Sunday, July 31, 2011

My Favourite Parks Are Car Parks

When I was a teenager, Pulp were My Band. They were the band that made it OK to be me. In some ways they still are. This was proven by going to see their reunion gig in Hyde Park, about a month ago. I had seen them once before, at the Apollo in Manchester in 1998, and missed out on seeing them in Nottingham in 2001 for lack of anyone to go with. The fact that, in addition to my sister (who was the first member of the family to be into Pulp), I would be seeing the gig alongside Rachael T. and Vicky D. (née S.), lent the whole gig a sixth-form air.

I arrived with Rachael and we spent some time drifting between various stages. The first band I paid any real attention to were The Horrors, who I'd never really listened to before, but rather liked, in a Bowie/Psychadelic Furs way. I was left alone for The Hives, who were great fun, and brought back lots of memories of Nottingham in 2001. In particular, Pelle Almqvist's between-song banter was a highlight: "We're The Hives and we're from Sweden! Land of ice and snow, and lots of other shit that you've never heard of!" The new stuff sounded a lot like the old stuff, but I think that's forgiveable for a garage band made good.

TV on the Radio are next on the line-up, but I have no memory of them, and I'm pretty sure this is because I was eating and drinking with the others. I did encourage people back to the main stage, where Grace Jones, who Caitlin had seen before, was doing her malfunctioning-replicant-of-pop act. As Caitlin had promised, Jones did indeed do the hula-hoop for the entirety of "Slave to the Rhythm". Apparently there wasn't room in the setlist for "Warm Leatherette", though, which was a disappointment.

After Jones' set finished, people began streaming past us to gather for Pulp's set. This provided the by-now-standard bit of crowd-based entertainment, as one group of lads passed us with one of them saying worriedly "No, we've done it all - the whole bag!" A noticeable difference between this and the Blur gig a couple of years ago was the good-natured aspect to the crowd - there was no barrage of empty bottles. I'm not saying that this proves that Pulp fans are better people than Blur fans, but, y'know: it does.

Given that Pulp had been away for a decade, it was interesting to see what they now looked like. A feature of 1990s Jarvis Cocker had been his ability to shift from high-cheekboned model to Alan Bennett-esque geek by the simple means of putting on some glasses. These days he sports a hip 1970s sociology lecturer-look, and carries it off well. Nick Banks and Candida Doyle look much the same, but Mark Webber now unaccountably looks like Jerry Lewis. Russell Senior added his usual gothic chill, althogh the razor-sharp cheekbones familiar from the cover of "His 'N' Hers" have been filled out by pies time.

They only had an hour for their set, due to being in the middle of central London, and this meant that they had to focus mostly on the main hits, with little time for delving into the more obscure parts of the back-catalogue. They started with "Do You Remember The First Time?" and "Pink Glove", which are probably my favourite songs they ever did. Rachael made her presence felt early on, with energetic dancing clearing a small space around her. With it being a London festival gig, "Mile End" from the "Trainspotting" soundtrack was a gimmie, as was the Acid House memoir "Sorted For E's and Wizz". A particular highlight for me was F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E. - never a single, but a genuinely excellent track from the seminal album. The only track from the underrated "This is Hardcore" was the title track, with it's bleak evocation of post-fame comedown. This was followed with "Sunrise" a track from the last album "We Love Life". It wasn't a massively well-received album, and there are far better tracks on it than this one, so this seemed like a poor choice, specially with such a constricted set.

By this point, Vicky was becoming increasingly antsy, as her and Andrew were probably going to have to leave early to catch the last train - would they be there for "Common People"? It turned out that they would, just the other side of "Bar Italia", another gimmie for any gig taking place to close to Soho. "Common People" itself was met with the crowd going predictably wild, and Cocker didn't really need to provide the vocals, as everyone else was singing it anyway. A further highlight came just after the song, as Jarvis could be heard saying to Russell Senior "Come on y'grumpy bastard - give 'em a clap!"

All in all, it was one of the best gigs I've ever been to - helped, of course, by the fact that it's one of the only gigs I've been to where I know pretty much all the words to the songs. It's now very tempting to haunt eBay in an effort to find the old singles that I don't have.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

What We Talk About When We Talk About Gloves

One week ago I met Yvette and Dominik in a pub in Wood Green to watch the Klitschko vs. Haye fight. I'd never really watched a boxing match before, but fortunately Yvette was on hand to give some expert opinion. We got there well before the start and bagged a table, which was a good job, as the pub soon filled with aggressive north London blokes.

The fight itself was disappointing as a spectacle, although as it went the full 12 rounds at least no-one could feel they didn't get value for money. It was good to be watching it with someone who knew what they were talking about, but somewhere at the back of the pub there was a guy who kept shouting "JUST FUCKING DO HIM!", so all options were covered. There was some booing in the pub at the points-win being given to Klitschko, but even I could tell that he'd easily had the best of the fight. I'm told there was a small Ukrainian contingent in the pub who seemed to have brought their own vodka, but I don't remember seeing them.

We stayed far too long in the pub afterwards, drinking. During the fight the place had been so crowded and the night so warm that condensation had started forming on all suitable surfaces. This made the men's toilets pretty inadvisable. There was also an Irish guy in there who came very close to accidentally pissing on me rather than into a urinal, and I wasn't sure what the correct etiquette for that situation was.

We were eventually thrown out of the pub at its 2:15 closing time. On the walk back to my sister's flat an urban fox darted across the road some distance ahead of me, so it was all good.