Tuesday 26 September 2017

The master of horror, some international art excursions and a healthy dose of rock...

29th August - 10th September 2017

The Shining - BFI Southbank

We had a fortnights annual leave so managed to squeeze in plenty of cultural exploits both here and on a short break to Venice, so without further ado...

Nightmares & Dreamscapes : Stephen King On Screen

To kick off the Stephen King On Screen season at the BFI Southbank, curator Michael Blyth presented a talk encompassing all the on screen iterations of Stephen King works to date, along with a few clips and pictures to highlight some of the most notable and infamous.

Sitting only second to Shakespeare for the most adapted author on screen meant that this list of works was not inconsiderable, however Blyth's hugely entertaining, well researched and well written talk managed to fly through chronologically exploring not only the popular titles which have become staples in pop culture but also some of the more obscure takes on King's work, including the myriad of student shorts. 

It was quite surprising to realise how many we'd seen, and how many actually existing, although many probably not available for general viewing as they are either tied up in rights hell or part of the aforementioned student works.

As an introduction to the season ahead though it was superb and really whetted the appetite for catching some Stephen King on both the big and small screen, this year being King's seventieth birthday means it's a bumper year with the new adaptations of 'It' and 'The Mist', plus adaptations of 'Gerald's Game', 'Mr Mercedes', '1922' and the 'Castle Rock' TV series to come. Brilliant and geeky!

Damien Hirst : Treasures From The Wreck Of The Unbelievable

We decided whilst off to take a small break in Venice, part of the reasoning behind the choice was for the opportunity to catch Damien Hirst's latest monumental exhibition 'Treasures From The Wreck Of The Unbelievable' a huge, high concept show on display across two huge galleries.

This is Hirst's first show for a while, and is seen as a comeback of sorts, however he hasn't exactly been doing nothing, what with the construction and launch of his Newport Street Gallery in London and the shows there from his personal art collection.

However having read a few teasers for this show with Hirst explaining how it's been an idea germinating for nigh on a decade it promised to be something special, and with all the works in the show for sale and the massive spaces required to house it all the likelihood of this show being on display, (at least in this configuration), is pretty remote so we thought why not?

The concept behind the show is that a wreck of a ship containing treasures from several ancient civilisations was discovered and recovered from the sea bed, and the many articles are collected together here and have been been either restored, replicas created alongside the originals or left in the condition as discovered undersea replete with coral and barnacles which have become part of the items. However not all is as it seems, something which is alluded to at the opening of the part of the show at Punta Della Dogana, alongside one of many videos showing the recovery operation out at sea.

We started at the Palazzo Grassi, which opens with an eighteen metre high resin recreation of one of the finds, a headless bronze statue of a man with a sacrificial bowl, an immediately awesome sight which sits in the central courtyard of the building and is visible from every level as you go up and progress throughout the exhibition.

Alongside many of the pieces are photos of the items where they were found on the sea bed alongside the recovery teams.

However the fine line between truth and a lie becomes blurred when certain objects confound the whole concept of the show, for instance a bronze Mickey Mouse or a statue reportedly of the 'The Collector' which bears an uncanny resemblance to Hirst himself...

The wealth of artefacts, along with the research and stories connected to each piece is staggering and only heightened by the inclusion of items which add a certain authenticity to the whole show by their inclusion, whole display cases of mundane objects such as tools or various ancient coins which would be expected in such exhibitions sit alongside the massive fantastical statues and rooms of articles crafted from precious metals.

Hirst has been described as a modern day PT Barnum and this show certainly lends credence to that theory, however the artistry and craft on display is really something to behold and the show itself is a must see for that reason alone.

It's on display until December and is a must see as far we're concerned.

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection

After the monumental Damien Hirst exhibition we stopped by The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, which occupies the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, Guggenheim's former home and now a modern art museum which showcases her impressive personal collection of art.

Situated along The Grand Canal in Venice, it's an idyllic oasis away from the bustling streets and contains a small landscaped gardens brimming with sculptures and two buildings, one of which was the house, which houses the variety of art by some of the most famous names in modern art.

Featuring works by the links of Picasso, Rothko, Kapoor, Bacon, Warhol, Giacometti and Lewitt to name but a few, many of the pieces are less well known because they riside in this collection and have only been on regular public show sine Guggenheim's death in 1979.

The opportunity to take in such amazing works in such an intimate setting is truly something special, and the outside settings, either in the gardens or by the canal make the museum a true one off and certainly a must see if ever in Venice.

Grayson Perry : The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!

As we were off on annual leave we decided to pop into town earlier to catch a couple of exhibitions before they close.

First up was the latest Grayson Perry show at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park.

Perry has entered the mainstream consciousness more prominently in the last few years, mainly due to his series of TV documentaries on a variety of subjects such as Brexit, his ceramic house/art project in Essex and the subject of masculinity and how it's changed.

This show exhibits a selection of his ceramics, tapestries and some other items which mainly look at society and the effects of Brexit, exploring attitudes in society as a whole.

Perry's skill as a potter, designer and artist, whether in his tapestry design, painting on his pots or his woodcut prints is clearly evident, and it's refreshing to see a show exhibiting such mediums which are sadly a rarity in the contemporary art scene.

His pots depicting the leave and remain sections of society are playful yet insightful highlighting the differences, but crucially the similarities between these cross sections of society.

Another of his ceramics on show was a piggy bank with different slots in it each labelled with a different emotion, such as hope or charity, allowing the viwer to decide why his donation is made.

Unfortunately the show has now closed, however Perry is quite prolific so a new show is surely not too far away, and the work is well worth catching for a more idiosyncratic and unique voice in the art landscape.

Their Mortal Remains : Pink Floyd

The next exhibition on out hit list was at the V & A, and was a retrospective of the career of one of the biggest British bands ever, Pink Floyd.

We'd been to the previous exhibition about David Bowie, (it's actually where it all began for us), so we had an idea what to expect, and it seems they've followed that generally successful format.

You're given a headset with a receiver and as you walk near an exhibit it plays the relevant music or audio from a video playing by that item or area.

The exhibition starts out laying the groundwork for the music scene at the time and the types of venues and clubs that influenced and hosted early Pink Floyd shows, then moves on to presenting the band chronologically by album.

There are cases and displays which house actual instruments used, along with other memorabilia and equipment used by the band in each of the eras, with detailed explanations of each, and each album also has a video running by it with interviews with the key personnel discussing the music.

Moving further into the exhibition and as the band grew both artistically, musically and in terms of stage show, other aspects of the group are detailed, including their architectural backgrounds and how they used them to produce monumental stage sets, they collaborations with artists to produce album artwork and their famous inflatables used in promotion and stage shows.

Also touched upon are the various incarnations of the band, and their evolution through the years.

For a band which has never really embraced a mainstream sound they have managed to become a juggernaut in terms of cultural presence and sales which has put them in a unique position as in total control of their output.

The show concludes with two video projections, one from the start of their career showing photos of the band against a backdrop of the song 'Arnold Layne' and then video of their last performance as a complete line up at Live 8 of 'Comfortably Numb', (Mr C was actually there so it brought back memories!), a fitting end to the show.

The exhibition has been extended until the 15th of October and is well worth checking out.

Creepshow and Discussion Panel

Our last stop of the day was the BFI Southbank and a Stephen King classic.

This was our first screening as part of the Stephen King On Screen season, and a first time viewing for Mrs C of this classic, which saw the melding of King's storytelling with George A Romero's horror direction creating a comic horror anthology which has never been bettered.

The style of the stories, short and sweet with a usually moral pay off at the end, all tied together with a framing story. Inspired by the EC horror comics of the fifties such as 'Tales From The Crypt' the garish colours and tongue in cheek tone is captured perfectly on screen, with creative use of comic book panels and graphics maintaining the influence.

There are five stories in all, 'Father's Day', 'The Lonesome Death Of Jordy Verrill', 'Something To Tide You Over', 'The Crate' and 'They're Creeping Up On You' all with suitable gloopy special effects courtesy of the legendary Tom Savini, and a host of stars including Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson, Ed Harris, EG Marshall, Hal Holbrook and even Stephen King himself as the titular Jordy Verrill.

I won't spoil the stories, but needless to say the usual comeuppance and vengeance storylines are all present and correct and the whole movie is a must see for how it nails the tone, design and masterful storytelling, this was also a 35mm presentation which in itself was a rare treat and looked great in all it colourful gory glory.

The screening was followed by a discussion chaired by the season curator Michael Blyth and featured horror fans from within the industry from podcasters to film magazine writers as they discussed their affection for the film and it's impact on them.

A great start to our Stephen King cinematic activities...

Maximum Overdrive

On Saturday we headed to the BFI Southbank once again, for a self made Stephen King double bill.

First up was the only directorial credit to King's name...

Once again Mrs C was being introduced for the first time to another of the delights of King's film based output, this time directed by the man himself, 'Maximum Overdrive'.

Based on a very short story called 'Trucks' it concerns a group of people trapped in a roadside diner by a group of sentient trucks, although expanded more for the film encompassing various pieces of technology taking on a life of their own.

The film, (slightly unfairly), gets touted as terrible, when in reality it's no different to much of the eighties cheesy horror, and is very much in the vein of something like 'Tremors' or more recently 'Infestation!', with elements of comedy.

It stars Emilio Estevez and Pat Hingle who do well with what they're given, whilst King's direction is energetic to say the least it's shortcomings are mainly due to inexperience and his alleged Coke addiction, however it certainly has charm and passes the time well, plenty of laughs, ludicrous dialogue and a bonkers premise.

This presentation was also in 35mm which was great, replete with scratches and the marks of time it gave the movie a proper eighties low budget feel which was fantastic, Blyth's choices for the season and the acquisition of actual 35mm prints is to be applauded.

Definitely worth catching, don't be put off by the negativity it's a lot of fun.

The Shining

From the ridiculous to the sublime for the second part of our double bill, and a stone cold classic to boot, Stanley Kubrick's version of 'The Shining'.

This was the full length, (read American cut), of 'The Shining' which was originally shortened for international release, the shortened release rumoured to be Kubrick's favoured cut.

King famously doesn't care for this version of his novel, and the changes are evident, which means this film should really be considered a Stanley Kubrick film as opposed to a Stephen King adaptation.

The plot centres on the Torrance family, Jack Nicholson the father, Jack, Shelley Duvall as his wife Wendy and their son Danny, Danny Lloyd who take up residence at the Overlook Hotel as winter caretakers, a hotel with a bloody past as well as many other dark secrets in it's past which gradually haunt the family, and are channelled through Danny who has a heightened sense which is referred to as Shining. All of which leads to tragic consequences for all involved.

Kubrick's meticulous staging and cinematography, coupled with Nicholson's domineering performance as Jack Torrance are truly the perfect match. The overlook hotel manages to convey it's dark past slowly but surely, with the memories of it's horrific past gradually revealed to the family through waking nightmares and subtle changes to Torrance's personality.

The atmosphere and tension Kubrick manages to build up and sustain is masterful and it really is a true classic which is a masterclass in film making.

This was a restored print, projected digitally and looked as flawless as you'd expect.

If you get a chance to catch it on the big screen it's well worth it to immerse yourself in the visuals and mood of the film.

Slowly playing catch up, so the next couple will be fortnightly, but plenty of varied and really good events to explore, so get inspired...

Tuesday 19 September 2017

Plenty of sunshine soaked rock, some classic 90s brit pop and a dash of murder and mini golf...

21st August - 28th August 2017

Brent Rademaker - Betsey Trotwood

Apologies for the tardiness of the blog, but we've been on holiday and playing catch up... All music, all the way this installment with just a snifter of murder and mini golf...

Brent Rademaker

On Tuesday night as a primer for the following night's excursion to the MOTH Club in Hackney, Mr C took a trip to the Betsey Trotwood pub near Old Street for a last minute addition tot he week's adventures to catch Californian Brent Rademaker performing an intimate acoustic show in the tiny upstairs room.

Rademaker is best known for his stints with indie rock band Further and cosmic country band Beachwood Sparks and now returns with his latest project GospelbeacH, a classic country rock outfit.

There were a couple of warm up acts in the form of David Christian from the band Comet Gain and Welsh singer songwriter Simon Love. Of the two Simon Love was more my cup of tea coming across like a passive aggressive Paul McCartney with his smartly cynical pop songs with catchy choruses and hummable melodies, I'd highly recommend picking up his album 'It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time', and check out his single 'The New Adam And Eve' as a good starting point.

Rademaker was up next, initially starting of solo with an acoustic guitar he played a couple of Further and Beachwood Sparks songs, which pleased the die hards there, (guilty), and then was joined by GospelbeacH's guitarist and keyboard player to take us through several tracks from their debut 'Pacific Surf Line' and their latest 'Another Summer Of Love'.

All the material sounded great and it was a real treat to be amongst such a tiny audience who really appreciated the acts and actually listened.

This was just a warm up for the following night however with a GospelbeacH full band show...


So on Wednesday I headed over to Hackney and the fantastic MOTH Club for the full GospelbeacH experience, along with the superb Miranda Lee Richards who used GospelbeacH as her band and the fantastic country rockers The Hanging Stars from London.

The Hanging Stars opened and got the audience primed with some lovely sounding Gram Parsons/Neil Young inspired tunes, a mixture of material from their debut 'Over The Silvery Lake' which is highly recommended and some material from the upcoming new album due next year. Well worth checking out.

Next up was Miranda Lee Richards, previously of The Brian Jonestown Massacre for a brief spell and now a solo singer songwriter, backed by GospelbeacH and promoting her latest album 'Existential Beast'.

Richards' sound takes the familiar cosmic country sound and chucks in a little folkiness and a good dash of Stevie Nicks for good measure, creating a layered and warm Fleetwood Mac meets Joni Mitchell vibe.

Particular standouts were 'Ashes and Seeds' and 'On The Outside Of Heaven', check out her latest album and it's predecessor 'Echoes Of The Dreamtime' for some criminally underexposed talent.

Next up were headliners GospelbeacH, launching straight into 'Sunshine Skyway' from their debut, a sunshine drenched slice of country and from there didn't let up.

Gospelbeach's sound has evolved with their latest release which has a more 70s FM rock approach reminscent of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers.

Tracks such as 'Hangin' On' and 'Kathleen' are particular favourites and were performed with a great energy, Miranda Lee Richards joined them for a great closer with 'California Fantasy' which brought the show sadly to a end.

Hopefully they'll be back over here soon, whilst their latest album 'Another Summer Of Love' is definitely one of the albums of the year and should be on everyone's radar.

The full set was as follows:

Sunshine Skyway
In The Desert
Hangin' On
Strange Days
California Steamer
Out Of My Mind (On Cope And Reed)
Mick Jones
California Fantasy

Ocean Colour Scene

For the bank holiday weekend we headed down to the coast to catch Ocean Colour Scene live on Hastings pier.

We're both big fans of their 90s classic Moseley Shoals which was being performed in full, alongside some of their other hits so our expectations were high.

There were also two support acts in the form of Peter Hook & The Light and The Bootleg Beatles.

Peter Hook kicked things off nicely with a nostalgic set featuring several New Order classics, such as 'Blue Monday; and 'True Faith', and Joy Division anthem 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'.

Next up were The Bootleg Beatles who performed a set focusing primarily on the earlier part of the Fab Four's output, 'She Loves You' and the like always guaranteed to get the crowd going, and performed very well as expected.

Finally as the sun began to set Ocean Colour Scene took the stage and immediately broke into their breakout hit 'Riverboat Song' and from there they didn't let up. They proceeded to progress through the entire album, although in a slightly different order and the crowd, were clearly lapping up every minute of it singing along to every song.

They then played a few other hits from their career including 'Traveller's Tune' and '100 Mile High City'.

They still sounded great, Simon Fowler in particular still sounding as good as he did at the time the songs first came out.

If you're a fan of the album it's well worth catching one of these shows!

The True Crime Museum

On Sunday morning, before headed onwards to a short break in Brighton we decided to check out the intriguing True Crime Museum on Hastings seafront.

The entrance enticingly had quotes and snippets of info regarding infamous serial killers and murderers and the opportunity to peruse the collection of evidence and displays in the chilling caves was too irresistible to pass up.

The museum starts with a recreation of an actual electric chair used in the US which sets the mood for what's to follow.

Seperated into sections dealing with each different sort of crime the displays encompass robberies, heists, murders, forgery, animal abuse, drugs and serial murderers, with a couple of mannequins creatively used to recreate scenarios...

There's also plenty of actual evidence and items to illustrate particular crimes, and actual memorabilia, such as letters and drawings by serial killers and criminals, including the Krays.

One of the cave chambers has also been dubbed the death room, featuring actual items related to murders such as a bathtub used to dissolve a body, a real previously used noose and an actual medical gurney used for lethal injections, all very morbid but nonetheless intriguing.

With a fun little challenge to complete when making your way round it made for a very entertaining hour or so if that sort of thing floats your boat!

Celsi, Bragg and Maitland

So on Monday evening we made our way to a small pub called The Greys in the Hanover part of Brighton catch a show by American singer/songwriter Anny Celsi, singer/songwriter/percussionist for Brian Wilson/drummer Nelson Bragg and British singer/songwriter Duncan Maitland.

They've just collaborated on an album made up of covers, radio sessions and self penned tracks called 'The Road To Glasgow' and embarked on a low key short tour of the UK to promote it.

They describe their sound a mix of Brill Building hooks and Byrdsian rock which is pretty accurate and the chance to see them in such an intimate venue was a real treat.

They also had a special guest in Tony Poole, guitarist with seventies band Starry Eyed And Laughing.

They played a variety of material from each of their solo releases as well as they stuff they'd penned together, and a plentiful selection of superb covers, including 'To Sir With Love' and 'Mr Tambourine Man' which really played to their strength of fantastic harmonies and meticulous musicianship.

They played for roughly two hours, and being such a small venue with a highly appreciative crowd it really felt like something special and personal which was great.

The album's available now, and their individual solo releases are also well worth checking out, they should be back over next year to play again and are well worth checking out if you get a chance.


So on Tuesday morning before setting off home we decided to pop down to Brighton marina and play some neon dinosaur minigolf, as you do...

We love a bit of minigolf anyway so this looked like a bit of a different spin.

It's a twelve hole course which is in the dark but all the dinosaurs are painted with neon colours and the black lights provide enough light to see what you're doing basically.

The design was quite compact, and a round didn't take more than about thirty to forty minutes, however some of the holes were quite tricky and the novel element works well enough.

We also saw a mum fall over which is always a winner!

If you're in the area and like a bit of minigolf it's probably worth a visit.

The next episode is a double week encompassing some international activities too, so stay tuned and get inspired...