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The Magpie Lands and Brixton’s Bank Holiday Feeling

23 Aug

The French take a day off work to let off fireworks on Bastille Day, on 14 July, to commemorate a key symbolic event in the French Revolution. The Americans get all pyrotechnic on 4 July in celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. And the people of the Philippines celebrate their independence from the USA, and Spain, with fireworks and a public holiday on 12 June.

As a nation, Britain is in the rather embarrassing historical position of generally being the ‘oppressor’; looking through the list of national days on Wikipedia, most countries seem to be celebrating their independence from us. So the UK’s designated ‘fireworks day’ on 5 November, rather than a commemoration of the glorious achievement of nationhood, is in honour of some disgruntled Catholics who tried to blow up the government, and were then executed. What exactly we’re celebrating here is a bit of a grey area, but unless the government suddenly grants us a public holiday to do it, I reluctantly mention that this weekend coming is the last Monday off until (shhh) christmas. So let’s use it wisely, eh?

The refurbed Upstairs at the Ritzy is having a free relaunch party  on Friday featuring music from awesome skiffle band The Severed Limb. The Windmill (sticky floored music venue not historic mill) are planning to barbecue on Sunday to the sound of their 1992 ‘Retrospectacular’  – with various bands covering songs from this year. Dressed in global hypercolour, hopefully. Also on Sunday, Radio6Music’s Gilles Peterson has been confirmed for the roof terrace at Brixton Clubhouse. Or head over to Myatt’s Field for a picnic to learn about Remakery and Makerhood, skills swapping and local craftiness from 1pm.

Also taking place this weekend at The Brick Box’s temporary home at the old Angel Pub is Magpie, a mini-festival of music, art and performance, weirdness and wonder, kicking off on Thursday night (£3 entry) and carrying on through Friday and Saturday evenings (£5 entry).

The Angel is destined to become a development of four houses and four flats once planning permission is received by the property company, Lexadon. Until October however, they have been renting the space out to The Brick Box, a grass-roots arts organisation who put on various community-based shows, workshops and interactive arty experiences from their usual locations in Brixton and Tooting markets.

There’s a veritable artistic buffet of performers lined up for this weekend’s festivities. Local artist and curator of Magpie David Nevin will be displaying his work, and Aerial Sparks has made a house out of dolls. Creepy. There’ll be poetry from acclaimed poet Dan Holloway on a roof, as well as in a very small ‘Eritrean Hut’, where, for the brave and, er, probably those whose courage comes by way of Holland, more intimate performances will be taking place. That’s not a euphemism. (Apart from the bit about Holland, that was).

Music tonight comes from the London City Reggae Choir and Brixton DJ Geoff Parker, who I think is behind the Catch a Fire nights Upstairs at the Ritzy. Tomorrow night is Gothic rock from Andi Sex Gang and Chris from United 80 will be DJing on Saturday.

If you’re there at around 10pm definitely look out for weird, absurdist comedy from Annie Bashford and Grumpy Lettuce. Having trained at clown school in Paris (where she met her comedy partner) Annie’s just back from performing right wing cabaret  with Frank Sanazi (say it out loud) at the Edinburgh festival. As you do.

Hungry? There’s veggie curry on offer tonight, and expect fantastic LA-inspired meat sandwiches on offer from London French Dip on Friday and Saturday. Get there quickly because odds are they’ll sell out.

Right then. I’ll start the Weekend Countdown Clock then shall I?

Things I Think You Should be Aware of in Brixton in 2012…

17 Jan

Congratulations if you’re reading this. Because, according to a widely discredited ‘study’, yesterday was the most depressing day of the year. And you made it! So well done, everyone.

Now that’s over, what does the first few months of 2012 have going for it? Well, diaries at the ready as I have compiled a list of Brixton happenings that I Think You Should be Aware of.

Both firstly and foremostly, DROP EVERYTHING (oh, soz, was that your new iPad?) because tomorrow evening is the second Meet Brixton. A sort of Brixton fanclub, it’s a chance for people who live, work, or just quite like it here to meet up for a drink. This time you shall find us in Dogstar. More details here. And a write up of the last one here, if you still can’t quite picture what I’m on about.

If you didn’t get tickets to the Maccabees at the Academy on 26th January and like staying up late, you can still jump on this particular bandwagon at the after party at Brixton Jamm. The band are Djing. A tenner in advance and I reckon it will be rather popular. Expect most of the Guardian’s music journos there at least, asking for receipts at the bar.

The following Saturday, the 28th to be precise, Kaff Bar is hosting their first Rockabilly night. So if you’ve been doing those Monday classes at Electric Social, this is your chance to properly show off. Everyone else, let’s just whap out the circle skirts and have a nice time.

Good news for sprogs and breeders of sprogs – Brockwell park playground reopens in March. It’s been closed for a while as part of a £5 million Brockwell refit, but I’m sure it’ll look great once it’s up and running again.

On 1st March Los Van Van are playing the Electric. A twenty piece ‘dance orchestra’ formed in 1969 in Havana, they are one of the most influential bands in modern Cuban music. If you don’t want to pay £23 for a ticket then at least check them out on Spotify, as they sound great.

The Windmill would like to recommend that you book tickets now for US band Those Darlins, gracing their establishment on 4th April. Hailing from Tennessee, by the sound of it they are a little bit country, a little bit retro-rock with a touch of punk. If you can imagine such a thing. The Guardian says:

‘Once heavy on the hillbilly, these southern girls have ditched yee-haws and ukuleles to be a power-pop proposition’

Whereas Time Out Chicago helpfully adds:

‘Their jangling shuffle explores the middle ground between the Go-Go’s and Merle Haggard. Yeah, that territory exists. And the chicken there is delicious

Er, ok.

On 27th and 28th April US band Foster the People play Brixton Academy. Yes, yes, the ones with the annoying tinny ‘run run run’ song. Stay with me here. The record is very over produced – trying perhaps to cover up the fact that the singer sounds a little like Alvin, of Chipmunk fame – but BUT when I saw them at Latitude last summer they played a brilliant indie-pop set to a packed and madly bouncing crowd. It will be fun. And I think you should go.

SO, what have I missed out? Add suggestions to the comments below please thank you.

Folk n’ Roll – Skinny Lister at the Windmill

29 Nov

Skinny Lister chugged into town in their old Land Rover last Thursday for a raucous night of foot-stomping, sea-shantying, flagon-based folk at that the Windmill. I intended to write about the gig earlier but I’m still recovering.

Sort of like a smaller, drunker Bellowhead, Skinny Lister are all about loud chords, plenty of accordion and belting out a tune. (The set list did actually include the old song New York Girls (Can’t You Dance the Polka), made a little bit famous by Bellowhead, but now cast as New Cross Girls). And just in case your feet were not stomping of their own free will the band brought the ‘Skinny Sisters’, who operate as sort of floral dancing enforcers seizing members of the crowd not swinging their partners around with enough gusto. There’s plenty of folky schtick – before the old Land Rover they toured on a canal boat and give out beer coasters during gigs – but it’s done with great joy and aplomb, which made for a fantastic atmosphere at the Windmill.

Skinny Lister is a family outfit. As far as I can work it out Lorna is married to Daniel and her brother is Max. I think. There’s also a Sam and an extra Dan but I’ve no idea how they fit in. Related or not, every member of Skinny Lister seems to be in possession of what my grandfather would call ‘a fine pair of lungs’. (Lorna’s enthusiastic but short-skirted dancing would not impress my grandmother, however).

Their next London gig is Saturday 10th December at the Birds Nest in Deptford. It’s a bit of a trek admittedly but I think you’re pretty much guaranteed a brilliant night. Provided the band makes it of course, there seemed to be plans afoot last Thursday to drive the trusty touring Land Rover into the sea and film it for some reason… Oh well, Haul Away etc.

Dry the River. Another Academy envy.

3 Oct

Just a quick little musical newsflash. (In that it’s news about music, I’m not going to sing it…) If you’re off to see Bombay Bicycle Club at Brixton Academy two weeks Wednesday do make an effort to see the support act. I’ve managed to catch Dry the River a couple of times over the summer and they are well worth leaving the pub early for.

If you quite liked Mumford to start with, although aren’t sure why they sound Irish and had violent thoughts after the 50th play of ‘Little Lion Man’ on XFM, you will quite like them. Or, if you hate Mummers, you might still like them – there’s less jigging about. In fact, Dry the River even have their own lion-based song that ends in the rest of the band gathering around the drum kit and sort of attacking it. It works, honestly.

I don’t know too much about Bombay Bicycle Club, other than that they’re named after an upmarket south-west London curry chain, and that quite chipper ‘Ivory and Gold’ song they did, but they have managed to sell out their Academy gig so no tickets now unless you brave eBay (is that still technically allowed? I’m never sure). But do check out Dry the River, on Spotify at least. No album yet but I’m sure it’s coming. Avoid commercial radio when it does.

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