Category Archives: Musings and Thoughts

A Rather Laidback Review | The Calais Sessions

I was excited about ordering this CD. It combines two of the things I am very passionate about in my life: my love of music and the work I do with refugees in our local area. I’ve always enjoyed learning about other cultures and their varying traditions. So when I saw an advert asking me to purchase The Calais Sessions CD, I knew it was something that needed to be on my shelves.

calais-sessions-cd-cover

The album is a collection of songs featuring musicians who resided in the Calais Jungle. A makeshift studio was set up in the camp and an array of instruments were offered to the people. The website and album sleeve both promote this as the voices of those people behind the headlines. But it is also an expression of raw and pure emotion from those who have fled their homes because of traumas the majority of British folk can never truly understand.

My first time listening to the album was in the kitchen (a fine place to review an album), cooking up a fusion of Italian and Spanish. The first track was ideal for the job, as I needed to make a basic bread dough and knead for 5 minutes. On shuffle, the first song played was Deskovo Oro, an ideal 6 minutes and 11 seconds long. I finished kneading just in time for the song to change over.

The track was produced quickly, with all of the musicians involved being given a chance to express their skills and styles through their own adaptation of Blagoja Deskoski’s track of the same title. Lead by a Romanian violinist, there is a clear bass established through drums and other string instruments then accompany. It’s fast-paced and had me moving around the kitchen more than I would had I not been listening to the track. With no vocals, I wasn’t distracted and so focused entirely on the stunning sound.

Many of the songs are in a different language. The opening track to the album is called The Lost Singer, performed by four Syrians and dedicated – the CD sleeve has kindly translated the words – to ‘the Syrian martyrs’. La Llorana is a Spanish song, telling a truly sorrowful story. Ya Rab’oun was written by 21 Abdullah from Kuwait, where the main language is Arabic. Khandahar is sung in Farsi, though the original poem was written in English. Yesus and Hallelujah are both sung by singers of Ethiopian and Eritrean origin. The track Ismail is named after the artist, who was known as ‘the music man of the jungle’, who fled his country after being threatened by the Taliban who refused to let him perform.

University Story is a collaboration between an Iraqi rapper and two UK volunteers who have done a lot of work in the Jungle. It is a mixture of languages: I’m not sure whether the rap is done in Kurdish or Arabic – it doesn’t sound familiar to me at all, so I assume not Arabic. It’s a stunning song, with the English lyrics summarising the physical reaction to a love torn by distance.

Long Road has a traditional folk sound to it. It was produced by the team who ran The Calais Sessions, and is dedicated to all the musicians they’d discovered in the Jungle. It summarises to beautifully the natural association with all refugees “so far from home” and touches on the sentiment of those volunteers who can picture their home as the place they will return to, knowing that the people this track is aimed at cannot do the same.

It is the giggles at the end of Deskovo Oro and the cheers and whooping at the end of bonus track Every Heart That Loves which captures my heart. No matter how terrible the situation may be, music can always be a way to release emotion, share emotion and have voices heard. Even if you don’t understand the words, you cannot connect with the voice and the instruments and join with the story.

For me, the album is beauty. When listening to it is easy to forget that this beauty was created in a place symbolic of loss and devastation. It had me dancing around my kitchen and I have already grasped a couple of lyrics so that I am singing along.

All profits from the sale of this album go to Citizens UK. To get your own copy head over to http://www.thecalaissessions.com/buy-music

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A Valentines Playlist

I’m not often the soppy sort. I don’t often put kisses on the end of text messages, and I don’t often as much as sniffle at an on-screen break-up.

I don’t remember ever sitting at a candlelit table, adorned with rose petals and accompanied by a tall glass of fizz, staring into the eyes of my dearest. In fact, the last Valentine’s I remember being any different to the others, I had just finished with a boyfriend. He’d planned the most horrendous evening for us, and those plans had solidified my belief that we were too different, not made to fit together.

It is not that I am a bitter spinster. It is not that I do not enjoy romance. It’s simply not really my thing. Besides, the Six Nations are on, so I’ll probably be spending the weekend working the day around that event instead.

That said, I do have some favourite love songs. The song which reminds you of that wonderful feeling of being in love. That song which brings joy to your heart at a happy memory shared with a special person. Even that song which tears your soul to pieces, remembering the love that once was but is no longer. So, I’ve decided to share with you a little Valentines playlist – songs somewhat based on the theme of love.

ScreenHunter_123 Feb. 12 19.57

Wales, and more importantly, the Welsh voice has always been one of my great loves. Moving East was a difficult decision to make simply because I would lose that tie to the country, casting more and more miles between us. But, though my accent lacks any of the Welsh melody, I will always hold a place there in my heart. And so my first two selections come from the valleys.

There are two slow songs which will always get me on the dancefloor, swaying with anyone who I can drag up with me. One is “The Slipper Song” by Hull-band Streaming Lights. And the other – more widely played at discos – is “Autumn Leaves” by the legendary Tom Jones.

In his words: Boot-i-ful!

And next on the Welsh Love Section is Toy Horses with “Love At An Arm’s Length”. Just a lovely song, exploring the concept of love; perhaps even the most lovely break-up song, if you choose to read into that element of the lyrics. I can safely say that I do tend to keep love – not just romantic love – at an arm’s length. I make friends easily, but I have a choice selection of true best friends. I could name them only needing to raise one arm. And so this song reflects that aspect of me. I welcome people into my world, but rarely into my embrace.

Next, is a song about lust. I love Meat Loaf, and I do just love this song. The lyrics are pretty simple really, using the style of a baseball commentary for the naughty section where the guy tries to get his end in. But that’s what lust is: a simple explosion of hormones. I guess love isn’t much different: a surge of emotions triggered by a chemical reaction. So, this song is certainly suitable for a Valentine’s playlist.

I’ve fallen a little bit in love with Frankie & The Heartstrings. Having known a few of their songs, it wasn’t until I saw them live just over a week ago at Adelphi that I took that last leap into pure adoration. “Tender” has those lovely – well – tender moments, as well as fun upbeat sections where you can bounce around and be a bit silly. This is what love means to me – someone who can share those low ebbing emotions with you as well as those ecstatic moments of chaos and excitement. Love is someone who will be there for you when you’re feeling utterly rubbish as well as when everything is sunshine and roses.

And so I shall come to an end with a song which simply holds the emotions of love and joy in every chord, every syllable. I don’t have a Mr Right, or even a Mr Right Now. But I do have a soulmate in my best friend. And we have a song which shall always and forever be our song. Fall Out Boy‘s “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race”… or is that “Arse Face”…

I don’t think we ever sing the actual lyrics anymore.

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So, not a conventional Valentine’s playlist, but one which is every shade of love.

And not even the tiniest shade of grey.

Showing Some Love For Coaves

I’ve been talking about these guys a lot recently. To anyone who’ll listen.

It’s not simply because I’ve been doing some work with them recently – they’ll feature on the cover of Browse Magazine this week. Quite honestly, I just have a lot to say about them.

Coaves at the Sesh  Photo by Luke Hallett
Coaves at the Sesh
Photo by Luke Hallett

Coaves are a band of four lively lads, who create a sunny rock sound which is quickly gets you moving. With three strong singers, their vocals are something completely different to what a lot of bands offer. Add to that their musical talents (we can’t forget Connor on drums, who Alan Raw described as one of the best drummers in Hull), and you’ve got an awful lot to shout about.

Tomorrow, they are hosting their single launch for new track ‘Waves’, held at the Adelphi and for a mere cost of £3. They admitted that the track sounds somewhat like another of their singles, ‘Change Your Mind’, but this one offers even more layers of sound and Jon Calvert, lead vocalist, has to work hard to sing some of the lines very quickly. Chatting with Alan Raw on BBC Introducing this Saturday, they noted the additional layer of sound through use of clapping on the track, with Calvert referring to himself as “singer, guitarist and clappist”. This is rather subtle on the track, but a great addition to their animated live sets.

Performing on BBC Introducing Humberside
Performing on BBC Introducing Humberside

Playing every gig like it’s packed, Coaves have gained a reputation for putting on a good show. Their last gig saw them supporting Pigeon Detectives, alongside The Hubbards, and they opened the night with a whirlwind of sound and enthusiasm.

It is their energetic style which gained my interest in the first place, and it is their flair and excitement that has me hooked. It’s not just on stage or in the studio that these guys demonstrate their enthusiasm; they’re just bouncing all the time. The banter during rehearsals is ongoing. During the set up at BBC Introducing, which I was fortunate enough to be witness to, Connor was granted several nicknames by the other lads – the teasing of good friends, which they were comfortable to share.

Attempting a serious pose
Attempting a serious pose

I was there as a member of Browse, interviewing the band for the cover feature, alongside one of our fantastic photographers, Chris Pepper, who had the task of taking several shots. Our main issue was simply to get them to take a serious shot. Chortling through the customary ‘stand in a row and look somewhat moody’ pose, we had to consider alternatives. It was neither Chris nor myself who guided this however, as Liam suggested they do a superhero shot and then they ended up behind the café counter, preparing to serve us imaginary drinks and soup.

Taking on a different role
Taking on a different role

I’m often asked who the best bands in Hull are. When I say that I’m a music writer, or mention Browse, it’s one of the first things people often question. My generic response is, “As with my students, I do not have favourites…” of which everyone knows is ridiculously sarcastic (I have favourite students, and I have favourite bands – I’m not great at hiding either of these facts). But then I’ll rush into a list of wonderful performers, and then into a list of those who are just simply wonderful. Not just for their music, but because their personalities shine.

I guess that was the purpose of this blog post. I should probably be writing a last minute preview for their single launch event. But as I sat to write their brief bio for Browse this week, I felt the urge to write more.

Coaves single launch

Why do I love Coaves? Why are they one of my top 10 Hull bands? Because they are everything I love about the Hull music scene. They’re lively lads with infinite enthusiasm, who take their music seriously but not themselves. They’re a good laugh to be around, making time slip quickly by as you join in with the silly moment which arise around them. They’re genuinely good guys who have a passion and a spirit which deserves to see them reaching those high goals.

So, a final plug for tomorrow’s event: for £3 you get a night of fantastic music from three fantastic bands, as well as free download of their new single ‘Waves’ exclusively released to those who attend.

And a final word: if you haven’t listened to their music yet, get on it!

Top 5 Browse Moments of 2014

This year has been a year of changes. A year where bridges have been mended and new friendships forged. I started a new school and joined the team of Browse Magazine.

Now, just before I look forward to the exciting newness of 2015, I’m going to look back over the last few months of 2014 – my time with Browse and the wonderful opportunities I’ve had while being a part of the team.

Photo by Luke Hallett
Photo by Luke Hallett

It started with Issue 004: MOTHER when I was asked to review the band COAVES as part of the weekly Sesh review. Three reviewers reviewing three bands; I was glad to get these guys. Their music is that wonderful mixture of sunny tunes, guitar-lead instrumentals and copious amounts of talent. Three confident singers, they come together to produce a sublime sound, and they’re never scared to try something new and admit when something doesn’t work.

Recently, I’ve been doing some more work with COAVES, who have competed in the Scunthorpe Rock Open and supported Pigeon Detectives at Fruit, and will be starting the year working with the band to promote their single ‘Waves’. They are certainly ones to look out for.

Photo by Stew Baxter, Warren Records
Photo by Stew Baxter, Warren Records

Another of my favourite Hull bands is LIFE, who featured on the front cover of issue 009. Published the same night as they performed with Kaiser Chiefs for the Adelphi 30 celebrations, we stated that that was the reason for featuring them – Black Delta Movement had received loads of press from the Hull Daily Mail, so we felt LIFE deserved a little bit too. In truth, our editor decided that if we got them in then Meg and I might stop going on about them so much. As if!

So, on top of reviewing them at the Adelphi 30 gig, Meg and I got to interview lead singer Mez and his guitarist brother Mick: our first videoed interview for the magazine. We’d both met them before at Press Pack and the interview felt much more like a chat than a Q&A, which was the perfect way to start off this additional role for the mag. We were both glad that there wasn’t the room for us to feature on the screen – the confidence for this would come later…

The Talks @ Welly

As time has progressed, I’ve taken on more and more at Browse. But issue 013 (unlucky for some) was one I felt particularly proud of. Our cover band were The Talks, an amazing ska band who I realised I had first seen perform on an episode of Hollyoaks! Working hard over the half term, I contacted the band for a text interview while they were touring Europe for their album launch, as well as writing the bio, an album review and then headed out on a schoolnight to review their hometown gig at the Welly. It was fantastic to work with them, pestering them to meet deadlines and then hugging a very sweaty Pat at the end of their gig.

And their album is one I play over and over. It’s fantastic for that Friday night feeling, when you’re physically destroyed after the working week but emotionally ready to go out and party for the weekend. Energetic tunes with meaningful lyrics – it’s easy to miss the message within the words, but you should listen to them carefully the next time you get a chance.

Photo by Chris Pepper
Photo by Chris Pepper

This leads me directly into the first time I featured on a video interview. As with issue 013, I took on writing the main features of issue 016: Black Delta Movement. Having annoyed myself at being too busy to interview Hillbilly Troupe in the previous issue, I was excited to be working with this band. I’d reviewed them as part of many of the festivals, the Adelphi 30 gig and as part of Hulloween, but I’d never reviewed them as the focal feature.

I’ve often felt the disadvantage of not being born and bred in Hull. I didn’t go to school with any member of the bands in the area – I’ve taught a couple – and often my face is just one of many in a crowd. But these lads didn’t care about that. Bass player Liam informed me that his mum reads all my stuff, and the pre-interview chat was comfortable and relaxed.

My confidence soared from this point; not just on-screen but generally in myself. I was at the point where I knew people were reading my stuff and offering me some positive feedback (always lovely to hear) and I was taking on more and more opportunities, putting myself out there and becoming a firm feature within the magazine.

Dan Mawer - La Bete Blooms

To pick a final feature is actually the hardest of them all. But I went with another band who I have interviewed and reviewed, now a couple of times. This feature was actually all a bit last minute for me. For issue 012, I met up with La Bête Blooms for a short video interview and a review of their EP launch at Fruit. Nobody else was free to interview, so I agreed. This was fine, all planned and going as expected. That was until I was informed that the person reviewing wasn’t able to make it. I turned to Luke, our photographer, and sagged at the concept of the late night before school. But I was there and it was due to finish before midnight – not too late.

I had listened to their tracks as part of the research for the interview, so I had an idea of what to expect. They’d mentioned that their live sound was quite different to their mastered and recorded stuff. But I was not in any way prepared for what I experienced in the intimate back room of Fruit. I commented that there is a beast within the band, and I stand by that. Dan Mawer is one of the nicest guys I have ever met: he never misses the chance to say hello if you’re in the same room as him, he always asks how the mag is doing, and his smile is the most positively charming sight you’ll see at the Sesh on a Tuesday. Then you throw a guitar his way and get him on that stage and you’re blinded by the transformation. That smile will be there at the start, but a guitar solo later and he is smashing the place up. I was amazed to see every mic stand upturned by the end of the set, and recall rushing home to write up my notes so that the review included everything I took from my first La Bête Blooms experience.

Four months of working for the magazine, now I can’t imagine my life without at least one gig a week and lists of artists I need to contact. My CD collection has taken on a strong Hull accent. My friends fall into two categories: those I gig with and those who listen to my constant reviews of gigs (even if they’ve just read it online).

I’ve always said you should start the year as you mean to go on. And so Browse Mag Sessions #2: NYE is the place I will be: alongside friends old and new, amidst writers, photographers, musicians and readers.

2015 sees a lot of new starts for me, but being a part of Browse is something I am pleased to say will continue. Here’s to more exciting experiences.

My Favourite Film: a reflection

Me Without You

I’m not even sure how I came to own my copy of Me Without You. I believe my mum got it in some deal, possibly even free with a magazine. However, I came across it, it replaced such cult classics The Goonies and Labyrinth as my all-time favourite. This is the film I force my friends to watch when I just need to wallow in emotions, the one girly film any romantic partner is forced to endure. And, at the very least, pretend to enjoy.

Me Without You

It instantly drew me in because of its soundtrack. Classics of the 70s and 80s with Barbara Dickson, The Clash and Wreckless Eric, how could I not fall in love. Lucy Street’s ‘White Horses’ introduces the audiences to a typical street in 1973 – the recklessness of youth – where we meet the main characters Marina and Holly, two seemingly different girls who just happen to live nextdoor to each other.

When I sat down on DVD night with my best friend, I realised that – were this film to reflect any aspect of my own life – I would be the carefree, chaotic Marina, played by Anna Friel, and she the mousey, careful Holly, played by Michelle Williams. My childhood, just as Marina’s in the film, was that of a broken home in a time when divorce was neither cool nor common. Still, I always felt I was Marina, the collaboration of the two girls as one, as displayed in a childish form of witchcraft in the opening scenes.

My best friend - Lolly
My best friend – Lolly

As well as a captivating soundtrack, which takes you through the emotions, this film has a raw honesty which perfectly reflects the transition between adolescence and adulthood. With literary references such as Robert Graves’ “Love is a universal migraine” and more simplistic comments o society – “some people are pretty people; some people are smart people” – this film 107 minutes of critique on a society in development.

There are many forms of love in the world, and this film picks at each of them.

Romantic love, the combination of passion, lust and commitment, takes a strong footing. Holly begins a long attachment to Marina’s Nat, played by Oliver Milburn, which seems destined to be doomed from the start. Marina, whose father was rarely around, has a string of unsatisfactory lovers, and even sees her change religion in a hope for something true and pure.

But it is the love between the two female characters which shines through the murky waters of romance. From start to finish Marina and Holly play a game of battleships as they fight to stay friends through the odds, with the sentiments summed up when the words “There’s no me without you,” escape the lips of a desperate Marina.

There's no me without her
There’s no me without her

It is this sentiment that makes this the chick flick of my choice. I refer to my best friend as my soul mate, a friend above friends in the bigger picture. Without her, I can’t image life. We’re not close by most of the time, with her down in London and me up in the mysterious North, but so long as I am able to send a postcard or pick up the phone for a chat, life is good.

This film is a depiction of life, of all that makes life living: the good, the bad, the downright ugly moments.

Christmas Music Memories

It’s that that time of year again. When the dark night draw in the cold, but there are classic movies on every other channel. When brass bands and choirs play for money outside shops filled with tacky gifts and novelty jumpers. When the nation is divided between those who embrace the festive spirit and those who attack it.

I love Christmas. For me, it starts in September. My mum’s birthday is the last big birthday of the year, and so Christmas shopping usually starts the day after. And, of course, the shops have already started putting out the Christmas chocs and giftsets of body lotion nobody will ever use.

It really becomes Christmas when the first song is heard in the shopping centre. Usually mid-November. By now, every store has its own Christmas playlist.

I haven’t written a ‘Music Memories’ for a while. I’d hoped to make it a bi-weekly feature, but preparation for the future got in the way of remembering the past. Christmas, however, is a time when the past is mulled over with a glass of wine and cheery tune.

Here’s my Christmas playlist:

#1 Wizzard – I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day

We used to live close to lead singer Roy Wood, and as a naïve youngster I was always surprised that he didn’t have long white hair. We’d see him at the local store where my mum used to work, getting his milk or bread, and we’d get so excited. No matter what time of year, my brother and I would start singing this tune; often out loud enough for him to give us a very dirty look and the tiniest of a smile. We were too young to know any of Wizzard’s other songs, but we loved this one.

And a Christmas playlist wouldn’t be the same without it.

#2 Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas? (1984)

This song defines Christmas for me. A time when we think of everyone: those we love, those we used to love, and those who need our love.

I’m quite a charitable person. I don’t have a million direct debits to faceless charity organisations or sponsor a zoo of animals across the globe. But I’ve always believed that you should do as you preach, and I believe a pure heart is a charitable heart.

When I was a kid, too small to roam the streets alone but living in a safe enough community that my parents didn’t worry too much, we used to give out mince pies to the homeless. I don’t remember whether we made them at home or at school, or even a combination of both. But I remember handing the warm handmade pies, all lopsided and spilling with mincemeat. It wasn’t much, and it was one night of the year, but it made a difference.

Band Aid 30 has been slated this year but it still got to Number One. Because it isn’t much, and it’s only once every ten years, but it makes a difference.

#3 The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl –Fairytale of New York

This is one of my favourite songs, and is the first to be placed on any Christmas playlist. A hauntingly beautiful sound, bringing together all the emotions of Christmas time.

And I love the video because one my first ever celebrity crushes features as a police officer who arrests MacGowan in the opening scenes. I loved Matt Dillon as a teenage girl; always did go for the bad boy with the cute smile.

Besides, Christmas is the time of year I drink the most alcohol, so a song sung with a drunken slur fits the bill.

#4 Stille Nacht

There are certain elements of my German heritage which I am incredibly proud of. Just as much as my English/Welsh heritage, but somewhat ignited by the anger people still have for the nation.

When Nana was alive, we opened presents with her on Christmas Eve, as is tradition in Germany and many European countries. Our Christmas dinner comes with about six different types of veg, as we have Sauerkraut and Rotkaul alongside the peas and mashed potato. I actually can’t stand either of these German side dishes, but I would certainly pass up on Christmas cake or Christmas pudding for a slice of Stollen.

Now, because she isn’t here to celebrate with us, we visit her grave on Christmas Eve, decorating it with flowers just as she would want it.

And for as long as I’ve known, whenever the song Silent Night is played, I sing the German chorus.

#5 Manic Street Preachers – The Ghost of Christmas

It was difficult to select which Manics Christmas song to choose – this or James Dean Bradfield’s version of Wham’s Last Christmas. But this one is perfect.

A song of nostalgia, looking back at their childhood Christmases. Of a time when imagination came in the sackload and the football wasn’t on the screen of a brand new flat screen.

This is what Christmas will always be about for me. The gifts and the silliness. It reminds me of some of the best Christmases.

The year my brother learned how to crawl onto the kitchen counter and downed Mum’s Snowball. He slept well that night.

The first year Christmas was just Mum, Johnnie and me. We both got new stereos and we spent Christmas morning wrapped up in our dressing gowns on Mum’s bed listening to our favourite tunes.

The Christmas Eve I had to work, when Mum drove to Lincoln to pick me up at 8am on Christmas morning so that I could spend the day with family. I looked a mess – pretty much straight out of the shower and into the car.

Christmas is a time for joy, but sorrow hangs so easily over our heads at this time of year. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cry every year when I write my Christmas cards – for those who I no longer need to write them to and those who I should be handing them over to instead posting far far away. Not writing the word Grandad broke my heart only this weekend.

But Christmas is a time to remember. Memories of the good times. Getting my first CD player. The day my baby brother was born. Standing at the back of the local chapel, with the man who baptised me at the other end of the aisle, and my grandparent’s singing Christmas carols. And the clip Graandad once gave me when I sang the ‘wrong words’ to Silent Night a little too loudly.

This is my Christmas playlist, scattered with glittering Christmas memories.

Creative Thoughts

I don’t frequent art galleries; I spend as much of my time ‘out of the office’ in music venues. This is generally the art which speaks to me.

A piece of art which caught my eye in Verona, Italy.
A piece of art which caught my eye in Verona, Italy.

My friends are all of the creative variety. My best friend studied Media at university and likes to paint. She’s a primary school teacher, so probably has to be a bit creative. Another friend is an Art teacher at a Secondary school. She is visually creative, her wardrobe a rainbow of textures and patterns and always on the lookout for something to photograph. Then there’s the Taekwondo instructor who has written her own book. And, I guess there’s me, who writes this blog and other bits and bobs for anyone who’ll accept it.

Back to my initial point. I don’t frequent art galleries. I mean, I’ve been to Feren’s a couple of times and tend to visit the big galleries in London when I visit the bestie. But I don’t instinctively think of visiting them when I’m just simply bored and looking for something to do. This is when I get the laptop out and either start writing or seek out the next gig on in order to have something to write about.

My music writing isn’t technical. My photography is becoming more so, in order to capture the moment as it felt for me. This is the reason I write, the aim I have when I put finger to keyboard. I want to capture the moment of ecstasy, of awe, of mind-boggling joy. And this is art. I – to use a cliché – paint with words.

Hulloween @ Union Mash Up

For Halloween I was covering the Hulloween events, and stepped foot into the Alive with Art gallery currently located nextdoor to the Union Mash Up restaurant. There I watched Martin Lewsley, who also goes by the name Martin Yelswel, perform to a small gathering of people. I glanced at the artwork, and I pointed out one or two I rather liked to a friend, had a little chat about it. But I couldn’t discuss the technical details in the way I can dissect Great Expectations or The Hunger Games. “…there’s nothing technical about art really. It either works for the person or it doesn’t” Martin Lewsley told me when discussing the events of the weekend. He was one of the organisers for Hulloween, alongside friend and co-organiser of the Alive with Art gallery, Anna Bean and local musician Lloyd Dobbs, of Paddingtons and Hillbilly Troupe fame.

I considered this statement.

My grandma painted when she was younger. A stroke caused her to lose the ability to hold a paintbrush securely in her left hand. It took her agonising years to confidently show us some of her work, which always focused on the beauty of nature around us. My mum has a stunning picture of hers in her bathroom, of delicate purple flowers. My grandma is a watercolour artist.

Across the road from her, a lad with cerebral palsy used to paint (I don’t know if he still does), using his mouth as the tool to hold the brush.

If I think about it enough, everyone I know has a creative outlet. It doesn’t have to be the thing everyone is doing or the obvious forms of Art, but the thing which gives you that opportunity to express your true self. Even my dad, who can come across as cold and bereft of emotion, has his outlet in rebuilding and redesigning motor vehicles; his pride and joy having been his custom-built motorbike.

Art is the drug which guides us to positive emotion. Whatever form of creativity works for you, works.

Some of the street art produced at Humber Street Sesh 2014
Some of the street art produced at Humber Street Sesh 2014

I was saddened, though I’d been there only the once, to hear that the Alive with Art gallery is closing this week. Next week, no doubt, it will be another bar among bars on Princes Avenue. Martin explained that he and Anna had set it up as a “platform for local artists”, but it is something which takes a considerable amount of both time and money.

Like me, he has to work in order to pay the bills, casting his creative passions into an additional net alongside that which sustains existence. I am fortunate enough to be able to link my passion in with work, leading a Young Journalists Club for my students and being a concrete example of how and why to write. This is a reflection of the pop-up society in which we work in. The drive to exist is often stronger than the drive to live.

Some of the art produced for Freedom Festival 2014
Some of the art produced for Freedom Festival 2014

I didn’t start writing this with any agenda. It literally popped up as Martin messaged me to inform me of the closure of the gallery, and stemmed into a discussion of art, creativity and the barricades which need jumping over in order to sustain our passions. I’m not even trying to suggest that the jobs we take on are a burden to creativity, though they can be. I love teaching, and have always loved teaching, but I need to write. Just as musicians need to make music, artists need to paint what they want to paint.

And so, I urge you to visit the Alive with Art gallery on Princes Avenue if you get the chance in these last few days. And I ask you, as I will tell myself, to test the water of all arts. Listen to a different genre of music today – recently I have fallen in love with ska – or pick up a book from the shelf opposite your usual corner of the bookstore. Consider the person behind the art. If it’s not for you, don’t worry. If you find something new and exciting, bonus. There will always be at least that one person who is grateful you made the effort.

 Martin also writes his own blog; a mash of thoughts and reviews, interviews and commentaries.

Musings From The Mosh Pit

In interviews, many bands have commented that they feel a different sense of joy with a hometown audience. That the atmosphere is different, the adrenalin targeting different zones of the brain.

Can it be possible that you feel a similar sensation as a member of the hometown audience?

This is something I’ve been muddling over in my brain for some time now. I spent my summer camped out at festivals 20 minutes walk from my front door. I saw the same bands play over and over. And I got excited about it every time.

Trinity Festival ended with a visit from Eastbourne’s Toploader. Popular at the brink of the millennium, I had worn down my copy of Onka’s Big Moka in my teenage years. I knew that I’d still have the lyrics to almost all of the songs catalogued somewhere in the back of my brain. Yet, it was during their set that I allowed other members of the audience to get on my nerves. Pushing and screeching and clawing for attention, it wasn’t actually that different to the audiences for the previous acts of the weekend, of which were mostly Hull-based. But my claimed section in front of the barrier was being attacked by those who had come for only that one band. I was at siege with people who had taken the time to get frazzled by alcohol on a warm day, when I had been promoting local talent and enjoying the undulating crowds who had supported them throughout.

I did, of course, enjoy Toploader’s performance. My friend having been trapped outside the sardine can centre of Trinity Square, I was back to being on my own. Though I was on my own in a large crowd rather than on my own with the stage. Perhaps this was the fault, this was the reason I let frustrations bite and nag at me. Like a grumpy toddler, I didn’t want to share.

No, my role as a music writer is to share the experience. I love the idea of bringing someone that same wonderful awe I get at a live gig. So, it isn’t that.

A week later, and I was crammed into the Adelphi with members of the community and long-running Kaiser Chief fans. I’d paid my way, as we all had, and again was working on a review. Their first album had also adorned my CD rack at one time, and I was genuinely ecstatic at the thought of seeing them perform. Yet, I finished the night biting my tongue and panicking that the review I would write would be negative. I’d attended with the same friend as Trinity, working together for the piece: she reviewing Black Delta Movement and LIFE, as I took on the international favourites.

Kaiser Chiefs @ Adelphi
Kaiser Chiefs @ Adelphi

I couldn’t explain it. I had simply enjoyed BDM and LIFE better. Chatting with Mick Sanders, LIFE, after the gig, he pointed out that it was exactly the same set as they played at Trinity. I had worked this out after two songs, and realised that it had only enhanced the experience. I was seconds ahead of the other audience members when it came to knowing the words, and even called out the title of their final song as they warmed up to it: instinct pumping the adrenalin as I burst into the catchy opening line and bounced to the familiar tune.

It wasn’t that Kaiser Chiefs or Toploader didn’t put on show. Ricky Wilson was credited for demonstrating exactly how to do this, having interacted with the crowd throughout with anecdotes, clapping and a runway to the bar.

The Colour Line performing at The Sesh
The Colour Line performing at The Sesh

Last night, I attended The Sesh – a regular event showcasing local talent. I can only manage this during school holidays, and the bands in the line-up were four I had not seen live. Three were Hull bands, one including James Coggin who I’d interviewed a couple of weeks before with a different band, and the fourth was a special guest from California, Plague Vendor who are currently touring with The Black Lips. It was amazing; there were times you couldn’t wipe the grin from my face.

Chasing Athena held stunning instrumentals, and lead singer Ian Berry has a beautiful voice which digs into your soul. Age of Atlas told bizarre jokes and had technical issues, but were magical to watch on stage, a heat of energy. Headliners for the night, The Colour Line refused to let themselves be confined by the stage, and I ended up in a mosh pit for the first time since leaving university. Then, a younger more invisible self, I’d prefer to stand and watch from the outside. Now, I touched more backsides than you probably should on a Tuesday night, as I helped carry the performers into the crowd or back to the stage. I did spend a considerable amount of the set viewing the antics of the audience, frantically galloping like gorillas in a circle pit, bouncing mops of hair throwing their sweat around, and general movement as they followed Sam Rudderforth around The Polar Bear. I watched as the photographer for the night cast aside his camera and join them, taking the opportunity to attempt getting one shot which wasn’t all blur.

Daniel Mawer, La Bête Blooms
Daniel Mawer, La Bête Blooms

Dan Mawer, who books the acts for the event, and who I had met when interviewing him as lead singer of La Bête Blooms, asked which had been my favourite of the bands. I couldn’t place just one of them. I’d enjoyed them all for different reasons and regarded them as highly as each other within this respective field. I would happily see each them perform again in the near future. I felt bad for not giving a simple response, and standing confused before him.

I’m not sure I can make my point on this. I’m not sure there is an answer to the question posed, because I’m not entirely sure if this is just me overthinking something rather basic.

It could be that with bands such as Life and Black Delta Movement, I have forged a bond through numerous writings on them as subject matter. It may be that live performances have always been more on the small, more intimate scale for me, and that it’s this that captivates me. Perhaps the polished showmanship of international performers is too polished; I enjoy the spontaneity and raw energy of a local gig, which bounces from its audience as much as with them.

LIFE - Mez
LIFE – Mez
Black Delta Movement
Black Delta Movement

I don’t think I need an answer. But I did need to mull it over, to share my musings from the mosh pit. To express my discomfort with my thoughts.

I’d appreciate your thoughts too. Local bands vs International. A preference? A difference? A sensation?

Female Takeover – Challenging Gender Inequality in Music

I didn’t really listen to women when I was a child. Women didn’t feature on our stereo at home.

Dad was into Rush and Pink Floyd. Mum was into Meat Loaf, who did have Patti Russo – a vocally strong woman – supporting. But then I always liked that song where they basically sing about the guy wanting to get in her pants, and her gaining power by not letting him.

My stepmother brought a very different collection of music with her, and I was introduced to Grace Slick, an American singer and former model. She was a wild woman, who performed with many bands, only to be inevitably asked to leave because of her alcoholism and the manner in which she acted when intoxicated. Her solo album – which I played on repeat – was about her experiences when intoxicated and the 12-step programs she attended to evade this negative lifestyle.

My love of Grace Slick came at a time when I was battling my own demons. I felt like the only place to hide was in the warm embrace of strong women such as Slick, who had produced a Top40 album when she had every reason to give up and stop performing Alongside Slick, I devoured the words of Bikini Kill, Siouxsie Sioux and even Patti Smith. These women sang about what every young girl wants – to be a strong, powerful woman in this male-dominated world.

With a background like this, where such dominant women took on such a role, I should have found it easy to name five female artists in Hull. I could, with a lot of time to think.

So, when we asked Lyn Acton and Sally Currie (better known as the Dyr Sister) if they had ever encountered discrimination in the music industry, I was surprised at their surprise to be asked such a thing. Lyn physically responded by pursing her lips and shaking her head. She admitted that there were no female producers or bass players when she first started her music career, but said she had not felt directly discriminated against. A sentiment which Sally mirrored.

Still, I felt – as a woman – I should be supporting female acts. Further into the discussion, Lyn said something which summed up that niggling feminist part of my brain which was yelling at me by this point. Women don’t get asked to headline. Women don’t, traditionally, perform headline acts – in a way in which is suitable for a headline. As far as the Hull music scene, I wasn’t aware of more than a handful of female performers, for this exact reason.

I enjoy the music of Pearls Cab Ride and the Happy Endings as much as I do Streaming Lights or Counting Coins. But were you to ask for a Hull act, my brain would jump to the latter options.

Is gender-inequality so engrained into society that even a female music reviewer does not consider female musicians on the same level as their male counterparts? Do women fail to succeed because their audiences fail to accept them with an open embrace?

This is just one the reasons why such events as the Female Takeover at The Warren is so vital. With an aim to challenge gender stereotypes – in the music industry and beyond – and offering workshops on everything from song writing to music production to performance techniques, this is a week when young women in Hull can develop their skills without the need to fight against the allegedly stronger sex.

If you’re aged 16-25 and are a woman, then head on down to check out these opportunities.

female takeover 2014 poster

FIVE SONGS which help end a stressful week

During the first few issues of Browse Magazine, of which are now in double figures, I had a regular feature which involved summarising the music festivals of the summer in 5 songs.

This week I do aim to review an album, which could be summed up in my top 5 songs. But I can’t face writing for work yet – whether it be a lesson plan for my paid occupation or an article for my freelance work of which this funds.

At the end of this work, the only music I want to listen to will do one of two things: allow me to wallow a little or to perk me up.

It’s been a stressful week. When Hull Fair is in town, all teachers feel it. Before the first ride is uncovered, before the first stretch of tarmac is laid, and even before the first child has come running up to ask that ever-important question – “Are you going to Hull Fair?” – we feel it. It’s a stress which starts to bubble and churn, causing terrible indigestion and a desire to bring back all forms of horrific punishments from the dark-ages of teaching. There’s been other stuff on top of that, creating a inedible layered cake of frustration, anger and disbelief.

So, I thought I’d give you, my readers, a taste of my sweet relief. Music has always been a go-to tool for calming. As a teenager my mother mocked me, as I seemed to only play heavy metal when I had a headache. But it worked, so I did it.

Today, my stress playlist looks somewhat like this:

1. I’ll start with something which allows the stress and anger to seethe. I need to wallow just a little longer, to ensure that everything has had a chance to come to the surface. You must face your problems, even if it’s in a dark room with only the laptop on as you scroll for the perfect tune.

A rather new addition to my collection, but a perfect one. Even if it’s just so I have an excuse to swear loudly as I sing along.

2. Secondly, a traditional song for me as I’ve played this for over a decade during stressful situations. Every argument I had with my father resulted in me grabbing this CD and hiding in my room.

Grace Slick’s album Dreams has many wonderful songs, mostly about getting really high on drugs. Perhaps that’s why I have never needed to use recreational drugs in order to ‘get away from it all’, as I let others’ experiences cast me off into an imaginary trip.

It was difficult to select a song from the album. Admittedly, I usually play the title song. But the lyrics of this song are much more ideal.

3. Now, I’ll need to bring myself out of the wallowing stage. I’m a master of dragging myself out of the quicksand; never letting myself sink too far. This stage requires something a little angry but a little dancey and fun. So, I’ll always turn to some of the popular ‘emo pop’ tunes of the early Noughties.

Often when I think of Fall Out Boy, I think of This Ain’t A Scene… as it’s a favourite song my best friend and I share. However, I’m not ready to laugh yet. I’m just starting to feel better, and I need to scream a dancey song, not necessarily dance to it.

4. Now, I’m ready to dance. You need to start distressing by screaming and shouting. Then, you need to shake it off. So, I get the ska out. And my favourite ska band? Hull’s wonderful Counting Coins.

GO!

5. You know what’s missing from this collection of 5 songs? Some Manics! I’d possibly start with one of their darker tunes if I hadn’t begun with Frank Turner. So, I shall end with a song which is so fuelled by memories that it neither happy nor sad. I am at equilibrium of emotion, having both wallowed and danced, and now I’m ready to simply listen to the tunes and enjoy the music.

Besides, James Dean Bradfield’s voice is enough to cure any sorrow. And I love the video to this song.

I feel better already.