Monday, February 22, 2010

Doing Our Bit: A Haiti Fundraiser Event

Last Thursday I dusted off the camera kit for my first photography gig of 2010, a charity fundraising night organised by a gang of Brighton music promoters and community groups in aid of the Haiti earthquake emergency appeal

Despite the torrential weather, hoardes of revellers showed up to support this great cause and dance the night away to some of Brighton's grooviest bands. The performers, who all donated their time for free, included Manouchska, The Fat 45, Pollito Boogaloo, Kalakuta Millionaires, Fanfara and Nhasitafara.

There was a real festival atmosphere in the air as the packed venue buzzed with frantic dancing and feelgood factor from 8pm til 2am (and on a school night, too).  When bands weren't playing, there were DJs in every room, spinning everything from the Star Wars cantina theme to swinging Rock n Roll. I was in my element, capturing the action both on stage and on the dancefloor and throwing a few moves of my own at the same time. You can see the results of my efforts here in this slideshow, which is also available on Flickr.

As well as snapping away all night, I was also playing the part of intrepid reporter, interviewing unsuspecting punters, promoters and artists for the official video of the night (currently being edited together by filmmaker, Scott Lawson). All in all it was a super night, which raised nearly £3,000 for the Disasters Emergency Committee Haiti Appeal. A big slap on the back to all the performers and organisers who made it happen, not to mention the punters who dug deep and partied hard to make it go off with a bang.

If you couldn't make it along last Thursday, but would like to do your bit for Haiti, you can donate online here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Top Five All Time Worst Hangovers

When you're in the midst of one, it's not even remotely amusing, but the great thing about hangovers is that you can look back and laugh... Laugh at the mortifying memory of pressing your face against the tiled bathroom floor and praying for death, laugh at the preposterous excuses with which you tried to palm off your boss to avoid having to work on the Morning After, laugh at the person you shared it with who was even worse than you. Let's face it, hangovers are funny.

These days my hangovers tend to be more easily acquired but less intense  in nature - perhaps a symptom of my reduced capacity for alcohol combined with an increased sense of moderation. The last Hangover Horriblis - and possibly the worst ever - was almost a year ago, but still strong enough in my memory to curb my propensity to over-indulge. That particular one was so bad that it has become a regular subject of rueful reminiscence between me and my better half, with whom I shared the whole sorrowful experience. 

The other evening we were discussing that very day and started comparing it to other epic hangovers of the past. As a result, I came up with this list of my top five worst ever hangovers, which I present now for your enjoyment. Please feel free to laugh, I did.

In reverse order of severity:

Eastbourne, 1993

A fairly typical case of teenage intemperance, this one is memorable for its humorous Morning After scenario. At the time, my boyfriend Chris and I were house-sitting for my dad and step-mum, who were away sailing round Europe. We used to have friends over to stay quite often, most notably Natalie and Craig, who lived in Hailsham and could save on taxi fares after a night out by crashing on our sofa bed. On one such occasion, we'd all been out with the usual theatre crowd, most probably to TJ's (still going strong), I imagine it would have been a Thursday. I remember Carlo being there on the walk back to Longstone Road and he, Natalie and me all rolling down what felt like a never-ending hill side but turned out the next day to be merely a small grassy bank. 

The next morning I couldn't face going into work, not least because my workplace (the now defunct Torq the jeweller) was a small glass box on a sunny corner and not the most pleasant place in which to endure a hangover. Feeling too feeble and scared to do it myself, I asked Natalie to call in sick for me. She was happy to do so, but neither of us had thought to come up with a plausible story before she dialled. My boss picked up and Nat calmly informed her "Rowan won't be in today, she's got a stomach upset". "Who is this?" asked my boss. A look of panic struck Natalie's already bloodhsot eyes "It's ....[long pause].... her.... auntie" she said, entirely unconvicingly. My boss never exactly confronted me about this flagrant truancy, but the arched eyebrow that greeted me on my next shift was enough to ensure I never attempted such a stunt again.

Exeter, 2007

The occasion was Brian's 30th, the venue was a pub in Exeter town centre and then back to Brian's student digs (he was studying for his PCGE at the time). I had been suffering from 'flu and necking Benylin like it was going out of fashion. That and the bottle of Captain Morgan's that I polished off (with a little help from Nick, pictured right - this was the point at which the hangover became inevitable) proved to be a savage combination.

Ant and I were staying in a B&B but didn't make it back there until the wee small hours and had to check out again soon after. God knows how Ant, who was in a bad way too, managed to chauffer the whole Brighton gang home again later that day. I was supposed to be sharing the driving, but could barely function enough to help with directions. Ant said it was like driving an ambulance, or a Hearse, as the rest of us slumped silently in our seats for the entire five hour trip home.

Brighton and Eastbourne, 1999

I have an excuse for this one, other than the usual wanton self-indulgence. It was the funeral of one of my oldest and dearest friend's mother, just months after the death of another close friend and contemporary. The only way to get through it was to drink. A lot. I was living back at home in Eastbourne after uni and working at Brighton Waterstone's at the time. 

After drowning my sorrows right through from the afternoon wake through to some ungodly hour in the morning, I dragged myself into work after very little sleep and proceeded to hide at the back of the ground floor, in what was then the travel section. It quite quickly became too much though, and I told my very kind and understanding boss that I needed to go home. She called my mum to come and collect me because by then I was too sickly to negotiate public transport. Noone explicitly mention the H word, but everyone clearly knew the reason for my green gills and fevered brow. Bless my mum for not as much as tutting when I asked her to pull over so I could throw up in the gutter at Peacehaven.

Harrogate, 2005

It happened whilst working on an HR exhibition during my time at Wiley. Somehow after dinner, my colleagues and I managed to blag our way into a Guardian party at the hotel where we were staying, at which the free booze was flowing. I don't remember much about the evening except for singing Joni Mitchell songs in the lobby, accompanied by Darren (who just happened to have his guitar in his car) and desperately guzzling pints and pints of water before bed at 5am, hoping that I'd sober up by 8 when I had to be up again. It didn't work.

By the time the hangover kicked in, I was on the stand at the exhibition, the glaring halogens burning through my tattered soul. It quickly became apparent that I would be of no use to anyone and one of my colleagues took pity and gave me his car keys so that I could go and lie down on the back seat. I never thought I could feel that awful again, but four years later, I did.

San Francisco, 2009

Nobody wants to spend the last day of their holiday asleep in bed, but that's nearly how we finished our time in San Francisco last Spring, when the mother of all hangovers consumed us both. I blame the guys at the PWN Depot, who had plied us with punch at their party the night before, on top of a whole load of cocktails we'd guzzled at the Elbo Room en-route. There's a detailed account of the night's proceedings and its painful consequences here, but for the purposes of this post, I shall reiterate the worst bits.

The first thing I knew about the post PWN Depot hangover was when the sun came up and straight through the flimsy drapery that passed for a curtain in our room the next morning. After several hours of fending off daylight with T-shirts slung over our aching eyes, we  eventually braved the outside world in search of sustenance and found ourselves in the amazing Boogaloo cafe (pictured left). Once fed and marginally repaired, we wandered over to Dolores Park hoping for a quiet lie down under a tree, little expecting to be confronted by a full-blown Mexican festival. Not the most obvious hangover cure, but actually surprisingly soothing, the Marichi band was a welcome distraction from the persistent nauseau and regret, and at least made us feel that we had done something cultured with the day.

******

Tell Me About Your Hangover and Win Free Stuff

Now it's your turn. Share your worst ever hangover and why it was so awful - gory details and embarrassing facts included, please. Whichever one makes me laugh the most will win a hangover survival kit. Closing date for comments, Feb 28th 2010.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Jesca Hoop at the Latest Music Bar (and Other Adventures)

After the cultural and social wilderness that was January, it was a pleasant shock to the system to kick-start February with not one but four nights out in a row. This tetralogy of delights began on Wednesday evening with a few pints at the Barley Mow in Kemp Town, followed by a ride in Jen's girl-racer vintage sports car and coffee back at ours accompanied by the excellent new Charlotte Gainsbourg album, Irm, which I'd just bought that day.

On Thursday Ant and I made a last minute decision to go and see Jesca Hoop at the Latest Music Bar, our first gig of the year - and what a show. I'd heard and liked Jesca Hoop on 6Music and via Last.fm, which is why she'd popped up on my recommended gigs feed. In the flesh she was spirited, accomplished and utterly transporting, affecting me in the way that only a select few (mostly female) artists have ever done before. I'm thinking particularly of such memorable gigs as My Brightest Diamond, Camille and Carina Round, who all possessed, and indeed still posses, a certain sensual je ne se quoi that oozes out through their performance.

With its gorgeous three-part harmonies, foot-tapping rhythms and perfectly enunciated lyrics, Jesca Hoop's music is infused with all manner of influences - from folk to blues, gypsy to bluegrass - but her style is very much her own. It felt like a real privilege to see her in an intimate venue at what feels like a tipping point in her career. I was far too swept away to remember to get my camera out during the gig, so the above video is from Jesca Hoop's acoustic set at Resident Records earlier that day. Gigs in Bristol, Leeds, Middlesbrough, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Manchester, Dublin, Galway and Belfast are coming up in the next couple of weeks - I strongly recommend you get yourself along. For more details of the tour, visit Jesca Hoop's MySpace page.

I've learned to expect the unexpected on a night out with Angell, but If you'd told me in advance that I'd be peeing behind a curtain in the basement of a disused fabric shop in Dalston during his birthday celebrations on Friday, I may have raised an eyebrow. It all felt a bit Hernando's Hideaway tapping on the door, uttering a password and having 'c**t' stamped on our hands before being allowed into what was clearly not the most legitimate of club nights. Despite the basic facilities and smoky conditions (people smoking inside, how retro), it was a good night. We drank copious amounts of rum and danced to all manner of cheese, including the classic You Got the Love (the Candi Staton/Source version) to which I have a vague embarrassing memory of throwing shapes. Oh dear.

Saturday's jollifications were a little more sedate but no less entertaining. Damien's birthday drinks in the Park Crescent rolled on into the early hours back at his and Olly's place, where we were treated to Olly's magnificent Squidgy Chocolate Log. I can't think of many better ways to round off a Saturday night, can you?