A musical interlude

A slight bit of blog business today. Now that I’m caught up with all my pre-pandemic gig reviews, I’m planning to make Wednesday ‘music day’ on the blog. I’ve not focused on music posts for a while, as I’ve not been focusing on music so much in my everyday life, for a couple of reasons. First of all, gigs are obviously on the back burner for now. Secondly, I’ve not been listening to music in a focused way during the last year – I’ve been finding I concentrate on work better when it’s quiet, and when I’m out for a walk with headphones I prefer to listen to podcasts. When I do put music on (largely at the request of Geth when he wants some background music), it’s always an old standby like ’80s pop or synthwave or videogame soundtracks – it’s been a long time since I’ve deliberately listened to an album or sought out new music.

It’s been about eighteen months since I wrote my last New Hits Friday post, because I’ve not been keeping up with the chart for the last year (most chart music is not to my taste so I was starting to find it a bit of a chore, though I will go back and catch up because I still find the chart really interesting academically). I’m a few Now! albums behind, and other than the usual Christmas shows, I can’t remember the last time I turned on the music channels. It’s just not been a focus for the last year and a bit; there have been other things going on.

However, I would like to get back into the habit of focused music listening, which is why I’m going to be setting aside Wednesday blog posts for related content. This could take many forms – reviews, features, general ramblings – as I want to keep the scope quite broad. I expect that at first, I’ll mostly be focusing on music topics I already know about, but there’s always the potential to learn something new. Sometimes on ukulele!

Ocarina
Ocarina out of time. Mum and Dad passed this on to me a couple of Christmases ago but I haven’t had much chance to pick it up yet. One day 🙂

A bit of a synth day

Just a mile again today…

…as I wanted a relaxed bank holiday Friday after a busy week. Longer runs planned for tomorrow and Sunday.

There are a few synthwave livestreams to which I’m looking forward tonight, so I’ve spent the afternoon with my favourite synthwave playlist on in the background in order to get in the mood. Watching and listening to DJ livestreams from my sofa is the kind of clubbing I appreciate in my older sober hermit days! It’s a beautiful day, so Geth has gone out for a walk to Sainsburys to get us some more liquid supplies (that bottle of alcohol-free fizzy went down a treat last night, so I’m looking forward to having another one).

The lovely weather has also meant that Geth has been able to go out and do his regular garden maintenance. I have meanwhile spread out the new gravel to try and cover the exposed areas of the webbing in the back garden. It seems we could do with another couple of bags, so I reckon a return trip to B&Q is in our near future.

I’ll be doing my usual review posts and running vlogs over the weekend, so the next life update will be Monday. I’m fairly sure nothing out of the ordinary will have happened by then, but you never know 🙂

Running gear
I have found this year that running every day has required a lot of new running gear due to (a) the laundry turnover and (b) the fact that things wear out a lot quicker!

Today’s earworm playlist:

Peter Cetera – ‘Glory Of Love’
Nobuo Uematsu – ‘Zanarkand’
Vera Lynn – ‘We’ll Meet Again’
Sesame Street – ‘Sesame Street Theme’

Increments

A short run this morning…

…before heading to Slimming World, where I lost another pound on the scales this week. I’m impatient to get back to target range, and so one pound feels a bit measly considering the effort I’m putting in at the moment, but I suppose five and a half pounds in three weigh-ins is not bad. Just have to keep plugging away.

Geth and I are heading out to a synthwave gig tonight, so I’ve made sure to get all my work done during the afternoon. It’ll be really nice to have a night out – it only happens once in a while these days!

OOTD 6th February 2020
Revenge of the OOTD: it was a bit soon to announce the death of the ‘outfit of the day’ shots! All dressed up for a synthwave night out. Necklace Claire’s Accessories (2003), jacket unknown brand (estimated vintage 1990s, bought at vintage shop 2003), t-shirt The Midnight (2019), skirt Calvin Klein Jeans (2004), tights Primark (2017), trainers Reebok (2017).

Today’s earworm playlist:

The Beatles – ‘I Am The Walrus’
Del Amitri – ‘Nothing Ever Happens’
Robert Parker and Miss K – ”85 Again’

Strings

Geth has been working from home today, so we’ve got back into our home workplace groove, with lots of synthwave in the background but no other distractions. I did my first midweek run of the marathon training plan this morning, and then spent the afternoon editing for a client. I’m off to ukulele class this evening!

When I get back I’ll be finishing off my nails (had to take off my New Year polish and cut them short this afternoon so that they don’t get in the way of ukulele-playing), chilling out with some videogames, and hoping that four days back on plan has been enough for an okay-ish result at Slimming World weigh-in tomorrow morning.

Nail varnish
Not quite an OOTD: nail colours ready to be put on later tonight.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Harry Styles – ‘Lights Up’
Monty Python – ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’
Spice Girls – ‘Spice Up Your Life’

Gig Review: The Midnight at Manchester Albert Hall, 7th November 2019

Both Geth and I have been getting into synthwave in a big way this year. It’s the perfect modern ’80s-aping genre for me, while Geth was starting to get fed up with what was happening in industrial and needed a new type of electronic music to listen to. As such, we’ve been listening to it lots and have a few new favourite bands!

The Midnight are my favourite synthwave band, so when we heard that they were playing a few dates in the UK, it was an absolute no-brainer that we were going to go see them. A few friends from Newcastle had the same idea, so it was a good crowd in Manchester last Thursday for the gig.

The support act, Violet Days, were already playing when we arrived at the venue and found seats (a really good space on the balcony right above the stage!). I wouldn’t say their music was particularly standout to me, but it provided a nice bit of background while Geth got the drinks in and bought a couple of t-shirts at the merch stand.

Violet Days
Loved this viewpoint over the stage! Not too crowded either, so if I’m ever back at the Albert Hall I’ll know where to go.

While I love going to see classic artists who have been going for forty years or so, the sheer depth of their back catalogues means that there’s always a good few songs I don’t know (even Duran Duran, who are my favourite band and whom I listen to every day, have a few deep cuts and side projects with which I’m less familiar). For newer bands like the Midnight with only one or two albums, this is not a problem! I’ve been listening to their stuff so much this year that I knew every single song played, and was able to sing along to most of it (I don’t usually hear lyrics when I’m listening to music due to being hard of hearing, so this was a big deal). I don’t think I’ve come across one of their songs that I don’t absolutely love, so it was a brilliant, energetic show. In fact, the band have done so many great songs that there were a couple of my favourites (‘Crystalline’ and ‘Kick Drums And Red Wine’) that didn’t get played – but I didn’t mind, because everything they did play was brilliant too!

Setlist here.

The Midnight
It was nice to be close enough that even with my blurry photography, you can still tell who it is!

I just want to give a quick shout out to the Manchester Albert Hall, which is a brilliant venue. Hoping to attend a few more gigs there in the future! I will also be looking out for more synthwave gigs next year.

Life without alcohol: eight months sober

I didn’t do a seven-month update because things were so busy last month. I think that shows that sobriety is starting to feel more normal to me and I’m not as obsessed with counting the days as I was at the start of the year.

Sky and trees

I suppose my main preoccupation on the subject over the last couple of months has been the double-headed discomfort that (1) drinking is so normalised in society – while I do make use of various sober support groups, I find that in my ‘real life’, I’m the only one who doesn’t drink – and (2) problematic habits around drinking are not taken seriously and seen as a bit of a laugh by a lot of people who still drink. I obviously used to have this attitude too – it’s the way I grew up, because it’s the way we all grow up – and now that I’ve been detached from it for a few months, I find it quite scary how insidious the whole thing is. Whether it’s my Slimming World group endlessly joking about how really we should be called an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, or a favourite podcast of mine doing a special episode where the participants are drunk, I find that at the moment I’m just really uncomfortable with alcohol use being treated in such a lighthearted way. Maybe I’ll never be comfortable with it again. I don’t know.

I also ran into a lot of difficulty on the synthwave night out last week. Being stone cold sober when other people there were really, really drunk (too drunk even to stand up or hold a conversation in some cases) was really quite unnerving and a bit upsetting. I didn’t feel comfortable at all – I had been looking forward to enjoying the music, but I found that it wasn’t really a space where I could do that.

I’ve started to encounter things that make me sad and nostalgic about drinking itself. It’s taken longer than expected, but it is occasionally happening now. This week, I’ve been playing pirate video games – pirates are one of my favourite themes, to the extent that the novel I’m querying at the moment (and have been working on since 2011) is set on a pirate island – and of course they’re all full of rum and drinking games, and I’ve just been feeling sad about the fact that I can’t identify with all of that anymore. Maybe I should watch a few recovering alcoholic cop shows for good measure. Bergerac was always a favourite.

Two minutes is my current limit when standing in the alcohol aisle at the supermarket before I have to get out of there. I discovered this today when Geth and I were hunting for Nosecco in Sainsbury’s. Still, it’s an improvement on early sobriety, when I couldn’t go near the place.

I’ve reviewed a grand total of one booze alternative over the last two months:

This is mainly because I’ve been a bit too busy for non-diary blogging lately, but also partly because, as I mentioned in my last update, I know what I like now.

I’ve also been a bit too busy to keep up with my recovery support as much as I would like, but I have been working on it here and there. It needs to be more of a priority over the next month.

Finishing off the weekend

I’ve had a fairly quiet one today. Yesterday was a fun but long day – I went to an ’80s nostalgia mini-festival at the Wheatsheaf pub in Newcastle in the afternoon so that I could see the Breakfast Club (the ’80s tribute band that played at South Shields a few weeks ago) again.

The Breakfast Club
I was probably the closest person to the stage, but it was still difficult to see the band under that marquee. I reckon the venue were expecting rain!

Geth joined me for the second half of the gig, as well as some pub chips!

Rio shirt and chips
Both the Breakfast Club’s guitarist and the DJ complimented me on my ‘Rio’ top. Duranies represent!

After that, we went home to get ready for a night out clubbing. It took a little longer than expected, largely because our next-door neighbours are away and so their cat wants a lot of attention at the moment!

Cat cuddles
Cat cuddles are the BESTEST.

We took a quick detour to the Brewdog pub to meet up with friends and see the Re-Issues – yet another covers band! They had a lot of energy and really worked up a good atmosphere in the room.

The Re-Issues
More blurry gig photography. Highlights of this covers set included ‘Town Called Malice’, ‘Zombie’, ‘Sit Down’ and ‘Mr Brightside’.

Finally, we headed to Grey’s for the Rise Or Die synthwave night, NightDrive. It’s only the second time they’ve run the night (the first was four months ago, on Maundy Thursday), so it was really good to be able to hear some of my synthwave favourites on a night out.

NightDrive
Photo by Mish. I forgot to take a proper photo of my going-out outfit – will have to recreate it sometime soon!

I’m still finding nights out sober to be a bit difficult when everyone else is drinking, but hopefully I’ll get more used to it as time goes on. Either way, it would be nice if synthwave nights in Newcastle became a little more regular.

It was a long walk home from town (next time I’m taking the car!), so I didn’t get to bed until nearly 5am. As such, today has been a bit of a write-off! Geth and I ordered Domino’s for something to eat, and our friend Pete has been round to play some Keyforge with Geth, but we’re planning just to have a quiet evening with a film tonight.

Back to work tomorrow.

OOTD 26th August 2019
OOTD: ‘still half asleep’ outfit! T-shirt Gildan for Preverse (2015, modified 2018), leggings Miss Fiori (2015), boots Carefree (2017).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Timecop1983 and Primo – My DeLorean
Timecop1983 and The Bad Dreamers – Back To You
The Midnight and Nikki Flores – Jason
Rod Stewart – Baby Jane
The Midnight – Crystalline

Always believe in your soul

As you can probably tell from the post title, Gold is still the most prominent earworm in my world today. I’ve been listening to synthwave and playing ukulele all afternoon to try and mitigate it. Not that it’s an unwelcome earworm, it’s just…been there for a few hours now.

Today’s been a fairly productive day. I got some more editing for clients done, and have been catching up with admin in preparation for a busy weekend. I’m on track to get everything finished tomorrow, so fingers crossed!

OOTD 28th May 2019
OOTD: I finally got back out into the garden again! Hoodie Sonar (2006), t-shirt Para (1995), jeans Miss Selfridge (2018), shoes Zara (2018).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Maroon 5 – Payphone
Duran Duran – Rio
The Who – My Generation
Buddy Holly – Raining In My Heart
Spandau Ballet – Gold

Music Video Monday: The Midnight: Days Of Thunder

I was going to do a ‘recent chart catchup’ for Music Video Monday today, but there haven’t been any catchup videos released for current chart hits in the last few weeks, so I’m going to go with another synthwave video instead. Geth and I have been getting into synthwave in a big way and so we’re watching a lot of playlists on YouTube. There have been some really brilliant videos made specially for the songs (such as the Gunship video I featured a couple of weeks ago), but I’ve also got a soft spot for the early makeshift attempts that are more like fanvids, such as this offering for the Midnight’s 2014 track Days Of Thunder.

The video is a lovely dreamy collage of clips from American ’80s car ads. As I was dream car shopping for about a month until I bought my Skoda last week, I’ve been really enjoying this one lately! The adverts used are brilliant and are encouraging me to track down more of the same type online. It’s probably for the best that I don’t have that much free time at the moment.

I am presuming the title of the song is a reference to the 1990 film. However, Geth keeps singing it as ‘Days Of Wonder’ (Days Of Wonder is a boardgame company).

Despite all the awesome cars, though, the highlight of the video is this guy’s 1980 moustache:

The Midnight - Days Of Thunder

Once upon a time, this was the height of style.

More music video discussion next week!

You can’t hide in suburbia

Geth and I did the highly ‘suburban couple’ thing of driving to B&Q to get gardening supplies this morning. While we were there, Geth started eyeing up the giant ostentatious barbecue sets they have by the front doors. I am not ready for this level of being an adult.

I have spent the rest of the day attempting to counter this feeling by listening to synthwave playlists and reading about films online. You can’t make me grow up!

OOTD 19th May 2019
OOTD: the garden is gradually getting more membraned and pebbled. Hoodie Internacionale (2000), Duran Duran classic lineup t-shirt eBay/Fruit of the Loom (2018), skirt Calvin Klein Jeans (2004), tights Primark (2017), trainers Reebok (2018).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Duran Duran – I Believe/All I Need To Know
The Midnight and Nikki Flores – Jason
Thought Beings – Hazy
Duran Duran – White Lines
Gunship – Dark All Day