Monday, 26 September 2011

Out Of Line

Think I’ll get the shameless plug out the way first. Yesterday saw me go through the two week barrier of not smoking. You can keep track of my attempts by clicking this link (this one right here!) I have added my friend Dave as an author to the page as he is trying to quit as well. I say trying to quit, he is not smoking when he isn’t in a smoking atmosphere. I don’t know what that means but it sounds like he’s a social smoker to me... (Just joking!)

The Rugby World Cup is still going on and it continues to be awesome. I said how I wanted to watch South Africa v Namibia and Australia v USA as I thought they would be fairly high scoring and I was right. South Africa won 87-0 and Australia won 67-5. I woke up in time for the England game on Saturday and watched them comprehensively beat Romania 67-3. Romania isn’t a team we should brag about beating easily but it was important that we did beat them easily. Anything less would have been unacceptable. The following game was New Zealand v France. It was a good match but considering the hype around it, it wasn’t epic. New Zealand took a fairly early 19-0 lead and while France bravely battled back, they were never going to overturn that deficit and the game finished 37-17. I didn’t watch very much of the Ireland game at all but I saw them score a few points (and saw Russia score a try) so that was cool. Ireland looked very strong and won 62-12 in the end. What followed I would say was one of the best games of rugby I have watched in a really long time. At this stage in the pool, Scotland v Argentina was probably the 2nd most important game to be played. If ever you need to explain to someone that a game of rugby union doesn’t need loads of points to be scored to be entertaining and gripping, use this game as a perfect example. It was edge of the seat stuff for most of the game. I’d say Scotland and Argentina are very evenly matched which added to its intensity. After 2 second half drop goals, Scotland were leading 12-6 and looking good for the win. However disaster struck around the 73min when Argentina burst through and scored a try. After converting the try, the score stood at 13-12 to Argentina. Scotland continued to push and at one point where right at the Argentina try line. The defence was solid and Scotland went for broke and tried to get the third drop goal of the game...and missed. Heartbreaking for Scotland and it will likely mean they are out of the RWC. Of the remaining pool games, I am really interested in England v Scotland (obviously) and Ireland v Italy. If there are no more shocks and everything goes the way I imagine it will, the quarter finals will look a lot like this:

QF 1 – Ireland (winner C) v Wales (runner up D)
QF 2 – England (winner B) v France (runner up A)
QF 3 – South Africa (winner D) v Australia (runner up C)
QF 4 – New Zealand (winner A) v Argentina (runner up B)

And that will be a tasty set of fixtures for a rugby world cup quarter final. I am very much looking forward to next weekend, when the pool games will conclude and the weekend after when the knockouts commence!

I went to watch Pompey play on Saturday. I will say this, we won! That is about all the positives I have. Actually that would be unfair, but we played pretty damn bad. Express FM bugged me by constantly saying “but it was better than the week before” – THAT DOESN’T MAKE IT GOOD YOU FUCKWITS! Does the FM stand for "fail media?!" Ahem, anyway. Pompey didn’t play well in my opinion but we still got the win. I would say Blackpool were the better team. This is my thoughts on our team:

Ashdown – No problems as far as I am concerned.
Pearce – Seemed solid enough but his headers seemed erratic
Halford – Injured his arm taking a throw, sums it all really. Actually he wasn’t terrible
Ben-Haim – Looked slow at times but wasn’t awful
Mokoena – Your own fans shouldn’t cheer when you get injured and have to be subbed! He wasn’t good at all
Ward – I couldn’t work out where he was playing. Seemed alright though, and almost scored
Lawrence – Needs to find his early 2010/11 form fast! He was fairly poor I thought. Almost anonymous in the 2nd half
Norris – He seemed to be our brightest spark at times.
Mullins – 50/50 on him. Makes good passes but also makes bad ones.
Benjani – Not suited to be alone up front. He isn’t the tallest so the long ball system doesn’t suit him either
Huseklepp – Our brightest spark as far as I am concerned. Our man of the match. Superb goal as well.
Rocha – Seemed alright when he came on. Why doesn’t he start?
Kanu – On in the 77th min. Maybe needs to come on in the 70th to have a bigger impact. Alright though

Overall I wasn’t impressed. I thought as a unit we played fairly poor with some bright moments from individuals. Ian Holloway summed up my opinions fairly well:

“It's a bitter one to take. That's football. I don't mind losing so late and in such a way if the other team had deserved it but that was not the case here in my opinion”

To wrap this up, I just want to talk about something which worries me. The situation in itself worries me but it is more than that – it is the fact I don’t think I can talk about it with the person involved without there being a bigger problem created. The person involved is someone who up until recently I would have considered one of my closest friends but that probably isn’t the case anymore. That isn’t because he has done anything to annoy me, or vice versa (at least I hope). I think it is a classic case of people drifting apart when interests differ. I was really quite sad when it dawned on me, but I guess it was a realisation which was going to happen at some point. Anyway, because this person and I don’t talk very much anymore, I somehow feel I have no right to talk to him about my concerns. I used to be able to talk about anything to this guy, so that part of me feels it would be ok, but I am seeing responses to other people who have broached the topic and it has not ended well, or seemingly hasn’t. It is one of those issues which is awkward to raise as well. I don’t know what the best course of action here is to take – 1) say something to my friend and risk completely killing the friendship, or 2) saying nothing and trying to deal with my concerns in private. I see things posted on social networks in the early hours and want to reach out to a person who is clearly showing signs they are suffering with some serious issues. In the morning though, that stuff is gone and discussing what was posted is completely taboo. I really am stumped. I welcome your thoughts on this one.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Touch. Pause. Engage

The main highlight of the last two weeks for me has been the Rugby World Cup. Before it started, I didn’t think I would watch much of it (just trying to stick to England and Scotland games) but I have found myself really getting into any game I can watch. The first game I watched was actually the second half of France/Japan in which the scores were fairly even until Japan switched off and France just strode ahead, eventually winning 47-21. After that was the first England game of this campaign against Argentina. A particularly ugly affair in which England played fairly poorly but managed to get the win 13-9. The next day, I was only awake in time to catch South Africa v Wales, which has been the second best game of the tournament for me thus far. It was a superb contest from start to finish where the current world champions were given a real scare by the welsh with one point separating the two nations at the end. I streamed a game at work to listen to while working, which was Scotland v Georgia. Scotland were not dominate, but Georgia were fairly poor. This resulted in a Scotland victory 15-6.

I really wish I had caught the game on Friday (work is a right bugger isn’t it?!) as the hosts New Zealand destroyed Japan, running out 83-7 winners. This weekend there has been some fantastic rugby on display. I caught most of the South Africa – Fiji game. It was 3-0 to RSA when I turned it on. It finished 49-3 to the reigning world champions. South Africa is always a strong contender to go all the way. After this match was the match of the tournament thus far for me. Ireland v Australia was an outstanding game of rugby. I don’t support either team but tend to favour the underdogs when I am a neutral. This meant that I wanted Ireland to win and that they did. The two teams seemed really evenly matched and it was just a great match. I think Ireland deserved to win and I was delighted at the end when they won 15-6. I intended to wake up at 4.30am this morning to watch all of today’s rugby. However, my desire to sleep outweighed my desire to watch Wales v Samoa and I stayed in bed until about 7am, waking up to watch England. The game started off slow with England giving away far too many penalties but at HT, England was in front. The second half was significantly better with England scoring 4 tries. The discipline was still a worry though. The final score was 41-10. The final game today was France v Canada. What should have been a walk over for France (5th in the world rankings vs. 14th) was really quite a challenge from the off. Canada took first blood with a penalty, which France reversed by scoring a try but then Canada equalised. The two tries were a result of shocking defending. After the half being fairly level, France scored 3 penalties towards the end and never really looked back. Canada scored a couple of drop goals but never looked like getting back into it which I thought was a real shame.

It is a real shame I have work on Thursday and Friday because I would love to watch South Africa v Namibia and Australia v USA (both games I predict being high scorers...if only for one team!) though I might stream the games and listen at work like I did the Scotland game. Another 7am start next Saturday for England v Romania and I hope that will be a comprehensive win for England as well. The game after that is the first major clash of the tournament really. Two teams from the top 5 of the world rankings meet when hosts New Zealand face France. I might try and wake up on Sunday for the Ireland v Russia game but seeing as that starts at 6, I may fail. I will definitely be watching the Argentina v Scotland game however as that is a vital game in England’s pool. The final weekend of the pool games is the first weekend of October where there is a real chance I will tape all the games and spend all weekend watching rugby if possible. The main match for me of this weekend is England vs. Scotland. A real local derby which usually is a fantastic game of rugby. I will probably also try to watch France v Tonga (6am 1st Oct), Wales v Fiji (6am 2nd Oct) and Ireland v Italy (8.30am 2nd Oct) live as well. I am really into this world cup right now and I am really looking forward to the final stages so much. I haven’t seen enough to convince me that England will win the tournament but I remain hopeful. New Zealand looked unbelievable against Japan, but I have to keep in mind that they were playing Japan! I honestly don’t know who will win, but I think my pick has to be New Zealand.

The more of this world cup I am watching and the more of Bath I am following, the more into rugby I am getting. The truth is I am finding myself caring less about football as the days go on. I still support Portsmouth but I am beginning to wonder if Rugby will become the number one sport that I follow. I mean, I am going to see Pompey next Saturday, and I am really looking forward to it – but at the same time, I am finding myself getting increasingly annoyed with footballers – how they act on the pitch and off of it. I am just growing disillusioned with the once beautiful game. Will this be the case when the rugby world cup concludes? I can’t answer that now.

Anyway, moving away from rugby.

I went to go see Adam Hills at the Wedgewood rooms on his Mess Around tour last Tuesday night. The concept of the tour is that it is different every night (although truthfully, I imagine he will have a bank of stories he can fall back on which will make appearances regularly). He told stories about an American comic, Chelsea Handler, and her show in Australia; meeting the queen and ordering pizza in Australia. There was so much more though, including getting a twitter account set up for an audience member and getting his thousands of followers to guess an audience members job as well as some tribal warfare between Portsmouth and Southampton residents (the concept of “scum” and skate” seemed to be lost on him which made it more funny). There was one awkward bit which I’m sure was supposed to be funny which after a 2 or so minutes really just became awkward. In his 2009 show, he bought an audience member who he met at his Reading gig on stage. They proceeded to have a bit of back and forth banter which really was quite funny, albeit slightly long. This time around, the funny died off quickly and it turned into “hey crowd, turn against the guy you bought a ticket to see” – which didn’t happen. Oh well – his involvement ended and the show continued fine. I hope if Adam Hills comes back to Portsmouth again, it is without the special guest. The show was great though.

My last post on here was about me giving up smoking and the blog it is on (I'm Done With Smoking btw). Today will see me have gone 7 whole days without a smoke if I make it to 9.30pm without going for one. Seeing as I don’t have any and most shops are now closed, I think my chances are quite good. I am proud of myself for doing this and hope to continue and keep it up for quite a while yet.

That’s all folks!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Quitting Smoking

I have taken the decision to quit smoking.

This is something I have been thinking about since NYE and seriously since about May. I decided after my summer plans had finished and my cigarettes had run out, I had no excuse not to quit. Today is the first day of trying to quit.

If you are interested in following my progress in this struggle (because it will be):

I'm Done With Smoking

Or the link is on the side of this page. Good luck me!

Normal service resuming soon

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Summer 2011 - Who Was The Best?

As September starts, it is reminder that the summer has come to an end and sadly that means so has my summer, which was pretty busy. This has been arguably the best summer I’ve had since I’ve started going to festivals. I went to a number of different festivals and saw a number of bands. The question I have been asked occasionally is “who was the best?” That is a very tough question but I am going to deal with it now the best way I know how. I will list the top 10 of what I have seen, justifying their place on the list. The list will compromise of bands only. I am discounting the comedy and spoken word sets I have seen. The bands on the list are all ones in the various reviews I have posted to this blog scored a 10 rating.

Before dealing with all the positivity of the best 10 of summer 2011, the negative aspects must be dealt with as well. The first list is the worst of 2011. This list is made up not just based on ratings but on personal feelings of disappointment as well. The second list is the bands I didn’t see that I wanted to and why I didn’t

The Worst of 2011:
• The Hot Rats (supporting Foo Fighters) – Rule one for a covers band, do good covers. This band was mediocre at best.
• Mambo Kurt (Wacken) – I said in the review that I fully accept that the majority of people who saw him loved him, so it must just be me that doesn’t get it.
• Exquisite Pus (Wacken) – Emulating Job for a Cowboy in your music is just like shagging your sister – DON’T FUCKING DO IT!
• Crashdiet (Wacken) – Big ole’ bag of dull.
• Mayhem (Wacken) – Big ole’ bag of shit! I don’t like the band, I’ve since decided. But their set just got painful as it went on.
• The Offspring (Reading) – Performance wise not poor, but they just weren’t interested, which sucked.
• 30 Seconds to Mars (Reading) – Not a fan of them anyway, but they were also pretty dull.
• Warpaint (Reading) – The worst band of the summer. So awfully dull.

The Ones That Got Away 2011:
• Bowling For Soup Acoustic (Download) – Damn you Dan Reed for being on stage before them and sucking enjoyment out of the entire arena. I needed good music, and fast so I had to get out of there!
• Alice Cooper (Download) – System of a Down was on. Enough said
• Weezer (Sonisphere) – Wanted to make sure my headache had passed before heading to see Ginger
• Gojira (Sonisphere) – Headache was still present after Ginger so left the arena
• Watain (Sonisphere) – See Gojira
• Hamatom (Wacken) – Decided at the last minute to see Mayhem. MISTAKE!
• Bedouin Soundclash (Reading) – They can’t have been as fucking bad as Warpaint....surely?!

That is all the negativity dealt with. Now it is time for the very best. There were 22 bands that scored a 10 who are eligible for this list (Motorhead at Wacken discounted due to me not being in the arena and listening from the tent). The ones which did not make the top 10 are Down (Download), Richard Cheese, Ginger Wildheart, Volbeat, Alestorm (Sonisphere), Hayseed Dixie, Sirenia, Skindred, Iced Earth, Kreator (Wacken), Does It Offend You Yeah and Noah and the Whale (Reading). It was a very tough call to cut some of them when trying to get the best 10. I went back and forth over the no.10 slot as well and truthfully, a number of these bands filled it at one point, however eventually losing out. They were all superb, but this is about the very best 10 – so let’s get to it.

10 – TRIVIUM – WACKEN OPEN AIR 2011



Trivium makes the list simply because they were superb. As a live act, they were noticeably tighter than they were the previous year when I saw them. Performance wise, they were flawless and they dealt with being on the main stage for their Wacken debut very well. They played some songs from their new album which was all fantastic while mixing their set list up – dropping former favourites and closing out in a new way. Trivium did everything right in this set, and it would be hard to deny them a spot in the top 10. It was the best time out of 6 that I’ve ever seen Trivium, and that justifies their spot on this list.

9 – PULP – READING FESTIVAL 2011



Pulp did everything a festival headliner should do. They delivered a strong performance, backed up by an even stronger stage show. When it comes to this genre of music, the stage show can really add to the overall enjoyment of the set. The atmosphere for them was one which few bands can replicate live. Seeing Pulp live is an experience I am happy to have had.

8 – MADNESS – READING FESTIVAL 2011



This was just complete and utter fun. Here is this band that my dad saw before I was born on stage, playing mostly classic songs and creating a party feel. From the opening lines of One Step Beyond, some people didn’t stop dancing. Part of the reason Madness are on this list is nostalgia – it was great fun hearing songs I love like Baggy Trousers and Our House live. The rest of the reason is simply that they are still absolutely kill on stage.

7 – JUDAS PRIEST – WACKEN OPEN AIR 2011



I wasn’t going to include these at first as their set did get off to a slow start. We saw 3 songs before heading off to catch Sirenia and only one was good (Metal Gods). When we came back though, Priest had changed gears and were absolutely superb. Everything from when we came back to the last note in Living After Midnight was fantastically flawless. The end of their set alone gets them a place on this list. It is as if they got together, chose my favourite 7 Judas Priest songs, and played them back to back. Utterly outstanding they were.

6 – SLIPKNOT – SONISPHERE FESTIVAL 2011



This set from Slipknot got everything right. It combined aggression with raw emotion over the passing of Paul Gray. It combined a tight live performance with a fierce stage show. A superb set list always helps a set and this truly was great. The atmosphere benefited from the weather – as Slipknot were playing, sheets of rain drenched the crowd. It was quite a sight seeing that stage show amongst sheets of rain. If this is the last tour I’ll see Slipknot on, it was a hell of a way to go out.

5 – SYSTEM OF A DOWN – DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL 2011



Seeing System has been something which I have wanted to do since 2005. So when they went on hiatus in 2005 that was upsetting. As the years went on, it didn’t look like I would see SOAD all together (I saw Serj Tankian solo, which was good). Then rumours started flying round they would tour in 2011, and they did. I almost didn’t go and that would have been a terrible mistake. They were superb. The setlist had pretty much everything I wanted to hear in it and they were technically superb. They got 5Ks from Kerrang but a 6 from Metal Hammer, saying they were technically superb but lacked on-stage chemistry. I really don’t think this took away from how fantastic it was to see SOAD live. They have been removed from my bucket list of bands and added to the “oh fuck they were splendid” pile.

4 – METALLICA – SONISPHERE FESTIVAL 2011



Anyone who knows me might be slightly surprised to see Metallica so low down on this list. Indeed, it was a tough call to put them 4th, especially considering they turned up as a part of the Big Four and played a stunning set list. Was this the best I’ve seen Metallica out of the 8 times? No. Was it top 3? Absolutely. The jam with the Big 4 and the guitarist from Diamond Head playing Am I Evil will be a favourite memory of mine when I look back at the times I’ve seen Metallica live. Plus on top of everything else, they played BATTERY!

3 – FOO FIGHTERS – MK BOWL, MILTON KEYNES 2011



I saw them in February. I knew what they were capable of live. They are a stunning live band. What I didn’t know was how much better they were when playing a massive gig. Wembley Arena was big, MK Bowl was massive. Not only were they superb technically, but they kept it going for over 2.5 hours. They had special guests and cover songs filling a set crammed packed with everyone’s favourite Foo Fighters songs. The new album material just glides into the set list perfectly. That plus a decent but not overdone stage show equalled a superb gig. Only actual gig I’ve been to this summer, and it was fantastic.

2 – MUSE – READING FESTIVAL 2011



Everyone I’ve ever spoken to about Muse live has good things to say. I spoke to a complete Muse fan boy who simply said “you have to see them to understand”. I now understand. Performance wise, they were pretty much perfect. The stage show was out of this world as well. I’ve not seen a better stage show other than Rammstein (hey, I’m a sucker for pyro). Massive tuning forks coming out the stage in the style of Origin of Symmetry with a constantly changing video screen backdrop. Playing the album “Origin of Symmetry” in full caught a lot of people off-guard when it was announced I think but they pulled it off superbly and when they finished it, just played massive song one after another. It was exceptional how simple they made it look. That is another one off the bucket list.

1 – AVANTASIA – WACKEN OPEN AIR 2011



Words cannot describe, even now, how excited I was when the slot machine graphic showed Avantasia’s logo. There was a curtain across the stage (which is one of my favourite ways for a band to start, SOAD did it as well) and from behind it, the opening bars of “Twisted Mind” emerged. The atmosphere from then until the end was electric but also constantly changing. From sheer excitement to 60k+ people all swaying in unison, it was a fun crowd to be a part of. As for the band? It was unbelievable seeing them pull off this project live. For those that don’t know, Avantasia isn’t just a straight band – it is a vast number of musicians and seeing it all in front of me was amazing. The set list was pretty much perfection. Since the gig, I’ve got their set list as a regular playlist and I still listen back and think it was incredible. I can’t list the best moments as it was all stunning. I’m sad to say that it was the last show (or it was announced as the last one, who really knows) but I was there. Getting the chance to see them made my Wacken festival. Seriously though, fuck you Corvus Corax for being so bad in 2008 that I left the arena and missed Avantasia. You have a lot to fucking answer for! Don’t think I’ll ever forgive them for that.

That is my top 10. It was a tough list and looking back over the bands that didn’t make the top 10, all it says to me is that I had a fucking good summer. Now that summer has finished, it is time to look forward. I didn’t go to many gigs before the festivals this year (5 to be exact). However the end of the year is pretty damn busy gig wise! I am pleased about this. Upcoming for me on the live music front is the following:

• Evile @ The Talking Heads, Southampton
• The Answer @ The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth
• Volbeat @ HMV Forum, London
• Fozzy @ The Talking Heads, Southampton
• Rise Against @ Guildhall, Southampton
• Alter Bridge @ MEN Arena, Manchester
• Dimmu Borgir @ Academy 3, Manchester (to be confirmed tomorrow)
• Every Time I Die @ The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth
• Ginger Wildheart @ The Talking Heads, Southampton
• Manic Street Preachers @ The O2 Arena, London

I can’t wait for what will be a very good conclusion to this year, when it comes to live music.