Gareth Goes to Glyndebourne

I watched the first episode of Gareth Malone‘s latest exploits on BBC2 last night. In Gareth Goes to Glyndebourne, the ever-charming and delightfully enthusiastic Gareth follows the now-familiar pattern of taking a bunch of ordinary working-class kids and introducing them to a whole new world of music and singing, in this case by getting them to perform in a specially written opera at the world-renowned Glyndebourne opera house.

Yes, we’ve seen similar stuff before, and in the hands of almost anyone else it’d be quite boring by now, but somehow Gareth Malone manages to keep our interest. A great deal of this has to be due to his infectious passion for singing and his refusal to give up in the face of the kids’ initial indifference. It really is lovely to watch, despite a certain predictability. I’ll be glued to the remaining two episodes and to whatever Mr. Malone comes up with next.

Music Streaming On My Phone

I have a Nokia 5800 mobile phone, which I really love. It’s easily the best mobile I’ve ever had. I’ve recently been playing with the podcast client, which is pretty good, and also the Last.fm client, Mobbler, which is great. But until Spotify release their client for my phone, something I’ve been awaiting eagerly, I wanted something that would allow me greater control over what I listen to. At this point, step forward MeCanto. Sign up, install the software on your computer and also the phone client and you’re away. Instantly, you can listen to all your music on the move, regardless of how large your collection is. The software uploads your collection (limited to a speed you can control) to the MeCanto servers, from where you can stream it to any computer with a browser or to your phone. And if it hasn’t been uploaded yet that’s OK as long as your computer at home is on, as it’ll grab whatever you want to listen to from there.

The service even preserves the file structure on your computer and allows you to connect multiple machines, so a whole family could share a collection with each other. I really am very impressed. It doesn’t quite do away with the need for an MP3 player, since the 3G/WiFi coverage required isn’t yet universal, but it comes very close indeed. Top marks.

Update: The Spotify client for Symbian phones is now available! Point your mobile’s browser at m.spotify.com to get it.

Classical Music Rocks!

I’ve always rather liked classical music. My mother played a lot of it when my brother and I were kids and much of it went in and stuck. However, I’ve never really known a great deal about it or explored it in any depth. I’ve found myself listening to it a lot more recently, and I’ve even bought the odd CD and MP3. And you know what? I’ve discovered that I more than rather like it. I’m still figuring out exactly what I do and don’t like, and I know next to nothing about any of it, but it feels as though I’m starting out on a real voyage of discovery, to use a rather tired metaphor. It’s exciting and new and, above all, fun. So, I’m trying a bit of everything and doing my best to keep an open mind and approach what I hear with fresh, unbiased ears. Any and all recommendations will be exceedingly welcome.

Stealing Jenni in Stockwell

Last night we played for Camden Calling at the Cavendish Arms in Stockwell, and had a great time. Jenni’s brother Frank came along, and it was great to meet him. Also present were Matt, who videoed the entire proceedings, and his friend Guy and I was also very pleased to see Rob and Ellie. The nicest things were feeling more relaxed this time around, having more fun with the audience and seeing people singing along. There were one or two (or possibly more) moments where I fluffed the chords but, most importantly, we kept going and I managed to recover.

Unfortunately I was feeling very tired, not having slept terribly well for the previous two or three nights, so I had to make my excuses and leave early, something I’m normally reluctant to do as I feel it’s polite to see the other bands. Besides, there were some really good artists on the bill and it would have been lovely to hear them. I shall have to try to be more rested next time.

Forgetful? Me?

Being a complete idiot, I forgot about the overground strike last night until I arrived at Liverpool Street station as usual and remembered as I walked in. In my defence, I was pretty tired and on autopilot. Anyway, not much harm done – I just walked to Moorgate station and got the tube home from there. I shall try not to repeat the error tonight as Jenni and I have our final rehearsal before our gig in Stockwell on Sunday night. Who knows, I might even have all the songs committed to memory by then.

Stealing Jenni’s First Gig

Stealing Jenni

Last night was our first gig, courtesy of Camden Calling. I’d been extremely nervous but as it turned out I needn’t have been. There were one or two fluffs but essentially we did really well. It was Jenni’s birthday, too, so before we started there was a cake, bubbles in lieu of candles, and a rousing chorus of ‘Happy Birthday To You’. We played all six of the songs we’d decided to cover, the audience favourite being our slow, acoustic version of Britney Spears’ ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’, which went over very well indeed. The best news of all is that we’ve been asked to play again, which was my criterion for judging the evening a success, so I’m very pleased. A huge thanks to Alexis and Camden Calling for having faith and putting us on unauditioned.

You can find the complete set of photos here.

Gigs At Two Venues

OK, now I’ve got this site moved to a new host I can start blogging again properly. So last Tuesday my friend Jenni and I headed for the Underworld in Camden to see friends The Veil playing. Neither of us had seen them live before and I have to confess we were both suitably impressed. If Goth/Metal is your thing, give them a listen.

Once we were done there we headed over to Monto Water Rats to see The Quotes. Jenni had seen them before and had given me a copy of their album, which I really like. They were excellent live and a thoroughly good time was had, especially as we bumped into Ruth, who we’d met before at an SCA event.

An honourable mention also goes to Lux Lisbon, who were also on at Monto’s. Tight, poppy, good looking. Well worth seeing again.

Guitar Lessons

I’ve been playing the guitar for many years, on and off, but really not improving very much. However, getting back into making music recently and having a gig lined up are forcing me to up my game. To that end, I have an initial assessment with a local guitar teacher tonight. Handily, he also teaches performance-related stuff such as building a repertoire and singing harmonies. I’m hoping that he’ll be able to help me push my playing to the next level, and if I can gain something useful between now and our first gig I’ll be very happy.

Feeling Better

This morning I woke up feeling much, much better and more awake than I have for some time. I really hope this is the beginning of the end of my recent bout of insomnia, with which I’ve been boring the pants off the world recently.

Another plus is that tonight I’m off to see my friends Lord Byron play at the launch of their single, which all of you will, of course, buy immediately. I know I may be viewed as just a tad biased but they really are very good indeed, as well as being genuinely nice people. If you want to support an up-and-coming band, this is the one. At least until Stealing Jenni get going properly! 🙂

First Proper Gig

My friend Jenni and I decided a while back to get together to perform some music. A rather silly discussion between ourselves and my fiancee Jenny produced the name Stealing Jenni. Nick, Jenni – see? Anyway, we’ve been rehearsing and have now secured our first proper gig courtesy of the fine people at Camden Calling. It’ll be on 19th May at the Enterprise, Camden, starting at around 7pm. If you’re in the area, do please come along and see us and the other fine acts on the bill. It’s all in a very good cause.

A Facebook page and MySpace page are currently under construction, although I’ve taken the liberty of linking to them from the sidebar already. There’s not a lot there yet, but do visit them regularly if you want to know what we’re up to.

Folkcast

This month’s Folkcast podcast is available now. If you like good music (and who doesn’t?) go and grab it now. There’s an excellent selection of stuff, including a song by an artist who’s new to me, Ruth Theodore. The great thing, I discovered, is that her album, Worm Food, is available as a free download. What more could you ask? Good music for nowt. Check her out and support her if you like what you hear. The same goes for all the other artists featured this month, of course.

Death Magnetic

I bought a copy of Metallica’s new album, Death Magnetic, yesterday. I’ve only listened to it once so far but I’m very impressed. It’s the best album I’ve bought for a while. It hearks back to the band’s earlier sound, which is rather like being hit repeatedly in the face by a load of spanners in a velvet bag (in a good way!) but retains a thoroughly modern feel. Solid, powerful riffs, some damn fine tunes and nice changes of pace. If heavy metal is your thing, give it a try.

FolkCast July ’08

This month’s edition of FolkCast is now available. It’s a special tribute show, after attacks on the Woven Wheat Whispers music site brought it down so many times that it was decided, very sadly, to abandon it. There really are some unpleasant people out there, people who seem to delight in destruction and in spoiling other folks’ pleasure for their own amusement. I can only hope that, somehow, they get what they deserve.

Folkcast January 2008

The latest podcast from Folkcast is now available. If you love good music I strongly recommend that you give it a try. Of particular merit this month is a wonderful track called Ulv, Ræv og Hare (Wolf, Fox and Hare) by Danish band Phønix. I tried to buy a copy of their latest album on the strength of this, but Amazon UK don’t seem to have it yet and I didn’t want to order it from Denmark. I could have had it as a download but I’m not too keen on the subscription services that stock it and the others all seem to require me to run Windows, which just isn’t going to happen. I guess I’ll just have to wait until Amazon have it or I find it elsewhere.

Update: After checking the prices of the band’s other albums on Amazon, where they’re available as imports from Germany, it became obvious that it would be cheaper for me to order the CD direct from Denmark, so I have. Including postage to the UK and Danish VAT (25%!!) it worked out at DKK 159.00, which I reckon is £15.73. Bargain.