Mike Atkinson

Nottingham Pride Preview (2008).

Posted in features, Nottingham Post by Mike A on July 23, 2008

Back in the not-so-distant days before civil partnerships, anti-discrimination legislation, the repeal of Section 28 and an equal age of consent, it was easy to understand the need for Pride festivals.  Faced with so much inequality under the law, lesbians and gay men had plenty to shout about, and many battles to fight.  But in these more enlightened times, is there really any purpose left in continuing the Pride tradition?

According to the organisers of this year’s Nottingham Pride, which takes place at the Arboretum tomorrow afternoon, the answer is an emphatic “Yes”.

Sadly, homophobic abuse and violence is still very much with us.  In the year up to April 2008, 234 such incidents were reported in Nottinghamshire alone, with many more going unreported.  For a large number of gay people, living their lives freely and openly is still a tough – and for some, an impossible – struggle.

In this context, a fun and friendly public get-together in the park becomes more than just an enjoyable day out.  The political banners may have come down, the angry chants may have subsided – but in its own cheerfully low-key way, Nottingham Pride still has a powerful statement to make.  It’s a day for the whole gay community to make itself visible, to come together as one, and to celebrate its diverse strengths.

While other, larger Pride events have gradually succumbed to the lure of heavy commercial sponsorship, turning themselves into little more than glorified pop festivals, Nottingham Pride has stuck closer to its original roots.  What you’ll find at the Arboretum tomorrow afternoon will be nearer in spirit to a relaxed village fete than the sort of pumping, thumping, tops-off mayhem that some might have imagined.  The event’s organisers are keen to point out that this is an inclusive, family-friendly event, and it is hoped that people will come along and support their friends, families and colleagues, whether or not they are gay themselves.

For most of the attendees, the festival is chance to catch up with old friends, to lounge around in the sunshine, to visit the odd stall or two, and to enjoy the six hours of entertainment which will be taking place on the park’s traditional bandstand.  This year’s line-up includes a country band, an indie-rock band, an Abba tribute act, and even some bona fide pop stars: the boy band Billiam, whose latest single landed just outside the Top Twenty in June.  Squeezed in amongst all this, the Lord Mayor of Nottingham will be addressing the crowds at 1:45pm.

Stalls will be provided by organisations such as Nottingham Switchboard (who are always keen to hear from potential new volunteers) and Healthy Gay Nottingham (who offer free health-related counselling for men).  Nottinghamshire Police will be there, promoting their confidential telephone help line for homophobic incidents, and representatives from the County Council’s register office will be on hand, to help couples plan for their civil partnership ceremonies.

After the festival winds up at 6pm, the city’s regular cluster of gay venues will be packing in the punters for the rest of the night.  The NG1 club (Lower Parliament Street) will be hosting a ten-hour marathon session, starting at 10pm and blasting through until 8am on Sunday morning.  Not to be outdone, the New Foresters (St Ann’s Street) will be partying from 6pm until 5am.  The Foresters will also be providing the beer tent (with cabaret and disco) at the festival itself.

In conjunction with this year’s Pride, a dedicated community radio station has been granted a seven-day broadcasting licence, hopefully with a view to applying for a more permanent licence in the future.  Progress FM (87.7 MHz) has been on air since Monday of this week, with a 24-hour programme of live and pre-recorded shows.  The station will be broadcasting live from the New Foresters tonight (11pm onwards), and live from the Arboretum on Saturday afternoon.  Programmes can also be streamed directly from progressfm.co.uk.

Nottingham Pride takes place between noon and 6pm on Saturday at The Arboretum.  Admission is free.  For more information, visit www.nottinghampride.co.uk.

Duran Duran, Nottingham Trent FM Arena, Sunday July 6

Posted in Capital FM Arena, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on July 7, 2008

Acoustically speaking, the Trent FM Arena isn’t exactly the easiest of venues. For visiting sound crews, its unforgiving, hangar-like dimensions must present a significant challenge — but, as last night’s show proved, the challenge is not an impossible one. While lesser acts have floundered, their instruments buried in murky sludge, Duran Duran’s sound quality was well nigh impeccable, and a tribute to the professionalism of their team.

Bravely, the band opted to open their set with the first three numbers from their most recent album, Red Carpet Massacre. Although the album has under-performed sales-wise, the songs were enthusiastically received, signalling a return to the band’s funkier, clubbier roots, and marking a noticeable shift from their more rock-based influences. Perhaps it is no coincidence that guitarist Andy Taylor — always Duran’s biggest rocker — left the band during the album’s early sessions in 2006. His place on stage was filled by an unassuming chap called Dom, who kept his profile low and his solos to a minimum.

As if to emphasise the shift, bassist John Taylor — still pretty-boy handsome, despite an increasing sartorial resemblance to Keith Richards — doubled up on additional keyboards, adding a walloping bass-heavy throb to set opener The Valley. Giving him a run for his money in the forty-something heart-throb stakes, Roger Taylor cut a lean, agile figure on the drums, his superb playing placing him at the heart of Duran’s revitalised sound. Representing the arty faction, keyboardist Nick Rhodes maintained his usual inscrutable, impassive stance.

And then there was Simon: still playing the rock star, striking every pose in the book, lapping up the limelight and occasionally making a bit of a twit of himself — but never taking himself too seriously, and clearly still loving every minute. According to Simon, Duran’s debut single Planet Earth “is about the fact that we’re not alone”. Had he been communing with latter-day UFO watcher Robbie Williams, one wondered…

For the crowd, the galvanising moment came early on, as the new songs gave way to a storming version of Hungry Like The Wolf. Suddenly, the entire Arena was on their feet, giving it up and living it large. From that point on, Duran could do no wrong. Even comparatively weaker hits such as A View To A Kill and the more recent (Reach Up For The) Sunrise sounded fantastic, the latter prompting massed arm waving from the front to the back of the hall.

Although the band could easily have played it safe, risks continued to be taken. An hour into the set, in a neat inversion of the increasingly popular “acoustic interlude”, a fifteen minute all-electronic set was performed, with the four core members lined up in front of mini-synthesisers, paying homage to electro pioneers Kraftwerk.

Or at least, that was the theory. As it turned out, Simon couldn’t rein in those rock star impulses for long. Barely touching his kit, he soon broke rank from the line-up, engaging instead on a sequence of moves which combined 1980s b-boy robotics with some decidedly camp pelvic thrusting. The overall effect was as endearing as it was preposterous.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was when an extended Girls On Film morphed into a cover of The Temptations’ Papa Was A Rolling Stone. Considering Duran’s somewhat shaky reputation for cover versions (who could forget their bizarre take on Public Enemy’s 911 Is A Joke, for instance?), this was another major gamble — but again, it was a gamble that paid off. “WHO’S YOUR DADDY?!” yelled Simon, over and over again, slapping his breast for emphasis. You had to love him for it. No, really, you did.

Almost two hours in, the set climaxed with an exemplary, spot-on Wild Boys, which played to all the band’s collective strengths. The only real error of judgement came during the encore of Rio, which was besmirched by not one, but two, Eighties Jazz Sax solos. (Paying homage to Kraftwerk is one thing, but paying homage to Spandau Ballet’s Steve Norman is quite another.) It was the only quibble in an otherwise mighty, masterful and gloriously entertaining night.

Set list:

The Valley, Red Carpet Massacre, Nite Runner, Hungry Like The Wolf, Planet Earth, Falling Down, Come Undone, Skin Divers, The Reflex, Save A Prayer, A View To A Kill.

Electro set: Last Chance On The Stairway/All She Wants Is/Warm Leatherette, I Don’t Want Your Love, Skin Trade, Tempted.

Notorious, Girls On Film/Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Ordinary World, (Reach Up For The) Sunrise, The Wild Boys.

Encore: Rio.

White Denim, Nottingham Bodega, Monday July 7

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on July 7, 2008

Nothing on White Denim’s debut album Workout Holiday could prepare you for the all-out aural onslaught of their stage performance. Quite frankly, you might as well be listening to two different bands. Where the album is measured, focussed, its production erring towards the dry and clinical, the live show is a hard, fast, deliriously messy, no-holds-barred experience. Perhaps there were hints of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion in there somewhere, along with a whiff of Kings Of Leon’s raw Southern garage rock.

As we were repeatedly and cheerily reminded, the trio hail from Austin, Texas. At the city’s influential SXSW festival earlier this year, they received the award of Best New Band. The fabled “SXSW buzz” can sometimes be a poisoned chalice, but the band’s exuberant, spontaneous, instinctive energy cut through all the hype in an instant.

Star of the show was drummer Joshua Block, whose intensely complex playing style mesmerised the crowd. It didn’t matter that almost none of the songs sounded familiar; album opener Let’s Talk About It was mangled almost out of recognition. White Denim are all about capturing the moment, and attempting to reproduce it on record seems almost beside the point.

The Rascals – Rascalize

Posted in album reviews, Nottingham Post by Mike A on July 4, 2008

Fresh from his recent chart-topping collaboration with Alex Turner (as the Last Shadow Puppets), Miles Kane has returned to his day job band, for what amounts to his second consecutive debut album. As you might expect from such close kindred spirits, Kane covers similar stylistic ground to Turner’s Arctic Monkeys. The lyrics are wryly observational, the vocals are sardonically Northern, and both bands specialise in the same kind of rattling, rumbling uptempo indie-rock.

That said, there’s more of a late 1950s/early 1960s retro feel to Kane’s outfit, with nods to Link Wray and The Shadows, and copious usage of the whammy bar. And while Alex tends towards hard-bitten cynicism, Miles plays the part of the wide-eyed innocent, “people watching” in cafés (Does Your Husband Know That You’re On The Run?) and chronicling the ramblings of a random nutter at an after-hours party (Freakbeat Phantom).


Black Kids, Team Waterpolo – Nottingham Rescue Rooms, Wednesday July 2

Posted in gigs, Nottingham Post, Rescue Rooms by Mike A on July 3, 2008

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a strong, thumping bass line – so long as it is used as a force for good. Faced with support act Team Waterpolo’s brutal subsonic assault, which left you fearing for the stability of your internal organs, you had to question the band’s motives. Was this some sort of revenge for the controversial high-pitched “Mosquito” alarm, this time audible only to the over-25s? It was certainly the only point of interest in their otherwise routine assemblage of spiky, bratty punk-pop postures.

As for Black Kids – a likeably shambling indie-dance five-piece from Florida, with a fresh attitude and a healthy sense of fun – comparisons could be made with CSS’s position in 2006. Both acts have benefited from a blog-generated buzz in the US, catapulting them into the spotlight rather ahead of time. Happily, Black Kids also have enough style, suss, wit and charm to compensate for their technical limitations. Although their short set basically consisted of a dozen or so variations on the same bag of tricks (best summarised by the effervescent I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You), the tricks were effective, and the mostly 1980s influences (The Cure, New Order, B-52s, Talking Heads) were wisely worn.