A Grand Tour

Since last we spoke, my fair city was besieged by a bizarre two-wheeled circus.

The Tour De France comes to Sheffield
The Tour De France comes to Sheffield

Yes, the Tour De France had its Grand Depart from Leeds on Saturday, sped towards Harrogate and then sailed forth from dear old York before fetching up in that most hearty and joyful of cities, Sheffield, on Sunday afternoon.

Never ones to miss the up-close thrill of city cycle racing in our proverbial backyard, crafty cycling nerd Mrs Rolling Eyeballs and your humble scribe set out on Sunday 6 July, picnic in tow,  to behold the greatest cycle race on earth.

Rather than risk a journey out to the World’s Most Terrifying Cycle Climb on Jenkin Road (cheers, hypebolic ITV 4 folks), Mrs Rolling Eyeballs decided that we would be best situated by going to the Fan Park at Don Valley Bowl and watching the start of the race on the big screen.

The City’s transport high-ups had gone all in, ferrying fans, families and the vaguely interested to points along the route, with a plethora of extra trams laid on.  I’ve never seen trams as busy as they were on Sunday – even at 10:00am, it was standing room only, with giddy Heeley, Gleadless and Manor folk piling in together and heading for the big race.

Alighting at the Bowl, Mrs Rolling Eyeballs and I found a comfy deckchair in the middle of the bowl and took in the scene around us:

When do the crowds get here?
When do the crowds get here?

At the risk of stating the obvious – that isn’t me and Mrs Rolling Eyeballs – but those were lovely, comfy deckchairs and no mistake.

Later on, as the Tour hurtled across South Yorkshire towards us, things got a bit busier:

People!  Where did they come from?
People! Where did they come from?

Going to the Fan Zone was like going to a really big park on a warm summer day and finding it full of your neighbours, who all want to watch the world’s greatest two-wheeled tyros (minus an incapacitated Mark Cavendish) duke it out with the biggest hills and dales that Yorkshire had to offer.   As once-in-a-lifetime events go, it was without peer.

Watching the action on a screen wasn’t going to be enough for Mrs Rolling Eyeballs – she had plotted a suitable place on route for us to behold the Tour up close and personal-like.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the ever-so-slightly dizzying sight of Chris Froome belting past you at 50 KPH:

Yep, that blurry blue-and-black figure is possibly Chris Froome...
Yep, that blurry blue-and-black figure is possibly Chris Froome…

Should you find yourself given the opportunity to take in the greatest bike spectacle of all, I highly recommend doing so.  A Tour stage doesn’t just go through your city – it takes over, galvanizes the populace into engaging with it and leaves you breathless and slightly stunned in its wake.

I've just finished a race and you want me to ride a bike again?
I’ve just finished a race and you want me to ride a bike again?

There’s the circus of promotional vehicles, tour cars, Gendarmerie on fast motorbikes and miniature village support vehicles parked up by the finish line.  The breathless commentaries on local radio stations as the racers fly ever nearer and speed through neighbourhoods which become somehow more exotic as they are juxtaposed with the glamour of the grand race.

I loved it for what it was – a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.

 

Fall Out Boy – Back! Back! Back!

It’s cold work burning Taylor Swift records, but somebody’s got to do it.

Happy February, every one – Fall Out Boy are back!

The band who provided my daily soundtrack when walking to meet my wife at her office – “Thriller” from “Infinity On High”, a Fall Out Boy jam played so many times on the week day perambulation across Sheffield that I could have worn out the MP3 if such a thing were possible – are back with a new single, album, live shows and a plan to save rock and roll.  Which is no small feat – but the unfailingly melodic tunesmiths who brought you “Sugar We’re Going Down” and “Dance Dance” are probably the chaps to accomplish such a Herculean labour.

(Full disclosure – I’ve just gone to look at the UK top 40 to see what The Kids are currently listening to, just out of interest.  And, reader, it is mostly as dreadful as you might fear.  I suspect that the likes of Bingo Players, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and that piss-poor Will.I.Am record represent some gigantic performance student prank?)

Their new tune, “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)” retains their wilful disregard for rock correctness, borrowing R&B beats and marrying them to the muscular  riffs and rhythms which marked the band apart from the pop-punk rabble they were frequently, incorrectly allied with.

Instantly memorable chorus?  Oblique yet delightful video?  Insanely long titles?  All present and correct.

Welcome back, boys.  You’ve been missed.

 

Hagrid’s Feeling For Snow…

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We took Hagrid for a walk in the overnight snow which blanketed the UK on Monday morning – he wasn’t that keen, you’ll be surprised to learn.

Sure, he pads about in the curious white carpet which has unceremoniously deposed his normal pavements and parkland, and he has a sniff about, but he’s just not that into it.

Where are the smells?  And why do his paws not have as much traction as normal?  What’s this cold stuff on the end of his nose?  And why is it drastically reducing my daily walks from two to one longish one?  So many canine questions, so very few answers…

Snowpocalypse? Nopocalypse.

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At the end of what is best described as a changeable week for plucky Brits, it’s good to know that some things are always the same.

The threat of a couple of inches of snowfall is sufficient to plunge the UK into a frenzy of addled speculation about the dire consequences of of a wholly predictable spate of wintry weather, with even the likes of your self-flagellating blogger having to confess to frequent F5’ing of his weather site of choice despite common sense indicating that nothing much is going to happen.

At present, Sheffield is witness to a couple of inches – tops – of snow, with more light flurries predicted during the weekend – not exactly the new ice age which most UK tabloids would have us believe is inbound with extreme frosty prejudice.  I imagine Canadian readers of this post must be chuckling into their Tim Hortons cup at the very idea of our January snow panic and wondering just how we would react to an actual outbreak of real weather.

As always, when it comes to scenarios like this, I have to think that Charlie Brooker said it best…

 

Sabaton? Eluveitie? Wisdom? Oh My…

Yes, I’m off to see a gig – entry-level image manipulation courtesy of Paint.Net

Hark at me with my beginner’s level image manipulation skills!  I’m off to see Sweden’s finest lovable Power Metal loons Sabaton at Sheffield’s Corporation tonight – I’ll probably be the guy in the Delain shirt.  Be sure and say “Hi!” – and their ready, willing and able tour mates Swiss Pagan Metal folks Eluveitie and Polish Trad Metal dudes Wisdom.

Expect a noisy time to be had by all and ear-plugs to be firmly stuffed in-ear by anybody over the age of 35 once things get going.  A report will be with soon, I imagine.

Two gigs in a week- surely some mistake?

 

 

Few Against Many

 

Gus G, casually rocking atop a picturesque Greek cliffside, in the video for Firewind‘s “Edge of a Dream”

It’s that time of year again – and I’m dragging my ageing carcass to see a band or two at Corporation in Sheffield.  Tonight, Greek Power Metal virtuosi Firewind and Norwegian/German symphonic metallists Leaves’ Eyes have my attention and I’m prepared for the evening ahead.

My ticket is on my person, my earplugs (and spare earplugs) are in my pocket and my new, iPod-replacing Sansa Clip MP3 player is ready to do podcast duty between bands (“Hollywood Babble-On”, in case you’re wondering).  Rock and/or Roll?  Oh yes, I know how to get down (carefully and with due recourse to health & safety regulations/my ever-encroaching infirmity).

Expect a report, replete with the quality music criticism you’ve come to expect (“And then they rocked a bit more – and it was ace!”) from the blog that nobody at all is describing as the spiritual heir to Lester Bangs‘ seminal body of rock writing.

 

A Music Addict Writes…

A pox on Amazon and the cheap CD sellers who reside therein – a pox, I tells ye!

In  the first couple of weeks of the month, your humble blogger has found himself purchasing these fine examples of metallic riffery…

The first RoF album that I bought this month…
…and the second.
Inspired by watching last year’s doc about his life, “God Bless Ozzy Osbourne” 
I’m seeing ’em in September, Greece’s power metal riffsmiths, Firewind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s a lot of stuff to wrap my ears around, let me tell you.  The Ozzy best-of, particularly, is a sizeable beast, reflecting a large swathe of his solo career, from the eighties to his “Down to Earth” album from the early noughties.  And as the caption suggests, my purchase was motivated by it being super-cheap and fresh in my mind after watching the “God Bless Ozzy Osbourne” documentary when it was televised on the UK’s BBC Four Arts channel last week.  A great film, too, if you haven’t seen it – it puts the double O in some kind of context for people who thought that they had a handle on him and for those who were only familiar with the rough edges smoothed off version depicted in “The Osbournes” reality series.

I’m also getting a head-start on Firewind’s back catalogue before going to see their gig in Sheffield in September – their album Allegiance is also on the way, and they’ve been in fairly heavy rotation on my Spotify for the last couple of weeks.

I’m sure that this isn’t the end of my musical acquisition spree this month – much to the lamentation of my delightful better half, who’s going to have to use the D.I.Y. side of her brain to figure out some storage solutions quick smart, lest we be drowned in a sea of power metal cd’s…

Soul Shredder – Support Your Scene!

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Further to my earlier ‘Support Your Scene’ post concerning the local bands we should all try to support, I’ve happened across local Metal band Soul Shredder thanks to the wonders of Google-Fu.

Led by guitarist Stu Gibson, Soul Shredder have a nifty, almost traditional metal sound which I’d compare to Kobra And The Lotus (the band has a female vocalist, Cookie) or 3 Inches Of Blood (the new spin on traditional metal) – the riffs are thick and chunky with excellent solos, the vocals are soaring and melodic and the overall sound blasts along in a punchy and pleasingly dynamic fashion.

“Prepare for Annihilation” has a thrashy chug and great double-bass drum sections, “Kijo” starts with a latter-period, Iron Maiden-esque proggy section before moving into a riff which recalls (in the best way) Hetfield and Hammett riffing from the “Black” album era – they’re both songs that you can listen to on the band’s website as part of their self-titled 2011 EP.

The band are playing in my home city in July as part of the annual “Tram Lines” free music festival – I’d be daft to miss them, and you would be to, if you happen to be in my fair city over the weekend of 20-22nd July 2012.  Of course, given the organisers complete terror of including rock bands in the main line-up (not hipster-friendly enough, it would seem), Soul Shredder are playing out of the main line-up and can be found at West Street Live on Sunday 22nd.

I could bemoan the musical timidity of the organizers, but that’s a subject for another post, perhaps…

The Simple Things Make You Happy…

Hi folks – normal blog service is now resumed.

It’s a long story involving curtailed holidays, pets and places we won’t be staying in again until Heck freezes over.  Ask me again at some point and I’ll give you the real skinny – it’s probably best to give that particular story some much-needed room to breathe.

No sooner had I arrived back from a nice break in a place that the Internet has yet to arrive than I discovered that Swedish Power Metal loons, Sabaton…

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Plus Swiss Pagan/Folk Metal Ragers, Eluveitie 

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…are playing at Sheffield’s Corporation club on the 11th of November this year.  It’s become quite difficult to type as my fingers are forming involuntary horns.

What with Firewind/Leaves’ Eyes, Nightwish, Epica and now Sabaton/Eluveitie on my gig list for the Autumn, it’s getting difficult to see how my gig-going could get any better for the rest of the year.

Anybody want to persuade Within Temptation and Diabulus In Musica that they really need to tour the UK this year?

Epica – Symphonic Christmas

More proof, compadres, that Google is your buddy.

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Epica are only playing Corporation in Sheffield just before Christmassymphonic metal festive season frenzy ahoy!

They released their latest record, “Requiem For The Indifferent”, earlier this spring and I fully intend to get around to listening to it in due course – with the prospect of seeing their live show now acting as a strong motivator for me to dig back into the Epica catalogue and test the structural integrity of my already bowing CD shelves by acquiring their stuff (downloading from iTunes isn’t quite the same, to be honest – there’s not the same romance to browsing a PDF of the liner notes that you get from even a cursory glance at the CD booklet).

Think big riffs, soaring female vocals, gruff male singing and a sound composed of equal parts prog noodling, very melodic metal and even some approachable classical influence chucked in for the music students.  Yes, they’re very much a part of the ‘corset metal’ movement recently decried by the Metal Hammer podcast (somebody play them some Machine Head to distract them – stat!), but that’s my favourite style of rock, so I don’t see a problem with the designation.

Wednesday December 12th can’t get here quickly enough…