Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Selfish Cunt

First up, if my mother is reading, it's not my fault that the band I am going to be talking about here has such a rude name. I would nevertheless like to apologise for bringing such foul language to what has hitherto been a nice family blog.

I saw popular band Selfish Cunt play in the Voodoo Lounge a while back.
Cockfarmer Huey from the Fun Loving Criminals owns this venue, so he was responsible for the great support acts. First up were The Retards, who perform wearing furry suits, by which I mean that they dress up as furry animals. Their music was VERY LOUD and challenging, albeit in a metallic kind of way. I particularly liked their last song (about rejection), which had these wonderful lyrics:

I saw you at the bar
I only wanted to dance
Who's laughing now?
YOU'RE CRIPPLED!

Makes you think, eh?

The next band were local act Andalusia, who seemed to be kind of country rock of some sort. From a musical point of view they were probably a lot better than The Retards, but they weren't as challenging, which means they are objectively inferior. A friend thought they sounded like The Stunning, and was astonished when I said that this was a bad thing.

And finally, the Cunt. I only went to see this lot because they have a very rude name. It turns out they are like some kind of weird early '80s goth band. The guitarist guy looks relatively normal, but the vocalist is essentially Marc Almond's love child, and he poses around the stage intoning rather than singing. He also wears funny make-up and stares people into the faces of random punters. Sometimes he jumped into the audience and poked at people (but not me - I'd have floored him). And it was all very loud. Basically, this was great stuff, extreme, poncey, artsy, and not the kind of thing your mother would like (unless you are YOURNAMEHERE).

I think SC are meant to be political in some way... they have a song called 'Britain Is Shit', which is about how Britain is shit. It might have got more of a reaction if they had changed it to 'Ireland Is Shit'... it's always nice to hear the neighbours engaging in self-criticism, but it would have made the gig even more confrontational if the band started telling us how rubbish Ireland is.

This gig happened some time back... astute readers will by now have realised that I have run out of new things to talk about and am going back further into time for material. Coming soon - the time I went to see Strereolab & Laika in Columbia Mills.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Selfish Chimp

Latest research shows that Chimpanzees are gratuitoulsy unfriendly, always keen not to help their fellows even at no loss to themselves. I wonder, though, is this the shagger chimps I've heard about, who are meant to be incredibly friendly, or the less pleasant war chimp subspecies?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4381516.stm

Beaver Patrol

Plans are afoot to reintroduce the beaver to these islands. And in a parable for our times, it is the friendly European beaver that is returning, not its brash American cousin.

Read all about it here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/gloucestershire/4380276.stm

Monday, October 24, 2005

Dog Befriends Orphaned Wallaby

The BBC reports that an orphaned Wallaby called Wenda has been befriended by a dog called Brook: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/north_west/4360612.stm

Here is a picture of the two friends:

I Am Not Damo Suzuki

Some time back I saw popular improviser Damo Suzuki playing in Dublin venue Crawdaddy. I republish my comments here for anyone who did not have the opportunity to read them last time, and as a taster for my forthcoming incredibly fascinating discussion of the time he played with The Jimmycake.

Supporting the well-known sultan of improvisation were a couple of local acts. First up, some laptop guy. He made the kind of music laptop people make. You can buy programmes that generate this stuff automatically for you, can't you? Anyway, all enjoyable enough if not earth shattering. Next support was this amazing Scottish guy whose thing is hitting cymbals. He would use a drumstick in one hand and a set of maracas in the other, or some variant thereof. Sometimes he just scratched at the surface of the cymbals to create a strange shimmery sound. All in all this was a lot more interesting than it sounds, being hypnotic and trance inducing. I wish I could remember his name.

Damo Suzuki himself was playing with some local musicians from the band E=S+B - two keyboardists, a drummer, and a percussionist, all masked. Allegedly Damo never rehearses with the bands he plays with, meaning that there is always the risk of any performance he gives being a formless, meandering mess. Tonight things seemed a lot more focussed, to such an extent that you would think they were playing prepared pieces. It is possible that essentially the band were playing the kind of stuff they always play and Damo was just improvising vocals over the top, but even at that it seemed a lot more together than might have been expected. Someone did say on the interweb that they did a very long soundcheck, so maybe that in practice doubles up as a backdoor rehearsal.

I liked the music that came from this collaboration a lot. Like the drum guy, it was hypnotic, but it was a good bit more melodic and rocky. My intention for the future is to seek out more music from these E=S+B people. I heard that they are some kind of off-shoot of the band Wormhole, who were liked by me in the early 1990s.

I bought a Damo Suzuki double album from the nice German lady doing his merchandising, but I haven't listened to it enough yet to say too much about it.

Spurred on by the Damo Suzuki gig, I've been thinking about what a funny old rock and roll world it is. I mean, take improvisation (please, take it (nurse, call the sides doctor!)). Everyone loves it, at least in the world of music, but imagine how irritated you would be if novelists just made up books as they went along and never went back to re-write anything? I can definitely see the appeal of improvisation to musicians, but looking at the matter from first principles it is hard to see any intrinsic benefits for listeners in making up tunes as you go along.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

There Are No Rules




I've finally seen "Fatal Deviation". It is indeed the greatest film ever made in Trim.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Skinny Wolves

Skinny Wolves should be a band, but is actually a club. Some time back I went to check it out. It bills itself as playing krautrock and post-punk, but what they had on offer sounded more like textured electronic noise, with the DJs sounding like they had put a single by Double Leopards on repeat.

There were two actual bands playing tonight. First up were The Retards, whom I saw previously supporting Selfish Cunt. They wear animal suits and play retarded music. I recommend them highly. The second band were Somadrome. By this stage, I had had a couple of shandies, so I do not remember much about them other than that they were quite good.

The crowd were a bit restrained through all of this. I suppose the music isn't that dancey, but I thought maybe the punters were over-posey, doing too much in the way of standing around and looking cool. What the music really cried out for was for drunken people to keep waving their fists in the air while shouting "Woahhhh!", ideally while modelling ARE Weapons style wife-beaters. I may have to drink from this cup on my next visit to the club. In this context the woman who kept inexplicably shouting "Razorlight!" is to be applauded, whatever you think of that band.

A great thing about the venue (The Hub), is that one end of it is really stinky, and if you sit there you feel like you are sitting in a blocked toilet cubicle. Actually, this is not so great, and explains why everyone was sitting in the other end.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Monday, October 17, 2005

A Farewell To Brains

Popular Dublin band The Jimmycake played a couple of free gigs as a way of live rehearsing some new tunes of theirs, in preparation for recording them on a new album. I went to the one in The Village, because it is round the corner from me. It seems like ages since I last saw the J-cake, and they seem really different now. For one thing, they have been shedding members... there are hardly any of them left now, a mere eight people onstage tonight, one of whom was playing his farewell gig.

The band seem to be losing mostly the people playing the funny instruments, so they are by default moving in a more rock direction. In the long run this is probably a bad thing, but it did mean that they went big time for the wall of sound stuff tonight. I was happy, as this is the kind of thing I like best from them in a live context. They might be a bit too rock next time I see them, however, as they've already lost their saxophonist and this was the trumpeter's last gig, leaving the clarinette as their only wind instrument. What does the future hold for Dublin's leading band?

but of course, since then I saw The Jimmycake's sensational performance with Damo Suzuki. Bet you can't wait to read about that?

oh wait, they're actually called The Jimmy Cake.

Glastonbury 2005, part nine: it's not just for Whitey

Glastonbury's audience is a tad Caucasian, but the music and stuff on offer is a bit more multiethnic and stuff. In fact, there is an entire Jazz World Stage for people who like jazz or musicians from the world. And it had The Levellers playing at it, as I discovered while walking past one day. They are pretty whitey, but they still seemed to fit. For a band whose moment was over ten years ago, they still sound surprisingly on the ball.

I also saw a bit of music by this Ilhan Al-Madfai fellow. He is a chap from Iraq who plays acoustic guitar with a band who use both Western and Arabic instruments. At the end of the day, I failed to see the point of him. Why play acoustic guitar when you come from an oud playing culture, eh? And if his guitar playing is as amazing as the programme claimed, why was it buried so low in the mix?

On the last night a load of us finished the festival with afro-beat sensations Femi Kuti & The Positive Force. I do not know how Afro-Beat fits into the the rock & roll family tree. Did it develop more or less independently of western music, bar the pulling in of instruments, or is it an African re-appropriation of jazz and funk? In any case, Femi Kuti makes music to which you have to dance. The lyrics tend towards covering very specific Nigerian concerns that often go straight over whitey's head. I, however, felt like I was back in my Introduction to West African Politics course. Some of the lyrics did seem a bit strange stripped of their context - wearing a jimmyhat while you shag isn't quite such a matter of life and death when your country doesn't have a 40% HIV infection rate.

It is not clear how Femi Kuti squares his right-on politics with the presence of the lovely lady dancers in his band.

Does anyone know if Afro-Beat is a uniquely Nigerian phenomenon, or did something similar emerge in other countries in that part of the world?

part nine of nine - that's all folks

Glastonbury 2005, part eight: Tonight I celebrate my love for you

A trope of the festival seemed to be making fun of George Bush & Tony Blair, particularly with doctored video footage. M.I.A. preceded her appearance onstage with a video of a joint press conference between the leaders of the free world, where Blair would talk about serious things only to be interrupted repeatedly by Bush saying "M. I. A.". This made Tony a bit annoyed. The best, though, was a video shown at the Groovey Movie - footage of Tony & George doctored so they looked like they were singing 'Endless Love' to each other. We laughed and laughed.

Other classics of the Groovey Movie included a short from the 1970s on how to ride a skateboard safety. It went well with their brandy hot chocolates.

part eight of nine

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Glastonbury 2005, part seven: The magic of the green fields

I like sitting around in the stone circle field, or relaxing with some chai and cake in the Green Fields. I like this a lot more than running around chasing random bands. It is nice to treat the festival as a relaxing experience rather than a frenetic one.

part seven of nine

Rip It Up And Start Again - initial thoughts

This is the Simon Reynolds book about Post-Punk that everyone is reading, including me. I like it! In a weird way, it reminds me of a book I read once about the American Civil War. It kept having testimony from people who would say of battles "If only there had a couple more hours of daylight - then we would have really flattened those cockfarmers". The equivalent in this book is bands lamenting in retrospect that some move on their part effectively killed their career. Usually this move is refusing to play Top Of The Pops, often for the lamest of reasons. The Gang Of Four were invited onto the programme, but refused after being asked to change the line "the rubbers in your pocket" to "the rubbish in your pocket". Magazine did actually play, but delivered a weird performance that alienated the audience and stiffed their then rising single. And there are others.

In the world of art generally, not compromising is seen as a good thing. I cannot but wonder in these cases, however, whether the bands were pointlessly refusing to compromise on small things that would have brought the big thing - their uncompromised, pure music - to a much wider audience. That said, I am also not entirely convinced that the big time really was waiting for these bands, because surely if there was a mass market for these angular, spiky acts then at least some of the post-punk acts would have found it eventually? Or maybe the success of acts like U2 shows what could have been possible by a band who were willing to play the game.

These were my initial thoughts... since then I have ploughed further on through the book and read other reviews of it, with the result that my own thoughts have developed. My current thinking is not fully formulated.

S L A Y E D

Sensational developments... they are reprinting the National Song Year storyline from classic lamer comedy 2000AD strip "Robohunter".

See here for details: http://www.2000ad.org/thrillpower/rebsladeplay.html

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Current Reading

This is what I am currently reading, for fun like:

Rip It Up And Start Again by Simon Reynolds. You know, that book about the post-punk music. Of this, more later.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I always had the idea that Conrad did not start writing until he was in his late forties, but it turns out that he had published loads of stuff by the time he was my age, so I am indeed a failure.

The Authority by Warren Ellis & Bryan Hitch (& Laura DuPuy). Big & stupid superhero comics, in which the heroes win by being very po-faced.

Anatomy of a Dictatorship: Inside the GDR 1949-1989 by Mary Fulbrook. Everything you ever wanted to know about the DDR, although sadly the index has nothing on DIE PUHDYS.

I may well be reading these for some time.

Glastonbury 2005, part six: is this a puppy I see before me?

There was a lot of talk about how dance music was being purged from the festival this year. It turned out this talk was false, and this year's festival saw a sizeable expansion in the quantity of dance stuff on offer. In place of the single Dance Tent of yore there is now an entire Dance Village, with two large-ish tents and a plethora of smaller ones and outdoor stages.

I did not spend much time in the whole Dance Village area. That whole area of the festival appeals to me less and less over the years. In many ways, it is the least Glastonbury bit of the site, full of frenetic mad-for-it types who are definitely not in the least bit chilled. My official line is that things were better at Glastonbury when the only dance music on offer was at unofficial afterhours underground raves.

But I still saw more than nothing in the Dance Village. Like Two Lone Swordsmen. These fellows were once known as producers of minimalist abstract dance music, but now they have been listening to so much post-punk that they've decided to start making their own. Change is good, and it's always nice to hear post-punk style sounds in a live context, but at the end of the day this is not a band pushing back the sonic frontiers in the way that PiL or Cabaret Voltaire did. Instead, the new TLS are a post-punk bar band. They also made a great bad decision when they put Andy Weatherall on lead vocals. He can neither sing properly nor does he have the kind of individually expressive voice that gets other non-singers by.

They were maybe a bit more enjoyable to listen to than I make them sound, basically because that genre of music is always easy on the ears of the forward thinking. And other people of more discerning tastes derived great enjoyment from their music, so there might be more going on than I am noticing.

And then there was Jamie Liddell. Some of my friends were really bigging this guy up, but in a suspciously over zealous manner. It turns out that Liddell's thing is that he plays electronic music over which he sings. Then he samples himself singing, treats the sample, plays it back and harmonises over it. Then he samples that and repeats the process , all very quickly. And he sings in a kind of high soulful voice. You have to admire his technique, but I am still undecided as to whether this is My Kind Of Thing or not. It seemed simultanaeously over-cerebral (in the boffiny way in which he made the music) and over-cheesy (all Liddell's "Ooh Baby" squeaks are a bit comedic). Nevertheless, I would be interested in seeing Jamie Liddell again, were he ever to darken these shores, if only to finally settle the question of what I think of him.

I also saw a bit of Justin Robertson DJing. He still plays the kind of dance music I like to listen to, even if it was too early in the day for me to stay.

part six of nine

Glastonbury 2005, part 5: man does not live on cake alone

On Sunday I tested the theory that Man Does Not Live On Cake Alone - for the whole day I ate nothing but cake. Various places saw to my cake needs - the Buddhafield Cafe, many chai places, the Nutters Cafe, random stalls, and so on. I lived to tell the tale without obvious ill effects. Now I am thinking of extending the experiment to cover an entire week or month. Or forever! Maybe I could eat nothing but cake forever and see what happens!

At other points over the weekend I ate from the likes of The Manic Organic, the (disappointing) Israel-Palestine café, various vegiburger joints, and so on. Although I only ate it the once, the taste sensation for me was the Hummusburger - one of those Moonburgers with hummus smeared on top! It is the gorgeous. Why have I never tried this before? And could it be that everything is improved by the addition of hummus? Perhaps soon I will be eating a lovely slice of carrot cake, covered in delicious hummus.

The drink sensation of the festival was brandy hot chocolate (from the Groovy Movie, who also do nice cake), a perfect drink to have before bedtime. I have enjoyed many brandy hot chocolates since my return from the festival.

part five, of nine

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Pet Detectives of New Orleans

Pet detectives search New Orleans for lost pets, to reunite them with their owners so that they might retain something of the lives they lost: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4296130.stm

Sadly there is no picture of Blondie the puppy.

Glastonbury 2005, part four: which side are you on?

Some commentators argued that there was literally nothing worth seeing on the Acoustic Stage. Rockist nonsense. I caught two enjoyable acts on that stage, and in retrospect wished I'd seen a few more. Martha Wainwright (of the McGarrigle-Wainwright Co-Prosperity sphere) was not the revelation I was hoping for, but she was entertaining enough. And she did reveal that the last time she had played the acoustic stage (with Kate & Anna McGarrigle, one of which is her mam) she had been E-ing her nuts off. This is amusing on any number of levels. I was actually there when she played with them, and she didn't look like she was buzzing to me. But then, I probably wouldn't either if my mother was sitting next to me.

Anyway, deadly buzz.

Steve Earle headlined the Acoustic Stage on Friday night, playing solo. I think now I see why Claudia Gonson of Magnetic Fields threatens to give her guitar to Steve Earle. He played lots of hard-edged politically conscious songs, a well as a love song to Condoleezza Rice. And he went off on a long ramble about the American Civil War, which was cool by me. Some poor fuck in the crowd was flying the Confederate Battle Flag (you know, the Southern Cross), and Earle set the mob on him. My own views on whether that flag is straightforwardly a symbol of slavery and racism are a bit more complex.

Earle was joined by Alison Moorer on one song, much to the delight of the audience's more neanderthal elements. I was very taken by her playing and singing. She reminded me generally of how the whole phenomenon of women avant-country artists is something I've been meaning to investigate, ever since being ensnared by the voice of Paula Frazer from Tarnation who sings on Cornershop's 'It's Good To Be On The Road Back Home Again Again'.

Earle finished off with 'Copperhead Road', obviously.

On Sunday I sauntered along to see Billy Bragg playing the Leftfield Stage. Bragg plays every year, but I always manage to miss him. In fact, I have not seen him live at all since 1987, when I attended a gig of his in Dublin. Blimey. So I had kind of forgotten how good he is. This man is one of the greatest live performers the world has ever seen. And if you are even slightly left-wing the man will reinvigorate you with the white hot zeal for the struggle. This was almost like a religious experience. Bragg was telling us how upset he was that the BNP had won a seat on the council of his home town of Barking; when he revealed that at a Glastonbury Thursday by-election they had lost it again, I felt like I knew what it was to be touched by the Holy Spirit.

But the songs! Many feel that Bragg's music went into decline when he started recording with a band rather than solo. It was therefore great that to see him playing onstage alone with just his guitar, playing the songs that suit that sound like he actually was a born again Woody Guthrie. He even played the Guthrie tune from which Andy Irvine ripped the "All you fascists bound to lose" refrain, leading me to wonder how great an Irvine-Bragg double-header would go down.

Bragg also played popular Civil War anthem "The Battle Cry Of Freedom", albeit with the lyrics changed to make it about joining trade unions. And he was joined at the end by popular comedian Phil Jupitus, to do a song called 'Bestiality' ("I've had relations/ with a great number of Dalmatians" etc.). But he didn't do 'Which Side Are You On?'.

Which side are you on? I heard that some people, notably those from the world of internet forum ILX, found Bragg hard to take. This does not surprise me. In our time of ironic attachment, it is difficult for an ironist to fathom someone of actual beliefs.

Anyway, the highlight of the festival, in fact one of the all-time great Glastonbury performances? Oh yes.

This is part four of nine, incidentally, so you may want to pace yourself. Some of the later installments will be a bit short.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Glastonbury 2005 part three: big bands on big stages

I saw some big name acts on the Pyramid Stage. One of my pals took me along to see Goldie Looking Chain. It says something about this band that when they announced their tour of Ireland, they were playing one night in Dublin but five in Limerick. Live, they come across as a gang of lads who've somehow wandered onstage and are having a laugh at our expense. However, there is a polish and musicality to what they do that belies the carefully constructed facade of slapdashness. They also hop around like muppets and have funny songs like 'Your Mother Has A Penis' and lyrics like "come here baby, I want to jizz on you". Anyway, this was my first exposure to the music of the Chain, and I like it. Together with M.I.A. they have me thinking that it's high time I heard myself some more UK hip hop.

Thankfully the sun had returned on Sunday, by which time Brian Wilson was getting to do his sunshine pop stuff. I had some doubts beforehand about this, wondering if it would basically be a bunch of session musos with Wilson wheeled in from Happy Vale to lend a dubious authenticity to proceedings. In fact, though, while Wilson is plainly not the best in the head department, he did seem to be in control of what was going on musically and didn't give the impression of thinking he was still in his house in Los Angeles.

Two of our friends became engaged (to each other) at the Brian Wilson gig, making this the most loved up Glastonbury ever. There was much proffering of congratulations from random strangers.

Primal Scream were doing their stuff on sunday night, as a welcome replacement for the rubbish Kylie Minogue. Bobby Gillespie seemed a bit the worse for wear, and was doing a lot of berating the audience for real or imagined slights. Eventually the band, having over-ran, had their sound turned off, and some security guys had to help Mr Gillespie off the stage. What I saw of their set was enjoyable, emphasising the MBV-grebo end of their sound.

Many people thought New Order delivered a set of high quality. Sadly, many people are wrong, and one of my favourite bands on record actually played a plodding and uninspiring set where the lack of Gillian Gilbert was sorely felt. These guys very much had the air of people who'd rather be anywhere else but onstage, and were only doing their stuff for the money and the need to promote their suckass new album. And I hated the way Barney told us the name of every song before he played it. Let the tunes speak for themselves, dude.

They were joined for a tune by Ana Matronic from rubbish band Scissors Sisters, looking oddly like friend T-Fal from the Internet. And thanks to real-life friend Mark W., Keith Allen came on at the end to do the John Barnes rap in 'World In Motion'. This was probably the only bit of the Order's lacklustre set where any life came into it. And then they were gone.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Irish Smiths?

Right kids, you know the score. No music stuff appears here until it has first been printed in Frank's APA. Here are some amazing gig reviews you can look forward to reading in the future:

- The Jimmycake playing with Damo Suzuki (like, on the same stage, together, at once)

- Pere Ubu (or the David Fucking Thomas Pere Ubu Experience as it seemed to be in practice)

- a concert in Whelans by the reformed Toasted Heretic

The great annoying thing about the last concert was this. Normally with gigs in Whelans, the main band comes on around 10.00. But tonight there was some suckass student disco on there, which meant TH came on at 9.00... so when I arrived at 10.00 their set was nearly over.

Toasted Heretic have a website here: Toasted Heretic.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Latest Intifada Results

The Al-Aqsa Intifada recently celebrated its fifth birthday. The Israelis have maintained the commanding lead they notched up early on, systematically demolishing their second division Palestinian opponents. Go Israel!

Results in full here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4294502.stm

Glastonbury 2005 part two: the magic of the John Peel Tent

I saw a couple of great acts at the John Peel Tent. Part of the magic of this experience was that I saw these bands on the vague recommendations by random people. And the random people came good.

Being impressionable, I followed friends up there when some M.I.A. person was on there. She turns out to be an English-Sri Lankan rapper who performs with another rapper to backing tapes. And she rocks, being almost the perfect act with her combination of politicised lyrics, good time partyness, and attractive young woman perkiness. Nice visuals as well - maps of London, stone throwing kids in PLO scarves, etc. Right on.

I bought her album "Arular" in Bristol and have been listening to it continuously since then. It did trigger the same kind of thoughts I always have about hip hop - basically, are rappers an over-indulged shower of wasters when the real musical powers in hip hop are the producers? An interesting question in this case, but one leading to no definitive answer. The crunchy beats that back the rapping are very impressive in this case, but I don't think they'd amount to much without M.I.A. doing her stuff on top of it.

I wonder is this the grime music that the young people like?

I am not a fan of Coldplay. Therefore, I did not go to see them on Saturday night, but instead trekked to the John Peel Tent for The Go! Team (or The Fishm, as they like to be called). This mixed-race mixed-gender outfit come from Brighton, and had a great picture of themselves in the programme. They turn out to be a perfect festival band, playing good-time music that's fun to dance to. A friend asserted that they are a bit like The Beta Band. Well they're not *that* like them, but I can see where he is coming from. There's a similar kind of willingness to pull in musical sources from all over the shop, a similar commitment to dance rhythms, and similar air of indie kids playing with rap. The Go! Team are a bit more pop, though. and I love the pop. I got swept along by the way they get the crowd to join in with their songs, and loved being able to shout "Go! Team!" at them during 'Huddle Formation'.

They were a bit plagued by the sound (this is the New Bands Tent, after all), losing the vocals for one track. I was amused to watch their perky singer doing her stuff on stage without any sound from her reaching us. They did leave the stage for a bit while the engineers fixed things, and then came back and did loads of their best songs again. Hurrah!

Overall though, the sound in the John Peel Tent compares favourably with that on the Go! Team's album (the appropriately named "Thunder, Lightning, Strike"), which sounds like it was recorded over a bad phone line from Kathmandhu for 50p.

The final exciting band I saw in the tent were called Dresden Dolls. Some guy I bought magic beans from said they were good, and they have a German-ish name. While waiting for them to come on, I realised that something strange was happening... there were a surprisingly large number of Goths in the audience. And when the band came on, it was like the Goths had landed. The Dolls (as they call themselves) are a man and a woman. She dresses like a Weimar-era strumpet and plays keyboards set to sound like a piano. He is dressed almost like a harlequin and drums in a clown-like manner. His playing style was also reminiscent of the mentalist drummer from some lamer Australian band I saw in a local venue once. There was very theatrical quality to their performances... in the opening song the singer was singing one of those songs to a rubbish lover, while the drummer was being the lover, mocking her earnest entreaties.

When I say Dresden Dolls were Goth, I mean of course in the early 1980s artistic sense. There was nothing metallic or industrial about them. Since the festival I've looked at their entertaining if Flash- and image-heavy web-site, and they have an entire section of hate mail they received from Nine Inch Nails fans after they opened for the Reznorites on some tour. "YOPU R SUCH A GAY BAND TAHT I BET TRENT DIDNT PICK YOPUTO BE TEH SUPORT ON HIS TOPUR" is a typical comment.

I liked Dresden Dolls... I liked their playfulness, theatricality, and sense of artifice. The woman has a way with words too. And I like their cover of 'War Pigs', which rocked in the way that only a voice-piano-drums combo can. They also did a nice cover version of Jacques Brel standard 'In The Port Of Amsterdam'. What's that song all about? There's this old drunken sailor in a pub in Amsterdam, and he is drunk, is that it?

'Coin Operated Boy' is maybe the most striking of Dresden Dolls' own songs, conjuring up a wonderful image of clockwork sex toys.

The dreadlocked roadie guy still calls the shots at the John Peel Tent, and he liked the Dresden Dolls.

Glastonbury 2005 part one: enough about me, let's talk about the weather

Join me in a time trip back to June of this year, when I attended the exciting Glastonbury Festival. The weather was quite extreme this year. Wednesday and Thursday were scorchers, but rumours circulated about how thunder storms were expected some time Friday afternoon. I was actually kind of pleased when I heard the first sputters of rain early on Friday morning, as it meant that my tent wasn't going to turn into an oven by 8.00 am, making a lie-in at least possible. But then the rain got heavier and heavier, and was joined by scarily loud thunder. Electrical storms can be scary enough when you are indoors, snugly wrapped up in bed. When you are in a semi-waterproof tent out in the open they are impressive things indeed. While I lay there wondering if tents are Faraday cages or not, I was nevertheless faced with a spectacle sure to dwarf anything the festival itself would offer.

The rain poured down in torrents for, I dunno, six straight hours or so? It did slacken off a bit now and then during that time, but it didn't stop, and the lightning and thunder kept up as well. Some of us made our way to the Field of Avalon during a relative lull, only to be driven into the Avalon Café by a renewed bucketing. There we witnessed a woman being advised not to lean against the tent's metal supports, in case she ended up being fried by lightning. Nice.

Various things around the Festival site were indeed struck by lightning, and electrical power throughout the site was knocked off for a bit. They did get power back by the middle of the afternoon, allowing bands to start playing again. But the storm had wreaked its damage more through the rain. The market area flooded in a manner reminiscent of the year of the Unpleasantness, and there were reports of riots at Joe Bananas as frenzied mobs battled for the last wellington boots. The area around the New Bands Tent (now the John Peel Tent, in tribute to John Peel) became a quagmire, and a series of rivers erupted across the field in front of the Other Stage.

Most striking, though, was the way the bottom of Pennards Hill flooded to three or four feet of water. Or water mixed with sewage, as the toilets at the bottom of the hill were also engulfed. Reputedly this all happened in the space of a few minutes at the height of the storm, leaving those afflicted no time to save any of their belongings.

I chanced on the Pennards Hill devastation myself during the afternoon. I was in a rather relaxed state, and seeing the tops of tents stick up out of murky water was one of the most "dude!" moments of any of the Glastonburys I've been to.

I have often thought how Glastonbury has aspects of a refugee camp to it, albeit a very well-appointed one for well-heeled refugees. This year maybe some people got a bit too much of a taste of what a real refugee camp might be like, and they did not like it. Apparently you had to queue to walk off the site on Friday afternoon, so many people were leaving. Surely more must have seen the television footage and thought "fuck that!" and stayed at home.

However, after the Friday morning downpour the weather remained rather clement. I do not think it rained again, and the sun put in occasional appearances on Friday and Saturday afternoon, while Sunday was just full on sunny. In some ways I agree with Michael Eavis' comments that the wet years are more crack than the dry ones, in that you don't have the Yellow-Face threatening to burn you or making you feel stinky and sluggish. Still, I wish I had brought gaiters.