Frazetta

Back in my comic book heyday (here we go again, I hear the cry) I had my Marvel favourites and these still endure. Thor, Cap, Spidey, Thing, Hulk, Daredevil etc etc.

There was a character who defied a lot of the traditional comic book conventions. Conan. He  was a Cimmerian – an ancient warrior type with barbarous tendencies and enormous muscles and axes. At this point it’s a good idea to overlook John Milius’ movie starring Arnie as it stunk the movie theatres out with it’s ludicrous acting and just about appalling everything else.

An-y-way…this post is in honour of Frank Frazetta and he was the sword and sorcery artist who brought Conan to life among many others including Krull of Atlantis and Buck Rogers. His was a more painterly style that usually included generously bosomed women and superbly ripped action heroes sat atop piles of bodies.

In the seventies and eighties these images were de rigeur and spilled over in to record sleeves and influenced countless movie production sets. Frazetta’s is a classic fantasy art style that has genuinely stood the test of time but in a strange way remains of its time – it evokes the ancient world and a less sterile sci fi universe where it’s less about the technology and more about people.

Saturn 3

I’ve been in a reflective mood this week and when I came across these posters for old sci fi movies I thought I’d definitely have to get them on the blog.

These posters are the old school equivalent of the modern day movie trailer that crams every good bit of a crap movie into 2 minutes. There’s a whole book to be written on good and bad posters but that’s for another time.

I particularly like the Saturn 3 poster (and I remember going to see it at the cinema in Leeds) – just look at the cast…Kirk Douglas, Harvey Kietel AND Farrah Fawcett. Movie gold.

They don’t make them like this any more, do they?

Thought for the day: Tuesday

Quite a challenging one this. If you read all the books by the self help gurus they all talk about failing just as much as they talk about succeeding. I think in our culture it’s much, much harder to admit that you’ve failed at something than had some success.

So this one’s specifically for me right now – as I’m on the cusp of the next challenging step of my career – just a little reminder that it’s OK to fail. As long as you learn something from it. And remember, if you are going to fail, fail fast. Then pick yourself up and get going again.

Thought for the day: Monday

Every day this week, I’ll post an ‘inspirational’ thought on the blog.

I promise there’ll be no middle management style posters with eagles, mountain tops or handshakes.

Decals

Always the hardest bit of the model making process, I seem to remember.

You’d negotiated the delicate and fiddly undercarriage assembly so the wheels could still spin freely.

You’d avoided to get glue on the transparent cockpit so you could still see the pilot.

You’d even managed to carefully paint the craft, in accordance with the instructions and the box lid.

But then came the decals.

Allowing them to gently soak in lukewarm water then, carefully transferring them on tot he model using our mum’s best tweezers was the only way to guarantee a decent result.

Successful application of the decals was what set apart the men from the boys in the model making world.

And they always looked beautiful on the sheet. The USAF decals were always the gaudiest – often luridly portraying pouncing tigers, breathing flames or recumbent bathing beauties. They were the perfect foil for the perfectly proper RAF graphics – simple, neat, ordered.

They seem the product of a bygone age now – surely there are easier ways to pass one’s time these days? The patient and dedicated application of scores of the tiniest and fiddliest decals to a model seems completely at odds with the fast moving world we live in.

Perhaps that’s all the more reason to do it.

No Lucifer in Holy Trinity

Just when you thought that you’d seen your favourite band in pretty much every weird scenario, along comes Live at Leeds.

British Sea Power are a band that is both eccentric and essential in equal measures in my opinion, but if you’re looking for an impartial review of their performance at Holy Trinity Church in Leeds, then I’m afraid you’re reading the wrong blog.

I’ve seen the band play in rustic barns at the highest pub in England, in The British Film Institute, open-air theatres in Regents Park, clubs, refectories, art-house theatres, bars and even a public library in Morecambe.

But this has to take the biscuit. A church, with pews (screwed down, for the readers of Hotel New Hampshire), a bar and only one toilet for a few hundred people.

But you know what?

It was one of the best gigs I’ve seen the band perform – ever. The venue seemed to bring out the best in the band and the crowd. It seemed like the bizarre nature of being crammed into pews forced a kind of concentration and appreciation not usually seen at gigs. The 18th Century church in the heart of Leeds’ city centre was a perfect location to appreciate the quintessentially British charms of the Brighton-based British Sea Power (although lead guitarist Noble is a Leeds lad, so he must have felt the Northern love).

It wasn’t the usual band venue and it was all the better for it.

The performance was beautifully measured and controlled and as the band played, they seemed to appreciate the surroundings (playing the Union Chapel in London the week before may have given them a taste of what was to come). The acoustics were lovely, actually, and who knew in the seventeen hundreds it would work for a rock band?

But I was struck then by the open-minded thinking that allowed the band to play to hundreds of beer drinking gig goers in a church – and there was a bar at the back of the church, much to the surprise and pleasure of the audience. These thoughts were closely followed by the nature of a building in the centre of Leeds that has been use for worship for over 300 years which now hosts rock concerts along with the holy communion services. Impressive.

My personal view would be that God would be very, very happy to see His Church used for this type of event, rather than see it empty – I really like the fact that someone within this church has the foresight to open the church in this way. I’m sure that the big man would approve. Hats off I say and the minister must be chuffed to see every pew filled — when does that happen in these secular days? But that’s another discussion surely.

Anyway, I’m sure not many people were thinking these thoughts whilst enjoying Waving Flags or No Lucifer, but does that really matter? The point is the city has gained a very interesting venue for music and kept it going for a wide range of bands from chilled out acoustic outfits to lively rock combos like British Sea Power. On top of this, this historic church is still part of the fabric of a vibrant city culture and not empty or at worst, derelict.

I now have a list of bands I’d love to see in Holy Trinity – who would you like to see play there…?

Sing Ye From The hillsides II

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, then you’ll know that I’ve just got back from a weekend at the highest pub in England Tan Hill. Famous for those double glazing adverts with Ted Moult in the 70s and a big snow-in last winter, Tan Hill was the venue for the second British Sea Power-curated festival, Sing Ye From The Hillsides II.

The three day event is held every two years and there was a lot of excitiement amongst BSP fans when it was announced there was to be another one this year. It’s not your regular kind of festival. Firstly, all the action takes place in and around the pub with the bands playing in a ‘rustic’ barn round the back. Secondly there is no campsite as such, just barren moorland as far as the eye can see. Thirdly, BSP are the main event although this year more bands played and it had definitely increased in scale and felt more professional.

Bands start early evening and play until the early hours of the morning – there seems to be no real festival schedule as such. When you finish, you finish. There was a late bar every night and by late, I mean when the last man standing has staggered to his or her tent, the bar closes. My kind of licensing rules.

Daytime activity included husky dog racing, bird of prey displays, guided walks in search of the elusive black grouse and fun and games including eating donuts without licking your lips. If it sounds quirky and eccentric, it is – and that’s what BSP do best. It’s a quintessentially British event and if you can put up with the unseasonably freezing early May weather, and the back to basics approach to accommodation, there’s much to be gained from it.

As a longstanding fan of the band, it’s a real treat to see them in such a small venue. The barn where the bands played is tiny and very ‘intimate’. the crowd often spill on to the stage and the band often spill into the crowd as you can see in the photographs. Supporting band highlights included the excellent John and Jehn, japanese heavy metal outfit Bo Ningen, the irrepressable Tom White and the lovely Basia Bulat. Special mention to The Phantom Band for being the pickiest about their sound. Fifties rock and roll skiffle combo (really) Kitty Daisy and Lewis kicked up a retro storm on the Saturday night too.

I couldn’t stay for the Sunday night, but I’m told it was another evening of quality musical entertainment with iliketrains doing the business – surely time for a new album from them.

Full marks for the band’s determination to host Sing Ye II again this year – I understand that they didn’t make any money at all out of the first festival and the increased ticket price reflected their determination to remedy that, although I suspect after fees, travel and beer expenses it won’t exactly be a money spinner, although I’m sure that’s not the reason why they do this. This is a festival for the BSP music fan who’s interested to see other bands that they like and inspire them, it’s a simple ethos and it delivers in spades.

As festivals get more and more commercialised, Sing Ye flies in the face of all of that and is a blast of refreshing northerly air. Here’s to Sing Ye From The Hillsides III!

Big thanks to Tmoose for the use of the photographs – they capture the weekend beautifully and you can see more of them here.