Monday, 13 July 2009


This blog has moved to pastures new. Please check out our new home at for all of the articles on this blog plus lots of new material.

Many thanks!

Sunday, 28 June 2009


I’m sure someone has said once that choice equals freedom but I’d argue that in many cases they equal the opposite.

Trying to buy a bottle of shampoo for example staves any sense of ‘freedom’ from my mind like a drunken sheriff patrolling the perimeter on a penny-farthing firing crazy pistols of doubt and rage: Boots has three shelves of the stuff each boasting a separate magic quality and all assuming knowledge of my scalp I don’t have.

Last time I ran out I popped down the street for five minutes and ended up squandering my entire lunch break stood in the ‘hair products’ aisle with a bottle of Pantene Pro-V for Greasy Hair in one hand and a bottle of Herbal Essences for Straight Hair in the other shaking them like a pair of maracas. To anyone watching I must have resembled a Mexican street entertainer lost in the dreadful realization I had shamed my heritage to chase the tourist dollar moments from finally snapping and impaling myself with them to salvage some spiritual honour.

"Your hair is straight and greasy. Straight AND greasy. And what’s this? I have to consider dandruff too…!?"

In the end I just left. The choice had defeated me.

This is not an isolated example. Smug proclamations are something of a speciality of mine, and those with the dubious honour of being in my company regularly will be familiar with a cycle of worn bullshit that reappears whenever there is some new company I want to impress. One such turgid lump is ‘I’ve never bought a CD in 5 years because the internet lets me listen to whatever I want for free.’

A true post-modern grand narrative that: the internet has revolutionized music, removed the power from the dark corridors of the record companies, made art free, etc., etc. And it’s true: flick on the laptop and straddle the holy trinity of spotify, myspace and youtube and there are very few pieces of recorded music you can’t access.

But where does this boundless universe of choice most regularly lead me? Open-mouthed, frantic-brained paralysis, that's where, a glistening orb of drool formulating beneath eyes fixed on a blank search box. Presented with the option of anything the human mind settles very quickly on nothing.

We need limitations on our choices in order to make them - that is how we work. That’s why we take glee in dwindling our options by process of elimination when presented with a free Sunday afternoon:

‘What shall we do today love?’

‘Well let’s see, transforming into birds of prey and tearing holes through clouds in the midday sun is out, so is travelling back in time to witness the look in Man’s eye at the first accidental spark of fire – come to think of it, I’m pretty skint, how about just a walk in the park??’

Now I’m not advocating a switch to North Korean-style limitations on personal freedom. But it is interesting to reflect that the countries in the world with the worse mental health problems – depression, anxiety, OCD, eating disorders – are also the most ‘developed’ of Western democracies strapped into the rollercoaster of free market capitalism. American rhetoric during the Bush administration and indeed Western dogma since colonial times has been build around another grand narrative: that what would be best for the rest of the world is to become more like us. In most cases, this would mean having more choices.

Now choices like having access to quality health care and education are no-brainers, but does the developing world really envy our hundreds upon hundreds of trainers, or mobile phones, or television evangelists?

In our lip-licking, hand-rubbing sprint to expand our set of choices about what we can buy to wear and eat and been seen with, we’ve trampled on the things that used to matter and that still do in countries we perceive as behind us in history’s long story. Religion, family, community are now unfashionable, marginalized and scorned. We have so much choice about what spiritual path we walk, how much responsibility we take for our families, how we interact with our community that we usually end up doing nothing about them at all. And yet the statistics don’t bear out the idea that we’re happier for it, they suggest that as a population, we’re suffering from deep-set ills of the mind and soul.

I’m hardly the first agitated Westerner to ponder this: a curious solution was put forward by the author George Cockcroft in his cult novel ‘The Dice Man’. The premise is of a doctor who decides one day to make all of his choices by the random will of a dice, thus limiting his options to six at a time and alleviating him of having to make choices. The book descends fairly quickly into a sexual farce but the frustration at the heart of the text is worth paying attention to. Next time I’m buying some shampoo or a t-shirt or some other distraction I may well assign six of them a number, collapse into a lotus position and start rolling out the dice.

I might get escorted out for appearing like a mad man. But then I suspect that’s where all these choices are leading me anyway.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

A Quick One

'Beach' Break Live the video is still in production - turns out, cutting a two hour-footage pie into a neat ten minute slice takes longer than I thought. Do bear with me though.

For those of you not here to see yourself in my video-journalism debut, do please scroll down or pick a blog from the list on the right of the page. I truly 'aint one of these irritating, post-some-boring-crap-about-your-day types. My entries are usually carefully crafted symphonies with nice pictures and everything.


Saturday, 20 June 2009

Live from 'Beach' Break 3

If you're one of the many excellent beach breakers we met over the past few days: fear not.  We were a genuine (if amateur) outfit and the video diary featuring your drunken impressions of the festival will be posted here within a few days.  Keep checking back!

As well as vox popping some cool people, we managed to capture some great bands performing and grab a word with them afterwards, including The Vintones, The Moulettes and Ed Sherman. As soon as I can can get in the editing studio and remove all the bits of myself rambling (since when did I have a voice like Darth Vader with false teeth?) I'll post the vid here and on my new blogging home,

As for the festival, well myself and camera man had a great time, and not just sticking '' stickers in all the port-a-loos either.  Meeting Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip a few hours before their set was amazing (if brief) and the actual gig was one of the best I have seen in a long time.  Pip's lyrics and delivery were exhilarating, Dan's mixing top-notch and the tracks of the new album suggested the pair have a lot more to offer after 'Angles'.  

Overall, the best way I can think to describe Beach Break Live is as being a bit like a typical student in their second year (as Beach Break indeed is): disorganized, chaotic, a bit uncertain what exactly it's meant to be... but resourceful (switching sites in three days!), fun-loving and wonderfully open to new ideas.  

It may attract the odd sneer from seasoned-festival goers with their memories of Glastonbury, Glade, Secret Garden et al but as a student-friendly alternative that costs half the price, I reckon the founders of Beach Break are onto a winner.  Let's hope next year they make it back on the beach where they belong.  Just one more thing though guys, please leave the rugby balls back at home next time...


Your intrepid reporters, and John 'I think I'll get into this Kopenburg like' Teedge 


Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Live from 'Beach' Break #2

Day one is behind us down in Kent: the safari park has digested its first 24 hours of live music, floating burger wrappers and determined student tom-foolery. Music highlights thus far have included a euphoric midday set by Red Light Company and Krafty Kuts filling the dance tent in time for Chase and Status.

We're beginning to suspect that the animals have been locked away in a slightly ominous looking grey shed situated about four fields away. Can only assume that the lions have killed off the other animals by now and are currently trying to dig their way out under the walls. Tactics for how to handle their eventual escape have varied: the best suggestion so far seems to be to clamour up the pillars holding up one of the stages, although 'not before raiding the bar' according to John Teedge...

We've managed to capture a good cross section of the festival's partiers and aspiring musicians, including the ever-excellent Moulettes and another four piece that sound like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs having a better day out somewhere. Today we're mostly excited about seeing sardonic rap/breaks duo Dan Le Sac V Scroobius Pip, and hopefully interviewing the pair for as long as they can bear our considerable festival smell...

More later.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Live from 'Beach' Break Live... #1

For the first time I'm going to blog here 'ad hoc' and in brief, rather then agonizing for a week on theme, structure, etc...

John Teedge (guest blogger and cameraman) and I are down here in a safari park in Kent, where the UKs only 'student' festival has been relocated (from a stunning beach in Cornwall...) due to some grumpy councilors. They've thrown it all together with about two days to go so kudos for that.

Thus far the sun is egging us on - it's rather like an egg yolk actually - as we make our video diary. My presenting skills aren't quite going to have the producers of T4 knocking on my door but I think we're getting the jist over fairly well...

Later on we'll be allowed to stand on stage and film a few songs - going to try my best not to accidently pull out a guitar lead or trip up one of Dizzee Rascal's entourage.

Haven't seen any lions, tigers or monkeys yet. Certainly haven't seen any giraffes which, as some of you may know, I refuse to believe actually exist until I witness with my own two eyes. They're too ridiculous - I think it's all a scam.

Will pop back later with more.