Gig Review: Level 42 at Sage Gateshead, 16th October 2018

While Geth and I were at the Sage for the Kim Wilde gig in April, we noticed that Level 42 were going to be playing this year as well.  After being constantly reminded of the gig due to Level 42 popping up on a lot of Now! compilations early in my Now! marathon, I booked tickets, and promptly forgot all about it until this week.

Level 42 at Sage Gateshead
I’ve decided to start calling my blurry gig photography ‘artistic’.

The doors were advertised as 7:30pm, which usually means bands don’t start until nearer to 8pm.  However, when we walked into the arena at 7:35pm after grabbing a drink from the bar, support act the Blow Monkeys had already started playing.  I’ll have to remember that when we go to the Sage in future.

The Blow Monkeys were good, although I didn’t know most of the songs they played – I think it was mostly new stuff, as they’ve recently released a more folky/blues sounding album.  They did finish with It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way, their biggest UK hit from back in the day.

After an interval (giving Geth the usual opportunity to get us some more drinks), Level 42 came on, and launched into a storming stage show.  Early highlights for me included opener Running In The Family, The Sun Goes Down and The Chinese Way, but I really appreciated the stagecraft as well – the lighting was really pretty and well done, and we even got occasional semi-dance routines!  I also want to give a shout out to the three-man brass section – the saxophonist was especially good, but they were all brilliant.

After finishing the main part of the set with The Spirit Is Free (featuring all band members drumming simultaneously, which was pretty spectacular!) and Something About You, we were treated to a lively encore featuring Lessons In Love and Build Myself A Rocket.  Great gig overall, and not even the constant stream of people pushing past our seats to go to the bar/bathroom (including during the last song.  Just why?) could spoil things!

The Sage kicked out in plenty of time for people to catch the last Metro as well.  Good stuff!

Gig Review: They Might Be Giants at Queen’s Hall, 5th October 2018

It’s not very often that They Might Be Giants come over to Europe from North America – indeed, Geth has been waiting to see them for approximately quarter of a century – so when we heard earlier this year that they would be doing a few UK dates, we made sure to book tickets.  It was well worth it, because they put on a really good show, with lots of banter and comedy interludes in between the tunes.

Before the gig started:

Me: How many people do you reckon have come here just to hear the Malcolm In The Middle theme song?

Geth: Nobody.  It looks like quite a geeky, well-informed audience.

(Pause)

Guy behind us: Hey, play the Malcolm In The Middle song!

Geth: Okay, one.

They Might Be Giants
My least blurry gig picture of the evening.

Geth and I got to the Queen’s Hall in plenty of time, as it turned out, because although a support act was advertised, they never materialised, and They Might Be Giants didn’t arrive on stage until an hour after the doors opened.  It was worth the wait, though, because they launched into an absolutely storming first set.  They opened with new track The Communists Have The Music – apparently there’s a brand new video coming for that next week, so I will be checking it out then!  The old favourites soon showed up too, with Particle Man featuring a brilliant interpolation of Sia’s Chandelier, and Birdhouse In Your Soul appearing unexpectedly early (though very much appreciated by me).  There was also a run-out for The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight), their alternative-lyrics version of the classic song.

The band played a lot of new songs – complete with tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment that the audience might not appreciate them as much as the classics!  I personally found the new stuff really interesting, and I will definitely be listening to the latest album over the course of the next week.

Dead was another highlight of the first set, and I must also give a shout-out to the brilliant brass instrumentalist the band had on tour with them – his trumpet and trombone sections were fantastic and really added to the atmosphere of the gig.  The set finished with some interesting experimental instrumental stuff, and a nicely-timed twenty-minute interval enabled Geth to go and get us some more drinks – always appreciated!

The second set was launched with the video for Last Wave – which is actually Aerosmith and Run DMC’s video for Walk This Way, best explained here.  We were then treated to a rendition of How Can I Sing Like a Girl?, which was given a really poignant context by current events.  Other highlights of the second set for me were Istanbul (Not Constantinople) and Whistling In The Dark, but pretty much everything was a real treat – the band really kept up the energy for the whole evening.

My only complaint was that the gig ended at just the wrong time – Geth and I ran out of the Queen’s Hall just as the number 5 bus was pulling away, and we ended up splurging on a taxi instead!  Great night out though – I will definitely go see the band again when they next play the UK, even if it takes another twenty-five years.

(They never played Boss Of Me (the Malcolm In The Middle theme song), incidentally.)

Infest day 4

As we hadn’t been too late back after day 3, Geth and I managed to be awake mid-morning, and after a couple of hours getting ourselves together, we headed to Frankie & Benny’s for our annual ‘final day of Infest’ carb-loading session.  For the last few years, Infest Sunday has started like this…

Pizza
I think I’m looking better and better as I age.  Must be all that pizza.

…followed by changing into a nice comfy Sunday outfit that comfortably accommodates any festival bloat and allows for lots of dancing without getting achy feet.

OOTD 26th August 2018
Sunday OOTD: tired, but determined to dance. Necklace unknown brand (vintage 1980s, bought at vintage fair 2016), t-shirt Gildan for Deviant (originally early 2000s, thrifted from Geth and modified 2015), trousers Bat Attack (2009), boots Carefree (2017).

We made it through the rain to the venue, where we attended the charity tea party for the eating of delicious cake, and then went through to the sports bar to grab a drink before the first band.

Band 16: Promenade Cinema

Promenade Cinema are amazing on record – gorgeous cool ’80s-style synthpop – and they played beautifully, helped along by the lovely pink and blue of the stage lights (props to whoever was doing lighting).  Unfortunately they fell victim to the poor sound treatment that, as often happens at Infest, plagued the whole festival.  There was a lot of weird stuff going on with the vocals, including a lot of reverb that meant you could still hear the lead singer’s vocals loud and clear even when she passed the mic to the audience, which gave the impression she wasn’t singing live, even though she was (it didn’t help that she was sometimes miming to the keyboardist/backing singer’s vocals as well).  At one point, the sound cut out and the lights came on, so there was clearly some mismanaged sound setup going on somewhere.  It was a shame, and it kind of spoilt the performance for me.  I’d like to see them again sometime with less problematic sound.

When we came out of the stage area, there was a guy hanging around in an Alt-Fest t-shirt, which is brave at Infest.  I actually very nearly ordered an Alt-Fest t-shirt before the festival was cancelled, but I don’t think I’d ever have had the balls to wear it if I had got round to it in time!

I should point out at this juncture that the atmosphere on Sunday – both in the sports bar talking to people and in the stage area watching the bands – was very, very sleepy and low-energy.  Four days turns out to be very long for a festival, and people really seemed to be flagging.

Band 17: Massenhysterie

The immediate striking thing on stage was the singer, who looks a bit like a ’60s girl updated with blue hair and PVC.  The other guy on stage was playing a keytar, which I always appreciate.  Music-wise it was nice danceable electro, but pretty generic, and the visuals were a bit disparate and random – sometimes medical-themed, sometimes military, and it seemed like they didn’t really know what their theme was.  At the end, there were more flags, which has definitely been a running thing at this year’s Infest.

Band 18: Valhall

Very pretty synth soundscapes, but the music was far too slow for my liking.  The two musicians sang pretty much equally, and while the female singer’s vocals were beautiful, I found the male singer’s vocals a bit too semi-harsh for my taste.  The stage show was again very slow and sleepy, which I don’t think helped with the general lethargic feeling of the day.

Band 19: Elegant Machinery

More synthpop – should be right up my street, yes?  Well, it was perfectly serviceable and danceable, but the tunes were very forgettable – I can’t remember how any of them go at all – and so I found myself zoning out quite a lot.  There was a good bit of energy from the band on stage, but nothing really interesting happening.  At one point, there were a bunch of people (presumably Swedes) waving a Swedish flag in the audience, and I found myself more interested in that than in what was going on with the performance, which is not really a good sign.

Band 20: Strvngers

I only stayed for one song by this lot, as the music really wasn’t my thing at all.  The first song involved a lot of doom bells, clanging guitars, and orgasm noises (the last of which you’ll know is a real pet peeve of mine if you’ve been reading my Now! reviews), and there was yet another flag on stage – a Canadian one this time, as this was the second Canadian band of the weekend.  There were also some masks going on, which was at least interesting.  While I wasn’t impressed, Matt absolutely loved them and stayed for the whole set, and he said the music did get poppier at some points, so maybe I’ll give them another listen sometime.

Band 21: This Morn’ Omina

Lots of drumming, lots of dancing, lots of flashing lights.  Good set, and it actually woke me up a bit.  Surprisingly, they played One Eyed Man, which is one of their most popular songs, in the middle of the set.  As such, Geth and I felt able to leave the stage area early and enjoy the rest of the performance from the merch area.

One of our Infest traditions is to enjoy a spirit and mixer (or three) at the end of the Sunday night, usually while listening to the last band if it’s someone neither of us are too bothered about seeing.  As such, Geth got the drinks in, because the Sunday headliner…

Band 22: Aesthetic Perfection

…was Aesthetic Perfection, and while I like their music, I’ve seen them at enough festivals that I didn’t feel the need to go and stand in the audience this time round.  I did nip in for half a song, just to see what was happening on stage, and it was claustrophobically packed in there.  Unfortunately, despite the fact that Aesthetic Perfection are shouty, high-energy, and great to dance to, after four days most of the audience were no longer capable of dancing, and the huge crowd looked very subdued.  Great kitschy outfits on the part of the band though.

I went back to join Geth for a couple more vodka ‘n’ apple juices, and we headed to the Escape Bar after the bands had finished.  While there was some good music being played, it was clear I wasn’t going to get the Soft Cell track that was the only thing that would have got me up dancing, and so after a quick selfie:

Infest Sunday 2018
I’m sort of getting better at taking these. Maybe.

…we got our stuff together and left Infest for another year (or several, depending on how we feel in future) to go back to the Jurys Inn and bed.

Slightly long ramble about ideal festival length:

It’s funny, because three-day festivals have always left me wanting more, so I really did think that a four-day festival would be the perfect length.  That was not the case.  I did feel pretty tired on Sunday evening, and even if I hadn’t done, I think the fact that everyone else was clearly tired would have brought me down anyway.  Bod mentioned on the Thursday night that he thought what they should have done instead was have a full day on the Friday (the Thursday and Friday were both half days with four bands, the Saturday and Sunday full days with seven bands, and the usual pattern is Friday half day, Saturday and Sunday full day), and I have to say, with hindsight, that I agree with him.  Probably the only time I’ve ever felt a festival was the perfect length was after Beautiful Days introduced Thursday camping – so you arrive on the Thursday, have three full days of music on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and then leave on the Monday.  It’s a four-night holiday, but only three days of bouncing around.  Maybe in the future, if I’m feeling flush enough to spring for an extra night at the hotel, I’ll consider travelling to Infest on the Thursday evening.

Anyway, that is not something I need to worry about right now.  I had a great time this weekend, and I know I’ll be back again.

Infest day 3

Yesterday morning, as we usually do on the Saturday of a weekend away, Geth and I got up early and went parkrun touristing.  As I mentioned yesterday, we’d saved up plenty of sleep and got a relatively early night so it wasn’t too painful!

After we got back, Geth went to meet Matt and John for curry, and I had a nice relaxed couple of hours with music in the hotel room.  A can of cider and some room service pizza later, I was able to get ready for day 3, which was the first full-length day of the festival, with bands starting at 4pm.

OOTD 25th August 2018
Saturday OOTD: why, hello there, 1983. Necklace unknown brand (1980s, have owned since early childhood), t-shirt Gildan for Preverse (2015, modified 2018), skirt Asos (2018), boots Primark (2017).

When we arrived at the venue, I went straight to the stage to catch the end of the first band of the day.

Band 9: Flesh Eating Foundation

I wasn’t expecting much, but this was quite a show.  There were four dudes on stage, but only one of them was actually playing an instrument.  The band’s look involved lots of neckties, plus one guy rocking the eldergoth grey ponytail look, and of the three who weren’t playing instruments, one guy’s job seemed to be to hold up lots of signs that were vaguely related to the lyrics of the songs.  Music-wise, when I walked in they were doing a song with the repeated refrain ‘are you having fun, boys and girls?’ sung in the most ominous way ever.  They followed that with So Yeah, which I recognised from the first Beat:Cancer compilation, and finished with another song that involved a lot of sign-holding.

I had a brief sit down in the bar and a quick chat with friends before we all headed to see the next band.

Band 10: Adam Is A Girl

Adam Is A Girl do a lot of slow chillout synthpop, which is more Geth’s thing than mine, but the tunes were really nice – it was a great set to zone out to.  It did get more upbeat as it went on, so I was able to have a good dance towards the end.  Definitely a band to add to the playlist.

We headed back to the sports bar to catch up with people again, but unfortunately at that point some inconsiderate person persuaded the bar staff to turn off the nice background chillout music and put the football on (seriously, pal, just watch it on your phone – don’t spoil everyone else’s festival atmosphere).  It was fairly unbearable, so Geth and I wandered through to check out the shopping area.  I’m a bit done with clothes shopping at the moment as I’ve bought a LOT of clothes in 2018 due to my weight loss, so I wasn’t really interested in any of the clothes racks – they’re the same every year, and I got an Infest 2018 t-shirt on Thursday that will do me fine as a souvenir – ditto jewellery.  The one thing that did catch my eye was a vinyl copy of And One’s Bodypop that they were selling on the Beat:Cancer stall, but I should probably wait until we actually have a record player before starting that particular collection!

In order to avoid the football, we settled down in the seats opposite the merch stall.  I nipped in to see the next band…

Band 11: Yura Yura

…but it was just a solitary boring-looking guy standing behind a laptop, nothing interesting to see on stage at all, and the track he was playing at the time sounded exactly like a cement mixer.  I went back to sit with Geth in the merch area, from where we could hear the rest of the set anyway.  The cement mixer track seemed to go on forever, but at least it was better than listening to the football.

We joined friends again before going to see the next band.

Band 12: Actors

It was great to hear some post-punk at Infest!  Actors are a Canadian three-piece with some nice stage energy.  The tunes were very nice, but I could have done with some more memorable hooks.  Still, I’ll definitely be adding them to my playlist, so I expect I’ll grow to like the songs more as I become more familiar with them.

Another in-between band bit that followed the ‘sports bar, drink, chat to friends’ pattern!

Band 13: Liebknecht

I popped in briefly to see this project.  Repetitive beats, lots of wub, lots of dull slowed-down vocal samples.  Visually, it was a cross between Iszoloscope’s purple haze and Yura Yura’s boring, but there was at least some head-nodding happening on the stage.

We had a good catchup with old friend Teresa in the bar, before the highlight of the evening.

Band 14: Mesh

We all trooped in to see Mesh, along with most of Infest – it was a pretty packed show again.  Luckily, this time we headed in a good while before they started, so we were able to get quite a good spot.  They did a great festival set with lots of classics, and as we were quite close to the front, I broke my rule about gig pictures:

Mesh at Infest 2018
Still not a great picture, but at least you can tell it’s a person this time!

For the traditional fan picture montage for Friends Like These, Infest had asked for submissions of pictures from past festivals through the years.  I’d submitted a few pictures and was thrilled to see them all featured.  I took a very blurry video of the montage, but you can’t really make anything out (how I love my crappy phone camera), so instead here are the actual photos that I managed to get into the montage:

Infest pictures
It was awesome to see these up on the screen!

Other high points of the performance were Little Missile, which they’d apparently played when they were last at Infest in 2002(!), and Taken For Granted, which if you know the drill for a modern-day Mesh gig requires a lot of singing of the refrain on the part of the audience to get them to come back on for an encore.  The encore featured Born To Lie, which is a great daft dance-along song that has grown to become a favourite of mine.

Not quite as good as Peter Hook & The Light, but definitely the second-best band of the weekend so far!

Band 15: Sarin

A strange pattern for Infest this year, on both the Thursday and Saturday, has been to have an extra band playing AFTER the headliner.  Apparently this is due to both Peter Hook & The Light and Mesh having tight timescales and needing to leave earlier in the evening.  As such, the final band of the night was Sarin, and again I only nipped in to see them for a short time as it wasn’t really my thing.  More repetitive wub, with lots of tweety bird noises for good measure.  The sole interesting thing on stage was that the dude was wearing a balaclava, but at least there was an attempt at visuals, even if they were a bad rip-off of the famous 1960s Doctor Who howlaround title sequence.

As such, I was quickly back in the sports bar, where I took this nice picture to celebrate Geth and Matt’s long friendship of mutual manly grumpiness.

Matt and Geth
Such love.

Geth and I did check out the DJing in the main stage area after Sarin had finished, but it was a bit uninspiring and my runner’s knee was playing up, so we decided to head back to the hotel.  I will note, though, that as we left, the food/smoking area was playing the Vengaboys’ We Like To Party! (The Vengabus), and there was a lot more dancing going on out there than in the main stage area.  That’s clearly where the party is!

Review of the final day coming tomorrow.

Infest day 2

After Thursday’s opening night, Geth and I slept for a surprisingly long time yesterday morning.  We hadn’t been super late on Thursday night, but I guess we needed the sleep.  It was well-timed, though, because it meant we had plenty of sleep in the bank before parkrun today.

Because it was another day where the bands weren’t starting till 7.30pm, we were able to be really relaxed for most of the day – just chilling out in the hotel room.  At 5pm, we went for pizza in the Jurys Inn bar, where we were joined by Matt and John, and then got ready before heading over to the venue for the first band.

OOTD 24th August 2018
Friday OOTD: we’ve worked out that my phone camera refuses to focus when I’m smiling, so I went with this goth pout instead. T-shirt Stella Stanley for Beauty Of Gemina (2014), skirt unknown brand (vintage 1980s, bought at vintage fair 2018), boots Asos (2018).

Band 5: Def Neon

I’ve seen Def Neon quite a few times now, and their performance keeps getting better and better.  The energy on stage is great, and their electro rock sound is right up my street.  They finished with their usual fabulous cover of Killing In The Name, which I never get bored of hearing.

After that it was back to the sports bar for a catchup with old friends Tori and Mike.  I did briefly nip in to see…

Band 6: Siva Six

…this duo, who had matching hair.  I explained yesterday why I’m not doing gig photos, so instead, here’s Geth and our friend Dave modelling matching hair in 2005.

Matching hair
Not Siva Six.

Siva Six’s matching hair was more of a mohawk ponytail thing, and the general look was kind of skeletal goblin.  It was quite cool!  Unfortunately the music was not at all my thing – it was very generic-sounding EBM with what I’d call ‘semi-harsh’ vocals – so I only lasted about half a song before returning to the bar.

Geth wasn’t interested in most of the bands last night, so was doing a good job of keeping a table.  We had another chat with Matt and John, and I headed in with them to see the next band.

Band 7: Iszoloscope

I wasn’t quite sure what the point of this performance was, because 99% of the time you couldn’t see anything because of all the smoke on stage – it was just an opaque purple haze!  Very occasionally, I caught glimpses of a personable-looking bearded guy dancing behind a laptop, but those were few and far between.  Music-wise it was repetitive dark dance, which again is not really my thing, so I only gave it one track and then went back to sit with Geth in the sports bar again.

We then had a catchup with Kirsten and Jacquelyn before everyone (and I mean pretty much everyone at the festival) headed back to the stage for the last band of the night.

Band 8: Cubanate

It took a while to find a spot to stand, because the place was so packed – it really did feel like everyone at Infest had crowded into the room.  Similarly to Zeitgeist Zero the day before, I found the music very danceable but a bit forgettable.  It was a very high energy show, but unfortunately at the back we couldn’t really see what was going on, and I was getting fed up with people bumping into my rucksack as they went past.  We had planned to watch the whole set, but about two tracks in, Geth suggested going home early in order to get a good night’s sleep before parkrun.  I was tempted to stick around for Oxyacetylene, but as that was almost certainly going to be their final song, we would probably have been waiting over an hour, and I don’t love it quite that much, so we decided to call it a night.  We did seemingly manage to convince the student union staff member who was in charge of chivvying people through from the sports bar to watch the bands that ‘Cubanate’ is actually pronounced ‘Queue-ba-NAH-tay’, Spanish style, so frankly I think our work here is done.

On the way out, we had a quick chat with Dave and Yuliya, who had also found the venue too crowded, and then we headed back to the hotel.  We both made it to bed by midnight!  Post-parkrun, we’ll be ready to party properly for the rest of the weekend though.

Day 3 review tomorrow!

Infest day 1

I love music festivals.  There’s something very exciting about an entire intense weekend spent in the one place, seeing lots and lots of bands playing, catching up with tens of people you’ve not seen in ages, and eating lots of delicious food that you usually can’t have in order to provide a carb base for all the cider you’ll be drinking build energy for all the dancing you have to do.  Utter bliss.

Unfortunately, Geth and I find nowadays that we can’t do as many camping festivals as we used to.  The discomfort of sleeping in a tent is less manageable than it used to be – now that we’re old gits in our thirties we both find we need a good night’s sleep – and when it rains it’s absolutely miserable.  I’ve been to a few festivals where it’s been a total washout all weekend (or worse, ones where the heavens open all day long on arrival day so that you’re slogging through mud for the rest of the festival).  Last year’s M’era Luna was one such example, and so I think I need at least another two or three years to forget all the bad stuff about camping.  It’s a shame though, ’cause both M’era Luna and Beautiful Days are coming up with some cracking lineups at the moment.  I’ve also always really wanted to go to one of the two Rewind festivals that are on during the summer in the UK.  Maybe in a few years’ time I’ll consider hiring a camper van or staying in a nearby hotel.  Maybe.

In the meantime, indoor festivals are where it’s at as far as I’m concerned, and we booked to go to two this year.  The first of these is Infest, and I’m having as good a time as always!

This is my sixth Infest, making it my most-attended festival (I’ve been five times to Beautiful Days, four to Resistanz and four to M’era Luna).  It’s also my fifth in a row, as since Resistanz stopped running, it’s my one annual chance to catch up with friends from the goth and industrial scene.  Geth and I are currently planning to take a break for a few years after this one (of course, I have said that before, and I may find myself tempted once they start announcing next year’s lineup – we’ll see!) and so I’m determined to enjoy this one as much as possible.

Because it’s the 20th anniversary special this year, the organisers put on an extra night on the Thursday.  I’ve arrived at festivals on a Thursday before (Beautiful Days started putting on Thursday camping a few years before we stopped going) but I don’t think I’ve ever done one with four days of music.  I was really happy about this when they announced it, as I’m the kind of person who always feels that festivals end too quickly.  Maybe four days will feel just right.  I’ll tell you after the weekend!

Anyway, Infest day 1: Thursday.

Because we usually travel to Infest on the Friday of August Bank Holiday Weekend, we’ve not previously had the pleasure of sharing the train journey with people travelling to Reading and Leeds Festival (that experience has formerly been reserved for the Monday when coming back!).  The train we were on was travelling to BOTH Leeds and Reading.  It was pretty full.  Thankfully, this was mainly due to festival-goers’ luggage rather than festival-goers themselves, so we didn’t have too much trouble squeezing into our booked seats, where we were able to commence our train picnic (complete with a couple of ciders, which I don’t usually allow myself on trains since being on Slimming World, but Infest is a special weekend).

Arriving in Bradford, we spotted old Edinburgh University Goth & Rock Society (EDG&R) friends Kirsten and Jacquelyn as we joined the check-in queue at the Jurys Inn.  The Jurys Inn also provided us with the sight of our first Christmas tree of 2018:

Christmas tree in August
‘Oh, Christmas tree, oh, Christmas tree/You’re badly out of season.’

It’s appalling, because it’s still August, but this is not the earliest I’ve seen a hotel do this (the QHotel in which we stayed in Leeds in July 2016 for a Beat:Cancer gig already had one up a month earlier).  A discreet poster advertising that you can now book for Christmas?  Fine.  A fully-decorated Christmas tree up in the summer?  Go home, hotel, you’re drunk.

I’ll forgive the Jurys Inn, though, ’cause the pizza I had in the bar before heading off was absolutely perfect for a pre-Infest meal.  I’ll be having a couple more of those this weekend.

(A quick note about my Infest day 1 outfit: for years, I longed to be able to lose enough weight in time for Infest that I would feel comfortable wearing a clingy Cyberdog shift dress.  Because I reached my Slimming World target in May, I was finally able to go for it this year.  I wore it on the Thursday night in order to minimise festival bloat, but it was still fairly unforgiving!)

OOTD 23rd August 2018
Thursday OOTD: bringing the neon for Infest day 1! Necklaces Claire’s Accessories (2003), dress Cyberdog (2018), boots Primark (2017).

We arrived in the familiar environs of Bradford Student Union, exchanged our tickets for wristbands, said hi to our friend Cat from the Southampton days, and ventured into the sports bar – the heart of Infest as far as I’m concerned! – where we were able to catch up with Bod and his beautiful wig.  Geth got comfortable on the sofa, as he wasn’t interested in the first band, and Bod and I headed through to check out Grave Diggers’ Union.

Band 1: Grave Diggers’ Union

Grave Diggers’ Union were twenty minutes late starting, so there was a lot of hanging about.  When they finally did get going, I managed about a song and a half, Bod even less.  It’s sort of monotonous goth rock, and I found it a bit dull (it wasn’t helped by some problems that were going on with the sound setup, which didn’t seem to be sorted until later in the evening).  I did like the sort of goth Hawaiian shirt worn by the drummer, though!

As a bonus: here is a terrible blurry picture that I took of the vocalist/keyboardist.  My current phone camera can barely cope with taking outfit pictures indoors, let alone gig pictures, and so I will not be attempting any more during the course of the weekend.  You’ll just have to use your imagination instead, or alternatively go on Facebook and find some pictures taken by proper photographers.

Grave Diggers' Union
That UV sign on the keyboard really bothered me while we were waiting for them to come on, because although it’s meant to be a gravestone-style cross, it looks more like an arrow pointing to something.

After a quick drink in the bar and a catchup with friends Matt and John, we headed through for the second band.

Band 2: Zeitgeist Zero

Zeitgeist Zero were again suffering from sound problems, but it was quite a good show.  They have a lot of energy onstage, and their current music is very danceable, although I don’t find it quite as memorable as their mid-’00s output – maybe I just need to listen to the new stuff more.  I had a good bop around, and I found myself quite surprised when the set finished so soon, which is always a good thing.

A very quick trip back to the bar, as everyone was very excited about band three!

Band 3: Peter Hook & The Light

Three has always been my lucky number, and band three will undoubtedly remain the highlight of the weekend.  Peter Hook & The Light do renditions of classic Joy Division and New Order songs, and Hook’s treatment of his old bands’ songs is absolutely lovely.

I was lucky enough to see the full classic lineup of New Order back in 2005, when Peter Hook was still with the band, and it’s still among my favourite music performances I’ve ever seen.  As such, I didn’t think this would match it, but in actual fact I can’t compare the two – the experiences were so different.  The band did play a few New Order songs – Temptation, Blue Monday and True Faith (and this time the sound on True Faith didn’t cut out in the middle, like it did in 2005!) – but it was mostly Joy Division, and it honestly felt like the closest thing you could get to seeing Joy Division live post-1980.  In 2005, New Order were playing a couple of Joy Division tracks to mark the 25th anniversary of Ian Curtis’ death, but it didn’t feel quite like Joy Division.  There’s something about Hook’s take on the vocals in comparison to Bernard Sumner’s that just feels more fitting, somehow.

I’m now really looking forward to seeing Peter Hook & The Light again in December at the Electric Dreams festival!

Because everyone was absolutely buzzing after that performance, there was a lot more drinking and chatting in the sports bar (including comparing exercise experiences with Blanka, hearing all about Pat’s special V2A darts flights – I have no idea about darts equipment but apparently they’ve been a big hit with various celebrities – and finding out from chatting with Andy from Spucktute that he doesn’t actually dislike the Human League.  All very valuable information!).  I really did mean to go and see…

Band 4: Empirion

…but let’s face it, no-one was going to come close to Peter Hook & The Light, so I didn’t get round to it.  Bod said they were quite good though!

Geth and I moved through to the Escape Bar for half an hour of post-band DJ sets (and I had a good shimmy to Soft Cell) before heading back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for day 2.

Day 2 review coming tomorrow!

Bizarro world Fake That lineup

Those of you keeping score during my interminable Now! marathon will remember that when Take That reformed in the mid-’00s, I dubbed them ‘Fake That’ in a fit of pique because they’d had the temerity to reform without my childhood favourite, Robbie Williams.

Fake That became Take That again in 2010 when Robbie Williams rejoined them for an anniversary album, and then became ‘Fake That version II’ in 2015 when they relaunched as a three-piece with just Gary Barlow, Mark Owen, and Howard Donald, though I didn’t mind that lineup as much as the first Fake That lineup.

In Edinburgh last week, I saw this advert on the side of a bus:

Take That: The Band advert
Well, not this exact advert – it was the same advert except it was side-of-a-bus shaped, and the picture of the group was full-length. You know what I mean.

…and now I’m a bit confused and unnerved.  It’s Take That with original members missing (in this case Jason Orange), but Robbie Williams is not one of them.  Is it still Fake That, given that I started using that term to express my annoyance at the lack of Robbie?  I am not sure I will ever be able to answer this question.

New Hits Friday: 3rd August 2018

Just two new entries this week.

Fredo, Young T and Bugsey – Ay Caramba

The intro with the group vocal is quite good, and I like the 8-bit videogame inspired backing track, but the rap verses are very dull.

Oh yeah, and it’s another grim, offensive, NSFW video.  Not recommended.  It’s a yacht ‘n’ almost-naked girls video that basically illustrates everything that has gone wrong with the world in the thirty-six years since Rio first did this theme.  Utterly horrendous and depressing.

DJ Khaled, Justin Bieber, Quavo and Chance The Rapper – No Brainer

Even more uninspired than previous collaboration I’m The One.  There’s nothing interesting about this track at all.

The video’s pretty daft and has too much of a teenage ‘look how wild and crazy we are with our booze and illicit substances’ theme to it, but I guess it’s got quite a nice colourful quality.

New Hits Friday: 27th July 2018

A new feature today!  As I’m finally done with the Now! compilations, I thought I’d continue with my chart geekery by discussing my initial reaction to the new entries in the UK Top 40 every Friday.  I warn you in advance: I’ve not been hugely impressed by chart music recently.  Still, let’s give it a go.

Benny Blanco, Halsey and Khalid – Eastside

It’s a pretty tune, but it’s a bit generic.

The video tells an interesting story, but it’s not much to look at.

B Young – 079ME

I do like the rhythm, but for me it’s too similar to Jumanji, his previous hit.

The video is typically HD and summery, and as such very forgettable.

Panic! At The Disco – High Hopes

I really like the orchestral-sounding instrumentals on this one, and it’s got a nice epic feel.  Great to hear this kind of pop in the charts, too – it’s refreshingly different.

They’re being tardy with releasing the video though.  Sort it out!

6ix9ine, Nicki Minaj and Murda Beats – Fefe

So awful and offensive they didn’t play this one on the radio…

…and the video’s equally appalling.  (NSFW, just to warn you.)

The 1975 – Love It If We Made It

I really, really like the 1975 and their retro-sounding pop-rock.  This track has great synthy instrumentals and thoughtful lyrics.  My favourite of this week’s new hits.

No video though!  I was looking forward to something that would mitigate the visual offensiveness of the last one.

Loud Luxury and Brando – Body

Great atmosphere on the chorus, but again it’s a very uninspired tune.

The video is a boring ‘in da club’ video with lots of strippers and drinking.  Yawn.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #100

So.  Three and a half months, ten and a half solid days of music listening, and 4,019 tracks later, here we are at Day 100, the final day of this Now! compilation marathon.  Day 100 means that we have finally reached Now! #100, which has just been released today, 20th July 2018.

July 2018
Finally, this is the way the world – and my family – looks now, in July 2018. We’re all a bit older, and music is definitely not what it was when the Now! compilations began, but we’re all still here, all together again this week, and all talking about building our collections of houseplants once again.

Here they are, then – the very last summer hits.

Now! That's What I Call Music #100

(Let’s take a minute to appreciate this awesome celebratory cover. On the top left, we have the pig that featured on the covers of Now! #3 to Now! #5 – well, it’s actually a much cuter version! On the top right, we have an airship with the logo that was used on the covers of Now! #3 to Now! #16. Love the fireworks too! Perfect cover for this special occasion.)

Track 1: Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa – One Kiss

This was number one for quite a few weeks, but it’s not my thing.  I find the tune really irritating and a bit repetitive.

Track 2: George Ezra – Shotgun

I like the rhythm on this one.

Track 3: Clean Bandit and Demi Lovato – Solo

Good bit of pop – I quite like the tune.  There’s some annoying vocal stuff going on in the chorus though.

Track 4: Ariana Grande – No Tears Left To Cry

Absolutely gorgeous pop tune – I really like this one.

Track 5: Anne-Marie – 2002

Hmm.  I do like the clever interpolation on the chorus of a single line – ‘oops, I got 99 problems singing “bye, bye, bye”/hold up, if you wanna go and take a ride wit me/better hit me, baby, one more time‘ – that mixes up the hooks from Britney Spears’ …Baby One More Time, Jay-Z’s 99 Problems, NSYNC’s Bye Bye Bye, Dr Dre’s The Next Episode, Nelly’s Ride Wit Me and Britney Spears’ Oops!… I Did It Again.  If you remember the turn of the millennium, it’s very evocative.

I can’t stand the theme, though – and the tune on the verses really annoys me!

Track 6: Jess Glynne – I’ll Be There

Extremely irritating, cloying tune.  I don’t know why I always find Jess Glynne’s stuff so grating, but I do.

Track 7: Years & Years – If You’re Over Me

Great bouncy rhythm – this one’s quite fun.

Track 8: David Guetta and Sia – Flames

Annoying tune on the vocals – not keen.

Track 9: Post Malone – Better Now

Another irritating tune.

Track 10: Jonas Blue and Jack & Jack – Rise

I get this one stuck in my head a lot at the moment.  I’m not sure why, ’cause the tune’s very uninspired.

Track 11: Liam Payne and J Balvin – Familiar

I really like this one – it’s got a great Latin feel to it.

Track 12: Banx & Ranx, Ella Eyre and Yxng Bane – Answerphone

Good solid pop tune – I love that singalong chorus.

Track 13: MO, Lotto Boyzz and Mr Eazi – Bad Vibe

Nice summery song – quite like this one.

Track 14: Tiësto, Dzeko, Preme and Post Malone – Jackie Chan

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Post Malone on track 9.

Ridiculous lyrics, annoying tune on the chorus.  It’s got a good beat, though.

Track 15: M-22 and Medina – First Time

Another annoying tune, and the EDM backing track is painfully generic.

Track 16: 5 Seconds of Summer – Youngblood

Great epic rock track – the chorus is awesome.  Really like this one.

Track 17: Bebe Rexha and Florida-Georgia Line – Meant To Be

Too country-tinged for me, and I really hate that chorus.

Track 18: Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey – The Middle

Yet another very irritating tune.

Track 19: Khalid and Normani – Love Lies

Beautiful tune – lovely and melancholy.

Track 20: Jax Jones, Mabel and Rich The Kid – Ring Ring

Great atmosphere – quite like this tune.

Track 21: Cheat Codes and Little Mix – Only You

Bit of a dull tune – not a fan of this one.

Track 22: Shawn Mendes – In My Blood

Again, I find the tune really annoying, and I don’t like the theme either.

Track 23: MU4 – You Can’t Hurry Love

Now, this is an interesting way to end the first disc!  MU4 won a competition on Good Morning Britain to appear on this Now! compilation.  The competition winners were asked to cover the Phil Collins classic, which was the very first song on a Now! compilation – track 1 on Now! #1 back in 1983.

I do like the harmonies on this cover, and the retro feel remains intact, which is great.  Obviously I’ll always prefer the original, but this version is not bad.

Track 24: UB40 – Red Red Wine

Okay.

Disc two of this special Now! compilation is not full of new hits, like it usually would be.  Instead, it features favourite pop songs that have appeared on Now! compilations throughout the years.  As you know if you’re one of the intrepid souls who have been following my Now! marathon right from the start, I don’t usually like it when songs are included that have already been featured on previous entries in the series.  However, seeing as this is a special celebration album, I’ll let it slide today!

Red Red Wine first appeared as track 3 on Now! #1 in November 1983.  See the link for my review.

Incidentally, seeing as both track 1 and track 3 of Now! #1 have been honoured on this compilation, I wouldn’t have minded a wee shout-out to track 2!  The second half of my Now! marathon has not had any Duran Duran for me to love.

Track 25: Phil Collins – Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)

Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now) first appeared as track 8 on Now! #3 in July 1984.  See the link for my review.

Phil Collins is getting a good look-in on this celebratory Now! entry!

Track 26: Bon Jovi – Livin’ On A Prayer

Livin’ On A Prayer first appeared as track 25 on Now! #9 in March 1987.  See the link for my review.

I’m not sure how I feel about the ’80s being represented on this disc by a reggae track, a ballad and a hairmetal song.  Just one synthpop or New Romantic track would have made me a very happy girl.

Track 27: Wet Wet Wet – Love Is All Around

Love Is All Around first appeared as track 1 on Now! #28 in August 1994.  See the link for my review.

Interesting to see this one again after recent discussion of Drake equalling the second-place number one longevity record!

Track 28: Spice Girls – Wannabe

Wannabe first appeared as track 1 on Now! #34 in August 1996.  See the link for my review.

I think eleven-year-old me would have been thrilled to find out the Spice Girls would be featuring on Now! #100, so thirty-three-year-old me will try not to roll her eyes too much!

Track 29: Oasis – Wonderwall

Wonderwall first appeared as track 24 on Now! #34 in August 1996.  See the link for my review.

That’s two tracks for Now! #34, which is interesting!  Really, though, Wonderwall should have appeared on a Now! compilation earlier, as it had been released about a year before it made its appearance.

Track 30: Robbie Williams – Angels

Angels first appeared as track 7 on Now! #39 in April 1998.  See the link for my review.

Another favourite childhood artist that I would thoroughly have wanted to receive this honour back in the day!

Track 31: Cher – Believe

Believe first appeared as track 3 on Now! #42 in March 1999.  See the link for my review.

Good to see Cher on here, though I’ll always prefer her ’80s stuff.  (Yes, I know that’s the case with most decade-spanning artists.)

Track 32: Britney Spears – …Baby One More Time

…Baby One More Time first appeared as track 1 on Now! #44 in November 1999.  See the link for my review.

Well, it would have been wrong if we hadn’t had at least one of the songs featured in Anne-Marie’s 2002 interpolation on track 5!

In my opinion, the ’90s selection on this disc has been a little more representative than the ’80s selection (it helps that twice as many were included), but it’s a shame that there was absolutely nothing from the early ’90s – a bit of classic dance like 2 Unlimited or Snap! wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Track 33: S Club 7 – Reach

Reach first appeared as track 2 on Now! #46 in July 2000.  See the link for my review.

Track 34: Destiny’s Child – Survivor

Survivor first appeared as track 13 on Now! #49 in July 2001.  See the link for my review.

Track 35: Kylie Minogue – Can’t Get You Out Of My Head

Can’t Get You Out Of My Head first appeared as track 1 on Now! #50 in November 2001.  See the link for my review.

Track 36: Justin Timberlake – Cry Me A River

Cry Me A River first appeared as track 3 on Now! #55 in July 2003.  See the link for my review.

Track 37: James Blunt – You’re Beautiful

You’re Beautiful first appeared as track 1 on Now! #61 in July 2005.  See the link for my review.

Track 38: Shakira and Wyclef Jean – Hips Don’t Lie

Hips Don’t Lie first appeared as track 2 on Now! #65 in November 2006.  See the link for my review.

Another one we’ve been recently discussing due to its interpolation in Dimelo!

Track 39: Take That – Rule The World

Rule The World first appeared as track 2 on Now! #68 in November 2007.  See the link for my review.

Track 40: Coldplay – Viva La Vida

Viva La Vida first appeared as track 24 on Now! #71 in November 2008.  See the link for my review.

Track 41: Katy Perry – I Kissed A Girl

I Kissed A Girl first appeared as track 2 on Now! #71 in November 2008.  See the link for my review.

Now! #71 getting a double look-in as well!

Very representative selection from the ’00s overall – songs from every part of the decade and lots of different genres.

Track 42: Ed Sheeran – Sing

Sing first appeared as track 2 on Now! #88 in July 2014.  See the link for my review.

Mind the six-year jump there, Now! compilers!  Could have done with fewer ’00s tracks to make room for some more from the ’10s!

Track 43: Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk

Uptown Funk first appeared as track 1 on Now! #90 in March 2015.  See the link for my review.

My favourite track on this celebratory disc – absolutely deserves to be on here.

Track 44: Justin Bieber – Love Yourself

Love Yourself first appeared as track 2 on Now! #93 in March 2016.  See the link for my review.

I’m not sure how I feel about a celebration of thirty-five years and a hundred compilation albums worth of pop music being ended on a Justin Bieber track.  They could at least have gone with Sorry, his one good track, which was released around the same time.

Short and sweet from the ’10s, but at least it was more representative than the ’80s selection.

Final note: So, that’s it from me and my Now! marathon, then – well, until Now! #101 comes out in the autumn.  I’ll post some stats from the whole thing at some point over the weekend as well, ’cause I love my stats – but other than that, I’m looking forward to having my music listening time back to myself again!

It’s been an interesting few months, and as a pop music geek, it’s really consolidated for me what I already felt about the way chart music has evolved during the course of my lifetime.  I’ll always prefer the ’80s stuff, I’ll always cringe when the ’90s stuff reminds me of my childhood, I’ll always think most of the ’00s stuff is really tacky, and I’ll always wish most of the ’10s stuff weren’t such poor quality and so generic.

On many days – especially days when the music was especially terrible and boring – it’s the daily picture feature that has been the most fun.  It’s been fascinating and terrifying at the same time to watch my life flash by, season by season.

Finally, surprisingly, after all that, I appreciate the institution of Now! That’s What I Call Music more than ever.  I’m actually already looking forward to the next one.