So, own up - had you heard of Pussy Riot before last week?
I'd seen their name here and there, usually reporting on their guerrilla-style media events, and I did read something about them being detained for doing something or other (here is the video of what they actually did) in a church earlier this year, although I must admit that I didn't give it too much thought. They've been in the news a bit more lately though, and with good reason - surely that's a very harsh sentence for dancing around in a balaclava and expressing a few opinions about President Putin? Then again, how would the Great British public have reacted if they'd done a similar thing in, say, St Paul's Cathedral or Westminster Abbey? Many people have given their thoughts to the subject, but I think the excellent Louise Distras has made a particularly powerful contribution which you can read here and see her perform here - makes you think doesn't it? Well it certainly got to me.
On to more mundane matters - I started this blog on August Bank Holiday weekend 2006. What began as an innocent attempt to improve my typing and computing skills has since become a sprawling monster, a leviathan that has all but taken over my God-forsaken life to the point that it dominates what little spare time I still have... well that's probably a bit of an exaggeration but I sometimes wonder if I do spend too much time on it - after all, I'm never really sure if anybody actually reads it or not. That said, maybe that's not the most important thing - after all, my typing and computing skills have definitely improved, I really enjoy writing it and it remains the nearest thing to a hobby that I have outside of music so perhaps I should stop moaning (for once!) and get on with writing the damn thing...
Two shows with two different bands this weekend, the first of which took place at a wedding reception in a tent at the astonishingly-named Trickley Coppice near Tamworth. (You know, it's almost worth writing this stuff just for sentences like that last one!) Matt's on vocals, Kylan's on bass, Rob's on keyboards and Adam's on drums (all of whom play together regularly in the Briefcase Blues Brothers band) and we're calling ourselves THE 20th CENTURY BOYS, which was a name nearly used for the band in the ill-fated Cool Britannia shows earlier this year. With the nearest thing to a rehearsal being a 10 minute talk-through-the-songs in the field outside the tent to decide on keys and endings (and, since there was no dressing room, to get changed - that's the first time I've had to do that for a while) it was down to us all to have done our homework, and it certainly sounded as though everybody had. There was inevitably a couple of slip-ups but nothing too major went wrong; Matt's occasional Blues Brothers partner Paul sang a few songs, and there was plenty of dancefloor action throughout. Great stuff, even if I did have to spend more time learning 'Mr. Brightside' (bloody hell that introduction is difficult to play!) than I did the rest of our set put together. Oh and talking of slip-ups the torrential rain that fell during the festivities had turned the field outside the tent into something approaching a quagmire by the time we'd finished, which along with the fact that it seemed like no one had thought to provide very much in the way of outside lighting made for a very interesting time loading our gear out.
And it was a very interesting time on Saturday evening, depping with The Cane Toads in Ealing. I first saw them around 15 years ago when I remember thinking that they mostly consisted of members of local lads The Attendants who I saw a couple of times back in the day. They split up a couple of years ago with guitarist Pete and bassist Ken going on to form the now-defunct Awaken, and Pete deps for me in The Upper Cut from time to time. They reconvened to play at a house party this weekend, and with guitarist Malcolm and the afore-mentioned Ken both unavailable Pete, vocalist Martin and drummer Bruce were joined by Chris on bass (who's in a band with Martin and Bruce - keep up at the back there!) and your humble narrator on guitar. We were playing under a gazebo in the back garden which from what I can gather had tarpaulin sides added to it earlier in the day; without them there was no way that we could have played, as holding an electric guitar in the torrential rain that fell during our first set would have redefined the term 'danger of electrocution'. As it was some water still got in, and my amplifier fused during 'Dani California' (just as I got to the guitar solo - bah! They played 'The One I Love' without me while I fixed it) and it continued to make some rather dubious noises throughout the rest of the set (nothing to do with my playing for once!) which was hopefully down to moisture rather than the amp being faulty. Overall it was a successful evening with all the guests seeming to enjoy our efforts, and it seems to me to be a shame that The Cane Toads aren't playing together more often these days. A good (if rather perilous) gig - and I've just realised that I learned over fifty songs for the two shows, with only five common to both. Mad!
Sad news greeted me this morning when I saw that Neil Armstrong has died. As a lad I loved everything to do with the Moon landings of the late Sixties and early Seventies, and remember seeing the footage of him and Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface with a mixture of excitement and disbelief, dreaming of a day when we'd all be able to go to The Moon and indeed all the planets in the Solar System as a matter of course, for a holiday or maybe even for a day trip. All good pre-teenage stuff, and as I say incredibly exciting. The Apollo 11 mission splashed down on my 8th birthday (nice of them to arrange that I thought) and I followed subsequent missions with great enthusiasm, all the while feeling a bit sorry for the guy up in The Command Module (Michael Collins in the case of Apollo 11) who didn't get to The Moon but circled around it, presumably watching his buddies messing about with flags and golf clubs several miles below. Years later conspiracy theories appeared suggested that it was all an elaborate hoax intended to take people's minds off The Vietnam War (among other things) which as a considerably more cynical grown-up I tried to take seriously - but I always found myself thinking of the little boy who looked at pictures of Americans in outrageous outfits taking 'one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind' and who wished he was up there in space with them.
Sometimes I wish that I was up there now. Well - who doesn't eh?