Monday, 27 January 2014

Hiding In Plain Sight

Hiding In Plain Sight

When I offered to do a write-up for my friend's band following their gig at The Shore in Dundee last Friday night, I literally had no idea what I was getting myself into. What I mean by that is, though I would be writing about my friend's band, I had never actually listened to them before in my life. I hadn't a clue how good they were, or what sort of music they would be playing. I hadn't even heard of the venue they were to be performing in! So, I guess you could say that this post is about a journey of musical discovery...

The Shore is a 'young person's venue for 10-18 year olds', according to their official website, which means it's an alcohol free zone. This was something of a kick-in-the-teeth for someone who has just reached the age where they can legally buy alcohol. It's not that I've suddenly turned drink-crazy or anything, it just meant that this would be different to any other gig I've experienced. Every other venue I've been to promotes the selling of alcohol (to those who are old enough to buy it of course) and the faint scent of beer has become something I associate with live music. But on the positive side, you could say the lack of imbibing audience members was kind of refreshing. In fact, I think they were all better off without alcohol in their systems anyway! The teens at the gig were absolutely crazy!

When I first turned up outside The Shore, my (non-band member) friend and I were greeted with stares that were a slightly unsettling mixture of judging, hostile and curious. It was a relief to be able to scurry by the girls behind the looks, into the venue. However, the relief didn't last long. I hate admitting it, but I found being in that venue amongst the smattering of teens I didn't know kind of unsettling. It wasn't because they were rude or unkind in any way, they were just loud and boisterous and out there. I can't think of any way to put it other than that. Luckily, my friend and I did eventually get chatting to a few people, mostly the band members from Hiding in Plain Sight, and once the music actually started, I felt a lot more relaxed.
The first girl on stage was called...Beth, I think. And I really can't for my life remember what she sang. I just remember thinking that she was incredibly brave to go out on that stage alone, apart from her acoustic guitar, and perform. It's certainly something I would have struggled to do. And that's one of the main things I took away from the whole evening: to perform, you have to be confident. For some people, confidence on stage is a natural thing and for others it's something they have to develop over time. Being part of a band is kind of like having a safety net around you. The people on stage next to you can give you that extra boost to help you overcome stage fright, but when you're up there on your own, there's nobody to hide behind.
Hiding in Plain Sight were on after Beth, and what a contrast. After listening to renditions of songs on acoustic guitar, the electric guitar and heavy drum-kit were something of a shock to my ears. This said, the band played with enthusiasm and I enjoyed their original song 'Venom'. Even though there were a few glitches here and there with the timing, the band continued to play and refused to give up. More than anything, that's probably what I admire them for most; the determination to keep going. For a band that is just starting out, I think they did pretty well and I'm happy to describe them as a clear showcase of young musical talent in Scotland. They made me wish I was in a band!

All in all, I enjoyed the evening, particularly Hiding In Plain Sight's performance. The whole experience of going to a venue like The Shore gave me a bit of a shock however. I realised that (and this is where I start to sound like someone's granny) as a young teenager, I wasn't really exposed to the sort of lifestyle that the kids at the shore seemed familiar with. They were definitely a very alternative bunch of people, the kind that I wished I had hung around with when I was younger. But, alas, I did not. It also seemed to me that they were more aware of who they were, whether it was through their fashion sense or music taste. I don't remember ever being that self-assured.

Consequently, I came away from The Shore wishing two things: that I could play the guitar and that I could have had at least some form of self-identity when I was younger. But you can't turn back the clock, can you?   


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Monday, 30 December 2013

New Year's Eve

The new year is just around the corner dear readers! That of course means making resolutions you probably won't keep, staying up till well past midnight and having a good time with your friends. Or at least that's what we always tend to do.

I want to make a change to new year. I want to actually keep a resolution, something I've never done before...mainly due to the fact that I've never bothered to ever make a resolution in the first place. But, it starts here. My new year's resolution is to make sure I train up in order to run 10k non-stop. Even saying 10k makes me want to shudder with dread. I'm used to doing 5k's, and seeing as I'm not a club runner and I don't train endlessly, my normal run takes around 25 minutes. It's not bad I guess. At least I can run...that's the main thing.

However, I'm going to need to train especially hard this year because the 10k I'm gearing up for is no ordinary run. It's the Run Balmoral 10k. It's up a hill. Yep. I am indeed planning to go running up a hill most likely enduring weather that's not entirely pleasant. Why? That's a question I've been asking myself a lot recently and you know, I really don't have a decent answer for you. At least I'm going to be raising a bit of money out of the run for charity. Hopefully that will be a goal that I can keep in sight and use to inspire me to run that little bit harder and reach the finish line without suffering some sort of exercise induced collapse. Last year when I took part in the 5k, I managed to raise just over £100 for Cancer Research UK. I want to beat that amount this year.

So, here's to training hard, setting yourself goals, and raising money for good causes. Here's to 2014. Let's hope it's a fantastic year for everyone.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Christmas Food From Around The World

Have you ever wondered what Christmas must be like in other countries? Or at the very least, wondered what people usually eat for Christmas dinner across the other side of the world? probably haven't, but now that I've mentioned it, you must be a little curious. And your curiosity is about to be satisfied. Sit back and get a load of this...

In Argentina the traditional Christmas spread is made up of Vitel Tone - veal smothered in a creamy mayonnaise sauce flavoured with tinned tuna - or in other words this:

Vitel Tone is made by poaching a cut of veal with onions, carrots, celery and parsley (among a few other ingredients) and coating the meat with a tuna mayonnaise sauce made with anchovies and vinegar. Not something seafood haters should ever try. The meat and the sauce are then layered together and set in the fridge to stew for up to five days to allow the flavours to develop.  

A few other key Argentinian Christmas treats are Turron or Nougat, Pan Dulce (panattone), Asado (meaning barbeque) meats such as beef, chicken, calf, lamb or suckling pig, Budin (fruitcake), Matambre (a cut of beef), Lengua (beef tongue), sandwiches de miga, salads and pionono (dough cooked with walnuts or fruits and chantilly cream). 
The Swedes go all out in their Christmas extravaganza - especially in the sausage department. That's actually not as dodgy as it sounds...what I mean is that they have three kinds of sausage on the dinner table: Prinskorv - small hot dog sausages, Flaskkorv - large pork sausages, and Isterband - smoked fresh pork sausage. If that isn't enough meat for you, they also bring out the Kottbullar (Swedish meatballs), Revbensspjall (spare ribs) and Julskinka (Christmas ham). To balance out all this meat, the Swedes lay out the Christmas fish with dishes like Lutfisk - boiled white fish served in a white gravy, Inlagdsill - pickled herring, Janssons frestelse - scalloped potato casserole with anchovies, and Gravad Lax - raw spiced salmon, proving very popular. Again, not a great place to spend Christmas if you don't like fish...or if you're vegetarian for that matter. 

The last country I thought I should add to my Christmas dinner list is Jamaica. I did this mainly because their main dish is curried goat: something which I think puts the traditional turkey to shame...although they do also consume slightly less flamboyant meats like chicken and ham which I think (like the goat) they eat with rice and peas. Their Christmas desert, which is similar to our Christmas cake, is served with a special drink. This drink is called sorrel and countains rum and is usually heavily flavoured with ginger and other spices.  

In my opinion, Christmas dinner sounds best in Jamaica. Admittedly, this is mainly because I can't stand the taste of fish unless it is in finger form, but also because I really do like the sound of curried goat!

Brother & Bones

I realise I said I would be doing a few things on the blog which I happen to not have actually done. It's really not the best work ethic I've got going on with the Guide, but I'm afraid to say that this year school work takes priority. And when I say work, I mean work. I should probably be doing school stuff right now in fact, but I figured that a little blog post might help chill me out a bit.

So, as promised, here is the long awaited Brother & Bones interview. The reason it's taken me so long to get this up on the blog is mainly due to the fact that the phone line was so bad while I was interviewing the lead singer (Rich Thomas) that half of my questions now don't have answers. I tried getting in contact with the band again via email, but I've had no luck. I'm going to put this down to them being busy on tour...

I was pretty nervous about interviewing Rich at the start, though I really needn't have been. What I should have been worrying about was how long it would actually take to get the interview done and dusted. It took three attempts before I managed to get all my questions answered. Why? Well, the first time I phoned, the tour manager had been left in the dark about the whole interview arrangement so I was asked to call back later. When I did call back, the phone line was so bad I ended up rescheduling in the hope that the signal would be better once the band had reached Dundee (where they were to be performing that evening). Unfortunately, as I later realised, it wasn't actually the signal that was mucking up the sound quality of the phone. All the crackling and cutting out was down to the fact that my house phone is a bit of a diva when it comes to loudspeaker.

That said, I did have a lot of fun doing the whole interview and I got some pretty good stuff out of it. So, without further ado, here it is:

When I saw your gig in Manchester, you were playing in quite a small venue, but you’ve played for large festivals too. Do you find you have to change the way you perform for festivals as opposed to smaller venues?

Rich Thomas
“Yes. On small stages in small venues, in terms of space, you don’t have the same kind of freedom as you would at a big festival. Just by definition it’s different. We have to find a way for our music to come across as best it can. In a small venue you can’t have the guys playing on their drums as loud as they possibly can, but on a big festival stage, you have that freedom and you can get away with it. In a small venue you’ve got to allow room – in terms of volume – for other stuff to come through. As long as we don’t have to compromise on delivering our songs the way they should be played, that’s fine. Obviously every band has to be able to play smaller venues and we love both for different reasons.” 

Do you find yourself missing family and friends when you’re on tour?

“Yeah, I suppose it’s a bit of a double edged sword in that way. We have people we’re missing back home like girlfriends and family but the fact that the band is pretty much a family makes up for that. That sounded cheesy, but it makes sense. You’re going to be working away from home a lot of the time, like most musicians do, so you need that. We do get to be at home, but we go on the road as well, and that’s just the way it is. It’s the lifestyle we chose and we chose it for a reason – because we love music. It’s not for everyone and people’s ideas of being on the road are probably slightly different to the reality. It’s hard work. We do a lot of driving and lugging gear around and eating a lot of shit food. We’re quite used to staying up until 2 in the morning and then getting up and 10. That’s our lifestyle. A lot of people couldn’t handle that and having to perform every night.”

How did you guys meet?

(couldn’t make out much of this)

“I met Rob ages ago in Cornwall. We’ve just played music together forever really. We all met through the London music scene and we started jamming and it just worked out.”

What influences your music?

(same with this one)

“That’s quite a broad question really, but in general, from my point of view, it’s kind of hard not to be influenced by everything and every day. That sounds pretty cheesy as well. I grew up listening to a lot of older music – my mum used to listen to Motown stuff. I’m used to my family sitting down together and playing guitars, so that’s my background.  We all love a bit of modern music as well, but it’s a collective thing.”

Are you working on any new material?

“We’ve got loads of new ideas and I’ve been writing some stuff on my own as well. There are loads of ideas floating around but none are 100% finished. I just need to get a few loose ends tied up and show them to the band and hopefully some of it will end up on the new album.There’s loads and loads of ideas, I just need to make sense of it all. I find it a lot harder to write lyrics than I do music. I’ve got a lot of ideas for melodies and for some of them everything is there but the lyrics.”

Sunday, 24 November 2013

As You Can See

As you can see, I have been messing around with the blog's appearance. I'm not entirely sure if I actually like it, so don't be surprised if it all gets changed again within the next few days. I just want to make it look more attractive and I think experimentation is the best way to go about it. If you've been following the blog from the beginning, you'll know that right now, it looks completely different to how it all started out. The whole blog used to be a shocking pink. I know!

I sort of wanted to make it look more mature, though I'm not sure pastel colours are the way to go...still, it looks a whole load better than it did when we first started out with this thing. I was thinking about changing it to dynamic views or something like that, but you don't really get the chance to personalise your blog a huge amount when you do that. If anyone has a few tips or ideas they want to share - please contact me via my email which is at the side of the blog.

Also, I wanted to give you all a heads up to what's going to be appearing on the blog shortly. I'll be posting an interview with Brother & Bones which I did today over the phone. I ended up having to call them about three times to complete the interview and on top of that, the line kept breaking up either because the connection was really awful or because my phone really just can't cope with being put on loudspeaker.

So, that's something you all have to keep an eye out for. I will also be posting on lacebirds again soon - possibly this weekend. The shots will be hugely different to what I normally do - I'm going to be using one of my friends as a model (not for fashion photography though) and the theme for the photos is a tad dark, but hey, change is always a good thing.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Posts from BOOKMARK - And Now Raise Your Glasses

And Now Raise Your Glasses

Oct 24 2013
This is going to be my last post on the BOOKMARK blog and so it seemed fitting to include the event which concluded BOOKMARK 2013 – Charles Maclean’s whisky tasting session – or at least the session preceding it seeing as I didn’t take part in any whisky tasting because I’m slightly too young for that.

 Anyway, I sat down at the beginning of the session, thinking I could melt away into the background. I was wrong. I received a shout out (and so did the tech team), thanking me for being BOOMARK’s official blogger. This meant the entire audience turned and stared at me. Nonetheless, it was great to hear how much my work has been appreciated, and it’s also been nice reading the comments left on the posts, but there was someone else who I thought ought to have been mentioned. Without the editing skills of Hilda Reilly, my posts would, no doubt, be full of spelling and punctuation mistakes that I failed to pick up in the heat of writing. So thank you, Hilda.

 Throughout the rest of Charles’s session I picked up a huge amount of information on whisky (which I’m sure will be put to use in later life). The audience seemed hugely enthusiastic, judging by their response to Mr Maclean’s easy manner on stage and the amount of participation in the session which was unscripted and relied on questions asked by audience members. And, despite the lack of scripting, Charles managed to speak without faltering once. Hats off to him, I say. Unfortunately he happens to be the only person whose session I listened in on and didn’t get the chance to interview! We did share a few quick words, but he had to take charge of the whisky tasting session which started at 4.30pm, so I interviewed a few BOOKMARK volunteers instead.

 I met Jan and Heather outside the Hub and decided to pounce on them for their opinion of BOOKMARK (which I also used in an article for the Blairie).

“For a first year it’s been a great experience,” said Jan.

“It’s been great for those who have been helping too. It’s been enjoyable,” was Heather’s verdict.

 And you know, I couldn’t agree more. Helping out with the blog for BOOKMARK has been so much fun and has given me the opportunity to meet many well-known writers and, more importantly, has enabled me to take part in something that I know will benefit the community enormously. But what kick-started the whole concept of BOOKMARK in the first place?

I put the question to Christine Findlay.

“I belong to two reading groups in Blairgowrie and am an avid book festival goer,” she told me. “It struck me that Blairgowrie, a town working hard to regenerate its economy and its identity, might benefit from a new project such as a book festival. I had been to several other small book festival towns (Melrose, Wigton, Ullapool etc.) and seen the benefits which had come directly from hosting a successful book festival. So it was a combination of my own love of reading, a lifelong desire to encourage that love of reading in others (I had a long career as an English teacher) and a belief that bringing a book festival to Blairgowrie, Rattray and The Glens could contribute to the area’s regeneration programme which collectively motivated me.”

Thanks to Christine’s determination and the hard work of the BOOKMARK team, audiences were able to enjoy a brilliant first festival – long may that continue.

 I have to say, though, there was one thing that did disappoint me about BOOKMARK – I didn’t get the opportunity to interview all of the authors taking part! Nor was I able to listen in on all of the sessions, like Karen Campbell’s or Joan Lennon’s. But never mind, there’s always a next time.