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.


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