Latest house stage done!

After a busy week working on the house, I finally had it ready for visitors staying by the time Geth’s family – Anne, Heulwen and Laura – arrived last night.  I’ve got a good sense of what the next stage is, but for the next couple of weeks I’ll be taking a break from the house project and doing other things!

After a good catch-up with the in-laws last night, Geth and I dragged ourselves out of bed to go to parkrun this morning.  I was expecting to have to take it easy after the GNR last week (not to mention the amount of dust I’ve been dealing with this week, which has given me a nasty cough and apparently turned the insides of my lungs black – super goth), but when I got going I found I had boundless energy and ended up with a PB!  Official time was 30:25, but everyone’s official time seems to be six to eight seconds slower than their watch time today, so maybe there was an issue with the results.  Either way, I’m edging ever closer to that sub-30, and I’m hoping to be able to go for it next week.

I’m having a quiet couple of hours to myself at the moment while Geth and the family are in town shopping – later on we’ll be heading to our friend Matthias’ birthday drinks for a while before coming back home for tea.  A nice relaxed Saturday!

OOTD catchup tomorrow when I sort my photos out!

Today’s earworm playlist:

Taylor Dayne – Tell It To My Heart
Jermaine Stewart – We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off
New Order – Temptation
Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill
The Human League – The Lebanon
Duran Duran – Rio

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!

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #2

Day 2, and today’s collection was released on 26th March 1984.  I briefly just now considered adding a daily ‘fun fact’ to this feature about what was going on in the news at the time, but frankly that would probably be so depressing that I doubt I’d still be functioning by July, so let’s make it a contemporary picture from the ol’ family album instead.

March 1984
This was the way the world looked in March 1984, with Grundig TVs and vinyl collections and houseplants everywhere! My dad is still into building harps and other folk instruments, proving that some things don’t change.

Right, on with the music!

Now That's What I Call Music #2
Track 1: Queen – Radio Ga Ga

I love Queen and their shamelessly anthemic rock, and this chanty, clappy track is no exception.  Sing along!

Track 2: Nik Kershaw – Wouldn’t It Be Good

I prefer The Riddle, but this one’s still a great track, especially for the video with the dodgy ’80s special effect applied to Kershaw’s suit.

Track 3: Thompson Twins – Hold Me Now

It’s nice ’80s pop, but I don’t find this one particularly exciting.

Track 4: Matt Bianco – Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed

I wasn’t familiar with this one.  Fairly typical for Matt Bianco, that ’50s rock ‘n’ roll style done on ’80s synths.  Not playlist-worthy, but a good bouncy track.

Track 5: Carmel – More, More, More

Two mid-century throwback tracks in a row (this one has more of a ’60s lounge feel) are making me crave some straightforward ’80s synthpop.  Come on, Now! compilers…

Track 6: Madness – Michael Caine

…and it’s Madness.  That’ll do in a pinch!  A little more sedate than most Madness tracks, but I love the tune.

Track 7: The Flying Pickets – Only You

The original version by Yazoo is my favourite song of all time (I walked down the aisle to it).  I love this a cappella version too, though it has become a bit too associated with Christmas for this time of year due to its status as the UK Christmas number one for 1983.

Track 8: Nena – 99 Red Balloons

I always hear the original German-language version of this song, 99 Luftballons, in goth clubs, proving that goths will dance to anything if it’s in German.  I do like this one, though.

Track 9: Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Slightly cheesy admission: I used to listen to this song every day after work in 2001 when I started my first job aged sixteen, purely due to the lyric ‘when the working day is done‘.  I’m nothing if not literal.  It was around then that I was first getting into ’80s nostalgia and had cultivated an appropriate ’80s playlist using Audiogalaxy (remember that?).  This was a highlight, though I consider it a bit overplayed nowadays.

Scary time statistic: 2001 was the exact midpoint between 1984 and 2018.  Ouch.

Track 10: Tracey Ullman – My Guy’s Mad At Me

I love this one mainly for the video featuring contemporary Labour leader Neil Kinnock.  From my 2018 whimsical millennial viewpoint, I really like the fact that he used to do stuff like that, though I can understand why it resulted in the mid-’80s British populace not taking him seriously enough.

Politics aside, there is also a pleasing quantity of 20th century telephones in the video, and I am a huge geek for 20th century telephones.

Oh yeah, and there’s a song here too!  It was originally a Madness song from 1979, and though I love Madness, I think I might actually prefer this version for the unexpectedly gentle intro.

Track 11: Matthew Wilder – Break My Stride

This one is often featured on BBC coverage of running events, so I’m quite fond of it for that reason.  It’s probably a good thing that my clumsiness with constantly knocking headphones out means that I can’t listen to music while running, because my running playlist genuinely would be stuff like this, rather than properly hi-tempo ‘run faster’ music.  Who wants to work out to boring modern trance when you can have Gassenhauer and the Chariots Of Fire theme tune?

Track 12: Julia & Company – Breaking Down

A bit disco for me, but a pleasant background track.

Track 13: Joe Fagin – That’s Livin’ Alright

It’s very dad-rock, not really my kind of thing.

Track 14: Hot Chocolate – I Gave You My Heart (Didn’t I)

There was a point a few weeks ago when Geth was complaining about Vintage TV always playing Hot Chocolate’s dafter tracks (the channel’s current favourite seems to be Girl Crazy) rather than their serious songs.  I was like, ‘Geth, NO ONE listens to Hot Chocolate for their serious songs!’  I do stand by my point that they’re better at party tracks than ballads, but in recent weeks I have developed a liking for It Started With A Kiss, and this one’s all right too, what with its pleasantly lazy sax solo.

Track 15: Snowy White – Bird Of Paradise

A bit slow for me, but it’s a nice tune.  I do like the epic guitar solo in the middle as well.

Track 16: Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax

This one was actually a childhood favourite due to its re-release in 1993 (and subsequent inclusion on another compilation, The Greatest Hits Of 1993, which was the first album I ever bought for myself, on cassette).  As an adult it’s one of those wedding DJ songs where I can’t resist dancing.

Track 17: Eurythmics – Here Comes The Rain Again

I love Eurythmics, especially their more melancholy numbers like this one.  Synth line + Annie Lennox’s voice = instant win.

Track 18: Howard Jones – What Is Love?

Great song, more lovely synth, pretty video shot in Paris.  1984 in a nutshell.

Track 19: The Smiths – What Difference Does It Make?

The Smiths are one of my ‘soundtrack of 2003-2004’ bands, when I was busily acquainting myself with the entire back catalogues of every major goth and indie band from the ’80s.  I always liked this one as it’s quite jaunty.

Track 20: Fiction Factory – (Feels Like) Heaven

Nice pleasant jingly track, fairly standard ’80s pop.

Track 21: Re-Flex – The Politics Of Dancing

Good head-nodder, but nothing special for me.

Track 22: Thomas Dolby – Hyperactive!

Great, unusual song for the time.  Love that bassline, the high vocal on the chorus, the trumpets, the general bizarre atmosphere of the track.

Track 23: China Crisis – Wishful Thinking

Nice comforting synth, nice dreamlike vocal, generally nice background music.  Not one I could dance to, but a lovely tune.

Track 24: David Bowie – Modern Love

I love Bowie, but this is on the duller side for me.  Let’s Dance is the real stormer on that album in my view.  I do like the ‘get me to the church on time‘ lyric, though.

Track 25: Culture Club – It’s A Miracle

I’ve always found Culture Club a bit hit and miss, and this one’s a miss in my book.  There’s something kind of annoying about it, probably due to the overly-upbeat instrumentals and Boy George’s cheesy lyrics and…yeah, this one is too much even for me.  Sorry.

Track 26: The Rolling Stones – Undercover Of The Night

It’s driving me nuts that the title isn’t written as Under Cover Of The Night.  I realise it’s deliberate, in order to add to the sexual meaning of the song, but it’s still painful to read.

As for the song itself, it’s classic Rolling Stones with added ’80s guitar and funk bass.  What’s not to like?

Track 27: Big Country – Wonderland

I have to be in the right mood for Big Country; a lot of the time (today included unfortunately) the guitar instrumentals drive me mad.

They’re emblematic of a sound that was very particular to Scottish pop-rock in the ’80s – it’s difficult to explain, but when I come across a Scottish pop-rock band from that era that I’m not familiar with, I can always tell they’re Scottish without looking it up (and it’s not an accent thing, they all sing with transatlantic accents).  Some day I’ll work out what the exact musical reason is, but for now I’m just going to call it a superpower.

Track 28: Slade – Run Runaway

One of my favourite songs from one of my favourite bands (huge glam rock fan here)!  Brilliant shout-along anthem.

Unfortunately, Slade have never got round to putting their music on Spotify (sort it out, record label that I can’t be bothered to look up right now!).  This meant I had three options for reviewing this song: 1) wade into the dumping ground that is our study and open all the boxes in there trying to find my Slade CDs; 2) find the song on YouTube; or 3) just add a tribute version into the Spotify playlist instead.  I went with the extremely lazy 3), just so I wouldn’t have to pause my playlist.  Sometimes, I am just as terrible as everyone else in this wretched decade of convenience.

Track 29: Duran Duran – New Moon On Monday

Without looking ahead to the track listings on the next few Now! editions, I imagine the first few entries of this blog feature are all going to feature the words ‘I love Duran Duran’ somewhere.  This one is no exception.  I love Duran Duran, especially their first three albums with the classic lineup, and I love this song.  Epic chorus, great instrumentals, daft video (especially the ridiculous 17-minute version).  Brilliant ’80s fun.

Track 30: Paul McCartney – Pipes Of Peace

My eye is twitching at having to listen to an unabashedly Christmas song out of season (this one was featured on our family’s favourite Christmas compilation, That’s Christmas, which I grew up with in the ’90s, so it’s very associated with the festive season for me).  Lovely song…when it’s December.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #1

You might be aware that the Now! That’s What I Call Music compilation album series will be releasing its 100th edition on 20th July this year.  I’ve got a huge soft spot for the series, largely because my parents bought the vinyl release of Now! That’s What I Call Music #10 in 1987 and it basically shaped my music taste, but also because it was such a big thing when I was growing up in the ’90s – at school and at parties, someone always had a Now! album kicking about.  I’m surprised in some ways that the series is still going strong in the age of streaming, but it is, which is nice and nostalgic for me.

To celebrate the upcoming 100th edition, I’m going to review every single Now! compilation – one per day between today and 20th July – starting, obviously, with #1, which came out on 28th November 1983.

(When I say ‘review’, I of course mean ‘burble about anything that comes to mind about these particular tracks’.  Just clarifying that in case you thought this was going to be in any way musically technical!)

Let’s get started, shall we?

Now That's What I Call Music #1

Track 1: Phil Collins – You Can’t Hurry Love

’80s-era solo Phil Collins, especially poppy, bouncy nonsense like this, is very much what I consider a ‘guilty pleasure’.  A few ciders and I will always be up dancing to this one at weddings.

Track 2: Duran Duran – Is There Something I Should Know?

I love Duran Duran, and this one’s a cracker, especially the constant backing vocals.  The lyrics are great too:

And fiery demons all dance when you walk through that door
Don’t say you’re easy on me, you’re about as easy as a nuclear war

People just don’t write songs like this nowadays (waves stick in air).

Track 3: UB40 – Red Red Wine

Another ‘I’d dance to this one at a wedding’ track.  There may be a theme emerging.  Cheesy, but in a pleasant, head-nodding way.

Track 4: Limahl – Only For Love

I wasn’t familiar with this one, which is unusual for me with ’80s pop songs.  I do like the epic nature of the bridge, and the song gets better as it goes on, but I probably wouldn’t add it to my Spotify playlist.

Track 5: Heaven 17 – Temptation

A favourite!  I defy anyone not to chant along with the ‘temp-tation‘ bits.  Incidentally, if you ask Geth to DJ your wedding, you’ll inevitably hear this one.

Track 6: KC & The Sunshine Band – Give It Up

Bit cheesy even for me, this one, but I do like the instrumental bits.

Track 7: Malcolm McLaren – Double Dutch

Another one I didn’t know.  I’m not keen on the sampling mishmash at the start, but I quite like the idea of an ode to skipping ropes.  It’s the kind of whimsy that’s mostly missing from music today.

Track 8: Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart

One for singing along to at the top of your voice when you’re absolutely certain nobody else can hear you (this is a pleasure that was denied to me for quite a few years until I moved into a detached house last month).

Track 9: Culture Club – Karma Chameleon

Not my favourite Culture Club song, but I have fond memories of my friend Laura and I writing notes to each other in our homework diaries in high school, arguing about the correct lyrics to this song (she thought it was ‘if you were the colour of my dreams‘, rather than ‘if your colours were like my dreams‘).  These things were extremely important.

Track 10: Men Without Hats – The Safety Dance

I make no apologies for adoring this one.  I also point you to this wonderful meme, which Geth likes to use for complaining purposes whenever we hear it in a goth club.

Track 11: Kajagoogoo – Too Shy

Daft song, but it’s still better than all of Limahl’s solo stuff except for Neverending Story.

Track 12: Mike Oldfield – Moonlight Shadow

I love this one – it’s epic and beautiful.  It was also used to really good effect in the ’80s edition of The Doctor Who Years, which is sadly no longer available to watch.

Track 13: Men At Work – Down Under

Wonderfully silly party song that always reminds me of an Australian guy called Ben that I used to work with circa 2002.  In the pub post-shift, this was his song.

Track 14: Rock Steady Crew – (Hey You) The Rock Steady Crew

I can’t listen to this one without being reminded of its use in Peter Kay’s brilliant Britain’s Got The Pop Factor parody in 2008 (and I can’t believe that show is nearly a decade old already).  The song itself is pretty nonsensical, but I quite like the synth line.

Track 15: Rod Stewart – Baby Jane

Actually my favourite Rod Stewart song, just edging out Maggie May.  I love the instrumentals (especially that sax solo!), the lyrics, the epic nature, everything.

Track 16: Paul Young – Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)

To be honest, though I usually like Paul Young, I find this one a bit dull, so I think it was a poor choice for ending disc one of the album.

Track 17: New Edition – Candy Girl

Never been a fan of New Edition or this song, largely because I have an aversion to squeaky kid voices, especially squeaky kid voices singing love songs.  Let’s move on.

Track 18: Kajagoogoo – Big Apple

Please take a moment to envisage my raised eyebrow here, as I was always taught when learning to DJ that repeating an artist in a setlist (or compilation album, in this case) is lazy, unimaginative and generally Not Done.  Give another artist a chance to be heard!

As for the song itself…it’s nice bouncy ’80s pop with cute little bursts of saxophone, but nothing hugely special.

Track 19: Tina Turner – Let’s Stay Together

Boring slow intro and verses, but good ‘chair-dancer’ once the chorus gets going.

Track 20: The Human League – (Keep Feeling) Fascination

Typical upbeat Human League stuff for this era.  Not my all-time favourite of theirs, but perfectly catchy and pleasant.

Track 21: Howard Jones –  New Song

I didn’t really get into Howard Jones until about a year ago, when Vintage TV started playing his stuff a lot.  This one’s a nice bouncy, catchy number with a great synth instrumental bit.  Big fan of this.

Track 22: UB40 – Please Don’t Make Me Cry

More repetition of artists (sigh).  If they were determined to do that, they should have saved Red Red Wine for side two, as it’s a much better song than this one.  Slow, downbeat, nice sax solo but generally a bit dull.

Track 23: Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack – Tonight, I Celebrate My Love

The kind of appallingly saccharine ballad that I would have hated if I’d been an adult listening to it in 1983, but from my lofty perch of hindsight in 2018 I can just put it into a box marked ‘charmingly of its time’.

Track 24: Tracey Ullman – They Don’t Know

I do like ’80s-era Tracey Ullman and her comedy-tinged music videos.  There’s something a bit mid-century retro about this one, which I quite like.  It was originally a Kirsty MacColl track, which explains the quality.

Track 25: Will Powers – Kissing With Confidence

Is that his real name?  Apparently not (and apparently it’s not actually a he).  The song is expectedly daft and not much to write home about musically.

Track 26: Genesis – That’s All

For some reason I always think of Genesis as more musically respectable than solo Phil Collins.  I’m not sure why.  This one’s another head-nodder, but not playlist-worthy for me.

Track 27: The Cure – The Love Cats

Being a shameless goth, the Cure are my favourite band.  This is a great upbeat party song, but if you want something more epic, beautiful and melancholy, I thoroughly recommend all the other tracks on the Japanese Whispers EP.  I remember spending all of 2004, which was a tough year for me, just listening to it over and over.  Gorgeous stuff.

Track 28: Simple Minds – Waterfront

Lovely guitar intro on this one.  Fairly paint-by-numbers Simple Minds, without much in the way of hooks.

Track 29: Madness – The Sun And The Rain

Madness can’t do much wrong as far as I’m concerned.  Great bouncy track.

Track 30: Culture Club – Victims

Eyebrow goes up again at another repeated artist!  I’ll forgive the Now! compilers this time, though, because I do love this one and its epic and sweeping chorus.

My history of excursions into ’80s fashion

There have been a few periods in my life where I’ve tried to fit in with the prevailing fashions of the day, but in all honesty, I’ve never really succeeded, and when I look at photos of myself during those periods, I always think I look uncomfortable and not quite right.  The style of the ’80s has always felt ‘correct’ to me; it gives me a strong sense of ‘these are what clothes SHOULD look like’, and later fashions just look dowdy and unstylish to my eye.  I’m not sure whether I just internalised it really strongly when I first came into the world, or whether I’ve just come to love that aesthetic by chance, but thirty years later it’s still what I’m drawn to, and I think I always will be.

So, my history of being an ’80s fashion throwback, then.  I don’t think it counts as being a ‘throwback’ when you’re still in the actual ’80s, but that’s where it began, and clearly my toddlerhood was the best dressed era of my life:

Clothes I wore in the '80s
Check out that lookbook! I will never come close to being this stylish ever again.

I wore so many different (and AWESOME) outfits during this era.  I guess most toddlers go through lots of different clothes, due to the whole rapid body growth thing, but looking at pictures it really seems like in my five short years spent in the ’80s I wore more clothes than in the rest of my life put together.

Shame they couldn’t all have grown with me.  Especially the moon ‘n’ stars nightdress in the bottom right corner, my favourite nightdress of all time.

The ’90s, meanwhile, were probably my most difficult decade fashion-wise.  Due to a combination of hand-me-downs from family friends, thick curly hair that utterly refused to be browbeaten into the poker-straight trend it was supposed to be following, and a stubborn fully-developed taste that meant I was already gravitating towards the styles of the ’80s, I spent the whole decade doing the awkward ‘dated by quite a few years, but not enough to be retro or vintage yet’ look:

Clothes I wore in the '90s
Looking a bit ’80s in the ’90s.

Jeans, especially, I found so awkward – I was drawn to high-rise straight-leg styles, but as the decade went on, they became more low-rise and bootcut – that it put me off them for a long time, and nowadays I don’t own any blue jeans at all.  When I reach my target weight, I’ll maybe give them another go.

The ’00s were better (not in general fashion terms – I think the trends of the ’00s were the absolute nadir of fashion in my lifetime so far – but for me personally in terms of style).  My teen years, 1998-2004, coincided with the first big wave of ’80s nostalgia in pop culture (The Wedding Singer!  The BBC’s I Love The ’80s series!  The accompanying CD that I got for Christmas in 2001!  Bergerac repeats on BBC2 every day while I was on school exam leave!  Websites such as Like Totally ’80s starting up!  ’00s indie bands aping ’80s indie bands…now I’m nostalgic for a period of nostalgia.  I’ll stop there), and so it was then that I first became conscious that I loved the ’80s so much – that the music was better, the films and TV shows were better, the fashion was better.  (I also had a brief flirtation with the early ’70s due to my love of glam rock.  You can’t beat a pair of silver glitter platform boots.)

2003 was also the year I became goth.  Goth is a wonderful subculture for ’80s throwbacks of a certain style, because the look has basically stayed the same since 1978, and all the clubs play lots of post-punk and synthpop.  Utter bliss.

As such, my ’00s look can basically be divided into pre-2004 (Madonna-style fishnet gloves, jelly bracelets and plastic beads from Claire’s Accessories in every shade of primary and neon) and post-2004 (mainly goth, with occasional disastrous forays into mainstream contemporary fashion):

Clothes I wore in the '00s
These two pictures illustrate my point; both were taken in 2004.

Which brings us to the ’10s.  The less said about the first half of the decade, the better – I was uncomfortably overweight and spent most of it hiding away in leggings, baggy t-shirts and hoodies – but now that I’ve lost most of the weight, I’m starting to remember how to have fun with fashion again, hence my recent interest in cultivating a vintage ’80s wardrobe.

Clothes I wore in the '10s
’80s-inspired looks that I’ve worn out to goth clubs recently. Those old Claire’s Accessories beads are still going strong!

I know – from reading stuff by people who are into mid-century vintage – that as time goes on, ’80s vintage stuff won’t always be as readily available and affordable as it is at the moment.  As such, I’m making the most of it, with the aim of being able to dress in clothes from my favourite decade for the rest of my life.  I hope I’ll be lucky and long-lived enough to be eighty or ninety years out of date one day!

Vintage fair haul: Vintage Clothing Sale at Northumbria SU

I went to my first vintage fair of 2018 today (and definitely not the last – there are another six coming up within the next month alone.  Good thing vintage stuff can be so cheap!)  Today’s fair was a small event held at the Northumbria student union, put on by Headlock Vintage.  I was itching to get going with the vintage shopping this year, especially as I’ve been wanting to get some more interesting patterns into my mostly-solid-black wardrobe (the goth is still strong with this one).

Vintage clothing purchases
My new-to-me purchases from today. The material of the middle garment is making me think I should probably get round to buying an iron at some point.

The three things I ended up buying were light summer garments.  I think this is my not-so-subconscious telling me I’m getting fed up of winter now.  The black and white diamond material and the pink and black material are both capri trousers; the floral material is a dress.  All black backgrounds, I know, but I think I’ve been successful with the ‘interesting patterns’ thing.

When I went up to pay, I also got a voucher for 20% off on the Headlock Vintage website, which was a nice bonus!  I went home and promptly used it to grab myself a nice top.  A blue top, without a hint of black.  I am branching out, sort of.

Modern pop music

At the start of 2010, with my interest piqued by the 2009 Christmas number one race between Joe McElderry and Rage Against The Machine, I decided that for the entirety of the 2010s, I would follow what was happening in the UK music chart, no matter how terrible the music was.  I’ve always liked the way that pop culture nostalgia can be packaged neatly into decades, and I thought it would be cool to follow the evolution of one from start to finish.

Though I’m a list obsessive and had loved following the chart as a kid in the ’90s (the tail end of that happy period in UK pop music that roughly ended with the demise of Smash Hits and Top of the Pops), I’d lost interest during the ’00s, largely because I was Too Busy Being Goth.  I was roughly aware that some of the more pop-punk and emo stuff that was featured in the rock magazines I read was in the charts around mid-decade, but I didn’t really have any idea of what was going on in pop music at all, other than what people were dancing to on Strictly.*

Eight years in, it’s been interesting, and catching up with the chart has become such an ingrained weekly habit that I expect I’ll keep doing it into the ’20s and beyond.  90% of 2010s chart music, IMO, is awful, but there has been some stuff I like – the more electro-pop direction of the early part of the decade was good, as was the brief folk-rock trend.  Unfortunately the quality seems to have dipped a bit in the last couple of years and at the moment it all seems to be uninspiring EDM, offensively bad sampling of classic ’90s dance, bland forgettable pop-by-numbers and Ed Sheeran ballads.  I can’t remember the last time there was an actual rock song in the charts.

Some stats, ’cause I like stats:

I’ve liked 250 songs from the 2010s enough to add them to my Spotify playlist.

  • 42 from 2010
  • 49 from 2011
  • 26 from 2012
  • 33 from 2013
  • 27 from 2014
  • 20 from 2015
  • 20 from 2016
  • 32 from 2017
  • 1 from 2018 (so far).

My 2010s playlist does get a look-in when I’m in a more dance-y/upbeat mood, but obviously it doesn’t get anywhere near the amount of airtime my 1980s playlist gets.  Nothing beats the ’80s for me as far as pop songs (and, let’s face it, most things) are concerned.

* I’ve never been Too Busy Being Goth to watch Strictly.