Archive for February, 2002

sweet music

Wednesday, February 27th, 2002

Last night we went to First Avenue (yes, that’s where Prince performed in the movie Purple Rain) to see Ben Folds, with support from Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy. It was an excellent show, quite unusual as they both played solo – Hannon on guitar and Ben Folds with his piano, of course. I’ve seen both of them several times and it was good to hear the music performed differently.

The Divine Comedy’s music is often quite big and orchestral – once when I saw them they had a 50 piece orchestra on stage with the band which was really exciting – but I like when you get more from a concert than just hearing their latest CD played loudly. DC were always good when it was just the six piece band, they’re excellent musicians and I enjoyed the arrangements. His songs worked surprisingly well on just guitar, and it can’t have been easy for him to do the solo performance in front of a crowd who probably don’t know any of the songs – they haven’t really made an impact on the USA yet. However I think the audience last night got with him pretty well, and seemed to enjoy his charisma.

The first two Ben Folds Five CDs had little more than just the three-piece band playing, so seeing them live was as I said above – like the CD turned up loud, although they were lots of fun between songs, and would make things up on the spot too. So it was interesting to see him on his own, and to hear the songs without a backing band. Mostly they held up pretty well, and he’s just a good performer.

One thing though, and excuse me if I sound old and cranky, but why do people shell out for concert tickets, actually bother to go to the venue, and then stand around talking and not even facing the stage? Especially for a solo concert like last night’s where there’s not a band making lots of noise, most people were fairly quiet but around us were folks yammering away. Grrr.


Tuesday, February 26th, 2002

In a piece of divine convergence, they were showing Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on TV last night – I’d forgotten what a fun movie it is, and it made us even more excited about our upcoming trip to Chicago. We’ve been getting advice left, right and center from people at work on what we should do and see – it seems pizza is a big draw. I’m sure we’ll cope.


Monday, February 25th, 2002

As an experiment I’ve been growing a goatee beard for the last couple of months. However, the moustache bit has been surprisingly uncomfortable. On Sunday morning, nursing a bit of a hangover, I took off the moustache – I’m sure you’ll agree it’s quite an improvement:



chicago, chicago

Monday, February 25th, 2002

This weekend Paul, Claire and their baby Lauren are travelling to Chicago with Emma and me. We’ve been meaning to go for ages, and a friend of Paul’s has been kind enough to lend us a minivan for the road trip. We got together last night to find places to stay, and came up with what will hopefully be good, and definitely seems nice and central. Also we got an excellent deal, so Chicago here we come!

saturday food

Monday, February 25th, 2002

Well, Saturday all worked out pretty well. Emma seemed to enjoy her birthday very much, and we all had a great time at the Sapor restaurant. Fantastic food, service and atmosphere. Definitely going back.

organizational stress

Friday, February 22nd, 2002

So it’s Emma’s birthday tomorrow and a bunch of us wanted to take her for dinner to celebrate, with me booking the table. Apart from the fact that I left it a bit too late to book a table, I’ve had some bizarre conversations with restauranteurs:

Me: Hello, I would like to guarantee that you get some money

Restauranteur: No thanks, why don’t you just turn up and I might deign to serve you

M: Well that’s very kind of you

R: Or I could book you a table at 4pm or 11pm [three places actually said this]

Me: Thank you, goodbye

I don’t get why they won’t take bookings, just don’t get it. I’m sure they think they’re going to be very busy, and probably don’t want to take bookings in case the people don’t show, but even so. I don’t want to hang around for an hour or more till someone tells me that they’re ready to serve me.

But finally I found this place which sounds very nice. They were charming on the phone, took my booking for seven people with no problem (although I got slightly worried if it’s that easy to get a table) and the reviews on the website look excellent.

Now I only have the stress of taking a bunch of people to a place I’ve never been before and hoping that it’s good.

too much effort

Friday, February 22nd, 2002

It’s National Slacker Day today, but I was not warned in advance. Perhaps now would be a good time to get into the spirit of

wild living

Thursday, February 21st, 2002

I like this story a lot. Having sung in church choirs, which most outsiders would believe are very prim and proper – far from true, most of my life it’s good to see that non-singers can roll with the punches too. It reminds me of when I was on a singing tour with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Chorus (RSNOC) to Israel. On the plane going to El Al, we were all sat fairly near the back, so by the time the drinks trolley reached us there was no red wine and no gin. Not a good situation for a choir. Mayhem was fortunately avioded, but it was a close thing.


Wednesday, February 20th, 2002

Powerpuff Girls - Heroes and Villains

My friend Andy at work gave me a CD to listen to yesterday – music inspired by the Powerpuff Girls cartoon show. I was fully expecting to dislike it, but it’s a pretty cool selection of indie stuff, with Frank Black, Bis, Shonen Knife and others. Lots of fun, kind of tongue in cheek.

So by way of the CD, I came across a band called Optiganally Yours. They use an instrument called the Optigan, which was made by Mattell in the 60s – there’s a bunch of stuff you can read on their website about the guy’s search for these things. Basically it’s almost an early sampler, and plays loops of real sounds, so they can produce all kinds of odd and quirky songs. Take a listen to their excellent version of “Spanish Flea”!


Tuesday, February 19th, 2002

There are a number of reasons why I don’t like doing karaoke. Mainly it’s because I sing in a choir, and many of my friends think that it’s the same thing to do karaoke, and therefore I must be good at it. I think it’s like the difference between riding a bicycle and riding a motorbike. Now I have a new reason – mortal danger.