Brian Wilson and band at the Royal Festival Hall. He may be looking a little worn around the edges (and increasingly like Jeff Bridges), but he’s still a Beach Boy.
In the iPad ‘top hits’ section of the app store at the moment (in the UK at least) is an app called Aweditorium. It’s a really nice app to explore bands, and you get to swipe and pinch your way through various music, images, and see random popup information ala VH1’s Pop-Up Video. It’s from thesixtyone.com, which is a website that does the same.
I came across a band called the Hot Toddies, singing a song called HTML. You should probably just listen and make up your own mind:
HTML is not hard to spell,
When I’m with you, when I’m with you
Binary code is just ones and ohs
I thought you knew
You are so swell, just like DSL
You touched my modem, you touched my modem.
We went to the bop, my heart gigaflopped
Recently I’ve been trying to find examples of good modern Chinese music. It’s been a hard search. Most Chinese music appears to be made entirely for the karaoke market. The reason for this is probably one of simple economies – the karaoke market in China is huge. Almost everyone takes part in it, both men and women, young and old. Karaoke centres are vast buildings with hundreds of private rooms where people go to sing on all manner of occasions – with friends, lovers, even on business.
TV is also full of karaoke-style shows. At any moment of the day it is likely that somewhere there is a TV station in China broadcasting amateur singing. It’s taken very seriously, with big competitions and major prizes. Often a popular karaoke singer will go on to start a successful pop career. It even goes deep inside the state with CCTV7 broadcasting the unintentionally funny army karaoke show (or at least, that’s my interpretation of it).
I’ll admit a certain liking towards end-of-the-world movies. For me there’s something irresistible in seeing what happens when everything goes wrong and Bruce Willis doesn’t manage to save the day. It was with delight that I watched 28 Days Later, a 2002 movie by Danny Boyle and Alex Garland about a horrible blood-spitting disease that strikes Britain. Maybe it was the bleak London vistas, maybe it was the unrelenting music and in-your-face video, or maybe it was just the fact that it was a great budget movie that packed a big punch.
With this in mind I looked forward to 28 Weeks Later, the sequel, with great anticipation. Both Danny Boyle and Alex Garland took a back-seat this time, leaving the movie to Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. The story starts 28 weeks after infection, and we are introduced to a Britain where the infected have all died of starvation. The American army has been called in to take control of the situation and reintroduce the surviving population back. Gone are the original actors, disappointingly with no indication about their whereabouts. Instead we have Robert Carlyle and his family as the main protagonists, as we follow them into London, entering a survival centre, and then escaping the aftermath as a good situation goes badly wrong.
I wrote recently about catching the Muse concert in Hong Kong, and here I am on the other side of that, somewhat tired, but pleased nonetheless.
Hong Kong rocked far harder than I could have imagined, and it was good to see that alternative music is alive and well there. The Asiaworld Exposition Hall is a monstrous building just past Hong Kong Airport, and the industrial grey concrete seemed befitting.
After waiting far too long for the staff to get wired up (surely they could have sorted this out before the start), Muse descended onto the stage and immediately launched into the first half of their set. Chatty they are not, saying but a few words in Cantonese for the whole of the show. However, they worked incredibly hard and the music was perfectly crafted, with Matt Bellamy’s falsetto voice always reaching the tricky notes and his fingers never missing a key on the classical piano sections.
Alas I took no photos, but courtesy of the great internet I can refer you to a couple of wobbly YouTube recording:
It’s funny how the world works. Only the other day I was complaining to a friend about the lack of musical events here in Guangzhou (or, at least, musical events I’d want to listen to) and that if anyone did come over and play, someone such as Muse for example, I’d buy a ticket in a heartbeat. A couple of weeks later and I’m watching TV when an advert comes on for a concert… Muse are playing in Hong Kong – just two hours away. That’s close enough for my prophecy! It took more than a couple of heartbeats, but suffice to say that I’m already booked in and feeling pretty pleased.
According to the site I have this to look forward to:
Following 2003’s chart-topping masterpiece “Absolution”, the trio released their fifth and yet another UK number one album “Black Holes and Revelations” in July 2006. Hit singles include “Supermassive Black Hole” and “Starlight”: the former is a dance tune with a twist that sounds like a cross between Beck and Marilyn Manson with a dose of Studio 54 glamour while the latter is an Abba gig on the moon. “Knights of Cydonia”, a surf-prog number, is another favourite single taken from the album.
An Abba gig on the moon. Nice. Sure beats my ears bleeding from the more local Twins concert.
I’ve no idea what to expect from the concert itself. Hong Kong is not exactly known for it’s rock scene, and the concert itself is conspicuously on Lantau Island, far away from civilisation (next door is the airport). Admittedly this is because the Asiaworld Expo centre is located there (where the concert is playing), but I also suspect that Muse’s prog-rock warblings may cause a few puzzled looks if it neighboured any civilisation.
Hong Kong here I come (again)!
Let me start this by stating that Jazz is not my thing. Not at all. It instantly brings to mind Starbucks-esque nondescript croonings that send me to sleep faster than just about anything.
With that in mind the rest of this post is about Jazz. Twice.
It was with some trepidation that I found myself paying a visit to the Backstreet Jazz Bar, situated in the lovely environs of Guangzhou’s Ersha Island. Around the corner is the Xinghai Concert Hall, and at the end of the street is the Pearl River. You can’t be any better situated.
The Christmas and New Year season is finally over, and I’ve made it out alive. Time for an update.
Christmas itself was very peaceful. Christmas eve was spent walking around a park in 25 degree sunshine, and eating water chestnut ice-cream. Definatley a big change from the artic conditions that occurred back in Europe. Christmas day was spent watching movies, and eating as much food as could be managed at La Seine – a very fine French restaurant that had a lunch-time ‘all-you-can-eat’ buffet. As is usual at this time of the year, I ate too much, and had a very bloated night and little to eat the next day. Still, well worth the money, and the mini quiche tartlets really were to die for (so much so that the chef-on-prowl commented he couldn’t look for fear of eating them all).
New Years eve saw some more movies, and a visit to The Paddy Field, the only Irish bar in town, with some live music that saw in the New Year. New Years day itself was spent climbing Baiyun mountain in yet more 25 degree sunshine.
It’s been interesting having spent this time of the year in a country for which it has no traditional meaning. Nothing at all stopped like it does in the West. Construction workers were still constructing at 11pm New Years eve night, and everything was open for business as usual.
I suspect that the Chinese view Christmas as an excuse to put up lots of flashing lights and cute pictures. I can’t help but think that there is some cultural liking for all things overly cute and fluffy, as demonstrated by the countless Hello Kitty, Snoopy, and other cartoons, that adorn everything possible.
So I’ve had a few days experience of Oslo and my thoughts so far are:
- It’s full of shiny new people and things
- It’s very clean
- Oslo has big traffic congestion problems
- Norway has a lot of laws
- The hotel has free wi-fi access in all rooms – nice!
- It is expensive, but no more so than London
- I’ve not seen a fish anywhere (although I think they are just hiding out of sight)
- People get called Odd and Even
- Most people have an almost perfect understanding of English, and can speak it with very little accent. I’ve been told that English is compulsory at schools from the age of 8 onwards. I suspect that the similarity in structure of English and Norwegian and Swedish may also be a contributing factor. Whatever the reason, I am in awe.
- I met an old Odd guy who says his father tried to assassinate Trotsky when he was living here in Norway
- I can once again buy goodies such as muffins and NME magazine. It really is a rock-star life-style I lead.
I watched several movies over the weekend, courtesy of my flat mate making a bumper trip to the video rental store. His tastes could easily be described as eclectic – old romance, sci-fi, and Benny Hill are not an average choice.
Movie one was Woman Of The Year. This is a very old black and white movie starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn and it falls squarely in the ‘romantic comedy’ category. Normally I make a quick retreat from such movies, but this was a lot of fun and certainly a lot better than most modern varieties.
What was particularly curious is how much society has changed with regards attitudes towards women. The basic premise of the story is that Hepburn is a modern wonder-woman; strong, intelligent, and beautiful. She speaks several languages, knows many important political figures, and soon wins the prize for ‘Woman of the year’. At the same time she meets Spencer Tracy and before long they get married. However, because of her busy life things start falling apart. She tries to patch it together by adopting an orphan boy, but it’s quickly apparent she has no time for him.