Saturday, 26 November 2011

Spires: Bradford Rio's 25/11/2011

We had a strange and wonderful experience last night at a gig for the band Spires, amoungst others. Bradford Rio's is one of those tiny venues that would probably take a hundred...if half the audience stood on the other half. The bands have to walk past you to get to the stage (when you walk in, you walk past the stage!) and you're often having to avoid equipment lying around, or move aside for the band!

Spires were the band we were looking for, Mark has discovered they were playing and decided to give them a listen to, and soon after bought their excellent album (and t-shirt), Spiral of Ascension. I would personally say that Spires are the bastard love child of Mastadon and Opeth...but I don't want to belittle their contribution to the Prog Metal scene, as their style is very distinctive. With melodic tunes, excellent singing and the occasional 'roar'! part, they are a very satisfying and diverting listen. Normally I'm not so keen in the roar parts of the song (I like to hear the lyrics so I can sing along!) in Spires' case the roar sections fit the music beautifully, rather than just being inserted because they are expected to be there.

All in all Spires are an intelligent, complex and exciting listen (buy! Buy! Buy now!). And we love 'em.

But first up were a few bands. Now normally we would avoid opening acts, but we arrived at 9...and we still had three bands to go. The first up was Indigo (I think) with a lot of 12 year olds on stage. Not sure how metal they were, but the lead singer had the voice of a 50-a-day 45 year old. Quite amazing. I didn't catch the second band's name (sorry!) but they were very good, and there was some fun banter. The next band was Incassum, with a very pretty lead singer (I want her body! Ok...not for anything dirty...I mean I would have loved to be that slim...ah well, too many years...too much chocolate) who was tiny, and had a quite startling voice. You can watch their video here:


Then finally at 11:10pm, Spires. Hurrah! We moved further into the room as like a totally lazy sod I'd had a sit-down at the bar, so we wanted a better view. By this time I estimate there were perhaps three other people in the audience who weren't in a band that had played, what a shame, because we were in for a real treat.

They started with the amazing 'The Infinite Descent' which is just stunning and gorgeous. Then the lead singer, Paul Sadler, said that as there weren't too many people, they would go really proggy, and do their longest tracks. so we got to hear, live, Spiral of Ascension (my fave), then Broken Hourglass (Mark's fave).

My god were they good! Ok, so there wasn't too many people, but it didn't matter because the performance was just as good as I can imagine they would be to an audience of thousands. They were professional, sharp, and it contained as many layers as the CD, and was just as absorbing to listen to. If you want to get in on a band of the future, listen to these guys, because they deserve to be huge. We loved every minute.

Just before Broken Hourglass he thanked the audience for staying so late (some kids had left earlier, their loss!), then pointed at us, and said 'And don't think you two have gone unnoticed!'

Well, we both stared at each other, open-eyed. I know I got all hot, it was such a great thing to say! We both had a little smile, then they launched into the next song.

Once it was over I wanted to get a t-shirt, so we hung around. We spoke to the lead singer of Incassum for a while (who's lovely, it was worth chatting to her), then spoke to the manager to get a t-shirt. He went  out of his way to help us despite the late hour (I'm wearing the t-shirt now, it fits perfectly, thanks!). He thanked us again, and we shook hands with the bass player, Alex Jolley, and the drummer, Chris Barnard (Paul Sadler and Cuthbert were on stage packing up) and they both thanked us again. I regret now not getting their autographs. Darn.

Then it was home, and a nice cup-of-tea!

I think it was such a shame there was a poor turn out, because honestly all the bands were great, but I have to say that Spires were just a miracle. We enjoyed every note, the only shame being that the set was shorter than we would have liked (nothing short of the full album would have been long enough!) but having said that we left satisfied and on a high.

Mark said that in 20 (cough) + years of gigging, it was the first acknowledgement from the stage he had ever had!

So if you want to see a band before they get too big to be approachable, go see this amazing band now, because I don't think they'll be in small venues for much longer.

(Yes, that is the main exit/entrance visible in the back of the picture...)

Read their blog:


Please, please support this band, as they are brilliant!

Now available at Amazon:

*Hangman: An unflinching look at what happens when suicide invades people's lives, and the damage it does.
*Loser's Club: A novel about cats, murder, love and not love, envy, hate, and above all, losers.
*Tube Life: Join Angel as she tries to navigate life, love and the London Underground.
*Writer: Explore the dark recesses of a writer's mind, where horror is never far from reality.
dragoncity publishing

Friday, 25 November 2011

Motorhead, Manchester 02 Apollo, 18/11/2011

I'm a new convert to Motorhead, I have listened to 'Ace of Spades' for years, but until my boyfriend, that was as  far as I had got. So with a quick refresher of his back-catalogue, as well as the new stuff, we were off!

The band first on was the Anti-Nowhere League. Seemed ok, quite punky, and the first song we walked into involved a lot of f**king! As we sat down a 'gentleman' sat next me me, taking over my space with both his legs and his...smell. Dear god. Thankfully when the band left, so did he, not to return. But people kept coming and going the whole evening, making us stand, and blocking the view. The people behind us left before the end...wonder why...

Just before Motorhead came on, this large family came and sat beside us. Not really having noticed who had left I ignored them until the woman asked me how many had been sat next to me. unsure what she meant I replied two...turned out they were seat-jackers! They were literally going around looking for empty seats to take over! Of course the owners of he seats returned (not Mr. Smelly) and they all moved back a row (where the other people went I'm not sure??? to stand???). The adult male of the group was a pain, shouting all the time, and standing up to show his approval at the set list. I'm sure the folks behind him appreciated his enthusiasm as he blocked their view...

Also, right in front of me was Mr. I'm Wearing a Hat Because I;m Alternative. It didn't get in my way too much, or I would have asked him to take it off, but it was rude. Right at the front was a guy with several kids who were quite disruptive as they kept getting up and leaving. One was no more than 7, and he stood up leaning over the balcony a lot. I'm sure the people behind him also enjoyed that view! The little *tyke* also saw some prat throw a cup from the balcony and through this was great, and started to throw whatever he could find. His father did nothing to stop him, and laughed! So if you got a cup of water dumped on you, the kid was to blame. Terrible manners.

Motorhead stormed through a great set. There were little effects etc, and a drum solo...but overall the performance was brilliant. The crowd loved it, there was a great atmosphere which just occasionally bordered on the chaotic and nutty. At the end Lemmy told the audience that it was their last song, and they booed...he told them not to worry, if they made enough noise they'd come back for more...ah, lovely. the false encore time. Ah well, at least I knew the words to 'Ace of Spades'.

Now available at Amazon:

*Hangman: An unflinching look at what happens when suicide invades people's lives, and the damage it does.
*Loser's Club: A novel about cats, murder, love and not love, envy, hate, and above all, losers.
*Tube Life: Join Angel as she tries to navigate life, love and the London Underground.
*Writer: Explore the dark recesses of a writer's mind, where horror is never far from reality.
dragoncity publishing

Monday, 14 November 2011

Day of the Dead 5, Leeds International Film Festival 12/11/11

Busy weekend!

Ok, so the second Day of the Dead (DOTD) for me. I have to start by bitching about the lack of Return of the Dead (sob) and that there were only 4 films this year, I can only assume that the recession has screwed up a lot of things, this being one of them. Ahh well.

Overall we enjoyed the day, as usual the staff were great, and the venue, the newly refurbished Leeds City Varieties was charming and clean, a lovely setting for a day of horror.

Masks 3/5
The first film up was Masks. This is a homage to Susperia, and was very much of a 1970's vein, even down to the credits. Basically the film is about what people will do to get fame...
Overall the film was pretty good. However, it lacked a certain something, and I'm not too sure what that was. There was a bit of gore, but it just wasn't creepy enough. However, it moved along well and was a good enough story to keep me entertained (no clock-watching), but I don't think I would watch it again.

I think it was in German... I do have a tendency to read the text and 'hear' it as though the actors had spoken the line in English!

After that were three shorts that were well worth watching.

Decapoda Shock 4/5

Which was a seriously strange and funny movie. Spaceman is sent on a mission...and returns...a crab.

I won't spoil it for you, but apart from the slightly hokey crab mask (I thought it was more lobster?) it was a great tale, well told, and a lovely twist.

Although it was seriously Kill Bill meets Finding Nemo!

Dead on Time 5/5
This was hilarious, and a funny, engaging film. A couple are stranded in the desert, and try to find help...encountering more than they bargained for!

The first twist on this is at the credits. But I can't say more. Except that this was Groundhog Day meets Reservoir Dogs, and is really worth watching. Her boyfriend has a clue in the name of Lazaros... Brilliant!!!!

Would buy on DVD!

I think you can view it here...

The Backwater Gospel 5/5
This is a gorgeous animation that reminded me of the Gorillaz band, and a lot of Stephen King's Dark Tower series.

It's a post apocalyptic scene, where the Reaper is coming to town. And when the Reaper comes, someone dies. Religion is horrific, a sign at the back of the church asks you to Fear in Lord.

Magic, and I loved the silhouette massacre at the end, pure classy, wonderful imaginative work.

And the coffin credits at the end...fab!

Would buy on DVD!

You can watch it here:

Marianne 3/5
Marianne was the second feature. Again, this was another good movie, but it lacked something to bring it out of the ordinary.

This is a Swedish movie, and very gorgeously shot, with a solid plot and good performances. But what I felt it lacked was scares...not gore, but good old fashioned jump out of your seats moment, like The Grudge. It needed more threat than it had, I didn't feel the guy was in danger. They needed to bring the creature out of the bedroom, and into other places, to increase the feeling of peril. We also got the 'twist' really early on.

Fatal Attraction meets The Grudge for this one.

But having said that, it is an excellent watch, and I can recommend it.

Exit Humanity 3.5/5
This is a zombie movie with a difference, it's set just after the American Civil War.
This was very good, we enjoyed the different setting, although I didn't enjoy the general who pops up part way through the film, it felt a bit trite, to be honest, and I think it could have been better with a more original central piece.

I'm trying to ignore the 'is that leather jacket really authentic?' thoughts I had throughout the movie, and the very modern looking boots he was wearing, because I suspect they didn't have a large budget. I suspect this as expensive effects and events were rendered very well in animation, I can see that with a larger budget the director would have created a feast of visuals, but instead had to compromise with good animations that fitted in really well, and didn't spoil the fell of the movie, the action, or the 'spell' a good movie creates.

This was the only English movie of the lot. Oh, and we gave it a 3 and a 4 so we could give it an overall score of 3.5.

Next was a short that I really enjoyed,

Employee of the Month 5/5
In these times of strife it's nice to know that the supernatural comminuity is also suffering from unemployment... this is very, very funny, well thought out, and with brilliant little touches. My favorite was the zombie, but seriously, any would do.

Would buy on DVD!

Juan of the Dead 3.5/5
The last movie was Juan of the Dead. This was the movie I was most looking forward to, and unfortunately it didn't quite come up to scratch. Although it was funny, and again another movie that was very watchable, I just don't think there was the characterization there to really drive the movie forward.

I think some of the jokes also didn't work as well because of the cultural differences. However, the effects were good, the idea was very sound, and it was a very watchable and enjoyable movie.

So overall a good time was had by us...but the shorts shone out from the four not quite so magnificent movies, but still all worth a try. They are better than the usual tripe you get in the big cinemas!

Now available at Amazon:

*Hangman: An unflinching look at what happens when suicide invades people's lives, and the damage it does.
*Loser's Club: A novel about cats, murder, love and not love, envy, hate, and above all, losers.
*Tube Life: Join Angel as she tries to navigate life, love and the London Underground.
*Writer: Explore the dark recesses of a writer's mind, where horror is never far from reality.
dragoncity publishing

Opeth, Manchester Academy, 11/11/2011

I love Opeth, although I have to admit I'm a really recent convert to their music, mostly because of the latest album, 'Heritage'. I love their complex, intricate music that is also quite simple in many ways.

So I was really excited to get to see them last Friday.

The music was amazing, crystal clear, and Mikael Åkerfeldt has the most amazing voice that made every song soar. The lights show with the band was just amazing, nothing fancy, but is was so well thought out that it made every song just that little more exciting. Especially 'The Devil's Orchard', when he sang 'God is Dead' he was illuminated alone on the stage, stunning. The backdrop was the Heritage album cover, giving an eerie effect as giant faces peered down at the band.

In between songs Mikael Åkerfeldt was brilliant, very funny! He talked about Kiss (The band, which means piss in Swedish apparently!) a lot, which got a lot of laughs, and told little stories and jokes. Brilliant entertainer, and made the gig a lot of fun between the serious business of music. His English is excellent, as well.

There was a drum solo, not my favorite part of any gig, but the skill of the drummer was breathtaking.

However, what really bugged me about this gig was that during the quieter songs, people near the back were talking. A lot. Or being rowdy as they had had waaaayyyy too much to drink. I mean come on people. You wanna drink and talk? Save £18 each and go to a bar. You're bored by this song? Go to the bar. You don't like Opeth? Sod off and leave the people who want to enjoy the music to it.

Now available at Amazon:

*Hangman: An unflinching look at what happens when suicide invades people's lives, and the damage it does.
*Loser's Club: A novel about cats, murder, love and not love, envy, hate, and above all, losers.
*Tube Life: Join Angel as she tries to navigate life, love and the London Underground.
*Writer: Explore the dark recesses of a writer's mind, where horror is never far from reality.
dragoncity publishing

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Silent Clowns

Last night we went to see Paul Merton's Silent Clowns at the Leeds Town Hall.

I can remember watching black and white comedy movies as a child on BBC2...there wasn't much in the way of bright, shiny children's TV, so we would watch Laurel and Hardy, Harold Lloyd (with an irritating theme tune added) and all the greats without really understanding the history, they were just amusing things to watch.

So it was with great excitement we went to see Paul Merton. We'd seen a couple of his programs on TV, but obviously this wasn't as in depth, we'd hear a bit about the movie, then watch either a clip, or in some cases the whole thing. There was a live band playing in time with the movie, which was exciting as I've only ever watched them on the TV with a commentary or music. Although I have to admit they did such a flawless job I forgot about them being live, and had to keep reminding myself.

The last film was Harold Lloyd's Safety Last! which is the famous one where he hangs off the clock. Never having seen the film in it's entirety before, I was really quite taken into the tale (although I think he needed to dump his shallow fiance), and actually experienced vertigo while watching the scenes of him climbing the building...

All in all it was an excellent evening, and we both really enjoyed it.

Ironically we've been watching some of Laurel and Hardy's movies on DVD, and enjoying them very much. It's a shame that perhaps some of these delightful films will start to be enjoyed by the few as TV will never show them again.

Now available at Amazon:

*Hangman: An unflinching look at what happens when suicide invades people's lives, and the damage it does.
*Loser's Club: A novel about cats, murder, love and not love, envy, hate, and above all, losers.
*Tube Life: Join Angel as she tries to navigate life, love and the London Underground.
*Writer: Explore the dark recesses of a writer's mind, where horror is never far from reality.
dragoncity publishing

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Damnation festival, Leeds

Spent Saturday at the Damnation festival in Leeds University, and had a great time! We started off with a lunch at Sam's Chop House, which is a great restaurant that sells British food. I Can highly recommend it because it isn't fancy potions or pub food, it's hearty portions that are made with care, and a little touch of sophistication. Plus the one in Leeds is gorgeous, it's a lovely historical building they have outfitted sympathetically.

We got to the festival at just before 3:30, a little early, so we decided to give CONAN a try on the Zero Tolerance Stage. Well, we could hear them, but due to the way it's built, not see them! So we returned to what was to become our home, the Jagermeister Stage.

We were supposed to be seeing DECAPITATED, but on the way between stages, we found a notice to say that they had cancelled. WE were puzzled, and as we were both in matching Decapitated t-shirts (awww, sweet!) a little pissed off (though not at the band). That did change our plans a bit, as we were going to stay until after their performance, and ended up going early.

So we went to see ILLUMINATUS, and look at the list to work out what to do. Illumiatus are a Manchester band I believe, and started off really well with heavy, but melodic metal. Right up my street! Regretfully the set got a little average, storming it up for the last couple of songs, but they were pretty good. Although they haven't persuaded us to buy an album, we'd certainly go see them again.

Then was the inevitable breakdown and set-up for the next band, TURISAS. We had a quick walk around, then came back to a very full venue.

Turisas are great, they are 'Viking metal' for want of another term, kind of folky with a violinist on stage (he had the most amazing instrument...the violin...). IT was so packed my photos are pretty awful, but you can see they are in 'Viking' outfits (well, Roman/Metal/Biker in my mind) with red and black body paint. They stormed through the set, I'm not familiar with their stuff so couldn't sing along, but that didn't stop the audience! There was a real feeling of joy during their set, and plastic weapons were being waved with pride (spoiling a few good images, creating others!).

Overall I would have been happy to see much more of them. Terrific, entertaining stuff.

 Quick coffee and a slice of apple pie from the coffee stand outside (very civilised, seriously, every gig needs one!) then back in for EVILE. Oh, and a word of advice, if you need the loo, go straight after a set ends. Seriously, when I came out the queue...huge!

Evile are a Huddersfield band, so local to us, and we've seen them before, and have their albums. The music is great, and although the crowd were a little lukewarm to start with, they soon warmed up and filled out. Evile did a terrific set full of energy and we really enjoyed it.

Just before the next band, we were wandering around the  merchandise section and found out why Decapitated hadn't made it, they had been involved in the Polish air crash that had happened a few days before!

This is the one where the plane had to land with no landing gear, but no-one was hurt. I can't blame the band for not appearing, I do wonder if their gear was in the hold of the plane, and could have been damaged. Oh well. It was also four years to the day since they were in a devastating coach crash that killed one member of the band, and hurt another so badly he still hasn't recovered. So of course we were both agog with shock, and felt very sorry for the band, but it could have been so much worse.

We also bought a Bastard of the Skies cd to add to our collection (of 1).

Next up was GRAND MAGUS. Another great band I'm not that familier with, but I realy loved their music, it was again quite intricate stuff, but good and heavy. They did a brilliant set, and the crowd really enjoyed it!

Finally (for us) was GODFLESH. Mark had heard a lot about this band and really wanted to see them, but hadn't quite got around to getting their albums yet. Apparently the band sort of exists now, but most of the material they played was from the early 80's...and hypnotic. It was so strange because I could pick out NIN, dance music, Killing Joke, all kinds of bands in one heavy package. I really enjoyed their set, it was mostly instrumental with some shouty lyrics (I didn't like those as much). It was the kind of music that frees my brain, and I actually had a terrific idea for a little short movie I'm planning while I was listening, so I wrote it down! Yeah, I'm strange...

The Damnation festival is great if you love metal, but the organisers I think were having trouble selling tickets, I guess it's the financial times, although the place seemed really busy, so perhaps people left it until the last minute to buy.

One nice thing about a festival like this is the variety of bands. The sets are short, but that's good as if you don't like the band that's on, just wait a few minutes! Or go to another stage...get a drink..a coffee!

So support your local festival, especially niche ones like this, because they really need it at the moment.

Now available at Amazon:

*Hangman: An unflinching look at what happens when suicide invades people's lives, and the damage it does.
*Loser's Club: A novel about cats, murder, love and not love, envy, hate, and above all, losers.
*Tube Life: Join Angel as she tries to navigate life, love and the London Underground.
*Writer: Explore the dark recesses of a writer's mind, where horror is never far from reality.
dragoncity publishing

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Supermarket fake greeting

It's once again started to be a trend for supermarkets to ask their staff to 'greet' their customers with fake banter. I've encountered this a few times now, and I hate to say I hate it. I'm happy with a 'hello' and a question about bags, but beyond that, them having to ask us if we are OK, or how our day has been going is just awful.

How do I respond? You can always tell that it's faked, you can almost see the poor sod behind the till forcing the sentence out. Now it's not as though I want to pack my items in silence, but sometimes I don't feel like engaging in small-talk, or they don't. However, this kind of policy ensures that the server has to start a conversation with each and every person that comes to the till, and do it while smiling. It then forces the customer to reply in kind (usually a 'Fine, thanks, how are you?') but it's just so fake. It makes me uncomfortable. I've had plenty of spontaneous conversations with servers without the need for this kind of thing, but I wasn't forced into it. I worked as a check-out girl for a year, and I hated it so much.

I was at a large DIY store, and they made us ask 'Did you find everything you wanted?' Now this is OK, but if the customer said no, I was literally powerless to help them. For a start, being stuck on the tills I didn't have the product position knowledge I needed to direct them, and once I had started to process their goods, they didn't actually want to then go back into the store to find the items. Of course the idea was that I called a member of staff to help the customer...except no-one would answer my calls in a reasonable amount of time, angering the customer as they had to wait, and all for something they had given up on.

Although to be honest, the rudeness of most customers made a little revenge all the sweeter...but really, can't we end this fake intimacy? I'm there to shop. I don't enjoy it, and I don't want a lasting relationship with the staff, or be forced into one. I want to buy my goods, and leave. Is that too much to ask?

Now available at Amazon:
*Loser's Club
*Tube Life

dragoncity publishing