Amadou & Mariam: iTunes Festival gig review

July 29, 2009

A quick review from me of last night’s gig at the Roundhouse, Camden, with Amadou and Mariam.

French People
There were many many French people at the gig. I don’t know if this is because A&M are much bigger in France than here, or because Mali (where A&M are from) is an ex-French colony and somehow that’s the connection. Or because the support act Charlie Winston is apparently #1 in the French charts.

Charlie Winston – support
Never heard of him, but he claimed to have the #1 selling album currently in France. Seems bizarre as his band were fairly conventional acoustic blues-rock. Why pick him over any other average acoustic pop-rock band?

Not sure, but if you happen to be in an average sounding  acoustic blues-rock band struggling to make an impact here in the UK, I suggest you head over to France!

Amadou & Mariam
Yey! They were great, deploying their highly funky and surprisingly fierce-at-times sounding afro-beat-pop. I’d forgotten to mention to Meg that Amadou and Mariam were both blind, so she was surprised when they were helped on by stagehands. You realise how much performers must rely on seeing the audience when you find a pair of musicians who it doesn’t matter how much you wave your hands or dance in front if, they won’t be able to see the effect. There was plenty of cheering to keep them assured of our presence though.

But it’s the music what matters, and it’s rare for a 90 minute set go by so quickly. The crowd took a few songs to warm up, but by the end the atmosphere was hot, everyone dancing.

The only slight weirdness was by the end of the last song, we all knew they hadn’t played their hit song ‘Senegal Fast Food’ so when the musicians left the stage, we the audience did the usual ‘encore’ and ‘more’ stuff expecting it to be played. So when a roadie came on and unplugged the first microphone it caused the crowd to actually boo – which isn’t great form, no matter how much  you wanted another song.

I had actually spent the week trying to learn words of Senegal Fast Food so I could sing along, which is a surprisingly tricky task, and was cruelly deprived of this opportunity…

I notice that Amadou & Mariam are playing the Big Chill next week – and so am I with Cassette, so hopefully they play it then and I can test my pigeon French and Malinese (if that’s the language of the chorus)


Waterhouse, Windows, Whacking drums

July 27, 2009

A good weekend:

JW Waterhouse @ the Royal Academy

Femme fatales, Sorceresseses, Sirens, maidens on the cusp of womanhood…these are definitely the obsessions of JW Waterhouse, the post-pre-raphaelite of the late 19th/early 20th century. Cinematic in their drama and hyper-real in their execution, these paintings are ravishingly seductive. The detail is astounding – Waterhouse is a master of technique, sometimes photoreal in the Academy tradition and other times more impressionistic, but always in the service of the picture and it’s story.

These stories are almost always exploring the contradictory nature of women (as he saw it): seductive but dangerous, powerful yet vulnerable (the picture above is Circe the sorceress in her pomp and power just before falling victim to Odyseus, who can be seen skulking around in the shadows),  and nymphs with the power to hypnotise (check the mesmeric stare of the lead nymph and Hylas in Hylas and the Nymphs. Sexy stuff!)

Ezra Pound dismissed his work as ‘merely beautiful’, but that’s a silly thing to say. Waterhouse must be one of the last artists to really use classical and mythological themes to express his ideas before the modernist movement came along and swept all that away. And if you’re going to paint Narcissus lost in his reflection whilst Echo pines away next to him, it should definitely be painted like this. There’s nothing wrong with beauty, silly Ezra

Recommended:  visit at your earliest opportunity.

My mum bought a new computer last week with Vista on it. What a nightmare of an operating system! I had thought, despite all the negative press, that if couldn’t be that bad. As it turns out, it is.

It went back to the shop and a Mac Mini has been acquired in it’s place. The slight extra cost is well worth it for getting a computer that, you know, actually works.  I hadn’t recommended it at first, as I thought continuity and familarity with Windows might be the best option. Wrong.

Be scornful of ‘prettiness’ and the lack of ability to ‘get under the hood’ all you like, but user experience is product design is important. Apple gets that and for some reason the majority of the tech world still don’t really understand that and think Apple is just marketing and hype.

Whacking Drums
I played my first maracatu gig in three years on Saturday. No rehearsals, but it all came right back. Maracatu is so awesome…gearing up for Notting Hill Carnival now. Can’t wait!

Sidechain compression musing

July 22, 2009

Was playing around with Side Chain compression yesterday on the bassline of an electrohouse track, and it sure does give a track movement, dynamics and energy.

I wonder if some kind of inadvertant compression & limiting of that sort is what made pop of the 50s & 60s sound so good. Equipment was so basic that there had to be some of kind of crude compression and pumping going on, which they probably got the hang of to enhance the sound.

Listen to Bo Diddley’s ‘Bo Diddley’. Although I think it’s more of a tremolo on the guitar than actual deliberate pumping compression, it don’t half give it a nice a groove. And in this case the tremolo isn’t that different from the effect of heavily pumping compression.

Just a thought!

Maracatu gig this Saturday

July 22, 2009

It’s been a while, but I’m pretty excited to be doing a gig with Maracatu Estrela do Norte this Saturday at The Egg, Kings Cross.   

It’ll be the first gig I’ve done with them for a couple of years, and I haven’t been to any rehearsals. Still, I’m sure it’ll all come flooding back to me!

Here’s them in 2007 rehearsing for the Notting Hill Carnival (I’m not present at this point):

Details are a little sketchy at this point, I’m not sure if we’re playing at the club post-1opm or at an event before then. I’ll update this post when I have more details as you’ll want to come along.

Of course you do – you are sensible people and will love this powerful, raw drumming music of Brazil.

iTunes Live: Amadou & Mariam

July 20, 2009

Yey, scored some tickets to see Amadou & Mariam at the iTunes festival gig next Tuesday at the Roundhouse!

You should try and get some too.  Irrestible pop from Mali!

Tickets are free, but you have to be lucky enough to be drawn out of the hat:

Here’s a review of their Manchester gig:

See you there, it’s gonna be a great gig, I can’t wait!

Keys are not tyre levers

July 17, 2009


They should make this clearer in the instruction manual for keys really.

And I should remember to always have tyre levers on me…

Derailleur Failure

July 17, 2009

If you’re at all familiar with the general concept of a bicycle, you’ll know that the derailleur gear shifter on the real wheel should not find itself in a position where it is bent back upwards into the real wheel spokes, locking up the wheel, snapping the chain and causing the user to suddenly stop in the middle of busy Borough Junction.


If you find this unusual situation has occurred – please take it to your local bicycle repair shop where they will charge ‘quite a lot’ to fit a new mech, mech holder, cassette, chain and to re-true the wheel.

And it’s not like I didn’t have a million bloody punctures last week either….grr!