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My freelance writing can now be found at mikeatkinson.wordpress.com.
Recently: VV Brown, Alabama 3, Just Jack, Phantom Band, Frankmusik, Twilight Sad, Slaid Cleaves, Alesha Dixon, Bellowhead, The Unthanks, Dizzee Rascal.
On Thursday September 17th, I danced on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.
Click here to watch, and here to listen.
Saturday, June 01, 2002
The Troubled Diva Old Curiosity Box - Item 18.
Le Tigre - FYR (2001)
Le Tigre are fronted by Kathleen Hanna, formerly of Bikini Kill, and the woman who originally told Kurt Cobain that he smelled like Teen Spirit. They are in that fine tradition of fierce shouty girl bands which dates back to The Slits, The Raincoats, Kleenex and Delta 5, via Huggy Bear, the Voodoo Queens and the Riot Grrrl movement of the early 90s, and up to Chicks On Speed (on whose label Le Tigre are now recording). Their gig in Nottingham earlier this week was as near to a perfect gig as it's possible to get. Here's one of their angrier, noisier, punkier tracks from last year's Feminist Sweepstakes album.
The Troubled Diva Old Curiosity Box - Item 19.
Madan Bala Sindhu - Mehndi / Madhorama Pencha (2001)
More raw, energetic, celebratory female vocals for you here, but taken from an entirely different tradition. This appears on the sumptuous Monsoon Wedding soundtrack, and is a loose, cheerful call-and-response piece for accapella vocals and percussion. It's not typical of the rest of the soundtrack, but it's a load of fun - and I'd love to know why there are mentions of Calvin Klein, malt whiskey and disco dancing.
Update: Sorry - you weren't quick enough. These MP3s are no longer on my server. I generally make them available for a week or so (sometimes less) before substituting them for new ones. Better luck next time!
I don't know why BlogBack turned nasty on me early on the week - just as I was about to sign up to BlogBack Plus, as well. Anyway, the comments are now back again, courtesy of YACCS.
Friday, May 31, 2002
This weekend - peace, quiet, relaxation, recuperation, solitude.
But first - a Genesis tribute band.
You heard me.
Today? Oh, today is going much better, thank you.
But still no time...
Monsoon Wedding - a film of two parts.
Part One. Huge numbers of people, most of whom seem to be related to each other, have loud conversations on top of each other at endless family get-togethers. You can’t work out who they all are – you can’t work out what they’re saying to each other – and after a while, you don’t particularly care.
Part Two. The film suddenly snaps into focus, with a dazzling variety of exquisitely constructed scenes which command your attention and fully engage your senses. The range of emotions covered is broad, contrasting and frequently surprising. The acting and direction is subtle – intelligent – intensely moving, without ever quite spilling over into sentimentality. There are also some awesome set-piece party scenes (shades of Moulin Rouge at times), and a cracking Indian soundtrack.
This is a perfect movie for a classic night in: curled up on the sofa, a decent bottle of wine, the phone left unanswered. It delivers the requisite warm, fuzzy glow with consummate skill. Highly recommended - but you do have to stick with it.
A early Louis Theroux rap, from 1989. I know this was on today's Popbitch, but it's just too good to miss.
Note: This will work far better if you already familiar with Louis Theroux. It's the incongruous puerility - or something.
Thursday, May 30, 2002
The story of my day, in emotions:
Stubborness. Resignation. Guilt. Tension. Embarrassment. Fatigue. Resentment. Bewilderment. Reluctance. Stress. Helplessness. Irritability. Irritation. Anger. Paranoia. Self-pity. Candour. Relief. Self-control. Resolve. Detachment. Industriousness. Escapism. Calm. Concentration. Diligence. Satisfaction. Gaiety. Cynicism. Empathy. Equanimity. Exhaustion. Relief. Numbness.
I've had better days.
Lynne! Out! Now!
Wednesday, May 29, 2002
No time, but I have to say this quickly. The Le Tigre gig at The Social last night was truly one of the best gigs I have ever attended, in 25 years of gig going. Le Tigre will playing the Mean Fiddler in London this Friday, May 31. I cannot urge you strongly enough to go along and see them. That is all.
Hope you liked the temporary "1995 retro" look. Blogback has now been unceremoniously junked. YACCS here we come!
Tuesday, May 28, 2002
I've junked the Tag Board. Reasons:
1. It was tacky.
2. No-one was using it.
3. I was sick of looking at it.
4. There is a suspicion that it had started generating pop-ups.
No great loss, I feel.
Mike's Estonian Eurovision Fiesta - Part One.
So, I’ve flown from Heathrow to Helsinki with a group of 8 London gay skinheads, only 2 of whom I’ve ever met before. Friends of friends, that sort of thing. They’re a close-knit bunch, who all live in the same part of East London, and who all go out on the scene together (The Block being their particular stomping ground). It’s a bit like a gay London skinhead version of Friends. I’m the only one in the group with anything longer than a Number One crop, I’m the only one who is travelling without his boyfriend, and I’m the only one who doesn’t live in London. However – and to my relief – they are a friendly, welcoming bunch who do their best to make me feel like less of an outsider in the group.
None of us have tickets for the contest itself. When they went on sale to non-Estonians, our information was that prices were starting at £180 per ticket. It’s only a relatively small hall this year, as opposed to last year in Copenhagen, when the contest was held in a football stadium. Last year, the entire show sold out within a day of tickets going on sale. Clearly, there would be no hope at all for us this year. Still, we’re not bothered. The Estonian government has promised a “People’s Eurovision” in the main central square in Tallinn, with a giant video screen relaying the contest to the assembled throng. This should be a laugh – maybe even as much fun as being inside the Saku Suurhall itself. The whole jaunt is really just an excuse for a jolly old time in Tallinn, seasoned with a bit of Eurovision fever.
However, four of the group have since decided to base the weekend in Helsinki instead. They’ll come over tomorrow for the day, but will be staying both nights in the luxurious splendour of Helsinki’s Hotel Kämp. So, the remaining five of us set sail on the hydrofoil from Helsinki to Tallinn. It’s a bumpy 90 minute ride, requiring intensive mind-over-matter concentration in order to keep the stomach bile at bay.
We are staying at the Hotel Stroomi, which is a far cry from the Hotel Kämp. It is way out in the suburbs, surrounded by crumbling Soviet-era tower blocks, and is a simple, functional establishment. However, it is clean, cheap, and perfectly adequate for our requirements. I’ll be sharing a room with Chig, who has been here all week at the rehearsals, press conferences and parties. There is a huge mound of press packs and assorted promotional bumf on his bed – and on my bed, an official programme and a copy of the Lithuanian single, Happy You. Hurrah!
Quick showers all round, and we head straight off towards the city centre. Eventually, we leave the crumbling tower blocks behind. By stark contrast, the centre of Tallinn is as exquisitely beautiful as I had hoped. The most frequently heard comparison is “like Prague before it got spoilt.” We pick a rather classy looking restaurant, and walk in. Hmm – it’s even classier looking inside. There is a tell-tale pause from the waitress as we ask for a table; clearly, we don’t fit the usual demographic. Nevertheless, we are swiftly accommodated. The surroundings are atmospheric and charming (ornate lamps, draped chandeliers, crisp white linen, antique polished wood) and the meal is superb – several of us choosing the lightly smoked wild boar. It is all very authentic, very Estonian, and a great way to start the weekend.
Next stop is Tallinn’s one gay bar – the X Baar, down the inevitable obscure alleyway near the main square. Wow – it’s Eurovision Central in here. Packed out with visiting fans of the contest. We play “spot the Estonian”, but fail to spot very many at all. Wonder what this place is like on a normal Friday evening? Much, much quieter, I would guess.
Oh look – there’s Brandy, veteran doyenne of the Eurovision mailing lists, whom I last saw in Stockholm two years ago. We’ve loosely kept in touch via the occasional e-mail, and greet each other like old friends. The London skins are running into familiar faces all over the place – it seems like half the clientele of The Block (recently raided and shut down pending a court case) have been exiled to Tallinn for the weekend. Chig turns up, fresh from the penultimate dress rehearsal, and full to bursting with all the week’s Eurogossip. It’s all very jolly and sociable, and I’m getting into the proper Eurovision spirit now.
Next stop is The Ring Club. About a dozen of us climb into taxis, marshalled by R, who runs the Eurovision nights at the Retro Bar on London. Now, the Ring Club comes as something of a disappointment. I was expected a full on Eurovision disco party in a throbbing club. Instead, we descend into a cramped bar with no proper dancefloor, and fewer punters than there were in the X Baar. There are also other, darker areas of the club – but we won’t go into those. Oh no.
After a long wait, I finally gain access to the club’s Internet terminal, and update my blog as best as I can. My typing is now at a ratio of one correct keystroke to every two backspaces. Intense concentration is required. We are all now completely plastered, having successfully transcended the shabbiness of our surroundings. The night lurches unsteadily (and not uneventfully) towards its conclusion. Chig and I appear to be the last ones standing. We finally get to bed around 6am. That last Red Bull in the club was a stupid mistake, as I struggle to get to sleep, replaying the day’s more memorable events in my head.
Tomorrow will be show time. People have been telling me that there might just possibly be some tickets left for the Saturday afternoon dress rehearsal. It’s a long shot, but I’m going to give it a whirl…
Jump to next part.
In Tallinn over the weekend, a group of three of us are talking. It transpires that we all have boyfriends back in the UK who hate Eurovision. Someone suggests that they all get together and form a support group for abandoned Eurovision widows.
Back at home, I am relating this story to K. He curls his lip contemptuously, and gives me one of his looks.
“Excuse me, but we’re not the ones who need a bloody support group…!”
Now that the struggle for gay liberation has reached such an advanced stage of development (in this country at least), it almost feels quite good to be part of an oppressed minority once again...
Monday, May 27, 2002
Oops, I nearly forgot. You probably wanted to know all about Eurovision, didn’t you? Well, soon you shall. But first...this.
In the office last Thursday, I finally came clean about where I was headed at the weekend. The general reaction amongst my co-workers was sadly predictable, and could be best summed up as amused, incredulous bafflement. However, someone did ask a pertinent question: was I only doing this for “ironic” reasons? My reply at the time was that I was no longer entirely sure where irony ended, and where sincere enjoyment and appreciation of the event began. Since then, in occasional idle moments, I have been trying to come up with a more precise answer.
Twelve years ago, when Chig and I first started convening to watch Eurovision together, the answer was fairly clear. My motivation was threefold. Pure irony, mixed with nostalgia for the Eurovisions of my childhood (Cliff, Dana, Clodagh, New Seekers, Severine, Abba), plus a great excuse for a bloody good night out on the Birmingham gay scene afterwards. Of course it was all tacky crap – but it was still ideal fodder for a mocking gigglefest over some pizza and a couple of bottles of plonk.
Then, in 1998, Eurovision came to Birmingham, and something changed. Chig got press accreditation for the entire week, and we both managed to secure tickets for the final dress rehearsal. Shortly after that, we were also offered free tickets for the final itself. This was heady, serious stuff indeed. In the run-up to the contest, I started paying much closer attention to all the facts and gossip which had started pouring off the web. The more I found out, the more my appetite grew for daft gobbets of Eurotrivia. This was fun.
However, the ultimate defining moment came with the show itself. For once seen live, with thousands of wildly enthusiastic flag-waving supporters from all the participating countries scattered in tight clumps throughout the arena, the event takes on a completely different hue. Suddenly, it transforms into simply the most fabulously entertaining spectacle imaginable. The televised version, with its unforgiving, detailed exposition of every vocal weakness and botched dance move, can never do it justice. It begs for mockery and dismissal. Conversely, the live version begs for gleeful surrender. You soon find yourself ascending into a state of whooping, cheering, giddy euphoria. It just can’t be helped.
As I recall, the final surrender came somewhere between Dana International’s transcendent Diva and Guildo Horn’s lovably ludicrous Guildo Hat Euch Lieb. After that, there was no going back. I had crossed the Rubicon.
And so to Tallinn, 2002. Of which, more later.
I know I keep saying that, but today is K’s birthday and we’re off down the pub in a few minutes for a very quiet, low-key drink. Frankly, it's all we're both capable of right now.
Today's favourite search request: was malta wearing underwear in the eurovision. Funny, that - a few of us were idly speculating over that very same question in Tallinn over the weekend. It was a rather...ambiguous outfit, was it not?
I also appear to be the current Number One on Google for nicky nacky noo, so hurrah for that.
I've decided to get all grown up and helpful, like a "proper" weblog. In future, expect a lot more explanatory links whenever I refer to people/places/events with which you might not be already familiar. I'm also going to adopt a policy of providing link titles wherever possible. In other words, hover your cursor over the link before clicking it. For an example of best practise, see the "cultural plurality" piece further down the page.
Thanks to the increasingly indispensable Sashinka, I have found a generator for Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies. These are a series of instructions that can be chosen at random to help with dilemmas - be they creative dilemmas, work-related dilemmas, or personal dilemmas. This might sound like a silly idea, not far removed from horoscopes - but to my mind, there is a sound method lurking behind this apparent madness:
"These cards evolved from our separate observations of the principles underlying what we are doing. Sometimes they were recognized in retrospect (intellect catching up with intuition), sometimes they were identified as they were happening, sometimes they were formulated. They can be used as a pack (a set of posibilities being continuously reviewed in the mind) or by drawing a single card from a shuffled pack when a dilemma occurs in a working situation. In this case the card is trusted even if it appropriateness is quite unclear. They are not final, as new ideas will present themselves, and others will become self-evident."Anyhow, they're proving surprisngly effective in helping with my own particular dilemma of the day. Next time you feel stumped and in need of fresh inspiration, I suggest you give 'em a whirl.
Cultural plurality – you gotta love it. Take last week, for instance…
Traditional Derbyshire religious music in the village church. A procession of Morris dancers down the main street. A folk choir in the village hall.
The Libertines, live at The Social in Nottingham. Thrashy sweaty, punky power-pop par excellence. Sometimes, a 35 minute set (with no encore) is all you need.
Art London at the Duke Of York’s HQ, off the Kings Road. A big swanky art fair, with most of our favourite galleries and dealers represented. I leave with K’s birthday present tucked under my arm – a beautiful abstracted landscape painting, of the St. Ives school. It’s the first purchasing decision that either one of us have ever made unilaterally, but I feel utterly confident that he will love the painting as much as I do.
Dinner with Disco Judge at Gaudi in Clerkenwell, which is an elegant Spanish restaurant adjoining Turnmills, my old stomping ground of yore. When I go to the toilet, I am startled to find myself actually in the old bogs at Trade. The incongruity is arresting.
The Eurovision Song Contest in Tallinn. Of which, more later. Much, much more.
And now I'm back, and it's very very late, and I'm knackered beyond belief, but - oh! - what a weekend that was. Yesterday evening, all six of us in our little gang managed to get last minute tickets for the show itself, which was an unexpected boon as we had assumed they had sold out months ago. Great seats, as well - slap bang in the middle of the main floor, with an excellent view. And not only that - I got into the final dress rehearsals earlier the same day, so there was a double Eurovision delight to be had.
I can barely keep awake, let alone type, so more of this tomorrow when my language skills return.