Aftershow bedlam

I feel like a drugged-up cat. Last night the aftershow party finished at 4:00am and I made up for the very late (everyone had finished lunch) start at work by being the last out of the building.

Still, it was worth it. Being dressed in the last piece of jewellery, an incredible all enclosing helmet of beetle wings, and the performance which surrounded it was a very intense and emotional experience. The helmet acted as an amplifier of the singing bowl that Sam played as she and Katherine circled around me like lionesses. The effect was almost narcotic. Certainly not relaxing, but as I said to Katie later, it would be the one I would pick to do again of the three.

The party was great fun. Chris, Lou and I played guitars, we had fun on the decks and made up songs about life at the mac.

A show to treasure

The show we’ve all been waiting for, Treasured has opened at mac. Katie and Jane’s company have created a show which transports you from the humdrum and adorns you with a work of art. Roughly speaking there are two rooms, a waiting area and dressing area. The waiting area is composed from a jumble of nicknacks that we British are so good at stockpiling. The Greek designers have assembled a cast of peacock feathers, maps, dusty books, manikins, clocks, mirrors, photographs, armchairs and dresses, and turned this cornucopia of Victorian Englishness into an area which is both relaxing and stimulating. Not a copy of Heat magazine in sight.

This helps to prepare you to be dressed with the jewellery of your choice. There are three items from which to select based on your favourite mirror. I’ve done two so far, and the third is this evening, though I’m the only audience member to do all three. I’ll describe the last after this evenings’ performance.

First night, I chose the ruff – the Elizabethan type, not the noise that dogs make. This was made from maps and wallpaper and had long thread hanging from the outside (though no corks on the end of the thread). I was guided by touch around the inner room – the nearest thing I could compare it with was being manipulated by a hairdresser. They made wave shapes, sang and pushed me around the room on a chair. It was pleasant, though I just wanted to go into walled-off area in the centre of the room. That wish came true during the next evening’s performance.

This involved having my arms wrapped in a long plastic cord decorated with black plastic flowers. The feel of the piece was for me like a pagan initiation ritual in the depths of a forest. So not your average dressing room experience.

Ed Harcourt Live

The second of my top-five-artists-to-see-live in two weeks. I got into Ed Harcourt with his amazing first album, Here Be Monsters back in 2001 and have wanted to see him ever since. Unlike Sparklehorse last week, he was unsupported by a band, and while some of his songs could have benefited from one, it allowed him to showcase his immense talent for songwriting, singing and piano (all at the same time!). He won’t thank me for saying this, but he was much smaller than I’d expected, but not depressive as his songs would have led you to expect. The highlight of the show was the impromptu request slot in the encore. It made you realise what a great back catalogue he has, and he was surprised by one person who requested the single of his latest album, not in his set. It might have been a great song, but he couldn’t remember most of the words, and ended up in farce as he got us to sing ‘La la la’ instead of the second verse.

Sparklehorse

There are two artists who I’ve been waiting for five years to see live, and just like a bus, they’re both here in Brum in the same week. Last night Katie and I went to the first gig, Sparklehorse. I was surprised how many of the songs I didn’t know as I’ve got three out of his four albums. In case you don’t know them, Sparklehorse is basically talented american chap called Mark Linkous who you’d probably throw in the same category as people like Granddaddy, Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev, but isn’t really similar to any of them. The songs are either delicate, laconic afairs with crakely singing, or loud and crunchy with crackely singing. Your best bet is to download the free track off the new album. It was great to hear the songs off Good Morning Spider, one of my favourite albums (yes, of all time), and they made a decent stab at recreating the sounds present on the albums. About the most he said between songs was “A few of my band members are on the pot. Contributions would be appreciated. Honestly.” Katie liked the pedal steel.

Oh, and by the way, the gig we’re going to next week is Ed Harcourt at the Glee Club, so if anyone’s up for it

Daytrippping at Aston Hall

Aston HallIf you’ve driven into Birmingham along the A38(M), you’ve passed Aston Hall. It’s one of those places you always mean to visit but never do.

Well, that all changed for me on Saturday afternoon when Anthony and Yeyo invited me to join them for a little daytrip to this seventeenth-century Jacobean manor house.

The building is deceptively simple. In fact there is detailed decoration both inside and outside. We enjoyed spotting the mythical creatures that line the walls, sparking the question ‘what’s your favourite mythical creature?’ (I had a laugh about the ‘unknown male’ in one of the friezes upstairs too.)

The period furnishings are a bit sparse in some rooms, and I definitely preferred the Jacobean stuff to the later Victorian rooms. Best of all were the long gallery, with its blind arcade motif repeated in the wood panelling, and the ‘best bedroom’.

This was truly a bedroom fit for a queen, with embroidered silver and blue hangings everywhere, and a four-poster bed topped with (what looked like) ostrich feathers! If any boy today decorated his bedroom like that, there would be no question about his orientation! (More laughs…)

We also discovered that Aston Hall occasionally pulls out all the stops and does a big candle-lit event. The next of these is the ‘Halloween Film Show and Tour’ on 27th and 28th Oct. I’d be quite up for going, if anyone wants to join me…