Friday, December 03, 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Wild Flag @ Bottom Of The Hill, San Francisco, 18 Nov 2010

Wild Flag - 12 - Bottom of the Hill - 11/18/2010

Wild Flag is a new band which contains two members of Sleater-Kinney (as amazingly drummer Janet Weiss has not been snapped up by Led Zeppelin). All four members sing but the band is dominated by singer/guitarist Carrie Brownstein. Even when the band are setting themselves up they all end up looking at her waiting for the signal that they are ready. But Carrie won't start until a scotch on the rocks has been bought at the bar and passed hand to hand through the crowd. In Sleater-Kinney she was the second best singer but now she lets loose, singing louder and clearer than ever. The other guitarist-singer (Mary Timony) is in danger of being overpowered by all this but keeps going while keyboardist Rebecca Cole is cheerful but not generally audible.

Wild Flag - 02 - Bottom of the Hill - 11/18/2010

This band hasn't made a record but I expect I will buy it when it does appear. If it can capture Carrie Brownstein on this form then it should be interesting.

Boris / Red Sparrowes / Helms Alee @ Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, 26 Aug 2010

I only saw a few of Helms Alee but they are an intriguing band. They have a hard hitting drummer, a funky bassist and a nosy guitar player. They play loud but there is a lot of space in the music. I would like to hear more.

Red Sparrowes have too many guitarists (according to my rules). They make nice sound textures that make me think of Meddle-era Pink Floyd (this is a good thing). At times they lacked focus, but it was all very pleasant.

Boris - 07 - Great American Music Hall - 8/26/2010

Boris are that Japanese band who play any and all combination of sludge/psychedelic/doom/dirge/drone/metal just as long as it is HEAVY. If you ever go to ye olde record shoppe you have probably seen this amusing cover to one of their recordings:

They were playing with touring guitarist Michio Kurihara who stands off to one side to make his status clear. I love Boris's recordings but I found it hard at first to appreciate the concert. It all seemed a bit clinical despite the fact that drummer Atsuo is a rock monster.

Boris - 06 - Great American Music Hall - 8/26/2010

After a big things got going and a mosh pit formed. I was enjoying standing near the pit but some indie kid kept trying to push me in. I told him to stop but he persisted. The next time he pushed I seized his arm and flung him into the seething pit. He tried to bounce around but immediately fell over and got kicked. I had instantaneous visions of him being crushed to death and me having to deal with the conviction oriented American legal system. Fortunately for us both he was picked up and set on his feet. Sadly I felt upset by the whole incident and it was hard to concentrate as Boris did were not very interactive.

Toyah on the cover of Smash Hits

Smash Hits, November 27, 1980 - p.01

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sex Pistols 14-Jan-1978 Winterland, San Francisco (full concert)

This is a good was to hear that Sid was not totally incompetent as some have said. Where Winterland was is now a boring pile of apartments.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Three musicians who literally turned their back on the audience

Who: Miles Davis
Why: People thought he was being ornery, but Miles said he was just listening to his band.

Who: Steve Albini of Shellac
Why: he spends ages tuning guitars or amps or something so they sound just right

Who: Davey Graham
Why: He had discovered DADGAD tuning and didn't want other guitarists to see what he was doing.

I wanted to post Status Quo on Top of the Pops where they start off with their backs to the audience, but I couldn't find it. Can anyone help?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Portrait of Jamie Carragher

Dimitar Berbatov outjumps Jamie Carragher to score MAnchester United's third goal.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Greensleeves LP Covers

Read more about this great looking book here.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Janelle Monae @ All Shook Down Festival, San Francisco, 25-July-2010

Janelle Monae @ All Shook Down Festival, San Francisco, 25-July-2010

The day before I went briefly to the Tidal Wave Metal Festival in McLaren Park. This was a much more organized affair with the location being a street fair in North Beach. There was even a published schedule (please could all concerts have this?) and this enabled me to time my arrival perfectly so I could be near the front. The sound was not good at first but got better. Janelle Monae can sing, as she clearly demonstrated singing Smile. She can dance on one leg, a bit like JB in the Tami show, and in the picture above you can see she even wore a cape at one stage. She has her band looking cool in their uniform of evening dress. And she has good songs. I expect her to become a big star.

Dead Weather @ The Warfield, San Francisco, 22 July 2010

Dead Weather

Alison Mosshart is a great rock'n'roll chick. She looks fabulous, like Keef's long lost illegitimate daughter. She jumps on the monitors, she climbs on the speaker stacks. She thrusts her hips. You'd think that this would all get a bit boring after a while but it doesn't. When she isn't singing she prowls about the stage. At one point Jack White wickedly announces that she is ovulating and the audience certainly seems to feel the effects of a few hormones. There's just one big problem: she isn't the best singer in this band. Jack White actually has a similarly pitched voice, and when they sing (or shout) together it works well. But he does more things with his voice, and also articulates better, you can actually hear the words he is singing.

Dean Fertita is the Dead Weather's guitarist and keyboardist. He makes a lot of good noise. At their best the Dead Weather get a heavy Led Zep sound going, and Fertita plays the parts of both Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones (in his riffing keyboard mode). There's just one big problem: he isn't the best guitarist in this band. Jack White is a really interesting guitar player. Even when repeating a riff he seems to be able to play it differently each time.

I think John Peel once said that the problem with Led Zeppelin was that their audience started to just unthinkingly approve of everything they did. I can't begrudge anyone trying to sound like Led Zep; it looks like fun. On the BART ride home I saw someone reading Hammer of the Gods, which seems like ancient history. Maybe there should be a statute of limitations which limits how long a band can be copied.

I did enjoy this concert even if it sounds like I didn't.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

World Cup 2010 TV coverage

I liked the World Cup. The best team won in the end. One of the best things for me was that it was easy to watch. ESPN/ABC made some great decisions:

  • Relegating Tommy Smythe to the radio
  • Hiring British commentators like Martin Tyler (who was born in Chester)
  • Having good colour commentators. I especially liked "Super" Ally McCoist and Efan Ekoku. Even John Harkes was OK, though he does somewhat overdo the jargon.
  • Making deals with ISPs so that (for me at least) the matches could be watched online with no hassle. The result of this was that all the games were either on terrestrial TV or available to watch online
In the studio were several famous ex-footballers. Intelligent guys like Ruud Gullit and Jürgen Klinsmann were generally informative, if a little bland. I liked Roberto Martínez who they used to discuss Spain. By the time of the final however he had inexplicably returned to Wigan and had to appear on a TV link. Perhaps someone did not think Spain would reach the final.

The only true failure was the presence of Steven McManaman who spouted an endless stream of platitudes. And was the final boring as he said? I don't think so, it was not beautiful, but fascinating to anyone who follows the game. To me McManaman treats his TV work in the same was he did his playing career, as a good joke which he will get away with for as long as he can.

I watched some shows from the BBC and ITV. I did like the BBC studio in Cape Town. And I do like the look of Colin Murray.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Deerhoof /The Donkeys @ Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, 8 July 2010

The Donkeys are having a good time. They have a hot guitarist and the rest of the band share the vocal duties around. Yes, this means they have a singing drummer: he is pretty good but he has to stop that trick of raising one drumstick to the sky. The band has a soft rock, 70s sound and they reminded me of 10CC. As I was brought up on The Original Soundtrack this is a good thing.
Obligatory complaining about photographers: the annoying person was a young woman who was standing on the stage to take photos. I think she thought she was invisible because she was wearing black.
Deerhoof, Le Trabendo, Paris

I have heard several Deerhoof records, and liked them, but that didn't prepare me for how good they are live. They were formed by drummer Greg Saunier. He has has minimal drum kit set up and the front, and he pounds it. He also provides several long winded but mildly humourous speeches to the crowd. There are two guitarists who play like James "Blood" Ulmer crossed with Bob Mould. Finally Vocalist/bassist Satomi Matsuzaki provides cute and mellow vocals. I don't think this combination should work but it does. This was a fantastic gig. I proclaim Deerhoof to be the best ever band from San Francisco. I look forward to seeing them again.

Die Walküre @ San Francisco Opera, 13 June 2010

This was the first Wagner opera that I have attended. Opera is all about epic emotion and the scope of Wagner's story is large enough to make all the dramatics seem appropriate. I enjoyed the sets and costumes, the large cast (including some dogs), the special effects (including flames) and the acting (which not all singers like to do). In this production Brünnhilde is portrayed as a jolly hockey sticks pilot and was completely adorable. Now I want to see a complete ring cycle, though it is rather expensive.

USA Today front page 16-July-2010

USA Today has the cool before and after pictures of the capped oil well.

Friday, July 09, 2010

San Francisco Chronicle front page, 9-July-2010

After the Mehserle verdict. At this stage there seem to be more photographers than rioters.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Dum Dum Girls / Crocodiles @ Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco 30 June 2010

The only words that Crocodiles utter to the audience are uttered while the guitarist is tuning up and I can't understand a word. The singer is shaped like Joey Ramone. He twists and turns as he sings and he moves like Lux Interior. The band sound like the Jesus and Mary Chain which requires some good guitar playing. As each song ends in a wail of feedback the fab drummer takes a breath, then thumps out a new beat and we're onto the next song. Rounding out the lineup we have an imperturbable bassist and a keyboardist who fiddles with her effects boxes and dances in her chair. This band may not be supremely innovative but they are perfect in their way and I loved them.

(I would just like to whine about the photographer who stood in front of me. He took 74 pictures in 10 minutes, flashing away like some, er, flasher. Will no one rid me of these selfish amateurs?)

Dum Dum Girls live...

Dum Dum Girls look great. The two guitarists often pay the same chords, then the non-singer will switch to playing an annoyingly tinny solo. The singing guitarist has a distinctive husky tone. The best part is when the guitarists harmonize, sometimes joined by the bassist making a good impression of a 60's Wall of Sound production. Though the Dum Dum Girls are vastly more original than Crocodiles I could not enjoy them as much.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How does altitude affect the World Cup teams?

Some of the stadiums are at a fairly high altitude, while others are not:

Whoever wins the tournament will have switched from altitude to sea level and back again at some point.

The key message for the World Cup, then, is that teams need to take into account transition, acclimatisation and tactics. Players will need to adapt to changes in altitude, especially the effect this has on the flight of the ball. Teams that use high altitude to their advantage - or that are already used to switching from low to high altitude - will profit. That points to a win for a South American team.

Read the full article at New Scientist.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Photos of San Francisco by locals and tourists in Flickr

Eric Fischer cleverly used the geotagging information in Flickr to distinguish between locals (blue) and tourists (red) and then plotted the data. It is fascinating to look at unexpected red clusters trying to work out what they are.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

John Lanchester on the difference between complaining and moaning

From the New Yorker (full text not available):

Visitors to Britain are rarely able to grasp – sometimes after decades of residency – the vital distinction its inhabitants make between complaining and moaning. The two activities seem similar, but there is a profound philosophical and practical difference. To complain about something is to express dissatisfaction to someone whom you hold responsible for an unsatisfactory state of affairs; to moan is to express the same thing to someone other than the person responsible. The British are powerfully embarrassed by complaining, and experience an almost physical recoil from people who do it in public. They do love to moan though.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Kate Nash / Supercute! at Bottom of the Hill, San Francico, 8-May-2010

Oh dear. Kate Nash is a clever songwriter, vaguely in the Lily Allen genre. She doesn't have a strong voice so what she needs is a sympathetic backing. Unfortunately she seems to have fallen in with the complaint rock crowd. She has a stodgy backing band who can play (they keep switching instruments and roles) but don't know how to not play. Kate Nash herself gets to strap on a guitar and play loud but the whole effect is like having George Best on your team and putting him in goal. The best part is when she is joined by support band Supercute! who are surely destined for world domination.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Recovering a usb hard drive

I have a load of mp3s on an external usb hard drive. Before our office move I backed these up to another usb hard drive. At the new office the original disk was giving that distinctive clicking sound that indicates death. I started copying the other disc but then it too stopped working. I took out the disk from its enclosure and attached another usb interface adapter, but that didn't work either. Next I opened up my four year old desktop computer, hoping that it would have a sata interface. The discs weren't sata but I was able to pull out a dvd driver cable and attach that to the disk (see picture above). Now Windows saw the disk and chkdsk ran. Finally I have been able to spend the last two days copying files off the disk using rsync.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Florence and the Machine / Holy Hail @ Mezzanine, San Francisco, 17 April 2010

Poor Holy Hail had some good ideas and lots of enthusiasm, but terrible sound. I hadn't been to the Mezzanine before. It is a big location for Indie rock (shudder) and they do get a lot of British bands. For a time they didn't offer advance tickets which was a deal breaker for me. Inside is a nice club layout with a few hidden away places where you could sit around. The stage is weirdly in a corner of the dance floor. I was worried that this was the source of the poor sound but it must have been just traditional cruelty to support acts.

Florence and The Machine @ The Mezzanine

Florence and the Machine are a band but are really one person, the eponymous singer. The hired help consists of players of drums/bass/guitar/keyboards and (super trendy) harp, all dressed in black so as to fade into the background. Florence was dressed in a traditional combination of wedding dress style leotard over metallic shorts, along with a flowing shawl which was worn in several different ways. She has two tones when singing, a plaintive throaty voice, and a full blooded roar form the gut. When she lets loose it is an awesome sound which sweeps everyone along with it. Some of the songs on the album are pretty decent so altogether it is an impressive package. Why then did my attention wander a bit? Well I was tired. But I would have sacrificed a bit of power in the singing for more detail, and I'd like to have heard a bit more character from the band. Overall though this was memorable.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

UK General Election quiz

Internet quizzes seem to favour the sensible party, which in this case is the Liberal Democrats.

Take the Who Should You Vote For? UK General Election quiz

Liberal Democrat29
UK Independence-37
You expected: LAB
Your recommendation: Labour
Click here for more details about these results