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Massive Attack

Monday evening saw me heading into Glasgow, specifically to the O2 Academy, to indulge in some sonic overloading courtesy of Massive Attack, denizens of dub, trip hop and… whatever the kids are calling their brand of electronic noise.

I’ve always been a fan and can still remember, as I’m sure many others do, picking up a copy of their first album Blue Lines based on hearing the stunning single Unfinished Sympathy. Listening to it now it still remains fresh and unique, and whilst that has dulled somewhat in more recent offerings, they remain able to pull out something different, keeping them relative when other similar bands of the time have fallen away.

I have seen them play live at T in the Park many years ago, but this was the first time I’d get to hear a full set which, from doing a little digging online (setlist.fm is ace), I knew would feature some new tracks from their upcoming EP, due out next week.

Long time collaborator of the band, Martina Topley-Bird, provided the support and struggled a bit to get the crowd going, largely because of the stripped down nature of her set with just a percussionist to accompany her. That said she does have a stunning voice but it didn’t seem to fill the hall.

Massive Attack were, of course, at the other end of the hall filling scale, and it’s a testament to the sound mix that throughout the gig the textures of sound that the band use were evident.

And what a sound it is, I think I summed it up accurately on Twitter saying: “Bravo Massive Attack, great stuff, old songs reworked, new songs sound good. Loud, sonic, sexy, dirty, brooding, noisy, thumping gig.”

Some highlights from the gig include a soft, off-beat version of Teardrop which was OK but lacked the punch of the original, a new track which moved from a rote, repetitive refrain to a thumping, smashing cacophony, and the extended thrash that follows on from the hipswaying, lazily sexy sway of Safe from Harm.

Occasionally a little self-indulgent, yet still very driven, the band delivered a slick set, showcasing new tracks but not forgetting the tracks which got them to this point. Their political and socio viewpoints were evident but not forced and all in all it was well received by an appreciative audience. Can’t wait for the EP and the new album.




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Scheduling everything?

My birthday is in a few weeks and, as is the way of things, I’ve been asked for a few suggestions for presents.

Apparently “nothing” isn’t an option though, so I did some thinking and googling and as ever came up with a few books that caught my eye.

The problem is that I already have 31 books in my “to read” list (which is missing a further 7 or 8 I think) so it seems a little pointless asking for more.

But the thing is, I like books. I do like reading I just don’t seem to make the time.

So I’m going to try scheduling some time for reading. I already have “get off your arse and go to the gym” in my calendar, so why not set aside a few hours a week specifically to get me back in the habit of reading.

That’s the plan.

It does seem, I dunno, wrong, to be forcing myself to read. Shouldn’t it be an enjoyable activity, something to while away a few lazy hours here and there? A way to lose myself in the depths of another time or place, escape the daily drudgery, and indulge my emotions.

All of these things, and more, are why I enjoy reading so I’m hoping that, by recreating the habit, I’ll re-learn the pleasure that can be had reading a good book.




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Fatefully conspired against

I have returned from my time in Derby. It has been an eventful and exciting week in many ways and yet, despite my best laid plans, fate decided to remind me of my position in the universe.

As I mentioned previously I was travelling down to Derby (Mickleover to be precise) where I was attending a conference at which I was delivering a presentation entitled “Why Blog?” (you can see my slides and notes on my other blog. I’ve presented at something similar once, and considering the topic I was reasonably comfortable with my knowledge of the subject matter. I’ll be writing more about the conference on my other blog, although some of the cognitive psychology stuff will probably fall here too, it’s fascinating!

As I was in the area, it transpired that, after many years of reading him and recently delighting at watching him dance on the plinth in Trafalgar Square, I would finally meet the Troubled Diva (aka mike) himself. All good. THEN he said that I’d also be able to shake hands with, and congratulate on his recent half-marathon (for which he helped raise over £3k!) the only and only SwissToni well I was delighted. THEN he mentioned that Sarah would there as well, and as she was one of many Tweeps that shared the delight of the pointy fingered dancing on the plinth that evening well it was looking like a nice evening.

THEN they mentioned we’d be seeing a gig by a Norwegian band named Ungdomskulen and… yeah.. I wasn’t sure. As it turns out they were good, big and noisy and a little “prog”, although the CD that I purchased after the gig is a lot … hmmm … more indie sounding than the live act.

Anyway my over-elaborated point is that I had several reasons to be excited about my trip.

The journey down on Tuesday evening was uneventful and very short, flying from Glasgow to East Midlands airport (the cheapest option!) was all of 40 minutes, and the first day of the conference nicely played out along the theme I was using as part of my presentation on blogging first thing on the second day (the whole “be part of the conversation” thing, you know).

Roll on Thursday morning, the second day of the conference and at 9am I stepped up and 35 minutes later I finished, took 5 minutes for a few questions and ended bang on time. I missed one or two little things but hey ho, it went very well from my side and a few people spoke to me afterwards saying they had enjoyed it so it seems to have been well received. The video of the presentation will never ever see the light of day. I had to kill the A/V guy after my session to make sure, so apologies to any dog-walkers in Mickleover who stumble over the body of a young man, strangled by several microphone cords.

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur and all of a sudden I’m in Derby and heading towards the building where all the noise was coming from, and next thing I’m shaking hands with three people who I don’t know but have known (collectively) for many many years. Fab! It also whittles down my list of “bloggers to meet” to around 4 or 5 (no, no names). I originally thought the number lower but well you lot are just too fab.

Alas the excitement had to end so this very morning at something around 4.50am I woke up and not being able to get back to sleep got up and started the last of the packing. I jumped in the taxi when it arrived (late) and by the time I got to the airport (including 2 trips round one roundabout!) I was a little tight for time.

I grabbed a paper (The Guardian in which Mike had an article), a coffee and hustled to Gate 23.

Sidenote: There is a sign in Derby airport that states how far gates 18-23 are, 180m from the sign apparently. Now, whilst I can, now, figure out roughly how long that may take me to walk, does anyone else think it odd they didn’t at least have a diagram, or indicate how long it might take someone to walk (1-2 minutes)?? Just me, ok as you were.

At the top of a metal escalator as I reached down to grab my bag, my foot caught the edge of a step and next thing I know I’ve fallen forward, banging my injured knee (long term, tendinitis), my shin and my arm as I try and keep hold of my coffee, the paper and my luggage. It hurt.

I was very tired, mainly because whilst conferences are great they are intense, as there is a LOT of thinking that goes on both in the sessions and in the chats afterwards, and because I’d spent the previous (very enjoyable!) evening on my feet. I hadn’t had breakfast, and it REALLY fucking hurt. I think it’s the closest I’ve been to crying about falling over since I was a child.

Needless to say the escalator was still moving and a split second later I realised I would have to get up or try and negotiate the end of the stairs and I painfully managed to get to my feet just in time to stagger forward and fall down again.

I’m rather thankful there wasn’t anyone else in sight.

Looking back it seems a bit silly but given that I spent the first 20 minutes of the flight pale, sweating and shaking so much the stewardess stopped to ask if I was ok I guess the adrenaline rush was a little too much for my tired and aching body to cope with.

All that at the end of a wonderful week, meeting interesting people, making new friends, learning new things, enjoying new music and meeting someone I’ve ‘known’ for longer than anyone outside my immediate circle of “real life” friends (they don’t blog, I can call them that). Regardless of all the good things that happened this week, the shock of that simple little trip will be what I recall when I mention the conference or “when I met Mike”, and that, my friends is why I’m feeling mostly conspired against.

So, I’m going to focus on the positives and, as I limp home, remind myself that this was just a little bit of balance, that’s all. Both reminding me that while life can be fantastically good, it can also tip you over. Literally. On a metal escalator in an airport near Derby.




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