Music: February 2009 Archives

A Tale of Three Concerts

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In the last seven days I seem to have seen a lot of music, although I did pay the price just a little.

Last Sunday I went to The Junction in Cambridge to watch Bellowhead. Just to be clear, I don't live in Cambridge, so it was a bit of a trip to see them. But The Junction's just near the station, and depending on when they finished, I knew I'd be able to get back to London in time.

Foolishly, as it turns out, I had a pizza while I was there. Or perhaps it was the salad. Anyway, it had implications.

If you've never seen Bellowhead, then you really need to. Yes, they're a folk band, but there are eleven of them (so buy their albums: think how much they must have to split the proceeds!) and they play a very upbeat version of folk. Sometimes the songs they sing can be a bit bawdy. The previous night they'd played at the Royal Festival Hall, but it had been sold out being Valentines' Day, and we were told that some of their songs that night had been quite rude.

This was more family friendly fare, which was just as well as people do bring their kids along to Bellowhead (again - the previous day in London, they'd done a free kids concert in the Festival Hall earlier in the day).

Jon Boden is the charismatic lead singer, but everyone else just seems to love appearing on-stage, and they bounce around with excitement and play their incredible array of instruments with complete joy.

According to their Wikipedia entry, the band themselves describe their music thus:

"Merging a joyous, uplifting cacophony of sound with a slightly sinister, distorted collision of music hall, Lotte Lenya, Robert Wyatt and pure theatre."

Curiously, midway through the concert, a girl collapsed near me for the second time in a week. I know what you're thinking. It's not that. The previous Monday, at a speaker at a presentation had passed out and collapsed against the wall behind her. This time, it was a woman behind me who basically fell into me. I think it was a small fit, and she had her mum (I think) to hand to help her up. She stayed on for the rest of the fantastic gig.

As I say, there were ramifications of that pizza meal, and let's just say that I had a very unpleasant trip home, and didn't sleep a great that night or much the next day. And I wasn't in a rush to eat anything.

The second concert was with the BBC Concert Orchestra at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the Southbank. This concert was called Music and Chance, and was a very strange affair indeed. The highlight was a new composition receiving its premiere featuring precisely one minute of music from each of twelve composers. These people had randomly placed in two groups of six with each composing their minute with only the very end of the previous piece available to them. So effectively we had two six minute pieces.

The composers varied from the Pet Shop Boys (receiving their Brit the following evening) and Anne Dudley, to Will Gregory (of Goldfrapp) and Andy Sheppard. I think it's fair to say that you could hear where the breaks between composers were.

Charles Hazelwood, who talked us through procedings, also gave us a couple of variations of Mozart's Music Dice Game, with one version determined by audience members rolling dice (essentially the dice roll determines which of a 176 one-bar phrases, the orchestra plays).

Also on the programme was the remarkable "In C" for which Hazelwood left the podium and the orchestra played by itself. Although the duration is indeterminate due to the rules of the piece, I got the feeling that some kind of agreement had been reached in advance. It works astonishingly well however.

The whole concert was recorded for Radio 3, although I can't yet tell exactly when it's going out.

Finally, I was very lucky and got a last-minute ticket to see Gustavo Dudamel conduct the Philharmonia for Mozart's Piano Concerto 17 (with Emmanuel Ax) and then Mahler's Symphony No. 5. This second piece, in particular is immense and lasts some 70 minutes. But Dudamel is an incredible conducting force and throws himself into it. Of course he knows the piece backwards and has recorded it.

At the end of it, he got a rapturous standing ovation, and the applause lasted several minutes. He's back in the country later in the year with his beloved Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, but sadly this is well and truly sold out already.

Anyway, glorious stuff, and a concert that will live long in my memory.

I Still Hate The Brits

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Have I mentioned before that I hate the Brits? Well - yes I have.

Having studiously avoided them for several years now (despite working for a music radio station), I decided to watch this year simply because the Pet Shop Boys are getting the award for Outstanding Contribution to Music.

But this is dire.

I suppose at least they're not recording to a show a day after the event - as far as I can gather, it's only on a relatively short delay. But in no particular order, here are the things I hate about the Brits based on this evening's show:

#1 The screaming Brits school kids
#2 Winners seemingly knowing that they'll win (Katy Perry came off her sickbed because she was told she should), and betting closed in one category earlier today
#3 Tables of indifferent record company execs and assorted hangers on (£7500 a table folks) waiting for the after-parties
#4 Strange pauses in procedings (does nobody rehearse this stuff?)
#5 Constant screaming
#6 Fearne Cotton
#7 Way more presenters than need be
#8 The public voting winners
#9 The record industry divvying up the winners
#10 Unnecessary costume changes
#11 Unfunny presenter scripts
#12 Lawyers getting to vote winners (Yes - really. The voiceover women said so)
#13 Big name in music, Jamie Oliver
#14 The screaming
#15 Unfunny pre-recorded winners' clips (e.g. Paul Weller)
#16 Fearne Cotton's interviewing technique seemingly carried out in an empty aircraft hanger. Can you hear the echo - echo - echo?
#17 ...and from mobiles will be considerably more... (What type of phones do you think people most likely to vote for this award will have?)
#18 God - the screaming never stops...
#19 Going behind the scenes to interview the presenter before he or she has gone on to present.
#20 Americans thinking England = UK (but still being far more professional than anybody else)
#21 No on-screen captions. How am I suppose to know who the idiots in the Logan's Run jumpsuits on the Close Encounters spaceship are supposed to be? Yes... I guessed.
#22 Laboured video gags (again... I quite liked the fact that Iron Maiden are able to win this award, but I bet some producer made them do that at the end)
#23 The idea that Radiohead, Girls Aloud, Take That, Coldplay and Elbow could all compete for the same award ("It's reassuring to know that quality music does get recognised" says voiceover lady. What does that say about the Brits?)
#24 Ashley Cole looking thoroughly bored - actually, I quite liked that.
#25 People standing very much indifferently and chatting while Kings of Leon play - almost certainly not looking at the stage.
#26 Unsure what's more offensive, the "Hoff" being sleazy or the fact that Fearne Cotton's the object of his affections (kudos for knowing/being primed that Elbow have Wembley gigs though)
#27 Hilllllllaaaaarrrrious Craig David gags. They're just brilliant!
#28 The "audio muted" soundtrack
#29 Hilllllllaaaaarrrrious gags from music specialist Gok Wan.
#30 Taking no responsibility for the "commercial radio" part of the British Single award.
#31 Wondering when Tom Jones stopped dying?
#32 Girls Aloud, Gok Wan, Alan Carr and Fearne Cotton all on the screen at the same time...
#33 Did I mention the screaming?
#34 The idea that this is available to buy.
#35 Brandon Flowers was 13 when Discography came out?!?
#36 The many faces of Louis Walsh.
#37 Duffy Diet Coke ads.

In the end, the PSB were pretty good, although perhaps not as awesome as they might have been.

I think it may be another five years until I next watch this, although following it on Twitter's good fun.

Radio On The TV


The new issue of Private Eye's Ad Nauseum column highlights the recent BBC 6 Music TV ad which you may have seen, featuring Vampire Weekend on the soundtrack.

(Also available here)

It points out, as the person who uploaded the above version of the ad, that ad agency Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R were probably, um, inspired by a guy called Blu who created a wonderful film called Mutu:

Anyway, that's not really the radio ad I wanted to talk about.


It's the new Nicky Campbell Five Live ad I wanted to bring up. Here it is, in case you've been unlucky and not yet seen it (the aspect ratio's wrong sadly):

It's dreadful. He's in a studio packed with people (with plenty of diversity) who represent "the nation" and are going to talk about today's "big story". They all put on headphones and instead of talking to one or more of them, or a discussion getting underway, we get "Tom on line 1". Huh?

This is all to promote the strange new Five Live breakfast line-up where Shelagh Fogarty starts at 6am on her own before Nicky Campbell joins her at 7am. Then at 9am, Shelagh leaves and Nicky gets an hour on the phones before at 10am, Victoria Derbyshire takes over on the phones - her show effectively bumped back an hour. That means no more midday news, which is a shame.

Now Campbell's good at phone-ins, and I'm sure that creating a generic ad about a phone-in is difficult, since the very nature of thing means that it has to be about a subject. But this is poor fare indeed. Creatively poor.

Of course I'm not suggesting the creatives responsible trawl the net for ideas however...


In other radio news, if you've not already caught the Elbow concert on the red button, do so before it disappear, or watch it here (I know it's embeddable, but it ends on Saturday, whereas this blog doesn't).

And if like me, you enjoy 2ManyDJs aka Soulwax, you've got to listen to last night's Colin Murray show where they sat in. The first hour features 400 intros all mixed together.

And I should also point you to Absolute Radio's videos of Chris Martin - did I mention he came in last week? There'll be four songs in total to see, with a song going up each day this week. At time of writing, there are three to watch already.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Music category from February 2009.

Music: January 2009 is the previous archive.

Music: March 2009 is the next archive.

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