From old to new: Alejandro Escovedo, a birthday and Jake Houlsby

Busy weekend this one, centred largely on music.

Alejandro Escovedo at the Cluny 

 On Friday I was at the Cluny (dedication considering the downpour that was going on outside) to see Alejandro Escovedo (double dedication as I’d never actually heard of the guy until last Wednesday).

Anyway, a friend had a spare ticket , and following some googling I unearthed this:


Yes, the guy is a friend of Bruce Springsteen, so on this basis alone I decided to give it a go. And it was okay. Perhaps a bit ‘rocky’ for my folk music taste.

I’d like to say I was too old for the gig, but I was possibly one of the youngest in there. I enjoyed maybe 70% of the gig, the band was spot on, Alejandro seems like a nice man, he had some great tracks, just the overall package wasn’t quite my thing.

Birthday fun at As You Like It 

Saturday night saw me at As You Like It, a bar/restaurant in Jesmond, Newcastle. This was for a friend’s birthday and while the music wasn’t the focus tonight there was a great house band on called The Imposters. Some funky covers were played, there was much dancing and there was even an impromptu striptease (not in our party I hasten to add).

Jake Houlsby – Bones EP and gig at O’Neills, Newcastle 

Jake’s EP Bones

Final gig of the week was up and coming North East based singer songwriter Jake Houlsby. The Birthday Girl had sent me some links to his saying that I would probably like him. And I did. When I heard he was doing a small (free) gig at a pub in Newcastle I was in there like swimwear (as the Birthday Girl might say 😉 ).

Bonus was the promise of a few pints and a free EP – sold!

My arrival was marred only slightly by the drunken letch at the bar who kept stroking my arm and saying “sorry pet” because he’d pushed in to get served.

 Never mind, I was soon settled in with a pint and a comfy seat as Jake played a cover of Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark – good choice so far and well played.

He sang a mix of his own tracks – stand out for me was Cracks which he dedicated to the Birthday Girl – and further covers. We had everything from a stomping sing-along to The Killer’s Mr Brightside (I was transported back to clubbing on a Saturday night at Ku Club, Sunderland) and a delightful take on Jose Gonzalez’s Heart beats (yes the song from the advert!).

Jake has a lovely tone and some great guitar skills. Watch out for him gigging in the North East or busking around Newcastle, stop and say hi, either for real or @jakehoulsby on Twitter. More ways to get in touch– http://www.jakehoulsby.com/

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‘I don’t think we’ve met’ – Trashed Organ Festival of Belonging Fringe Finale

May 3rd 2012 at The Bridge Hotel, Newcastle
Hosted by Trashed Organ
Only at a Trashed Organ event could you find video, poetry, music, live painting, flash fiction andaudience participation all mixed up like some weird art-based game of Twister.
John Challis and Melanie Rashbroke (Trashed Organ Directors aka The Organ Grinders) are making a bit of a name for themselves in arts and literary circles in the North East. Last night’s I don’t think we’ve met; part of the Festival of Belonging Fringe programme, showcased some of the creative collaboration they encourage. 
The night centred on the festival theme of belonging and presented new collaborations between artists from different backgrounds. The night was punctuated by sets from Fiona’s jazz express giving the impression that you’d stumbled into some underground club where no-one really knew what might happen next.  The result was a real melting pot of set pieces.  However, you could see that the whole thing was planned meticulously and kudos to Trashed Organ for pulling this ambitious night off!
Poets and musicians united to bring us beautiful words interwoven with musical notes. The poetry of Degna Stone was set hauntingly over a backdrop of music provided by percussionist Ged Robinson supported by Adam James Cooper. Writer Viccy Adams’ piece was accompanied by video images of Newcastle, sympathetically underpinned by Scott Hartley’s fiddle playing. 
Alex Lockwood read pieces of Flash Fiction (sprinkled with audience shout outs) while artist Tim Jago Morris produced a painting live, mural-like, against the windows of the Bridge Hotel (the resulting painting will be displayed at the Scrumpy Willow and the Singing Kettle.
Dedication to the cause Hannah Costanzo  delivered Helena Venaki and Jake Campbell’s piece with the added complication of having to learn some Greek in order to do it! 
The night saw the premiere of the Suitcase Monologues – a set of shorts in development with Trashed Organ: Samantha Bell and James Barton were the artists involved and they both delivered their pieces with confidence and emotion.
As if that wasn’t enough, there was also a Trashed Laureate bottle of port up for grabs for some on the spot poetry and the opportunity to submit a Lonely Heart ad for a trashed date (that’s a purely creative collaboration request you understand, not some romantic date that includes lashings of wine).
Trashed Organ run events regularly at The Bridge Hotel: go, watch, get involved. It’s great fun.  Look out for more Trashed Organ events http://www.facebook.com/trashedorgan

Kalagora by Siddhartha Bose

May 2nd 2012 at Central Bar, Newcastle
Part of the Festival of Belonging Fringe Programme
Hosted by Trashed Organ in association with Gem Artsand Penned in the Margins

“From…Mumbai to London’s East End via Manhattan…” so said the blurb about last night’s event.  I’m betting that poet and performer Siddhartha Bose wasn’t expecting to complete the marketing with “…and ending in a performance upstairs in The Central Bar, Gateshead”. 
Presented as part of the Festival of Belonging (most main events kick off tomorrow and run over the weekend in conjunction with the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts), this was part of the Trashed Organ Fringe Programme. Trashed Organ brings together poets, musicians and visual artists, puts them in slightly unconventional surroundings and watch the creativity flow.
So, here we were, in the upstairs of a bar, the floor space cleared and backed by a white curtain onto which visions of various cities and their associated sounds were projected.  The simple set was engaging and set up the stage cleverly for Bose’s initial scene.
The sound stops and we witness the main character Kalagora visiting America for the first time, his first taste the hostile and unrelenting border control.  Bose is an engaging performer and communicates the mannerisms of himself (seen as Kalagora) – an unsure youth travelling for the first time from his native India into a sprawling new world – and the border control with dexterity and humour. It’s a great opener and Bose’s rich use of language and physical performance reaches out to the audience: this not just a poetry reading.

Rewind to Mumbai and the backdrop comes alive with colour and the air filled with sound. The contrast is exquisite though somewhat overwhelming and I almost covered my ears to block out the shouting and traffic noise. 
Cut to Manhattan on Millennium eve and Kalagora, while now illegally extending his stay in the States and virtually homeless, described his time there with great excitement and an infectious joy. Descriptions of the dark underbelly of the city abound and we see life in New York through a curtain of intoxication.
Kalagora’s experience of moving to Britain was presented very differently, his words read in a cut glass accent through the audio with Bose speaking over and with them emphasizing his new identity in the UK.  
Kalagora was an unexpected journey for me, I found the visual elements worked well (both the screen and the physical performance), and the sounds lifted the performance while never overtaking Bose himself. All that was missing was the smell of his cigarette smoke. 
Three cities: three experiences: one man – Kalagora really brings to the fore questions of identity and belonging. 
Find out more about:

Photography: Spurious Nonsense Photography – find them on Facebook and see the rest of the images at Trashed Organ’s Facebook page

    Richard Wiseman and Derreny Derren Brown in conversation

    Last weekend I was up in Edinburgh for a follow up ‘hen do’ (aka an excuse for a girlie night or two away with lots of food and drink).

    When planning the trip I was elated to discover that two of my favourite people in the entire world: Derren Brown and Professor Richard Wiseman, would be ‘in conversation’ as part of Edinburgh Science Festival.

    Was it luck? I don’t really consider myself a lucky person (even after reading Richard Wiseman’s Luck Factor and watching Derren’s recent show on whether a whole town can be lucky). But I managed to get tickets to the sold out show. One of the friends on the trip spotted it had changed location (otherwise we would have all missed it) so maybe luck was on our side. Either that or it was some sort of spirit intervention.

    The afternoon was thoroughly entertaining and satisfyingly exclusive (there were no recordings or photography allowed). There are some pictures of the event over at Richard Wiseman’s Blog (which you should all follow): http://richardwiseman.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/derrenbrown/

    Questions from the audience were permitted and my favourite has to be the following exchange:

    Audience: “Derren, with your interest in taxidermy, if you were to be stuffed when you die, what position would you choose?”

    Derren (with a twinkle in his eye): “Well obviously I’d like to be mounted.”

    Richard: “Who would you prefer to be mounted with, Sally Morgan or Derek Acorah?”

    Yes it was a very deep and meaningful, scientific discussion 🙂

    Blogging for the Live Theatre – the final days….

    As I was Live Theatre’s blogger for March you’ll have noticed that my residency has now ended (what with it being April and that).

    Here are links to my final entries:

    They’re also on the look out for future bloggers – I’d highly recommend going for it. Live Theatre is a great venue and everyone there was really friendly.

    The story so far…blogging for the Live Theatre, Newcastle

    Back in December, Live Theatre put a call out for bloggers, they wanted one per month to go and see plays and shows and generally promote the theatre more informally.

    They asked for a summary of why you enjoyed theatre and if they liked  it, you were in. I got in!

    I am the March blogger, a bit like the March hare but instead of running crazily through fields, I’m crazily going back and forth to the theatre.

    For it seems that every two years in March, Live Theatre run a New Writing Festival for nine days. This means that there are events, plays, Q&As and music on daily and sometimes twice daily. Thankfully I haven’t had to go to everything: but I’ve been to a lot.

    It’s been really enjoyable though, a right mixed bag so far.

    Here are the blog posts that have been published:

    There’s another four or so to come!

    I’m ready for a lie down.

    From South Shields to Southend

    Oops, nearly the end of February already and my blogging is flagging. I have been busy though, that’s my excuse.

    Not only have actually been reading (another resolution you’ll recall) – I’ve proofread a friend’s book and read The Woman in Black (more on that in a later post), I’ve been out to see two comedians and a band this week!

    From South Shields…

    South Shields it seems is a hotbed of comedy at the moment – two comedians in one week from that neck of the woods!

     I started the week with Chris Ramsey, an enjoyable comedian (I was one of those who’d ‘been dragged along while not having a clue who he was’ – though I wasn’t going to raise my hand to admit this unlike someone further along our row). He did a bit of picking on the audience which I don’t really like, but thankfully swiftly moved on to his main act ‘Offermation’ which was brilliantly observed and very funny.

    Next up was Sarah Millican – she seems to have been riding the crest of a wave of popularity this last year or so. It’s well-deserved, her show is a bit smutty, very funny and delightfully delivered. She describes herself as a ‘bit more sweary’ on stage – and she certainly is. I thought it was great how she managed to make you feel like it was an intimate show even when we were seated way up in the upper circle: so far away that there were actual binoculars up there.

    …to Southend

    Nowt like a good stomping hoedown in a great venue – here’s looking at you, Cluny 2 – and you The Lucky Strikes. (The Strikes are from Southend)

    I saw The Lucky Strikes at the Sage Gateshead Americana festival last year and thought they were superb. I then discovered that the lead singer, Matt Boulter knew my favourite singer-songwriter Simone Felice and had toured with him. It was all shaping up well.

    Some Facebook chat, a free Christmas CD and I’m convinced The Lucky Strikes are worth a looksee, worth buying their albums, worth going  to see. Last night at the Cluny2 was such good fun: I couldn’t believe the manic dancing (from the audience) at  the end. I could have been in Nashville: I was happy.