Friday, 31 December 2010

The conclusion of 2010 - The beginning of 2011

So, another New Year is upon us and it is a time for reflection. It is also apparently a time for me to question a lot of things. This blog will contain some questions about optimism as well as this question – why do people still say “happy holidays” after Christmas? The holiday is Christmas; New Year is just a bank holiday. As we get closer to another New Year’s Eve, I remember writing a blog for this page about 2010 and optimism that comes with New Years Eve. I talked about how I didn’t understand why people get optimistic at this time of year but yet find myself falling into this trap. I mentioned a number of things about 2010 which could happen and I thought I’d just go over them now and see what has happened and what hasn’t.

2010 thought 1 – New Job – Leave Iceland and get a new job.
Achieved? Yes
Outcome – I left Iceland and got a job working for Portsmouth University as a decontamination technician

2010 thought 2 – New Government – Labour lose the 2010 Election to the Conservatives – a fear that BNP would enter UK Parliament.
Achieved? Partially
Outcome – Labour lost power at the 2010 general election and the Conservatives became the biggest party in the House of Commons but they are not completely in power as they are in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. The BNP got nowhere near winning a seat in Parliament.

2010 thought 3 – See friend who I hadn’t seen for years – See Avatar
Achieved? Yes
Outcome – I did see the friend who I talked about seeing Avatar with. We saw Avatar (that’s a shit film right there). We also saw Alice in Wonderland and Toy Story 3. Both very good films! I am trying to think if there had been others but I can’t remember.

Okay, those objectives were completed for the most part so 2010 was a good year on that front. There were other things which were good about 2010 including:

• Seeing Rammstein finally.
• Going to a festival for the weekend having not done so in 2009
• Quitting smoking for 3 months
• Continuing my mobile phone relationship with Apple and getting an iPhone 4

So this year was quite a good one for me in many respects. It has not been perfect I accept but no year can be I feel. So because of the various little good aspects of last year, I have a few hopes for 2011. I know optimism is easily wasted so some of these things I am going to have to be really tough about. In 2011, I want:

• To lose weight – It is about time I got serious about this issue. I have said many times that I am going to do it and then don’t. I actually find myself with the correct mindset to do it this time (other times when I’ve said this, there has always been an acceptance of inevitable failure as well as cynicism). Right now, I am committed to this desire.
• To quit smoking – as I type this, I have no real NYE plans. Regardless of location, I intend to smoke a cigar at midnight of the change to 2011 and then quit smoking. I am dealing with cravings so much better than I was and I feel again my mindset is in the right place to try it. We shall see.
• To continue using the iPhone. My contract expires in December. I intend to stick with Apple, whether they release a new handset or not. I love my iPhone 4 and can’t see why I wouldn’t love the iPhone 5 or whatever it is. This might be achieved in 2012 but that is ok.
• See SOAD. I have a ticket to Sonisphere to see Metallica and Slipknot. I really want to see SOAD as well so in some shape or form, I want to be at Download for the Saturday when SOAD play so I can finally cross them off my bucket list of bands.
• To continue career progression – either advance in my current job or change jobs so I am building a career.

These things will not come easily to me and therefore a lot of work is required next year to achieve these goals. I should point out that I will review these when I do the “hey its 2012 blog” and we’ll see what sort of year I’ve had. I was going to finish it here but I have decided to add a little bit extra one and talk about my favourite gigs of 2010 as a big part of this blog is about live music. 2010 has been a good year for me on all live music fronts aside from one and that is no Metallica this year. This will be sorted out in 2011 I guarantee it!

Best Gigs of 2010 – I’m going to talk about all the gigs that make the list in some detail and basically relive them. First the ones that didn’t make the top 5, and then somewhat appropriately, the top 5! I will not be including festival slots in this list. If I was, Alice Cooper would be in the top 5 as would Rammstein’s Sonisphere set. Anyway, here we go.

Honourable Mentions – For sake of ease, I’ll cover these with old words where possible.
• Bill Bailey – Leicester Square Theatre x2. Both shows were hilarious and had their own moments of win. When thinking of the two shows I think of the 2nd more fondly because more happened musically and the fact Bill being ill made some of the show funnier than I thought possible. Sorry, did you say Oud?
• Skindred @ Wedgewood Rooms. They “were just something special though. The atmosphere was incredible. The set list was genius. There's very little I can say because there aren’t enough superlatives I can throw at this band to accurately describe them. Fantastic gig and I can’t wait until I get the chance to see them live again”
• Airbourne @ Portsmouth Guildhall. They “were fantastic. The set list was superb, the band were great live (as per) and there was even the obligatory moment of craziness. The lead singer went through the crowd to play on the sound desk. Damn.”
• Lacuna Coil @ Wedgewood Rooms. They “were fantastic! I cannot believe I even second guessed myself about going. They released an album in 2009 called Shallow Life which not only did I not know about, I only heard it in July for the first time. The album is superb, probably their best yet. There are a few fantastic songs on the album which come across great live. I’m Not Afraid; Survive; I Won’t Tell You; Underdog; and Spellbound – all fantastic songs. They played a fair whack off Karmacode which is by no means a bad thing!”
• Motorhead @ Southampton Guildhall. “Then it was time for Motorhead – and it started with the iconic declaration from Lemmy – “We are Motorhead, and we play Rock and Roll!” Awesome performance from a band celebrating their 35th year. This show had it all – awesome music, Lemmy telling a bottle thrower he’d knock them the fuck out, a band playing louder than anything else. Oh, did I mention the awesome music? Just in case I didn’t, the setlist was fantastic. There we go”

So these are the gigs that were all very awesome. However, they were just bettered by these next 5. Starting with no.5 it is:

Number 5 – Rage against the Machine – Finsbury Park, London.

The effort that went into this gig was quite something. It all started from the race for Christmas No1 in 2009; would it be X-Factor or RATM? Well, as we all know it was RATM that won the day in the end. They announced during the campaign that should they win, they would hold a victory party in London which included them playing a gig. Now, I’d have been up for this anyway because I love RATM, but it was also free. Now not only did this spark my interest but also seemingly most of the damn country! Getting tickets was a thankless two hour epic but we got there in the end. The actual gig was awesome in that there were loads of people outside asking if they can “buy tickets” for this gig that’s a) free; and b) has tickets that have individual photos of the ticket holder on.

Anyway! We arrived in time to see Gogol Bordello. They were pretty damn good actually – a very fun band. If memory serves, I remember thinking their set got a bit long after a while. They were good but it was a touch repetitive by the end. Annoyingly, I can’t accurately confirm what I thought at the time because apparently I didn’t review the gig, oh well. RATM were superb though which made everything good. The pre-show cartoon introduction from Simon Cowell was hilarious. Testify is such a good song for them to open with. The set was quite different to the one I saw in Germany as well so that was quite cool. I now love White Riot by The Clash because of this gig. Before the last song (Killing in the Name – like I really needed to type that), they played a clip of McElderrys song which got heavily booed. The song purchasing statistics came up which showed that not only did RATM win, they won by a wide margin. With the words “YOU MADE HISTORY!” on the big screens, Killing in the Name started. Excellent

Number 4 – My Chemical Romance – Hammersmith Apollo, London.

Children, let this be a lesson to you. If you are going to a gig where the majority of the crowd is a) children; and b) female, then it might be advisable to not turn up at said gig with a hangover. I did this, and it hurt. The night before this gig, I was staring at the possibility of my beloved football club going out of business. Imagine how happy I was in the morning when I found out that this was just a bartering tool used by the administrators and that the club won’t go out of business. A massive hangover, for nothing! Anyways, London was cool. Strolled up Whitehall and by the Commons which to me is always fun because I am interested in politics.

The gig! Well we ignored going in straight away because the first “band” on, well the least said the better. We went in just after they finished and two things of note occurred before the gig. The first was a guy really throwing up, which was fun to listen to while queuing. The second was me saying to Dave “I hope they don’t test the lights because this crowd will scream and that will hurt my head”. Sure enough... *Lights Drop* *Girls Scream* *Lights Come Back on* - THANKS LIGHTING TECH!

The set they played was pretty much a best of with new album stuff included which for me couldn’t be topped. I actually can only think of one song which would have made it the perfect setlist for me which is Headfirst for Halos. Highlights of this set for me are not possible to do because everything I heard was awesome. We did leave slightly early to make sure we got the train but it was a fantastic gig and fully deserves the no.4 spot from 2010 gigs.

Number 3 – Ginger and Friends – Talking Heads, Southampton.

This is what I wrote yesterday which also appears on this blog. “This gig was the 2nd I’ve seen in the format of the headline act supporting themselves with a band in the middle. Ginger and Hot Steve did an acoustic set before the gig. This was very good – awesome music and fun crowd interactions. Highlights of this set for me (aside from being down the front) were Loveshit, This Is Only a Problem and Geordie in Wonderland. Geordie in Wonderland being the best I’d say purely due to the fact the crowd took over vocals and did a massive sing-along which was just awesome. After Oaf, Ginger and Friends came out and played what can only be described as an awesome set. If you love Wildhearts/Ginger music, then this set had it all. Usually I would say the highlights of a set at this stage but it isn’t possible because it was all awesome.” However my personal favourite songs of the night for me are My Baby Is a Headfuck and Vanilla Radio. Everything else is in a very close 2nd tie. I’d love to say what songs I’d have like to have heard as well but I fear I’ll write a near 4 hour setlist and as awesome as that would be, it’s never going to happen! Sorry for copy/pasting that review and reusing old material again, but it’s very hard to find fresh words to review something you’ve just reviewed.

Number 2 – Stone Sour – Dingwalls, London.

Having never been to Camden before, this was going to tick that off the list of things to do. It was also going to be pretty high on the “Win!” list as I love Stone Sour, and really did not want to see their show with A7X because it might have meant actually listening to A7X. If you like them, then fair enough but they just aren’t for me. Anyway, what was also going to be win was seeing Stone Sour in a room the size of the Dingwalls. This room can hold 487 people which considering they were playing rooms than can hold over 10000 on this tour meant we were in for something special. The only thing really I wish from this gig I had was a ticket but it was a ticketless affair, no matter! There was no support band which meant the entire night was all about Stone Sour which I’m fine with! I remember walking in, seeing the stage and being shocked at how small it was. The Dingwalls is a dark venue anyway, so it was hard to tell when the house lights went off/on.

When Stone Sour came out, the crowd just blew up. It was unbelievably loud from a crowd as small as it was. SS have always been a good live band (well in my experience of them) so I knew we were in for something special, even if the gig was just a warm up for the big shows. I was exactly right as they played for just over an hour and were phenomenal from start to finish. It is another one of those situations where I’d love to see them add more but the set would become inhumanly long. One highlight I do want to mention is a song which wasn’t planned on being played and comes with its own dance and that is Idle Hands. I think it was Jim Root who played the intro riff and Corey Taylor said “shall we play that? Fuck it, do you want to hear that?” which of course, yes we did! One of the best gigs of the year by far and confirms that Stone Sour is one of my favourite bands.

Number 1 – Rammstein – Manchester Evening News Arena, Manchester.

Firstly, that photo is from Sonisphere, but it’s far better than anything I took at the MEN so deal with it! Rammstein are one of those bands that were on my bucket list of bands that I need to see live. It is a very short list now which is quite nice but when I found out they were touring, I had to go. Granted, Manchester was a bit long winded about doing it but I went there because I love the MEN arena. I saw NIN there mid-2009 so it’s always going to have a special place in my heart (the NIN-fan boy bit). The journey there was very smooth and short of getting lost on the way to the hotel, everything went swimmingly really. The hotel this time gave us a much bigger room which was awesome. Ancoats Travelodge is in an awesome place to stay for a MEN gig because it’s about a 15min walk away.

I had listened to the support band, Combichrist, before travelling to Manchester and was not enamoured at all. Therefore I had advised arriving late enough to miss them but not miss any Rammstein. Well, we failed at that task but it was awesome that we did because I was completely wrong. Combichrist were immense live and I’m really glad we got there when we did. However, no matter how good they were, in my mind I remember thinking they will never top Rammstein and I was right. Rammstein were just mind-blowing, in both performance and stage show. The set was great and the atmosphere was just awesome. This is my gig of 2010 because everything was just right – and again short of increasing the setlist I can’t think of a way to improve this gig. One personal highlight was simply being in awe at the flaming angel wings during Engel. Rammstein top my gig list of 2010 and their Sonisphere set would have come in at no.3 if I was covering festival sets as well.

Well, that covers 2010 for me. It wasn’t a terrible year for me and I have high hopes for 2011. Will things be better? There is only one way to find out. Have a good new years eve to whoever reads this today. For those who read this next year (weird just typing that) then I hope you have a good one. As for this website, I’m sure I’ll be back in a week or so. Look out in the New Year for a review of Sonisphere 2011, Skindred @ Pyramids, Biohazard @ Wedgewood rooms and many more. That is all I have to say, so to close it out – happy New Year y’all. Have a great and prosperous 2011 – whatever you get out of it.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Reviews: John Bishop and Ginger

John Bishop – Portsmouth Guildhall 13/12/10

One longstanding obligation for a comedian is making fun of those people arrive late. The closer they are sitting to the front the better is usually is. This was extra entertaining when 6 people were late for Jason Manford’s show at Portsmouth Guildhall and they not only had seats in the front row, but front and centre – right in Manford’s eye line. However, this obligation can only be upheld on one condition - the comedian has to be on-time himself. Arriving at Portsmouth Guildhall at 19.31 worrying that I would be the late one to face ridicule because the show was starting at 19.30. About 15/20 minutes pass and it is announced that the show is running slightly late so you’ve got time to go and get another drink in. This for me was perfect as I was busting for a slash (that might be too much information, but that announcement was very good to me). I would also like say at this time I found out the Big Four of Thrash (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth & Anthrax) are headlining Sonisphere so I was put in a fantastic mood by this. At 20.10 the lights went dim, which in the business means either one of two things: 1) the show is about to start; or 2) the lighting guy has probably just overheard the fact I have a hangover and wants to see how loud he can make the crowd scream (that goes out to you lighting tech at Hammersmith, you arsehole!)

Anyway, in this instance it meant the show was about to start, and after a short animation of Bishop, the man himself arrives on stage, apologising for being late. His reason seems somewhat fair – all the other shows on the tour start at 8pm, so it wasn’t until 7.30 that he realised himself that the show started then. What followed was a rundown of a year in the life of a struggling comedian who has made it big; a middle aged parent who’s been married for 17 years; the differences between those people with kids and those without and the embarrassments that can arise from a new-found show business lifestyle. I will discuss two bits for me which was my personal favourites. He discussed arguing with teenagers and how your wonderful little child will turn into a demon. “There is not a parent in the room who in this scenario hasn’t thought that their child is a twat”. That single line made me laugh for two reasons – 1) my parents were in the room but slightly further away from me; and 2) it is probably very true. The other joke which I loved is about offensive words on the BBC and the 2nd most complained phrase is “cunt” and how the first most complained phrase is “Jesus Christ”. “So if you have a joke which has the punch line ‘so Jesus Christ is a cunt’ it is probably not going to get on TV.” Saying much more about the material would be giving it away so I will leave it there and end with saying he was superb and if the chance arises to go and see him, make sure you do. I’m contemplating going again in April if I get my act (no pun intended) together!

Hatebreed – Wedgewood Rooms 15/12/10

Here’s the thing, I didn’t go in the end. Had a ticket, also had a headache. Can’t be helped sometimes. I’m sure they were wonderful and played everything the crowd wanted to hear. Or, they might have been shite, but I’ll never know. Moving on...

Ginger & Friends – Talking Heads, Southampton 23/12/10

This was probably the gig I was most looking forward to of the post-Sonisphere part of 2010 due to how early I bought the ticket. I saw The Wildhearts last year and they were fantastic – it was literally one of the most fun gigs I’ve ever been to. So when I heard that that Ginger from the Wildhearts would be playing in Southampton and the set would consist of Wildhearts songs, it had to be done. The journey wasn’t anything special other than some of the small stations on the way into Southampton really look like they should be in the deep south in America (or at least in the movie Deliverance). Anyway, the Talking Heads is a pretty awesome venue actually. I’ve only ever been there before for a drink. It is a different shape to the Wedgewood Rooms but I’d say it’s not much smaller. The main difference is that the beer there is good! Yes, £3.20 for a pint of fosters is criminal in a standard pub but for a gig venue to charge this price, that is fine, especially when it’s good beer!

Anyway, this gig was the 2nd I’ve seen in the format of the headline act supporting themselves with a band in the middle. Ginger and Hot Steve did an acoustic set before the gig. This was very good – awesome music and fun crowd interactions. Highlights of this set for me (aside from being down the front) were Loveshit, This Is Only a Problem and Geordie in Wonderland. Geordie in Wonderland being the best I’d say purely due to the fact the crowd took over vocals and did a massive sing-along which was just awesome. After a voyage to the bar and the smoking area, I ended up in the back of the room for Oaf. Oaf is a two piece band who plays pretty heavy music. They were fairly entertaining and did a good job of warming up the crowd. I couldn’t see a way back to the front during Oaf so reluctantly went to smoke again, deciding that if I smoked and they finished that people would likely head back to the bar/come to smoke and I could find a way through. Sure enough, that happened. Ginger and Friends came out and played what can only be described as an awesome set. If you love Wildhearts/Ginger music, then this set had it all. Usually I would say the highlights of a set at this stage but it isn’t possible because it was all awesome. This was literally one of the best gigs of 2010 and I am pleased it is the one which closed out the year.

2010 is at a close, the next post will be a year summary type of deal where I’ll talk about my favourite memories of 2010 and looking to 2011.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Students, Snow and Football Thoughts

Haven’t really blogged in a while about current affairs or every day goings on. Truth be told I’ve not found an issue which has really mobilised me to write a whole blog giving off my opinion. There are a number of events which have occurred which I’ll blog briefly about. Some of these are a bit dated now but I have thoughts on them - not many which is why it will be brief. I discovered today that I am unable to drink alcohol like I did in-between the ages of 17-22. It was a shocking revelation. I thought I’d be ok to just get particularly drunk and while anticipating a hangover, I didn’t count on it being this bad. It is probably a sign that I shouldn’t drink like that again which, while probably the more healthy option is definitely the least fun of the two. Ach well here’s the actual content.

World Cup 2018 – They think it’s all is now.

This one I’d say is the most dated now. England had another unsuccessful bid to host the world cup in 2018. I seem to recall a failing bid for the 2006 world cup as well which suggests England don’t have many friends where it matters in FIFA. I did think that we had a really good chance at winning the tournament this time and I thought that, if successful, we’d have put on a damn fine world cup. But, at the end of the day we didn’t win and by the sounds of things, we never even stood a chance. I would like to congratulate Russia on getting the world cup and I also like to say that I think there is no worth in our bid team and the FA acting like petulant children over not getting the world cup. I feel that if there is a legitimate belief in FIFA that the world cup competition should visit new lands then it seems somewhat worthless countries that have hosted the competition submitting bids. It could be argued as unfair but if FIFA don’t want countries that have hosted it before hosting it again, then England are wasting their time submitting a bid. What England needed to do is just accept the bid decision and spend future bid money on actually improving grass roots football. But in one swoop they have not only made themselves look ridiculous by shouting “BUT ITS NOT FAIR” in Russia and FIFAs direction, they have managed to make themselves look like basket cases who aren’t capable of holding a world cup. Good work if you ask me (and yes, that was sarcasm). One day the world cup will come back to England, and I hope that the countries bids that are defeated by England’s will moan bitch and suggest they have bribed FIFA.

I read today on a follow up to this typing that FIFA are contemplating moving the Qatar World Cup 2022 to January/February. Now, I offered congratulations to Russia on getting the 2018 WC and I feel it would be slightly hypocritical of me not to offer congratulations to Qatar, so congrats to them. However this one does seem slightly fishy. It has long been an assumption that when a footballer moves to a team in Qatar, they are getting paid a fortune to do so. Hearing the news that the WC was going to Qatar surprised me quite a lot but I must confess I feel this announcement is fishy. I think it should have gone to Australia (it would have been too easy!) Oh well, too late for that now. But moving the tournament start dates is idiotic and will screw with every club team and every league that operates an August-May season (so almost every league in Europe). Nice going FIFA – way to make a bad situation worse. I didn’t even take this into account (I was thinking more about my own club team again) but what about the African Cup of Nations? Oh, FIFA fail.

Student Fees – The violence

This one is an awkward one for me as I work for a university so I don’t particularly want to be on the record as having a massive go at students and then go back to working with them. However I must admit I’ve found myself wondering what the students that have been protesting the fees are looking to achieve. I’m not entirely sure that bringing London to a standstill is going to make the government say “well actually, the fee’s hike we are proposing is too high, let’s scrap them all together!” That just is not going to happen. I would just like to state again, like I did in the last blog, that I do not support the policy of student fees reaching the possible heights of £9300 per annum but I also am aware we have a massive budget deficit in this country. 13 years of Labour rule has fucked this country to an extent that we have to take some very painful medicine to sort it. Anyway, this wasn’t written as a hidden way to attack Labour, and I don’t feel the need to hide the fact I hate them anyway. Moving on...The protests against the fees are a good thing. Protesting against a government policy which you do not agree with is fine in my eyes. When these protests turn violent though it just turns into little more than an attack on democracy. Why I say this is simple – in a democratic system with free and fair elections, there are winners and losers. If you vote for a party that then does not form government, then it’s not fair on everyone else to cause trouble because your team didn’t win. I can see why the students are unhappy if they voted for the Lib Dems but that was discussed in a previous blog so I don’t feel the need to bring it back up again. So yeah, I somehow feel by smashing up parts of London and attacking the police, the students who are protesting in this manner have probably weakened their argument and ruined any chance of coming to the negotiating table. I would just like to stress again that the very poorest of potential students will not be lumbered with this fee increase – seeing as that isn’t said enough. Strange that the argument that this policy will restrict the opportunity of those from poorest backgrounds to go to university is the one which is used the most – when it simply is not true.

The snow

Well, I was going to talk about the previous snow we had and how ridiculous it was that it bought the country to a standstill but it did. There always seems to be a shortage of road salt when this occurs – you’d think now snow is slightly more frequent they’d build a surplus of this stuff up and save it for a rainy day (well a snowy day actually....oh leave it!) What happened out of the last set of snow is that I had 1.5 days off work, and was stupidly bored. However, I did manage to watch The Shawshank Redemption which was very awesome. We have snow again and it has cancelled my plans for the evening which sucks (in all fairness, the hangover and subsequent other affects of a night drinking also helped cancel said plans). I’m hoping that the snow pisses off fairly quickly and the streets don’t ice up. I haven’t got much to do but I won’t be overly favourable towards the very little I have to do being cancelled because of snow and ice! Also, it is quite funny that in Canada, they had to close schools and businesses after it got “unmanageable” over there – it was -39 degrees and there was 12ft of snow. How is it that say, hypothetically, the temperature could be -25 and the snow could be 7ft and life carries on? That to me sounds nuts (but then I live in a country that shits itself following 7 inches, let alone 7ft!

That’s all folks. I probably won’t blog again until after Xmas now so have a good festive period. Have an awesome new year and I will be back with a reviews blog (which due to my laziness has already suffered) covering John Bishop and Ginger. Just wanted to tag a quick bit on the end to say that the Sonisphere 2011 ticket has been purchased and I couldn’t be happier about my decision. I have been reading thoughts about people annoyed with the booking of festival headliners and bands this year but here’s my rational. The Big 4 is a big announcement (no pun intended). Metallica are always a festive headline band that makes any lineup look stronger (imo – but then I am biased). Slayer and Anthrax might be the questionable choices due to their previous performances at this festival but I’m prepared to look passed that as long as they mix the set up a little (Damnit slayer, play Disciple and New Faith!) Megadeth is also a strong booking as they are a genius live band (I heard they were poor at DL2010 but I wasn’t there so can’t really comment). All four of these bands on the same stage is immense and when I heard it was going to happen, I was excited and hoped I could see it. The other headliners I have already discussed so I won’t go into it again. Also, my choice to go to Sonisphere means I can go and see Judas Priest at Victoria Park and pop by Hyde Park and listen to Bon Jovi. Might even be able to squeeze in a quick jaunt to Download to see SOAD (as I failed to get a ticket to their Paris date) which will be quite nice.

Right, I’m off – Happy Priority Gifting Period to you all, I hope Winterval treats you well.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Sonisphere Wins

Well, they announced the Big Four. I can only really afford one festival a year at the moment. It is Sonisphere, Knebworth.

Soundtrack - Metallica

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Verbalizing Festival Thoughts

Haven’t blogged for a while because I didn’t really feel like I had a great deal to say. I experimented with the short blog format and it is fine although it does mean multiple posts when I have a fair bit to say. Having said that, this post will just be about live music. I did some slight tidying of the blog just to make it look a bit nicer. Got rid of the twitter sidebar as it was too big for the blog (and it was the official design, go figure!) but replaced it with links of my social network locations and a few links to other blogs and web pages. If you want a link adding then all you have to do is ask – there are very few reasons why I wouldn’t put a link there. Moving on, I will be doing a reviewing blog soon covering the next fortnight of activities including seeing John Bishop, Hatebreed and Ginger & Friends. Looking forward to these, although truth be told I have lost a fair bit of excitement about Hatebreed. I reckon that is down to it being the first gig since March that I’d be going alone to.

Speaking of live music, we are well and truly into the first festival season now with several of them making their first announcements. How I tend to view festivals is look at home first and then look abroad. I legitimately consider 3 English festivals before looking elsewhere which are Isle of Wight (IOW), Download and Sonisphere (of those three, Sonisphere is the one I’ve been to the last two years). IOW drew first blood by announcing Kings of Leon, Kasabian, Foo Fighters and Pulp as the first four major bands for its main stage and Tom Jones as its first main act for its “big top” stage. Now, I’m going to see Foo Fighters (this will come up again later) so that is not a massive draw for me. Kings of Leon and Kasabian have a handful of good songs between them but as festival headliners, no thanks. Pulp are the biggest draw for me here and they are playing the same day as Foo Fighters by the looks of things – so if a day ticket becomes available then I might consider it but I don’t think IOW sells day tickets. Download then struck gold really for me.

Striking gold in this context means announcing System of a Down to play your festival. A very brief history of what this means to me is that SOAD are one of my bucket list bands (a very short list now) so the chance to see this band – immense! They also announced Avenged sevenfold for their festival. Well I guess they have to appeal to....I got nothing. Anyway, I feel that was a pretty strong announcement for their first one. Their second announcement for me was a bit lacklustre – Linkin Park (to headline) and Rob Zombie. LP do sod all for me because they had two immense albums, disappeared, and then came back with two very shit albums. Hey, they sell out the o2 arena so what do I know right? ;) Anyway! Rob Zombie is one I’m not fussed about; really due to lack of knowledge and lack of interest to change that so I guess not being excited about that one is my own fault but whatever. One awesome band and some serious meh as far as I’m concerned. Let’s see what Sonisphere did...

SLIPKNOT?! Now that was unexpected. I achieved my aim of seeing them live in 2008 but like any greedy person, wanted to see them again! When I heard the news Paul Gray died, I thought the chance to see them had gone and I was just grateful that I was able to see them the one time! This announcement to me is bigger than SOAD. I knew SOAD would eventually one day come back but Slipknot I thought were done. I said many a time following this announcement that it sold me on Sonisphere because it was huge and I’d just go to see SOAD in Paris, or get a ticket or even (as this isnt a reunion, just a "hey, the hiatus is over" tour,) wait for more dates. Well anyways, then Sonisphere shocked everyone with this announcement and not in a good way (in my humble opinion)...

Say what?! Biffy Clyro are a rock band and have every right to play a rock festival but to headline?! What world are we living in? There is no way they are big enough to headline a festival with such crossover appeal. I might get some shit for that but this is my opinion. This announcement has made me want to look elsewhere for my summer festival choice. You will hear people say “a headliner doesn’t make a festival” which at any other festival, I could agree with. However, at Sonisphere they have a rotation system between Main and 2nd stage so between those two stages at least, there are no clashes. This means that when Biffy is on, there is no alternative. Furthermore, Biffy Clyro are headlining a major festival for the first time on the 9th July 2011. Lets hope they don't do anything stupid and say, support another festival headliner the weekend before in the UK....

Oh wait, oops! So Sonisphere's main band for the Saturday is a band that the weekend before are supporting another band who are on the circuit headlining? Poor form. Anyway, enough moaning; let’s look elsewhere shall we?

European festivals, how nice and cheap you are! Rock AM Ring is always the first place I look. I think anywhere I see Metallica I will look upon favourably. This festival announced as its headliners SOAD (win), Kings of Leon (feck) and Coldplay (big announcement but not a draw for me as a headliner). No matter I’ll look at Wacken. Hey, Wacken has an awesome lineup at the moment. This lineup includes Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Airbourne, Hayseed Dixie, Sepultura, Trivium and others. Pretty good other bands as well. Problem with that festival is that is 130 euro ticket which is about 150 after fees and postage (still much cheaper than anything the UK has to offer) but a £168 flight – ouch. That basically rules that out. One I have looked at a great deal many years in a row is Graspop. Let’s have a look at that shall we kids?

Now, that is a pretty nice lineup. It has Slipknot (which instantly puts it up there with Sonisphere), Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions, Judas Priest....well you can see the poster. I will draw special attention to the fact that it has Volbeat. Now, it is awesome to see that Volbeat are on the tour cycle again next summer and that it is in Europe is an extra special win. So this festival has winning me over in that it has strong headliners (although in my ignorance, I only know “Rock You like a Hurricane” by Scorpions) and a fairly strong undercard. Excellent if you ask me.

Ok so what are the findings of this set of ramblings? Let’s analyse shall we?

IOW – Saturday is win, but they don’t do day tickets and the other headliners don’t do it for me. For my 5th festival year, I’m going to pass over the local festival.

Download – SOAD is win. The rest so far is not. I might be tempted to come up for SOAD but other than that, not so good. Early days though and I might still pop up to Donington for the first time since 2007 to see SOAD. We shall see.

Sonisphere – “Why do you build me up, buttercup baby just to let me down?” Well there literally couldn’t have been a more gay way to analyse a festival without actually typing that sentence with a cock in my mouth. Anyway, Slipknot announcement is win but the Biffy Clyro to headline one is bemusing. There is one more headliner to announce and unless it is something which makes me go “wow, ok!” then I’ll pass thanks. I have publicly said to friends that the Big 4 (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax) would do it for me but there are two others being honest that would do it, and they are Led Zeppelin (well, a man can dream!), Faith No More, Green Day and/or Muse - one of them would get me to Knebworth next year.

Graspop – Strong headliners as far as I am concerned. Slipknot and Ozzy are big names. Scorpions I’m told are awesome live and the undercard is immense so far (Volbeat and Judas Priest, yay!) This is at present in the pole position for me to go to it – but I am giving Sonisphere one more chance. If they don’t announce a headliner I want – I’m coming to Belgium! There are a couple of bands playing a rival festival (which doesn’t have enough to sell me) whom I’d love to see announced for this festival, Kreator being one of them!

Well this was a ramble and a half! The next post which will probably be fairly soon as I’ve finished work for xmas now and this will be a more current events blog. Until then!

Soundtrack of the Blog – Well for the most part it was Biffy Clyro. They are alright at best.