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Blog Archive: March 2014

Podcasts Ahoy!
It feels like AGES since I last did a Totally Acoustic Podcast (in fact it was about a YEAR ago, which is pretty much the accurate definition of "AGES"), and so putting a new one together taxed my MIGHT BRANE to its very limits, as I tried to remember the format, when to COMPRESS, when to LIMIT, and what on earth I'm meant to say at the end. Happily I got there eventually, and the fruits of my labours can be found right now over on the Totally Acoustic Podcast Page.

It's a cracking half hour of ROCK featuring Mr Alexander Hale, Mr Pete Green, Mr David Leach and ME. It was lovely to be back doing this kind of thing again, and as ever I was amazed by how GOOD it sounds, just recording on my little four-track. I will definitely definitely be doing a new series later this year!

In the meantime I have ANOTHER podcast for your consideration - it's this week's Newsjack which features an ACTUAL SKETCH written by myself and Mr John Dredge. We are both RATHER EXCITED about the fact that we've finally managed to get a sketch in the show - it's the Cold War Press Conference one, which the writing team on the show have given a bit of a polish to. It came out quite well!

We're already planning NEXT week's sketches, and we'll be trying to get some one-liners in too. Luckily for me I have a whole afternoon in the PUB tomorrow to think of new GAGS - more news on how all that goes on Monday!

posted 28/3/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Leicesterval
I was back in Leicester on Sunday for the Sweeping The Nation All-Day-and-a-half-er, also known as LEICESTERVAL. This is an annual gig run by Simon from the Sweeping The Nation blog, the main part of which had happened on Saturday with a pretty GRATE line-up (Model Village, Superman Revenge Squad, Martha, Spook School, etc etc etc) the day before. I was there for the "comedown" on Sunday, an approved Totally Acoustic franchise in the basement of Cafe Bruxelles.

I walked through the market on the way, and smiled fondly at the doughnut stand which I remember seeing the very first time I came to Leicester. "Why, that must be nearly 16 years ago!" i MARVELLED... for about ten seconds before realising that, no, it was TWENTY SIX years ago!

Holy great gallons of moly! Can it really be over a quarter of a century since I first set foot in that fair city? I REELED from the knowledge, and staggered towards Cafe Bruxelles, where I found SImon and Various Chums ready to ROCK.

The gig felt like a Totally Acoustic ALL-STARS, though I only later realised that TWO of the four participants had never actually PLAYED a London Totally Acoustic. Mr Pete Green has, of course, played MANY of them, but Mr Alex Hale and Mr David Leach had NEVER done so. I am intending to get the gigs going again this summer, once my SCHOOLWORK is done, and when that happens I fully intend to rectify this situation!

A lovely afternoon of SETS was had by all, as was quite a bit of Belgian Beer which served to WARM and simultaenously CONFUSE, so that I made a couple of ERRORS when I took to the stage and did my bit, THUS:
  • I Did A Gig In New York
  • Can We Be Friends?
  • Chips And Cheese, Pint Of Wine
  • Leicester's Trying To Tell Me Something
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • Payday Is The Best Day
  • We Did It Anyway
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • I made most of the errors in the OLD stuff, especially during Payday Is The Best Day - somebody had requested it, but hadn't actually come in to LISTEN to it, and it was while pondering this that I got distracted from the WORDS. The new stuff seemed to work, and I was especially pleased to do Can We Be Friends? with Pattisons in the audience, for the purpose of proposing it for future GIGS.

    The weirdest part was during Leicester's Trying To Tell Me Something, which I'd decided to do because even MORE Leicester pubs have been knocked down/converted since I last played it (i.e. the final removal of the stage at The Charlotte and the total demolition of Leicester Poly Arena). It was only when I got to the last verse that I realised that it's actually about the need to move on from the same old places and SCENES, and that this could be construed to have CONNOTATIONS regarding some of the people I used to know in Leicester. Happily none of them were there to hear it, but I could see the same thought striking Tim as we got there!

    Afterwards there was all too little time for the BEST bit of Totally Acoustics i.e. sitting around YAKKING once the gig bit's out of the way, as I had to stride back across town for my train home. I said my farewells to a clearly SURPRISED Simon (the whole weekend had gone really well, I believe he was expecting disasters!) and set off, determined as never before to make Totally Acoustic return to the capital!

    posted 25/3/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Tragic Heroes
    I was back in Hackney on Friday night at The Attic (which seems to be becoming one of The Places I Play At these days) for Tragic Heroes, the latest night from the delightful people at Stand Up Tragedy. It's a nice place, and they even do NICE GRUB so that The Acts On My Bill and I were able to sit and have our TEA while things got going.

    This was the most mixed array of performers that I've ever seen at one of these sort of night - usually when an event advertises itself as cabaret-style it means some stand-up comedians and a couple of singers, but this time there were also poets, drag acts, spoken word and ARTISTS. It was similar to Science Show-Off in this respect really, all it needed was a magician!

    I was on near the start, and I did this:
  • The Ballad Of Alan Moore
  • I Dream Of Superheroes
  • It Only Works Because You're here

  • I tried my best to make it THEMED, and had spent ages trying to think of a song from Total Hero Team that would fit before realising that the best candidate was the song we'd taken out. It actually worked pretty well, I think - certainly better than it ever did in the show! It was also nice to be able to relax a bit and CHAT between songs, which had been DENIED me during the run of the show. There's a whole lot of other gigs coming up where I'll have that opportunity, I think I make take it up a LOT!

    posted 24/3/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Another Science Show-Off
    Last night I was back in Kings Cross, and also back (at a different venue) at Science Show-Off, this time to see Mr Chris T-T, along with many many other acts.

    It was an excellent evening, and (even) more varied than these sort of nights usually are, mixing up comedians, musicians, lecturers (including Jon Ronson! Off the telly!) and even a MAGICIAN. I do like a Magician - it's one of those acts that you don't see very often, probably because it takes so much EFFORT. Any old twit can get up and be a comedian, it takes ZERO work (ZERO), and while you do need to spend a bit of time learning how to play an instrument to do music, you can then pretty much get away with doing songs with only few chords (hem hem) again and again. MAGIC, however, takes PRACTICE and LEARNING so it's no surprise most people go the easier route, but COR when you see somebody doing it it is GRATE!

    Apart from the other acts I also very much enjoyed seeing Chris and TALKING SHOP. He's going through very interesting part of his ROCK CAREER at the moment, with his EXCELLENT new album doing Rather Well yet throwing up issues about What To Do Next, and we had a GOOD old chat about it, as well as various other ROCK issues. It's the sort of thing I don't get much chance to talk about as a) there's not many of us over-30 (hem hem agane) TROUBADORS still bobbling around doing a mix of solo and band gigs and also b) it is INTOLERABLY DULL to anyone who isn't doing it.

    Also fun was seeing Chris suddenly get THE PANIC when he realised he was playing a Themed Gig - it was fun because it is something that has happened to me SO MANY times that it was nice to know it happens to other people too. As the gig started Mr Steve Cross, compere, explained how it was a themed evening, and as people CLEAVED to the theme I could HEAR Chris's BRANE crunching into gear. "OH NO" said his mighty MIND, "what songs do I have that could remotely be relevant to this?"

    When it came to the actual gig he did a MARVELLOUS job, telling stories, remarking upon the circumstances, then seguing elegantly from JOKES to some quite sad songs. I'd spent hours trying to think of a way that "Seven Hearts" could apply to the theme of paranormal activity and/or science, to no avail, so was overjoyed at the end when he did it anyway. That's pretty much my favourite song of his, it was ACE!

    posted 19/3/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Holiday At Home
    This weekend was GORGEOUS round our way - the SUN actually came out and it was LOVELY, so on Sunday The Flats In My Block and i went out for a STROLL.

    We live (as i have PROBABLY MENTIONED) in The Olympic Park and when we moved in nearly all of it was closed off, but over the past few months they've gradually opened little bits up. We thus went for a nosey at the building opposite which a) is where they tried to sell us a part-ownership flat about four months ago and b) has only this week opened up for people to move into. Happily we got to PEER up at the (ONLY) flat they would let us buy, and agreed that it looked DEAD MISERABLE, not half as nice as they one we ended up renting. Enlivened by having our decisions RATIFIED we wandered along the road and were ASTOUNDED to find that HUGE LUMPS of the REST of the former Olympic Village have ALSO been opened up!

    We're very near to Queen Elizabeth Park, but previously have had about a 25 minute walk all the way round to the other side to get in. On Sunday we discovered that they've opened up the road that goes directly there, lopping off 20 minutes and allow us to have a good old GAWK at the entire other half of the village that we've not seen before. This is the half that features in pretty much all the promotional material, with winding pathways, waterways and general SCENERY, so it was all JOLLY exciting. It turned out that this had all been opened up ready for the opening of the VELODROME, which we then went and had a walk around, PEERING through the windows at that hallowed track that we all spent so many hours GAZING at back in 2012.

    It was all a bit overwhelming to be honest - so far we've been drip-fed side-streets and the occasional pavement of new locality, now suddenly not only did we have whole AVENUES and AREAS, but they were like something out of AN DREAM. I mean, I know I live close to the Velodrome, but to actually BE there, looking into it, did my head in!

    With all the sunshine and happy people and SCENERY (we walked by the Lee too, it was FAB) it all felt a bit surreal, like we were on holiday... so, like when we're on holiday, we walked home via a supermarket, bought some beer, and came home and had it with our LUNCH. It was bloody brilliant - and at Easter there's a load MORE opening up. I can't wait!

    posted 18/3/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Professional Writer
    I've been doing my screenwriting course for about 18 months now, and last Thursday it started to pay off financially, for LO! I sold a piece of writing!

    After session after session about the three act structure, the importance of character and conflict, and learning how to write within various formats, it all came to an incredible climax with the following JOKE, that I wrote and which appeared on Thursday night's episode of Newsjack on BBC 4Extra:
    Later on it's the hilarious game show where teams of celebrities try to identify small Eastern European countries. Join us, for They Think It's Moldova.

    I'm sure all of my tutors, lecturers and guest speakers will sleep well in the knowledge that all their effort has finally paid off! Actually I have to say I was, and am, REALLY EXCITED about it. Every Friday my friend Mr J Dredge and I have been meeting for lunch in order to FORCE each other to try and write sketches and one-liners for radio shows, and this was my first SUCCESS. I am now officially back to the stage I got to aged 21 when I sold a sketch to the Arnold Brown Radio Show - this time I shall do my best not to get distracted by BEER and BANDS and forget all about it again!

    It's been a bit of a RADIO WEEK actually. On Wednesday I was at school for a talk by Paul Bassett-Davies, who gave an overview about writing for radio, mostly saying "It's a really good way to get stuff HEARD and also SOLD", and going on at some length about how important it is to get stuff sent to Newsjack. Then on Friday John and I were both at Dave Cohen and James Cary's "Writing Comedy For Radio" day, where they said pretty much the same thing.

    They also said a LOT of other stuff, the main Take Home Message for ME being that sketches use the three act structure just like everything else. When Mr Cohen said this it was SO BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS that I cursed myself for a fool for not realising before. He also pointed out that topical sketches (there was a lot about Newsjack!) generally take a current theme, mix it with a FORMAT, and say "What if..?" John and I got ENERGISED by all this and came up for TWO ideas for sketches, which we've since written up and sent off, using exactly that PLAN. They're dead good, i reckon - we'll see if Newsjack think so later in the week I guess.

    It's all GRATE fun - as stated earlier, I did have a small attempt at this sort of thing in my youth, having read TONNES of books about Monty Python and co, all of which said "You start off submitting sketches, then go to the Edinburgh Fringe, then get your own radio, and then THE WORLD IS YOURS!" It was a huge part of my DREAM FUTURE back then, but in all the excitement of the next two decades I rather forgot about it.

    It seems a bit odd that the ideaa of radio as a starting point has only just sunk back in too. Every time I've been to a BBC event they ALWAYS talk about how important it is to submit sketches to shows like this, but I guess the fact that it's never been mentioned as part of the COURSE means I've only just come back round to the idea. It's a GOOD idea - I'm going to try and do some MORE of it!

    posted 17/3/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Cabaret!
    I was in London's Glittering Kings Cross last night for a return spot at Tricity Vogue's Ukulele Cabaret. On the way I was thinking "This was a LOVELY gig last time", so was surprised when I arrived and found the pub was full of screaming tossers, SHOUTING at each other in a room full of Drunk Businessmen. "Yes", my BRANE said, "this is what it was like last time."

    I was confused - how could I remember it as BOTH being lovely AND horrible? Then I realised I had made exactly the same mistake as before, and arrived FAR too early. I went somewhere else for a coffee then hung around for a bit, and LO! by 8pm the vast majority of awful people had staggered off home and been replaced by LOVELY people. Next time I do this, please somebody remind me to get there at eight o'clock instead!

    I have spoken at some length about the difference between INDIE and COMEDY gigs, but this was another different type of gig again i.e. it was CABARET, which seems to feature the positive aspects of BOTH. The atmosphere is very similar to an indie gig, in that it's a crowd made up of friendly and variously odd types of people who know each other but welcome others, the line between audience members and performers is extremely blurred, and the emphasis is on DRINK and general lairiness. It's also like a comedy gig in that there IS comedy and the emphasis is on LARFS and interaction, rather than introspection and Respectful Listening.

    THUS it is the sort of gig I really really like, especially as nobody seems to mind if you've just rolled in in your everyday clothes, rather than getting GLAMMED up. This was handy, as there were a LOT of people glammed up, especially the first act on, Topsie Redfern. She was in FULL Drag, looking AMAZING, and went on to do a very funny, happy, inclusive set of BIG songs and tunes with a LOT of audience participation. I must admit I did think "How on earth am I going to follow THIS?!" but quickly realised there was no realistic way I could, so concentrated on enjoying the show before going on and doing MY bit.

    A week or so ago Tricity had emailed to warn me it was going to be a Fashion-themed gig, but that I wasn't to worry... I'm sure I don't know WHAT she meant! She is an excellent host, and very cleverly prepared the audience for the complete change in VISUAL TEMPO from Topsie to me but, as I said when I went on, she didn't need to as I was THE MOST FASHIONABLE person in the room. Apparently NORMCORE is the current big thing, and if looking like a middle-aged man on his day off is COOL, then you may consider me THE HEIGHT OF CHIC. "Lap it up, squares", I seem to recall saying, before launching into THIS:
  • I Did A Gig In New York
  • Chips And Cheese, Pint Of Wine
  • Boom Shake The Room
  • I Did A Gig In New York went down pretty well, and I'd decided to do Chips And Cheese, Pint Of Wine next because it was about the LAST time I'd been fashionable, back in the early 90s when GRUNGE came in and suddenly looking like a smelly student was on the front of VOGUE. It went OK, but it was a bit too SEDATE and I lost the audience a bit, HENCE dropping my original idea of playing The Merchant Ivory Punks (which is also about fashion) and doing the OLD FAITHFUL set closer instead. Wise choice!

    I lurked around for a bit afterwards and had a chat with some VERY pleasant people, thoroughly enjoyed the other acts, and generally thought "Cabaret and Cabaret people are DELIGHTFUL!" I hope I get asked to do it again, but next time I'll get there a bit later!

    posted 12/3/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Olympic Pool
    This weekend I went swimming in the Olympic Pool. Not _A_ Olympic Pool, mind you, but THE Olympic Pool, the one that was in The Actual Olympics. It was RATHER exciting!

    The Aquatics Centre is one of the BIG and NOTICEABLE buildings left over from 2012, along with the Arena, Velodrome, Copper Box and The Squiggle, but it opened up to the public about a week ago with the quietest of SQUEAKS. I only live 10 minutes away and I didn't know about it for a few days, INDEED it is only because I am interested/NOSY that I realised it was there.

    It's a FANTASTIC building from the outside, though inside it carries on the tradition of pretty much everything to do with the post-Olympics Olympic Park i.e. it's very nice, run very enthusiastically, but Not Quite Right. We've had this in our flat with the windows that don't quite make sense, or the thermostat placed opposite the tumble dryer (so the heating system usuallly thinks it's much warmer than it actually is, and switches off our towel warmers!), and it manifested in the pool with things like the fact you have to print off a piece of paper as your ticket and scan it under a barcode scanner which isn't big enough to fit a piece of A4 paper, or that the shower cubicles are operated by sensors, so you can't get dried because they keep switching on again!

    That said it was LOVELY once you go in, also VAST. There were HUNDREDS of people in the pool, but it's got TEN lanes of swimming and is 50 metres long, so there was PLENTY of space. It was an amazing place to swim too, just looking around and remembering it from The Actual Olympics or just looking up out of the window and seeing The Squiggle peering in, appearing to GRIN at you.

    It was also Not Hugely Expensive, so I have made GRAND PLANS to go there on a regular basis, especially come mid-May when my job finishes and I become a Gentleman Of Leisure. I can't wait!

    posted 10/3/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Science Show-Off
    I had a long stroll through London Town last night, from Bloomsbury to Clerkenwell. It was about half an hour's walk through constant CITY, and it made me think yet again how WEIRD it is that London is SO BIG. In pretty much all other UK cities you could cross the city centre pretty easily in half an hour, but in That London you can set off from the middle and walk for MILES without getting to any gaps. Half an hour's walk through constant multi-storey buildings RAMMED with people DOING stuff is a LOT of population, and it's something you don't tend to think about too much when you live here.

    What I'm saying is that London is Quite Big and features a lot of people. HOLD THE FRONT PAGE!

    Anyway, I was in Clerkenwell to attend Geek Showoff at The Slaughtered Lamb. This is an event run and hosted by Mr Steve Cross, of Bright Club, Museums Showoff, Science Showoff etc etc and tonight it was to feature Mr Steve Hewitt talking about BEER. I was in no way upset that STEVE was the first of us to get a solo gig after Total Hero Team had finished: this did not impinge on my thinking AT ALL!

    It was a lovely evening all round - Steve was, of course, THE BEST, but there was a tonne of interesting other stuff too, not least some OPERA SINGING and talks on Moomins and PROGRAMMING. Nearly everyone seemed to use the COmputer Projector too, apart from Steve who was KEEPING IT REAL! To my surprise/DELIGHT it also featured a TONNE of People I Know, from previous events or just from ROCK, with yet more familiar faces in attendance in the audience too. If mild-mannered geeky people over 30 DID such things it would have been a SCENE GATHERING!

    I also took the opportunity to explain Project G to a couple of people AND finally told Steve about... the OTHER idea. For reasons that will become obvious in time, and rather fortuitously, it should be labelled Project H. He seemed DELIGHTED about it, and I am hoping to use this delight to make him come to TAP DANCING lessons with me. Imagine! A show featuring me and Steve TAP DANCING - surely THAT says "West End HIT" all over it?

    posted 5/3/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    To Out-Beyoncé Beyoncé
    Today is the "official" release date for the Total Hero Team multi-media cross-platform concept album/movie/t-shirt and badges EXTRAVAGANZA!

    "Release day" used to be a big deal, 300,000 years ago when I first started on The Road Of ROCK, but now all it really means is that it's the made-up date on a press release that you give to media-types as a day that you'd really like them to mention it somewhere, please. Even that idea's become less meaningful in recent times, now that record companies release stuff and THEN tell the media about it, so all it really means is that it's the day you send out your press release, on the email.

    So, today is "email a bunch of websites about the album day"! Let's PARTY! I must admit I quite enjoy writing press releases - The Facts In My Notes To Editor is a PROFESSIONAL in the field of Communications and over the years she has gently TUTORED me in the arts of such things. Years ago we would spend HOURS discussing how to make my garbled mess of apologies and showing off into something vaguely sensible, these days it tends to be twenty minutes discussing a couple of sentences. It's another Transferable Skill GLEANED from ROCK to go alongside Knowing What CMYK Means and Rapid Packing Of Cars!

    Obviously, and UNDOUBTEDLY, you'll be seeing the press release cut and pasted into ALL the SHOWBIZ COLUMNS over the next few days, but in the unlikely event that that DOESN'T happen, here's what I've just sent out:
    MJ Hibbett out-Beyoncés Beyoncé


    Beyoncé may have amazed the world when she released an album with a video for each individual track, but MJ Hibbett (and his friend Steve Hewitt) have gone one better. Today they release an album with a single continuous video, not just for the songs, but for the bits in between as well.

    The album is 'Total Hero Team', a 50 minute long rock opera/concept album featuring 14 new songs and a whole lot of superhero action. It's based on the pair's recent fringe show, which toured around the Edinburgh, Camden and Buxton Fringe Festivals, the Leicester Comedy Festival, and many many pubs.

    Unlike Beyoncé, MJ and Steve did not have thousands of lackeys to write, record and film this extravaganza. They recorded the whole thing by themselves in a rehearsal room, edited it on a laptop, and used photographs taken by MJ's girlfriend in their flat. "People made a right old fuss about Beyoncé doing all those videos," says MJ, "but she had loads of people helping her. It must have been peasy!"

    The video, split into six parts, is available on YouTube or on their website, www.totalheroteam.co.uk . You can also buy the full-length album from the same place on a pay-what-you-like basis, as well as t-shirts and badges.

    That's got to work, right? Next stop: BELLOWING at the Prime Minister on The Andrew Marr Show!

    posted 3/3/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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