Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Light of the Night at The Fermain Tavern

Nightworkers

On Friday 28th September The Light of the Night tour stopped off at The Fermain Tavern in Guernsey with the trio of headliners, Guernsey’s own Of Empires and Last of the Light Brigade and Brighton’s Nightworkers, being supported by RentOClean and Twelve Tribe Mansion.

The Fermain Tavern gig followed sets in London, Brighton and Southampton earlier in the week and was followed by a show in Jersey.

You can see my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page by clicking here or on the main photo.

My review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 6th October, you can read it below:

And here are a couple of videos from the night:

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BBC Introducing Guernsey September 2012 – Tantale and Of Empires

Tantale in session

This month on BBC Introducing Guernsey I spoke to Tantale about their new album and they played a little session live in the studio and I heard from Of Empires who are currently on their first tour along with Last of the Light Brigade.

As well as that we had the first plays of new singles from Twelve Ton Trouble and From Bedrooms To Backseats.

You can listen to the show for the next week here, and here is the track list from the show:

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WWE Falls Count Anywhere (Blu-ray)

WWE continues it’s recent trend of solid Blu-ray and DVD compilation releases on this look at their hardcore history.

This year has seen a series of great compilation releases from WWE (from Edge’s history through to ECW Unreleased) and they continue their trend of at least good releases with Falls Count Anywhere: The Greatest Street Fights And Other Out Of Control Matches.

Hosted by Mick Foley, we get a slightly odd series of match introductions which are endearing in Mick’s own comedy promo style, but don’t give a huge amount of insight to the matches other than the fact that doing this sort of thing hurts and WWE has got a bit more tame since Mick’s days at the top.

So onto the matches.

Things start a bit shaky, but interesting, with a match from the WWF in the early 1980s pitting Pat Patterson against Sgt. Slaughter. By any modern wrestling fans standards this is about as tame as a ‘street fight’ can get but it shows how wrestlers, managers and announcers can work together to tell the story and transmit the psychology of a match – specifically here with reference to the wrestlers boots and how they are used as ‘weapons’.

From there Hulkamania overtook WWF so the mid-80s to the mid-90s are represented by WCW and these matches are a very mixed bag with over blown gimmicks and over-basic camera work making the matches hard to follow out of context (though Jim Cornette demonstrates why he was such a great manager and we get to see Cactus Jack in his early prime going against legendary Sting).

The mid-90s matches see a mix of WWF and WCW matches showing how they were trying to make their product slightly less child-centric at the time but, ultimately, still falling short thanks to the producers clearly still not really knowing how to shoot these matches for TV and the various rules and stipulations getting a bit baffling (especially in Savage vs Crush at Wrestlemania X!).

Things really start to pick up though as we head into the late-90s and the birth of the “Attitude Era” of WWF, with the feud between Bret Hart and Steve Austin and the return of Cactus Jack against Triple H.

From here the collection is a rollercoaster ride of extreme matches that highlight a sort of pro-wrestling which has since left the mainstream, as chairs, tables, sledgehammers and ladders all become mainstays of the matches, along with some spectacular spots and set pieces.

This middle section of the two Blu-ray set is certainly the strongest as we get to see Triple H in his prime along with matches featuring the frankly fearless (or insane, or both) Shane McMahon along with some great late-era Ric Flair outings and Shawn Michaels’ impressive return.

As we head towards the end of the disc we head back into WWE’s PG pro-wrestling territory, so the matches become much tamer, but there are still a few performances of note, specifically from Triple H and Randy Orton, although the John Cena vs Umaga match seems needlessly shoehorned in just so Cena makes an appearance.

The Blu-Ray features four extra matches, one of which see’s Mankind going against ‘Santa’, which is frankly a waste of disc space, however the other three bonus matches show how WWE can still do a street fight even without chair shots to the head or excessive amounts of blood (Triple H’s neck/arm injury against Sheamus being a fine example of in ring story telling).

Overall this set isn’t up there with ECW Unreleased Vol.1 or You Think You Know Me: The Story of Edge from earlier in the year, however it is still certainly worth a look if you’re a fan of WWE’s contributions to the genre of hardcore wrestling.

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Fist of Fun – Series 1

17 years after the event I’ve finally got hold of the first series of Fist of Fun on DVD, but could it live up to my memories?

I clearly remember watching Fist of Fun during my early secondary school days when it was broadcast on BBC2 and it filled an area of my TV memory alongside the likes of The Glam Metal Detectives, Friday Night Armistice and The Day Today.

Since then I had always wondered what happened to Fist of Fun as, while it got a second series and a follow-up show (TMWRNJ, or This Morning With Richard Not Judy), it was never repeated and, as such, was very hard to find copies of online.

So it was with some excitement that I received my copies of the DVD release of the show that came about thanks to its masterminds, Stewart Lee and Richard Herring, and the DVD production company Go Faster Stripe, who have been releasing less mainstream comedians works for a few years now.

Lee and Herring (well, actually Herring and Lee)

Upon starting it up all was familiar, the set of a seemingly industrial basement, Peter Baynham’s (now a Hollywood scriptwriter) self titled character in a bedsit in the corner and the characters of Lee and Herring compering a show of their stand up and sketches along with various asides with different levels of surrealism and absurdity.

As always with something like this, returning to it with such fond memories was always going to be a bit of a gamble, and certainly there was stuff here I had mis-remembered (in particular appearances by ‘Rod Hull’, though I understand they will come in the second series) but in general it was as good as I had remembered and, despite a couple of duff sketches, generally held up to my memories and expectations.

The Actor Kevin Eldon as Simon Quinlank

In general terms the series falls in with a group of similar shows that seemed to typified mid-90s comedy, pre The Fast Show, with one-off sketches delivered by something approaching an ensemble cast with no particular thread and different things each week.

A few of the sketches here which really work very well are Simon Quinlank (the hobbies expert) and the story of Pestilence of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse taking a job as a milkman.

This type of show seems to have disappeared from out screens now as panel games and more fast show inspired repetitive sketch comedy fills the schedules, but I’m happy to say that Fist of Fun lives up to my youthful memories of it and captures a brand of comedy that mixes Monty Python, 80s alternative comedy and what has come since in one package acting as something of a comedy crossroads that certainly deserves more recognition than a little remembered footnote it seems to have become.

Extra Features

A more recent Lee and Herring

While the series itself is, of course, the main part of this DVD set – it also comes along with two and a half discs of extras exploring the work and men behind the series.

For starters each episode has at least one commentary which are clearly recorded by Lee and Herring on their first watch of the shows possibly since the mid-90s which adds a real dynamic to them which matches my feelings of watching the episodes as well as providing some interesting facts about the making of the show and some other stories totally unrelated to the show, but that’s the sort of thing that makes a good commentary for me.

Following on from the commentaries we join Lee and Herring sitting down to go through Richard’s extensive collection of old scripts and magazine and paper cuttings tracing the story of the duo’s early years from university to the getting on TV which does give something of an insight into what led to their mid-90s TV work.

Related directly to the series, there is also the studio rushes from the recording of four of the six episodes which really fall into the category of ‘for the completest’ as they are essentially the unedited shows as they were recorded, though they do contain a few lost gems in the form of sketches that didn’t make the final cut but are still entertaining.

On top of all of this we get an hour-long live show clearly based on Fist of Fun, though not titled such due to copyright reasons, that does a very good job of replicating the feel of the show while also demonstrating Lee and Herring’s live work.

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Sarnia Shorts present The Raid

On Monday 10th September 2012 Sarnia Shorts film festival presented a special screening of Welsh/Indonesian action movie The Raid at the Princess Royal Centre for the Performing Arts.

I was on hand and reviewed the event for The Guernsey Press (which you can read in the scan below), below that is a longer version of the same review.

Full review

Cinema going can be a hit and miss affair in this day and age, both in Guernsey and beyond, not just because of the notoriously bad British audiences but also small screens and weak sound systems often effecting enjoyment.

Well, for their recent screenings, Sarnia Shorts seem to have found the antidote, and that may not be the most obvious place, but it is the Princess Royal Centre for the Performing Arts at the newly rechristened Les Ozuets Campus of the College of Further Education, where they treated us to one of the most acclaimed action movies of recent times, Gareth Huw Evans’, The Raid.

The film deals with a team of police, something akin to an Indonesian SWAT Team, heading into a tower block that has been taken over by an organised crime boss, and is inhabited by various criminals, and fighting their way in and out.

As I arrived at the PAC tonight the crowd was once again bigger than Sarnia Shorts’ previous screenings and the sense of anticipation was certainly high as The Raid has been one of the best-reviewed films of 2012.

After our hero has been set up as a soon to be father and headed off to the tower block, the films ‘action’, a unique brand of violence, mixing gun play, knife work and hand to hand combat, begins in earnest and rarely lets up.

Certainly this is not a film for the weak of heart, as every shot, stab, kick and punch seems to be delivered with more impact than anything I’ve seen in a cinema for a long time and the audience tonight certainly seemed to share this opinion with a mixture of reactions ranging from sharp in takes of breath to laughter to, at the end of one particularly brutal and spectacular fight scene, spontaneous applause.

While most modern action movies that make it to cinemas (or head direct to DVD) seem to follow one of a few simple revenge plots, what we get in The Raid is an interesting twist on that which only becomes clear as the film goes on and, while the plot may have some moments that are fairly standard, their delivery gives it something new.

But, to be honest, the plot is not this film’s calling card as it is a roller coaster of a motion picture that does away with the painfully clichéd word ‘gritty’ only to replace it with the much more appropriate (but equally as clichéd) ‘visceral’.

Every impact in this film resonates in a way that made me wince or, more often, laugh, though I think a laugh of relief after an intense action sequence rather than at any comedic episode.

The camera work in The Raid is another thing worthy of note as it moves with the actors and stuntmen in a way that borders, at times, on incoherence, but, unlike some other modern actioners, never quite tips things too far adding to the exhilarating feel of actually running alongside these cops as they take on their seemingly insurmountable challenge.

The thing though that really brings the visceral impact of the action home is the sound design as both the sound effects and music combine to create something that is at once totally seamless and at the same time a noticeable highlight, even having input from Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda (not someone I have been a big fan of historically) didn’t detract from it.

After watching a film as classic (and undeniably fantastic) as Jaws a couple of days earlier, I wasn’t sure The Raid was going to be able to live up to my heightened cinematic expectations, however I needn’t have worried.

While different to Spielberg’s shark movie in almost every way, it still managed to keep up my run of very good films and really is something that anyone who can stomach some pretty full on violence should see – and, as with all the best action movies of this ilk, the theory that they sit in a place very close to the song and dance movie is one that stands up here as the choreography is second to none with almost every movement in the film feeling as meticulously planned as any big song and dance number.

With the Sarnia Shorts festival only a little over a month away it was good to see so many at the PAC, and see them reacting so well, to see this somewhat less than mainstream film and I had a chance to catch up with one of the festival organisers, Lisa Gaudion, after the movie.

Lisa told me that the festival will be taking place over the weekend of 19th, 20th and 21st October and that preparations were going “really well”: “We’re currently working up a programme for the festival, which will be out soon, and are still on the hunt for those ever important sponsors, but, the films have been sent out to the judges and we’ll have all our award winners chosen by the end of the month.”

She added: “It’s all very exciting now we’re getting closer to the event and Wynter [Tyson, co-organiser] and myself are putting as much time into it as we can to make sure the event is a success.”

Chimes at Midnight (aka Falstaff)

The festival has received 120 entries and 74 will be screened over the three days. Lisa said she had been “blown away” by the quality of the films which have come from all over the world including entries from Australia, the USA and Europe as well as the UK and Guernsey.

The festival will kick off with a special screening of Orson Welles Chimes At Midnight before the festival entries are shown in eight two-hour screenings on the Saturday and Sunday, all the Princess Royal Centre for the Performing Arts.

Tickets will be available soon from guernseytickets.gg and if you want to get involved with the festival, or discuss potential sponsorship with them, you can email Lisa or Wynter at sarniashorts@yahoo.co.uk

A fan made trailer for Chimes At Midnight:

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Open Mic at the De La Rue – 17/09/12

For the last couple of weeks the Thomas De La Rue (a pub in St Peter Port, Guernsey for those reading this elsewhere in the world) and Robert J Hunter have been running open mic nights on Monday’s.

I headed down last night and The Phantom Cosmonaut played a few songs along with a bunch of others, here are a few photos taken on my phone (so ropey quality at best) and a video of an open mic night favourite over here from Andy Sauvage:

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Music and poetry at the Guernsey Literary Festival

Linton Kwesi Johnson

The second Guernsey Literary Festival took place over the weekend of 14th, 15th and 16th of September 2012 and as well as a bunch of stuff about writing, books and poetry also featured some live music and poetry performance.

The Friday night of the festival saw a low-key night of music take place at the Hub (an inflatable tent next to Guernsey’s Market Building), featuring Oliver Daldry and The Space Pirates of Rocquaine.

The Saturday night saw live music go head to head with live poetry all with a flavour of reggae and punk at The Fermain Tavern with Linton Kwesi Johnson and Attila The Stockbroker performing at the same gig as punk veterans Ruts DC.

Here’s my review of the show which appeared in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 22nd September 2012:

Here are some photos and a couple of videos from the festival (all from my iPhone so varied quality):

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Dead Wing in Gallery Magazine (and full album review)

For the September 2012 issue of Gallery Magazine I took the chance to take a look at the debut album from Guernsey hard rockers Dead Wing.

You can pick up a copy of the magazine from many newsagents and shops around Guernsey or you can read it online through issuu.com (my stuff is on page 100), or you can read it here:

Full review

Jon and Jacques

Dead Wing’s debut gives us a half hour of solid heavy hard rock; all contained on a nicely carved, and somewhat unique, wooden USB stick.

For a couple of years now the five men that comprise Dead Wing have been making their mark on Guernsey’s music scene and have become known for their combination of hard rock and grunge, particularly via covers of the likes of Black Sabbath, Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix.

In the summer of 2012 they unleashed their debut album, containing seven original tracks that pretty much stick to the blueprint laid out by their choice of live covers.

Ben and Elliott

From the start the album sounds like something a bit different for albums made over here recently in that, to me at least, this could come from anywhere. While some albums are firmly rooted in their sense of place and self this one is quite the opposite and Dead Wing sound as if they could be a band from Guernsey, the UK, or the USA, and there would be no difference.

While this may be a good thing in some ways, and certainly speaks volumes for both the band’s performance and Danny Joyce’s fantastic production work (this record is on a par with Danny’s own band Nemesis’ most recent record, sound wise) it also leaves me with a sense that also this album is nothing special.

So, now to dig myself out of the hole that last statement has dug me!

Jacques

While the album may not be ‘anything special’ in terms of comparing it to the bands Dead Wing are clearly influenced by, it still holds it own against many albums I have heard in a similar genre from much more established and ‘signed’ bands.

Musically, this is the best I have ever heard Dead Wing, and it really serves to demonstrate something that is often lost when they play live – that their originals are actually very good songs.

Live the band often seem to rely on their takes on War Pigs, Voodoo Chile and the like, but this album is proof that, if they wanted to, they could play a set of original songs and it still be a great show, and I for one hope we see this more in the future.

Also the album shows the musical talent of the band better than their live performances have in my experience and shows that these guys are genuinely very good at what they do.

All in all Dead Wing’s debut is a solid bit of heavy hard rock that sets them out as one of the better bands making this kind of noise in Guernsey today and has a sound universal enough that it could have the potential to carry the band onto bigger things if they wanted it to.

Now I’d just like to see them focus their live shows on these original songs!

Photos courtesy of BBC Introducing Guernsey and taken by Tom Girard.

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It Stinks Of Eyes Around Here

This DVD takes a sideways look at life on the road with Ginger Wildheart and friends while showcasing some great live tunes.

In my eyes there are essentially two types of music documentary; those which look into the band behind the music (such as Rush’s Beyond The Lighted Stage) and those which explore the music in-depth (any of the Classic Albums docs or the likes of Metal: A Handbangers Journey).

In It Stinks Of Eyes Around Here, the first film to get behind the scenes on one of Ginger Wildheart’s tours, we are treated to the former as we see the band (Ginger, Random Jon Poole, Chris Catalyst, Jase Edwards and support act Jackdaw4 along with guitar tech Dunc, manager Gav and bus driver Gordon) go from venue to venue, and incident to incident, throughout their 2011 summer acoustic tour.

Ginger and ‘Pogo the clown’

Across the hour-long main film, put together by the team at AshTV, we get to see what the band get up to on the road and backstage, from make up application (including some excellent designs by Ginger’s son) to Jon Poole’s spontaneous songs, all of which comes together to paint a picture of a group of performers who as well as being bandmates are clearly mates too which gives the live clips included an extra sense of the community aspect I discussed in my review of Ginger’s Kiss Alive II album.

‘Random’ Jon Poole

Alongside the backstage clips and live clips, we get some talking head interview segments from the band members which are also great fun and, as expected, not entirely serious, as we get their views on spending time in a van which each other for long periods as well as some tongue in cheek back slapping about their musical prowess.

Undeniably the discs star is not Ginger but long-time compatriot ‘Random’ Jon Poole who, if this is anything to go by, is a non-stop monster of songs, bad jokes and general tomfoolery on and off stage.

Away from the documentary we get a set of live videos recorded across the tour which, while sometimes basic, capture the essence of this tour’s shows with some great music combined with some frankly surreal goings on stage, particularly from the band’s driver, and former Raging Speedhorn drummer, Gordon Morison, as a morose clown.

My general view of music documentaries and live films is that, if they are successful, I will come away from them wanting to pick up guitar and make some noise. Well, taking that theory into account, I can safely say I came away from It Stinks Of Eyes Around Here wanting to not just play some music but go on a tour very much like this.

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Jaws

Spielberg’s breakthrough still serves as a classic example of how to combine tension and horror with mainstream cinema to create a supreme masterpiece of a movie.

So what can be said about Jaws that hasn’t already been said? To be honest probably not that much but here are my thoughts as I am (Shock! Horror!) that rare thing of a film fan who had yet to see Steven Spielberg’s little movie about a killer shark.

The film is very much divided into two as we have a first half that is a full on, crowd scene based, monster movie and a second that sets up a sense of cabin fever and hunt while throughout cranking up the tension like no one since Hitchcock.

And it is a Hitchcock film that Jaws most reminds me as it combines all out horror with the feeling of a high tension thriller much like Psycho, and anyone who knows me will know that me comparing a film to Psycho is about the highest praise I am capable of giving.

From the start of the movie Spielberg and his team (most notably composer John Williams) crank up the suspense in Amity as the beaches fill up and, while we know what may be lurking under the waves, many don’t and Roy Scheider’s Brody becomes our real hero not only fighting his own fear of the water but also the powers-that-be of the town who seem to care more about their economy than the well-being of tourists.

This sequence also features a brilliant “Lewton Bus” type moment that I won’t spoil here but that serves to demonstrate that Spielberg clearly knows what he’s dealing with when it comes to horror and thriller cinema.

It is the first half of the movie where we also get to see another Spielberg’s classic motifs as much of Brody’s motivation that sets up the second half of the film comes from his relationship with his family. While use of family is a traditional part of all Spielberg films here it is dealt with in a much better way than in many of his later films where it often become labored and obvious.

If the first half of Jaws is the b-movie monster feature writ large, the second is where the characters really come to life as we spend nigh-on a whole hour in the company of three men; Brody, Hooper and Quint.

Here we get to see a very different side of the director’s work as while the tension continues to build as they hunt the shark, we also get the now-classic scene with the three men in the boat, basically, just chatting, before Quint’s USS Indianapolis monologue which reveals his character, that previously been somewhat two-dimensional, in a way that in lesser hands may have seemed clunky but here is a supreme example of how to tell a story and is delivered impeccably by Robert Shaw.

I won’t spoil the ending of the film but, its safe to say, that the dénouement is suitably satisfying and, unlike many modern blockbusters, knows when it is finished and goes to the credits in a manner reminiscent of again Psycho but also many other films of the pre-blockbuster era.

A special note I think also has to go to ‘Bruce’, the rubber and mechanical shark that features throughout much of the film.

While it has been oft-recorded that the shark was notoriously hard to handle as its mechanisms seized in the salt water and it became an unwieldy lump of rubber, to me it looked surprisingly nimble and, save for one sequence towards the end, at no point did its obvious ‘fakeness’ detract from the tension and action of the film, and even when it became obvious, by that point I was so engaged it would have taken a lot more than that to rip me from the world of Amity.

So, as I said earlier, much has already been said of Jaws, but its safe to say that this is an undeniable classic that sits as a fine junction point between the traditional Hollywood of Hitchcock, the new Hollywood of Hopper, Peckinpah et al and the modern blockbuster Hollywood of, well, Spielberg.

I guess the only bad thing I could find about Jaws is that it maybe led to the world of tent-pole release blockbuster cinema we have today where films like Transformers 2 and its ilk get the chance to grace out screens.

But that is a small price to pay for the existence of a film as good as this.

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