Sunday, June 18, 2006

Fellow Coveters of Western Sanctuaries,

Saturday began unceremoniously just after 23:59:59 on Friday night. I decided to watch Later with Jools Holland, which I know I should never do because it only makes me angry. This episode was true to form; despite having Dresden Dolls and Gogol Bordello as guests, the viewers were lashed with torrents of drivel courtesy of The Dixie Chicks, The Automatic and The Fratellis. In fairness, Dresden Dolls and Gogol Bordello were each allowed to perform two songs – a prize not awarded to Paolo Nuttini – but this was not enough. As the show entered its final minutes, I felt that nyaff Holland could have redeemed himself if Dresden Dolls were to sing Sing – a song worthy of closing any show – but that distinction was bestowed upon The Automatic who served up another of their forgettable numbers, with their keyboardist’s antics as equally embarrassing during this paltry attempt as their previous two.

I switched on Radio Double One to listen to Mark Lamarr’s as yet unnamed radio show; its rare delights did more than dampen my rage but that was soon to be revived. So far using Holland and Lamarr’s programmes I had managed to drown out the sound from our “new” neighbours – I don’t know their names yet but in my brain, I think of them as Lardinho, Screech and Vicky Pollard – and I even managed to fall asleep towards the end of the radio show. Around 45 minutes later, I was awakened by more of their noise. Their racket was soon translated from above my head to outside as they began bouncing on their trampoline at 3am, minutes later Simon was scrambled by Father to bark at them, and soon the rumpus was above me again. I tried to smother this with some relaxing music, I chose Storytelling by Belle & Sebastian, given their incessant loud squawking and intermittent bursts of such luminaries as 50 Per Cent, Knackered Breeches and Will Yuck, this then had to be bolstered to Tigermilk at unprecedented and intrusive volumes by 4am standards. Nearly 3 cycles of Tigermilk later and it was time for the Blue Room – no off-duty person should ever have to listen to the Blue Room live. I stole another hour of sleep and began the day.

Somehow the day was lost upon sports shops, sandwiches, cups of tea, Sainsbury’s and laundry and by 5pm I was seriously wilting. The atmosphere was extremely muggy and I longed for a tornado, a thunderstorm or at least some rain to relieve the humidity. A cup of tea, a cup of coffee and another cup of tea later and I was on my way to Glasgow, where the weather was more favourable, to see Camera Obscura and My Latest Novel, as part of the West End Festival line-up, at the QMU.

We fixed the departure time to miss the first act of the evening, Glasvegas, (not out of any prejudice, 4 bands did represent a major endurance test) but we arrived halfway through their set. Apparently, they’ve supported Dirty Pretty Things and they’re quite pleasant to listen to. Some members of the crowd, who were obviously big fans of Grease, as they meant it as a compliment, described the band as “Grease on acid” or “Grease meets the Futureheads”, but I reckon someone ought to have lamped these happy campers there and then. Although are heavily influenced by the rock n’ roll greats of the 1950s and 60s, the band seem able to tap into modern urban culture with ease when recounting their metropolitan adventures. Flowers & Football Tops and Red and White were the standout songs, and I really hope that there is some sort of subliminal, or even blatant, political message behind the latter song otherwise I was overusing my brain.

The Dykeenies were next on stage. Although they enjoyed the adulation of a large proportion of the local crowd, as well as their parents, they were rotten. They didn’t even look like a band: one came as a Mystery Jet, another as a Rake, there was a Killer, a member of Interpol and the drummer came as a gymnast. Their sound was borrowed entirely from the Killers (who are rubbish) and furthermore, they were rather pretentious with this leased style and drone, still, Mum and Dad seemed to enjoy it. New Ideas, their new single, was nearly tolerable.

I can’t praise My Latest Novel highly enough, they played many of the songs from the delightful Wolves album, and each of them perfectly. There are so many delicately positioned instrumental and vocal layerings in their songs, and I was captivated by how diligently they built each of their masterpieces. After their first song, Pretty in a Panic, we just had to wade from our safe position by the railings at the back of the arena to the front of the stage to absorb the sound. They didn’t disappoint with their forthcoming single When we Were Wolves, the song I was really looking forward to, nor with the new song Valour Still. They ended with a dazzling rendition of The Reputation of Ross Francis.

After a lengthy delay because of technical difficulties with a microphone and a smoke machine, appeased considerably by Peter, Bjorn and John’s Young Folks, the legendary Pat Nevin appeared on stage with a bottle of Glenlivet for and to introduce his favourite band, Camera Obscura. The band began their glorious set with Come Back Margaret – not about Margaret Thatcher – and had the crowd singing, dancing and clapping (when possible, they really ought to have given us less complicated beats to mimic) to all the favourites (including Teenager and Eighties Fan) and songs from Let’s Get Out of This Country. The rapport between the band and the crowd was great, Tracy muttered at one stage, “How rude! Someone’s just asked for a Belle & Sebastian Cover. I thought all our songs were Belle & Sebastian covers.” I had previously reported to the Exasperated Inquisitors of Undiscriminating Gulls that the album was slightly one-paced, but on this evidence, I might be wrong.

After an excellent evening, we made the return journey to the Kingdom of Fife. I listened to Ivor Cutler’s Velvet Donkey on the car CD player without complaint as all passengers had fallen asleep, to only awake, briefly and nobly, to pay for the Forth Road Bridge toll.

Upon arrival home, I was treated to more of the same hullaballoo from the neighbours, thankfully, I was only marginally aware of it due to the ringing in my ears. Three hours of sleep later, my immunity had vanished and I was listening to the Blue Room again.


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