Reel Big Fish – Glasgow Garage

Reel Big Fish
Image by Iain Purdie via Flickr

[full gallery of photos in this Flickr set]

I missed openers The JB Conspiracy, which is a shame. Main support Orange didn’t get a great reception, though. I saw most of their set and they were OK but nothing brilliant. No faulting the effort they put into the set, and it was a shame – frankly – to hear them being boo’d off stage. I wonder if the same thing happened when they opened for Bowling For Soup recently?

Despite the fact the band have been going for over 20 years, I’ve still never seen Reel Big Fish live. The closest I ever came was in Adelaide a couple of years back, but I couldn’t get hold of a ticket (full story in the fourth paragraph of this post on my travel blog). Funnily enough, I seem to remember more than one person saying they sucked live – and this was from fans.

Maybe they caught a duff gig as tonight’s show was excellent. Without wishing to insult either band, I’d pigeon-hole them as “Bowling For Soup with a brass section”. Both have infections songs and don’t take themselves too seriously. They’re energetic on stage, communicate with the audience and really know how to get a crowd bouncing.

Now, I only know a handful of RBF songs… and they opened with three of them. They also encored with the other, but thankfully they’re enjoyable enough to watch that you don’t really need to know all the words. In addition, they’re fairly well known for their cover versions which get dropped into the set here and there making them good value for the curious who don’t own an album.

A highlight, and something I gather is a regular feature, was the song “S.R.” of which they played 5 versions (I believe they have 10-12 up their sleeves). We got punk, country, death metal… all good!

Definitely glad I made the effort to see them this time around and I’ll be up for their next show, whenever it is.

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Oldie but Goldie: Love/Hate – Blackout in the Red Room

Blackout in the Red Room
Image via Wikipedia

I’ve started going through my old CDs now that I have them out of boxes and in a huge cupboard in the living room. While I’m pretty much mp3-only these days, I’ve a pretty huge collection and I can see me digging through and ripping some of the older ones. Amongst them are some classics I’d pretty much forgotten about so now and again I thought it would be nice to pop them up here. Some have memories that go with them, so do excuse me if I waffle.

As Hans would say, it’s my blog so I can write what I want!

First entry is the first release from a Hollywood band called Love/Hate entitled Blackout In The Red Room. To the best of my knowledge (without going to Wikipedia, in other words), they only released one other album – Wasted in America. [update: they had another five including a “best of”]

If memory serves, I got my first copy of this album – on vinyl – as part of a competition prize, probably at the Gateshead Garden Festival way back in the late 1980’s. I absolutely loved it. High tempo, sleazy, varied, shouty choruses… perfect.

I was also lucky enough to see the band at the Newcastle Riverside back in the days when it was a tiny venue, not the dance club or offices that it later became. This dinky place held around 500 (probably far less, really) and the gigs were rarely more than a tenner. This one was packed to the rafters and the band played pretty much the entire album plus a couple from the second album which hadn’t been released at the time. I recall the title track and a lovely ballad called “Don’t Fuck With Me”.

I believe the band are still going, with their last tour in 2009 including a UK leg that I didn’t know about (dammit). If the album’s still on sale, it’s definitely worth checking out. In the meantime, if you go to what I think is their official page (lovehate.com) there are links to all their songs in mp3 formats. Many of the links don’t work, but those for the first album certainly do.

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Review: We Can Be Heroes

We Can Be Heroes
We Can Be Heroes by Catherine Bruton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A slow burner to start with, which seems aimed at younger kids but in the last quarter it changes into something a little more mature. Told from the perspective of Ben, a young boy who doesn’t remember his father who perished in the 11/9 attacks in New York, we pass the summer with him as he tolerates his cousin and befriends an Asian girl from over the road.

The cousin, Jed, seems like a bit of a dick. Priti is a know-it-all who is sure there are conspiracies going on left, right and centre. Ben himself is struggling as his mother comes to terms with the loss of her husband and he spends the holiday with his grandparents.

Countless themes are covered, and covered well from a child’s perspective. The characters are well-rounded and complex, not the two-dimensional ones far too often used in literature, both children’s and adult.

It took a while to get into, and over the first 100 pages or so I really did wonder if I would make it all the way through. The pace accelerates as it goes through, and although the end is a little predictable I like the way it’s broken up with lists of questions the central character has about his friends and relatives.

I think if it has an issue it’s that the author doesn’t quite know who to target it at. Some young adults might be put off by the opening few chapters being a little childish. Older readers likewise. Younger readers may enjoy the banter between the characters, but the themes may be a little beyond them. Also, it’s quite a long book at over 400 pages which I think may be a little too long for the age range who I think would otherwise be drawn into it.

Worth a look if you fancy trying something different.

View all my reviews

The Sitter / Haywire

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsYay for mothers-in-law. A babysat evening allowed us to cram two films in at the local Cineworld. Unfortunately, one of them wasn’t The Darkest Hour which Cineworld Parkhead had decided to shove on for a single 2D performance a day. At lunchtime. And they can get bent if they think I’ll waste money on a 3D performance.

The Sitter

“I’m more of a ‘sit on the couch, do what I say or I’ll kill you’ type of babysitter.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: College dropout is forced into babysitting three troublesome kids. A night of chaos/hilarity/adventure ensues.

See it if you like: Probably stuff like Adventures in Babysitting or Role Models.

Jonah Hill is somewhat like Seth Rogan in that he always plays the same character. He’s toned down a little for this one, probably as it’s got a young cast. Mind you, any movie with a young girl saying “fucked up” is going to score giggle points.

It’s not a new plot – there were at least two films with a similar story released in the 1980’s – but it’s still a good little story. Hill plays Noah Griffith, a college dropout whose father walked out on him when he was a youngster and who now lives with his mother. Our story opens (after some oral sex shennanigans) as Noah is convinced to baby sit so that his mother can go out and hook up with someone who might make her happy.

Of course, the kids he’s to look after turn out to be a bit of a handful. And, of course again, he has to end up in some dodgy situation that places them all in danger. Like, I don’t know, being hunted by a drug dealer and his boby-building henchmen. The usual.

Throw in a wobbly bit of romance, a ton of swearing and a little bit of “finding himself” and you have a shade over 80 minutes of fairly entertaining schmaltz.

Gillian thought it was a little slow, but I was fine with it. Not great, not bad but far better than I expected it to be.

Haywire

“You want me to be eye candy?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell – female secret agent finds herself being used as part of a dodgy bit of work, so goes rogue to try and find the culprit. I think.

See it if you like – weak thrillers with top-notch fight scenes

Steven Soderbergh is known for making high-end “classy” films, and he turns himself to the spy thriller genre for this 2-hour plodge. It’s well-filmed with some excellent fight scenes, but overall the plot doesn’t match up to the cinematography.

The cast is superb and it is well-acted. Gina Carano is both hot and tough as Mallory, the CIA contractor who finds that things weren’t quite what they seemed in her last mission. The story starts with her recalling events to … I’m not sure. Some random she seems to have met in a coffee shop. I don’t think we actually find out who he is. This takes up the first 45 minutes or so of the film and then we step into the present day.

Now I’m not sure if the plot is as complex as the more upmarket reviews make out. Certainly, I didn’t go “wow” at the supposed twist at the end. Partly as I didn’t quite get it (I was tired – Friday night after a long week) and partly as I’d stopped caring. The story just didn’t grab me the way a more action-oriented film would have and I just had a feeling that I’d seen it all before.

Admittedly it is well filmed. It looks lovely and makes good use of non-famous areas of cities such as Barcelona. Alleyways and regular streets rather than landmarks. The fight scenes are superb, not just in their vicious nature but by the toning down of the sounds. Gone are the usual Hollywood smacks and bass thuds with each punch. Instead each fist lands with a dull thwack which sounds a lot more realistic.

I think we both agreed with the person behind us when the trailers started to roll. He turned to the person next to him and stated, “Well, that was crap.” Typically Soderbergh in that the film magazines trip over themselves to rate it highly when the general cinema-going public would, I feel, be more entertained watching something like RED.

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Stop SOPA

At midnight tonight, a WordPress plugin will kick in which “blacks out” this blog (and my travel blog). I know I only get a few hits a day (around 50-100, usually), but it’s my small way to take part in the STOP SOPA Wednesday.

For those who don’t know, SOPA (and also PIPA) are motions to be put through the US legal system in a bid to allow large copyright holders power to close down websites simply because they don’t like them. OK, it’s a little more complex than that but that’s what it boils down to. SOPA has, in fact, already been shelved as a result of public outcry but PIPA is still alive and threatening horrific levels of censorship.

Essentially what these laws will do is allow a copyright holder (read “rich media company”) to force any website to be taken offline if it claims said site infringes on its copyright. Forget about any discussion over “fair use”, similar content which isn’t actually copied, mistakes and the like – it’s “guilty until proven innocent, which you won’t be because the people putting in the complaint have more money than you”.

Notice, that I said “site”. Remember the case a couple of years back with a baby dancing to a Michael Jackson track on YouTube? Jackson’s record company attempted to sue the baby’s parents for breach of copyright as they dared to put a dodgy recording of part of a song by dead weirdo onto a publicly accessible website. Obviously, this would cost them a fortune in lost revenue. Tossers.

Under SOPA, the media company could force YouTube offline. An extreme and unlikely example, but under the wording of the legislation completely possible. The host is liable for the content uploaded by its members. Even if those members number potentially in their billions.

The methods used to remove sites from the internet is also flawed and involves messing about with the internet’s central servers – something which has had industry experts who actually know what they the hell they’re on about (therefore obviously not politicians, lawyers or record company execs) up in arms.

I’m glad SOPA has been shelved, but I fear it will return. Right now we have to ensure that PIPA is also put down. Although obviously focussed on the US, this will affect anyone using the internet if it goes through. It could also lead to similar legislation being put in place in other countries.

Many sites, far bigger than this little bunch of rants and reviews, are also blacking out for 24 hours. Reddit, WordPress.org, TwitPic and Wikipedia are amongst them. Imagine an internet without them – and many other sites who are not participating. Twitter. Facebook. YouTube. Blogger.

Frankly it beggars belief. Yet the ignorance and stupidity of the media companies trying to push this madness through does not.

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