Archive for April, 2010|Monthly archive page

Nerina Pallot at Union Chapel

This was the second time I’ve been to a gig in a church. And from these experiences I’ve learnt two things. Firstly, that the acoustics are outstanding in them. But also that pews are rather uncomfortable. Yet this did not matter in the slightest last night when Nerina Pallot took to the stage. Any moans about the seating were completely irrelevant. Her voice would have cured any back pains anyone may have had.

As I entered this interesting venue, I was aware that tonight was going to be a bit different to the rest of Nerina’s tour dates. She was to have a band and choir on stage with her. Something I discovered after having been tempted by the video of the rehearsals for the show. What I did not know, however, was that there was to be another special guest joining Nerina on stage.

To support her were a duo called Braxton Hix (not to be confused with the premature contractions) whose voices suited the venue rather well with their almost folk-like music s using the acoustics to their advantage. They weren’t the most professional band, having written their setlist on a paper plate and only bringing along twenty CD’s to sell, but I think that this added to their charm. The band was made up of a male on guitar and vocals, and a woman on vocals. The main thing you need to know about this band is that either they are a couple, or the woman has spent hours perfecting her loving stare at the guy as some part of a stage act. It almost felt awkward at times, as though you were intruding on a private serenading session. But I would definitely recommend you checking them out if you’re into acoustic/folk music.

And now onto Nerina. Well, not just Nerina. This was Nerina, a drummer, a guitarist, a strings section, a horn section and a chorus. This was nothing like my previous experiences of Nerina’s live shows. Opening with solo performances of God of Small Things and If I Know You, she sat at her piano and blissfully played for us. Her voice was amazing, as expected, and it wasn’t long before she broke into the amusing banter between songs that makes her so endearing.

Idaho and Mr King followed at the same haunting calibre of music. These slower songs felt particularly powerful in the settings. Not that the more uptempo songs weren’t impressive too: the debut single from her latest album, Real Late Starter, was played beautifully. The live performance of Nickindia made me realise it’s true beauty. I like the album version, but seeing it played right in front of me made it have far more impact.

It was around this stage in the show that I noticed that her drummer kept shaking a banana along with his shaker. I’m no percussion genius and would love to know why the fruit was used…

As with Nerina’s normal musings, she amused us in her introduction to the as yet unrecorded, Put Your Hands Up. Describing it as being “camper than Christmas”, I felt I had to agree with her that it was a bit Eurovision-esque. If it were to be overly edited with electro beats it could win it for us. But I just can’t quite see Nerina entering Eurovision. The song worked live because you can here the natural vocals shine through, if it developed into the next Cheeky Girls hit I’d be slightly more worried.

Next up came a cover of Rickie Lee Jones. Skeletons is the reason that Nerina’s latest EP is titled Skeleton EP and she’s happy to admit that it’s a cover and how she wishes she’d written it herself.

Three songs from her new album followed (It Starts, Cigarette and When Did I Become Such A Bitch). The middle of those three worked hauntingly well with a choir, whilst the full band performance of the latter, accompanied by the banter about the, perhaps factual, nature of the title kept the audience entertained.

A solo performance of Everybody’s Gone To War was opted for, which intrigued me as I own a strings version and know it sounds beautiful but seeing just Nerina and her guitar strum their way through it was just as impressive. Human was then performed with Nerina and a male vocal, having these two more low-key performances could have been decided to create a more impactful entrance for the artist who was next to join Nerina on stage.

Introducing her as “really wonderful and really special and so talented” (oh, and “This week’s number one”) Diana Vickers joined Nerina and the band to perform the Nerina penned track Put It Back Together Again. Having listened to this song several times on Diana’s myspace the night before the performance I have to credit the live performance as being far more impressive. Diana’s voice is very expressive and works well to evoke the emotion that Nerina clearly wrote into the song. If you want to witness this performance with your own eyes you’ll have to check it out on this YouTube video, which was kindly uploaded later in the evening.

The full band performance of my favourite song, Geek Love, was made all the more amazing by Nerina introducing it as “a song about shagging”. I’ve never heard the song performed so well as it was then. It was truly beautiful.

The final song before Nerina departed the stage was God. It’s a song from Dear Frustrated Superstar that I was always particularly fond of. Nerina admitted she’d seldom played it live because she wanted it to sound “as it was meant to”. I can understand why she allowed for it to be performed last night. The band and choir worked in harmony to produce a beautiful song.

After a long clapping and whooping session (not that there wasn’t this after every song) Nerina returned to the stage with just the strings section to perform My Last Tango and then end with her normal final piano masterpiece: Sophia. Both piano based songs left the audience feeling dazed by everything we’d witnessed throughout the show and wanting more. It’d been three years since my last Nerina show but I’m now certain it won’t be anywhere near that long before I next get to be a part of something so outstanding.

Being the lovely lady she is, Nerina hung around after the gig for a signing and I got my two lovely new EP’s signed “To Cat”. Nerina questioned whether I wanted them both signed to me and we concluded that it is good to be selfish in life and so yes I did. She also complimented my dress making me feel less of an idiot walking around Islington in a less than casual dress.

I was not the biggest Nerina fan in that room (not that you’d know it from the amount of positive adjectives in this review) but even the ‘Die-hards’ seemed to think that it was one of the best Nerina performances they’d ever seen. I love that Nerina has such a tight fanbase. Everyone was willing to talk to oneanother and become friends throughout the evening (or afternoon for those who arrived as early as one!)

There’s little else to add (I have written over 1200 words already!) than to leave you with one word to describe the show and it’s remarkably long setlist: Outstanding.

(Photos to follow!)

Nerina Pallot

Union Chapel

April 28th 2010

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The World’s Richest Teenager and Me

Some people work hard for wealth. Some do not. This programme focuses on the offspring of the former who, themselves, fall into the latter category.

Beginning in Ohio, Mark Dolan (my latest weird documentary presenter crush), travels to Dubai, Russia and finally Thailand to provide an insight into the lives of the über-rich teen. It is in Ohio where he meets the daughter of a man living the American dream. As with all the ‘providers’ of these children, he came from nothing and worked his way up to success. This is admirable. And to be fair, his daughter, Lacey, was a bit grounded. A bit. She had non-rich friends and knew that when she went to college she wouldn’t be taking a personal trainer and chef with her. Do you see what I mean by ‘a bit’?!

Dubai was home to the only boy featured in the documentary. With his father another business tycoon, Eilan enjoyed horse-riding and was promised that he’d be able to enter a riding competition if he did well at school. He did not do well at school, yet his dad still paid for the competition to go ahead. To me this appears to be setting your child up for a fall. When the father was questioned about how much he was worth he played it down hugely suggesting they weren’t much wealthier than the rest of us.

It wasn’t just the Dubai family who refused to disclose figures. In Russia, Kira Plastinina, who created her fashion empire aged fourteen, was not allowed to answer any questions about money. Because her PR people would not allow it. Dolan regularly questioned whether her PR people understood that this documentary was about wealth and stated how it would’ve been like him interviewing the world’s smallest man (something he’s previously documented) and being told that he couldn’t mention the height. It was clear that he was getting rather irritated at the barriers that kept surrounding that ominous ‘M’ word: Money.

It was the richest teenager who came across best. With her family worth about three billion dollars, Pear attended a state school and shopped at Topshop. She lived in a hotel that her family owned, but would never dream of making that known in their fitness centre as she says that the customer must come first, not her. Dolan was clearly impressed saying that he’d be far less modest and would probably by himself a t-shit saying “I own this hotel” were he in the same situation. Pear received £3 a day allowance. If she wants something that she can’t afford, she must wait and save up for it. At the moment she’s got her eye on a sewing machine. This is a girl who could easily be one of the richest teens in the world and yet her attitude to the wealth is truly admirable.

There’s clearly a lot of pressure on her from her father to find her own place within the family business, which Dolan concludes as being a necessary accompaniment to the wealth. With money comes huge responsibility and the programme shows how the different parents project this responsibility onto their children. At 17, I am the same age as most of those featured in the show. I don’t have their money, but then again, I clearly don’t have the same pressure thrown onto me. Sure, I get nagged at to revise in order to get the A Level results to get me into University in the same way that my parents continued to Higher Education. However the pressures that these teens have thrust upon them are far more difficult to cope with.

And this leaves me with a question for you: Would you want to be that rich?

Personally – No. But I wouldn’t turn down a few extra pounds to afford a laptop that didn’t keep freezing as I streamed the documentary!

Watch it.

Nerina Pallot – Fires

Nerina Pallot is a Jersey born, North London living, Arsenal supporting (she does have her faults!) singer songwriter. And a rather impressive one at that. I’ve seen her twice before, and already reviewed her latest album The Graduate. It’s been a few years since I last saw her and, alas, I was rather excited to here the announcement of her latest tour with a special gig at Union Chapel, London, on April 28th.

Combining my excitement for next Wednesday with the voice in my head nagging me to write something productive, I’ve decided to review Fires, Pallot’s second album.

It starts with her biggest hit. Everybody’s Gone To War can probably be described as one of the most literal songs that Pallot’s ever penned.  (Oh, on a side note, Pallot’s been busy sharing her song-writing talents of late, writing for Diana Vickers, but, more importantly, writing for Kylie Minogue including the title track of her new album!) It’s a bit political –which I like. “If love is a drug/I guess we’re all sober” which later progresses to become “If God’s on our side then God is a Joker/Asleep on the job his children fall over”. Her use of metaphor is incredible. So simple, and yet so powerful. And how does it end? With the scarily simple line “I’ve got a friend who’s a pure bread killing machine/I think he might be dead by Christmas”. Truly thought provoking.

 Pallot often writes about the most mundane things, turning them into something of beauty. In Halfway Home this is evident – “I’ve got a quarter in my pocket of an apple left to eat”. I love the vocals on the chorus. They sound so effortless, and yet they are sung in a key that I would be scared to ever attempt.

Next up come two songs of outstanding quality: Damascus and Idaho both flow with beautiful narratives that sound so heartfelt. The former sounds harsher, with the odd expletive thrown in for effect. And it works, so I’m not complaining. The latter has an incredibly catchy piano intro that immediately tells you it’s going to be something sublime.

I’ll gloss over Learning To Breathe – it’s not that I don’t like it. I do. I just think Pallot has a lot of better songs.

I never really liked Mr King until I saw it on one of Pallot’s Monday night live streamed shows. It changed the song for me. The simplicity of the guitar combined with the direct vocals just suddenly clicked for me. Whoever this ‘Mr King’ is, I hope he is impressed with this piece of art. It’s beautiful.

Geek Love. What a song. I’ve not listened to it much of late. But wow. It’s my favourite Pallot track. It’s also my friend Bryony’s favourite track (she’s even got herself a Geek Love tshirt). We’re both hoping it’ll make an appearance next week. I’m not sure what it is about this song. The lyrics to the verses and the chorus are so perfectly written for the mood of the music and the many messages of the song. It’s even got a bit that repeats the word “grey”. Three times. I love grey. But I love Geek Love more.

The piano in Sophia makes the song. Sure, the metaphors of the “fire escape symphony” are very clever. But it’s the piano that makes it haunting in places. It carries the lyrics along. I just can’t see it working with any other instrument as well as it does with just the vocals and the piano.

All Good People is a song that never stood out for me. The album version sounds a little too electronic for my liking, however live performances are far more favourable.  It’s the same with Heart Attack. It’s just not my favourite style of Pallot’s.

Ending with Nickindia, Pallot returns to her more simplistic style. Her vocals shine this way. There’s a “ooh” that I love. It hits several notes that (despite many, many attempts) I just cannot hit. It’s slow paced, and it just works.

I’m sorry for the empty adjectives that I’ve used throughout this piece. If you wanted, I could write even more about each track. But even those of you who’ve made it this far would probably draw a line at a word-by-word analysis of each song! So I’ll leave you with one word to describe Fires: Beautiful.

Fame goes to your head.

I’m a shameless media type.

Amy Macdonald’s New Video: Spark

I am a spaceman flying high
I am the astronaut in the sky
Don’t worry, I’m ok now
I am the light in the dark
I am the match
I am the spark
Don’t worry I’m ok now

I love how cold she looks. She said it was absolutely freezing when they filmed it.

Louis Theroux: America’s Medicated Kids

There’s something about Louis Theroux which I can’t help but find endearing. I admire his bluntness and how he says the things that I’m thinking but would never speak. Either he has a wealth of knowledge on the subjects of his documentaries, or he or his research team do their jobs very well.

Having previously been encaptured by Theroux’s documentaries about prisons, America’s most hated family (Oh how I wanted to punch them) and, more recently, gambling, I was interested to see what slant he would take this time. Putting a child on meds is a touchy subject. Different viewers will have a huge breadth of opinions and beliefs on the subject. Unlike the programme on that awful American family, the audience of this show won’t necessarily have a huge majority sharing one belief. This is why Theroux occasionally edged on the side of caution.

Often it seemed that he was trying to suggest that the parents were a part of the problem. And I have to agree that, in one particular example, appeared to be the case. Personal attitudes towards these drugs contributed hugely to seeking out a diagnosis. The youngest child featured was an OCD suffering six year old. SIX. At that age they’ve only just started school. Although, this boy had already started school and been expelled. But that helped Theroux to question the difference between a disruptive child and one with a medical problem. It’s a very blurred line, and putting a child on meds when they’re simply being naughty is not a solution – it’s more like an excuse.

Yes, I know I have no personal experience of it and so, perhaps, my opinions aren’t valid. Yet I have huge questions over this subject. One boy was given meds that had been proven to work in adults. Working for an adult with a definitive diagnosis is one thing, but on a ten year old who’s yet to hit puberty is another.

There’s not much I can say on this programme without telling you everything that features. I can just suggest that you watch it and see if your opinions/beliefs change. In the classic Theroux style, it’s truly insightful.

Watch it.

Another summer of interning?

Last summer I spent four weeks in work experience placements. I spent a week in Sales and Marketing at The National Magazine Company, another week as an editorial intern at Grand Designs Magazine, concluding in a fortnight at Food and Travel. I had an amazing time at all of these and gained a real insight into the media industry. Having participated in Inspiration Week, I’ve been seriously considering another summer of interning. However it’s not the journalism industry that I’m interested in this year; this time round I’d love to get a placement that involves social media.

I’ve been doing some research on the net and discovered many (graduate level) positions that rely on the candidate having an excellent knowledge of social media, including blogging. I like to think that I’m pretty knowledgeable when it comes to these areas and previous feedback from placements has shown that my strengths lie in my written and verbal communication. I love to communicate. And when you combine communication and the internet (another of my favourite things) you get social media.

It’s a growing industry, with more and more companies turning to the internet to create a relationship with the consumers. At the moment, there are plenty of brands using social media to their advantage, but I know that many more are yet to jump on the bandwagon. I’d happily take a placement at a company who already have a well-established social media set-up, or somewhere where the process is only just beginning.

If I found the perfect internship, I’d genuinely be willing to spend my whole summer there. If necessary, I could be free from July 1st (though preferably not July as I’ve plans to go travelling) through to mid-September. Although I’d be just as happy with a week placement if that were to be offered.

So if anyone knows of any internships available, please let me know. Of course, I shall be doing my own research into positions as well, but two heads are better than one. I’m not expecting anything that’s paid, it’s the experience and insight that I’m really after. You can find my CV at the top of this page. Thanks.

A possible change of heart.

Recently, my thoughts have been focused on over thinking my career plans. Participating in Inspiration Week got me excited about the Media Industry, yet the David Crystal talk was inspirational itself in getting me thinking about an alternative route.

In order to fulfil my lifelong dream of immigrating to Australia, I’d need to get a visa there. The easiest way to do this? You need to be in a profession listed on their skills list. It’s basically a list of skilled migrants that the country is lacking (for example hairdressers and pastry chefs.) None of these are skills that I currently have, nor are they skills I plan on having. This left me with my main option being to marry an Australian. And being a little bit fickle, this does sound appealing. However, the DC talk has inspired me to consider something else: Linguistics research.

Think about it for a second: I’m a language geek. I am genuinely interested in linguistics studies, so much so that I’ll be spending the next three years of my life studying English Language. A course in which, when in the later years, you can specialise within certain fields. Certain fields that I have decided could include the use Australian English. Or, if I were to look at it on a more ‘linguistics’ basis: Aboriginal Languages. If I were to go into research on my exit from university then I’d probably need to go to Australia to conduct it. Problem solved yes?

Well no, considering I’m yet to even gain a place at a university. But in the long term, it could work. Maybe. Although that would mean putting aside my desire to work in the media – an industry that I’ve become pretty passionate about. And it’s also an industry that I genuinely aspire to become a part of.

So until I get a call from Australian Vogue: Entertaining + Travel (my dream employers), I guess the torment in my mind shall have to continue.

4Talent Inspiration Week

Art installation 'Shelter', a giant number 4 made from discarded umbrellas by artist Stephanie Imbeau, winner Channel 4's BIG4 public art competition, stands in front of the Channel 4 building on March 4, 2009 in London, England. The piece, a representation of channel 4's logo, is constructed from unconnected blocks so that it only appears as the number 4 from a certain viewpoint.

Twitter is the reason that I discovered Inspiration Week. Having followed 4Talent I discovered the scheme and was delighted to be offered a place. I opted for masterclasses in Advertising, Journalism and New Media on the first day, with the latter being my workshop of choice for day two.

Day One was a great success. The two women presenting the advertising session were very knowledgeable and willing to answer any questions we threw at them, even when it came down to questions about salaries. Their openness impressed me as they realistically talked through the positives and negatives of the advertising industry.

After a (free!) lunch, I headed to New Media where I learnt about different positions and sectors within ‘New Media’, yet never learnt what the term actually means. Our mentor was none the wiser but his wealth of knowledge and time spent in the industry meant he had a lot to tell us. And I didn’t get bored or check the time once – which is pretty impressive for me…

Journalism was lead by a Radio Journalist who was frank about the industry but her session was interactive and enjoyable. We had to summarise press releases into three sentences, mimicking the time restraints within broadcast journalism. Whilst this is not a branch of journalism that I desire to work in, the session was informative and she tried to make it relevant for us all, despite our varying interests within the media.

If I have one regret about day one it would be that I didn’t choose Producing and Directing. Whilst I don’t have a huge interest in these areas, I discovered that Chris Atkins, the creator of Starsuckers, was taking the session. And if you’ve read my blog about that documentary, you’ll know why I’d have loved to meet the brains behind it all. I get the impression that many of the participants within that session hadn’t watched the film and so I would have loved to have been there, with the benefit of knowing about the documentary.

Day Two was a bit of a contrast to this. As opposed to a variety of activities we participated in just the one today. New Media was my workshop of choice. Having hoped/wrongly assumed it would be more about social media in relation to the internet (social networks/blogs), I was a little disheartened to walk into a session about gaming. However after an initial reluctance in the first half an hour, I embraced the workshop for the great opportunity that it was and threw myself into designing a Wii Surfing game. Our group’s complete lack of knowledge about surfing and minimal gaming knowledge didn’t hold us back and I think our pitch at the end of the day went pretty well.

Networking was a main reason I wanted to go to Inspiration Week. But it wasn’t what I came out with. Sure, I met many likeminded individuals who I hope to keep in contact with, but I came away wanting to go elsewhere and network. It inspired me to pursue more opportunities, and made me consider another summer of internships where I really could make the most of them. The 4Talent team who ran the event were all really friendly and approachable – I had a ten minute conversation on the first day with the alumni member who was taking photos about his background and his insight into the industry.

So whilst I found the second day to be different to my expectations, I enjoyed Inspiration Week for the amazing experience that it was. Would I recommend it? Definitely, but I’d advise you to think carefully about your workshop choices. Oh, and if you find yourself in a situation different to what you’d expected? Embrace it. It’s a chance to try something new. You never know, it could be something you fall in love with and inspire a total change of career choice.

Check out all the other 4Talent opportunities here.

David Crystal.

First things first… David Crystal is a legend.

Don’t argue with me. He just is.

His studies into language, particularly into texting are incredibly interesting (Oh, how I hate that word) and it turns out he’s a pretty funny man too.

I went to see him give a talk to promote his news book, A Little Book of Language, at Foyles on Charing Cross Road this evening. He spoke for just over an hour, with the final fifteen minutes being in the Q&A format that’s common at these type of events. Myself, my friend and sister were the youngest in the room, with the rest being a mixture of a few students, a couple of older fans and the majority looked to be teacher-aged.

The book, which I felt obliged to buy afterwards, has been written in a way that is supposed to be comprehendible for a twelve year old, but not too simplistic. Having read the first chapter, Baby-Talk (Yes, he called it Baby-Talk – Not CDS or motherese or… Caregiver language!), I can assure you that it’s by no means to simplistic as I found it detailed enough to learn something new.

I shall probably tell you more about the book itself once I have read it all, but for now I shall leave you with a few anecdotes from the evening.

At one stage a customer service announcement came over the speaker system.

“David, Svetlanka is here to see you at the Customer Service Desk” the voiceover lady announced.

“Oh no, that wasn’t meant to happen… My wife is here… She’s not meant to know about Svetlanka…” Crystal responded instantaneously in his jovial fashion. He’s obviously a highly respected academic, yet he seemed very down to earth with a great sense of humour.

On the academic front, he spoke of CDS (though still calling it ‘Baby-Talk’) and how the subject within an utterance will always come at the beginning and won’t be too long. He used examples, interacting with the audience to prove points. He talked about the active and passive tense, and previous studies that he’s conducted to show why the former is used far more frequently in texts for young children.

This stuff interests me. I told him so myself. I used that dreaded word, “interesting”, when I spoke to him. Whilst he signed my book (Yes, I told you I’m a die-hard fan) I said to him “I find your studies really interesting”. And for once, I genuinely do mean ‘interesting’. His work, particularly his studies into Text Messaging, does interest me.

I love how he doesn’t believe that texting is “raping” the English Language. His descriptivist attitude to language is inspirational. He is nothing short of a legend.

A Little Book of Language, Yale University Press, is out now in Hardbook for £14.99