of course, that's why The Dandy Warhols are something of an aside, a "look where The Brian Jonestown Massacre could have gone to". There's infinitely more drama in spectacular failure than in relatively modest mainstream success. Newcombe might be scared of where success would take him, but that doesn't stop him trying to manufacture a feud or rivalry between the two bands out of bitterness and jealousy.

Need another reason to see 'DiG!'? It's very, very funny.

But is it a fair depiction of The Brian Jonestown Massacre (who, incidentally, are still very much a going concern and toured the UK with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club last month)? Not according to Anton Newcombe himself...

Monday, July 18, 2005

Blogwatch

Welcome...

Kaptain Kobold, who's very soon disappearing off Down Under.

Meanwhile...

Jaymaster recounts his experience of taking part in Spencer Tunick's latest art project in Newcastle, along with 1500 other naked people (probably not safe for work).

Elsewhere...

Kenny - whose blog Parallax View has a new look (now with added comments facility!) - reports on the recent Supersonic festival, held at the Custard Factory in Birmingham;

Alan too has been soaking up the music at a rather larger festival, T In The Park - Part One and Part Two;

Swiss Toni reflects upon the "trend" of formally observed silences;

Vicky sets off on one of the more unusual series of blog posts I've spotted this year, the fascinating A Cult A Day (scroll upwards);

Smacked Face is moved to tears by Iceland's proggiest, Sigur Ros - I know someone who can relate;

JonnyB pays a visit to Northumberland, the county that I called home for the best part of twenty years, and contemplates reporting a "walk-by bagpiping" to the police;

Del goes cold turkey;

Phill wants to know your West Indian cricketer name.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Lazy laughs?

Ricky Gervais talks to the Guardian's Tim Adams in advance of his new series 'Extras', which begins on BBC2 on 21st July.

Given the recent debate about his show 'Politics' on Musings From Middle England, it's interesting that he is disparaging about lazy stand-up: "If a comedian tells me that sometimes politicians are corrupt or dictators are bad, my reaction will be: no shit, never thought of that before. I have no interest in telling people that George W is not all he might be. For that reason my comedy targets tend to be, you know, Gandhi or Thora Hird".

There's also a reference to a joke he cracked about Stephen Hawking at the Comedy Awards, just after the man himself had been up on stage. In my book Gervais is a very funny man indeed, but he's not immune from slipping into slightly lazy comedy territory himself.

Anyway, 'Extras' looks promising - just so long as the laughs don't come predominantly from the self-parodying involvement of the celebrities (see: 'A Bear's Tale').
Free publicity

Two fine examples of band-promoting graffiti spotted in the downstairs toilets in Scruffy Murphys last night:

"Endless Torment - heavier than Roseanne Barr riding a concrete hippo"

"S.I.B. - fucking shit up Worcester style 2005"

Newly resident in Worcester, Phill was particularly puzzled by what the latter might involve...

Friday, July 15, 2005

Read Herring?

Now up on Box Social: a review of Richard Herring's stand-up gig in Liverpool on Monday. Skif is rather less enthusiastic about the 'Someone Likes Yoghurt' show than I was back in March.

On his blog Warming Up, Herring acknowledges that some of the material fell a bit flat, but it sounds as though the later stand-up performance, delivered in the midst of a pub crawl, was rather more eventful: "I don’t think it gets much better than standing on a table in the dark watching a member of your audience being taken away by the police".

Other recent Warming Up posts of interest: Herring writes on the day of the London bombings about the need for comedy even in the face of tragedy, and defends his material following a complaint from a Christian.

Incidentally, you may have noticed that since a flurry of comedy reviews / features in February and March, there's been nothing whatsoever on that front. Well, hopefully it'll be remedied soon - just not sure when. Herring's old mucker Stewart Lee is playing The Station Pub in Sutton Coldfield (where J and I saw him in February) tomorrow night, but we've already decided to wait until he returns to Brum with his Edinburgh show 'Stewart Lee - 90s Comedian' towards the end of October.
Hysteria is not just a Def Leppard album

Of course it was bound to happen: a Daily Mail columnist - on this occasion, Melanie Phillips - calling for the Human Rights Act to be repealed in the wake of last week's London bombings. Because keeping it would be political correctness gone mad / "moral madness".

Apparently, multiculturalism is a "disastrous doctrine", religious fanaticism is a phenomenon observable only amongst Muslims and if things don't change we're all going to die. Oh yes.

A staggering assault on the Muslim faith - not surprising, though, from someone who is an unashamed apologist for Israeli policy in the Middle East. And, in the contrast between Muslims as a "minority group" and the "indigenous majority", there's a disturbing undertone of far-right rhetoric.

"We have to tackle all the sources of this poison" - indeed we do, Ms Phillips, starting by stopping the Mail publishing such hysterical, scaremongering, racist crap.

(Thanks to New Links for the link.)
Bard news?

A fascinating Guardian piece in which two eminent Shakespeareans look forward to next year's RSC productions of all 37 of Will's plays.

Dominic Dromgoole, the incoming artistic director of the Globe, claims the Bard is arguably more relevant now than ever, whereas Gary Taylor, one of the editors of OUP's Complete Works, is markedly less enthusiastic, arguing: "What we will get ... is the old cliche about Shakespeare's 'infinite variety'. The aesthetics of the supermarket. Walmart Shakespeare. Walmart is international, Walmart is ambitious, and - if we measure 'universality' numerically - Walmart tells us more about human nature than the Complete Works of Shakespeare. But we all pay a price for Walmart (whether or not we shop there), and we will all pay a price for the year-long bard binge the RSC is about to impose on us".
Feel good hits of the 14th July

1. 'Going Missing' - Maximo Park
2. 'Don't Worry Baby' - Beach Boys
3. 'Rebellion (Lies)' - The Arcade Fire
4. 'Suicide Life' - Eels
5. 'The Good Ones' - The Kills
6. 'Be Gone' - British Sea Power
7. 'She Sings The Mourning' - The Coral
8. 'Homesteader' - Kid Dakota
9. 'Good Times, Bad Times' - Led Zeppelin
10. 'Lenny' - Supergrass

The Kills and British Sea Power tracks are both from a free Guardian CD I rediscovered recently. Unfortunately, it also features 'Caroline, Yes' by The Kaiser Chiefs, and the Leeds tykes have consequently managed to commandeer my internal jukebox this week far more times than I'd have liked. The bastards.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Under threat

It wasn't until I glanced out of my twentieth floor window and noticed the police had cordoned off Priory Queensway that I knew something was definitely afoot. The eerie emptiness of Moor St Queensway, usually jammed with buses, told its own story too.

You see, we're used to the regular wail of sirens, being situated next to the Birmingham city centre fire station and just round the corner from the Steelhouse Lane Police Station.

We're also used to the sound of helicopters overhead - the air ambulance helipad for Birmingham Childrens' Hospital is right next to our tower block.

This was different, though - sirens blaring continually, a helicopter circling incessantly but not landing.

Evacuating 20,000 people from the city centre on a Saturday night is no mean feat. There might ultimately have been no danger, but the incident has at least proved that, if necessary, an evacuation on that sort of scale is possible.

Aston University was always likely to play a prominent role in the event of any emergency. The Main Building has been earmarked as a triage centre and one of the sports halls as a temporary morgue. As it was, we were less than 400 metres from where the controlled explosions took place and so must have come very close to being evacuated ourselves.

Thankfully it proved to be an empty threat, and all that was required of the University was that some 300 evacuees could be accommodated in the Great Hall of the Main Building. Speaking today to the Residence Tutor involved, it sounds as though some of the people bussed over were drunk and rowdy and others were upset at not being allocated empty student rooms, but many were just grateful for the shelter, bedding and refreshments laid on at such short notice.

For all the defiant statements made in the wake of the London bomb attacks on Thursday - about not being bullied or intimidated, about going about one's business as normal - it's clear that attitudes have shifted. There's a greater sense of vigilance, and also a slight jumpiness amongst people that's entirely understandable.

I'm not about to get as indignant as many of the London-based bloggers and come out with something along the lines of "How DARE they do something like this in my city" - after all, not only were no bombs detonated or lives lost, but I don't really feel like Birmingham's "my" city - but I do have a message for those responsible for posing what the police called a "real and very credible threat": FUCK YOU.

Links:

The evacuation in pictures

Bongo Vongo on the evacuation

Friday, July 08, 2005

A week to live long in the memory

Quite a week for the capital.

Saturday: Hyde Park hosts the biggest of the Live8 concerts, watched by millions around the globe.

Wednesday: It's announced in Singapore that London's bid to host the Olympics in 2012 has been successful.

Thursday: Euphoria turns to horror as co-ordinated terrorist attacks hit the city's transport network. Around 50 people lose their lives, and hundreds are injured.

An awful lot to take in, and I'm not even a Londoner. I've got very little to add to it all, except to echo the condemnation of the perpetrators that's been coming from all quarters, and the praise for the emergency services. Watching TV in horror as it all unfolded, it was clear that even in such difficult and traumatic circumstances plans were in place and a great many people were sufficiently clear-headed to gain control of the situation. Their efforts were as remarkable and admirable as the resilience and resolution of ordinary Londoners.

Condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones in the attacks.

My only hope now is that the incidents don't distract Blair from the business in hand at the G8 summit. After all the pressure that's built up over the past few weeks with the Make Poverty History campaign and the Live8 gigs, it would be terrible if a calculating act of callousness disrupted discussions about the future of the whole planet.

Links (aka far more eloquent / significant responses than mine):

An eyewitness account from the Edgware Road blast (thanks to Mike for the link);

Mish recounts an horrific day;

Londoners' reactions: Excuse Me For Laughing, Casino Avenue, Smacked Face, Diamond Geezer;

Robin imagines the conversation between the triumphant terrorists and a bemused God.
Blogwatch: in brief

While JonnyB's been away, the mouse - aka Salvadore Vincent - has come out to play, with great posts about radio interviews and, rather more disturbingly, his testicles. A far cry from the simple earthy pleasures of Jonny's tales of Norfolk village life, but no less chucklesome.

Elsewhere...

Things are hotting up in the Big Blogger, where The Girl avoided eviction by the skin of her teeth and survives for another week in the company of the remaining seven other housemates. Good to see Mike, Mish, JonnyB and Zoe all still in there, their feet firmly under the table.

Meanwhile...

Big Blogger contestant Alan finds himself caught up in the midst of the G8 "riots" in Edinburgh - "They say you should strive to do one thing every day that you have never done before. The thing I did today that I have never done before was to be detained under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Which was nice";

Skif has decided to dedicate Hobo Tread exclusively to his wanderings around the country (and beyond) in search of sporting endeavour, and started a new music-centred blog as an offshoot of his fanzine Vanity Project.
Christmas come early

There's nothing quite like the feeling you get when you take delivery of a fuckbunch of new CDs. I went on a bit of a post-Glasto spree, inspired by what I'd heard over the course of the festival:

The Coral - The Invisible Invasion
Maximo Park - A Certain Trigger
The Go! Team - Thunder, Lightning, Strike
The Dresden Dolls - The Dresden Dolls
Sons And Daughters - The Repulsion Box

I thought I'd better give the latter LP a chance despite their disappointing showing down on Worthy Farm, simply because I really liked last year's mini-album Love The Cup.

But my purchases weren't limited by what I'd witnessed. I also picked up the new albums from Stephen Malkmus (Face The Truth) and Sleater-Kinney (The Woods) and the debut EP from The Arcade Fire, which I didn't even know existed until Chris enlightened me at Glasto.

Someone else who's been listening to the Stephen Malkmus and Sleater-Kinney albums is Kenny - you can read his assessments of them - as well as recent releases by New Order, The Duke Spirit, Electrelane and Teenage Fanclub - here.
Don't believe the truth

Little White Lies is a new(ish) magazine for lovers of film. Each issue is centred around one new release - issue #1 takes an in-depth look at Wes Anderson's 'The Life Aquatic' and #2 at slick ultraviolent comic book adaptation 'Sin City'. A rollicking good read, and one for which my old mate Jon is partly responsible and to which Mat The Hat also contributes.

So, if you're sick of the same old anaemic Empire crap, you know what to do.
The empty page

Earlier in the week I stumbled across the fact that the author Henry Green wrote a novel called 'Nothing'. This amused me.

"Henry, what are you up to?"

"Oh, 'Nothing'. I've been working on 'Nothing' for ages."

Such are the amusements of an English lit research student...
A fishy tale

The Birmingham Evening Mail excels itself again.

On one of the sandwich boards on Wednesday: "MIDLANDS CRAYFISH'S AMAZING JOURNEY!"

Somehow I think that exclamation mark is superfluous.

Monday, July 04, 2005

SWSL Glastonbury 2005 Diary

Delayed by a combination of illness and slackness – but, as they say, the best things come to those who wait…

(For what is in effect a prĂ©cis of this, check out my 15 Festival Earworms at Swiss Toni’s Place.)

Wednesday 22nd June

6.30am
Up at what is for me an ungodly hour, so we can beat the rush, get down there quicksmart and secure a prime Pennard Hill spot. The bleary-eyed face with a month’s worth of patchy beard growth staring back from the bathroom mirror reminds me that I’ve successfully managed to cultivate the look of a semi-feral road protestor who’s been holed up underground before the festival’s even started.

9.30am
And we’re off!

10am
Traffic jam. Arse.

1pm
We celebrate our arrival at the back of the queue to get onsite with a Ginsters pasty (well, we ARE practically in Cornwall, aren’t we?). Nearly there…

3pm
After a long and arduous walk from the E3 car park, the tents are up and we – Rob, Steph, Gav, Martin and myself – are cracking open our first beers of the day under clear blue skies and in scorching heat. It doesn’t get much better than this.

5.30pm
I help carry a crate containing several burst cans of lager to the tents, and realise that I now look AND smell like I should at the end of the festival – yet the first bands are still two days away.

7.30pm
The rest of our party arrive – Mark, Micky, Graham, Andy, Dan and Chris. On the path leading through the Pennard Hill campsite from the Glade to the Stone Circle walks a man selling hits of nitrous oxide from a canister. Two passers-by take him up on the offer, and we watch as the first doubles over unable to control himself and the second crumples slowly and spectacularly to the floor in a fit of hysterics. Having inhaled nothing but Glastonbury air, we laugh ourselves stupid at the whole spectacle.

9.30pm
Meeting up with Andy P and Phill by the Jazz World stage, I decide I’m already sufficiently alcoholically disorientated and pass up the opportunity to sample some of the infamous Brothers Bar pear cider.

3am
Far too drunk, I find myself at the Stone Circle stood around a big fire while a half-naked satyr-like figure chunters incessant nonsense over the sound of tom-tom drums. I set off down the hill for home.
Thursday 23rd June

9.30am
I wake hungover, tired and hot and suffering from the beginnings of a sore throat. Thankfully, unzipping the tent and gazing out upon the sunlit Glastonbury site is always a panacaea. That, and a good strong cup of coffee.

10.30am
As each member of our party gradually crawls and clambers out of their tent, I’m reminded of the fact that at Glastonbury you can be assured there’s always someone in a worse state than you – on this occasion Andy and Graham, our two resident pillheads. Andy: "My head’s like a big field. A big field full of tents that are all empty".

11am
Graham: "If I have half a pill I’ll puke".
Andy: "You’re such a V Festival type".

2pm
A second trip to the car to retrieve my remaining two litres of wine. The heat is intense, and we collapse exhausted in the car park for half an hour, enjoying the stillness and silence and feeling our skin cooking.

4pm
The return journey to the tents is punctuated by a stop-off for alcoholic refreshment at the Leftfield Tent. This impromptu break ends up lasting a couple of hours, during which time we spot the first great T-shirt slogan of the festival – "My money went to Nigeria and all I got was this lousy T-shirt" – and Gav discovers that Ian Brown’s on the bill: "That means I’m the second worst singer at Glastonbury".

8.30pm
Following the afternoon’s pints of Burrow Hill, the wine is slipping down dangerously easily. The sun is setting, and at last the temperature is becoming bearable.

2am
Still at the tents, a drunken mess, having failed to hook up with Phill, Andy P or Swiss Toni, explore the site or indeed achieve anything meaningful. Where the fuck did the day go?
Friday 24th June

6am
Peals of thunder are only just audible over the roar of rain on canvas. I’m fast learning that the single-skin tent I "acquired" at last year’s festival isn’t exactly waterproof. I contort my 6ft frame uncomfortably to avoid touching the sides, before discovering I’ve just been dunking the end of my sleeping bag in a pool of standing water.

8.30am
After a brief period of respite the storm starts up again with greater force and intensity. More pools are collecting inside the tent, at the top end too now and faster than I’m able to mop them up with an assortment of grubby T-shirts. It’s soon apparent I’m fighting a losing battle, and I abandon the rapidly sinking ship with all my stuff for the relative dryness of Dan’s twin-skinned three man tent. Chris soon joins us, all his clothes drenched.

9.30am
We unzip the tent cautiously and look out and JESUS FUCKING CHRIST! What was standing water outside the tent is now a full-on river running through our camping area and indeed under some of our tents. Martin and Andy, who’s been enjoying the experience of sleeping on a waterbed, are awoken by a girl screaming "GET OUT!". Andy opens his door to see a box of wine floating out of his porch and off down the hill. Martin’s first words on seeing the scenes unfolding outside his tent: "I’ve read about this in the Bible. This isn’t weather, this is an attack". Micky, whose tent is facing uphill, opens his door and, as water streams in, frantically scrabbles around trying to locate his phone. Meanwhile Graham sleeps through it all.

10.30am
Rob and Steph’s tent, directly in the flow of the river, collapses into the water despite careful attempts to keep it dry while taking it down. Chris and me paddle around barefooted, like the others trying to help out as best we can. Micky, who has just about managed to save the contents of his tent, cracks open a can of lager. We all gradually convene under a neighbour’s gazebo, the spirit of community, camaraderie and friendly assistance strong as it always is here. Huddled together around a portable radio, we hear Chris Moyles tucked up in his London studio chuckling about the atrocious conditions and power cuts which are preventing Jo Whiley from broadcasting her show live from the site. Right on cue comes ‘Why Does It Always Rain On Me?’

11am
Moyles has got Michael Eavis on. His customary bullishness wins us over, as he insists the show will go on and it’ll be fantastic. The rain peters out and there’s a remarkable sense of euphoria as the sun breaks through. He may just be right…

11.30am
The rain starts up again.

12noon
It’s stopped once more, thankfully, and the river is dwindling to a stream. Soaked to the skin, I take a walk down the hill in search of warm caffeinated sustenance and encounter the carnage at the bottom by the railway track, where a couple of hundred tents are submerged in as much as four foot of muddy water. People stand around clutching what they could salvage in the panic and scratching their heads in disbelief. We’ve got off lightly – it could have been much, much worse. After all, that’s where we were camped last year.

2pm
A small patch of deep mud has been fenced off and has a yellow plastic duck floating on it. A sign reads: "Glastonbury Nature Reserve: Don’t Fuck With The Duck". Shortly afterwards we spot our first two completely mud-covered revellers.

2.45pm
Despite the power cuts, lightning strikes and mud which necessitated the cancellation of several acts, the music has been underway for over two hours. First up for me are Mancs NINE BLACK ALPS (John Peel Stage), who’ve attracted such a sizeable crowd that it seems impossible to squeeze into the tent. Solid rather than spectacular, they blast through tracks from debut LP Everything Is, proving that the litany of Nirvana comparisons are well-founded. Recent single ‘Not Everyone’ in particular could have dropped off the end of Nevermind, such is the melody married to its muscle. I just hope for their sakes they don’t go the same way as the last band to be hyped up as the new Nirvana, The Vines. At least there are no drippy ballads clogging up the Nine Black Alps set.

3.45pm
The first stupendously good set of the festival, and it comes courtesy of the first half of a Geordie double bill, MAXIMO PARK (John Peel Stage). A fledgling outfit they may be, but they’ve got fantastic new-wave tunes coming out of their ears - from ‘Apply Some Pressure’ to ‘Now I’m All Over The Shop’, from ‘The Coast Is Always Changing’ to forthcoming single and set closer ‘Going Missing’. And that’s without even mentioning the crowning glory of ‘Graffiti’. Paul Smith is a magnetic figurehead, scissor-kicking around the stage only to stop occasionally and read his lyrics from a book, but in keyboard player Lukas Wooller Maximo Park effectively boast a second frontman - when he’s not hunched over his instrument Wooller hops around chopping the air robotically like a short-circuiting member of Kraftwerk. Lively doesn’t really do this performance justice.

4.45pm
YOURCODENAMEIS:MILO (John Peel Stage) are, appropriately enough, the only band ever to record a Radio 1 session for John Peel on the strength of a demo alone and, even though it’s only Friday afternoon, I think they can fairly confidently lay claim to being the heaviest act of the festival. Certainly their rejection of airbrushed Funeral For A Friend style post-hardcore in favour of a far more complex, intricately crafted and interesting racket isn’t to everyone’s taste, though it was to Steve Albini’s, who produced debut mini-LP All Roads To Fault. For the most part my reaction is one of bafflement - these songs are undoubtedly good but very hard to follow on first listen, and I’m also wondering whether the guitarists are massive or whether frontman Paul Mullen really is that small. Mood music for schizophrenics.

5.30pm
Ah, the calm that inevitably follows the storm. M83 (John Peel Stage) are on hand to ease those frayed nerves and soothe away the headaches that Yourcodenameis:Milo had threatened to bring on. It might seem like a lazy comparison given their shared Gallic origins, but M83 really do sound like Air, albeit performed by a T-shirt-and-jeans-clad indie band with a My Bloody Valentine obsession. The trouble is that the festival’s young and I’m not really in the mood for anything quite this placid. Of course it’s just as we decide our afternoon’s residency at the John Peel Stage should come to an end and walk out of the tent that M83 strike into something with more of a pulse.

6.15pm
Elvis lives! Well, ELVIS COSTELLO (Pyramid Stage), that is. Perhaps it’s my unfamiliarity with his back catalogue, but for a long time there seems precious little to enjoy except the sight of the keyboard player from his backing band The Imposters who – dressed in loud shirt, orange trousers and shades and with long hair and beard – looks like the sort of acid casualty with whom Jeff ‘The Dude’ Lebowski would hang out. Thankfully, Costello comes good with ‘Oliver’s Army’, ‘(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding’, ‘Monkey To Man’ (from his recent The Delivery Man LP), ‘Alison’ and ‘Suspicious Minds’. Amidst all the excitement a somewhat chemically refreshed girl persuades Martin to lift her up on his shoulders (much to the embarrassment of her boyfriend), and he gets his back covered in mud from her wellies for his trouble.

7.45pm
An object lesson in why you should never get your hopes up – they’ll only get dashed. If there’s one band I’ve been most looking forward to seeing for the first time it’s BLOC PARTY (Other Stage). And they turn out to be a major disappointment. Well, no, maybe that’s a bit harsh - after all, they’re still enjoyable enough. But it would be hard not to be, given that they have one of my favourite albums of the year up their sleeve and songs of the quality of ‘Helicopter’, ‘This Modern Love’ and ‘Like Eating Glass’ to call upon, all tense wiry guitar lines and frantic drumming. Therein, perhaps, lies the problem. Accelerated up the bill by the relentless hype machine, they look and sound a little awkward, as if they’re suffering from vertigo, and so rely on the standout tracks from Silent Alarm to see them through, but are unfortunately able only to muster fairly flimsy facsimiles. If there’s something specific that doesn’t translate, it’s the sheer edgy excitement of the record.

9.45pm
I don’t like THE KILLERS (Pyramid Stage). Not one bit. But that doesn’t stop me from appreciating they’re putting on a half-decent show. That said, ‘Indie Rock ‘N’ Roll’ is a truly heinous crime against music in any context, and by sporting a light pink jacket Brandon Flowers is saying to us all: "Look at you, you peasants, all covered in mud – and then look at me". My views of the band remain unchanged, and I curse my laziness for missing out on Willy Mason.

11.15pm
Dan and Chris appear, saucer-eyed and grinning, just in time for THE WHITE STRIPES (Pyramid Stage): "We’ve earned four crystals with what we’ve been through. And we didn’t get locked in once". Fuck me if Jack White doesn’t look ridiculous with his Mexican pimp ‘tache. And Meg still can’t sing. And we REALLY don’t need marimbas. But when the duo avoid material from Get Behind Me Satan (‘Blue Orchid’ aside, which I hear for the very first time tonight), there’s no doubting they’re electric. The set is a procession of fantastic songs, starting with ‘Dead Leaves And The Dusty Ground’ and taking in ‘Hotel Yorba’, ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’, ‘I Smell A Rat’ and the brilliant ‘Ball And Biscuit’ (split into sections and dispersed) before coming to a close, predictably enough, with ‘Seven Nation Army’. But the stage set-up and White’s general demeanour is all a bit pretentious. A part of me can’t help but recall with fondness their Pyramid Stage debut of 2002, even more thrilling because of the complete lack of anything to detract from the music. Then it was just two people bashing out some wonderful modern blues, and now it seems more like the sort of self-conscious spectacle put on by a pair of global rock stars.

1am
Back at base camp, the river has disappeared. I can feel the onset of trenchfoot, but miraculously, after a bit of mopping, my tent is sufficiently dry as to be habitable.

Bands or performers I would have liked to have seen in an ideal world but missed due to clashes / rearranged running orders / my own sheer laziness or stupidity: Tom Vek, Hot Hot Heat, Editors, Doves, Secret Machines, Willy Mason, Stewart Lee.
Saturday 25th June

9.30am
Waking up this morning proves less traumatic than it was 24 hours ago. Until we discover there’s a poo in a bag next to our tents, that is.

11.30am
Is this some kind of joke? Well, obviously, but HAYSEED DIXIE (Pyramid Stage) are playing a song about keeping an ex-girlfriend’s poo in a jar. Purveyors of what they call "rockgrass", they deal mainly in hillbilly covers of metal classics and tales of "hog farmin’ moonshiners from Bristol, Tennessee". There’s an awful lot of banjoing and fiddling as they storm through near-unrecognisable versions of ‘Ace Of Spades’, AC/DC’s ‘Highway To Hell’, Queen’s ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ and even Outkast’s ‘Roses’. Finger pickin’ good.

12.15pm
I spot Vernon Kay and then, walking past the Radio 1 tent, have the misfortune to hear Chris Moyles’s unnecessarily amplified voice. Keep out of my way, you fuckers.

12.45pm
More bands should be introduced on stage by bearded turban-wearing men beating miniature gongs. MODEY LEMON (Other Stage) hail from Pittsburgh. This we know because frontman Phil Boyd tells us on countless occasions. After recent support slots with Dinosaur Jr, Yourcodenameis:Milo and Secret Machines, they’re in good shape, powering through a glut of swampy Stooges style garage rock. ‘Crows’ and ‘Tongues (Everybody’s Got One)’ – from an album called, yes, Thunder + Lightning – thrash around in particularly impressive fashion, but the material from new LP The Curious City, such as ‘Mr Mercedes’ and the single ‘Sleepwalkers’, signals a greater sense of focus and an increased emphasis on the groove, not least because the deep Moog sound is more prominent. Brevity is a virtue they’re yet to discover, though, and they wind up with a very stern-looking stage manager glaring at them. A rather fine prospect live nevertheless, though judging by the sparse crowd gathered at an extraordinarily muddy Other Stage most festival-goers miss out on the experience.

2pm
Drugs! Guns! Rap! Rollerdiscos! Yes, it could only be GOLDIE LOOKIN CHAIN (Pyramid Stage). They announce that Bob Marley’s coming to make poverty history at 4pm - I’m not at the Pyramid Stage to find out. Will the joke wear thin? Without a doubt, but it’s still raising a smile here and the bad news for the haterz is that the Chain have got some new material. Critical faculties are futile. C’mon kids, all together now: "Commodore Spectrum ZX84 / Wanna be a fuckin’ robot after smokin’ loads of draw"…

2.45pm
"Art Brut, play me the sound of freshly cut grass". ART BRUT (John Peel Stage) respond to the request of their frontman Eddie Argos with a brief improvised cacophony. In truth, aside from length, there’s little difference between this and one of their songs. The likes of ‘Formed A Band’ and set-closer ‘Bad Weekend’ feature the sharply fringed Argos narrating rambling Cockerlike tales of frustration and disappointment over a shambolic mess that would make The Fall sound positively polished and cohesive.

3.45pm
If Art Brut are all about idiosyncrasy and eccentricity, then THE RAKES (John Peel Stage) seem to be all about conformity, a laser-guided missile calculated to explode at the precise intersection of The Strokes, Bloc Party and The Jam to maximum revenue-making effect. Phill points out that overexcitable vocalist Alan Donohue has evidently been earnestly studying videos of Ian Curtis in performance, and even their name owes a huge debt to The Libertines. They have no identity of their own whatsoever. The singles ‘Retreat’ and ‘Strasbourg’ have me tapping my feet, and The Rakes are a pleasant enough way to spend half an hour, but any memory of them vanishes clean out of my head the minute I step outside the tent.

5pm
After Bloc Party’s rather lacklustre showing yesterday, was I right to have got all excited about the prospect of THE FUTUREHEADS (Other Stage)? Why of course! This band just doesn’t do disappointment. The set starts slowly enough with ‘Le Garage’ and ‘The City Is Here For You To Use’ before gathering pace and climaxing in style with ‘Carnival Kids’, ‘Hounds Of Love’ (for which the crowd are split in half to sing the two vocal parts), ‘Man Ray’ and ‘Piece Of Crap’. Of their eponymous debut, only ‘Trying Not To Think About Time’ doesn’t get an airing – we’re even treated to a rare appearance of the a capella ‘Danger Of The Water’, in addition to The Television Personalities’ ‘A Picture Of Dorian Gray’ and new song ‘Area’. The band’s front three Barry Hyde, Ross Millard and bassist Jaff have always combined to create some stunning vocal harmonies to overlay their jerky XTC style new wave punk, but over time they’ve developed a real comic repartee, to the extent that they almost come across as a music hall act. As much as I enjoyed them two years ago in the New Bands Tent, they’ve come a long way – from kings of the toilet circuit to stadium rock showmen.

6.30pm
Is it THE CORAL (Pyramid Stage) who are slightly flat, or is it the crowd? Of course it doesn’t help the Hoylake mob’s cause that their most summery tunes ‘Pass It On’ and ‘Dreaming Of You’, though still capable of inspiring a fair amount of jigging, are played out beneath cloudy skies. Nevertheless, and despite James Skelly’s apparent lack of interest, they still do enough to remind me of their status as national treasures. Opening up with a song called ‘Goodbye’ is genius, and ‘Arabian Sand’ is, like many of the tracks from new album The Invisible Invasion, darker and more menacing in tone than earlier material, but with an added bile and bite that strikes a cleverly discordant note on which to end.

7pm
Mudwatch: deep and becoming increasingly sticky. Mobility and stability are problematic, particularly after a few pints of lager.

8pm
I don’t suppose anyone goes to see INTERPOL (Other Stage) expecting laughs a plenty or witty banter. Just as well, because today they’re as lugubrious and serious as ever, without even Paul Banks’s bowler hat or the litter tornado of two years ago to lighten the mood. ‘Next Exit’ gets things underway, my enjoyment tinged with slight disappointment at the knowledge that this means ‘Untitled’ will again go unplayed, before ‘Slow Hands’ shifts the pace up a gear or two. Overall, there seems to be a growing confidence in the material from second LP Antics. Particularly impressive is ‘Not Even Jail’, for me perhaps the stand-out track from Antics, but even that is overshadowed by the by-now familiar brilliance of ‘NYC’ which preceded it. "Turn on the bright lights"? Nah, let’s stay in the dark.

9.30pm
Felicitous indeed that I can take in the entirety of Interpol’s set before making my way leisurely across the site to see the band the New Yorkers are most frequently (and unjustly) accused of aping. Well, not quite – after all, this is NEW ORDER (Pyramid Stage) rather than Joy Division. Yet we’re still fortunate enough to get ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and the song that started it all, ‘Transmission’, during which Martin turns to me and says: "I told you I’d get a hard on if they played this…" Within the first six songs we’ve had ‘Crystal’, ‘Regret’, ‘Transmission’, ‘Krafty’ and ‘True Faith’, but the euphoria can’t last and sure enough out comes Ana Matronic of Scissor Sisters for a run through execrably bad recent single ‘Jetstream’. Mercifully, we’re temporarily distracted from proceedings by a girl from Virgin Radio who alights upon Gav as a suitable interviewee. Technical problems curtail the set so we miss out on ‘Blue Monday’, but ‘World In Motion’ is nevertheless a decent enough conclusion, despite the fact that a chunky Bernard Sumner and a grizzled Peter Hook are joined onstage by Keith fucking Allen, filling in in John Barnes’s absence.

10.30pm
From legends fully made to legends very much in the making. I arrive just in time to catch THE MAGIC NUMBERS (John Peel Stage) wrapping up their set to the most rabid reception afforded to any band I’ve seen so far this weekend. As encore ‘Wheels On Fire’ draws to a close, people are going fucking insane for them, not least the hairy gnome-like stage announcer, and, as in Birmingham last month, they’re genuinely humbled, not the kind of band to take it all for granted. Look out for them when the festival returns in 2007 – they won’t be performing in a tent again, that’s for sure.

11.30pm
Following The Magic Numbers on that sort of form is a tall enough order without finding yourselves hampered by technical difficulties, but unfortunately for Brighton’s twelve-legged feelgood machine THE GO! TEAM (John Peel Stage) that’s precisely the predicament in which they find themselves. Their hour-long headline slot is less green light and full steam ahead than a procession of untimely halts. And yet, in the brief flashes we do get - not least ‘Ladyflash’ itself - there’s more than enough to suggest that they could have triumphed. There’s certainly no one quite like them out there, slinging frenzied guitar into the mix with funk basslines, the odd semi-epic keyboard line with energetic rapping. (Incidentally, The Go! Team have gone one further than Modey Lemon, naming their album Thunder, Lightning, Strike - perhaps there’s some wag on the technical team holding them responsible for yesterday’s meteorological onslaught...)

1am
I arrive back at the tents. Andy’s on the phone to his ladyfriend back in London, who’s stoned and giggly, watching the BBC’s Glasto coverage and insisting on singing Keane songs to him. He’s not amused.

3am
Our drunken campfire party is gatecrashed by a toothless drug-wreck who’s barely able to laugh let alone speak. Gradually we manage to coax out of him the fact that he’s called Emile, he’s Swedish and his mate’s given him a load of horse tranquillisers. After a while he stumbles off into the distance, apparently lacking any concept of where his tent might be.

4am
Gav’s body, which has been slumped unconscious in a chair for a couple of hours, suddenly comes back to life and his mouth begins spewing forth nonsense in a splurge that will last for the best part of three hours. Two sample comments: "I am to Dudley what Michael Palin is to the world" and "The problem with Magnus Magnusson is that his north-south equilibrium is all fucked up". Well, quite. Time for bed, I think.

Bands or performers I would have liked to have seen in an ideal world but missed due to clashes / rearranged running orders / my own sheer laziness or stupidity: Echo & The Bunnymen, Rilo Kiley, Longcut, The Earlies, Simon Munnery.
Sunday 26th June

10am
Blue skies! Heat! A pleasantly cooling breeze! The mud is baking dry! Friday’s apocalyptic scenes are all but forgotten, though recorded for posterity in the form of grubby tidemarks on the previously submerged tents at the bottom of Pennard Hill.

11.30am
On my way to the Pyramid Stage I pass Vernon Kay and, barely twenty seconds later, spot the sweating form of Chris Moyles approaching. They’re stalking me, I swear it!

12noon
BELLYDANCE SUPERSTARS & THE DESERT ROSES (Pyramid Stage) are modelling outfits – or, rather, costumes – so extravagant that even Cristina Aguilera might baulk at the thought of being seen in them, and, as Phill had suggested yersterday, presumably the fact that they’re "superstars" marks them out as the cream of the bellydancing profession. Even still, they’re not a patch on the English National Opera from last year. Not that I’ve paid the Pyramid Stage a visit just to check them out, you understand. No, I’ve come to meet up with My Friend From The Sun Online, who’s here in a semi-work capacity. She’s interviewing James Blunt later in the afternoon (it’s OK, Phill - I urged her to ask about his army background…) and had the pleasure of trying to get some sense out of a near-comatose Goldie Lookin Chain yesterday. I imagine that was about as difficult as it was with our Swedish acquaintance Emile last night...

1.30pm
From where we’re sat, just outside the tent, CHRIS T-T (Leftfield Stage) comes across like a younger more pissed-off Billy Bragg, but one with enough of a sense of humour to begin his set with a song about giraffes. Forthcoming album Red Songs should tell you something about whereabouts on the political spectrum he situates himself, as should the track about the Countryside Alliance (or "’cunts’ for short") with the chorus: "I’ve never been in favour of police brutality / But if you see a huntsman on the march give him one from me". He’s evidently not afraid to ruffle a few feathers on the left, either – he introduces ‘Preaching To The Converted’, which has a sly dig at Bragg himself, by saying: "I offended some people when I played this song yesterday, so I’m going to play it again"…

2pm
Spotted: a T-shirt which says simply "Meat is dinner".

2.30pm
The great hulking figure ambling past the Hare Krishna stall? Why, that’d be Stephen Frost of ‘Blackadder’ and ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ fame. We suppress the urge to shout "Readyaimfire!" at him.

3pm
I’m sat here while JOOLS HOLLAND (Pyramid Stage) is performing. How the fuck did that happen?!

4pm
About this time yesterday I was watching The Rakes. I’ve forgotten everything about them except the fact that they were instantly forgettable. The same cannot be said of THE DRESDEN DOLLS (John Peel Stage). "Brechtian punk cabaret" they label themselves, and who am I to disagree? I’m still desperately struggling to get my bearings, confronted with a sultry gothed-up singer / keyboard player (Amanda Palmer) and a drummer done up like a mime artist who attacks his kit with more ferocity than anyone I’ve seen for a long time (Brian Viglione). Their cover of ‘War Pigs’, the second of the weekend after Hayseed Dixie yesterday, is extraordinary, and ‘Coin-Operated Boy’ is equally striking, not least the section during which they play as though the record has stuck. I’ve never seen anything quite like this before. A big thanks to Kenny for the tip-off on this one.

5pm
More glamour and glitz, this time courtesy of SONS AND DAUGHTERS (John Peel Stage). How glamorous and glitzy can grubby punk-country be, I hear you wonder. Well, quite, is the answer, when you’ve got Adele Bethel and Ailidh Lennon wearing what look from this distance to be pristine ballgowns. They strike up into ‘Medicine’ from debut full-length LP The Repulsion Box, and follow it with the single ‘Dance Me In’. Ho hum. So far so OK. Time for something from mini-album Love The Cup? No, it’s another new album track. Then another. Then another. Then another. I wouldn’t mind so much if they were as gripping and raw as the earlier material, but they’re not. Disappointed, I wander off to a pressing engagement elsewhere.

5.45pm
I turn to Martin. "This is going to be something special".

5.47pm
BRIAN WILSON (Pyramid Stage) appears to massive applause. "We’ve brought the Californian weather with us". Just for starters: ‘Then I Kissed Her’.

6.30pm
JESUS H CHRIST THIS IS FUCKING AMAZING! The overlapping vocals of ‘God Only Knows’ (message to The Futureheads: nice try boys, love Brian), the plaintive downbeat beauty of ‘In My Room’ (Martin: "I’ve always wanted to write the alter ego to this song – ‘In My Attic’"), the soaring verse vocal of ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ and the splendid incongruity of ‘Little Saint Nick’ (unlike Swiss Toni I don’t have a Santa hat to hand), all wrapped up with ‘California Girls’ and, better still, ‘Good Vibrations’. Throughout it all the legend himself sits there, calm and composed while all around him are losing their heads.

7pm
He wasn’t even finished! And what an encore! ‘Do It Again’, ‘Help Me Rhonda’, ‘Barbara Ann’, ‘Surfin USA’ and ‘Fun Fun Fun’. In glorious sunshine the entire field grooves along as far back as the eye can see. Even my highest expectations have been trashed. My sixth Glastonbury, and that is quite possibly the best thing I’ve ever witnessed. The mud may wash off, but this grin won’t be fading any time soon.

7.30pm
Seagulls wheel and circle ominously above the Other Stage. Chris speculates whether they’ve spotted Emile’s corpse.

8pm
Following this morning’s bellydancing and The Dresden Dolls this afternoon, the time is ripe for more theatricality. Right on cue, RUFUS WAINWRIGHT (Other Stage) appears, clad in a suitably extravagant technicolour suit. As perfect as Brian Wilson was for the early evening sunshine, the prodigiously talented offspring of Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle is ideally suited to playing in a slot which sees the sun gradually sinking lower in the sky. There’s a duskiness and smouldering sultriness about his music, and an occasional darkness that recalls Nick Cave. As a frontman he’s voluble and open, effusive in his praise for Jeff Buckley and for his sister Martha (who briefly joins him onstage to duet) and quite prepared to confess that most of his songs are about men he has wanted and failed to sleep with. His voice is his most potent weapon, though - strong and clear rather than unnaturally forced. Want One or Want Two? After that, I want both. ‘Gay Messiah’ indeed.

9.30pm
It’s a happy consequence of Ryan Adams’s cancellation through illness that I get to see LCD SOUNDSYSTEM (John Peel Stage), and indeed hear their punk-funk schtick for the very first time. First impressions? BASSLINES. Lots of them. Insistent and really rather good. It’s testimony to the precision grooves they kick out that even the most jaded and weary festival goer finds his or her limbs twitching and flexing involuntarily. ‘Losing My Edge’ and ‘Yeah’ have me nodding along like a monged Churchill’s dog. Oh, and James Murphy’s white suit is crying out for a few mud pies to be slung in his direction.

11pm
It’s all getting rather messy, both in my head – the consequence of wine, numerous pints and no food – and on stage. After last year’s Pyramid Stage triumph, BRIGHT EYES (John Peel Stage) have been handed the honour of closing out the festival in Ryan Adams’s absence. Conor Oberst proceeds to take that honour between his hands and dash it onto the floor with drunkenly malevolent relish. I may have missed Primal Scream, and Bobby Gillespie’s temper tantrum ("Fucking hippies" eh, Bobby? So were you fifteen years ago...), but Oberst is no less petulant, spitting out jibes at the Make Poverty History campaign and at John Peel himself in between unpalatably tuneless mewlings. I walk off in disgust. He may since have apologised, but it’ll need more than that to rebuild the bridges burned.

Midnight
On the way back to the tents we drop in on 2 MANY DJS (Dance East). It’s a right good old knees-up. Barely five minutes after arriving we’re treated to the Great Lost Track of Glastonbury 2005, ‘Blue Monday’, and we can go home happy.

1.30am
I’m in quite a state. My sleeping bag calls, but I remain conscious just long enough to hear Rob say how a load of mushrooms made him think Dan was "very aquamarine", then that he was a peanut, then that he was Mr Whippy. And he also thought Mark's head turned into a triangle.

Bands or performers I would have liked to have seen in an ideal world but missed due to clashes / rearranged running orders / my own sheer laziness or stupidity: Primal Scream, The Kills, Martha Wainwright, Soulwax, Phil Nichol.
Monday 27th June

10am
Another scorching day. It’s a good thing the festival’s over – we ache too much to be able to carry on. "I feel like I came in my body and I’m leaving with someone else’s", moans Rob.

1.30pm
We discover the news of Richard Whiteley’s death isn’t just this year’s ridiculous campsite rumour. The post-festival mood becomes more subdued.

3pm
An abandoned tent gently smoulders in the breeze. The Jazz World Stage flagpoles look like leafless trees, the flags themselves having been taken down. Everywhere there’s an eerie quiet. It’s time to go. In the heat of the unshaded afternoon sun we slowly make our way back to the car park. This year I’ve been particularly myopic in my exploration of the site, and I’ve also been very conservative on the food front (though my stomach is grateful for the avoidance of experimentation), but it’s still been as good a festival as I can remember.

Other Glasto reports and pictures:

Swiss Toni’s Place

Danger! High Postage

Smacked Face

Andy Pryke

Delrico Bandito

No Rock & Roll Fun (fantastic uber-post from a non-festival-goer)