Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ben's London Adventure - Pt. 13

I went out taking photos again on Thursday night with David from work. We went out straight from work, and wandered down towards St. Pauls Cathedral with a view to going up into the dome to take some aerial shots of the city. Unfortunately, it closes at 3pm which kind of spoilt our plans. Instead, we walked down towards the Tate Modern, and get some shots from over the bridge. We had a back up plan of trying to get some shots from up in the cafe at the Tate, but sadly that was shut as well! We settled for just walking up and down the river, taking photos and waiting for the 'Blue Hour', until it got dark and we really got started!...

There are a load more photos up on Flickr for those that are interested. Enjoy!

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Life Drawing - Pt. 5

I went to Life Drawing class tonight for the first time in what feels like (and probably is) ages - I was pleasantly suprised with what I produced as well...

Friday, May 11, 2007

MSP: The Corn Exchange, Cambridge - 8th May 2007

The clouds appear to be retreating, and the bly sky showing through as we leave the flat to begin our journey to Cambridge and the first date of the Manic Street Preachers spring/summer 2007 tour. The excitement of it all is finally kicking in - it doesn't seem like it's finally happening. The first night of the tour is always the most exciting, as the anticipation of what's going to happen, and what songs we're going to hear is at it's highest. One of the problems of running and moderating FD is that there is absolutely no chance of keeping news a secret. Setlists need to be posted both on the forum and the newspage, but luckily we've managed to avoid that (for this gig at least). The train journey passes by uneventfully. I play with my new MD recorder which has arrived in the nick of time, do some reading and look out at the landscape while Snoo wrestles with the Guardian crossword. We arrive in Cambridge as a few spots of rain start to fall - it's typical that it decides to rain now, after weeks of beautiful sunshine! We meet Gill, George and Tim at the station and head straight for a Wetherspoons - Perhaps the biggest one I've ever seen! We get the beers in and settle in for a food, drink and a catch up. There's a nice atmosphere in the pub, and the staff are very friendly and chatty. George also quizzes the barmaid about her knowledge of the wines on sale. To her credit she did very well. You always know that, when spending any length of time with George and Gill that a good 80% of the conversation will revolve around food. I don't mind this at all, as they clearly know what they are talking about. The are both such lovely people that I could sit and listen to them talk all day. After some (late) lunch, we head off for a little tour of Cambridge and take a few photos, and have a few more pints. We wonder past the Corn Exchange and say hello to the queue. Sam and Amanda are dressed as the girls from the front of the SATT album. It's funny to see them dressed like that, yet tucked up in huge sleeping bags - You have to admire the sort of effort though. We decant (no pun intended) to another pub just up the road, and chat some more over a massive bowl of nachos until it's time to go. We stroll into the venue (I don't even have my bag checked!). I have a quick browse of the tour merch. There isn't anything that really grabs me, although the Manics Man-bag is pretty cool. Most of the t-shirts have tour dates on the back which I'm not normally a fan of, but I think I might make an exception for this tour as I'm doing quite a bit of it... Once Gill's finished spending money, we wander into the venue. It's a lot bigger than I expect. The ceiling is very high, and the hall itself is very long. We work our way through the crowd, and find a spot over towards James' side and about five or six rows back. It's always tricky for me trying to find a balance between getting a good spot for photos, but also somewhere where I can get a clear recording. The support band, Fear of Music, take the stage after about fifteen minutes of us being in there. I really like them, despite the fact that they make me feel rather old!! I think they sound a bit Bright Eyes-esque with a bit of DCfC thrown in. I might have to listen to some more of their stuff. They leave the stage at about 8:30, and recieve a good reception from the crowd. Now begins the long wait for the Manics... I pass some time by setting up my gear and checking that everything is on the correct settings. Sadly, this doesn't seem to pass enough time and I begin clock watching... After what feels like an hour, the lights go down, and the intro tune starts up (I don't know what it is, but I really like it). The crowd start cheering and then all of a sudden the band are on stage and ready to go! Without wasting any time, they launch into You Love Us and a bigger-than-expected mosh pit ensues! With crowd hyped up, Your Love Alone Is Not Enough follows. Live versions of YLAINE sound a lot more 'Manicsy', and James does well taking on both vocal parts. Another crowd favourite, Motorcycle Emptiness is up next, which gets the crowd jumping. James is springing about all over the place and seems to be really enjoying himself. As the last notes of ME ring out, James returns to the microphone - "This one's called Faster! ...Oh, no it isn't...". Whoops! The crowd laughs as Nicky highlights James' early mistake, even after vowing to make a special effort to actually look at the setlist tonight. I'm Just a Patsy begins in it's place, and sounds as full and powerful as it did back in Manchester, before Faster is played, but in it's scheduled number five spot. Another golden oldie makes a welcome return next in the form of La Tristesse Durera (Scream To A Sigh) - I always forget how great this song is live. It's actually quite a live staple, but for some reason I was suprised to hear it played. We're treated to another SATT track next - Indian Summer. Nicky certainly wasn't kidding when he said that they were going all out on the epic choruses, and this song is certainly no exception. There have been a lot of rumours of long forgotten tracks being pulled out of the bag, and next was the first of those - Born To End. It's been ages since I listened to Generation Terrorists, and this brought the memories flooding back. Unfortunately, I don't think it went down as well as I was expecting (although, those on the front row may have though differently), but I was very glad to be able to add it to the list of songs I've heard live. Another of my favourite tunes follows next: From Despair To Where, before another new song - The Second Great Depression. I felt from the first time I heard the mid-tempo track TSGD, that it would have sat very happily on the James Dean Bradfield's solo album 'The Great Western'. Kevin Carter is next, followed by another rarity from the 2001 album Know Your Enemy. I was never really sold on the album version of Freedom of Speech Won't Feed My Children, but live (and especially with Wayne Murray's backing vocals) it sounds superb, and a nice unexpected suprise. The title track of the new album, Send Away The Tigers is next. I was really hoping they'd play this, as it's an absolute stormer on the album. The fairly standard If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next comes next, before the band (other than James) leave the stage, and Mr. Bradfield takes up the acoustic duties. I always love James' acoustic sets, especially when they feature alternate versions of songs, and this was no exception. First up was a fantastic version of Yes. To begin with I just thought that it would be a verse and chorus like he often does, but it turned out to be the whole song. You could hear a pin drop in the venue while he belted it out before an almight cheer at the end. With barely a pause for breath, the synth started up the riff from No Surface All Feeling. This certainly was a suprise, and I think that it worked well (others disagree however...) The band return to the stage, and Nicky has had his customary half time costume change. While they finish sorting themselves out, James begins the intro to Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier. We were even treated to the "Oh well!" from Nicky before the the chorus kicks in - a great rendition. The last of the new songs for tonights show came next. The crowd descends into quite as the Guns N Roses-esque riff to Autumnsong kicks in. This is another of my favourite tunes from SATT, and has been since I heard it at the Winter Wonderland. You Stole The Sun From My Heart gets the crowd jumping again, before the impromptue Manics quiz from James: "Which song used to start with a Marlon Brando sample?" (...and no, it's not Drug, Drug, Druggy as one member of the audience suggested!) - The answer, of course, is Little Baby Nothing. There was another blast from the past next, which I have to admit, seemed to leave a lot of the crowd a bit stumped - Condemned to Rock and Roll (or at least the first verse) has been adopted as the intro to Motown Junk which was by far the biggest crowd pleaser of the night, especially when Nicky decided to take lead vocals for the last verse and chorus (a la Cardiff 2005). A Design For Life closed the show as it often does, and I always enjoy the big, epic sing along to finish off the night, and as they leave the stage, James hints at another possible tour with a "See you in December" - very exciting! We managed to get out of the venue quickly which was great (I always hate the seemingly endless shuffling out if arenas), and outside into the drizzle (Boo!), and straight into our waiting taxi (which was booked in anticipation of a later finish after a "springsteen-esque set") and we were off to the station. Thankfully, we arrived in plenty of time for the last train, and we just relaxed and chatted on the way home. All told, a great start to what's shaping up to be a great tour. I can hardly wait to see them again in Preston.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Climbing Photo Triptych

Whilst at the Castle last weekend, Ben and I took some photos. I've been playing around with a few of them in Photoshop, and I was pleased with this triptych set that I produced. I like the grittiness to the black and white images, which kind of suits the feel of the Castle, and the spot colour gives a nice focal point.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Ben's London Adventure - Pt. 12

I've been out taking photos again while the sun's been out. The devil's in the detail as they say...

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New Toys...

I've just recieved this!! I decided to treat myself to some new recording gear (just in time for the upcoming Manics tour). It's a Sony MZ - NH600, Hi-MD Mini-disc recorder.

I'm looking forward to having a play with it next week! Hopefully this'll give me a broader scope to create better quality bootlegs.

I've also been thinking about getting a new Digital SLR (if and/or when I have enough money) as I've been taking a lot of photos again. The trusty Canon Powershot A510 is still holding up, even after two years, nearly 10, 000 photos and one pretty bad drop but I think it's starting to show the strain. Does anyone have any recommendations?


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Ben's London Adventure - Pt. 11

Farringdon's a funny old place. I was walking around there yesterday, and just looking up above the endless Prets', Bookshops and pubs, is a world of everso-slightly-out-of-place (at least I think so) architecture. I'm fascinated by the mish-mash of details on the walls and the rooftops. You could quite easily be excused for thinking you were in France - The road up from the station to the meat market certainly has a real Parisian feel to it - but then oddly enough, you get round the corner and you see the Charterhouse, which looks like the Flat Iron building in New York, but on a budget. Bizarre.

Oh, and I'm also becoming obsessed with Flickr! I've been feverishly sorting and arranging different images into various collections and sets. That, and the warm weather is certainly giving me a kick up the backside to get out and take more photos though.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

AOTM - May 2007: Tim Marrs

For the first entry in my (hopefully) regular 'Artist of the Month' series, I have decided to start with the man who has provided no end of inspiration in the shaping of my illustration work since leaving university: Tim Marrs. I don't really know what I can say about him, or his artwork which cannot be said clearer, or more concisely than by the images themselves. I have spent a long while studying and disecting his creations, and find the layers upon layers of images, textures and text within his Photoshop/traditional hybrid images fascinating. I love to attempt to figure out how his pieces have been produced, and I was quietly proud when, after reading an interview with him in Digital Creative magazine, that my detective work was, by and large, on the money!

He is currently represented by the Central Illustration Agency, and his work seems to be in high demand (which just proves that there are AD's out there with good taste!). He recently landed a large commission from Nike to produce a illustrations for the new look 'Brand Jordan' - two of my idols meeting can only be a good thing.

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