Saturday, 23 January 2010

The Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra

I don't usually blog about shows I have seen, I save that for Facebook. This is mostly due to the fact that my memory for names of people and songs etc is terrible. However last night's show deserves to be blogged. So here we go with my sketchy account of last night.

The show was The Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra at The Luminaire in London, additional guests were Foster and Gilvan, and Mr Solo. Having successfully escaped work early and negotiated trains and tubes (thanks to Linzy) we were early to the venue and a little eager to get in, inevitably the doors opened a little late.

I had seen The Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra at Latitude festival (again thanks to Linzy) and was instantly drawn to the wonderful and quirky songs. You can't help but be impressed by Martin White's musical arrangements, singing, accordion and ukulele playing at the front of the orchestra. Soon after I bought the EP, which is available here the design of which is genius (trust me) and then you get four wonderful songs, for a fiver it is a bargain.

The other two acts on the bill I had not seen before. We finally made out way into the venue having met up with other fellow tweeters in the bar next door. The Luminaire is not a huge venue but has excellent atmosphere and is appropriately decorated in theatre extravagance. As we marvelled at the tiny red piano and lots of music stands crammed on the stage, Martin White (@martylog) came to say hello and chat to "twitter corner" as we soon named our group. At this point I should inform you (although I can't go) that Karaoke Circus, also one of Martin's projects sounds like it will be fantastic so do book early, see here for more information.

First to perform were Foster and Gilvan, with clown painted faces a ragged suits they set up an array of instruments in the middle of the standing area. The venue had not yet filled up and it certainly made for a more intimate performance. We were treated to and encouraged to sing along to various songs and sea shanties including an excellent cover of version of Scott Walker's version of Jacques Brel's Dans Le Port D'Amsterdam. The audience including us were thrilled throughout as Foster approached many people with his charming stare of encouragement. I wish my memory could serve them better to describe more of their set, but again my memory is broken. (See photograph above).

Next up was David Devant (formerly of David Devant and his spirit wife) as Mr Solo. Arriving on stage in a sparkly skin tight cat suit with a matching cape and a huge quiff, we anticipated something special, and that is what we got. Having not seen him before I can only describe him as eccentric with some expressive "moves", including a rock style leap in the air (knocking music stands over as he did it) and several attempts at standing on a speaker reaching for a rail above the stage for balance. This did result in one fall onto the stage, which he laughed off. The stage was illuminated with a video backdrop to accompany Mr Solo's songs. Again my memory fails me with song names, but we were again encouraged to take part and I do recall the passion and emotion with which Mr Solo sang throughout. To me he seemed Nick Cave/David Bowie like at times, but certainly with his own flamboyant style which I wouldn't hesitate to see again. A few of the members of The Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra joined Mr Solo on stage, including Martin White to play the tiny red piano to one song. The set ended with a fantastic performance of Pimlico accompanied by the full Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra.

The final part of the evening was Martin White and The Mystery Fax Machine orchestra, I believe it was a 25 piece orchestra on this occasion, with the size of the stage, this was an achievement in itself. The set started with part one of a new song about a train journey called The Trans-Carpathian Express, but as always Martin sang and performed with such gusto that he was breathless by the end. I must say I was enchanted by every second of the performance, the sound of the orchestra, the fantastic musical arrangement, the quirky and often funny lyrics and the passion and exuberance of Martin's performance. Of the songs I was already familiar with, all of my favourites were played. Thank You For Not Discussing The Outside world (as heard on the EP) with an introduction from Martin explaining that it is a reference to the simpsons (it says it outside the retirement home, I did not notice this before). The History of Europe, which as all fans know if a condensed history of Europe in 3 minutes, both of these songs can be heard here. Another of my favourite songs which I had luckily seen before with and without the orchestra (Martin performed it solo with his accordion at Mark Watson's The Hotel in the cabaret room at the Edinburgh fringe last year) was Squeeze Me. Martin's facial expressions during this song are delightfully evil, do watch the Youtube of a previous performance of it here (the sound quality does improve as the video goes on). The audience were then encouraged to be the choir to Maybe, with the prompt of the line "I don't know why I did that" for us to sing "maybe something's wrong with me" (this remains in your head for days, trust me I am humming it now).

A truly mesmerising evening and definitely worth the trip down to London for. I do hope that The Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra release more recordings soon and perform at the Edinburgh Fringe the year (in the first two weeks when I am there). I know this blog is not full of immense detail due to my poor memory, please forgive that, but I do encourage everyone who hasn't seen them before to try to as soon as possible and until then follow the links in the blog and enjoy.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

#PreciousLittle Podophiles

I know by blogs are usually my thoughts on social networking and the internet, but if you follow me on twitter you will notice I write the hashtag #PreciousLittle quite a lot, so I thought I would explain for those of you not yet involved (and to those of you who are, I'm just going to say what I like about it all).

As many of you know I got really into comedy last year, and first saw Michael Legge at Latitude festival, but I was too shy to say hello, even though he did shout in my face at random (as part of a sketch). I then agreed on twitter to say hello when I saw him in Edinburgh and meet his footlump (long story, see his blog). So Sarah (@misswiz) and I did just that. There were beers flowing and a few more hellos and shows during the fringe festival.

So you can imagine how pleased I was to hear that Michael (@michaellegge) and James Hingley (@BillPoddy) were going to do a podcast together. They didn't really have a name for it at first but eventually aptly settled on what they talk about - Precious Little. I don't really know how to describe it, they do so quite well on the Itunes description, "Just a load of talking really". Michael likes to say "Cunt" quite a lot and talk about what he has been up to (including things which have infuriated him and he has blogged about) this is usually very funny. James is the more serious one of the pair, but is in his element when Michael makes him annoyed or angry and he has certainly come out of his shell thanks to #InterviewJames (I will explain that more later). As a duo they wonderfully bounce off each other and amazingly entertain, even though there is no script or structure to it.

Then came the interaction... I had sent Michael a message to say I enjoyed the first podcast, I received a reply saying sorry for mentioning me quite a lot in the second one. I was worried. In podcast 2 Michael decided he wanted people to join in and no matter where they were listening, if he called someone a cunt, we had to then shout out "...... is a cunt!". The one person he thought would do this ridiculous request was... yes, you guessed it, me. They then shouted "Come on Nicola Woolhouse shout it!" every time Michael called someone a cunt in that podcast (and a little in future ones). So from then on I decided to tweet when I listened to Precious Little so that Michael could see that I was indeed participating, yes, he was right about me, I am daft enough to do it in the name of comedy. This initially (understandably) irritated some of my followers, but gradually a few of us decided to listen to it at the same time and tweet along. Michael and James were pleased about this and named us the Podophiles.

Although James is lovely (and has a great voice) he was rather quiet in comparison to Michael, as most people would be. So Michael, who is crap at interviewing used interviews in magazines to #InterviewJames, this part of the podcast got even better when the listeners and podophiles started asking the questions. Many podophiles have also send jingles, stories and poems in (including @Misswiz @AndyMcH @mister_wavey @IanReentrant @lornalily and many many more). The group of podophiles has grown rather large and we now have regular #ListeningParties (where we all listen and tweet at the same time). The tweets don't make much sense unless you are listening to the podcast but do have a look, search #PreciousLittle.

Since then there have been other regular slots on the podcast such as Cunt of the Weep and Tommy's Tedious Tweets (you will have to listen to find out what they are). It is my favourite podcasts, not only are Michael and James both naturally very funny, but there is a sense of community between the podophiles. I know it sounds weird, but we all enjoy it and feel involved. Recently I had the (probably not good) idea of playing a drinking game whilst listening to the podcast, every time Michael said cunt I would drink a shot, and if they discussed (not just mentioned) Doctor Who, I would drink a glass full of booze. Sarah (@h2osarah) agreed to play with me the first time I did this. We got very drunk in just over an hour. Luckily I have only managed to do this one other time yesterday (Saturday), as the podcast usually comes out on a Sunday, and I can't be drinking on a Sunday when I start work at 8am Monday. There were quite a few of us playing last night, which was great fun. The listening parties are international with podophiles in Australia, America and the UK. I was actually quite miffed when I missed a listening party because I was out and had to listen alone, it is not the same anymore.

Now I look forward to the possibility of a live podcast at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer. Using twitter many of us podophiles already chatted to each other, but there are new people who have begun to say hello and join in, we often tweet each other between podcasts and some of us have agreed to meet in Edinburgh. Yet again social networking, podcasts and the internet has allowed us to truly social network.

Do join in and subscribe to Precious Little podcast on Itunes.