Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In the eye of the Hurricane

I'm slightly sunburnt, a bit knackered and very, very happy. Hurricane comes with strong recommendations, ladies and gentlemen. I saw Pixies live. I may now die happy.

Germans do festivals correctly. Entirely sanitary toilets, decent food for reasonable prices, one euro beer, friendly atmosphere, paying you to pick up after yourself - all combining to produce an unforgettable weekend.

Three days of music, four days of camping, lots and lots of drinking. The weather played its part, too, with the sun making a welcome apperance for most of the weekend. Scattered showers were just that, but nothing could possibly have dampened proceedings. I mean, come on, Pixies were playing.

Music-wise (and that's what a festival is about, after all, besides horrendous levels of drunkenness), Hurricane = win. Let me indulge myself by going into a day-by-day breakdown;

Friday

Having been tricked into not seeing them by Glasvegas (bastards), Katy Perry was the first act that I laid eyes upon at Hurricane. To use a very thinly-stretched metaphor, if I'd have kissed this girl, I wouldn't have liked it. Her show was dull, lifeless and flat, and it's hilarious to see her trying to be taken seriously as a "singer-songwriter" when all she is is yet another box on the pop conveyor belt. Still, everyone loves a drunken singalong to I Kissed A Girl.

Editors fell upon disinterested ears while I was divulging my hunger, but thereafter came the biggest surprise of the weekend. Let me explain my relationship with Franz Ferdinand. I find their albums boring and their live show equally so. Yet, in spite of this, they are a band I will give an infinite number of chances to. They are a band that I want to like, but cannot. All that changed on Friday. They did an awesome live show which, with drink admittedly taken on board, had me dancing, roaring and shouting along with the best of 'em. Fair play to you, Alex, I knew ye'd repay my faith.

From the beginning of one beautiful relationship to the sickly demise of another - I am officially over Kings of Leon. Never have I been so bored in all my life. I spent more time looking at my watch than watching the stage, but like that awful last date before both parties call it quits, I stuck it out. That's the last time they'll be seeing me (until the awkwardness ends and we can become friends again.)

Saturday

Don't ask me how I ended up at Less Than Jake, but I did. I'm sorry, I really am. Blame the excitable Americans I was with. In a effort to redeem my musical soul, I sat through Blood Red Shoes and The Wombats, without really listening to either, though my opinion of the boys from Liverpool was changed slightly - if not dramatically. Then came the moment I'd been waiting for - but only after having to sit through an excruciating hour of The Mars Volta. Before I have any MV fans jump down my throat, please understand the situation I was in. I came to this festival solely for the band that were to follow them. They could have played the sweetest music known to man and I still would have paid them no heed. They were the wall between me and my goal. (Subsequently, I spoke to numerous MV fans who assured me that they had indeed played a cracking set.)

Then they came. Like some wonderful wave crashing over me.

Pixies.

They were fucking class. They played my three favourite Pixies songs (No. 13 Baby, Vamos, Gouge Away) and now I may die happy.

Is there any point in continuing a description of the weekend's events after this?

Alright, alright, fine.

I needed a rest after that, I really did. What followed was equally enjoyable. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds were easily the best act I saw over the course of the entire weekend. He's a incredible showman and the Tom Waits-esque way in which he creates whole worlds within his songs is something that I can only one day dream of emulating. And so to bed, contented.

Sunday

What better way to begin one's Sunday than with just an ever-so-little bit of gypsy kings Gogol Bordello? Got me energised, anyways. Unfortunately, two events subsequently brought me back down; having regrettably overheard two songs from the God-awful Anti-Flag and making an ill-founded decision to sit through Lily Allen's set in its entirety. I'm not entirely against lil' Lilly herself - in fact, I quite like her deceptively offensive pop offerings - but the sound was desperate where I was standing, not to mention the fact that she seemed a little lost on the Main Stage. She did, however, do an outstanding version of Womanizer.

Not to worry. Eagles of Death Metal swooped in to sooth my woes (and my sunburn). I must say, I've never been rocked by a moustache as hard in my life. Fair play to Jesse Hughes, he's an excellent frontman and he had the crowd in rip-roaring form. Ladyhawke was a bit of a comedown, but she was still enjoyable. Shame she didn't have a bigger crowd, though.

Fettes Brot
? A German band that looks like your dad and his mates rapping? Hilarious. Good thing I only stuck around for one song. Nine Inch Nails were another massive surprise for me, namely because I never saw what others saw in them until then. They put on a great show. Shame it's their last year of touring. Friendly Fires closed out events with a nice, peppy bang. Delightful.

To sum it all up in three words?

Hurricane: fucking savage.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The coin

Yes, yes, I know, this should go on BrĂ­osca Briste, but fuck it, I want people to see this one.

The coin

Spare change, madam?

Sir, some spare change? Please sir, just for a hostel for the night.

Just a few coppers sir?

God bless you, madam. God bless your kind heart. Look at it. Look at how it rolls around the rim. Heads, tails, heads, tails...

God bless nothing. There's a reason I've my hood pulled down over my face. If you saw my eyes, you'd scream. Run, call the police. He's feral, something's wrong. But you wouldn't even have the energy for that. If you looked into my eyes, you'd see the things I've seen. Unimaginable horrors. Children feeding on their parents. Monsters with gaping, toothy maws, devouring people who will never die. Charred skeletons still screaming, wailing, roaring to be put out of their misery. The only thing louder than their cries for help are the flames consuming them.

That was the easy part.

There was the other side. Countless numbers of souls deluded. Left to wander an eternal emptiness on their own. Calling out the names of loved ones, even though they know they'll never get a response. All they have is their memories, their emotions. Nothing to distract them. Forever, they will wander through the mist, lost, alone. They can do nothing to stop it. All the while it laughs. It looks on them and it laughs. Sometimes, in a moment of twisted lucidity, it will give them the briefest glimpse of what their heart desires, only to tear it away from them as soon as they see it. Digging deeper into the well of melancholy they sink into without drowning. People say the Devil is evil, but they've never met God.

How do I know all this?

No, I didn't sign any deal. I haven't been to Hell and back. I'm on the guestlist. I played for both teams. It's easier than you'd think. They don't mind who gets who. They have their own little pleasures in store for either one. Good and evil? Doesn't exist. Two sides of the same coin, if you ask me. No, no asking about it. I'm telling you. I've seen it first hand, sure. I watched people see their own hearts being ripped out of their chests and did up the paperwork afterwards. Likewise, I sat there, propping against the armrest, laughing there with it. But they were jealous lovers. They didn't like me playing the field. So both of them decided to have the last laugh on me. Branding me both as their slave, I was thrown out, into limbo, this waking life. It's just a testing ground, see who gets what. All we're living towards - or dying towards, rather - is just what way we get fucked over once we cross over. I once met a priest upstairs who couldn't stop crying once he found out. They get it the worst. They devote their lives wholeheartedly to it. Of course they're initially overjoyed to see their faith rewarded, but once they realise they've no-one to share it with, the gloss quickly comes off. As for the other part, no-one ever deserves what's coming to them. No-one.

So there we have it. Through one eye, I see the gray mist. Through the other, the red fury. That's why I haven't slept since I got here. That's why I don't know what it is to dream.

But when I open both together, I only see what I need to do.

This needs to end - and I'm the one that needs to do it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fat Frank, you charmer

In just under four days, I'm going to standing before an outdoor stage, probably soaking wet, waiting for Pixies to take to the stage for their second reunion, probably because Frank noticed that the bills were piling high and people weren't paying as much attention to his solo career as he would have liked.

It'll probably be terrible, namely because they all hate each other (well, Kim and Frank do) and they'll probably only play stuff from Trompe Le Monde, the one album I forgot to upload to my iPod.

But if it means I get to hear Gouge Away live, everything in my life up to this point will have been worth it.

I feel like a kid at Christmas time.

Seriously, it's all there. The stomach butterflies. The inability to sleep.

Class.

Rob McDonald

If you get any more handsome, I'm going to punch you in the face, sir.

In fact, there's a lot of my friends I'd like to say that too.

Don't you think you can slink down the back, Cunningham. You too risk the mighty fury of my envy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Schadenfreude comes in all shapes and sizes

I'm not going to force you

Following the lowest turnout in German history for the European parliament elections (a paltry 42.6% of the electorate), the suggestion has been raised that voting should be made compulsory in Germany with a €50 fine to be levelled on those who fail to exercise their democratic right.

In conjuction with this measure, it's been proposed to introduce a system whereby one can cast their vote over the internet, thus making the process a damn sight easier.

Which drags up the old arguement on whether or not voting should be compulsory.

Granted, in countries where it does or has existed, it's created a culture of voting. Turnouts in Belgium are regularly high, with around 90% of voters making sure their voices were heard during the recent European elections. Mind you, this is a country where they don't suffer a slap on the wrist if they fail to tick the box (or number the boxes according to preference, if you want to be pedantic).

Non-punitive compulsory voting has its benefits. It creates a culture of democratic participation and high turnouts eliminate any accusations that election results are not representative of the majority of the population. Can one argue that the results of most European elections in Eastern Europe, where, in some states, less than a third of the population bothered voting, are democratic?

Of course you can. The fundamental principle behind voting is that it is a civic right, not a civic duty. The beauty of it is that people have a choice. If that choice entails not going to vote at all, so be it.

If enforced compulsory voting is introduced in a country without a history of same, it's only going to anger the electorate, and an angry electorate makes reckless decisions. Mind you, an angry electorate can make reckless decisions in states without compulsory voting, too. Two British National Party (think the Nazis, only wearing suits) candidates elected as MEPs over the weekend, anyone?

Forcing people to do something they're used to having a choice over doesn't work, fact. People aren't going to make an informed political decision just because it'll cost them €50 if they fail to do so. Non-enforced compulsory voting, however, sends out the message that voting is encouraged, or "we want you to do it, and even though we don't like it when you don't, all we'll do is scowl. Promise."

Offer your opinions on the topic, if you want.

I'm not going to fine you if you don't.