Patrik Fitzgerald

Patrik Fitzgerald, originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Ain't Brighton brilliant? Where else could you enjoy an afternoon Bank Holiday mini-music festival in a bungalow back garden for a minimum donation of 2 English pounds? Well, probably lots of places, for I didn't realise that there's a whole network of 'house venues' around which bands and solo performers can organise tours. This was the final date of Brooklyn-based Mia Riddle's UK tour (with 3-piece backing band), supported by 3-piece band Little Lights – xylophones (or metalophones) are big this year, both Mia and Little Lights were using them! Another tour that culminated here (because they had no London date) was the phenomenal The King Blues from Hackney, whose name doesn't convincingly convey what they play, which is a sort of urban reggae string-band punk folk, with lots of whistling and ukulele action from the lead singer with the sweet voice Itch. They were the headline act and rightly so (they were followed by an indoor session from Brighton's Jacques Brel Phil Jeays) - they even sold out of CDs before I could get one, but I did get a badge - and you can get a signed CD for less than a tenner from their website.

Surprise addition to the bill was legendary punk poet Patrik Fitzgerald, who's been living in New Zealand. I did manage to grab his CD - and get it signed. He was very impressed by my 'All sewn up' badge from way back in the 70s. The whole event was put on by Pog's Paul Stapleton and as well as their full-band excellent sing-along set ('la la la... go vegan, etc), band members Deacon Brown (who opened the proceedings on keyboard and guitar) and Wob (my nephew ex-Anal Beard Richard went and hid when it was suggested he made a guest appearance!) did spirited solo sets. Tim Holehouse also did a great acoustic set, and local hero Attila the Stockbroker read some poems. It didn't rain, tho it was a bit windy! So, what a great way to spend a Bank Holiday -10 acts, 2 CDs, a Quorn hot dog (ta Tammy) and a badge - thanks Paul for a great day out. More photos on Flickr.


Edinburgh observations

Edinburgh observations, originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Two observations about my 10th visit to Edinburgh this year (11th if I count that VLSI conference in the 1970s).

Pies: Edinburgh is a great place for pie eaters. The health food shop Real Foods at Tollcross where I got my mueseli has two whole long shelves of pies and pasties in its chiller cabinet (too nervous to take a photo!), including Henderson's branded ones (tip: unless you like soggy pastry, don't let the wee lassie at Henderson's microwave them for you!). The 99p pasties and 80p samosas from Real Foods were fantastic! Why can't we have the same variety down south? Edinburgh also has the Piemaker shop on South Bridge (sadly the Tollcross branch has closed) for a quick street snack.

Smoking ban: yes it's great there's a smoking ban now in force, but if you just like sitting outside a pub and watching the world go by with your pint of 80/-, you'll have difficulty finding a table these days, cos they're all occupied by the smokers!


Edinburgh 2006

Edinburgh 2006, originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Edinburgh this year was intense - all that walking (mainly up hill) and drinking - but was probably the best yet. The following is a bit of a list - sorry!

Wednesday 16 August: flew by Airbus 319 G-EZAA from Gatwick - the easyJet experience (my first) was painless, but the airport was a nightmare - long queues for check-in, longer queues for security. Had to remove my shoes and belt! But after a bus journey, a traditional pint of 80/- was waiting for me at The Caledonian Bar at Haymarket, then it was the traditional walk along the Quarter Mile to the Pleasance for the traditional first-night's entertainment. Saw them recording The Edinburgh Show in the courtyard, but please, someone tell me what is Zina Saro-Wiwa for? She's neither use nor ornament, and Matthew Sweet is not much improvement. Why do they have to try to be funny in the presence of comedians? Bring back Mariella, I say. Then went to see Ed Byrne's 'Standing Up and Falling Down' at the Grand, who was really great.

Thursday 17 August: went to see AL Kennedy at the Stand upstairs, got picked on, but not as much as Sam's friend Finlow from the Isle of Man. She was better than the reviews made out, but why oh why would a successful author want to do stand-up? Popped next door to the portrait gallery for the Harry Benson photojournalism exhibition, pricey but well worth it (Sam is a 'friend' so got in free anyway!). In the evening saw Luke Haines at the Underbelly - he sang about Sarah Lucas, Gary Glitter and the Brighton Trunk Murderer amongst others, plus there was an erudite Q&A session.

Friday 18 August: raining! Saw 'Moon the Loon' at the Pleasance (no reference to Viv Stanshall, but an entertaining play none the less). Made the traditional annual pilgrimage to The Stand for Simon Munnery's AGM, and was treated to an extra hour in the garden of the nearby Star Bar afterwards, in the pouring rain! Great value - see photo above. In the evening it was 'Political Animal' in the Underbelly Baby Caves - compered by Andy Zaltzman, our night featured Aussie Steve Hughes, surreal Tony Law, and the very funny Stewart Lee. Great venue!

Saturday 19 August: art day. Started at the Fruitmarket with the subtle work of Marijke van Warmerdam (too subtle for me! but thankfully the film loops were quite short). Then it was over the road to the City Art Centre for two floors of gorgeous Art Nouveau posters and three of Albert Watson's fantastic gigantic photos. Popped over to the Gilded Balloon to check out Ben Rowe's pictures, then to the Spiegeltent for more drinks and celeb spotting (eg Keith from The Office!). In the evening we made the traditional pilgrimage to Peter Buckley Hill's Free Fringe gig at the Canon's Gate. When in doubt, this is the one to make for - four perfectly acceptable comedians and it's totally free! Top of the bill was Robin Ince and on the strength of his performance we decided to see The Book Club the very next day.

Sunday 20 August: The Book Club at the Underbelly, with Robin Ince and others (including the batty Josie Long). We'd been thinking of seeing some dance, and this gig fulfilled the ambition, with dance (and free-form accordian) to Danielle Steel's poems. There was also a great Gnarls Barkley running gag (literally) and Dr Who trivia. Top night (afternoon) out.

Monday 21 August: day off, knackered and all cultured out.

Tuesday 22 August: day trip to Glasgow to visit GoMa, Rogano, the wonderfully refurbished Kelvingrove, full of gems, and the Museum of Transport. Dumplings at Chop Chop back in Ed.

Wednesday 23 August: more art with David Shrigley's prints (his activities sheet for kids was hilarious), some obscure paintings at DoggerFisher (what do you expect!), then Ron Mueck at the RSA - amazing! and very creepy seeing those giant and wee hairy people almost breathing! We'd already done the galleries on Fopp Street (Cockburn Street) - one on rave culture and another with not very interesting cartoony paintings - and had decided to give Adam Elsheimer, Mapplethorpe, Van Gogh and the sexual politics thing at the Talbot Rice a miss. Popped along to the Book Festival to celeb spot, then to Roti for a sublime slice of red snapper, and to The Canny Man's in Morningside for a wee bevvy, before Daniel Kitson's C-90 at the Traverse. Unfortunately as we were going in, the usherette spotted our tickets were for the Tuesday! I got a refund!

Thursday 24 August: trip to Leith to see Sam's mother and an exhibition in the Corn Exchange that was literally a load of cobblers, err cobbles. Why? There were also brass rubbings of manhole covers too and a nice wee goody bag with free magnifying glass (Lauren Kirkman). Also caught an exhibition of erotic B&W photos by Michael Wildman at the A1 Gallery. He was there and gave us a guided tour. Wee couple of drams at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and then back to Auld Reekie for Andrew Maxwell at the Pleasance Cabaret bar. A great finale to a great week.

Friday 25 August: more long chaotic queues at Edinbugh airport and home on G-EZID.


Luke Haines

Luke Haines, originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Just back from just over a week in Edinburgh, for the festival. One of the highlights was seeing Luke Haines at the Underbelly (with a Q&A session thrown in). Saw lots of great comedy and art - a list will follow - and not a dud amongst them!


50 over 50

Finally got to see the 50 over 50 exhibition at the University of Brighton Gallery, Grand Parade, part of the Celebrating Age Festival. I was very impressed by the standard (why am I surprised?) and enjoyed almost all of the exhibits. Chris Stevens' oil 'Versace', depicting a young black man against a wall decorated by NF grafitti, is a worthy winner of the 5 grand prize and I loved another big canvas 'Turkish market' by Judith Jarvis. Most of all I was drawn to the pencil works: David Crew's 'Hidden Past' of a graveyard (worryingly, quite a few of the exhibits studied illness and death!) and the thin reversed out abstract lines by Geoff Catlow, who must get himself a life! Liz Skulkina's graphite-like prints on draughtsman's paper are wonderfully subtle, but two layers would have sufficed. There are also a few pieces of sculpture: notably Michael Allen's giant fabric flea, and Joan Ainley's multiple of a camouflaged poppy 'Search: recall reflect remember' stood out. The only local I recognised was Roger Bamber, and there was quite a lot of outstanding photography besides his. So why wasn't judge Cyril Mount represented? And why only 50? Maybe next year it'll be 60 over 60! The exhibition continues until the end of August. Don't miss it!


Fort Rox

Fort Rox, originally uploaded by fred pipes.

I'm not one for festivals - I like my home comforts too much - but Newhaven Fort was an inspired location for the first Fort Rox, curated by British Sea Power. The prospect of seven bands for 10 quid, from noon to 6pm on a Saturday afternoon was very appealing - the only downer was that rain had been forecast for the south east! I arrived as Jacob's Stories were half way through their set: a beardy bloke on guitar and a lady cellist Abi Fry (who joined BSP later). I liked what I heard very much, and later bought the CD from the merchanise arch (the only CD for sale!). The shop also sold BSP badges and wonderful silk-screened posters by BRAG (British Rock Artists Group), a collective inspired by the gig posters exhibition in the Festival. Next up were local band Charlottefield, who made a bit of a racket, then The Research, a tuneful low-fi threesome (two girls and a boy) from Wakefield, who I absolutely loved. Nick arrived at this point, an hour late. I'd already been disappointed by my visit to the bar - the only beer on offer was pissy Carlsberg in a plastic bottle for £3.50. Also spotted Erica and Melita who were on their way to the VIP area (where beer was also £3.50 a bottle) and Nick's ATP friends Georgina and Michelle who were on the same train as me but I didn't properly recognise.

We then decided to take advantage of a one-quid tour of the ramparts, which was far more extensive than I'd imagined. We went right up to windy precipitous heights above the cliffs overlooking the Channel with fine views of Seaford Head to inspect the gun emplacements, under the expert guidance of a French lady called Francoise. From the hills above the fort, we heard the wonderful Scottish songs of My Latest Novel, which came as an unexpected pleasure. Back on terra firma, it still hadn't rained and in fact was sunny off and on (and I hadn't packed a sun hat!). But during The Duke Spirit, a kind of 70s-feel band with a blonde lady harmonica player, a fine drizzle started to descend. Excitement was mounting for the headliners, with women in 1940s outfits distributing home-made fabric flags and twigs to the awaiting hoards, including the Mayor (favourite band Staus Quo) and Mayoress of Newhaven. BSP didn't disappoint, even with the absense of Eamon, gone to The Brakes full time. No twigs or birds on the dark stage, but they were joined towards the end of the hour-long set by a Great Bear. Things started to get a bit out of hand and Who-like at the end, resulting in Noble breaking his guitar! A great day out, polished off by a welcome couple of pints of Harvey's in the garden of a public house by the docks called The Ark. Next year Lout Promotions, please install comfy chairs for the oldies, and a barrel of Harvey's in the bar and it'll be perfect!

The band I missed was The Honeycuts from nearby Lewes. They are all on MySpace, so make up your own mind!



Devant fan Mr Peekaboo mentioned over coffee today that he'd always thought I'd taken my name from the BBC mockumentary Ghostwatch, which starred a Mr Pipes, so called because he made noises in the plumbing. The spooky thing is that when I tried to 'blog this' from my browser, it failed, twice!

Mr Solo

Mr Solo, originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Mere worthless words cannot describe how marvellous it was to see Mr Solo at The Engine Room, Brighton last night. It was a packed bill, starting with Foz? accompanying various strange people from the Las Vegas Mermaids in something involving balloons, teddy bears and popcorn (I love yummy things?). More balloon action from balloon man Ryan Parker, doing a doggie workshop, then it was The Utopians, starring our promoter for the evening Heidi Heelz. Another interlude of balloon nonsense, then a caped Mr Solo took the stage for an hour-long set comprising almost everything off his album (on sale in the corner) 'All will be revealed', including two goes at his single 'Number One' aka 'Home sick home'. For 'Distant stars' he was joined by two angelic ladies called Sparkle Motion. Foz? was guitaring in the dark throughout, but took to the stage for the encore, during which unfortunately I had to change video tape! A tremendous night out, and all for three English pounds. Many thanks Heidi.