August 14th, 2006


Eat the music

Laura Veirs & the Tortured Souls + Thao Nguyen
The Shed, Cambridge, August 4th

Still catching up with the gigs from over a week ago: addedentry had seen Laura Veirs before she was famous (of course) and recommended her, so we went to catch her at The Shed (the Junction's little sibling, with proportionately cheaper ticket prices) where she was ably supported by Thao Nguyen.

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It was a long way in more than mere miles from the genteel jazz-club atmosphere of The Shed, with its comfortable seats and pre-ordered interval drinks, to the more traditional indie venue of Oxford's Zodiac, with its sticky floors, smoky air, and more or less complete absence of anything bearable to drink (until I spotted the bottles of Newky Brown hiding at the back). But the venue has to suit the band, and this was clearly the right place for the Saturday night's offerings...

Seafood + The Race + Rock of Travolta
The Zodiac, Oxford, August 5th

juggzy (who proved herself to be not only the unrivalled queen of indie cool but purveyor of the most amazing garlic scrambled eggs) had warned us that Rock of Travolta were past their best, but she hadn't warned us quite how bloody loud they were. Collapse )

Listen for yourself:
Thao Nguyen [myspace]
Laura Veirs [myspace]
Rock of Travolta [myspace]
The Race [myspace]
Seafood [myspace]

Exiles on pain street

AND THEN, as if going to one festival and three gigs in the space of two weeks wasn't enough, on Saturday we went to the theatre for a dose of proper culture, like.

James Joyce's Exiles
Cottesloe Theatre, London, August 12th

I knew next to nothing about this play before seeing it, and this is a starting position which, in retrospect, I can recommend. No knowledge of Joyce the novelist or Joyce the Irishman is required: Exiles would not be out of place under the same heading as Joyce's equally slight contribution to poetry, Chamber Music, as it is essentially a self-contained string quartet (with occasional extra parts), a set of dramatic variations on a theme of love and betrayal (whatever those words may turn out to mean to protagonists or audience by the time the curtain falls).

The quiet but relentlessly intense dialogue does not so much advance the plot (how much 'plot' does a love affair have, after all?) as slowly build up a symphonic poem, a sepia-tinted portrait (of the artist?) developing in the darkroom of the stage. It is doubt, Joyce seems to assert, not faith, that holds us together; and doubt is the play's overriding theme, the characters' doubt of each other's words and motives, and our doubt about the events which actually take place, as we watch the recently-returned exile Richard torture himself and those around him with his uncertainty, systematically exiling them from the possibility of understanding, of knowing, of belonging.

It remains ambiguous whether Richard's unravelling of his relationships is the neurotic compulsion of a writer afflicted by the emergent epidemic of (post)modernism, or the emotional sado-masochism of a man who is determined to sabotage the intimacy he fears; but I wonder if Joyce the wordsmith could have remained unaware of the ghost of a pun present in the phrase "Exiles by Joyce". Are we exiled from happiness by choice or by fate? Is there, in the end, a difference?

[Read some more coherent reviews...]
[... and thanks to tkb for organizing the trip to see this!]


I really must learn to think "how would I feel if the artist(e) was reading this?" before posting bitchy reviews.

I just hope some of the people I unintentionally offend get a decent I'm-so-misunderstood song out of my poor pseudo-journalistic potshots.

That James Joyce, mind you. So overrated. And dead! Hahaha!