The thought receptacle

Stephen's mental dustbin

Tue, 08 Feb 2011

Bee thousand

It wasn't an auspicious start. Feeling in the mood for some live music, a few days ago I noticed the Sea of Bees gig in Oxford, and decided to go, in a nothing-ventured style. The venue was listed as a place called The Old Bookbinders, and a quick web search revealed the location of a pub of that name in Jericho. On the day of the gig I did a quick check again, but noticed something odd---two different street names were being turned up for the venue, and only one of them in Jericho. The other was Green Street, off Cowley Road. It turns out that there are two entities known as “The Old Bookbinders” (well, a space in the last word sometimes distinguishes them). The pub in Jericho is one, but there's also a community arts centre. I went with the latter, which turned out to be the right choice.

Wow! It's the best venue I've been to in ages. Comfortable tables and chairs sit in front of the stage filling (but not crowding) the near half of the floor space, while the rear half is a standing area and features a discreet bar selling very tasty beer. There's some charming decor including streamers, a lighty-uppy plastic tube vine-like thing (what are they called?) and a tasteful red backdrop to the stage. The sad part is that, despite being lovingly decked out, it's a completely temporary set-up. The host building is due to close on 31st March for redevelopment (as “luxury” flats, or so I hear).

All three acts were of the mostly-acoustic singer-songwriterly style. First up was James Walbourne and his two backers (upright bass and guitar/percussion) making a rollicking racket of folk-esque, blues and brighter acousto-near-pop numbers, and doing so superbly well. One CD purchase was already confirmed in my mind. Next up, Trevor Moss and Hannah-Lou did their deft, delicate and sweet double-vocal (with occasional harmonising) over the pair of acoustic guitars. They are a married couple and share a single microphone in a cute way. I recognised one of their songs (an “older” one) as something I'd enjoyed on Gideon's programme. They finished with a great version of Charlie Parr's “Cheap Wine”. I wasn't quite convinced I needed the CD, but kept an open mind.

As usual, I apologise for the dire quality (in every way) of my camera phone photos.

Sea of Bees were the headline act. I knew I had heard some songs before, but couldn't remember them. Anyway, the descriptions sounded interesting. Before and in between the sets I had been talking to a charming and very friendly chap next to me, Giuseppe, an Oxford resident originally from Sicily, who was there with his (also charming) wife (she from Portland). They was there because she happened to know one of the two band members, Amber---who I was even privileged to meet very briefly before the set.

The “band” is really the songs of Julie Ann Baezinger, with Amber on back-up guitar and voice. Julie is a unique stage presence---while being a quiet, shy, rather awkward presence on stage, she somehow manages to be a completely charismatic performer at the same time. Her voice is like a tiny candle-flame which somehow, as if amplified through elaborate wooden horn, becomes a room-filling presence. It has both power and a contorted tension, a little like a less artful Joanna Newsom. It sounds cliche, but she sings songs of an adult life with the joy, the anguish, bewilderment and desperation of a child. Her between-songs banter is somewhat child-like too, but brave, carefully introducing each song with a brief recounting of its story, however personal, always with the same artless sincerity. She isn't always quiet either---notable was her love of returning whoops to the crowd with interest.

After the set (there was one encore) I rushed out to withdraw cash, then rushed back to the venue to buy CDs. Trevor and Hannah-Lou were manning the stand, so I couldn't not buy their record. They seemed like lovely people; I shook their hand as I departed. I hope I'll make it back to the venue before it closes. There doesn't seem to be any sort of “save our bookbinders” campaign---when it's gone, it's gone, or so it would seem.

In summary, it was a great night, and I'll be lucky to keep on discovering gems such as this as I get to know Oxford. Oh, and the kebab I had beforehand from Bodrum was awesome too (a bargain, and definitely not yer usual fried-grease-in-pitta).

Long time no blog, by the way. I'll be ranting about my new Oxford situation soon. In the meantime I have to stop, because I'm COVERED IN BEES. Sorry---I couldn't resist.

[/all] permanent link

Do the modern protest

As I walked back to the department after my lunch today, there was some sort of protest going on down by the Radcliffe Camera. I guess it was about fees and whatnot. It seemed quaint that these people were choosing to protest by walking down a street while shouting. Futility was very much in the air. In this post-Thatcher era, people power is a dragon that has ceased to exist, for lack of belief. Our downtrodden population is once again resigned to living under an aristocracy. Today, the aristocracy is the super-rich, with the politicians as both their willing puppets and, in many cases, among their number. Cynicism has worn us down. Most people cannot be reached or motivated in any way. The modern way to conduct effective protests seems to use communication technology to reach a very high percentage of the minority who can be motivated, rather than trying to rouse a general rabble on the streets. Unfortunately, so far the biggest success of this method seems to have been getting Rage Against The Machine to Christmas number one single.

Today I read the paper for the first time in weeks. I was taken aback by how depressing it all is. Julian Assange is being stitched up; Russia has started expelling foreign journalists; the “redevelopment” of a historically significant and seemingly valuable estate in Elephant & Castle is being steamrollered through despite apparent local protest; it was revealed that British ministers had bent over backwards to release a mass murderer from prison for the sake of “diplomatic relations” with Libya; I didn't even get to read George Monbiot on the recent tax relaxations made to benefit big business, but now that I do, it's even more depressing. I feel that I should be protesting about dozen different things, yet I don't protest about anything. Some of it is laziness; some of it is that I don't know where to start. And the rest is that I don't know how to do it effectively. Please send advice on a postcard.

[/all] permanent link


Powered by blosxom

validate this page