Sunday, 31 January 2010

REVIEW: Steve Gribbin at The Slaughterhouse

Disclaimer: Both the comic and promoter of the gig are very good friends of mine. It doesn't cloud my judgement.

SOMETIMES when you are as dull as me, having seen hundreds of live comedy shows, rather than concentrating solely on the stage it's really more interesting to observe what a great comic on his game can do to a room of people.
Tonight Steve Gribbin (right), in just 25 minutes, ripped the roof off one of the best comedy clubs in the world - the Slaughterhouse in Liverpool - and he did so not with mainstream material but with a set chock full of satiric songs on politics and religion.
From the Westminster expenses scandal, to the Catholic Church's Sex Guide to a very blue, but top class gag about Iris Robinson, it was an incredible illustration of how, if you challenge people to think about something other than banal observational rubbish, they can and will.
And he had people stomping and shouting. He had two glammed-up Scouse birds near the stage bouncing in their seats in something akin to ecstasy, holding their mouths to stop themselves spitting vodka and coke over the stage. One oul lad near me spewed beer over his mate and the hardest knock I've ever seen at a comedy gig was crying with laughter like a wee fella and bruising mates' shoulders with punches signposting each punchline.
But the point is that no other art form, when done this well, has the same incendiary effect on a room full of people from  disparate backgrounds as great stand-up comedy in a club.
There may be mass hysteria at rock gigs, or even some touring comedy in theatres, but most of those people are there for the band they all like or the comedian they have seen on TV. A comic playing a four man bill, has to have the material, experience and chops to rip the roof off a club like Gribbin did tonight. To do it doing political comedy makes it all the more memorable.
Now, Merseysiders are more tribal than many other British city/ region states, but when Gribbin played what he bills as the 'first ever authentic Scouse hip hop song' 'City of Culture' the room went understandably nuts. The reaction to a verse which uses the shortened slang cozzy (swimming costume) mozzy (mosquito), gozzy (cross eyed) and hozzie (hospital) was ridiculous.
Just looking at what great comedy does to a room of people is tremendously heartening - I just wonder why more people don't spend a tenner and do it more often. It really is the best night there is to be had anywhere in entertainment. You have booze (should you wish) in your hand and someone whose raison d'etre is to make you laugh your ass off - it's a no brainer.
And special mention has to be made for the efforts of the compere Neil Fitzmaurice and promoter Paula Harrington. A small cellar room like the Slaughterhouse with low ceilings and the stage inches from the front row is tailor made for a good night. But, club comedy only works when genuine care is taken in choosing bills and making sure it is run properly.
Fitzmaurice, a Phoenix Nights star/ writer and Peep Show cast member, who came up back in the day in the recent late 1990s heyday of Manchester comedy (Peter Key, Dave Spikey and Daniel Kitson) is a great home town compere. He's so charming and bullet proof as a compere he could have got the Davros economic summit rocking this weekend in Austria.
Harrington's bills, which see comics able to double up with another night nearby in the Slug and Lettuce pub, see big name club comics coming to Liverpool again. She must take some credit for curating a tremendous club and I mean curating in the most pretentious way imaginable.
But, ultimately, it really was all about Gribbin. It takes years of experience and a real eye for what works in a club to make political material 'kill' in the age of mainstream mediocrities like Michael McIntyre and Jimmy Carr.
Tonight, I wish a Radio 4 or Mock the Week producer had been in the audience because this is how it really should be done. It was clever, savage political comedy, true to the roots of the modern movement and which moved people to question the powers of their own urinary tracts. i.e. They nearly pissed themselves.
Knowing Steve Gribbin has not clouded my judgement - it was heartening, tremendous fun. To hear more, come back to Gobshites this Thursday to hear a two part podcast with the man himself where he talks about the art of writing comedy and listen to him play a couple of exclusive songs.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Trestles: Exclusive Tracks Part 2

THIS IS the second exclusive track from the forthcoming album from The Trestles, subject of our new weekly podcast on Thursday.
This track is called 'The Civilised' and don't forget to get along to the Zanzibar tonight (Saturday, January 30) for their latest gig. £3 on the door - sweet, la.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Podcast No 1 Follow-up: Exclusive Trestles tracks

THIS is the first of a couple of exclusive tracks off The Trestles new, and as yet unfinished, album. You lucky people, as someone used to say.
They play Liverpool's Zanzibar Club in Seel Street tomorrow night (Saturday, January 30) and with tickets a paltry £3 on the door you must get down there and see a great live act. Their next Liverpool date is not until the end of February, so get along.
Get over to their myspace or Facebook groups to keep up with the tonnes of news emanating from Casa Trestles. The first track is 'A Drink of Water' the second, 'The Civilised' will available here tomorrow.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Podcast No 1: Trestles table a motion for change

THE Al O'Hare fronted Liverpool four piece The Trestles are pretty unusual for a modern Scouse band.
Eschewing nearly three generations' commitment to the faux mystical by the permanently stoned, the Trestles are dedicated to an old fashioned rock and politics manifesto which kind of sets them apart on the local scene.
The TrestlesInstead of looking at a mix of Beefheart and the Beatles for their inspiration, they look to the spiritual twilight of Celtic soul-era Van Morrison and raw early period Springsteen for their key influence. A hefty dose of Oasis-style working class pride also seeps through - it's no surprise given how O'Hare delights in declaring his love for the Gallagher's peerless first record, Definitely Maybe.
The key to understanding The Trestles is their fearsome live reputation and it's clear that the work ethic of Spingsteen underpins the whole shooting match.Theirs is classic, sincere, emotional, human rock and the lack of skinny jeaned/ floppy fringed cool is somewhat refreshing in the era of identikit Scallydellic rock. The Clash (particularly Joe Strummer), Neil Young and Christy Moore all leave their mark on either O'Hare's lyrics or the overall sound of the band.
You can see them on Saturday night, January 30th, at Liverpool's wonderful Zanzibar Club on Seel Street and for £3 on the door it's an absolute steal. 
They play the hipster hangout Korova in early February and as soon as their album is complete a raft of dates are promised and we'll do a review when it appears.
Scouser O'Hare (above right), a music journalist in his day job, joined forces with North Wales guitarist Tom Carroll (left) two years ago and the partnership is bearing fruit, first in the form of last year's Hard Faced Town EP and with the forthcoming 10 track long player we chat about in their interview.
The first single with the songs 'The Civilised' and 'Drink of Water' are available over on their mySpace page. I'll pop them up here tomorrow as a sneak preview of the gig.
I went along to Al's gaff, appropriately enough in the Penny Lane area of Liverpool, and we chatted for nearly two hours - 40 minutes of which have become the inaugural some might say premier GM podcast.
Al's going to join GM for a regular music podcast over coming months so let us know about what you think and we'll have a chat about it.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Shining a light on Northern Ireland: Splintered Sunrise

SPLINTERED SUNRISE is a blogger from the North of Ireland writing some of the most perceptive articles about the Province/ Occupied Six (delete where not applicable) anywhere in the media.
He is one of the clutch of Republican and/or left wing bloggers whose work makes up a vibrant section of the new media eco-sphere in Northern Ireland and one that is frequently neglected by the mainstream news outlets for a variety of contentious and uncontroversial reasons.
It's well written, funny, perceptive, iconoclastic and irreverent and says much about the wider political climate of Northern Ireland (see BBC NI style guide at work there) that traditional journalism doesn't or can't.
It's been a tremendous help to me in my doctoral studies into dissident and/ or dissenting Republicanism and one of the few that has combined this sphere of politics with a picture of Lucy Pinder in her finery. Bonus.
Splints is entered for the Orwell Prize for political writing, please get along and see why it's one of the best blogs anywhere in the world. The 10 blog posts entered for the prize are superb pieces of writing the best of which being on Republican geography.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

A Liddle of what Lebedev fancies might not go a long way

Another piece of I have written for Jason Walsh's brilliant web magazine

THE news that Islamophobic, climate change-denying, radical anti-feminist and self-proclaimed sectarian columnist Rod Liddle is first choice to take the editorial reins at Britain’s Independent newspaper might at first sight be the kind of storm in the liberal intelligentsia teacup the man himself loves bashing most.
As a Sunday Times and Spectator columnist, Liddle has manufactured a successful niche as the ‘go to’ gobshite for knee-jerk right wing cack since his resignation from the editorship of BBC Radio 4’s flagship morning news programme Today in 2002.
In the intervening time he has accused radical feminism of leaving Britain with a generation of single mothers, confessed to being a fan of Rangers football club on purely sectarian grounds and decried climate change evidence on the basis that it’s snowing where he lives.
However, in the last weeks of 2009 he hit the controversialist trail with a vengeance and with the kind of brass neck which, to borrow a phrase from Hunter S Thompson, would even have seen Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and the assorted loons at Fox News standing behind him whistling and revolving fingers around their temples in the international sign of the fruit loop.
On his Spectator blog in November he first accused Celtic fans of singing rebel songs during the minute silence for Remembrance Day inside the ground at Falkirk. The song - ill-advisedly - sung was actually about Aidan McAnespie and was being sung outside the ground by a small number of hammer throwers that follow the club (that I, incidentally, support). Ultimately, it set a record for getting things wrong in only two paragraphs.
But trump this poorly reported and ill-judged nonsense he could, first with a piece (right) which sensitively opened with: ‘Time for a quick update on what the Muslim savages are up to.’ It’s not exactly up there with the great opening pars of credible journalism but could be argued to fit with the sensitivities of those who frequent the blog of the Spectator.
However, he then out did it with a piece written from his rented rural 18th Century Wiltshire farmhouse which erroneously stated that the legacy of unfettered immigration has led to the majority of serious crime in London being perpetrated by young black men of African and/ or Caribbean origin. As one poster to the forum of The Word magazine said: ‘Say what you want about Rod Liddle, but he never makes life easy for himself.’
All three pieces illustrated the hysterical short form opinionated rubbish which is beginning to characterise the blogosphere of supposed prestigious news organisations.
The template seems to be: get a rent-a-gub and give them free rein to antagonise sections of the public and then revel in the shit storm of even more tedious rebuttals/ agreements which sink to the same low of the original post all the while garnering thousands of unique page visitors and whatever online ad revenue they may accrue . It couldn’t be further away from the high minded narratives of the democratic role of the media which has buttressed generations of journalism ideology.
But there are other reasons to oppose Liddle as editor of the Indie.
One is that, although bearing a name which evokes a cut price German grocer, Liddle has skilfully become a kind of Waitrose or Browne Thomas version of Richard Littlejohn - the Daily Mail’s Tesco own brand faux working class, anti-intellectual, right wing, elf and safety Nazi baiting, firebrand loon.
The only difference between the two is that Liddle rarely publishes apologies, Littlejohn has the grace to commit many to print.
Liddle may write for the prestigious old journalism marques of the Speccie and The Times, but his shtick is of the decidedly new school, disingenuous sub-White Van Man variety.
It’s the kind of cack which sees Jeremy Clarkson qualified to denounce literally anything that he may perceive to be liberal, lefty or intellectual. Theirs is a damaging baggage of cultural inverted snobbery writ large and prospering in a national media, which in an era of declining sales, hits the outrage button rather too easily.
So why has any of this anything to do with the Independent? Well, the Indie for many of its faults (overwhelmingly metropolitan, steadfastly high brow, often boring and humourless) is still a newspaper which tries to do the right thing journalistically. It’s stoic in its centrism and tries to give a voice to as many commentators from across the political divide as possible – it brings together columnists as diametrically opposed as the right winger Bruce Anderson, the multi-culturalist Yasmin Alhibai-Brown and the incorrigibly left wing comedian Mark Steel. A Liddle-helmed Independent would perhaps challenge that ethos and we in Britain would be worse off for it.
Why? Well, despite declining sales (less than 100k at full price, currently), the Indie is one of only three national papers without a Tory bias. We seem to have reverted to the dark days in British journalism that the academic and author Jeremy Tunstall pointed to in his wonderful book Newspaper Power in 1996. He illustrated that by the mid 1990s, despite there being only a few points between the Tories and Labour, the press was 72% Tory leaning (in terms of daily and Sunday sales).
A perpetuation of that kind of narrow political discourse is even more damaging in the current era of media feeding frenzy when the broadcast organisations slavishly comment on the agendas of the print sector.
Getting Liddle in to edit the Indie (however small the circulation) may see a further homogenisation of the political comment available in Britain. It’ll either send Indie readers scurrying to the blogosphere where their voices will become lost in a cacophony of hysterical spleen venting or, more damagingly, they’ll just do what many others have done which is to simply switch off. In the long-term, despite possible short term gains, it will further diminish the power of news organisations to set a rational agenda.
Right, I’m off to attack a Muslim terrorist humming Sean South ushering in Sharia law by writing a fact-free two par blog entry. Post your replies...

Sunday, 10 January 2010

John Lydon Culture Show Special

FOR all Gobshites outside of the UK and the reach of the BBC iPlayer, the brilliant Culture Show Special interview with John Lydon by Andrew Graham Dixon, the latter of who has been much eulogised around this here parish.

Untitled from Gobshites Miscellany on Vimeo.