Music preview: Death By Ambition @ King Tut's, Glasgow

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Tomorrow (21 December), 8.30pm, £6, King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow. Tel: 0141 221 5279. www.kingtuts.co.uk

Yes, I’m fully aware that you’re probably not considering going to any gigs at the moment. With just a handful of days remaining to squeeze in that final Christmas shopping spree you can barely afford, there are better times of the year to be watching an alternative rock band perform, I understand.

But please just hear me out, alright? Death By Ambition are more than a bang for your buck, and you’ve definitely still got the time and money to enjoy their music for a couple of hours and £6.

Since forming in June 2010, the four piece have acquired a dedicated following on the local scene, by bringing their progressive and anthemic sound – à la Biffy Clyro – to venues across the city.

Having performed a set at Barrowlands this time last year, they head on to the modest yet magical King Tut’s stage tomorrow night, on the back of their recent Everything Popular Is Wrong EP release.

‘We’re really excited to be playing such a legendary venue that every band in Glasgow wants to play, and one where so many of our favourite bands have played before,’ said guitarist and vocalist Chris Harkin. ‘We’re just happy at getting the chance to perform our music for people.’

Support comes from fellow Glasgow guitar band Switchback Road, and progressive rockers Call Me Salvador – four lads who’ll be coming all the way from Houston. That's Johnstone, not Texas.

So you say you’re skint? That you’ve not got enough time? Well, with an evening of fresh, locally-sourced talent on offer, that just won’t wash with me.


Music preview: Malcolm Middleton @ Electric Circus, Edinburgh

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It’s Latitude Festival 2008. After watching a band perform on the Sunrise Arena, I’m seriously considering staying for the next act – Malcolm Middleton. And right then, I hear someone say, in a thick Glaswegian accent: ‘Ah, no wonder he’s so bloody miserable, he’s from Falkirk.’

Granted, the intense melancholia and nihilism riddled in Middleton’s material isn’t going to make you want to hug random strangers down the street on first hearing. But please, chisel away at the somewhat uninviting surface of the world’s most exciting ‘sadcore’ artist, and find your reward in his engaging tragic tales and wicked sense of humour.

After first making a name for himself with now-defunct alternative rock outfit Arab Strap – a collaboration with friend Aidan Moffat that lived for ten years and spawned five acclaimed albums – Middleton released his first solo record back in 2002. Now, as he reaches the end of a two-week string of UK dates that has seen him perform tracks from his soon-available sixth offering, he’s bringing forth another project. Yet intriguingly, the singer-songwriter has been performing as new act Human Don’t Be Angry in addition to himself during the tour.

So, please be aware that, with songs such as We’re All Going To Die – for which he plays a drunken Santa Claus in the music video – Middleton doesn’t intend to bring some good old festive cheer to your hearts. But know that this macabre genius is nevertheless more than worthy of your visit tonight.

You see, all those years ago, I’d foolishly taken that naysayer’s comment on board. I missed this guy’s show. If you’ve any sense about you at all, you’ll avoid repeating my mistake.


Music preview: DJ Shadow @ O2 ABC, Glasgow

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I remember when it was playing at a West End flat-warming party, but also how I used to stick it on at home whenever I needed to focus on some work. It was the perfect soundtrack to stomping around the damp Glasgow streets in your headphones, while it too seemed to be a popular fixture inside the city’s cafés during summer.

Fans of DJ Shadow’s debut album will know what I’m talking about. Inventively crafted using only audio samples, Endtroducing… achieved a broad spectrum of rhythm to which many of life’s routines could be set. Its multi-layered fusion of hip-hop, jazz, funk and psychedelic music with extracts from television shows, films and interviews was strikingly – if somehow paradoxically – original, and catapulted turntablism far into another dimension.

The record was hailed as ingenious. A masterpiece. A magnum opus. Shadow’s creation of something utterly new, exclusively from other people’s work, changed the mainstream view of sampling forever… and I could go on.

OK, I’m a huge fan of this album. But however successful it was and great it remains, I have to admit that it’s 15 years old. And it’s no longer its creator’s only child.

After Endtroducing…, DJ Shadow released a compilation of his early singles, produced UNKLE’s Psyence Fiction and provided the score for the documentary Dark Days.

It wasn’t until 2002, six years after its predecessor, that Shadow’s second LP hit the shops. Even when inevitably compared with the first, The Private Press stood its ground, and attracted positive – albeit not glorifying – reviews.

However, his third offering was met with a mixed reception. Entitled The Outsider, the 2006 release gave a platform to Hyphy music – a popular form of rap music originating from San Francisco. Having created a universally-acclaimed debut and a more-than-capable follow-up, it appeared that the California-based artist was struggling to convince his admirers of this departure in style.

It nevertheless extended his fan base and added to the intrigue surrounding his fourth studio recording – distributed in October this year. The Less You Know, The Better – featuring the double A-side single Def Surrounds Us/I’ve Been Trying – has been described as a return to form, in which Latin rhythms, piano melodies and folk music are absorbed into Shadow’s winning brand of instrumental hip-hop.

Now on another extensive world tour, this guy’s legendary live shows reflect the energy he puts into his albums. Obscure samples, restless scratching, addictive loops and mighty beats will undoubtedly send the O2 ABC crowd into spasms of clubbing excitement as he marries material old and new on stage.

Not always are the acts previewed here the indisputable best at what they do, I’ll be honest. But DJ Shadow truly is, and his musical talent must absolutely be seen and heard rather than read about.


Pantomime preview: Sleeping Beauty @ King's Theatre, Glasgow

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OK, so you know how some people think they can break society down into two different types of people? Good and evil, buyers and sellers, lucky and unlucky… Well, here’s my theory – pantomime lovers and pantomime haters.

And it really won’t be difficult to identify who’s who as the pantomime season kicks off – which happens to be tonight until January 8 if you’re employed by Glasgow’s King’s Theatre.

The venue's show this time around is Sleeping Beauty – a romantic and hilarious epic that's everything a great pantomime should be. I’m sure we all remember the story – of a princess doomed to one hundred years of sleep unless her true love can awaken her with a kiss – although perhaps not as well as Karen Dunbar.

Having played the same part in a previous production four years ago, the much-loved entertainer is back at King's for a second go as Nanny.

Joining Dunbar on stage are Gregory’s Girl actress Clare Grogan and Rab C Nesbitt’s Tony Roper, who’ll both be attracting the audience’s boos and hisses as the wicked fairy Carabosse and her heartless Henchman Hector.

Former Any Dream Will Do finalist Keith Jack, who played Aladdin at King’s in 2009, returns for the role of The Prince, while River City’s Lorna Anderson (portraying Princess Beauty), comedian Steven McNicoll (The King) and screen star Kath Howden (The Queen) complete a stellar Scottish cast.

So, are you a pantomime lover or a hater? If you were interested enough to read this far, then you’ll certainly be able to enjoy this fun and ridiculous extravaganza. Oh, yes you will!


Music preview: Little Dragon @ the Arches, Glasgow

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We all want friends in high places, don’t we? And I imagine that’s particularly true if you’re in the music industry. Well, with a recent appearance on Later… with Jools Holland and collaborations with Gorillaz and DJ Shadow under their belts, Little Dragon are probably better connected than your average band.

But it’s not all about contacts, you know. Since they emerged on to the scene with the release of their eponymous debut album in 2007, it’s their varied brand of dark electro and synth-pop that’s been winning them a growing number of admirers.

Fronted by radiant vocalist Yukimi Nagano – whose charisma can forgivably be associated with that of indie pin-up queen Karen O – the five-piece generate a sound that weaves a tapestry of musical influences, ranging from jazz to reggae to house to soul.

The band also retain a maturity that’s clearly taken years to acquire – they were formed at a Gothenburg school in 1996 – while possessing the energy of a youthful act just treading along the exciting borders of the mainstream.

So you see, that’s why Little Dragon are more than entitled to their impressive musical network, and entirely worthy of filling the vast, tunnelled interior of the Arches with their decibels tonight.


Dance preview: Letters From America @ Tramway, Glasgow

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Rihanna at the SECC? DJ Fresh at the Arches? Hmm, you’re after something more highbrow, aren’t you?

Then come to Tramway, and watch the globally-acclaimed Scottish Dance Theatre stylishly sign off its 25th anniversary year with a performance of Letters From America – a double bill of contemporary works by two young award-winning American choreographers.

The first is Lay Me Down Safe, presented by New York’s Kate Weare. Set to the music of artists such as Leonard Cohen and Nouvelle Vague, this piece is an exploration of human inexperience.

Searching for a balance between deprivation and excess is the purpose the second work on offer tonight. Khaos, choreographed by Benjamin Levy of San Francisco, is scored by a composition consisting of harp, a xylophone, and some soft percussion.

This thoroughly engaging show has already been enthusiastically received by Scottish audiences, having enjoyed a successful run at Edinburgh’s Traverse earlier this year.

The quality of the creative output emanating from Tramway doesn’t suffer from it being a subway ride plus a bit of a walk from the sodium lights of Glasgow’s city centre. Indeed, Letters From America is a testament to this arts venue’s well-earned reputation as the proud beating heart of the south side.


Theatre preview: The Little Match Girl Passion @ Traverse, Edinburgh

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The fall of autumn leaves and the rise of the winter sun. Miles Davis’s trumpet and Bill Evans’s piano. Cheese and wine. Isn’t it great when two different things can work so well together? When one entity complements another so well that the qualities of each become amplified in an inspired union?

This promising evening of theatre is all about such relationships. Firstly, it’s about the seamless fusion of literature and music. In 2007, American composer David Lang set the tale of The Little Match Girl – Hans Christian Andersen’s tragic story about a poor girl who freezes to death as she struggles to sell matches to passers-by one New Year’s Eve – to J.S. Bach’s sacred masterpiece St Matthew Passion. The result – entitled The Little Match Girl Passion – was a dark choral work written for a vocal ensemble, and its ability to evoke the raw emotional power of both art forms contributed to Lang winning the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Music.

Secondly, the marriage of Lang’s composition – which he never planned to stage himself – and the world of drama is the very purpose of this bold and unique new production. The haunting harmonies of four barely visible vocalists lend a soundtrack to the action that builds on Lang’s original idea. A screened animation guides us through the themes of faith and humanity that are riddled in the story, from which a barefooted dancer’s graceful little match girl evokes a potent symbolism.

Next, this show is about the coming together of a theatre and an art house. It’s a pure meeting of minds between an establishment that’s acquired a solid reputation for putting on the best innovative and cutting-edge works, and a company committed to realising creative ideals through contemporary performance. The most recent collaboration between the Traverse and Cryptic was on Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, which won widespread acclaim last year.

And finally, The Little Match Girl Passion will be sharing the stage with another David Lang piece. World To Come, the first of this double bill and a Scottish premiere, sees Southbank Artist in Residence and cellist Oliver Coates provide an introspective score to Irish video artist Jack Phelan’s spooky but beautiful film about a fantasy world born from an apocalypse. Again presiding over this blend of music and visuals is director Josh Armstrong, whose work has been presented across the UK as well as in his native USA.

‘This opportunity to direct a Cryptic show and to work with performers of such a high calibre has been an incredible experience,’ he said.

So, to finish where I began, it’s great when things work together. Literature, music, dance and drama, as well as themes of faith, transformation and mortality – it’s not often you find something on stage that’s anywhere near as complete as this. This is truly what brilliant theatre is all about.


Comedy preview: Omid Djalili @ King's Theatre, Glasgow

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Thank goodness this guy doesn’t need an introduction – because I really don’t have much room to write one.

What, with the second series of The Omid Djalili Show, his work for the moneysupermarket.com adverts and a starring role in Brit flick The Infidel, this larger-than-life comedian has a more-than-adequate public profile. Surprisingly though, it’s been almost four years since his last stand-up gig.

Thankfully, he’s hopped right back on the circuit with his new show Tour of Duty as if it were a bike. Djalili is back to his best, offering an amusing perspective on the Arab Spring, terrorism and other topics through impersonations, sketches and observations – not to mention belly dancing – encompassed by his good-natured brand of humour.

I’m struggling to think of funnier comedians who thrive as much on the big stage as this comic does. Love or loathe this confident yet loveable showman, he’ll endeavour to warm every inch of King’s Theatre with laughter this Sunday.


Music preview: Liz Green @ Electric Circus, Edinburgh

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With a double measurement of 1930s jazz and a generous drizzle of modern English folk, Manchester-based blueswoman Liz Green serves up a dizzying cocktail of sound, complementing perfectly the main course of her rich and distinctive voice that has echoes of Jolie Holland and Karen Dalton.

I might be describing her music in as many words, as so many critics have, if I hadn’t asked Green herself for a description. ‘Tragi-comic pop,’ was her prompt response. ‘Tragi-comic’, she reasoned, because her spooky yet smart lyrics dwell on tales of death – a subject not always morbid, but sometimes amusing.

But, with her eerily jaunty jingles, why ‘pop’? To annoy people who forcibly thrust upon her other musical labels, apparently. And it looks like the three faux genres listed on her MySpace page – French pop, gospel and screamo – make a similar point.

Indeed, the singer-songwriter admitted that being associated with certain styles of music, and being compared with legendary artists, is sometimes suffocating – however flattering. ‘I can understand why people need to compartmentalise like that, but it can place extra pressure on you as an artist,’ she said.

Green broke into the music industry back in 2007, when she triumphed in the Glastonbury Emerging Talent contest and went on to play on the Somerset festival’s Pyramid stage. After releasing her first single Bad Medicine also that year, she was quickly shepherded into a studio to work on an album.

‘It was all a little bit scary,’ said the former support teacher. ‘A friend suggested that I record a single, then all of a sudden I’m Zane Lowe’s “hottest new sound”. I was getting a lot more attention that I was expecting, and it was quite bewildering. It was never in my mind to become a professional musician.’

Rather than rush out a record at the height of this early fame, as you’d probably expect her to have done, Green chose to stick to her own schedule. She spent four years touring in the UK and Europe, sharing stages with the likes of Jose Gonzales and Bon Iver, and only released her much-anticipated debut album on Monday.

And she’s very proud of the result. Entitled O, Devotion!, the record includes the singles Displacement Song and Midnight Blues, and is packed full of songs that are elegantly literate, comfortably rhythmic and bedazzlingly original.

Now back on the road, the Wirral-born musician’s forthcoming tour takes her from Inverness to Amsterdam – and she’s particularly eager to play at Electric Circus. ‘I have a few good friends in Edinburgh and I really enjoyed playing there on previous tours,” she said.

At a time when only the most powerful of recording artists seem able to do things their way, Liz Green proves otherwise. If you believe in giving artists credit where it’s due, then you’ll agree she’s one worth seeing.

Opera preview: Pass the Spoon @ Tramway, Glasgow

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I’m taken back to fond memories of watching an old children’s TV show as I gaze over the cast of Pass The Spoon. One character is called Mr Egg, another The Banana, and the piece is set in a kitchen. Any allusions to my early childhood, however, are greatly compromised from the moment I notice the writer credit – David Shrigley.

The artist, famed for his surrealist cartoons and drawings, has acquired a dedicated following in Glasgow since he graduated from the city’s School of Art 20 years ago. And indeed, the result of his bizarre but brilliant imagination’s latest creation is one that will not disappoint any of his fans.

Teaming up with respected director Nicholas Bone, award-winning composer David Fennessy and exciting contemporary music group Red Note Ensemble, Shrigley tonight takes his darkly comic talents to the stage.

Musical, opera or melodrama, Pass The Spoon is a predictably quirky affair that takes place in the studio of a daytime cookery programme. The hosts, June Spoon and Philip Fork, work with ordinary ingredients that take on extraordinary personas as they’re used to make a dish for sinister show guest Mr Granules.

Originally conceived back in 2008, the project is being staged by Edinburgh-based company Magnetic North – acclaimed for productions such as Walden, which went on two national tours.

Although this is his first piece of theatre, Shrigley is no stranger to dabbling in art forms other than the picture-postcards for which he is most decorated. He’s also authored many books, created animated shorts, released a spoken word album and directed music videos for Blur and Bonnie Prince Billy during his colourful career.

The Macclesfield-born artist may have exhibited his work around the world, but he’s treating only Glasgow – the city that trained him – to this one.

Music preview: Red Snapper @ King Tut's, Glasgow

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So tonight, downtempo is going to take acid jazz out on a date. They’ll meet up with their friends leftfield and trip-hop, before heading to a party over at experimental and electronica’s place.

Thinly-disguised genre-dropping has no place in music journalism, you’re right, but Red Snapper are otherwise quite difficult to describe.

The London trio are renowned for fusing electronic loops with acoustic riffs live on stage – creating a moody, groovy sound that both complements and transcends the pace of life.

Comprised of three core members, the band have recorded with various guest musicians since signing to Warp in 1996. Latest album Key – which includes the mischievously upbeat single Loveboat – sees the group collaborating with UNKLE contributor Gavin Clark, saxophonist Tom Challenger and folk singer Eliza Carthy.

While there are many events you can blow £15 on in Glasgow on a Thursday night, you can be sure that this Red Snapper gig – with Glasgow’s own jazz/hip-hop crossover quintet dBass supporting – is one of the catches of the day.


Theatre preview: Men Should Weep @ King's Theatre, Edinburgh

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That we can relate to a play written of the hardship of the 1930s depression doesn’t reflect very well on our society in the 21st century, does it? Yes, as many of us struggle on amid soaring energy prices and a bleak employment market, it’s an appropriate time for a theatre company to re-tell a story that takes place in a world of crippling urban poverty. But taking Men Should Weep on a tour of the country represents a gamble of sorts by the National Theatre of Scotland, because the piece has been hiding away for a generation.

Penned by Scottish female playwright Ena Lamont Stewart, this unflinching work was first performed in 1947 by the Glasgow Unity Theatre. After this company’s closure four years later, nothing became of the play, which gathered the dust of three decades in theatrical obscurity before its slightly cheerier re-write enjoyed a brief run in the early 1980s. However, it was not until 2005, when it was named as one of the National Theatre’s 100 Plays of the Century, that Men Should Weep achieved the broader acclaim it deserved.

Its heroine is Maggie, matriarch of the Morrison household, who live a hand-to-mouth existence in Glasgow’s Gorbals. Conflict between the characters is never far away, alluding to the gender and class dynamics that prevailed in the interwar years.

‘Men Should Weep is one of the very best plays ever to be written about the corrosive effects of poverty,’ said director Graham McLaren. ‘This is not a problem that has ever gone away.’

So, as the weather worsens and our budgets tighten with winter beckoning, this production won’t exactly remind us how lucky we have it today. However, it’s not the job of this theatre company to tell us stories that make us feel happy and comfortable. Its purpose is to challenge and provoke, and, in putting on this visceral, populist work, the National Theatre of Scotland is succeeding admirably.


Music preview: Annie Mac Presents... @ the Arches, Glasgow

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It’s Bonfire Night tomorrow, didn’t you know? Well done if you did, because it’d just about slipped my mind. It just doesn’t seem quite as exciting as it was when you were wee, does it? Back when mum and dad would buy you sparklers and take you to one of their friend’s houses, where, for the only day of the year, you’d be allowed to get dizzy on lemonade until ten o’clock on a school night. Ah, the memories…

Well, now I’m going to snatch away those rose-tinted glasses just as easily as I placed them over your eyes in the first place. We’re all grown ups now, and, unless you have kids of your own, there’s a far more important occasion occupying the November 5 square on your calendar – Annie Mac is coming to Glasgow.

Yes indeed, this Dublin gal – renowned for enriching our airwaves with the very hippest in new dance and electronic music on her Friday Radio 1 show – will be travelling with a convoy of talent into town to play at the Arches tomorrow night.

Since 2005, the Annie Mac Presents tour has covered practically every partying inch of the country, showcasing the very finest electro, dubstep, disco and drum n’ bass. This year, she’s taking it to North America and Australia as well as to best clubs over here – high time for the Arches crowd to show her what it’s capable of, methinks.

Supporting the good lady herself is dance music legend Erol Alkan, who, as with each since his breakthrough in the early noughties, is enjoying another hyper-productive year as an artist, producer and DJ. Alkan is probably best known for pioneering the ‘mash up’ – the art of throwing together two different tracks and making it work – the most famous of which was a fusion of Kylie Minogue’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head with New Order’s Blue Monday.

Joining the bill is experimental pop artist Charli XCX, whose infectious dark and moody style has attracted a growing army of followers, and Brooklyn MC Azealia Banks, known for her blend of filthy raps and bouncing electro beats. Glasgow’s own rising sub-house star, HaHaHa, also makes an appearance on the main Arches stage.

No, you won’t be getting any lazy conclusions like ‘she’ll set the dancefloor alight’ or ‘there’ll be fireworks when she takes to the stage’ from me. Just go out and experience Annie Mac’s set live tomorrow, as opposed to annoying your neighbours by cranking up her radio show tonight. And remember, remember, the fifth of November – whatever that means.

Comedy preview: Steve-O: The Entirely Too Much Information Tour @ O2 ABC, Glasgow

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Do people actually pay money to watch someone set their own head on fire? Swallow a goldfish? Chug beer up their rear end?

The answer is clearly ‘yes’, because this guy has enjoyed incredible success performing such outrageous stunts on our screens over the years. With highlights including hurling himself four storeys into a hotel swimming pool and riding a unicycle into an alligator’s pond, you’ll know Steve-O from Jackass and Wildboyz – shows that grossed millions of dollars and made him a household name.

However, after subsequently developing psychiatric problems and enduring time in rehab for drugs and alcohol abuse, the British-born comic came up with a new idea. He wanted to continue putting himself through the sickening and dangerous ordeals, of course, but alongside a stand-up routine.

Besides discussing frankly how he overcame his addiction problems and struggles with fame, Steve-O’s material drew largely on the mayhem that surrounded the filming of Jackass. The Entirely Too Much Information Tour started in the US and Canada, before crossing continents to Australia earlier this year and beginning its four-week run in Europe last month.

It’ll soon be the turn of Glasgow’s O2 ABC to welcome the 37-year-old to its stage. He’ll find himself in a country that made him smile on his previous visit, as he tweeted from this year’s Fringe: ‘Walking around Edinburgh, I’ve seen a bunch of dudes wearing skirts. I had no idea Scottish dudes actually wore those things out. Hilarious!’

Anyway, I know you’ve made no plans for the evening of this maniac’s sole Scottish date, because it falls on a Sunday. You’re not exactly going to be doing a lot, and this performance is guaranteed to make you forget about the impending start of the working week more than most other activities.

But if you decide to go, please don’t try anything silly at home afterwards. I just couldn’t live with myself if anything bad were to happen.


Music preview: Ellen & the Escapades @ Electric Circus, Edinburgh

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You’ve had a rotten week so far. On Monday you were late for work, because your train was delayed. A black cab sped past you during Tuesday’s lunch hour, covering you in dirty puddle water as you waited for the green man at the traffic lights. Welcome to November. Unless you win big on tonight’s lottery, you’ll somehow need saving from your midweek blues while the Christmas countdown remains at least another calendar page away.

Meet Ellen & the Escapades – the folk-pop quintet who’ll be your saviour tonight. Guaranteed to tide you over to the weekend is the band’s warm sound, delicate rhythm and evocative lyrics, which perfectly complement the distinctive vocal style of their frontwoman. And venues for such a performance don’t come more suitable than Edinburgh’s Electric Circus. As they play out their enormously catchy songs in this intimate hub at the heart of the city, the Leeds-based outfit’s soothing soundtrack will transcend the cold reality outside.

“We’re really excited about coming to Edinburgh. It’s our first trip to Scotland and the only one for now, so we’re very much looking forward to it,” said the eponymous vocalist and guitarist Ellen Smith.

While she cited Ryan Adams and Carole King as among her personal influences, the singer described the importance of Fleetwood Mac in shaping the band’s own sound, and explained how Bob Dylan and the Beatles are majorly revered by all five group members.

For an outfit formed just over two years ago, Ellen & the Escapades appear to have learnt their trade with extraordinary speed. In their relatively short life they’ve supported Paolo Nutini, played a host of top UK festivals, including Glastonbury, Green Man and Bestival, and set up their own label – Branch Out Records.

Their biggest break, however, was when they triumphed at the Glastonbury Emerging Talent contest in 2009. ‘It just seemed to open a lot of doors for us because people became a lot more aware of the band,’ said Smith. ‘We’ve been very lucky.’

With each release gaining them greater airplay and critical exposure, the momentum is well and truly behind this five-piece. Their new single When The Tide Creeps In – which reached No.1 in the Amazon Folk Downloads Chart – is a heart-warming, soul-searching acoustic epic, and a harbinger for a forthcoming debut album that’s set to hit the shops next year.

So, is there an escapade this lot are likely to turn down? ‘Actually, the name’s really just down to alliteration to be honest,’ said Smith. Well, with the band in the thick of their first national tour, they’re certainly living up to their moniker whether they like it or not.


Music preview: John Foxx & the Maths @ the Arches, Glasgow

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To some, he’s among the pioneers of electronic music. To others, he’s someone once seen on Top of the Pops playing it extremely cool during his performance of his 1980 single Underpass. But to many, he’s simply unknown.

It seems like a wonder John Foxx isn’t more famous than he is. After all, he was once the lead singer of Ultravox, had a fairly successful solo career, and dabbled in acid house just before its explosion in the early 1990s.

It might be because he’s indulged himself only in projects he’s wanted to, as opposed to ones for the sake of being mainstream, that Foxx never quite became a household name. Indeed, such artists usually acquire, and in most cases prefer, a dedicated cult following instead.

And in his fourth decade in the music industry, the silver-haired Foxx doesn’t look like making any U-turns. The result of this latest collaboration – with synthesiser collector Benge – is more than a match for musical quality and experimentation than any of his career highlights. What’s more, their debut album Interplay has managed to win critical acclaim among an electronic music press extremely wise to ageing has-beens and new pretenders alike.

Foxx’s swoony vocals, set to Benge’s minimal beats and melodic grooves, evoke completely the New Wave synth-pop that came to define Foxx as the man who invented ‘retro-modern’.

Aside from playing his newest material at the Arches on Sunday, the fantastic Mr Foxx will be revisiting tracks from his classic 1980 electro-pop album Metamatic and also from his earlier days with Ultravox (which will see him perform with former Ultravox guitarist Robin Simon).

The acoustics for this event have been perfected to an excellence you’d expect a music lecturer – yes, Foxx is today part of the London College of Music’s teaching staff – to insist upon. Fret not, however, as the overall show – which will feature striking live visuals and plenty of on-stage energy – has an edge necessary to entertain a modern crowd.


Music preview: The Overtones @ Royal Concert Halls, Glasgow

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Whenever I come across vocal harmony groups – and I never have – I prefer them to have broken into showbiz the fairytale way. At a barbershop, where they’ve been singing while simultaneously cutting hair for so long it’s become an incredibly dangerous place to get a trim. Where, one day, a customer turns out to be a cigar-chomping record company executive, pays for his short back and sides by offering the staff a recording contract, and the whole place explodes with rapturous applause.

Well, you know what, the Overtones aren’t that far removed from such a magical story. In London’s West End, a Warner Brothers talent scout happened to catch five lads belting out a tune while they worked as decorators in a shop. After being invited to audition at the label, they were offered a deal, and the rest is history.

The quintet soon made an appearance as the house band on ITV’s Dancing on Ice and featured on Britain’s Got Talent. Possessing the ability to make classic numbers their own in an endearing doo-wop style, as well as write their own material, the group’s debut album Good Ol’ Fashioned Love reached No.4 in the charts. However, it was while performing on tour last year that they discovered the hit they’d become, and Glasgow in particular holds some happy memories.

‘Our Glasgow gig was the craziest we’ve ever played,’ said band member Mark Franks. ‘People threw bras and knickers at us on stage, while others were jumping up and down and singing along with us. It was absolutely amazing.’

This time around, however, the group’s show has been tailored to the larger venue. Mark explained that although the vocal performance will remain the most important factor when they take to the Royal Concert Halls stage, more hard work has gone into the wider production than ever before.

Tonight’s concert follows Monday’s release of the Platinum Edition of Good Ol’ Fashioned Love that, along with the twelve tracks from the original album, includes three brand new songs. Fans who buy the record will also be treated to three additional bonus tracks, which are cover versions of numbers by The Four Seasons, Adele and Rihanna.

If this isn’t enough to get their dedicated Glasgow fans going again, Mark revealed that the band might even be tempted to head out on the town once they’re done on stage.

‘Hopefully we’ll have time to go out for a few drinks, explore the nightlife a little, and perhaps even try a deep-fried Mars bar!’ he said.

So, they send crowds wild, they’re at the top of their game and they’re very excited to be performing in Glasgow again. What more could you ask of this five-piece? Well, maybe don’t try to book them for any painting jobs till after the tour, OK?


Theatre preview: Apocalypse: A Glamorously Ugly Cabaret @ Traverse, Edinburgh

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Sorry to bring the tone down, but the world is going to end. One day. The world is going to end one day, is what I should have said.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that, from the strange-looking old men holding ‘The End is Nigh’ placards on busy Saturday streets to the good-looking young men trying to save the world in Hollywood blockbusters, the world is obsessed with its own demise.

However, while so many have embraced the entertainment factor behind our paranoia, the theatre has by and large kept its hands over its ears. Until now, that is, when what has trickled through from the mainstream on to the cabaret stage is a predictably warped and chaotic affair.

Armed with warnings of the imminent rapture, Gdjet and Lulu emerge from the gutters and swamps of society to invite us along for humanity’s last night on earth. Our hosts navigate us around times past and present to inform us of the apocalypse, claiming they possess knowledge above our own comprehension. But is their talk to be believed, or are they just another couple of charlatans playing another con?

This question is posed by new Scottish theatre company Occasional Cabaret, recently established by former Benchtours artistic directors Catherine Gillard and Peter Clerke.

‘In amongst all the apocalyptic talk – from the Mayans to Harold Camping, from global economic meltdown to environmental collapse – this is just our take on it all; cabaret style,’ Clerke said of the piece.

Apocalypse was written by New York City’s Off-Off-Broadway supremo John Clancy, whose triple-Edinburgh Festival Fringe First award-winning Clancy Productions will be joining Occasional Cabaret in taking the work on a Scottish tour.

Indeed, the end of the world sounds like the perfect occasion for a piece of really dark comedy cabaret, and as the show so brilliantly interweaves its plot around satire and song, there could be worst places to be should Gdjet and Lulu’s predictions materialise.

Actually, what am I saying? If I was forewarned of such a scenario, which would have to be supported by the scientists and politicians of the world for me to believe it, I’d swill a bottle or two of red wine, gorge on a few hundred grams of strong cheese, and probably have a little think.

The world will not really be ending after any one of Apocalypse’s three dates at the Traverse. But as for the performance in Glenrothes, which coincidentally falls on the same date the aforementioned US evangelist Harold Camping predicted the rapture, I really wouldn’t like to make any promises.

You’ll be alright in Edinburgh, though, so you should head to this performance while you’ve still the time.

Comedy preview: Stephen Merchant @ Edinburgh Playhouse

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Stephen Merchant: stand-up comedian. It doesn’t quite read right, does it? Indeed, the giant may have raised his profile in recent years, but he’s just a guy who appears on the telly and the radio with writing partner Ricky Gervais, isn’t he? Of course he’s funny, but does he seem like someone who stands alone on stage and tells jokes to a crowd of people for an hour?

Well, somehow we’ve got to get used to this idea, because Merchant’s 6ft 8inch frame will be darkening the doorways of the Edinburgh Playhouse for three such performances, starting tonight.

The multi-Bafta, Emmy and Golden Globe-winning writer, director, actor and presenter has enjoyed many successes in the past decade, yet he is apparently no better at wooing the female of the species than any other lanky, spectacled British man. No, it seems not even being the voice of the Barclays adverts prevent Merchant suffering some epic romantic failures, which take centre stage on his first stand-up tour.

But with the latest series of An Idiot Abroad (which he co-produced) currently gracing our screens and new sitcom Life’s Too Short (which he co-created) on the horizon, you have to ask: what has comedy’s most basic format really got to offer someone with his schedule?

Well, conquering the world of stand-up is part of Merchant’s unfinished business. Before joining Gervais on Xfm in 1997, the Bristolian’s efforts received a mixed reception on the circuit in his neck of the woods, and he clearly feels he has something to prove.

‘I want people to think “he’s good at that” rather than “he’s cashing in”,’ Merchant told Metro last year as he was preparing material for the tour. Thankfully, it’s the former that the critics are reckoning as he nears the border and the halfway point of his time on the road.

Stephen Merchant: stand-up comedian. Go on then, get me a ticket.


Music preview: Rita Hosking & Michael Chapman @ Mono Cafe Bar, Glasgow

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So I was burning a couple of Rita Hosking CDs to my computer, and couldn’t help but notice that my unbranded music library had identified one as ‘country’ and the other as ‘folk’. ‘Nice try, but you clearly aren’t aware of “Americana”,’ I told it, shaking my head. “Which marries the musical styles of those two genres, but defines itself primarily by their more authentic tradition – story-telling for, of, and by, the people,’ I continued on, in a patronising tone.

That tale isn’t entirely true, but what it says about this singer-songwriter is. Hosking’s voice carries a grace and her lyrics a dignity that are a testament to the integrity of American roots music.

You might sooner associate California with beaches and A-list celebrities in Hollywood than with county fairs and logging communities in the mountains, but after listening to a few of her songs, you’d soon realise the error of your ways. Drawing heavily on her upbringing, Hosking’s material elevates blue-collar Americans from their worn pick-up trucks and dirty dishes to the pedestals of heroes.

But although her words simply describe ordinary folk going about their ordinary lives, her characters come to represent the American spirit. They evoke an imagery that takes on an odd transforming power of its own when set to the sound of a soothing harmonica or a sorrowful steel guitar.

It’s for this aspect of her performance that she’s earned comparisons with Woody Guthrie – the legendary American folk musician who inspired a young Robert Zimmerman – as well as today’s alternative country starlets Diana Jones and Gillian Welch. High praise indeed, you might think, for a mother-of-two who was until recently a teacher.

OK, but if she’s so American, why doesn’t she just stay where she is across the pond? Well, her bagpipe-playing, tenor-voiced great-grandfather migrated to the US from Cornwall back in his day, so her gig in the West Country later in the tour will mark a pilgrimage of sorts for Hosking.

What’s more, she’ll be sharing the Mono stage with Britain’s very own Michael Chapman. Admired by musical legend John Peel, this veteran singer-songwriter’s sound takes folk away from its conventional parameters and into the respective realms of jazz and blues.

Drawing on a wide spectrum of material that encompasses 30 studio recordings from nearly four decades on the circuit, Chapman will provide a musical gravitas to the pair’s 12-date tour, which offers much expectation and intrigue.

As the days become darker and the weather more wretched, an evening of mellow roots music with a warming mug of tea or dram of whiskey certainly wouldn’t go amiss. So thank goodness you’re going to Mono, where all three are available tonight.


Music preview: Boxes @ King Tut's, Glasgow

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King Tut’s was once described to me as ‘the Arsene Wenger of Scotland’s music venues’. If you understand that this person was referring to either’s ability to identify the cream of the crop of unsigned talent and make them into stars, then the metaphor won’t be lost on you.

Really, though, a King Tut’s gig can be a major turning point in an artist’s career. Just ask Biffy Clyro, Oasis, or any of the other top groups that have made a name for themselves on its modest yet magical stage.

Thinking about its proud history makes this particular performance all the more intriguing, because the man behind Boxes is no stranger to the dizzying heights of arena tours and summer festivals. Carey Willets is the bassist from Athlete.

I toyed with revealing that information, which could lead people into making premature and inaccurate musical assumptions. In reality, Boxes takes Willets’s previously understated abilities as a multi-instrumentalist to impressive new levels.

With synth-laden melodies that uplift, looped guitar rhythms that bedazzle and heart-felt lyrics that inspire, Boxes is an acoustic-electronic hybrid that provides the perfect soundtrack to while away one of your dark and contemplative autumnal evenings. Like the Postal Service and Bright Eyes, the overall sound packs a fair emotional punch – no pun intended.

And when you can, you should watch the video for the debut single Throw Your Stones – taken from the recently-released Silent Alarm EP – which features Dermot O’Leary, Zoe Ball and Heston Blumenthal.

So, why did I decide to mention that Willets is a member of Athlete after all? Well, I think it illuminates an important quality – he could quite easily rest on the stardom of a band in which he’s musically restricted, yet he’s going back to music’s humble origins to show us what he’s capable of. Now, if he isn’t a musician worth seeing, I’m not sure who is.


Theatre preview: Calum's Road @ Tron Theatre, Glasgow

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We often associate our roads with misery, don’t we? And with good reason, too – traffic jams, fuel prices and potholes aren’t much fun.

Never mind though, eh – you’ll be fine! You take the train every morning. You just pick up a Metro, take your seat, and relax.

But imagine what it would be like if there were no roads at all. Sure, you can still theoretically have your daily commute by rail, but think about how impossible it would be visit relatives in rural Dumfries and Galloway, go on a Highland road trip, or tour the distilleries of Islay.

Hold that thought. Now let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, in late 1940s, on Raasay – an island between the mainland and Skye – there lived a man who wanted a road built to serve his community. The local authorities refused, despite his pleading for more than 20 years, so he decided to take matters into his own hands. The man’s name was Calum, and with his pick, shovel and wheelbarrow, he started to make a road all by himself. A two-mile track was the fruit of his labour, but by the time of completion – a decade after he began the project – almost everyone had left the area.

However, it wasn’t all in vain. His efforts have not only merited a place in Scottish folklore, they’ve now been written for the stage in a joint production by the National Theatre of Scotland and the Communicado Theatre Company. Adapted by David Harrower and directed by Gerry Mulgrew, there’s something fitting about the fact that this tale is touring the whole country. At it’s core, it illuminates a truly Scottish grit. It will also start and end its life where its hero did – beginning its run in Glasgow before finishing up in Raasay itself.

With winter arriving, this might be just the thing to warm your heart.


Music preview: Richmond Fontaine @ Stereo, Glasgow

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At first it seems an odd choice of venue for an American alt.country band that’s been on the circuit for almost two decades. After all, formed in 1994 and with ten albums to their name, this four-piece have been performing together for as long as the average Stereo customer has been able to eat without wearing a bib.

But what true music fans will know is that talent and energy, and not age or fashion, are the only ingredients required to make a concert an enjoyable one for any crowd –so it’s something of a relief that Richmond Fontaine possesses both attributes in stockpiles.

OK, so you need some persuading. Let’s start with talent. While the US may not be lacking guitar bands that play in a folky, rootsy manner, what foregrounds Richmond Fontaine from the rest is the lyrical quality of its material. Frontman and songwriter Willy Vlautin’s story-based songs, which focus upon ordinary human beings going about the unexceptional business of their own lives, have earned comparisons with the works of the great American writer Raymond Carver.

Indeed, Vlautin’s writing is so acclaimed that it’s been making waves in literature as well as music. His novels have not only received glowing verdicts from the critics, but have acquired a cult following on both sides of the Atlantic and have won several literary awards.

And, as with one of Vlautin’s books, Richmond Fontaine’s music requires attention. Released earlier this month, the group’s latest record – The High Country – centres around a shy mechanic’s love for an unhappily married counter girl in a rural logging community. This overarching narrative is told through the medium of romantic ballads, spoken word, cinematic instrumentals and garage rock in an artistic fusion that would make even Tom Waits blush.

So it’s fair to say there’s a fair bit of talent on show here. But how about energy? Well, the fact they’re booked for 18 gigs in 18 days on this UK tour goes a long way to describing the passion these guys have for performing live. Covering everywhere between here and Brighton in less than three weeks is no mean feat, it has to be said. And yet after an 8,000 mile journey to these shores from their base in Portland, Oregon, Richmond Fontaine clearly think it’s more than enough time to get around a country of a smaller size than their state.

Tonight, Glasgow should show Richmond Fontaine how much it loves music with heaps of talent and energy, because this band certainly has both bases covered.


Music preview: Howling Bells @ Oran Mor, Glasgow

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So I’m sat with a few friends outside a tea house that’s hidden down a West End backstreet. The year is 2006. Clutching our hot drinks, we speak over the sound of the rain bouncing off the plastic shelter we’re huddled underneath.

‘How were Placebo?’ I’m asked. ‘Ah, not too bad. The support was so much better, though,’ is my response. ‘Howling Bells, they were called.’ The next five minutes consist of me becoming increasingly animated as I elaborate. Amid a few erms, sort ofs and you knows, I explain how the sound of this indie rock outfit is above all progressive.

‘It’s based on steady rhythms and hypnotic guitar riffs,’ I continue, ‘and it’s complemented by the female singer’s soft and charming vocals.’ ‘Their set list featured a mixture of pacy songs, euphoric numbers and powerful ballads – yet the transition between them was seamless,’ I reflect. ‘The sound they retained throughout clearly had origins in experimental jam sets, but it had now been rehearsed into a fluidity tailor made for indie and alt.rock lovers like us,’ I add.

‘It was really enthralling stuff,’ is my conclusion. Looking down at the table, I see our mugs have been refilled and our ashtray emptied during my spiel. I look puzzled. ‘We didn’t want to interrupt you. You wanted more tea, right?’ someone asks me.

Wow, previewing this concert takes me way back. All those years ago, my acclaimed Australian four-piece were touring their eponymous debut album – which included stand-out tracks such as Low Happening, In The Woods and Across The Avenue – and went on to play a string of festivals the following summer.

Howling Bells are now on their third record, The Loudest Engine, which was released earlier this month. Featuring the single Into The Sky, and produced by Killers bassist Mark Stoermer, it’s been billed as a return to form. More importantly, the bedazzling Juanita Stein continues to provide vocals that justify parallels with Kate Bush and Alison Goldfrapp, and the band’s distinctive sound remains.

The night following that afternoon in 2006, I dragged my friends along to a Howling Bells gig at Cathouse. They all subsequently bought the album – one ordered it online, then, after refusing to wait the three days it would take to arrive, went to Zavvi instead – and my work was done.

So if there’s ever a band I should be previewing, it’s this one. I’m afraid it’s you and I in that tea house today, and I’ll bet you a cup of yogi chai that you’ll enjoy this gig.


Clubs preview: Factory Floor @ Death Disco, the Arches, Glasgow

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You know what? I’m not going to try and patronise you by asking if you’re aware of what will be occurring tomorrow evening. Of course you know, and so does much of the country. After all, two words have been scrawled in permanent marker on the body calendar of Scottish clubbers for the past ten years.

Death Disco: a night of electro bedlam that attracts the most exciting talent on the circuit. As such, its most loyal followers will have had their outfits and pre-drinking schedules planned since the previous month. However, I bet the event’s clockwork-like regularity means that it tends to slip off the radar of many who are interested in going, but who’ve never been before. Am I right? Some of you – and I count myself in this – must be guilty of ‘we could always just go next time…’ syndrome. So let me give you two reasons why we should both go tomorrow night.

With over a dozen acts competing for our attention across two venues – inside the Arches and over at SWG3, which can be reached by a ‘disco bus’ – Factory Floor is a stand-out highlight. This Hackney trio will be blending their raw sound of hollow kick drums and Krautrock basslines – which has earned them comparisons with New Order – live on stage with some ambient synth and echoing vocals.

If you want a pun, then you’ll be satisfied to know that the spirit of these guys promises to live on long after they clock off. After all, if trends really do follow a 20-year cycle, then this lot are right at the helm of re-imagining the second summer of love – taking place tomorrow night not in Manchester, but in Glasgow.

Next, we can register on the Death Disco mailing list and get our tickets for just £7 – that’s less than 50p for each act on the bill – but we should do it fast, because this year’s fresh intake of students are bound to be on the ball.

So come on, let’s actually go to Death Disco this time. Please?


Theatre preview: The Missing @ Tramway, Glasgow

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On March 19 2009, Claudia Lawrence, 35, failed to arrive for her morning shift as a chef in York. She was immediately reported missing, but two-and-a-half-years later, posters appealing for information on her whereabouts still hang in the city.

Given the high profile of this case, this probably won't come as news to us. But we still care, don't we? While her name may feature in only the yellowing front pages of tabloid newspapers today, we continue to hope for a happy ending. Yet Claudia represents only one of a staggering number of Britons who have still not been found. Every year in theUK, more than 250,000 people go missing. But, besides melting into this statistic, what actually happens to them and their families?

In his debut novel The Missing, Andrew O'Hagan approached this hypothesis with a journalistic endeavour and a human sensitivity. He set out to meet the grieving parents and teenage runaways behind disappearances that fail to make the headlines and occur on a daily basis. The result was a deeply sad and moving work that alluded to notions of community and alienation, and it made the shortlists of three literary awards following its publication in 1995.

Eleven years on, the story is making a bold leap from the page to the stage. The piece begins with a Scottish journalist reporting from outside the home of Fred and Rosemary West, wondering to himself why more hasn't been made about the lives of their victims. Who were these women, he asks, and why were many of them not reported missing? His search for answers takes him back to Glasgow and Irvine during the late 1960s, in a journey that evokes the childhood memory of a young boy vanishing from his neighbourhood.

O'Hagan has had considerable influence over the creative process behind the production, which has seen him work with the National Theatre of Scotland's John Tiffany for the first time since the pair's collaboration on 2009's Be Near Me - a dramatisation of another one of the author's works.

Complementing the play is a new video installation by contemporary artist Graham Fagen, entitled Missing, which again draws on themes of collective memory and personal responsibility in context of the issue as a societal concern.

It may be difficult to look forward to a couple of events of such a sombre nature, but it's easy to get excited about two world premieres of great promise. Tramway is one of the best in the country at showcasing challenging and purposeful works, and it looks like it's got it right again here.


Music preview: Africa Hitech, Rudi Zygadlo @ the Arches, Glasgow

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The people. The parks. The subway. The rain. They’re all cornerstones of life in Glasgow, for unique reasons. I’m going to add electronic music to that list. After all, this place loves its tunes – in a fanatical way. It’s something of a wonder that there isn’t a statue of Richard D. James towering over Buchanan Street, casting a long shadow over a city that truly thrives on its nightlife.

But sticking on anything with a 4/4 rhythm simply won’t do here. Let’s be honest, Glasgow folk want to be where the momentum’s at. They hanker after the new kid on the block, the next big sound, the current buzz, and the Arches has remained equal to this demand with extraordinary success. The decibels of IDM, dub-step, Italo disco, glitch and a dozen more sub-genres of movements past have echoed around its vast, tunnelled interior since 1991, and the venue has become the city’s favourite big club in the process.

Keeping with such traditions in the year of its 20th anniversary, it invites on to the stage an act called Africa Hitech – a name that probably doesn’t ring any bells. Rest assured, however, they’re signed to Warp and their album 93 Million Miles has earned the plaudits of many an underground publication – such being the criteria necessary to attract clubbers thirsty for a musical experience of quality over one determined purely by the size of an artist’s profile.

Africa Hitech is spearheaded by Mark Pritchard and Steve Spacek – whose various projects span everything from breakbeat to soul music – and as suggested on the tin, produces a sound with a distinctly worldly feel.

Heavily influenced by techno and grime, the duo indulge on some intriguing acoustic embellishments and robust basslines here, yet what’s currently pricking up ears on the circuit is their winning cocktail of foot-tapping percussion, hip-shaking grooves and dizzying vocal loops that achieves a fine balance between African and electronic music.

And step forward, Rudi Zygadlo, the main supporting act. Since his move to Berlin last year, Glasgow’s own innovator has been busy taking his own brand of progressive dubstep further into unchartered waters, drawing upon an ever-growing index of musical influences with an endearing originality and a precision that beggars belief. Zygadlo’s brief return to native shores heralds his new EP, which is released on Pictures later this month.

Some of you are nodding your heads, while I can see a few who are scratching them. Fret not, for all you need know is that an evening of electronic music at its current cutting edge will be taking place, and I expect to see to see you there.


Please bear in mind the date some of these posts were written, for many of them are politically as well as linguistically naive. The majority of the views and opinions expressed I no longer hold. The sole reason I've continued to keep them on this site is because to showcase the diversity of this portfolio. Thanks!


Opera preview: Greek @ Traverse, Edinburgh

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You’re the artistic director of a theatre. You’re getting scripts thrown at you day in, day out, but you cannot for the life of you decide which one to commission. Fair enough, you think, there are worse jobs. However, you’re under pressure to have a schedule in place. It’s down to you to choose something really good that’s guaranteed to get bums on seats and be loved by your audience.

Well, how about a piece that’s been entertaining crowds for the past 1,500 years? Sounds like a safe bet. A Greek tragedy. Everyone likes the classics, right? That may be the case, but this isn’t just any old theatre you’ve been put in charge in. No, with respect to Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, you can’t get away with flogging such material at this venue.

After all, you’re working at the Traverse – an establishment that’s acquired a solid reputation for putting on cutting-edge, innovative and above all, new, drama – and that just won’t wash with your audience.

But don’t worry, you won’t have to go back to the drawing board. The original Sophocles play is pretty accessible to people in this day and age, you know. It focuses on a man struggling to avoid fulfilling a prophecy, drawing on universal themes of destiny and free will. What’s more, it’s already been transformed into a modern production that’s enjoyed great commercial and critical success. Into an opera.

Yes, you heard me correctly. A fellow called Steven Berkoff gave himself the task of revamping Oedipus the King into a piece suitable for a modern audience back in the early 1980s. Later on that decade, Mark-Anthony Turnage – a composer – thought he’d have a go at making an operatic version.

The result was an opera called Greek, which illuminated the frustrations of its angst-ridden protagonist Eddy in a decaying east end of London. Greek was described as provocative, visceral and brazen upon its release, but it was Turnage’s score – which indulges heavily on jazz – that was singled out for the truly flattering plaudits. It soon became regarded as a contemporary classic.

Wait, it gets even better. This groundbreaking production is, for this year only, in the trustworthy hands of the Scottish Opera and Music Theatre Wales – two world-class forces in the world of opera.

So all in all, it sounds pretty darn good, doesn’t it? But hang on a second, there’s just one more thing. With Greek ticking so many boxes necessary for a great night out at the opera, just imagine the previews it’ll get. It’s definitely a winner.


Music preview: Williwaw @ Mono Cafe Bar, Glasgow

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Whether it’s pop or rock concerts they’re advertising, gig posters tend to have a way with words. They’re supposed to be designed to target particular demographics, while subtly leaving the door ajar for curious outsiders.

I say ‘tend to’ and ‘supposed to be’, because it’s very rarely you see a musician billed as ‘the finest in amplified ukulele mayhem’. It’s a description that’s appearing next to this artist’s name on promotional literature around town at the moment, and it sounds strange, doesn’t it?

Yes, except this is no ordinary place. He might hail from somewhere an ocean plus another thousand miles away, in Illinois, but there’s something Williwaw has that belongs in Glasgow.

Not literally, of course – he’s not nicked someone’s Discovery pass – but in the sense that in this fair city, there’s always an audience that appreciates artists like him.

By that I mean ones who draw on unique musical influences, experiment with a broad spectrum of sound, produce work that overlaps many sub-genres and are not easily categorised.

If you’re going to push me, I’d say Williwaw is a blend of shoegaze and post-rock, but to try and pin down his style is probably missing the point. His music is supposed to be an enigma, an intriguing fusion of electronic and acoustic sound, which bemuses yet beguiles.

With an amplifier and some complex time signatures, his ukulele can generate a cauldron of noise, but it is also capable of transcending the chaos with a blissful melody. It can be heavy, while also ambient. Basically, no song is at all like the last.

Williwaw is fortunate that such musicians and performers find huge success when they move here, but with the talent and originality he’s unpacking from his suitcase, he’s certainly meeting the requirements of his lease.


Clubs preview: Colours @ the Arches, Glasgow

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It’s not difficult to understand why you’ll have a great time at this event.

Let’s start with Colours. It’s a night that holds a clique of superstar DJs – Paul Oakenfold and Pete Tong to name a couple – in its gravitational pull. Tick.

Secondly, the guy who’s joined the orbit this time around is at the top of his game. House supremo Afrojack has had a great year so far, winning a Grammy for his remix of a Madonna track and producing one of the summer’s biggest anthems – Give Me Everything. Tick.

Next, just look at the venue. The Arches is genuinely thought of as one of the best clubs in the world by sources that really know what they’re talking about. It’s certainly Glasgow’s favourite, partly because its unique structure offers a quality clubbing experience. Tick.

So, to conclude. It’s Colours. It’s house music. At the Arches. Any questions?


Theatre preview: Entitled @ Underbelly, Edinburgh

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I've just started to write a preview for a piece of theatre that's currently being performed at the Fringe. The words I choose will represent a unique mixture of nouns, verbs and other lexical categories. I also intend to employ a number of literary devices including metaphors and imagery, and I'll be doing so in the first person, primarily because readers can better relate to a story that has someone else in it.

I'm 24-years-old, my star sign is Virgo and I enjoy travelling, watching certain sports, and a few other things. I hate to see people fail to stand up for themselves. I don't very much like spiders, either. Today I ate a new kind of cereal for breakfast, and went to work wearing a shirt I'd never worn to work before. This made me feel differently for a while, beyond a purely cosmetic level, which was odd as I'm not usually so introspective at that time of the morning.

No, I'm not having a breakdown, I'm just trying to give you some idea of what to expect from a piece of theatre unlike any other you'll encounter this month.

You see, just like you, I'm a complex human being. You have your life and I have mine, but we don't tend to share them with one another. You're interested in what's going on at the Fringe, and I'm writing about it. That's our relationship, I understand. I guess I just thought it would be interesting to peer over this barrier between us, just for a moment.

That's the very logic behind Entitled. Its architects, a Salford-based group called Quarantine, create works that deconstruct the boundaries between performer and audience, and its previous efforts have involved shared meals and journeys in the dark for one spectator at a time.

This time around, you can't be sure when the acting starts and stops. In fact, you can be forgiven for thinking you've arrived at Summerhall too early. Cast members and technicians casually hang around the stage and explain their roles in the production, take us through rehearsals and sound checks, and talk about their personal lives.

As we are 'entitled' to see both how a piece of theatre is put together in a practical sense and know something of the people involved in it, there's nothing really separating us from the performance. This is a show that illuminates the gulf between our expectations and our disappointments, both in our own lives and as an audience watching a play.

Yes, this piece is experimental, avant-garde and audacious, but it's certainly not bonkers, and its messages will stay in your thoughts long after curtain call.


Theatre preview: Theatre Uncut @ Traverse, Edinburgh

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I’d like to cast your mind back, if I may, to earlier this year. I’m sure you’ll remember what happened in the House of Commons on March 23. No?

OK, I’ll tell you. That afternoon, Chancellor George Osborne announced in his Budget a package of public spending cuts, which he claimed needed to be implemented as soon as possible in order to reduce the nation’s deficit. I can see you rolling your eyes. That’s no longer news. After all, that was before the tabloid phone-hacking scandal, the assassination of Osama Bin Laden and the Royal wedding.

Well, it was probably also a day to forget if you were in the arts industry, as it was confirmed that funding for the Arts Council – which distributes money to hundreds of UK theatre groups, galleries and arts venues nationwide – would fall by almost one third.

In anticipation of such measures, an outraged alliance of theatrical talent presented their response in inspiring fashion the week before, when over 700 people simultaneously staged an event called Theatre Uncut.

Members of youth groups, university drama clubs, schools and amateur dramatics societies showed their solidarity by performing a piece with a very clear message.

‘These cuts are the turning point of a generation, undermining the welfare state, state higher education and the arts,’ read a statement by Theatre Uncut organisers. ‘We hope to create a theatrical uprising and play our part in the anti-cuts movement that is already underway.’

Their effort, which is coming to the Fringe in a one-off performance, breaks down into eight acts, with each describing a potential consequence of reductions in public spending. One focuses on a mental health worker who’s distraught at the closure of his centre. Another explains how a frightening proportion of the Greek bailout went directly to the banks.

In one sense, the subject matter is almost irrelevant. What’s intriguing about this piece is that it riles against some misnomers about the theatre. If you believe that going to watch a play is just the passive hobby of an ever-dwindling number of the middle and upper classes, then go and see Theatre Uncut, because it shows that the stage is a more than capable force of populist protest.

The Saturday following Mr Osborne’s Budget speech, over 250,000 people took to the streets of central London for a mass rally against the coalition government’s austerity measures. Many demonstrators were arrested, injured or simply ‘kettled’.

But what would you think was the best way to convey the stupidity of the funding cuts to the arts? Surely it was to write a bloody good piece of theatre about it.


Theatre preview: Heavy Like The Weight Of A Flame @ Underbelly, Edinburgh

Published by METRO

As you sit on the train on your way to or from work, let me ask you a question. Have you ever wanted to give it all up and go travelling? Leave behind the stressful job, extortionate bills and mundane routines for a life of excitement on the road? My assumption is that you and many others have.

However, R. Ernie Silva had more reason than most to dream such dreams. Born and raised with 13 siblings in an urban environment of crime, poverty and squalor – specifically the Bushwick neighbourhood of Brooklyn, New York City – he’d learned to use the arts to transcend his blighted surroundings.

The literature of Jack Kerouac, the comedy of Richard Pryor and the music of Jimi Hendrix provided Silva with an important element of escapism while he was growing up there, but it was when his brother fatally overdosed on heroin in prison that it was definitely time to leave.

After rolling a dice to make sure he was making the right decision, Silva picked up his guitar and hopped on a freight train bound for the heartland of America. Over the following months, he shared many enlightening conversations with other travellers, spent time in a small town jail and experienced an epiphany on a mountain top.

Admittedly, it sounds like a tale we’ve been told by Hollywood time and time again. Except on this occasion, it’s its being told through a blend of stand-up comedy and theatre far, far away from Los Angeles. It will feel different, and accolades from the NYC One Festival and HOLA, as well as an LA Weekly Theatre Award nomination, say so.

‘People have told me a lot of stuff … called me a lot of stuff … mostly I get the world “unique” a lot,’ Silva has said.

‘Inspiring’ is probably another word that will be written and said many times in the same sentence as this engaging autobiographical piece.

Relying as much on the storyteller’s own charisma as it does on its plot, Heavy… witnesses Silva calling upon his skills as a compelling and athletic performer, sketching characters and recalling adventures with a sense of urgency as well as humour.

After spending many months swimming in the murky waters of various American subcultures, Silva has clearly come out cleaner on the other side, and he reflects on his very personal odyssey with a maturity that must surely have only come since his return.

It’ll take no more than ten minutes of your life to walk from Edinburgh Waverley station to see Silva at Underbelly, where you can be sure he’s come a long way further in his to see you.


Comedy preview: Mark Dolan @ Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh

Published by METRO

In order to arrive at a witty and intelligent introduction to this piece, I thought I would trace the origins of the names Mark and Dolan. I’ll be honest with you, the results were slightly disappointing, and after a few minutes of head-scratching, it was back to the drawing board.

I decided that I probably ought to leave the comedy for the experts, and just introduce you to Mark Dolan in a conventional way, like this: He was born in Camden in 1974, making him 37-years-old. He’s a writer, presenter, and of course a comedian, who’s treating us all to his second solo comedy show at the Fringe.

But then, I thought: Doesn’t it really seem a long time ago that people were saying a recession was about to begin? Well, that was the same year that Dolan last performed in Edinburgh. 2007, it was.

He certainly doesn’t seem to have fared too badly in this period of economic instability, being the face of such television hits as Balls of Steel and The World’s… and Me. Can this really be just a coincidence?

Dolan’s kept suspiciously quiet about this potential conspiracy theory, and is not giving much away about his new set either, recently describing it on Twitter as ‘designed to produce laughter’. What we do know is that he’s going to be talking about the preoccupations of the modern man, politics, married life, and why betting shops have those little pens.

But what else can we expect? Well, he’s clearly fond of interacting with the crowd, so there’s probably going to be some of that. He managed to make a whole show of it last time around, dealing with the personal problems of his spectators in I’m Here to Help!, which turned out to be a resounding success.

‘I’ve always liked having an audience,’ Dolan told Metro last year. ‘I grew up surrounded by large groups of people.’

That’s all very well and good, you might think, for a man who’s booked in at one of the Fringe’s largest venues. However, after a lengthy break from live comedy, during which time he’s been insulted by a 74cm-tall man and become a father of two, he might find that the problem is that he can’t quite share enough.

Oh, and by the way, Mark, or Marcus, refers to Mars, the Roman god of War, while Dolan is an anglicised version of a Gaelic surname, meaning ‘unfortunate’ or ‘unlucky’. Go on, see if you can work that into an amusing paragraph.


Comedy preview: Nick Helm @ Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

Published by METRO

Before I begin, please let me make one thing clear. This guy is absolutely not to be mistaken for the Reverend Nick Helm, author of A Short Course in Exploring Prayer and Finding Support in Ministry. If you’re disappointed, feel free to turn over the page, but if you’ve attended this performance as a consequence of confusing the two, then I’m afraid I can offer no refunds.

Yes, I know it’s true that the poster for Helm’s new show – in which he appears nude, angelically ascending towards the heavens – does allude to the divine, but really, any comparisons between these Nick Helms do not venture any deeper than this.

The Nick Helm I’ve been asked to write about is a comedian who – and this seems a general consensus among reviewers – shouts a lot. He’s bullish, confrontational, and brash.

Helm is also described in many sources as a ‘professional dick-kicker’ – which if you didn’t already know was the comedic term for a twisted punchline, would seem the likely occupation or hobby of a man who projects as much anger on stage as he does.

When Helm’s ever-so-slightly-unhinged persona approaches his audience in an extremely fragile and temperamental state, an environment more similar to a hostage situation than a conventional stand-up routine very quickly unfolds.

Heavily burdened by insecurities owing in part to failed romances, a determined Helm proceeds to bark some pretty appalling one-liners and read his heart-wrenching poems as he teeters on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Did I mention he shouts a lot?

Helm’s acoustic guitar makes an appearance for a few comedy songs, but it’s the interaction – and confrontation – he enjoys with unfortunate members of his audience that is the nucleus of his performance, and for this he has earned comparisons with the likes of Johnny Vegas and Al Murray.

Regarded by many critics as the best emerging comedian at last year’s Fringe, Helm was nominated for a number of accolades in 2010, yet somehow went away empty-handed. This time around, the self-described ‘multi-award-losing’ comedian will undoubtedly employ the strategy of shouting even louder to make himself heard.

The first time I’d seen Nick Helm perform was on Russell Howard’s Good News last year. From the moment he was introduced, I’d foolishly written him off as yet another safe, observational comedian soon to be been consigned to sporadic appearances on the panels of Mock the Week.

However, I quickly learned that his particularly chilling brand of humour wouldn’t really work for comedy quiz shows. Only the most thick-skinned of front-rowers could have survived that 15-minute set, but to put up with it for a whole hour? You have been warned.


Theatre preview: 7 Day Drunk @ Assembly George Square, Edinburgh

Published by METRO

We can probably forgive Bryony Kimmings for being a little confident ahead of her second outing at the Fringe. After all, last year’s Sex Idiot – her debut show at the festival – picked up a Total Theatre Award, earned an Arches Brick nomination and won widespread critical acclaim.

But scripting an entire piece of theatre during a week of binge drinking? Surely that’s ridiculously complacent. Except that’s kind of the point in this theatrical project, which examines the relationship between alcoholic intoxication and artistic expression.

We all know that Jack Kerouac, Jim Morrison and other pioneers of various art forms produced some truly groundbreaking work on cocktails of mind-altering substances, but did their indulgences genuinely open up new doors?

Curious to know if she was more creative while either drunk, sober or hungover, Kimmings carried out an endeavour that will turn out to be more topical than she could have possibly foreseen following the recent tragic loss of troubled singer Amy Winehouse.

Monitored by a team of medics, neuroscientists, pharmacologists and sociologists, Kimmings consumed controlled quantities of alcohol over a period of seven days as she devised her new piece for this year’s Fringe.

Four litres of vodka, 36 cigarettes and 14 text messages from concerned friends and relatives later, the result is an impressively original performance that is being billed as ‘two parts song-and-dance routine, one part breakdown’.

Kimmings will be stone-cold sober as she retraces the drunken steps of her at times emotional creative experiment, while the show will also draw on the recorded footage filmed at her live-in workspace.

So does alcohol act as a lubricant for the artistic soul? Writing this as I pour the last remaining drops of a bottle of wine into my glass, I’m still uncertain. I guess I’ll just have to head to Assembly George Square to find out.


Theatre preview: Ed Reardon - A Writer's Burden @ Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

Published by METRO

Weather forecasters are, as usual, predicting a mixed bag for Edinburgh over the course of the month. However, there’s one place it’s guaranteed to be raining, and that’s directly over Ed Reardon.

You’ll find this 50-something misanthrope (portrayed by Christopher Douglas) darkening the doorways of the Pleasance Courtyard, undoubtedly resentful at having to cross the border and leave behind the comforts of his one-bed flat in Hertfordshire and his cat, Elgar.

As if enough things haven’t gone wrong for him, the poor guy. You see, Ed’s one and only novel was dishonourably transformed into a poor Hollywood film, and he’s recently been forced to prostitute his writing services on classic works such as Kevin Pietersen’s Big BBQ Book and Shed 22lb In A Week The Vanessa Feltz Way to make ends meet.

Of course, he did write that episode of the short-lived wartime drama Tenko back in the 1980s, which makes him a writer of great talent and integrity. It’s the modern world that has continued to thwart his literary pursuits, after all, and those 12-year-old imbeciles in charge of everything who have prevented good things happening to him.

That’s what Ed will tell you, but he won’t stop there. He’ll let the many other forces that plague him be known, too. Only, such frustrations might be delivered with a little more gusto when he takes to the stage, because I doubt he’ll be allowed to smoke his pipe. He may, however, be consoled with some Chilean merlot during the show.

Aside from his Radio 4 programme, which is about to enter its eighth series, there’s no saying, really, what to expect. Ed’s never before taken his angst to the Fringe.

His debut run will be an attraction for his many listeners, and also perhaps young hipster sorts who wish to see what a variety of bohemian looks and sounds like.


Theatre preview: Mission Drift @ Traverse, Edinburgh

Published by THE METRO

At university, I used to really look forward to my American History classes. The professor who gave the lectures was a dour-faced and bitter man much of the time, but he would suddenly burst into life while telling us about Abraham Lincoln or Watergate, with wide eyes and manic gestures.

It seems that a similar enthusiasm grips Theatre of the Emerging American Movement (TEAM) whenever it too tries to acquaint us with America’s past, on a different stage.

The New York-based theatre company is known for exploring aspects of the American self by revisiting some of the country’s historical and cultural cornerstones through a framework of quirky and often surreal plots.

A woman who swallowed a television began to channel the personality of former President Richard Nixon in one of its previous Fringe performances. In another, aliens grew in cornfields, New Yorkers fell from the sky and the dead Kennedys came for dinner.

However, TEAM seems to have toned things down a little this year – not that it needed to, boasting three Fringe First awards – with an ambitious work of cohesion and purpose.

This new foray watches a young couple wandering east to west across America over a period of 400 years, in the juxtaposed settings of pre-Revolution New Amsterdam – the city that welcomed the first commercially-optimistic entrepreneurs – and contemporary Las Vegas – the one recovering painfully slowly from the housing crash.

The manner in which Mission Drift – a fiscal term – deconstructs American capitalism, is both avant-garde enough to retain the fans of its creators’ past offerings and sufficiently lucid to open itself up to a much wider audience.

Allegedly, Oscar Wilde once quipped that America is the first country to have gone from barbarism to decadence without the usual intervening period of civilisation. Well, if this highly sensitive piece doesn’t render that statement over-simplified, my former American History professor certainly would.


News stories for Adfero

The following articles are a selection of news stories written with an SEO focus for four different clients of mine at Adfero

1. For a client offering financial advice

keywords mortgage advice, long-term investments

Growing market presence offers hope to first-time buyers

A major bank has attributed strong mortgage sales to an increase in first-time buyers, providing encouragement to those who are seeking mortgage advice.

HSBC saw its mortgage sales increase two-fold in the opening five weeks of 2011 when compared with the same period of the previous year.

Head of mortgages at the bank Stuart Beattie said there had been "strong demand from first-time buyers" in January.

"We have broadened our range of offers to help customers with smaller deposits to step on to the housing ladder for the first time," he added.

A two-year mortgage at 85 per cent loans-to-value and interest rates starting at 3.49 per cent is one new product included in the range.

Mr Beattie expected homeowners to be relieved that the base interest rate was frozen by the Monetary Policy Committee yesterday (February 10th).

Recently, Ducalian sales and marketing manager Timothy Lambert urged the mortgage industry to do more to help first-time buyers onto the property ladder.

"Strong client demand" for ethical funds

Ethical funds have risen in demand among people making short and long-term investments, recent figures have revealed.

Statistics from the Investment Management Association show that net retail sales of ethical funds reached £280 million in 2010, an increase of 80 per cent on 2009 and the highest total since 2007.

UK Social Investment Forum chief executive Penny Shepherd described what she saw as "strong client demand" for ethical funds, but added that the data "significantly understates the size of the UK's retail green and ethical market".

The number of ethical funds tracked in 2010 was 47, ten per cent fewer than the 52 tracked in the previous year's statistics.

Ethical funds under management amassed £6.6 billion in value, representing a growth of 16 per cent on 2009.

The publication of the figures follows news that officials at some of the UK's leading investment institutions expressed their delight with the establishment of a UK Green Investment Bank by writing a letter to the prime minister.

2. For a client selling music t-shirts

keyword t-shirt

Grab a Coldplay t-shirt to support the band at Glastonbury

Coldplay will headline this year's Glastonbury Festival, organiser Michael Eavis confirmed yesterday (February 15th).

T-shirts bearing the band's name and album designs will be sported by fans attending the event, with the appearance taking place on the Saturday evening.

Mr Eavis hailed the "triumphant return of a band that everyone here feels part of".

"They're one of the greatest phenomena to grow from these fields," he added.

Coldplay's debut at Glastonbury came in 1999 when they played in the New Bands Tent just weeks after the group had penned a record deal.

In 2002, they returned to headline the Pyramid Stage.

The Sun unofficially reported two weeks ago that the British rockers had landed the top spot on the bill after the Rolling Stones had turned down the offer to play in front of the festival's 200,000-capacity crowd.

Coldplay join another 2011 headliner Beyonce, whose record company confirmed the R&B singer will top the bill on the Sunday.

Honour Grammy winners with music t-shirts

A host of artists bagged major accolades at the Grammy Awards last night (February 13th).

British acts Iron Maiden, La Roux and Muse all picked up honours at the Los Angeles bash which saw Nashville country act Lady Antebellum steal the show with five awards.

Jay-Z also emerged as one of the night's big winners, taking home three Grammys for rap performance by a duo or group, sung collaboration and rap song.

Countryman and hip hop artist Eminem scooped the rap album and rap solo performance awards but failed to win in seven other categories.

The big upset of the night was caused by Esperanza Spalding, a jazz singer who came out top in the new artist category, beating British acts Florence and the Machine and Mumford and Sons as well as teen pop sensation Justin Bieber.

"I take this honour to heart so sincerely," said Spalding, who hails from Portland, Oregon.

There are plenty of t-shirts available at 8ball.co.uk to celebrate the many and varied victors at the 53rd annual awards ceremony.

3. For a client selling fuel cards

keywords haulage, petrol

Motorway services costs "unforgivable"

Haulage drivers who spend time at motorway services are paying up to 91 per cent more than high street consumers for some items, according to What Car? research.

The figure corresponds to a bottle of water, which cost £1.91 at a retailer's motorway services outlet but £1.00 at the same company's high street store.

What Car? editor-in-chief Steve Fowler said the extent that certain retailers exploit motorists is "unforgivable".

His publication also revealed that the prices of many other drinks and snacks are bumped up substantially at motorway services.

"We suggest that all motorway users plan their journeys carefully and try to avoid using such greedy retailers as much as possible," Mr Fowler added.

Fuel also climbs to higher prices at motorway services.

The average price of diesel was 5.2 per cent more than the national average, the study found.

Last year, travelsupermarket.com hailed the return of the car picnic after researchers discovered that certain sandwiches, crisps and drinks were on average 128 per cent more expensive at service stations than they were in supermarkets.

Vital fuel duty stabiliser "easily introduced"

A fuel duty stabiliser to control rising petrol prices is crucial and would not be difficult to implement, a small businesses representative has claimed.

Hitting out at "critics" commenting on its complexity, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) national chairman John Walker said a fuel duty stabiliser "can be easily introduced and must be put in place".

He added that such a measure would give "five million small businesses the certainty and stability they need to factor in fuel costs to their business plans".

The FSB explained that the fuel duty level could be adjusted based on cyclical fluctuations in oil prices.

It has published a report which seeks to further debunk myths that a fuel price stabiliser would be complicated and provides further details of the proposal.

The report follows the Mr Walker's comments yesterday (February 9th) which suggested that a fuel price stabiliser could be used as a measure to tackle inflation.

Chancellor George Osborne recently hinted that he may cancel April's plans to raise fuel duty by 1p.

4. For a client selling fishing products

keywords fishing rod(s), fishing lures

Year's biggest carp caught

One angler used his fishing lures to perfection as he caught the biggest carp of the year so far.

Solihull's Anthony Bahnik bagged the 45lb fish with his fishing rod on the half-frozen Nene Valley pit.

Speaking to the Angling Times, Mr Bahnik said that making the scoop was far from easy, describing how "the fight started with a savage run of 30yds, then the fish rose in the water and started shaking its head violently".

After gaining control, the "spirited" fish then went off in another direction before he eventually made the catch, he added.

In bettering his 43lb haul of last summer, the carp turned out to be a new personal best for Anthony, which is no mean feat at a lake containing just 27 of the breed.

Elsewhere, Tom Maker landed a 38lb 2oz carp on his very first session of the year. The angler was trying to sleep when his fishing lures enticed the fish at a southern stillwater, the Angling Times reported.

Anglers urged to fight lake closure

One publication is calling on British anglers to briefly put down their fishing rods and join a new campaign.

The Savay Lake in Buckinghamshire is due to close to make way for the proposed Birmingham-London high-speed rail link and the Angling Times is supporting a petition urging the government to reconsider.

Tackle company owner Martin Locke told the publication that the lake "is quite simply the most stunning place I've ever fished", stating "it must be saved" and joining calls for anglers to add their names the petition, which has acquired over 30,000 signatures.

According to the document, such plans were originally announced by the previous government and would have cost £11 billion to implement.

The rail link will now amount to £25.5 billion, based on current estimations.
Last week, the Angling Times threw its weight behind an awareness campaign to highlight the threats of hydropower, cormorants and poaching to the industry.

Music preview: Roy Ayers & Pete Rock @ o2 ABC, Glasgow

Published by THE METRO

It’s going to be difficult to compartmentalise a musician who is described as the ‘King of Neo-Soul’, the ‘Master of Funk’ and the ‘Godfather of Acid Jazz’. Any recording artist who merits titles of such grandeur clearly enjoys a powerful influence across a wide spectrum of sound. Yes, with almost 100 records to his name and a hefty stash of unreleased material to boot, the task of describing the music of Roy Ayers with concision or precision is a tricky one. It becomes nigh on impossible once you’ve got your introduction out of the way.

Indeed, anyone who reflects on Ayers’s vast and varied body of work will be aware that he is musical legend, yet one who refuses to lean embarrassingly on the past glories of nearly half a century on the jazz circuit. Just like all of the genre’s greats, Ayers remains as inventive as ever and, along with his celebrated vibraphone, he’ll be bringing old decibels with a new twist as part of an intriguing collaboration when he arrives in Glasgow on Saturday.

Ayers’s hits Everybody Loves The Sunshine, We Live In Brooklyn, as well as many other head-nodding, foot-tapping numbers drawn from his forays into R&B, funk and disco music, will be married live on the O2 ABC stage with the beats and rhymes of Bronx-born rapper, producer and DJ Pete Rock.

Rock was a pioneer in fusing the jazz and hip-hop genres, and went on to produce groundbreaking material by the likes of Run DMC, Public Enemy and The Notorious B.I.G., rising to prominence during the so-called ‘golden age of hip-hop’ in the early 1990s. His records have consistently won critical acclaim over the last two decades, during which time he has acquired a solid reputation in the industry among musical peers like Roy Ayers. Theirs is a union that will combine jazz, soul and funk with contemporary urban music in an ambitious meeting of minds that will already be whetting the appetites of music fans young and old.

At a festival in London’s Hyde Park a few years ago, a friend of mine happened to catch one of Ayers’s live performances. In his words, the ‘most beautiful girl I’d ever seen’ wandered over to him and attempted to start a conversation during the gig, but being so enchanted and mesmerised by Ayers’s music, he just wasn’t interested in such trivial pursuits. Now, either that story is a savage indictment on my friend, or Roy Ayers is simply that good to watch live.