Sorry about last week. Kristin is still taking some time off, though she will be back soon (no one is more excited about this than I am). And while I had intended to keep things running here without interruption, a combination of factors both technical and personal (including, but not limited to, the fact that my laptop keeps dying bit by bit, every time I turn it on) led me to conclude that it was time I took some time off as well, though I’m sure you were all glad to be rid of me for a week anyway. But I am back now, and just in time, because there is something very exciting brewing in the near future, and you need to know about it.
Remember Dan Holloway, our reliable and, more importantly, brilliant guest contributor? Well, when we first introduced you to him, I believe we also mentioned that he was the organizer of the upcoming Free-e-day festival. After months of work, it’s about to blow up — next Tuesday, 1 December, to be precise.
What is Free-e-day? It’s a celebration of everything that is good (and FREE!) about indie culture the world over. In a genre that becomes increasingly hard to define as a result of it’s diversity, one thing remains consistent: the love of creating for the sake of creating. And on Tuesday, gathered in one place and for one purpose, you will have an opportunity to explore these labors of love from the comfort of your own desk chair or bed or toilet (the internet is a magical place). For 48 hours you will have access, free of charge, to some of the best emerging artists, writers, poets, and musicians in the world. Check the Free-e-day blog for more details.
Sarah E. Melville, a brilliant artist and writer, will be giving away her poetry collection Improper Love Poems About Fruits. I was only introduced to Sarah’s work last week via the Year Zero Writers page and fell instantly in love. If you are not completely ravished by her work, you are probably a robot or a Thomas Kinkade enthusiast.
Year Zero Writers will be offering their collection of 13 short stories entitled Brief Objects of Beauty and Despair. They are a collective who produce some excruciatingly gorgeous writing. If you’ve never read any, now would be a good time start.
And, of course, our dear friend Dan Holloway will be offering a pdf of his novel Songs From the Other Side of the Wall. Dan will also be taking part in a live event in Oxford that evening (that’s England, not Ohio or Mississippi) which will also feature the music of Mol Hodge, Nikki Loy, and The Joker and the Thief.
September 10th was a big night when two of my favourite places, the music world and the twitterverse, collided. A few miles down the road at London Bridge, the London Twestival, headlined by no less than The Hours, was opening its doors. But I was at a far more important gig, at The Good Ship in Kilburn, the first ever #twittergig (to make sure you don’t miss future ones, keep checking the twittergig hashtag), organised and hosted by, and headlining, To The Moon.
No other band more personifies the eccentric, creative, interactive and, let’s face it, slightly bonkers world of twitter. The two-man alt-electronica combo of mJ and Dennis advertise themselves as “preparing for the worst by evacuating earth and heading To The Moon”. They greet each new follower on twitter with salutes, and regularly report in on their mission status. They make Muse look like Internet amateurs. Which is the reason I was there rather than down the road (er, the fact The Hours were headlining admittedly played its part, after I’d stood through their self-important twaddle when they supported Kasabian’s recent UK tour) at a do that had, from what I could see, about 8 corporate sponsors. Yes, Twestival was for charity, and I hope it was a success, but it’s not very twitter!
It’s not the first time I’d met the musical side of twitter – the previous Thursday about 10 of us had swapped usernames at an InLight concert. But it’s the first time I’d met a band I’d come across there, and what I discovered just reinforced my opinions of the twitterverse. I’d interviewed mJ and Dennis a couple of months ago for my regular blog column, and they were (there WILL be puns) out of this world, on another planet even. So I was delighted to be told, on arrival, having flashed my twitter boarding pass for a pound off, that I could find mJ “up there, trying on his space suit”.
Dennis, against a backdrop of a 1950s rocket console, was opening the evening with a DJ set that was perfectly spacey and trippy, with the occasional whir and roar that sounded like an engine launching. mJ, meanwhile, was on the balcony with his girlfriend, sewing felt and calico and bits of tubing together. It looked like his girlfriend’s mate was on the stage, doing some kind of performance ritual. It transpired she was trying to fit a fluorescent lighting strip to the floor to make the stage look even more like a spaceship.
Dennis’ set merged seamlessly into Rabid Gravy’s. I must confess, I was actually rather nervous about meeting someone who calls himself Rabid Gravy (I just couldn’t get school dinners out of my head!), and whose avatar is a dog with red eyeballs munching on a syringe. More worryingly still, Mr Gravy (no relation to Woodstock’s Wavy, I believe) bore more than a passing resemblance to the dog in question. It was hard to tell which of them had been cooked up in a Photoshop session. Which is probably appropriate for a cybergig.
Once I got over the sample of nails scratching an electronic blackboard, Rabid Gravy’s music blew me away. It was quite clear this was something different. Something very serious (he even, albeit in a DM, used the word prog when I tweeted him the next day). And VERY good. He played two sequences of about 15 minutes each. The first was, on the surface, light, built around an electro-glockenspiel sound that had elements of the music from Heidi, and felt decidedly Alpine throughout (I’m sure at times it was mimicking the sound of human yodelling). The second was an altogether different beast, like a Steve Reich take on an East Berlin Stasi torture brothel. It was dark, distant, full of screams rising from oubliettes and interrupted noises, shot through with decadent Salon Kitty eroticism. Taken together, it felt like Gravy had taken us on a musical tour of the dark side of 20th century Europe.
Needing some air, I went out to chat with mJ and Dennis before their set. I asked them why Twittergig was, in their opinion, better than the Twestival. “Well,” said mJ, “they won’t be beset by technical difficulties! And they won’t be fighting on through challenging hair!”
When we went back inside, I asked to be introduced to a guy who’d been intriguing me. He was about 6 foot, dressed in a black polo neck with a shock of white hair, clearly intended to make him look (with uncanny success) like a pre-pubescent Andy Warhol. He turned out to be a steampunk jeweller called Pete.
By now it was time for the star (er, planet, er, spheroid lunar body) turn. The whole place felt like the inside of a spaceship, or a substance-distorted encounter with a Rocky Horror troupe on a dark night in, again, East Berlin. Hmm, there’s a theme emerging. To the Moon emerged garbed in lab-coat and space-suit respectively, and launched (damnit with the puns!) into a set that was, in its way, as experimental as anything from Mr Gravy. The interstellar theme permeates the lyrics and electronic but it’s suffused with enough cross-genre references (yes, that IS Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds at the start of A Halo, although he denied it when I asked him!) to keep anyone satisfied. Combine it with a trippy filmic backdrop and the effect is enough to wrap every one of your senses in a gigtacular spacepod and allow you, for one night only, to transcend the dull confines of your usual events.
Back to why twittergig 9/10 outshines any twestival, and in mJ’s words, “it’s like a gig, only there’s not a guitar amp or a drum kit in the building!” No, but there IS a spaceship, a bunch of buggered lighting, and a steampunk jeweler called Pete.