Thursday, September 10, 2009

What I did in the school holidays, by Mick, aged 35.

Hello again! Sorry for the lack of updates, but it's been a busy few weeks, mostly taken up with work, various trips around the country and spending time with my nippers during the school holidays.

If you're interested, these are a few of the things I've been up to. If you're not, well, you can stop reading, I suppose.

Nine Inch Nails/ Jane's Addiction

Blimey, this seems like ages ago now. Those of you that read this blog regularly, or actually know me personally (that does happen, sometimes) know that I'm a big fan of Nine Inch Nails. Ever since I first saw them live way back in 1991 in a shitty little club here in Birmingham that isn't even there anymore. The American leg of this tour was called the 'NIN/JA' tour, which sounded cool. I can imagine Trent Reznor thinking 'Well, we're NIN, so we need someone with the initials JA to support us, just so we can have a cool name for our tour.' So, after Julie Andrews, and then Birmingham's own Joan Armatrading both turned him down, they asked the recently reformed again Jane's Addiction. ( I'm only kidding! I know Trent Reznor is a big fan of Jane's Addiction, even sampling Perry Farrell's screaming for 'Ringfinger', the last track on NIN's debut album Pretty Hate Machine, as well as using 'Sex Is Violent' on his soundtrack for Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers.)

As I said, NIN/JA was the name of the US tour. By the time it got to th UK, it had changed its name to 'Wave Goodbye' as Trent Reznor had decided that NIN aren't going to tour anymore. So I can say now that I saw them on their first tour, and their last. I bet Trent saw me in the crowd and thought 'I'm glad Mick's here, it kinda bookends the whole touring experience for me.'

Anyway, the gig was in Manchester, at the MEN arena. The hotel me and my glamorous other half stayed in wasn't very good. Should've been, for the price, but it was awful. I'm not a big fan of Manchester anyway, I've been there four times now, and it's never impressed me. That said, each time I've been has only been a flying visit, maybe I'd enjoy it more if I stayed there a bit longer. (Did that sound diplomatic enough? Good.)

Because we left after work and drove straight up there, we missed about half an hour of Jane's Addiction, but what I did see was very good. I was slightly distracted by the vertical sweat stain that was on the back of the bassist's shorts, but the music was good. However, at one point, a couple of scary-looking women in front of us turned around and asked me if I liked it. When I said 'Yeah' they shook their heads and the scariest looking one said 'I just don't get it, me.' So, in summary, Jane's Addiction: Good, but not for everyone, especially if you resemble Morticia Addams' chubbier sister.

Looking around the stadium, I realised I was one of the oldest people there. Most of the crowd probably weren't even born when I saw them in 1991, which is a frightening thought. Anyway, when NIN came on, they were awesome. Their light show probably damaged my retinas forever (this was before the government's ban on filament bulbs) and even though this was their last ever tour, they didn't go for the standard 'greatest hits' setlist. They played songs that I'd never heard them play live before, as well as some of the old standards. It was, basically, a great night, and I'm glad I was there.

Banksy vs. Bristol Museum

My girlfriend's old friend Sarah came over from Amsterdam (She's not Dutch, she works there.) to visit and we all agreed that going to the Banksy exhibit would be good for a laugh, so we booked a night in an ibis (always fun!) and buggered off down to Bristol. This was the first time I've been to Bristol without being there for the Comics Expo. It was kinda strange not seeing any imperial stormtroopers or kids dressed as Wolverine milling about, but that was cool as I like Bristol. I've had many a fantastic time there. And, unusually for the Summer we've just had, the weather that weekend was fantastic.
We were told to expect queues, and by the time we got there on a Saturday afternoon, the queue was massive, and we were told that we were likely to be waiting for three hours, so we didn't go that afternoon. Luckily, unbeknownst to us before we got there, Bristol was holding its annual Harbour festival, which consisted of loads of boats, obviously, live shows, music and comedy and lots of barbecues and drinking. We watched some of the live show, but after watching some woman fanny around on a tightrope whilst some bloke sat by the side playing flamenco guitar, (It's supposed to be 'arty', but I call it 'bollocks'.) I thought it would be a good time to go to a pub. Then again, I always tend to think it's a good time to go to the pub. Thing is, because of the festival, all the bars were heaving, and they only served you drinks in plastic cups, which I'm not fond of.
So, after a few plastic pints (for me, anyway. The ladies had cocktails. That's because they're ladylike and posh, and I'm neither of those things!) we went for an overpriced al fresco dinner, which tasted nice, I suppose, but it was kind of ruined by the sight of a local teenage girl who was too pissed to stand up and throwing her ring up. We took this lesson about binge drinking to heart and then went for a few more plasticky pints in several of the dockside bars.
The next morning, we got up early, which isn't good if you have a hangover, had a mediocre breakfast and several coffees at the hotel , then headed up to the Bristol Museum an hour and a half before it opened. It sounded like a good plan the day before. Still, the wait was worth it. It was a fantastic exhibition. I've been to a few exhibitions before (including the ones I was a part of) and they tend to be dry affairs. Except for the ones where there were free drinks (which was the only reason I went to a few of them). Not this one. This exhibition was fun. Sick and twisted, but fun. No free drinks, but great nonetheless.

As you go in, you notice the Ronald McDonald figure stuck to the front of the museum, he's very high up, his make-up is tear-stained, and there's an empty bottle of Jack Daniels perched next to him, and it looks like he's about to jump. As you enter the exhibit, you walk past a burned-out ice-cream van, and behind it is a policeman on one of those kiddie's rides you see outside supermarkets, with distorted ice-cream van music, and the effect is eerie. Before you go into the exhibition proper, there's a painting riffing on the old Hansel and Gretel story, only it's Michael Jackson opening the door to the children. Out of respect, there was a candle burning in front of it. This set the tone for the rest of the show.

The main part of the exhibit focuses mostly on his graffiti stuff, most of which is very clever, although a lot of it is anti-police, and that gets a bit boring after the fifth image of coppers kissing each other or holding hands. The highlight of this first room was a giant painting of the House Of Commons, only the politicians have been replaced by chimps.

The second room was set out like a zoo, several cages with animatronic puppets in them, one with a caged ape painting an imagined sunset, one with chicken McNuggets hatching out of eggs, a rabbit putting make up on in front of a mirror, a Birdseye crispy fish-steak swimming around in a tank, and so on, all basically highlighting how awful the human race is to animals. Which is a fair point, but I reckon it's the animals' fault for being so damn tasty. My favourite part of this room was the cage with an aged, wretched-looking Tweety Pie in it. I could've stood there and watch that thing sigh all day.

That wasn't the end of it, either. Banksy had had a go at the rest of the museum, too, replacing pictures and exhibits with his own. So, you get what looks like a Constable, a country landscape, but this one has a car in it, with a visible bare arse in the windscreen , and it's titled 'Dogging'. It's not highbrow, but it's funny. There was another one where UFOs were attacking an old painting of a busy seaport. My favourite of these replaced paintings was this one, called 'Agency Worker':

This was a clever way of geting people to have a look around the whole museum, trying to find the bits Banksy had tampered with. There was all kinds of puerile things, including a dildo in the stalactite collection, a plate with a turd on in a cabinet full of ceramics, and one of those awful plates with a photo of kittens on it was put in a cabinet with fine china.
Anyway, we had a blast. It's the first time I've been to an art exhibition and come out laughing. I'd recommend you go, but I think it's finished now. Oh well, go to Bristol Museum anyway, it's a lovely building.

Other stuff.

I've also been on various trips around the Midlands with my offspring: Cadburyworld, West Midlands Safari Park, and Warwick Castle, which were all good fun, and I've also been down to Brighton for a wedding, but I'm knackered now. I just want a nice, relaxing stress-free weekend for a change. Oh, hang on, Villa play Blues this weekend! Aaaaaaarrrrrggghhhh!!

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