Sunday, September 28, 2008

X-scape to Cas-Vegas

Hey, I visited ‘X-Scape’ near Castleford for the first time last weekend. It turns out to mostly be a vision of hell on earth. Very like when you have to stop at a motorway services and it looks like there’s been some sort of major disaster and they’ve decided to feed everyone Burger King in a ‘retail destination’ – young girls with straggly hair in broken vibrating chairs, ‘amusements’ and arcade games and that sort of thing. Millions of people, a full car park that’s bigger than you could imagine and a list of retail chains straight out of the globalisation handbook of nightmares. There’s even a shop calling itself Adrenaline Addict or something. They sell t-shirts and anoraks. Didn’t do much for my adrenaline levels to be honest.

Next door there is an ‘outlet village’. This turns out to be a shopping street like everywhere else but with no actual town attached. And because everything is an ‘outlet’ rather than a ‘shop’ or even a ‘store’ people think it must be cheap or something.

I mean I know that people who have nothing to do with their lives go to these places looking for meaning or ‘stocking fillers’ or ‘bits and pieces for the lounge’ or whatever but what I found difficult to cope with was the number of blokes who seemed to be there not under duress. I can do about 30 seconds in any given shop and a bit more if I have to queue for whatever it its but there’s all these people wandering around looking like they’re reasonably happy. What has gone wrong with the world?

However, I am not immune. X-Scape has a climbing wall and the ‘outlet village’ has a Cadburys chocolate shop where you can get piles of orange flavour Fry’s Chocolate Cream. So now I don’t hate it so much – darn! Mind you, it was the first sunny day for 3 months so maybe that was it. There's still far too much shopping goes on though. Do I want people to race pigeons and do the garden? Actually, yes. Maybe. Anything but shopping.

Harry and Paul

It genuinely disturbs me that people I know don't seem to get the new Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse show. OK the hit rate is a bit lower than some things have been in the past - but 2 thirds of it is brilliant - and people I know aren't watching it because they don't 'get it'. What's the matter with them? No accounting for taste I suppose...

Closing Pools

Leeds City Council have a ‘Vision for Investment’. Course they have. They have a ‘Vision’ for everything of course. The ‘Vision for cutting stuff back and knocking things down’ hasn’t had much publicity yet, but they have produced a questionnaire about swimming pools and sports facilities. They complain that they’re spending too much money on local sports facilities. They seem to think that knocking them down and building big ones would be a much better idea, and in some fantasy accountancy world this might save them money. They’re trying to get people to agree to this by ‘consulting’ them.

You don’t actually get to say ‘spend the money on swimming pools and screw the old people’ of course but you do get to say that they should spend the money on pools and ‘cut other services’. Then they can come along later and ask if you’d like to take the food out of the mouths of the pensioners or the disabled kiddies so they can keep your local pool open. They also pretty much admit that their facilities aren’t much cop, so you get to say that you want ‘excellent’ facilities if you want. They can then say the only way of doing this is to give all your money to a big private sector corporation to build the crappy pools of 20 years time. The Victorians of course managed to build pools that lasted for 100 years (and beyond that if they were looked after). We’re lucky to get 15 years these days before new buildings crumble and rust away.

Leeds is supposed to be a ‘successful’ city. That just seems to mean that millions of office blocks fit to be demolished in 15 years time have been built and left empty. You might think that it would mean that Leeds City Council could find a few quid to keep its swimming pools open wouldn’t you? They closed the big one in town of course. That was a year ago now. Have they built anything on the site? Nope. Have they demolished it? Nope. Did they get some money for the land? I bloody hope so. Mind you, Roundhay Park didn't have a cafe for about 3 years while the Council faffed about.

And come to think of it, where's the tram down our road that we were going to have to wait until 2007 for? Actually, that was the government. Banks not trams! Funnily enough I haven't seen that on any placards.

When gigs go wrong

This is just me moaning about how rubbish it can be being the king of acoustic protest and the rest…

You get in touch with someone via t’internet or myspace or whatever about a gig. They like you and they suggest some dates and you accept one, taking on board all the stuff there might be about playing on unsuitable days of the week with unsuitable fellow performers and often not getting paid and anything else that generally isn’t ideal. You bounce some emails and / or messages back and forth to confirm the date, you email your mailing list, put the details on myspace, update the website, send a message out on Facebook, get the press person on to it and book trains and lifts and buses and stay-overs - and generally badger people you know weeks in advance to try and get people to go to the gig and gets lots of publicity. You re-arrange things and generally put out family and friends and put off other stuff that needs doing. You then start rehearsing songs that you don’t tend to play every day because it’d just get boring. You get a new flyer together to advertise yourself and work out where all the stuff you need for the gig is going to be. You print stuff out and copy things. You ask favours. Often you try to fit other gigs in at around the same time (see the process above). Some of this is months in advance but sometimes just a few days before the gig.

Then, at some point not long before the gig when there’s nothing left to do but turn up and play you get a message saying it’s off or it’s postponed. To be fair this is very often not the fault of the person who organises their local acoustic night. It’s the pub chain deciding on re-development or more likely some other smaller re-arrangement the pub has decided to do. Or they could be making it up and its just an excuse. Whatever, the gig is off.

So, then you find the instructions again and update the website. Update the myspace. Send out another email to the mailing list. Do the Facebook thing again. Apologise to the PR man (who you’ve promised to pay anyway), take the losses on non refundable tickets and accommodation after trawling through the websites again to try to claim refunds - or apologise to friends who’ve put themselves out to fit around your plans.

But, hey…good news! The organiser really does like you and has an alternative date. Time to change the website, add the new gig to myspace and make sure everyone knows and…and don't forget those other gigs in the area...

…and this is why it’s often so much easier not to bother. Why don’t I just play in the bedroom or just around Leeds? I dunno. Maybe it’s my massive ego and I deserve no better. Maybe I’m just an idiot. Maybe things are just too difficult. Maybe I should just carry on doing it and realise that this doesn’t happen for every gig. Sometimes though it’s enough to bring on my morose melancholy mood for days on end. Or maybe I just need caffeine again.