Wednesday, February 22, 2006

John Peel

"I just want to hear something I haven't heard before"...

John Peel era institución en música en inglaterra. Era legendario en su abilidad para encontrar y exponer grupos nuevos y canciones nuevas.

Trabajó en la BBC en Radio 1 por más de cuarenta años. Durante estos años tuvo algunos programas diferentes, cada uno enseñando el más nuevo en música 'cutting edge'. Él es más famoso por el pedazo de su programa que se llama 'The Peel Sessions'. En este pedazo tendría grupos tocar en vivo en el estudio o en su casa. Muchos de sus programas estaban en su casa porque mantuvo su enorme colleción de música allí. Tuvo más que 45.000 discos de vinylo y más que 40.000 CDs.

Murió hace un año y medio pero hizo este disco para la discoteca en londres se llama Fabric en 2002. Estaba mezclado en vivo y muestra su sabor variado en música incluyendo classical, rock, raggae, post-punk, drum & bass y country. Casi todas las canciones son sus favoritas de una vida en el negocio de música.

Tristemente, este CD es el solo disco mezclado que él hizo y el solo disco que tenemos para recordarle.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Modfather

Paul Weller won the Outstanding Contribution award at the Brit Awards on Wednesday night, so I thought now would be a good time to share my Modfather story.

It was a Saturday morning in Dublin in the autumn of 98 and I made my weekly trip into town to look for some CDs. Back then I didn't have nearly enough money to buy everything that I wanted so I had to be very discerning with my choices & purchases. I went to the Virgin store on the Quays and was having a look through the sales rack when I came across The Jam's album The Gift. It was their last album and one of the few that I did not have yet. After I considered purchasing it for a few minutes (it was only 5 quid), I decided to leave it for another time. After all there was new music to buy and I had just recently bought All Mod Cons.

So, I left Virgin and walked across O'Connell Bridge towards my next stop. I was standing at the corner waiting to cross O'Connell St when I looked to my left and saw Paul Weller standing next to me! He was in town for a gig that night and must have just been out for a stroll. No one else seemed to be paying any attention to him and I immediately thought 'Fuck! If I had bought that CD I could ask him to sign it for me!' But since I didn't buy it and I didn't really know what else to say to him (without sounding like a total gobshite) I just waited for the light to change and crossed the street.

In retrospect, I suppose that I shouldn't feel too bad. Given his reputation for being incredibly moody he would have probably told me to 'fuck off' anyway. At least that's what I always tell myself when I think about missing such an opportunity.

The 2006 Brit Awards

I must admit that I generally do not pay any attention to chart music. I never listen to the radio and I am usually the last one of my mates to hear the "latest" pop tunes. If I ever do check the charts I am normally hard-pressed to recognise even 2 or 3 songs in the Top 40. The reason: chart music SUCKS. It's true that every once in a while a great tune comes along that I will buy and decide that I can't live without but for me pop music lost the plot sometime around 1999 (which coincidently exactly coincides with just sometime before my 30th birthday)...

On Wednesday night The Brit Awards were held and if you were to ask me before I would have said that The Brits were way cooler than The Grammys (because after all they are British). But I was wrong! After looking at the winners list from this year and the previous few years I have decided that The Brits are nearly as bad as The Grammys. Check out the current and previous winners in the "British Album" (BA), "British Single" (BS) and "British Breakthrough Act" (BBA) categories:

BA: X&Y - Coldplay
BS: Speed Of Sound - Coldplay
BBA: Arctic Monkeys

BA: Hopes & Fears - Keane
BS: Your Game - Will Young
BBA: Keane

BA: Permission To Land - The Darkness
BS: White Flag - Dido
BBA: Busted

BA: A Rush Of Blood To The Head - Coldplay
BS: Just A Little - Liberty X
BBA: Norah Jones

BA: No Angel - Dido
BS: Don't Stop Movin' - S Club 7
BBA: Blue

BA: Parachutes - Coldplay
BS: Rock DJ - Robbie Williams

BA: The Man Who - Travis
BS: She's The One - Robbie Williams
BBA: S Club 7

BA: This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours - The Manics
BS: Angels - Robbie Williams
BBA: Belle & Sebastian

BA: Urban Hymns - The Verve
BS: Never Ever - All Saints
BBA: Stereophonics

BA: Everything Must Go - The Manics
BS: Wannabe - Spice Girls
BBA: Kula Shaker

BA: (What's The Story) Morning Glory
BS: Back For Good - Take That
BBA: Supergrass

BA: Parklife - Blur
BS: Parklife - Blur
BBA: Oasis

BA: Connected - Stereo MCs
BS: Pray - Take That
BBA: Gabrielle

BA: Diva - Annie Lennox
BS: Could It Be Magic - Take That
BBA: Tasmin Archer

BA: Seal - Seal
BS: These Are The Days Of Our Lives - Queen
BBA: Beverley Craven

See what I mean? I think almost all of the BS winners are totally dodgy (except for maybe Speed Of Sound) but the quality in the BA & BBA categories really ended around 1999 (although I do think Parachutes is a fantastic album).

It will also be very interesting to see what Arctic Monkeys do. They have had the praise & adoration of internet fans and the music press for the past 6 months but now the public at large is starting to take notice of them too. It seems that they have turned the established "blueprint" for a successful album completely on it's head. Previously, a band would either have to sign with a major label and rely on them to generate interest & hype or they would have to spend years playing gigs & releasing albums slowly building a fan base. Arctic Monkeys haven't done either of those things. They signed to an independent label and put all of their songs on the internet for free! One year later they have the fastest selling debut album in the history of British rock, which also totally disproves the assertion that file sharing is destroying CD sales.

So, will they become the next Oasis (1995 winners) or the next A1 (2001 winners)?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Top Eleven Best Things About Bar Cock

11). Free beer, free beer, free beer.
10). Getting a 10 euro pay rise for the last 3 gigs.
09). Watching people disco dance to "Stayin' Alive".
08). The cheers the first time I played "Bailando" by Alaska.
07). Hearing that the bar staff were amazed at my ability to drink so much beer and not fall down.
06). Having a woman ask me the name of "Cantaloop" by Us3 after I played it and telling me that she has been trying to find that song for years - I gave her the name of the group and the album...
05). Knowing that my friends were there to listen to me week after week.
04). Watching my mate Mark sing every word to "You Make Me Feel So Young" by Sinatra.
03). Seeing Irene "dance" whenever I played "Blister In The Sun" or "Dejame".
02). The look on the owners face when I asked her if she wanted everyone to fall asleep last Sat night after she asked me to turn down the music.

And the number one thing...

01). Seeing Prince Felipe (yes - the actual Prince of Spain) in the bar during my 8th gig and knowing that he stayed for almost two hours.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Cock Blocked

Saturday 11 February was my 10th gig in Bar Cock. It promised to be my biggest gig there yet due to the large number of guests from the ARCO festival. ARCO is a contemporary arts festival that is held every February in Madrid. The director of the festival is very good friends with the owners of Bar Cock so the bar hosts a week long party for all of the artists and people involved with the festival, culminating in a private party on Sunday night.

Instead of being a great night and my best gig yet, it turned out to be a disaster and one of my worst gigs ever. I was so frustrated that I walked out early and have subsequently informed the bar that I no longer wish to continue playing there.

Here is what happened:

The night started out with loads of promise. I arrived early, set my things up and began playing at 11:45 to a larger than normal crowd. For the first hour I was feeling really good - the bar was filling up and I was getting a good reaction to the music I was playing. At about 1:30 (when the bar was packed and a large queue had formed at the door) I decided to lift the tempo a bit. No sooner had I progressed the music slightly then I was told to turn it down by one of the owners. Now, I must point out that I have never had a very good relationship with this person. She is abrupt, rude and never satisfied with anything that is happening in the bar. She also happens to be the aunt of my friend who bartends there and who got me the gig in the first place.

But, I was having fun and decided to continue undeterred. After turning down the music I waited about 3 or 4 minutes and turned it up again (which is what I usually did when she complained). I make it a habit to walk around the floor about once every 30 minutes during a gig. I like to listen to how things sound and look for any responses from the crowd to what is being played. I am always aware of the importance of keeping the music at an appropriate volume. It should never be so loud that you have to shout to the person next to you but it should never be so quiet that you can't hear it above the level of conversation. In other words, you should hear exactly what is happening without it being intrusive.

Another few minutes and about 2 or 3 songs passed when the owner approached me once again. She demanded the music be turned down again and also asked me to change what I was playing. She wanted to hear something that was in her words a bit less "boom boom boom". I looked at her in disbelief and asked her what she meant. She told me that everyone was very drunk and that she didn't want them to get too excited. She wanted me to play something more relaxing so that things would not get too out of hand. Still shocked (and now offended) I asked her if she knew that we were in a bar (probably not the best response). I then told her that it was the peak of the night, everyone was enjoying themselves and for me to play anything other than what I was would be ridiculous (perhaps another bad response). I concluded by asking her if she wanted everyone to fall asleep (yet another one). I say these were not the best responses that I could have made but I do not regret saying any of them. Despite the fact that she is the owner I do not take kindly to being told how to DJ. However, I told her that I would try to change directions slightly and keep in mind what she had said.

Another few minutes and 2 or 3 more songs passed when she came back for a third time. Again she started by asking if I knew who she was and demanded that I stop playing the type of music I was playing and insisted that I turn it down. This time when she walked away I stopped the music completely (definitely a bad response). It took about 5 minutes but she returned asking me what I was doing. I told her that if she was going to insist I keep the volume at an inaudible level and tell me what to play then there was no point in me being there (yep - another bad one). After telling me that if I did not like it I did not have to return again, she told me that she was concerned because the police were outside and she did not want any problems. I concurred that I didn't want any problems with the police either and decided to try one more time to appease her. At this point, I had totally lost my concentration and momentum and had no idea what to do. It was after 3:30 but still too early to really start winding things down. I struggled for a few minutes but tried to carry on with music and a volume level that I thought were appropriate.

When she returned for a fourth time, still complaining about the volume I stopped the music and told her that I was leaving. I was replaced by an iPod that was turned down so low there was no chance of hearing anything above the crowd. They really might as well just tie a string with a brick attached to the mixer...

After reflecting on these events, it was with a heavy heart that I told my bartending friend that I would not be returning to Bar Cock. Unfortunately, this is a struggle I can not win but it is one that I will not sacrifice my musical taste or beliefs for either. I suppose you could put everything down to "artistic differences".

Sadly, my residence only lasted for 10 gigs in Bar Cock but I (more or less) enjoyed my time there and learned a lot. At least I am walking away knowing that I played the music my way.

The final setlist was:

01. Hello, It's Me - John Legend
02. Joy (Edit) - Isaac Hayes
03. Midnight And You - Love Unlimited Orchestra
04. Love's Theme - Love Unlimited Orchestra
05. Above The Clouds - Paul Weller
06. Let's Stay Together - Al Green
07. Breezin' - Boris Gardiner
08. You Know How To Make Me - Two Kings In A Cipher
09. I Get The Sweetest Feeling - Jackie Wilson
10. Every Kinda People - Jo O'Meara
11. Be My Baby - The Ronettes
12. (I Can) Deal With That - Dee Edwards
13. Juicy - Notorious BIG
14. Superstition - Stevie Wonder
15. All Night Long (12" Version) - Mary Jane Girls
16. Outstanding (12" Version) - The Gap Band
17. Hate It Or Love It - The Game ft 50 Cent
18. Thinking Of You - Sister Sledge
19. Dancing Queen - Abba
20. Kung Fu Fighting - Karl Douglas
21. Rock The Boat - The Hues Corporation
22. Stayin' Alive - Bee Gees
23. Get Up (I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine) - James Brown
24. Brick House - The Commodores
25. Rock Your Body - Justin Timberlake
26. If You Need A Man - Bon Garcon
27. Windy City Theme (I'll Tell You What It Is Later) - Chi-Sound Orchestra
28. Band Of Gold - Freda Payne
29. Brothers Gonna Work It Out - Willie Hutch
30. (Oh Lord) Take Me Back - SugaRush Beat Company
31. Betcha She Don't Love You - Evelyn King
32. Mama Used To Say - Junior
33. Caribbean Queen (No More Love On The Run) - Billy Ocean
34. Da Ya Think I'm Sexy? - Rod Stewart
35. I'm Coming Out - Diana Ross
36. Fashion - David Bowie
37. Miss You - The Rolling Stones
38. Pop Muzik - M
39. Brazil 2030 (St Barth Mix) - Oscar
40. Be Right There - Brother Of Soul
41. Summer Sun (Markus Enochson Remix) - Koop
42. All I Need (Jimpster Remix) - Blue Six
43. Erotic City - Supafly ft Deni Hines
44. At Night (Afterlife Mix) - Shakedown
45. Men Senara - Bebe
46. To Be In Love - Tito Puente & India
47. Nem Vem Que Nao Tem - Wilson Simonal
48. Teenage Kicks - Nouvelle Vague
49. 6 Underground - Sneaker Pimps
50. Whatever, Whenever - Groove Armada
51. History Repeating - Propellerheads ft Shirley Bassey
52. Guitarra G (White Label Remix) - G-Club ft Banda Sonora

53. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out - The Smiths
54. Just Like Heaven - The Cure

Rock on...


Thursday, February 09, 2006

My First Ever Gig

It is hard to believe but already it is three years since I had my first ever gig. It took place in a bar in Dublin called Traffic. It's a fairly hip place with a really cool bar and big, comfortable leather chairs and booths.

The bar had only been open a few months when a couple of DJs / promoters decided to start a club night on Sundays called Nylon. The idea was to blend music with images (provided by a projector) and create a different sort of night to what most bars in Dublin were doing at the time. I had the pleasure of playing at the first ever Nylon night along with about 4 or 5 other guys. The night kicked off at 18:00 and each of us played for about 90 minutes. It was a lot of fun and really interesting because each of us had totally different styles & tastes in music - there really was something for everyone.

My setlist for the night was:

Sure Thing - St Germaine
Breezin' - Columbia Carina
The Child - Alex Gopher
Papadam - Yonderboi
Tsunami (Inside My Soul) - Sven Van Hees
Honey - Tosca
Fairplay - Soul II Soul
Don't Mess With My Man - Lucy Perl
Someday - Roy Davis Jr.
All Night Long - Mary Jane Girls
Think (About It) - Lyn Collins
Get On The Good Foot - James Brown
Just Plain Funky - The Bucketheads
Me Myself And I - De La Soul
Know How - Young MC
Superfly - Curtis Mayfield
Root Down - Beastie Boys
Can I Kick It? - A Tribe Called Quest
Rappers Delight - Sugarhill Gang
Super Disco - Alex Gopher
The Way (Original Mix) - Global Communication
Spanish Grease (Remix) - Richard Dorfmeister
Finally (Original Version) - Kings Of Tomorrow
Machine Vibes - Metro Area

Unfortunately after a second performance 2 weeks later, I was told that I would no longer be needed for subsequent gigs. It was pretty frustrating since I was doing something unusual myself - playing off a laptop. Despite wanting to offer an alternative to all the other bars and clubs in Dublin, these guys didn't want to rock the boat too much. They (like every other DJ in Dublin) reckoned that you have to play records to be "real" and "hip". If you didn't then you were a poser and faking it (or at least that is what they told me).

However, 3 years on and Nylon is still going strong on a Sunday night in Traffic although I don't know how many of the original guys involved are still there. Most DJs in Dublin are still playing records but the whole scene has really diminished in the last two years. Lots of bars have discovered that with a fairly decent computer, mp3 software and a large hard drive you don't need to pay someone to play tunes.

Ahh... computers. Is there anything they CAN'T do?..

Thursday, February 02, 2006

One Of The 3% Men

Bob Roll is a former pro cyclist & "Tour Day Frants" rider. He is from Oakland and was one of the original members of the 7-Eleven cycling team formed in 1981. He also raced for Motorola in 1991 before switching to the French Z team and taking up professional mountain biking in 1992. During his career on the road he raced in 4 Tours, 3 Giros, 8 Paris-Roubaix races & 8 World Championships. Although he was racing mountain bikes in 1992, he did ride in the Corestates Pro Championships that year and I had the pleasure to cheer him on and meet him briefly after the race.

He has written several books and now does commentary for the Outdoor Life Network. He is renowned for his sharp, witty sense of humor and his ability to uniquely describe the lifestyle & experiences of a pro bike rider. He seems to also be the one who persuaded Lance Armstrong to give cycling another chance when he had given up after his illness and resigned himself to being fat & eating burritos for the rest of his life.

I recall reading an interview with Bobke in a cycling magazine when I was in college. In the article he describes himself as being a "3% man" on the bicycle. When he was asked to clarify what that meant he explained the fact that most of the time he was racing in Europe he felt like total shit. He recounted races where he spent endless hours at the very back of the bunch: suffering, groveling in the gutter and barely hanging on to the wheel in front of him. However, he said that he did experience that rare occasion (roughly 3% of the time) when he was strong, had good legs and could make everyone else suffer.

This has me thinking as I try to maintain a decent level of fitness in my life & prepare for a half marathon at the beginning of April: If this guy was a professional, dedicated his entire life to cycling and only felt really good 3% of the time what chance do I have at EVER feeling good?

The answer is not very often. I have spent the last 16 months in Madrid where it is difficult to run & nearly impossible to cycle. In two months time I will be 36 years old. I work hard, enjoy going out and like to drink beer. Given all of these factors, I can probably count on both hands the number of times in the last 16 months that I have felt really, really good physically & mentally at the same time. Normally, I struggle through every step / pedal stroke of the way in my training sessions.

Why, you may ask, would I possibly want to put myself through such frustration & torture on a regular basis? The answer is simple - I love the sports of cycling & running. I love the feeling of being able to challenge myself & push myself to new limits. And, I am addicted to the sensation that occurs every once in a great while when I can go as fast as I want, or as hard as I want, or as far as I want and I don't feel any pain at all.

Let's hope I have one of those days on April 2nd when I attempt my second half marathon...

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

California vs Roscommon Nightclubs

California Girls

Roscommon Girls

Sean Kelly

Sean Kelly has started a new continental racing team this year called simply enough: The Sean Kelly Racing Team. It is comprised of mostly young Irish riders and a few Belgians as well. The team will act as a development squad & use the Sean Kelly Cycling Academy in Belgium as it's headquarters. Funnily enough the team launch & presentation took place last week at the
Jameson Distillery in Dublin.

I have heard that Sean is very strict with the young riders. They ride Vitus 979 frames with Campy Super Record parts that feature down tube shifters. They have also been issued pedals with toe clips & straps and are required to wear hairnets & wool jerseys all year round. I believe that he also inspects (and must approve of) every piece of food that the riders intend to eat.

If any of these dudes have just 20% of the balls & determination that Kelly had, then the rest of the continental bunch had better start worrying...

This photo was taken after the 17th stage of the 2003 Tour from Dax to Bordeaux, which was won by Servais Knaven. After the stage I was walking around the finish area with a colleague of mine when we spotted Sean & David Duffield talking at their Eurosport car. They were looking at a map on the bonnet of the car and apparently trying to figure out how to get to Saint-Maxient-l'Ecole for the finish of Stage 18 the following day. David spotted my companion & began chatting with him. After Sean had folded up the map, I asked him for a quick picture. We exchanged a few words but he was in a hurry and seemed to be a bit agitated. Following a few funny quips aimed at David to get him to stop talking and get in the car, Sean got in himself, started the engine and began backing up. At this point David realised he was serious, said his good-byes, jumped in the car & they were gone.

As they drove away, I could hear Sean giving out to David about them being late, hitting traffic, missing dinner etc, etc...