Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Cardiff Calling

Cardiff Calling, the nearest I’ll get to a proper rock festival in the foreseeable future, was a great success on Saturday, I felt. Opening up on the main stage, in the grounds of Cardiff Castle was jaunty acoustic balladeer Kid Harpoon, with whom I was previously unfamiliar. Next up, in the Coal Exchange’s “indie” tent was Misty’s Big Adventure – trying a little too hard to be quirky, what with a dancer in a wacky costume, and eccentric song introductions; one song, called “Evil”, was dedicated to George Bush, but there wasn’t an accompanying one called “Santa Claus” for Saddam Hussein. Lethal Bizzle was, I think, the only act to squeeze Cardiff in between sets at the Leeds/Reading event – ten out of ten for effort, but as with most rap acts in concert, it consisted largely of a couple of blokes shouting over someone else’s records – vaguely unsatisfying, no matter how inventive the sampling. A little while later, back on the main stage, Bez made no pretence of doing anything innovative, simply yelling “F*** The Police!” over a succession of baggy classics; surprisingly entertaining. By this time, I was stuck near the front, having made the effort to get close enough to see The Young Knives – very endearing indie-guitar stuff; and how could one dislike a band whose bass-player is named House of Lords? Later came De La Soul, 14 years after the last time I saw them, in Ireland, along with my late brother; more shouting, but managing to involve the crowd through hard-earned charisma, and by pulling some bona fide hits out of the bag. I’d half-expected Lily Allen not to turn up, since she’s become a major star since initially being booked, but play she did, and she was highly impressive, despite unprofessionally drinking cider, smoking, and looking at her watch. The “aah” moment of the day was when she pointed out, just after performing her No. 1 smash “Smile”, that her mother, watching from the sidelines, was crying. Next was a choice between Echo and the Bunnymen on the main stage, and The Pipettes in the tent – sadly, fit birds won out over grizzled legends, and I think I made the right choice, their 60s-girl-group-pastiche material coming over as far more substantial live than on record. Next in the tent was Jamie T, whom I’d been expecting to see as a solo act with his bass, doing the white rapper thing; instead, however, he brought a band, and the whole experience was somewhat rockier than anticipated, which was nice. Headlining the big stage were Snow Patrol – ideal, crowd-pleasing stuff, mellow without being soporific, charm overcoming their lack of melodic invention. Highly enjoyable, and all within a half-hour’s walk of my flat.

     The next day, I watched a film I’d taped off BBC4 the previous night – Otto Preminger’s final work, an adaptation of Graham Greene’s tale of low-key espionage, “The Human Factor”. Rather drab, stilted and colourless, like much UK cinema of the 1970s, but then this mirrored the mundanity of life as a real-life non-Bond-style, suburban secret agent. Something of a time capsule, though, reflecting the long moment in history when apartheid seemed immovable, and the impenetrably monolithic Soviet Union was the only enemy.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Big Weekend '06

Another vintage Big Weekend in Cardiff’s Civic Centre a couple of days ago. A desire to avoid the festival-style toilets meant that I only made it for brief sessions, but on Saturday, I managed to catch the whole of the sets by perennially excellent intense-soft-rockers The Crimea, and punk-funk-tastic East Londoners The Infadels, and a good section of The Automatic (although I left before the singalong fun of “Monster”). On Sunday evening, it was the Stereo MCs, who seemed quite miffed at the fact that people weren’t dancing, apparently forgetting that they only had two famous songs, which were hits long before a large section of the audience was born; followed by festival closer and homecoming queen Cerys Matthews, who kicked ass, playing only one Catatonia song, “Lost Cat” (written a stone’s throw away in Splott), and concentrating on her country-tinged new material (her drummer being, apparently, the grandson of George Jones). Beautiful.
Currently, the news is full of the terror alerts involving aircraft departing from U.K. airports. Even more depressing than the prospect of more Al-Qaeda-sponsored attacks is the inevitable “there are no terrorists, but if there are, it’s all the fault of the Jews” bile which will be spilt all over the public prints. Still, hats off to Channel Five for trailing a showing of Mel Gibson’s “Man Without A Face” with a clip of his character reciting the “Hath not a Jew eyes” speech from “Merchant” – very funny.