The Best Gig I Have Been To Yet – Sunn O))) @ The Stylus, Leeds

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For sixteen years, Sunn O))) have been challenging the way we think about music. In that relatively brief time, core members Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson have forged connections between the worlds of Metal, Drone, Contemporary Composition, Jazz and Minimalism with startling results while remaining true to the eternal principles of volume, density and weight.

Sunn O))) are renowned for their no compromising live sets. I did not know if this was limited to their hometown of Seattle, Washington or if they pulled out all of the stops for all of their tours. So when I heard they were playing just down the road in Leeds I bought a brace of tickets and set off with Kathryn.

We descended the stairs to The Stylus and it became apparent that the band were pulling no punches. Despite getting there an hour before Sunn O))) were to step on stage we were met by a wall of dry ice as soon as we entered the main room. This artificial smoke was to be continuously pumped out throughout the live performance to the point that by the end of the gig we could hardly see the bar to our right, of which we were stood ten foot away from – let alone the group on stage. There was a thick fug – but we could make out most of their gear..

Smoke: The Beginning – Taken with an iPhone SE

So, Atilla took the stage at around 2030 and started muttering incantations. The mans voice was amazing. The room was shaking (physically and atmospherically) to just the gruff growl of a satanic blessing – at least that is what I thought he was doing. It was a bit hard to make out with the smoke machines. Kathryn thought he was speaking in Elvish.

Then the Guitars started. And my what drone. To call it a musical feat would be belittling music and in turn be belittling the spectacle that we witnessed at the Stylus. To be so tight as a group as to know when exactly to play your note is something else – but it was more so with Sunn O))) as there was no beat or drummer yet could do just that. But there were smoke machines. From what we could make out through the fog, the members of the group were all clad in robes.

Smoke Pt. II – Taken with an iPhone SE

Was what we went to see? Music? Noise? Ah, an old debate. I’m comfortable saying it was music even though they played drawn out notes for forty seconds – it was tight and it was organised sound therefore I would describe it as music. The was the whole minimal/maximal thing going on and they pulled it off really well

But the volume! Hands down the loudest gig I have ever been to. The hair on my shorted legs was flapping about as the notes blurred and pulses into an overwhelming climax that saw Atilla have a outfit change so he re-appeared on the stage, dressed as what can only be described as Disco Sauron – with lasers shooting out of his mittens.

Smoke: The Finalé – Taken with an iPhone SE

It was hard to make out the member’s of the group on stage – Atilla was lit up with a spot-light and had his own smoke machine bubbling away at his feet. Stephen O’Malley & Greg Anderson were only seen right at the end when the curtain call came. There was no encore – the Satanic Mass had ended and were released to go about our business. I think I saw Atilla waving a blade around in the fog – so, this could have been an actual ritual. If you know a bit more about the group than me then feel free to fill in the comments section and correct me.

It was easily the best gig I have been to – Kathryn echoed that sentiment too. It was completely overpowering. It was non-compromising. It was inspirational. Tomorrow, I will picking out my SUNN amp and dusting off my guitar – sod the poncy Jazz Guitar, Drone is what I want to do now.

Dornoch 2017 – Roadtrip: North Coast 500

 

When we were on our way up North, we stopped overnight at my Aunt’s house near Glasgow – she mentioned something had changed on the north coast and called it The North Coast 500. There was an article in the Highland Times about it that she showed us all. Well, what is The North Cost 500? It is the highlands equivalent to Route 66 and we did the bulk of it today. It was brilliant.

north-coast-500
The Official Route Of The North Coast 500

As you can see from the above map, and the previous Blog articles, we are in Dornoch, a bit further north than Inverness. We started our day with tea, toast and grumbles but were soon cake-bound-north. We left Dornoch around 9am and travelled up the A9 through Helmsdale (which I chuckled to myself, Helmsdeep – ammirite!) and by that point I was pumping out the zzzz’s as the landscape inland changed from rugged hills to the flow country.

the flow country
The Flow Country – Biologically important boggy meh!

We stopped off for tea and cake at the TESCO’s in Wick around 11am – the longest I had been without cake this holiday. We were then speeding off to John O’Groats – allegedly the most northerly point on mainland Britain. Here is a few photos to prove this –

We then turned West along the A836 and saw some of the most jaw-droppingly rugged coastal and inland views framed by our car window. Dad took responsibility for getting us home and we were whisked past (at a pace) Beinn Ruadh and Beinn Ratha among a whole other heap of incredible mountains, passing through farmsteads, crofts and working fields – complete with growing lambs and electrified deer fences to stop, what must be, stock straying too far so assuage the blood lust of the rich.

I felt like NC, c*cksman and adonis to Kathryn’s Ginsberg as we hurried through the star spangled æther toward more cake. We were on a road trip and breaking free.

🙂

But … this was the highlands and not Route 66, famed by the Beats in the middle of the C20th – there was not really the opportunity to break free as most of the road was single-track carriageway and we had to keep our eyes peeled for traffic incase we had to use a passing place.

Allegedly, The North Coast 500 has bought in £9m of revenue to the local hotels so far – but why brand it as something adventurous when in reality you are too busy watch for German motorcyclists rather than take in the scenery. Because it puts these incredible sights on a framed point of reference – here is hoping it will do the local economy wonders. I for one am proud to have seen the landscape that inspired men to rebel against England’s rule and try and strike with Bonny Prince Charlie. It was awesome. And I did not get sunburnt.


We turned west around Laxford Bridge and headed past Loch Shin to Lairg. The Reason Granny Dornoch became Granny Dornoch was because, after the war, she and her sister Nett got jobs in Lairg Tea Rooms (which my Gran’s Aunt owned) and there she met a dashing Highland laddie who would become my grandpa.

We arrived full circle at 5pm just in time for cake …

If anyone has a car and the time whilst in the highlands I really recommend The North Coast 500.

The Battle Of Embo

 

As readers of this Blog will be aware, I am staying in Dornoch – Dornoch is where my Granny lives and Dornoch has remained a source of inspiration to me for years. When I get up here it is as if I settle down – yes, I am on holiday and therefore in holiday mode – but, there seems a slower pace of life here than urban Yorkshire where I work. There are less distractions in Dornoch to being yourself.

We had the day off and I managed to get sunburn in the Scottish Highlands. Alison & Dad went for a walk and saw someone panning for gold. I took advantage of a break in walking & eating cake and went with my wife to the History Links Museum in Dornoch – the staff were knowledgeable and friendly and the exhibitions were local but on point. There was a plethora of early C20th Photos and a great bit about the Battle Of Embo among other time periods explained from Dornoch’s point of view. It really is worth the £4/adult entry fee. However, it is about the Battle Of Embo I want to write about now.

Dornoch’s Coat Of Arms

According to the History Links site, some doubts remain as to the exact date of this battle: tradition suggests the 1240s, but more reliable recent evidence places the battle in the 1260s. The battle took place after a party of Danes landed at Little Ferry and encamped near Embo. The Earl of Sutherland asked Richard de Moravia (St. Gilbert’s brother who had been given Skelbo Castle by him in 1235) to engage the Danes and hold them in check until he assembled a strong enough force to come to Richard’s aid.

The plan worked, and the Danes were routed on the arrival of the Earl. During the battle Richard was killed and Earl William reputedly slew the Danish leader with the leg of a horse,* an incident that accounts for the horseshoe on Dornoch’s present coat-of-arms. After the battle the Earl arranged for Richard de Moravia’s burial in Dornoch Cathedral, where the remains of his damaged sarcophagus can still be seen.

The only primary evidence I could find was this image on a Dornoch History Links image library. It is cited as –

Copy account of the Battle of Embo written in old English style taken from an old book. 2 A4 pages glued on a sheet of brown paper

Picture added on 22 February 2012 at 12:53

… so the origin is lost, but I am not too tempted to dig deeper about a man who kills people with horses legs. But here is the image** –

 

*Emphasis on my account

**No mention of the horse leg

First Attempt With My New Harinezumi Guru

 

Harinezumi is Japanese for ‘Hedgehog’ – it is also awesome as a camera.

To be honest, the cost of film purchase and development had taken the fun out of Lomography. I was worried too much about the cost of the prints that I did not snap away as you should. However, after finding a Japanese site that claimed these cameras were “King of Artistic Digital” I was intrigued.

I found a brand new Harinezumi Guru from 2011 in France and I have been pacing about waiting on Colissimo delivering the thing.

My Harinezumi Guru camera arrived today around 14:50 and I was showered and away from my computer at 15:20. A quick stop at Bass & Bligh later and I had acquired a battery and Micro SD card – unfortunately these are not supplied with the camera – and I headed off to Major Tom’s to read the manual.

Over a friendly, delicious pint of Atom Pale Ale I familiarised myself with the rudimentary controls of the camera – six buttons and that is all you have. I fired off a few in the pub and headed out. Here are the results –

 

First Attempt with My Harinezumi Guru

The Wailers @ The O2, Leeds

 

The story of The Wailers Band really begins during the 1960s. The original Wailers formed as a vocal harmony group in the Trench Town slum in 1963, initially as a quintet, but later slimming to the committed core of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston (aka Bunny Wailer). Percussionist Alvin ‘Seeco’ Patterson brought them to an audition at Studio One, which resulted in their first hit recordings, and during the years when ska and rock steady were the rage, the group recorded and performed with an ever-changing cast of session musicians (with Seeco often part of the picture). But everything changed around 1969-70, when they began working with the maverick producer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, who had harnessed the skills of a pair of young brothers as his in-house rhythm section: bassist Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett and his drumming brother Carlton made such an impression on Marley that he convinced them to become the rhythm section of The Wailers Band, once The Wailers broke away from Perry to establish their own Tuff Gong label. They were soon joined by two very young and very talented keyboard players, Earl ‘Wya’ Lindo and Tyrone Downie, who had totally different styles from each other, and who performed alternate duties, depending on need.

Once The Wailers signed to Island Records in 1972 for the Catch A Fire album, they needed a band to go on the road with them as well as to record, and Fams, Carly, Seeco and Wya were crucial parts of the team. Junior Marvin became part of the band by the Exodus album, his rock lead lines helping to broaden the sound. Wya returned for the One Love Peace Concert in April 1978, and to do overdubs on the Kaya album, the twin-keyboard format added another element of musical complexity, as heard more clearly on Survival. This is the lineup that remained with Bob Marley right to the end, making the Wailers Reunion project a truly historic one.

For the first time since the death of Bob Marley, all of these players, except for Carlton Barrett, who was tragically murdered in 1987, shall come together again to make another display of musical unity. Family Man will be joined by his son, Aston Junior, on drums, along with Seeco, Wya, Tyrone, Donald Kinsey and Junior Marvin. It is the moment so many reggae fans have always dreamt of, despite the many obstacles that might have been in the way.

Two things blew me away at the gig: the guitar work of Junior Marvin & the vocal presence of Josh Barrett.

Josh David Barrett

Josh David has a commanding task as The Wailers band lead vocalist. Taking on the words of Bob Marley may be daunting to some, but not for the young Rasta lion from Roselle, NJ. Josh David stands firm and authentic in the singing spotlight.

Currently living in Brooklyn, NY, Josh David prides himself as a bridge between Reggae’s former and latter spiritual and musical “troditions.” Joining forces with the world’s most well known Reggae band, he is grateful and honored to be a part of this renowned team of musicians, guided for decades by his distant cousin, bassist Aston “Familyman” Barrett.

As a youth in New Jersey, Josh David grew up in church. It was there he joined the choir and began performing for his congregation and community. In addition to singing, he plays guitar, bass, drums, and piano. His extensive talent and easy going personality led him to performing with such Gospel greats as Grammy-winner Tramaine Hawkins, Kim Burrell, and Donovan Jackson & Joshua Generation. He later recorded or performed with R&B and Hip-Hop stars, including Common, Q-Tip, Quincy Jones, Kanye, Mary J. Blige, and Solange Knowles. Recently, Josh David has worked with renowned Ethiopian singer Teddy Afro and Grammy-winning producer Commissioner Gordon, of Lauryn Hill/Amy Winehouse/Ghetto Youths fame.

Junior Marvin

The door to Reggae opened when the music and message touched his soul. He traveled to Jamaica, his great-grandfather’s homeland, to record, perform, and create videos with Ghetto Youths’ artists Biggz General and Dax Lion. A highlight of that Kingston journey was performing on a stage that also featured Chronixx, Jesse Royal, and Bongo Herman.

On a UN trip to Tunisia to perform a series of US Embassy-endorsed shows, Josh David remembers the kindness of the Rasta youth he met there. His dedication to Rastafari continues, exemplified in the conscious lifestyle he lives. He proclaims it was the will of JAH that brought him to meet Aston Barrett, Jr., Familyman’s son and drummer for The Wailers, in 2012. The two young talented Rasta lions kept in touch, and in 2014, Josh David was blessed with the opportunity to join The Wailers band as its lead singer.

Having traversed this musical journey, from church youth, to performing with today’s top artists, to circling the globe with The Wailers, Josh David has joined the struggle to trod paths created by the Honorable Robert Nesta Marley, O.M., Peter Tosh, O.M., and Bunny Wailer, O.J. Joshua David Barrett lives and sings the songs of freedom. His mission, to uplift and inspire a new generation of Wailers’ fans, comes from the heart. Like Bob Marley, his enthusiastic performances keep steadfast in honoring the life and legacy of Ethiopia’s “Talaku Meri/Great Leader” Emperor Haile Selassie I. The legendary Wailers band continues spreading the message of “One Love” globally and throughout the Kingdom of The Most High, Jah Rastafari.

Taking Inspiration

 

Martín Ramírez is best known as the schizophrenic outsider artist who drew his masterpieces from a mental hospital. The diagnosis certainly adds a bit of sensation to his legacy, but make no mistake; he’s one of 20th century’s self-taught masters. The dude even has that ultimate accolade a USPS stamp series! – Dangerous Minds

Kind of like a psychedelic folk art, usually basic pencils and crayons on found paper. If you look closely at these works, you can sometimes see the lines of notebook paper or the distinct shade of a paper bag – heartening that in Rockwood folk can find solace.

Early on, he pasted them together with potatoes and spit. His themes of trains, saints and cowboys evoke a spiritual wild frontier ordained with his trademark filigree patterns, reminiscent of rings on a tree stump.

Ramírez’s life was tragic. At the age of 23, knowing absolutely no English, he crossed the US border to find work and provide for his pregnant wife and their three children. After six years, he was homeless, and he was soon arrested and institutionalized with acute schizophrenia, nearly catatonic. Although Ramírez’s brilliant work received some recognition during his lifetime, he remained hospitalized until his death in 1963, and the age of 68.

1st Harrogate Film Festival: A Local’s Response

 

I have had quite a fun filled weekend, what with my Dad’s birthday meal (Happy Birthday Dad) and the recording of my radio show – however, what I want to blog about this post is the first installment of Harrogate International Film Festival.

1st Harrogate Film Festival: A Local’s Response ::

At the time of going on sale, Harrogate International Film Festival had over 708 submissions from 56 countries worldwide across six competitions – as a local this is not to be missed. However, I was perplexed by how little there was in the way of media coverage – I mean, the Film Festival barely hits on the first page of Google and I had to find out about the film festival via intrepid News Hound, Graham Chalmers, Tweet.

So, there was a film festival between Friday 3rd of March and Sunday 5th of March – but what of it? Was it just going to be a rehash of old classics framed “oh so quirky” against the back drop of a town I am enamored with? I am sad to say that for most of the festival it was a rehash of films that have been over played but set in pubs. Shaun Of The Dead in a pub that has an aging clientele? Scarface in a chain bar that plays on Cuban Nationalism? No thanks – I came for art.

Thankfully, there was plenty of what I sought at the “Independent Filmakers Competition 2017 – Documentary At Everyman Cinema.”

Tickets were a bargain at £8 a pop and you were welcomed with your own complimentary tote bag, pens, voting forms and magazines. Me and the good wife made it through the Yorkshire weather to the Everyman Cinema in ample time to have a sit down and order some food in Screen 5.

Antipasti ::

The Antipasti was second to none – although the idea of a sharer combo on a two person sofa in the dark made for a bit of a mess – I managed to polish of a good portion by the time the credits were rolling on the first documentary. But what was the first documentary?

The documentaries were only last 10 to 15 minutes and played consequentially – there was no time to reach for the humus of the ample sharing platter as the short mini-documentaries played out one after the other in quick succession. The seats were all very comfortable and, as I have pointed out in a previous blog post – Everyman is a custom built modern cinema – it is amazing for Harrogate, although I will always have a soft-spot for the art-deco Odeon.

Independent Filmakers Competition 2017 – Documentary At Everyman Cinema ::

The first mini-documentary was Brazilian and interviewed Brazilian comic book writers. It talked about the role of Super heroes to pubescent teens – how Peter Parker never quite gets the girl, has to wear glasses and goofs up a lot of the time – having lost his parents too – and that it is okay to be a tool as you find your own identity – you will never be completely perfect, but you can still be super awesome. It was life affirming stuff.

The second documentary, Green Way, got my wife’s vote – she was more than happy to vote for a short film that showed the culture of the interior of Turkey. Thing is, this documentary was against the building of a highway that would carve up the innards of Turkey – leaving a trail of devastation behind. It was touchingly told from the perspective of an elderly woman.

The third documentary came from Columbia: “Categoría V” could have proved to be one of the more interesting films. However, it was not subtitled and I do not speak Spanish – I was frustrated that I could not share in this dream-scape of hitch-hiking along with a long-distance lorry driver as he delivered goods too and from the docks to the interior.

The documentary “Perpetuum Mobile” got my vote for the Audience’s Choice award – it featured the story of an inter-war brotherly quest to build a machine that would just run by itself. Humerus, insightful, poignant and very witty – this had me beaming. It traced the story of a family’s search for a machine that ran by itself – a self powering machine: I loved it.

… balls, I’ve forgotten the name of this film – anyway, it was the first one … The super hero one from Brazil.

Then there was “A Man’s Got To Do What A Man’s Got To Do” – I took this as a bit of a sad film – it portrayed a lost German looking to shoot someone in the name of defending somebody. He spent his time at the shooting range – deftly setting his scopes on the paper target. He admitted that he would love to be a bodyguard, but, at the age of 53 (?) he thought he was a bit too old – humerus and slyly done so.

Afterwards ::

I have Cottage Pie waiting for me – Kathryn is busy cooking up a feast and it is high time I hot tailed it to the kitchen to give her a hand instead of Blogging. I am sat, after a brief call to Major Tom’s merry and in my Pyjamas – Life is good.