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(Still) Defying The Man And All His Machinations
After the BUILDING BUSTING excitement of the night before, Saturday morning found me feeling headache-y, poorly in the stomach, and oddly fatigued - I guess I must have caught a BUG in the pub (etc etc). I decided the best way to sort myself out would be to have a nice big breakfast, so set off round Leicester city centre in search of such a thing.

"I'm not just going to go to Weatherspoons", I said to myself, and thus spent an unproductive twenty minutes failing to find ANYWHERE open for breakfast foods... except for the Weatherspoons. Resigned to my fate I went in and, actually, had some decent grub, though I WAS slightly OFFENDED when the young lady bringing my breakfast over said "Large vegetarian?" That's a bit personal isn't it?

Duly FED I headed over to the station where I met Mr M Whitaker, erstwhile AAS Board Member, who was coming with me to meet the THIRD corner of the AAS Board Triangle, Mr F A Machine, in Derby for the Winter Beer Festival. Mat had come to the gig the night before and I'd a) told him I was off the the Derby Beer Festival next day to meet Frankie then b) asked/INSISTED he come along. He did!

The Beer Festival was taking place at the Derby Roundhouse, just by the back door of the train station, which was VERY handy. As we rolled up I got a text from Frankie saying that the Beer Bus had been delayed. I thought he was JOKING, referring to a LIFT he was getting or something, but then the ACTUAL Beer Bus arrived! It was a shuttle service from town with BEER as the destination, FULL of middle-aged CAMRA-looking gentlemen. Frankie came running off to meet us, eager to get into the festival before everyone else disembarked, but was halted by the glorious, unexpected, sight of Mr WHitaker waiting for him. We shared a three-way HUG and headed in.

The Beer Festival was GRATE, and very similar to all the other Beer Festivals I've been to i.e. free for CAMRA members, you could hire or buy glasses (although quite a LOT of people seemed ot have brought their own with them) and there was LOADS of beer within. The big differences this time were that they ONLY had half pint glasses, and it was CIRCULAR, so that it was very easy to lose your bearings. That's my excuse anyway.

What followed were several hours of IMMENSE pleasure, as you can see here:

The three of us yacked away and tried OVER SEVERAL different kinds of beer. Mat had never been to a festival before, but he soon got the hang of it, and I must say the circular layout made it VERY easy to do the traditional Start At One End And Wander Round. We paid a trip to the Shiny Brewery Stand, featuring young Jimmy Machine proudly selling his wares, and tried some Lime And Chilli Chocolate. PRO-TIP: if offered some Lime And Chilli Chocolate, don't try it, it's disgusting!

Soon it was nearly 3pm and time for us to toddle over to catch our train. This was perfect timing, as we had had JUST enough to remain Lightly Squiddly but still MORE than sober enough to do trains properly. It had been a LOVELY afternoon, but if you heard a TITANIC GROAN echoing around the land on Saturday afternoon, you now know what it was - it was THE MAN, breathing a sigh of RELIEF that we had concluded our meeting. Rest easy for now, THE MAN, but one day The Board Of AAS will reunite again!

posted 22/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Bringing The House Down
Last Friday afternoon found myself and Mr S Hewitt on the train once again, heading for Leicester, where we were due to DEBUT Still Valid at the Leicester Comedy Festival. It's AGES since we last did anything like this but we fell into our ROUTINES easily, although it must be said that our usual habit of "doing lines" (i.e. talking through all the words and lyrics for a show while sitting next to each other EN ROUTE as opposed to any OTHER kind of "doing lines") is a bit different when there aren't, technically, any LINES as such, just a general idea of what we're meant to be doing. On the upside, this means it's a lot harder to get it wrong!

We arrived in Leicester and checked into The Ibis, tho NOT in our Usual Rooms this time, as they had been REFURBISHED. It SMELT like they had been refurbished very very recently - the whiff of carpet glue was so strong I had to leave the windows open the whole time I was in there! Despite this my Ibis Afternoon was as enjoyable as ever, especially after receiving a text from Steve almost as soon as I'd got in. "Yes Minister on Yesterday!" it said, and I LEAPT for the TV remote control.

It wasn't all TELLY tho - we are PROFESSIONALS, and bravely missed the end of "Pointless" in order to get to The Criterion on time for "soundcheck" (i.e. saying "we don't need a soundcheck"). It was GRATE to be back, and we were relieved to discover that, despite the change in management, they were still selling Pizza. PHEW! We met Sam, who was doing the door, and explained our needs (i.e. lights on and off), and then were soon joined by a whole HEAP of pals who'd come to see us. It was lovely!

The show itself was a bit of a worry to start with as this was the first time we'd EVER performed it in front of ANYBODY in ANY way. Previously we'd have had at least a script reading at home AND a "rehearsed reading" in front of An Invited Audience before even TRYING to do it for a Proper Audience, so would have some idea of it being OK, but this time there'd been none of that. My nerves were definitely NOT calmed during the first section either - I could dimly see people SMILING out in the room, but couldn't hear any LARFS. This reached it's most TERRIFYING point when we got to the "what a twat" line in 20 Things To Do Before YOu're 30. That nearly ALWAYS gets a big LARF, but was received in SILENCE on this occasion. Had we made a TERRIBLE MISTAKE?!?

Happily, as it turned out, we hadn't, and things warmed up A LOT as we went along, so by the end people were CHUCKLING away like nobody's business. It also ended up becoming a GREAT deal of fun to actually DO. Compared to previous shows it felt like we'd LEAPT from the first couple of rehearsals STRAIGHT to the bit where we know exactly what we're up to and can MESS AROUND, cutting out entirely the tedious six months or so of WORRYING and not knowing the lines. Clearly DEVISED PIECES are the future!

Afterwards we were hanging round chatting to our various PALS when someone - I believe it was Mr CM Lawson - said "Come and have a look at THIS!" I followed him out of the bar to the PORCH area, where I could see it was POURING with rain outside... and the rain was HOT. So hot, in fact that it was STEAMING. WOT on earth was going on?

Closer inspection showed that it was actually water pouring through a light fitting in the porch, coming down through the ceiling from upstairs. The management had been informed but didn't seem to be able to do much about it, and a small CROWD had gathered outside to watch it. I went and stood outside with them, and was just asking whether we expected anything else to happen when something DID - the CEILING in the porch FELL DOWN!

It was all very exciting - most of the pubs that I've ever played in in Leicester have been demolished, but it's never actually happened AROUND me before!

After that the rest of the evening dissolved into BEER and YACKING, so it was a Comfortably Merry Hibbett who staggered off back to the Ibis, via a now dry door, happy with how it had all gone and rather looking forward to doing some more!

posted 21/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Not Reading Comics
Tuesday evening found me back at Central St Martins, with THREE Action Points to Action. The first of these was a recurring minute: looking ASKANCE at The Students with their Funny Trousers and CAPES. It was actioned IMMEDIATELY!

The second was to pop into the library to snaffle some BOOKS. This is always EXCELLENT fun, although I do have to exercise a WILL OF STEEL whenever I'm there. There are HUGE long bookcases FULL of books ABOUT comics and books which are COLLECTIONS of comics, and it takes me straight back to being approx 11, standing in the Science Fiction section of Peterborough Library, thinking "But I want them ALL!"

What I do now, being a sensible ADULT, is to write a LIST of books BEFORE I go to the libary, and STICK to it. Sometimes this is not easy! One of the books I got this time was "Conversations: Stan Lee", which is a collection of, well, conversations with Stan Lee, taken from magazines, conferences, radio and TV shows over the years. I am roughly 35% of the way through now and it is BRILL - you can say what you like about Stan Lee (and people do) but BY GOLLY he has an engaging way of conversing, and he believes many things with which I entirely AGREE - possibly because I have spent my life READING Stan Lee and thus most of my OWN thoughts are based on HIS. There's one bit in particular where he talks about how comics can be LITERATURE just like someone playing KAZOO can be music - Stan, you are singing my song right there!

With books collected I headed upstairs for a Supervisory Meeting, where myself and Mr R Sabin and Mr I Horton, my two Supervisors, went through my Registration Document. This is a form you have to complete during the first year of a PhD (at UAL at least) to persuade them that what you are doing is VALID, and thus I have been working on it A LOT over the past couple of months - I thought doing a PhD on Marvel Comics would mean reading COMICS, but so far it has been mostly FORMS.

We went looking for an empty classroom and found a GIGANTIC room that spanned most of the width of the ATRIUM, with huge glass windows on either side so anybody entering the building could look up and see us. We then put my form up on a GIGANTIC screen approx the size of my LIVING ROOM. It may seem excessive, but this turned out to be a pretty good way to collaborate on TEXT, as the three of us gently scrolled through it, making corrections as we went.

When it was all done and, with a few more amendments yet to do, almost ready to submit, talk turned to what I should do next for the PhD. "How about writing something?" suggested Roger. "Maybe about the actual comics?"

He was suggesting I actually READ SOME COMICS! Yikes! To be honest this freaked me out a bit, and after discussion we agreed that I'd do a TIMELINE first - the PhD is partly about DOCTOR DOOM, so we I suggested that first of all I do some research into his publication history before I do something as RADICAL as Actually Reading Comics. The very idea!

When that was all settled we popped downstairs to the CSM bar for a PINT - after that shock I needed one!

posted 16/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Being Covered
It was the Pop!South Weekender in Glasgow this weekend just gone, apparently the last one EVER. I have played there TWICE before, once with Mr S Hewitt in 2014 and then last year with The Validators, and both times it has been BLOODY GRATE - lovely organisers, lovely audience, lovely venue, fantastic city. What more could you ask for eh?

I was a bit sad not to be there for this final one, especially on the Sunday when they had not one but TWO awesome chums - Mr P Green and Mr G Osborn - playing, along with A New International, who are one of those bands where everybody who sees them (including me) goes "Cor! They were good!" If it had been a bit less MILES away I would have gone (flipping Scotland with its insistence of taking HOURS for me to get there) but I assured myself that I would at least be able to enjoy PARTS of it, via twitter (with people going on about A New International, as predicted) and indeed The YouTube, where some kindly soul has uploaded the below video:

This is Gav doing his AMAZING version of It Only Works Before You're Here. I've heard the RECORDED version (on my TRIBUTE album hem hem) but I don't think I've ever seen him play it live, largely because USUALLY when I see him play I'm ALSO playing and will thus tend to be doing this song myself. I would very MUCH like to see it sometime though, as even over the interweb it made me feel all AGLOW. Many years ago, when I first started playing solo gigs, I wrote a LIST of things I would like to happen, and near the top (below "be on the radio" and above "produce someone else's record") was "hear someone cover one of my songs". This has happened a FEW times over the years (NB though not enough - KANYE! Get ON it!) and it always makes me VERY happy, especially when it's as GORGEOUS a version as this.

The only thing Gav gets WRONG is that he doesn't have some people doing the "La la la" bit in the middle section which would put him off so he gets the words wrong and has to do the whole section again. That's the best bit, surely!

posted 15/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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The Five Doctors
I had a THRILLING ENCOUNTER last Thursday lunchtime. I was just sitting down with my sandwich in the EAT next to my work when I heard a Scottish Voice that sounded familiar. I looked up and LO! chatting to someone as if it was perfectly normal was David Tennant off the telly!

This was QUITE EXCITING, but I managed to stay cool about it, as indeed did he (I'm sure I heard him nervously humming "Hey Hey 16K", but apart from that it was if he hadn't even spotted me). One of the more FUN things about working in the centre of That London is that you DO occasionally spot famous people wandering around, and it set my mind to thinking about the OTHER famous people I'd seen. "I saw Christopher Ecclestone over the road at the Optician once," I thought,"and Tom Baker looking worried in a Pret A Manger."

"Hang on," I thought some more, "That's THREE Doctors Who!" I'm sure it's technically "Doctor Whos" but that looks weird written down, and "Doctors Who" is also more fun to say. Anyway, just as I was thinking how COOL that was I suddenly remembered that I'd ALSO seen John Hurt just round the corner in The One Tun pub a few years ago (my friend Simon went to speak to him but he was not really in any fit state to chat. He did ask me where the toilet was though, so technically we have MET), and then that I had ALSO seen Sylvester McCoy in The Museum Tavern!

That's FIVE Doctors, all within a very small area - an area which can be plotted THUS:

As I mulled this visualisation over I wondered if there was a PATTERN and so decided to investigate further with the following ANNOTATIONS:

I can't really see a pattern of the individual Doctors - they don't seem to be arranged in terms of age or order or anything - so I am open to any suggestions anybody else may have. It MIGHT be that New Series Doctors are in one half of the circle (using Percy Street to Montague Place as the dividing line) but I'd need more data to know for sure. If I spot Peter Capaldi outside ULU on Malet Street, or Peter Davison looking lost outside Tottenham Court Road tube, then this theory will be PROVED!

What I can predict with some certainty, however, is the location of Paul McGann. As the JOIN between old and new he must surely be somewhere in the dead centre of the circle which is, I reckon, at the end of Gower Mews. I can't see him on streetview, but I'll pop and have a look next time I'm passing - if you don't hear back, you'll know I've gone off with him for some ADVENTURES in time and space!

posted 14/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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A Lovely Time, Guaranteed
Sunday afternoon found me back at Bally Studios for a SECOND practice of me and Steve's new show "Still Valid". Yes, that's right - we might not have written a script or new songs, but we HAVE had more than one practice! PROFESSIONALISM!

This time around it was a BREEZE as we knew which BITS went where and, without a FORMAL SCRIPT to adhere to, could muck about as much as we liked so long as we got to the next song eventually. It felt very strange, also FREEING. For previous shows rehearsals have been a right old pain in the wotsits, as we've struggled to get the WORDS right, especially for shows like Moon Horse or Total Hero Team which were PACKED with PLOT that had to be said out loud. This one doesn't really HAVE much of a plot - there's a THEME, a General Idea, and several ACTUAL JOKES, but they're loosely hung like TINSEL between songs rather than complex teetering mechano constructions that cannot be leaned on too hard (METAPHOR) so it's all quite GROOVY.

It was also a LOT of fun. Usually we only get to the LARKING AROUND phase of the show when we've already been DOING it for several months and are confident in how it works, but this time we were there right from the start, and it made me wonder if this might be a way forward for any FUTURE productions. I mean, OBVIOUSLY I am thinking this because it is DRAMATURGICALLY forward thinking, experimental and inherently theatrical, and not at ALL because it would save us a LOT of work and stress, but I must admit that that appeals too. If and when we do another show then perhaps the way to DO it is NOT for me to spend three months working out plot, character and GAGS (I hear a chorus of voices say "You worked all that rubbish OUT before?!?") but instead to work it up ORGANICALLY.

It's certainly a THORT, but before we get to any of that we've a SHOW to do in Leicester on Friday. As mentioned previously, the PLAN is to see how that goes and then, if how it goes is WELL, book some more shows. I've a feeling it WILL go well - as Steve said during practice, "I think everybody is going to have a LOVELY time", and I reckon he might just be right!

posted 13/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Exam Conditions
Wednesday night found me back at Bally Studios for the first time in AGES, there to meet Mr S Hewitt for a practice of our new show 'Still Valid', which we will be PREMIERING next week at The Leicester Comedy Festival (tickets still VERY much available). I haven't been there for AGES - for one thing, we haven't had a show to practice for AGES, but when we HAVE needed to do stuff we tended to go to Theatre Delicatessen instead, as it was in town. HOWEVER a) we DO have something to rehearse now and b) Theatre Delicatessen have moved out to Canary Wharf, and thus we returned to Bally to find Tottenham Hale SLIGHTLY CHANGED. Not only had the studios had a lick of paint and a swap round of pictures on the wall (we used to have MOTOWN in our room, now it had changed to Early 90's American Alt ROCK) but the AREA was gradually becoming an AREA. To get to Bally you have to walk through a housing development, which was pretty much EMPTY when we first went there but now, much like my own OLYMPIC VILLAGE (where I live but don't like to go on about), was becoming an Actual Place.

There is a theory that the best way to revise for an EXAM is to do it in EXAM CONDITIONS i.e. in a large quiet room full of lots of other people, such as a LIBRARY, so that your BRANE will associate such settings with remembering the information you shoved into it there. THUS I thought it would be good for our PRACTICE if we did the same for rehearsals, so we enjoyed a very nice bottle of GHOST SHIP as we set to work. This is one of many SACRIFICES we make for our ART.

We'd had a couple of DRAMATURGICAL sessions already, where we'd sat in the pub and worked out a rough idea for how the show would work, and I'd typed the results of all this up as a guideline with bits of SCRIPT in, but we had never actually DONE it OUT LOUD before. The general idea of the show (SPOILERS) is that it's an episode of Classic Albums from 2037 covering Still Valid, which is as good an excuse as any to talk about the songs and then sing them. It all went SURPRISINGLY well - it's a simple set-up with no complicated BITS to remember (or tap dance routines) so we could pretty much skip straight to the MUCKING ABOUT stage of rehearsal, which tends to be the best bit anyway. It's not the SLICK OPERATION that, for instance, Hey Hey 16K was, and if I was starting from scratch there are definitely a couple of songs that I'd take out, but all in all it seems to work as a COHESIVE WHOLE... which is a great relief, what with us being booked to DO it a week tomorrow!

The plan is to see how it goes in Leicester and, if it's all OK, book a few more shows at the NICER Fringe Festivals and also a couple of other places. I'm secretly (not that secretly) hoping that it gets the ALBUM out to a few more people and, hey, if it takes a few nights out on the BEER with Mr Hewitt to achieve that aim, then it is a price I am prepared to pay!

posted 13/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Mandatory Days
I've spent most of the past couple of days back at SCHOOL for Mandatory College Days for my PhD. The experience was something of a MIXED BAG.

Day one was (SPOILERS) RUBBISH. All of us first year PhD students sat in a big room while a selection of second years gave brief talks about their research areas. None of them were talking about anything relevant to MY topic, but hey, that's all fine - we were there to ENGAGE with RESEARCH and so forth, and who knows where you will find something interesting that will spark off yr BRANE? The problem was that it was all done in such a THUNDEROUSLY DULL way, with nearly ALL of them just reading off a piece of paper in a dreadful monotone, that the sole result was to make me FLIPPING FURIOUS! Surely the BLOOMING POINT of doing research is to share your findings with people, and if you want to do that then you have to be able to ACTUALLY PRESENT IT PROPERLY. I know not everybody likes doing it, and if I go to a talk at WORK or something when somebody has been FORCED into giving a presentation then it's understandable if it's not exactly a GLITZY SHOWBIZ EVENT, but these were people giving up 3 to 6 years of their LIVES to find something out, who can't apparently be bothered to spend a couple of hours planning out their talk properly so they can AT LEAST make EYE CONTACT with the audience who are forced to sit through it.

At one point I got SO VERY BORED and IRATE that I decided to write down some of the LUDICROUS words that were being bandied about. Here's what I got, all within half an hour:
Contemporaneous Utilisation Process Multiplicity Inherent Implicit Conceptualise Interrogate Retrospectively Challenging Practice Assertions Methodology Navigate The Space The Work Analogous Shorthand Performative Positional Response Representation Marginality Materiality

Obviously those words are all FINE in their proper context (i.e. written down in an academic paper) or used SPARINGLY but when you have to sit through a CONSTANT BARRAGE of them intoned like LATIN PRAYERS is it any wonder that people (ME) become ENRAGED? It made me so angry that I did not leave ENTIRELY POSITIVE FEEDBACK. THAT is how angry I was!

The next day was MUCH better, as it started off with two presentations by people who LOOKED at us while they were talking and used ACTUAL HUMAN LANGUAGE with the intention of EXPLAINING things to us so we would UNDERSTAND. They were both talking about Methods and also Methodology, which everyone goes on about ALL THE TIME when one is filling in one's FORMS at this stage, but which no-one ever tells you what they MEAN. For instance, the second speaker said "asking what your methods are is like asking how you are going to DO it all." Written down now that seems blindingly obvious, but when he said it you could feel the entire room breath a sigh of relief and say "Oh YEAH, of course! PHEW!"

Over lunch me and the other Comics Guys (yes, we are all men, surprising isn't it?) had a chat about STUFF then ended up in the same group for a session on LEXICONS. We had to read out words common to our RESEARCH, so while everybody else had stuff like "contextualise" and "autoethnography" we had "superhero" and "supervillain". The course leader read our list out and said "You've got 'comics' AND 'graphic novels' here, surely that's the same thing?" To my delight half the ROOM let out a GROAN OF TERROR, not just us. "You do NOT want to get into that," I said, for LO! you really don't.

It was actually all Quite Interesting and Worth Bothering With, especially as we managed to fit in a chat about a SYMPOSIUM (oh yes!) what we might be organising about Comics And That. By the end of the day my BRANE was KNACKERED, but in a GOOD way, so I went home and watched THE LEGO MOVIE in order to recover. It worked - in fact I'd go so far as to say that it's contemporaneous utilisiation of the hypothetical space was inherently challenging to the normative materiality of conventional representation/shorthand in this kind of performative response. I just wish the theme so wasn't so flipping catchy, I was singing it in my BRANE all night!

posted 8/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Shepherd And Game
When I got my new job one of my first thoughts was "Hoorah! Now I shall be just round the corner from The King & Queen, and - ARF - I bet I will be in there - ROFL - every day!!!"

Little did I realise that this prophesy would start to become EERILY TRUE as I was back there last night for the FIFTH time this year, for the latest edition of Totally Acoustic. On the way to the pub I got a message from our "Mystery Guest" telling me that they wouldn't be able to come after all. I was half expecting this, as they'd asked not to have their name mentioned on any Events Pages or Listings (hence "Mystery Guest") so had already decided that I'd get everybody's favourite headline act to fill in: the always marvellous Finishing Slightly Earlier!

Our other acts were there in good time, as was a delightfully sized and constituted audience, so we kicked off at the usual hour with a rendition of the theme tune, then I launched into In The North Stand (because we'd been talking about football earlier) and It Only Works Because You're here (because I like it).

The first PROPER act was Mr Matthew Shepherd, who had FACEBOOKED me way back in August to ask about playing. This happens every now and again and USUALLY I dutifully go and listen to some tunes online and think "That was a bit rubbish". THIS time however I really enjoyed his stuff and found myself singing several of his songs, so got him BOOKED. In person he was a DELIGHT, with lovely tunes, a lovely voice and a CHARMING manner which made much of the room say "What a nice young man". This is probably not the PUNK ROCK PERSONA that most people wish to project, I know, but that is what occurred. He was FAB.

We then had a break before the second, and now FINAL, act Mr Ivor Game. Ooh but he's good. When he played last time the room was ENTRANCED and this was the case again. He really is not like anyone else we've ever had on, a bit jazzy, a bit Beatle-y and all round hugely TUNEFUL and GENTLE and... well, you can listen to him on the podcast from last time for yourself and see what I mean. We sat, AGOG!

And that was that done, very successfully, for another month. Myself, The Dates In My Diary and Mr S Hewitt celebrated with a pint and a chat downstairs before heading off into the night. Astoundingly I am not predicted to be back in the King & Queen for FOUR WEEKS now - I may PINE!

posted 3/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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An Afternoon Of ARTS
We do like a bit of CULTURE in our house but with today's giddy go-ahead lifestyle it's sometimes difficult to find the TIME and/or energy to go and experience all that is on offer, even when you live in That London where there is a TONNE of it, there for the taking. THUS this year The Galleries In My Museum suggested that we try and get out roughly every couple of weeks and LOOK AT/ENJOY some of the many and various activities what are available here in our capital city.

And so it was that on Sunday afternoon we found ourselves in The British Museum, looking at an exhibition of French Drawings through the ages. It was a) the last day of the exhibition was on b) just the right size for comfortable viewing (i.e. one big room, so about 45 minutes of Looking) and c) DEAD GOOD. We agreed that it's always amazing to see pictures up close as it's The Actual Paper that was TOUCHED by The Actual Artist, and it was especially so with pencil and chalk drawings like these, which could so very very easily have faded or just been lost. My favourite was a set of 16th century drawings of The French Court, as they looked like real people who had fallen somehow into a Dressing Up Box. There were also some ACE sketches (which seemed to look just like a quick sketch would NOW, as opposed to Formal Pictures which always look dead old fashioned) including some GRATE ones by Toulouse Lautrec, whose work I am otherwise only familiar with from framed posters in downstairs toilets of the 1980s.

With that done we went to have a quick look at The Jericho Skull a 10,000 year old SKULL with plaster on it, which was A Bit Creepy, before heading round to The Museum Of Comedy for some culture of a different kind. Mr J Dredge and Mr A Harland were competing in the first round of "Sketch-Off", a sketch comedy competition. The idea was that there would be seven different acts all doing five minutes of sketches each, and then at the end we'd vote for our favourites. Cunningly they had a voting scheme very similar to the one used when I went to The Sitcom Challenge - everyone got TWO votes, so you could vote for the act you'd come along to see AND then also for the ones you actually like best. This is a GOOD system!

The show itself was surprisingly good - this was the first HEAT so I expected it to be like a Battle Of The Bands i.e. mostly awful. If it had all been STAND-UP I think it probably would have been, but the thing with SKETCHES is that there's always at least TWO people involved, so there's always SOMEBODY beforehand to say "No, that's rubbish, don't do that." Even when THAT failsafe doesn't work then it's only really people MUCKING ABOUT TOGETHER and having fun, which is a very pleasant thing to spend time watching. Not all the acts were my cup of tea, but I LARFED OUT LOUD at least once at nearly all of them. The only bit that didn't really work was at the very start when the compere did that thing where they ask people in the audience what they do for a living, and then completely fail to say ANYTHING FUNNY AT ALL. Stand-up comedians! That bit is ALWAYS TERRIBLE! Stop doing it! Write five minutes more jokes instead and it will be MUCH MUCH BETTER!

John and Andy were GRATE but ALAS did not win. They seemed to be happy with the outcome - if you ignored the whole "competition" aspect then it was basically a VERY enjoyable late afternoon of Sketch Comedy in a slightly odd smelling venue (NB it was in the undercroft of a CHURCH, which made it smell of EDINBURGH!), and who could ask for more than THAT of a cultural event? NOT US, and we strolled back home safe in the knowledge that we had absorbed ART and THEATRE in one highly efficient sweep! Roll on next time!

posted 31/1/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Sonic Noise Terror And Balloons
On Friday night I was back at The King & Queen AGANE, not this time for a Totally Acoustic nor even for an Collaborative Meeting, but rather for an appearance at SCALEDOWN, the monthly show upstairs that gave me the idea to move Totally Acoustic there all those many years ago.

It was an AUSPICIOUS occasion because it was also the birthday of Mr S Hendry, who had BOOKED me. I wished him a very jolly birthday then went downstairs to find old pal Mr S Wilkinson, who had come along for the evening. We had a good old CHAT, also PINTS, before heading back upstairs for the start of the show, where I was delighted to find some things NEVER change: the opening act was a nervous young man doing one of his first gigs, who had a clutch of excitable CHUMS who had come to see him. As is the LAW, these chums didn't enter the room until 5 seconds before his first song and then, the very INSTANT he had finished, they stood up as one and left EN MASSE, even whilst the next act was making his way to the stage. Ten years ago, when I used to do gigs all the time with people who did this, I found it ANNOYING, but I must admit this time I found it quite sweet. There is an INNOCENCE about it - they have come to see their friend and, having fulfilled this duty, now wish to go and talk about it, with no knowledge or understanding of the kind of Obligation To Stay that we OLD HANDS might feel we have.

Also, as the next act was ME, I was quite happy to be able to gently mock them as soon as they had gone. HA! Take that, YOUTH! Here is what I done:
  • Song For A 49th Birthday
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • That Guy
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Song For A 49th Birthday is a brand new DITTY what I wrote because Shaun had (joking, I think) asked me to. I was a bit worried about how it would go as I had never played it to not nobody before, but it all seemed to work out all right, and the rest of the set was a LOT of fun, especially in between songs when I took QUESTIONS on a range of subjects. I hadn't started out intending to do that, but that is what ended up happening!

    There was a short break and then we were back for part two - I'd been very impressed to find an ITINERARY for the evening laid out on the tables, specifying that there would be THREE sections, each featuring two acts doing fifteen minutes each. This all went AWRY, however, when the next act took about twenty minutes to INTRODUCE himself, and then another twenty to do his BIT. He did a thing where he got the whole audience to "play" balloons, inflating them then letting the air out together to make squeaky noises. It was a good idea, but it didn't half go on, and i FELT for the other three acts still to play who must have been thinking "Is there going to be TIME for us to do anything?" Goodness knows I have been in THAT position enough times! When this chap finished he said "Shall we do one more PIECE together?" and there was some POLITE, but FIRM silence as people indicated in a very British Way that perhaps no, maybe we wouldn't. He didn't seem very pleased, but it was getting Actually Late (gone ten o'clock! Imagine!) so things needed to move on.

    As indeed did we, due to TRANES and so forth, which meant we only got to see a few minutes of a chap doing SONIC MISCHIEF on his guitar. utilising PEDALS and a bag of household implements. Usually that is the sort of thing I would be WELL up for, but Transport Requirements dictated otherwise, and we had to sneak guiltily out. It's very difficult to assume a facial expression that says "We are not like those friends of the first act, honest, we just have to get home" but I think - HOPE - we managed it!

    posted 30/1/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Artistical Meetings
    Yesterday was a day of PRODUCTIVE MEETINGS and DRAMATURGY, as I met with not one but TWO of my Regular Artistic Collaborators and managed to Effectively Move Forward various projects in a high powered way. ALSO I got to have beans on toast AND beer while doing so.

    The BEANS occurred during my regular lunchtime reconnoitre with Mr J Dredge. We were getting together to discuss the VERY EXCITING THING what we are doing that we are not presently at liberty to talk about. This is partly because we're not sure whether we're allowed to, and partly to avoid JINXING it. Short version: we've had a script accepted for a THING and now we need to come up with some more scripts in case the first one goes well. Thus we had a VERY jolly lunchtime making each other LARF and even managed to come up with ANOTHER idea for ANOTHER thing. It was dead good, although I accept that me being MYSTERIOUS about it may be a bit annoying to everyone else. Rest assured, as soon as I know I can talk about it freely I will talk about it in ENORMOUS detail!

    My second meeting was later on in the day with Mr S Hewitt. The original plan was to have a Proper Rehearsal for "Still Valid", the show we're doing at The Leicester Comedy Festival (tickets VERY MUCH still available!!), but we ended up sitting at a table in The King And Queen TALKING it through instead. This actually worked out really well, as we got to HONE it down to a point where we pretty much have a proper SHOW. The PLAN from here is to have a couple of ACTUAL practices, try it out in Leicester, and then if it works OK take it out to some other Fringe festivals later in the year. I'm pretty hopeful of it being Quite Good, although it is a bit WEIRD not to be spending SIX MONTHS writing it!

    Today I am NOT having Artistical Meetings. BOO!

    posted 25/1/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Party In Sheffield
    I was up in Sheffield for a FLYING visit on Sunday, PILLED UP on Antibiotics and painkillers but DETERMINED to get there for LO! it was the 50th Birthday Party of Ms P Blackham and there was NO WAY I was going to miss it!

    If you think me BRAVE for battling on through poorliness do not - think me brave INSTEAD for the fact that I went knowing I was going to have to change at Doncaster for a Northern Trains service. There are many dreadful train companies in our nation but OH MY LORD Northern Trains are the UTTER WORST. I cannot speak for their timekeeping but i CAN for how cold, dirty and all round UNPLEASANT their trains are and this one was a prime example. It was also full of teenagers doing that LAUGHING LIKE HYENAS AT NOTHING thing and families SHOUTING at each other and, WORST OF ALL, not ONE person knew the proper etiquette for getting on and off trains. As soon as the train arrived everyone PANICKED and tried to CRAM themselves through the doors while the people inside tried to fight their way out and it took FOREVER. I mean, I thought people in London were meant to be the rude ones, but we WAIT until everyone (or nearly everyone) has got off the train before boarding in at least a VAGUELY orderly fashion. It was MADNESS!!

    Luckily that was the only unpleasantness of the day, and I soon found myself in Sheffield and at The Green Room where Penny's do was occurring. It was full to bubbling over with DELIGHTFUL people and a TONNE of old chums, some of whom I hadn't seen for ACTUAL YEARS. It was lovely to have the time to sit and have a proper natter with chums, and in many cases discover that we are now DEAD OLD. Evidence of this was supplied with the HORDES of CHILDREN running around the place, all looking SPOOKILY like many of the aforesaid chums when I first knew them.

    The pub itself was dead nice too - the BEER was good and I was MOST impressed by the way that, if your ordered Prosecco (they are right sophisticated, my Sheffield friends) then they rinsed out the FLUTE by dropping an ICE CUBE in and swishing it around. OOH LA LA! They also laid on huge piles of CHIP BUTTIES, which were fantastic!

    Music was supplied by various of the previously discussed pals doing DISC JOCKEYING and also by a couple of musical acts hem hem who included ME. I was the first to have a go, and so had to say "EVERYONE BE QUITE NOW IT IS ME!" while standing on some STEPS between two parts of the pub and do THIS:

  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Boom Shake The Room

  • I had a LOVELY time. I always like playing to audiences containing KIDS as you get to be MISCHIEVOUS with SWEARS, and it was nice to know that for some of them this was probably their first EVER gig - I know of at least one case where it DEFINITELY was, and that is an honour what never goes away! It IS sometimes difficult playing at parties, especially without amplification, as people are expecting to CHAT rather than listen to some idiot BELLOWING at them, but I knew half the people there and guessed that, by virtue of knowing Penny, EVERYBODY would have some experience of this kind of ROCK SHOW and know how it worked. I was also glad not to be plugged in as I was RIGHT in the middle of the pub so had to keep gently rotating to give everyone the benefit of my ROCK (and also to check that everyone was looking at ME!)

    It was LOTS of fun, and when it was done I returned to a couple more hours of sitting around and chatting. Soon, all too soon, however, it was time for me to go. I felt a bit sad as we'd just got properly into The Evening Session, when kids had been gently taken home and returning parents were ready for some old time larking about, but then I also knew that I had at least THREE HOURS of travelling ahead of me, so it was probably sensible to head home!

    Basically, I had a bloody lovely time, and when I found myself stood waiting to cross the road for the railway station and home I had a MOMENT where I thought "Well done me. If you've lived a life full of such SMASHING friends then, all told, you've done pretty well." It may have been the beer talking, but in this instance the beer was CORRECT!

    posted 24/1/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Reading In Bed
    I was poorly (AGANE) at the end of last week, so had a couple of days IN BED. The first of these was spent SNOOZING, being FEVERISH, and being looked after by The Nurse On My Ward, while the SECOND involved MORE being looked after by same but also more being Almost Normally Conscious, so I got to read some BOOKS.

    The first was A Head Full Of Knives by Luke Smitherd, which is one of those Self-Published Amazon Bestsellers. I'd previously read The Stone Man by him, and both were CRACKING reads, despite me feeling A Bit Snobbish about them. The first time I felt thus was stupid enough - I know as much as ANYONE that The Gatekeepers Of Culture are FLAWED and that whether something is published or not (or released by a "proper" label or not) has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on its quality - but goodness knows why I retained this attitude the second time around when I had already READ one of his books and loved it. Anyway, mine own idiocy aside it was dead good, i recommend it!

    Alongside this I read "Shamballa". a Judge Anderson collection from the Judge Dredd Mega Collection, a GRATE series of lovely books collecting together various stories from the history of Judge Dredd. My brother had got me a BUNCH of them for Christmas and I'd already got through "America", "Origins", "Mechanismo" and "The Apocalypse War" (the latter especially being AMAZING and BONKERS) but had put off reading the Judge Anderson one because I remember it being a bit BORING when I'd read it at the time. I think maybe it works better all collected together, because in this format it was GRATE! And the ART by Arthur Ranson: COR!

    (SIDENOTE: halfway through reading the above book I watched a video podcast featuring Mr J Dredge talking about Look-in, including halfway through an appreciation of the artwork of... Arthur Ranson! "What a coincidence" I thought. Then my phone rang and it was... Mr J Dredge! RATHER SPOOKY! NB he was ringing with some VERY exciting news which I am not at liberty to reveal as of now, but WILL VERY MUCH DO SO when I am able!)

    Reading books just for FUN is a bit of a treat at the moment, as I have been up to my ears in ACADEMIC TEXTS for the past couple of months. I mean, yes, they're academic texts about COMICS, but still, a lot of them are a bit heavy going. I was thus planning on reading another FICTION book next, but then my eye was caught by The Best There Is At What He Does by Jeff Powell. It's an "appreciation" of Chris Claremont's ENTIRE RUN on Uncanny X-Men, in which the author talks about every single issue one by one and it is RIVETING. It's pretty much EXACTLY like the (SEVERAL) Beatles books I have read when they go through every single song, or (BEST OF ALL) every single tape from the Get Back Sessions, and talk about them in EXTREME DETAIL. It is, in short, SO far up my alley it is round in my back yard knocking on the kitchen window. I don't AGREE with some of it - he does seem to think C Claremont is a POET, for instance - but it's a LOT of fun to read, especially now it's getting into the 1990s issues, a time during whcich I read almost no comics whatsoever.

    And alongside THIS I read all of "Civil War 2", the recently completed Marvel Universe crossover series. "I wonder if it will make more sense and be all round better when read in one sitting?" I wondered. It didn't, and it wasn't!

    posted 23/1/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Enormous Pop Volume 1
    We're a couple of weeks into the year so SURELY it must be time for the first addition to The Discography, which comes today in the form of Alan's Midweek Madhouse Presents​.​.​.​Enormous Pop Vol 1 a rather FANTASTIC compilation put together by the show "Alan's Midweek Madhouse" to support Radio Saltire in Scotland.

    Our track is Leaping Hare In Broadgate, which was track recorded during the sessions for Still Valid but not used. It was available over Christmas on the Joyzine Advent Calendar, but I am VERY happy that it now has a proper permanent home, as I rather like it!

    The album also features our chums The Just Joans and The Thyme Machine plus a TONNE of other people doing mostly EXCLUSIVE tracks. The whole thing is only three quid and it goes to helping a proper community radio station, so I say GO ON, treat yourself to a copy!

    posted 17/1/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Loss Of Loss
    On Tuesday I received a message from Sorted Supremo Dave Dixey asking if I had any copies of The LollopaLeicester Mercury hidden away, leading me to have a sudden BRANE SURGE as my MIND went "Oh yeah The LollopaLeicester Mercury, I haven't thought about that THIS CENTURY!"

    For LO! The LollopaLeicester Mercury was a sort of NEWSLETTER that went alongside the LollopaLeicester nights that Dave and I used to run at The Factory in Leicester (it's not there anymore) back in the twentieth century. These happened every month, generally with a Sorted and an Artists Against Success act, plus the HOUSE BAND, The Durham Ox Singers. I had completely forgotten that the newsletters existed, so was DELIGHTED to find that Dave has copies of nearly all of them and was only asking to see if I had the one he was missing.

    For some MAD reason when I left Leicester I chucked away a TONNE of stuff, most of which was very sensible (e.g. a huge bin bag full of cassette tapes that I could no longer listen to) but SOME of which I have long regretted, including loads of gig posters and related paraphenalia that I wish I'd kept. I DID, however, have a back-up CD-R containing ALL the stuff I had ever done on my work computer, so dug that out to have a look see if there was anything there. In those long ago days I would occasionally DO personal stuff on my work computer, tho OF COURSE I would never do it now, OBVS.

    I didn't find anything to do with LollopaLeicester, alas, but I DID find a couple of posters and more excitingly several SET LISTS! For the past ten years or so I've been recording my setlists on The Database Of ROCK, which means you see what I played at ALL my gigs for the past decade - something which comes in very handy when I go back somewhere and want to make sure i'm not COMPLETELY repeating myself. I'd LOVE to be able to do this going further back - when we recently brought You Will Be Hearing From My Solicitor back into the set I was AMAZED to find it had only apparently been played a couple of times, until Tim pointed out that it was played LOADS in our early days, but that that was before proper records were kept. As you can see for yourself, I have now been able to add SEVERAL more shows to its list, which is IMMENSELY satisfying.

    I discussed this at home with The Songs In My Set and she pointed out that this was related to what The Artist Tom Smith had been saying in his talk last week about "the loss of loss" (NB this was what he was ACTUALLY talking about, rather than about how COOL his big brother is!). He was talking about how, these days, it's difficult to LOSE things as everything's backed up, or "in the cloud", or on a database somewhere. In OLDEN THYME you could easily lose touch with people, for instance, but now google can find pretty much everybody you ever went to school or worked with. In the world of ROCK it's PEASY to find out dates for every gig you've done this century, who played with you, and often there's pictures and even video. Before that though it's pretty much impossible - I know for a FACT there are LOADS of gigs that Voon did in the 1990s that I have NO idea where or when they were, let alone what we played or who we played with. To be fair, there are OTHER REASONS I have little memory of such things hem hem, but if they'd happened ten years it would be VERY different.

    I guess some might say "aah but they were simpler times, do you see, and the lack of recordability made you appreciate things, do you see?" but I say "NO I want things written down and SEARCHABLE so I can do GRAPHS if I want to!" Imagine then my DELIGHT yesterday when, while MUSING about the above on the way to work, I suddenly realised that there were MORE records available. I hadn't thrown away ALL my cassette tapes, and had in fact KEPT all of the ones containing GIG recordings. Young People: back in pre-history bands used to take CASSETTE RECORDERS to gigs to TAPE themselves so that a) they could hear what they actually SOUNDED like and b) maybe use these recordings to give to PUBS in an attempt to get gigs. MAN, we were pretty much running round in bear skins trying to work out how to make FIRE weren't we?

    ANYWAY I tended to write out the TRACKLISTINGS on these tapes which meant they were also SETLISTS! THUS last night I was not only able to add SETLISTS to some VERY old gigs, but also ADD some gigs previously unrecorded!! I was a) WELL CHUFFED but also b) astonished that I had never thought of this before. When I set up The Database Of ROCK to run this website I spent AGES trawling through old diaries to work out what gigs had been played, but it seems i never thought to go through the TAPE ARCHIVE.

    THUS there is a whole HEAP more information available now should, for instance, anyone (me) wish to discover QUITE how long I've been playing The Perfect Love Song or indeed Boom Shake The Room. My only continuing regret is that there's still big GAPS in the DATA - otherwise it would DEFINITELY be GRAPH O'CLOCK!

    posted 12/1/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Art And Terry's Tears
    The first weekend of The Working Year is always a funny one - it's like a return to the GLORY DAYS of Not Going To Work that was Christmas, but sadly tainted with the realisation that it's only two days rather than a WEEK before it all begins again.

    THUS it is vital to fill it with FUN STUFF, and that is exactly what went down chez MOI. It started off with some ART on Friday night when we watched a live stream from of a Mira Calix curated event at Warp Records. It was a succession of DJs and Artists and Performers doing their thing in... well, in the ladies' loos, as you can see here:

    FULL DISCLOSURE: we were watching it mainly for The Artist Tom Smith (AKA my brother), who was ACE - he told a story about some ART wot he made which, as well as being dead good, also CLEARLY AND OPENLY stated that one of his brothers (i.e. ME) had MUCH COOLER MUSIC TASTE than his other brother (i.e. Mr J Hibbett, who was also watching elsewhere). This makes it, I think, worthy of a TURNER PRIZE. Also he quoted The Lesson Of The Smiths which was GRATE!

    Saturday was a flurry of ACHIEVEMENTS, jobs TICKED and people VISITED which included a trip to the The Red Lion in Leytonstone (which is ACE) and ended with us watching "The Blues Brothers" which I hadn't seen for approx 30 years and which The Groove In My Moves had NEVER seen! I was very happy to find that it is still EXCELLENT and has even MORE fantastic musical interludes than I remembered. Also, as with ALL films from this time, I was amazed by how SLOWLY it all moved. There's huge SWATHES of time spent just LOOKING at things CALMLY, it was all rather relaxing.

    And then Sunday was a day I had been looking forward to IMMENSELY, for LO! it was the day of Peterborough United's trip to Chelsea. Like a twit I had forgotten the day that tickets had gone on sale, so did not GET one, and was thus forced to search for STREAMS online. I eventually found one that was being compered by a Mildly Grumpy American, but half an hour into the game the stream STOPPED. PANIC ensued - I think Posh were down 2-0 at this point so, obviously, I COULD WELL have been missing several comeback goals (hem hem), but I soon got it back... in FRENCH! This made the whole thing feel DEAD sophisticated, and also meant I could tell when to pay special attention (as I was simultaneously doing the iRONING) by the rising intonation of the commentators. C'est bon!

    The best bit tho - yes, even better than Posh's Actually Quite Good Goal - was when John Terry got sent off. I LARFED and LARFED and LARFED!

    It was a marvelous, hilarious, end to a rather brilliant weekend. The only downside of it all, of course, was sitting around on Sunday evening with the GRIM REALISATION that I'd have go get up early for work next day. Oh well, only 51 weeks until Christmas!

    posted 9/1/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    The ROCKING Year Begins
    Last night found me back at The King & Queen for the first Totally Acoustic of the year. It is a LOVELY pub and it was GOOD to be back!

    Mr S Hewitt was already there so we had a quick discussion about plans for 'Still Valid' before people started arriving - we have IDEAS for how it's going to work, which is good because it's only a few weeks before we have to go and DO it!

    Over the next hour there was a gentle flow of ACTS arriving, but not a huge amount of AUDIENCE. This wasn't hugely surprising - it was COLD and DARK and, I thought, people were probably staying IN after going out all Christmas and/or New Year. HOWEVER there was a sudden SURGE of people just before kick-off time, including various chums, regulars and Mr P Buckley Hill (looking very well, especially considering how poorly he's been!) which meant that we were MORE than quorate when we began. Hoorah!

    I started off with not one but TWO brand new songs - Come The Inevitable Apocalypse and Wallies, both of which seemed to go OK. I'd printed out the words and taken my lyrics stand with me but still made a bit of a mess of them, which isn't hugely surprising given that a) I'd only finished off Wallies five minutes beforehand and b) with the best will in the world I do tend to cock up songs even when I've been playing them for decades!

    The first Proper Act was Mr T Eveleigh, who had brought a HARMONIUM with him, which was GRATE, especially when he combined it with getting most of the other guitarists in the room to play along with him. It sounded dead good, as in fact did his entire SET! Next up was Mr K Evans, who had been recommended (wisely, it turns out) by Mr C T-T. He was advertised as singing folk songs about maths and, unusually for such descriptions, that is exactly what he did. I especially liked it when he did a Dylan-esque FOLK SONG about HMV (nearly) closing while standing in front of a picture of Dylan himself in that very pub.

    Finally, after more booze and chat and that, we had The Understudies, doing a batch of lovely songs which, apparently, they are mostly retiring in favour of some new stuff. It's a shame as they are SMASHING songs, but then I expect the new stuff will be too. The Understudies are one of those bands who, every time I see them, I think "This lot are ACE, I must get them on more often!" ALSO they seem to be acting as a LIFEBOAT for People Who Have Been In Other Indie Bands and are thus slowly morphing into a SUPERGROUP!

    And that was about that - goodbyes were said and soon it was time to head back out into the aforementioned COLDNESS and DARK, which was VERY cold and dark. It was a BRILL way to kick off the new year of ROCK - if all gigs in 2017 are as delightful as this one was I shall be very happy!

    posted 6/1/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Let's Do This Thing
    Happy new year one and all, I hope 2017 is treating you well so far and you enjoyed a MARVELLOUS festive period. Round our way Christmas was knocked off course somewhat by ILLNESS as EVERYONE was poorly in at least 17 seperate ways. It was, in the words of my dear mother, "not quite what we planned"!

    Despite all the coughing, headaches, sneezing, grumbling tummies and sundry other ailments there WAS some ROCK ACTION undertaken. Between Christmas and New Year I struggled BRAVELY to the pub to meet Mr S Hewitt, where we had a dramaturgical conversation concerning Still Valid, the SHOW what we are performing at this year's Leicester Comedy Festival. Steve came up with a GRATE framing idea from which GAGS flowed easily and we now have a rough plan of how it's going to WORK. All we need to do between now and SHOWTIME is have a GO at it to check it works!

    I also managed to find some time to do some SONGWRITING. I went through all the various NOTES what I have made over the course of this year for vague song IDEAS and then trawled through my PHONE for all the BITS I have recorded there (NB it's mostly me going "Duh nuh NUR! La la, biscuits" on the way to work), and came up with seven pages of WORDS and STUFF. So far I have got TWO (2) songs out of it, with high hopes of several more!

    I got to see the new Star Wars too and here is my review: the first half an hour passed me by a bit (I was busy thinking "why are there so few people in the Star Wars Universe when there's SO MANY planets? And why does every planet only have one town on it - are the planets just really small and also close together?"), the next half hour was a bit boring, and then it was BRILLIANT and EXCITING until the end which was GRATE!

    So that was 2016 finished off and 2017 BEGUN - Last year at this time I said "I hope it's going to be an interesting year and, who knows, I might even get to write the NEXT First Blog Of The Year NOT from an office again!" I don't think anybody would deny that 2016 was "interesting" and I guess I'm in a DIFFERENT office at least now, but let's hope 2017 turns out to be LESS "interesting" than last year, and who knows, hopefully FUN!

    posted 3/1/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Out Of Office
    For me today is the last working day of the month, which means it's time to send out the final newsletter of the year and to set this, my ROCK Out Of Office.

    I'll be back again during the wonderful INTERIM between now and next year, not least to do my traditional PLUGGING of The Twenty Ninth Day Of December and maybe also do a look back on the year in ROCK, but until then may I just wish all regular readers of this here blog a VERY Merry Christmas. It's always LOVELY to discover that people READ all of this, even though it does lead to several HILARIOUS ANECDOTES being cut short by someone saying "I know, you wrote about it on your blog" (PRO TIP: this works as a way to shut me up even if I HAVEN'T - i don't actually READ it so have no idea what I've been on about!). Thanks very much for being with me for these THORTS, have a DELIGHTFUL festive season, and I'll seeee you on the other side!

    posted 23/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    Paperback Writer
    Yesterday I passed a mighty milestone: I finished my NOVEL!

    "Eh? WOT Novel?" you may ask, as I don't think I've actually even MENTIONED it here - I am, after all, notoriously shy and LOATHE to publicise any such exploits hem hem. It's an adaptation of Storm House, the screenplay wot I wrote for my MA dissertation. When I sent the original script around agents, competitions and so forth SEVERAL people commented that it would never get made because it was FAR too expensive, and that maybe I should consider turning it into a BOOK instead.

    This THORT rose to the top of my BRANE again in October 2015 when I was starting work at Imperial. I was looking for a new, easygoing, non-deadline-based, WRITING project to have a go at to ensure that I didn't DROP it all altogether, and this seemed like a good idea. You don't need special software to format a BOOK, you can proofread on the tube, and you can even do some of it during idle moments at work, should they occur (which, of course, in my case NEVER HAPPENED, honest).

    I thus ploughed through various versions, first of getting all the SCRIPT into PROSE, then going through and properly ADAPTING it, then going through AGANE and making it WORK properly and make SENSE (several times), and eventually doing the draft that I finished yesterday, where it is actually GOOD FUN to sit and read. I reckon one more whizz through for speeling and grammar is will done it good and proper, then who knows, maybe I could let people READ it?!?

    The current plan though is to "mature it in wood" i.e. not look at it at all for a couple of weeks, then in the new year have a bit of an old THINK about what to do with it next. The idea of self-publishing via Kindle etc is VERY appealing - no hoops to jump through, no rejection letters, and it's pretty much what I've always done anyway with The ROCK - but on the other hand I wouldn't IMMEDIATELY say "No" if Mr Big Publishing House offered me a million quid for paperback rights.

    I'll see how I feel in the futuristic year of 2017 A.D. but for now I am quite pleased to have DONE a book! All the way to the end and EVERYTHING!

    posted 22/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    Proper Poorly
    You find me today BRAVELY carrying on having STAGGERED (bravely) into work and SLUMPED myself over my desk, giving off the occasional cough, sniff and/or splutter. For LO! I am Proper Poorly!

    My MALAISE commenced on Tuesday, at which point The Lemsip In My Satchet advised me to not go in to work. I concurred and thus had a very pleasant day feeling mildly unwell but getting loads of ADMIN, also Christmas Wrapping, done. I also watched "X-Men: Apocalypse", which is RUBBISH.

    This was precisely the level of poorliness that I like - enough to be respectable for having a sickie day, but not enough to stop you watching telly. However it then got WORSE the next day, and REMAINED at that level the next, when I had - FOOLISHLY - told people I'd be back at work. It was ROTTEN and I got home BEDRAGGLED, eventually going back to bed at 9:30pm rather than my usual 2:30pmn After Going Clubbing Nightly Like What I Do. I thus got about TEN HOURS kip, which was jolly nice except that it was full of FEVER DREAMS. I don't usually MIND these - Moon Horse started out as a FEVER DREAM ("this explains A LOT", says one and all) and one time I dreamt an ENTIRE EXTRA SEASON of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It was AMAZING!

    THIS time however it was a lot about Sophie Countess Of Wessex negotiating with aliens about SQL to power their plumbing systems which involved small Fiat cars and EVERYTHING ELSE EVER. It was extremely dissatisfying, and when I woke up I STILL felt poorly!

    Regular readers will know that I had a flu jab last month, so I was kind of expecting to be INVULNERABLE for the next six months. However, friends of a Scientific Bent inform me that that's just for INFLUENZE and cold viruses still have free rein. Curses! Thanks, "science", next winter I'm getting a DREAM CATCHER!

    Anyway, the upshot of all this is that I've had to cancel my appearance at Scaledown tonight. I am EXTREMELY disappointed as these are ALWAYS good fun AND it's only FOUR minutes from my desk at work, but I fear if I turn up I will make a noise like Bob Dylan being put through a woodmill at high speed and INFECT all and sundry. It still looks like a dead good (possibly better now!) night, if you're in That London tonight I would HIGHLY recommend it!

    I, however, will be sat at home with a Lemsip, hopefully watching some telly. BRAVELY!

    posted 16/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
    We're DELIGHTED to be unleashing our latest Christmas song on the world today: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas!

    It was recorded LIVE at Totally Acoustic at the start of the month with the aid of A Little Orchestra and it features mince pies being eaten, singing along, amazing orchestration and a whole HEAP of Christmassiness!

    As is traditional it's been added to our ever-expanding Christmas Album Christmas Selection Box which now features a VERY respectable fourteen tracks - that's more than Phil Spector! HA! Still one song to go before we match the GRATEST Christmas Album EVER - Christmas In The Heart by Bob Dylan - but I already have ideas for NEXT year's Christmas song AND the year after's, so watch out Bob, we're coming for you!

    posted 14/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    Paul McCartney Can Do What He Likes
    You wait ages for a NEW me/Validators track to be released, and then suddenly THREE come along in the same month!

    The first of these was of course Leaping Hare In Broadgate on the Joyzine Advent Calendar and the THIRD will be our version of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" due out TOMORROW. The MIDDLE of the three though is a song called Paul McCartney Can Do What He Likes, which is out NOW on Songs About Albums, a free compilation put out by The Album Wall.

    I wrote the song specifically for the compilation - I couldn't decided WHICH album of his to write about, so I did THE LOT! I wrote and recorded it all quite quickly (it is full of thoughts I have been saving up for YEARS) so when I went back to listen to it the other day I'd forgotten what it sounded like. It's strange, it sounds a LOT like some of my earlier 4 track recordings for TAPES like What's So Bad About Being A Grown-Up which I now realise was done - YIKES - TWENTY years ago. Twenty years!! It's a bit hesitant, shaky and nervous - so not at ALL like the professional, competent, rocking and tight material what I am so known for these days - but I think it sums up my feelings on the matter adequately!

    Maybe it sounds like that because it was the first song I'd written for AGES, and so had forgotten some of my usual HABITS. It seemed to give the old songwriting engine a bit of a KICK though - I've got ideas for LOADS more now, which is a) nice b) a bit scary. If only I had a week or so off work coming up when I could sit down and try and DO something about them all!

    posted 13/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    Bye Bye Allo Darlin'
    Last night was a BIG night for The Indie Community, for LO! it was the last EVER Allo Darlin' gig.

    When the break-up was announced there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but I was pretty SANGUINE about it. I mean, yes, they are my favourite band of the last decade, but we've had three GRATE albums out of them, as well as some AMAZING gigs and lovely memories, and THOSE will still be with us. Also, while I'm not a fan of the whole "burn out rather than fade away" idea (clearly!) there's something really nice about a band deciding that that's ENOUGH and packing up while they're all still friends with each other.

    And then of course the fact that everyone KNOWS it's going to be the final gig WELL in advance means that everyone who wants to BE there can have a pretty good go of doing so, which meant that when I arrived in TOWN last night the pubs near The Scala were FULL of delightful people! I walked into The Water Rats and said hello to about 300 people in 10 seconds before Mr B Clancy stepped forward and passed on a message from Mr S Hewitt to say that he'd gone round the corner instead, as it was TOO FULL here! I squeezed out, saying hello to appox 7,000 more people as I did so, and found Steve, also Mr R Kirkham and Mr T Hopkins in The Queens Head. There was an actual proper Cockney Singalog happening on the OLD JOANNA as I entered, it was ACE!

    We had some beers, picked up some more old chums, said hello to several others, and eventually wandered back round the corner to find a queue to get into the Scala consisting of roughly 2 million MORE pals. After a few minutes a security guy came along shouting that Ticketweb ticket holders could just go straight in, so we did and found yet MORE chums within, including of course Mr J Jervis at the merch stand. I wonder if Jerv has ever actually SEEN any Indie gigs? Maybe he doesn't really like it, so prefers to lurk around outside?

    We went into the main auditorium for yet MORE saying hello to people, a very enjoyable set by Bill Botting And The Two Drink Minimums, and then Josie Long came on as middle support act. I did wonder how on earth this would work - having a stand-up comedian performing at a ROCK gig nearly ALWAYS ends in disaster - but she was ACE, even when someone (NB STEVE) accidentally HECKLED her and then had to HECKLE APOLOGISE!

    And then it was time for Allo Darlin' themselves to start and for all of my SANGUITY to DISSOLVE into TEARS. Flipping heck but it was EMOTIONAL - I spent approx 50% of the entire set BLUBBING! When Belle & Sebastian came along and changed my life all those many years ago I never thought a band would MEAN so much again, but then this bunch came along and, well, DID. A few years ago when they and Standard Fare were gigging around there was an amazing feeling of Indiepop coming ALIVE - great gigs, proper busy audiences, exciting THINGS happening and a LOT of happiness - so now they've finished it really feels like the end of an era. Gigs will still happen and there'll be lovely people making great music still, but the next time they play an Allo Darlin' song at Indietracks it will be with the knowledge that the discography is finished, there won't be any more.

    It was a beautiful way to go out though, in a room full of very happy, also sad, people, celebrating the joy that these four people brought to us all and enjoying the chance to let them know we appreciated it. Thanks Allo Darlin', you were brilliant!

    posted 12/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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