Saturday, November 16, 2013

Venice, Verona and Very Broken Luggage

Once again, I'm unsure what country I'm in. The city is definitely still Geneva, but the airport may or may not be back across the French border. Oh well. All I know is that I'm hungry, and I have 25 gosh-darned Swiss Francs that I know I won't be able to get rid of anywhere else. I inspect the long lines of dry-looking baguettes on display in the airport food stores (aha, we are back in France after all), grimance, and eventually settle on something called "tonna"  because it looks like it involves mayonnaise. And it could be tuna. Which it is.

We're in for an unpleasant surprise upon arrival at the boarding gates: boarding starts in 10 minutes, and our flight has been cancelled. They'll try to put us on the next flight, which is only 2 and a half hours from now. Can we get a car and drive to Venice? No, apparently not.

We're airbourn approximately 4 minutes before the 2.5 hour cut-off time after which the airline would have to provide some form of compensation to us. Granted, said compensation would probably have been a 3 buck voucher to cover a quarter of one of those awful baguettes, but still.

And so the Alps give way to the rolling Italian countryside, and before long we land at Venice's Marco Polo airport. I can't say I remember disembarking (it's now November, this was very late May), but I do remember arriving at baggage claim to find a suitcase with no wheels, no handle and a broken zip. Cue carrying said suitcase through airport like some kind of grossly disfigured humanoid child.
We locate the correct bus into Mestre (surprisingly easy, given that everything is in Italian) and  hop aboard - to find that our only fellow passengers are a South African couple headed to Venice to board a cruise! The world is ridiculously small.

The hotel is supposed to be 200m from the bus station, but it feels more like 200 miles, with said suitcase. We take turns dragging the thing, and luckily spot a store packed with cheap suitcases along the way. This is surely a done deal before leaving Venice, we can certainly not continue to travel this way.
Hotel = located, and the Italians at the front desk do speak some English. Obtain wi-fi password and proceed to drag the Suitcase of Death up the stairs to our room. Collapse, and then realise we're hungry. Walk to the nearest restaurant. Find they only open at 7pm. McDonald's it is, then. Sigh. If I never see another Micky D's again, I will be a happy human being.

For some unfathomable reason, sunlight in Italy just seems a lot brighter than sunlight anywhere else I've ever been, and we wake up early the next morning to a beautiful day. Finally, no coats required. Apparently people in Italy eat cake for breakfast, but I'm definitely not complaining. Plus, they have TEA here. English breakfast tea has never tasted so good.

Board bus into central Venice, experience typical Italian driving skills, dropped off in parking lot next to canals - and off we go! Venice looks just like the pictures, books and tv depict it, but rather than float around in a gondola all day, it is perfectly possible to navigate the town without doing too much water travel. We take the waterbus accross the Grand Canal, with no real idea of where we're going. I should mention that whilst this is a pleasant experience on the whole, these waterbuses have absolutely no braking system - they stop when they collide with the dock, and some unfortunate young man is left to tie the ropes to secure the things whilst the passengers disembark.

Despite the internet saying different, there's really only one part of Venice that smells a bit funky - the fish market. Avoid at all costs! We wander through the cute little streets for absolute hours, eating gelato and avoiding the ridiculously-priced designer shops. My main purchase of the day is a sailor hat that is destined to adorn my head for at least the next week. We dine on pasta hilst Avril Lavigne screeches her latest chart topper on the radio. Some things are no different, no matter where you are in the world.
Aroud 4pm we head back to the parking lot to catch the bus back. Aching feet is definitely a small price to pay for a day in such a stunning city.

Verona. It's the creepy hidden track at the end of Hurts' 'Water'. It's the place The Killers headlined that festival called something about Life or Love or Beautiful or Wonderful... (it's called 'A Perfect Day', I had to google it later). But over and above that, it's the city in which Romeo & Juliet was set. Now, whether or not the story was based on any vague form of fact, tourists are 100% happy to trek all the way out here from Venice (an hour on the train) to see what is billed as Juliet's Balcony. Would you judge me if I said I was one of those tourists?

After an hour of walking in the wrong direction in the boiling hot sun  (thanks, mom) we finally walk back to the train station and attempt to catch a bus going in the right direction. What we don't factor in is that today is Sunday, and apparently buses don't run here on Sundays. Cue more walking. We do finally make it into the tourist part of town though, and immdeiately feel the need to feed our stomachs. The internet says that you should never eat meat in Verona, because what is billed as beef is actually horse. Great to know. I settle for a margharita. The pizza that is, not the cocktail. One of those would have bankrupted me.
Streets are wandered, and shops are stared into, but the real point of this excursion is trackign down the famed balcony. And thanks to phenomenal navigational skills (read: following the crowds of people in front of us) we are able to do just that. While we can't deal with the queues (or the 10 Euro) to actually go onto the balcony, we're prefectly content with pretending to be Romeo and starring up at it from the ground.
And so the Venetian leg of our journey must come to an end - tomorrow, the Italian travels continue: on to Florence we go!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Four Categories of Club Music

A crowd of young zombies gather in a dark room, their bodies pulsating to some beat only they can hear. Their minds are blank as their vacant stares and their eyes open and close at irregular intervals. They're ingesting an unknown substance to keep them alive - without it, the dark room would become poisonous, and they would be forced to evacuate or be driven immediately insane. Suddenly, bright lights flash on, and a terrible noise fills the air, causing the small group of humans left to shriek and block their ears. But it's too late, the zombies have spotted them and move in for the kill, arms outstretched towards the poor human girls. A zombie grabs the nearest girl by the shoulders. Her dress twirls out as she spins towards him, trying but failing to fight the irresistable pull of the zombie. He hands her a volume of the unknown substance and motions for her to drink it. Then, in the final moments, she lets herself go and allows him to touch his lips to hers, in a kiss of death. She is a zombie now, and her friends look on in horror, knowing they are unable to save her. 

If you think this sounds like something out of the latest straight-to-DVD zombie comedy-horror, you'd be wrong. It's simply a scene from my trip to local party hotspot, Tiger Tiger last night. No, there was no zombie theme party, use your imagination for goodness' sake. 
The zombies in this instance are the young adults, the magic substance is their drink of choice. Because in all honesty, the only way yo survive such hangouts is with the help of some serious vodka. Unless you're me... in that case, no amount of shots can make this mini-apocalypse survivable. 

But this is a fangirl blog, and I intend to examine the music played at these clubs, above all other things. Club music falls into about four distinct categories, so let's examine them.

So, we start off with a rave beat, no words, no discernible tune, just doof-doof-doof coming from the DJ booth. The young zombies seem not to even notice the music, but they sure do move to it. The head-bop, the arm-move, the leg-bend and the twerk are amongst such moves. The zombies seem hypnotised. I'm ready to launch myself off a bridge.

We then progress to a range of mind-numbing, stomach-turning chart toppers including that song Pitbull bee's re-recording and trying to pass off as a new hit every few months for the past five years, a little bit of Pink, and even some One Direction. It's really not that bad, if you know the words, you can scream them to your friends and continue your head-bopping. Even better is when it's a good song, like Florence's 'The Dog Days Are Over', which has a great beat, meaning it doesn't have to be remixed (more on that coming up). At least singing will keep you entertained and stop you from glancing around the room, lest you make eye-contact with a lonely zombie scoping the edges of the dancefloor for fresh meat. *Shudder*

Next we're on to remixes of songs that should never be re-mixed. Who the hell thought it was a good idea to break Imagine Dragon's 'Radioactive' into pieces split by Avicci-style bass-drops? Also, slapping a dance-y backing track onto 'I Will Wait' does not make it okay to twerk to Mumford & Sons! Have you ever listened to this band's lyrics? You have? And you still want to shake your ass to them? Now, I love Mumford & Sons, so obviously I get excited when I hear their songs start to play, but I dancing to 'I Will Wait' just felt wrong. Dirty. Ugh.

And so we reach the final category: the oldies. At this particular club, the pure rubbish takes a break about once an hour, for one or two great singalong 'oldies'. Now, I use the term 'oldies' loosely, simply because no, we're not dancing to The Platters, but then again 99% of these people wouldn't know what they were. 2000 is way old for these kids. So in the first hour, we're treated to 'All The Small Things' and 'Teenage Dirtbag' - the latter of which is so bad that it should have been outlawed by 2001, yet it's still 100x better than the rest of the night's music - and in the second hour it's Journey's (yes, Journey, not Glee) 'Don't Stop Believing'. Remarkably, the zombies come alive at these singalongs. Belting out every word, the dancefloor comes alive with bouncing, singing, smiling human beings.

It really gets me thinking - maybe people do have better music taste than they care to admit. Maybe they don't even really dig the latest David Guetta jam, and would much rather be listening to Journey, but of course they could never admit that. They'd lose all their street cred. Either way, I'm more than happy to step into my car at 2am and blast some Springsteen all the way home. My street cred's long gone. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

More Concerts For Cape Town!

A few unfortunate things happened when I went to T in the Park this year. Quite aside from being hit on the head by all those cups of what I certainly hope was only beer, I had to make some pretty tough decisions when it came to what bands to watch. Beady Eye vs Rihanna was an easy one, but others were less so: I could watch all of Bastille's set and then risk being stuck at the back of another stage for Hurts straight after, I could forfeit barrier for The Killers to watch more of Foals... seriously, it was a nightmare.

Whilst I managed to break the Two Door Cinema Curse (don't ask), I did manage to miss 90% of Bastille's set in favour of a barrier spot for Hurts, and I ditched Foals one song in for the love of The Killers. Festivals are, unfortunately, always a trade-off. But never fear, for Cape Town is just as awesome as the UK when it comes to music.

Firstly, rock fans all around the country rejoiced when Ramfest announced Biffy Clyro and Foals would headline in 2014. All bets were on Biffy, but I'd tipped Foals to be at Synergy rather than Ramfest. I'm very excited to see both bands, and definitely need to brush up on my song knowledge so that I'm not that awkward kid who only sings along to 'Mountains' and 'My Number'.

Then today, out of nowhere, Seed Experiences and 5FM magically announce that Bastille are coming! This announcement is completely out of nowhere, and I'm not sure what to do with myself. It's too much all at once! Funny thing is, I hesitated to buy myself a R6 chocolate this morning, but think nothing of spending R1000 on tickets to these concerts. Addicted, you say? Never...

Ramfest tickets here.
Bastille tickets here.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Panic Station: A Tale of Terror

Here's another short story based on lyrics! See if you can guess what song this is:

An abandoned tube station was, perhaps, not the most normal place for a first date. But hey, Donna was quirky and different like that, and if that's what she wanted, Alex could dig it. 
He'd fancied her for months, but had never plucked up the courage to speak to her until three days ago. He'd asked if he could walk her home from school, and she'd  clearly picked up on his feelings.She'd smiled coyly, flipped her waist-length black hair over her shoulder and looked him straight in the eye. 
"If you want to ask me out, just do it." Her grey eyes flashed, and she winked one heavily made-up eyelid at him.
Alex hadn't known what to say. "I-I-I ... I mean..."
She had grinned widely and said "Friday night, the old Panic Station, meet me there."

Panic Station. Between Burnt Oak and Edgeware, on the outskirts of the Northern Line, Panic had been closed since before Alex and Donna were born. It was something of an unspoken rule that you just didn't go down there: rumours ranged from rat infestations to crowd of the homeless, to the occasional crazy person who thought it was haunted. In reality, it was probably just dark, cold and flooded, but no one had taken the chance and gone to check it out. 

But instead of meeting down the local pub or on Hampstead Heath, Donna had wanted to meet Alex at Panic Station. And Alex ignored his misgivings, fastened the buttons on his coat and headed out the door, calling a vague "See you later, I'm meeting some friends" to his mom and dad, who were seated at the kitchen table. 

Being mid-January, the winter freeze had long ago set in, and Alex's breath came out in wreaths of steam and he jogged down the main street. It was 6.55pm, and Donna had wanted to meet at 7pm - he couldn't risk being late for his first real date ever. He picked up the pace as the entrance to the old station came into view.

Alex's high-top sneakers thudded heavily on the stairs down to the platforms, the rhythm almost formed a beat in his head, and it helped to calm his nerves. She was only a girl. He had no reason whatsoever to be nervous.

"Donna...?" He called. His voice echoed into the silence Donna-na-na-na-na.
No answer. He checked his watch: 7.10pm. It was fine, she was just running a bit late. Maybe girls always ran late.

It was creepy down here, though. And freezing. Shivers ran down Alex's spine, and he began to shake uncontrollably. He rubbed his hands together to warm them up, but it was as though he couldn't even feel them touching. And he couldn't shake the feeling that he was being watched...

"Donna? Is that you?" He leaned up against a wall, acting casual. No answer, but a scuttling noise made him jump. It sounded like multiple, light-footed people. There was, without a doubt, something coming towards him from the depths of the station. What if it was some crazy man with an axe, or a gun? Alex pressed his body against the wall, trying to make himself invisible. He tried to breathe softly, but his heart was pounding out a symphony is his chest. Surely anyone could hear it. The noise kept coming towards him... suddenly it was on top if him. Alex closed his eyes and tried to stop his body from shaking. Something light brushed his leg and he jumped. OH GOOD GOD, IT HAD EYES.

He could have sworn! The thing that had touched him had eyes! Not just two eyes, either. It had been low to the ground, and a reflection of light from outside had caught in its eyes - it had looked like a spider but surely no spider in the world was a foot tall. It was all part of the nerves - the dark was playing tricks on Alex's mind. It had surely just been an old crisp packet, blown towards him by the wind, or at a push, maybe it had been a rat.

That was when everything lit up.

For a second, Alex's mind turned off, he couldn't understand what was happening... and then he heard the familiar rumble of the train, and realised where the light was coming from. But that made no sense! When Panic Station had been closed, they'd dug up half the Northern Line and re-routed the train tracks - the station wasn't just closed: it wasn't on the line anymore! In fact, the Southern end of the platforms had been bricked up - there was no way for a train to pass through at all. Then how could it be that a red and white London Underground train was now speeding towards the platform - in a Southerly direction - with no signs of stopping? 

Alex stared, transfixed, as the train drew level with him. It seemed to be empty. He watched it pass the platform, and now the front was approaching the wall, the back was just passing him... Alex whipped his head around when a flash of movement in the rear window caught his eye. A small skeleton was propped up at the back of the train, eyeless sockets seeming to mock Alex, standing alone on the platform. Alex felt a scream build up in his throat and quickly tried to suppress it. Instead, he let out a feeble squeak and shut his eyes, telling himself that the skeleton had been someone's idea of a funny joke. It was exactly the same as the one in the bio labs at school: nothing to be afraid of.

Alex opened his eyes in complete darkness. The train had disappeared through the brick wall on the other side. He shook his head and tried to focus his mind. Obviously the wall only covered part of the exit from the platform. A train simply could not pass through a wall and disappear. The skeleton was a toy, and the wall had been broken down, that was the only explanation. The time was, however, high to get out of here. He would call Donna as soon as he got home and ask to re-schedule. 

He started towards the stairs, he could just make them out, now that his eyes had adjusted to the darkness. A deep growling sound stopped him in his tracks. To his right, he could hear something pacing, it seemed to have claws, which clicked against the old cement floors. It was also growling in a regular rhythm.

Alex inched his way towards to exit, holding his breath and praying that his footsteps were light enough for the creature to miss. He was about ten steps from the staircase when the growling suddenly stopped. The creature's feet clicked in an irregular pattern: it was turning to face him. RUN!
Adrenaline kicking in, Alex sprinted to the staircase, and took the steps 3 at a time, until he emerged, panting back on the main road. To his surprise, Donna stood across the road, idly twisting her hair between her fingers and looking slightly bored. When she caught sight of him, however, she threw her head back in a terrible laugh.

"Donna! Something's down there, Donna, we have to get OUT OF HERE!" Alex screamed, panicking.

She smiled widely, eyes full of life. "I know what's down there, Alex. If we were a couple, I'd have to hang around with all your friends at school... I was just making sure that you got along with mine."

* 'Panic Station' - Muse.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Pirate's Tale

Sometimes I hear a song, and a music video pops into my head fully-formed. This happened to me the first time I heard a certain song, way back in 2008. I had these images of a pirate and his ship (basically the last half of this story) in my head, and eventually I started wondering what his story was. Why was he on the ship in the first place? Who was he? Well, of course only I could tell myself that, seeing I made him up, so I wrote the story story below. Please note, this is not what the song is actually about at all, it's just me using the song as a basis for a short story. I'd love to know if anyone can guess what song inspired it before reading the last line! If you can guess (or if you had any other guesses) let me know. Also please suggest other songs for me to do the same thing with! 

Captain Christopher Anthony Johns was a bad, bad buccaneer: a low-life scoundrel pirate of the high seas. Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum and all that. The only things he lacked were a peg leg and a parrot on his shoulder: he had no time for attachments anyway. Johns' only mission in life was to raid ships and steal their treasure: gold, jewels, spices... hell, even old family heirlooms would do, just as long as he could sell them off for a profit. One of the most notorious pirates in all of the Caribbean, the name Christopher Johns sent shivers down the spines of many a man.

Surprisingly, he had rather the opposite effect on women. Although nearing his fortieth year, Johns' full head of curly hair, unsettling blue eyes, and a certain amount of charm meant that he was a firm favourite with the town's female population. Although he accepted their affections - and gifts - without protest, none had been able to win the man over: his love of money and the sea kept him distant, both physically and emotionally. 

One such young lady was the 20-year-old Miss Sarah-Jane Martin, formerly of Liverpool, UK, currently living with her parents in Spanish Town, Jamaica: Johns' hometown. Sarah-Jane was the daughter of a playwright, and herself a promising seamstress, working on not only clothing, but also sails for the many ships moored at the port. Johns had often caught the girl staring at him whilst she sat on the docks feeding the seagulls. He  convinced himself that thought nothing of her - young, blonde, and too gosh-damned happy all the time, she was far from Johns' cup of tea. 

Perhaps he was simply too proud to admit that he could possibly be taken with the daughter of a playwright of all things. But aside from that, his life was upon the sea, not the land. Word was out that a Spanish vessel was to pass by nearby in just two days time. Johns barely had time to pack a few belongings before setting off for his ship.. As he made a final check on his supplies for the journey, a familiar voice called out to him. 

"Mister Johns?" It was the blonde girl, Sarah-Jane. She stood on the docks, looking up at Johns on the deck of his ship, and holding out what seemed to be a brand new sail.

"I thought you might need this. My father says that the wind is due to pick up shortly, there's a storm coming and if your sails rip, you'll never make it back in one piece."

He frowned slightly at her. This was probably the most thoughtful gift he'd ever received - most women tried to win over his heart with bottles of whiskey and rum, or tins of snuff. This girl actually seemed to care about his well-being. How novel. Other women had wanted him for his looks: they had seduced him, they had lusted after him, but they had not cared about him.

He accepted the sail with a word of sincere thanks, and then cut his ship loose from her moorings, spun the wheel to starboard and was off. He tried not to glance backwards, but he couldn't help himself. There she stood, smiling and waving him on his way. He raised his hand in a small salute before turning to face the open ocean. 

Although Johns enjoyed captaining his ship himself, she was too large to be maintained by one person. Also aboard were the sailing master, three mates and several sailors. The authority, however, belonged to Captain Johns: if he said bear West, they would bear West even if it was into a hurricane. If he said drop anchor, they would drop the anchor in the middle of Spanish territory. He was the boss and everyone knew it.

Evening approached swiftly and, as Sarah-Jane had predicted, a terrible headwind had picked up, reducing the ship's speed to only 3 knots. Johns could still see the land he had left behind from the porthole of his small living quarters below the deck. 

Although small, Johns' quarters were composed of a sleeping area, and - more importantly - an office fitted with a desk and several wooden shelves. Upon this evening, Johns sat at his desk, staring intently at a small book of parchment, in which he had written down the names of every ship he had ever seized. Guadaloupe, Fernanda, Rosalita... the list went on for several pages. Tomorrow, he would hopefully add the name Alejandra to the list. But for the first time in his life, Captain Johns wasn't sure that he even wanted to do so. Something had made him re-evaluate his life. Something had made him see where he was going wrong.

She made me a sail, whether I need it or not. If the winds get very bad, that sail could save my life. If not, at least she was thoughtful enough to have made it for me.  I could write the name of another ship on my list, or I could just go back to port, marry her, and have a real life. A life free of treasure and gold, but a life filled with love. All at once, a life flashed before his eyes: not his past, but his future. Abruptly, he got up from his desk and swept his hand violently across the top, knocking over a bottle of ink and upsetting a stack of parchment. His seized the book in his hands, and made his way to the deck, swaying with the motion of the ship, and trying desperately to keep his balance on the narrow staircase. 

He stood on the edge of the deck and tossed the book as far as he could into the ocean. It flew apart, some pages spilling into the water and others flying through the air. The empty covers sank to the bottom of the ocean, and came to rest - open and upside down - on the seabed, never to be seen again.

Heels clicking against the polished wood of the ship's deck, Johns made for the stern, his loose-fitting cargo pants billowing out in front of him, and the air biting at his exposed face. He could still see the land. He could outrun the storm if he turned back and made for the port. He climbed the rigging to the top of the mast, ignoring the heavy winds threatening to blow him off and land him in the ocean. Atop the mast was a small lookout point - a dangerous place to be even in calm weather. The storm was gaining on them, and from up here, Johns could see the waves whipping up and beating against the side of his vessel. 

He pulled his spyglass from a pocket and raised it to his eye, imploring the device to be strong enough to see back to the docks. He could see the streets, the one thousand or so run-down fisherman's houses, almost seeming to lean into the terrifying wind. But that was not where his interests lie. He tried to focus on the docks... and then suddenly he saw her. There she was, all blonde and windswept in her dress and coat. Still watching his ship, hours after it had left. 

He jumped down the rigging, landing heavily on his feet and almost losing his breath. He turned sharply and sprinted flat out to the bow of the ship. He hit the wheel running, his entire body slamming against it. He grabbed it with both hands and spun it with all his might. He had to turn the ship around. In front of him, the storm clouds taunted him. Behind lay the safe port... and Sarah-Jane. He continued to spin the wheel, until the ship had rotated 180 degrees. The he steadied the wheel and slumped over it, wiping sweat from his brow. His crew did not question him: he was the boss, of course.

That's right, Sarah-Jane thought, watching the ship sail back towards her. You belong with me, not swallowed in the sea. 


*The song was 'Swallowed in the Sea' by Coldplay. Please excuse any factual errors about 1700s pirates, I tried to be accurate with the help of Google, but it's not 100%. Credit also goes to the book I'm reading at the moment, Michael Crichton's Pirate Latitudes, for helping me get into this mindset. (The story is my own invention though, no plagiarism.)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Top Ten Things You Can Only Do At Festivals

As I attempt to assuage my Reading FOMO, I find myself thinking of all the crazy things festival-goers do. Whether it's donning a Superman onesie for an entire weekend, wearing a westuit so that cameras will focus on you during The Vaccines' set, or simply staking out the noodle bar in an attempt to meet All Time Low, festival people are the most interesting of the species.

So I've made a list of the top ten things one can do at a festival that would probably be frowned upon elsewhere. These are real things that I encountered, I witnessed each and every one, and took my own photos. Unfortunately since I needed photographic proof that each actually did happen at this year's T in the Park, so I had to leave off my favourite: relieve yourself on a poster of Liam Gallagher's face - because you always liked Noel better.

In no particular order, then:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Killers at T in the Park 2013

T in the Park spanned three days, and The Killers were the final act on the last night. I'm doing things backwards again, so here are my thoughts on The Killers' show, stay tuned for the first two days, plus the rest of day 3... coming when I have the energy. 

I'm sure I'm good at a lot of things in life, but going to festivals is just not one of them. I braved camping at Reading last year (it's an experience everyone should have at least one - if nothing else, it makes you appreciate how soft and warm beds are...), but I was certainly not doing the same for this year's T. Luckily accommodation in Edinburgh was easy enough to find, and I'd take a 40 minute bus ride over a tent any day.

So day 3 arrived, and unlike the campers, I was still clean (imagine being able to leave the mud behind each night and have a shower, plus 7 hours sleep in a real bed - heaven!), well-rested, and in good spirits.

Day 3 was by far the busiest day: running from Earth, Wind and Fire (mom's choice) to the beginning of Bastille's set, then leaving halfway to get a barrier spot for Hurts, mad dash back to Two Door Cinema Club, quick break before Johnny Marr, and one Foals song before trying to sneak into the Stereophonics crowd for a good spot for TK, I really had my work cut out for me!

So it's mid-afternoon, and I find myself in King Tut's tent watching 1/4 of The Smiths, and thereby increasing my coolness factor to over 100, when I spot a familiar face: it's none other than Ted Sablay: touring guitarist/back-up vocalist/all-rounder with The Killers. Now before you tell me how cool that is, picture me wearing the following: my Victims t-shirt, lightning bolt necklace and earrings, a K and lightning bolt on each cheek in pink eyeliner, and a scarf (draped like a cape) bearing the same pattern as Brandon's starry shirt. Oh, and a feathered crown. I attempt to make myself look slightly more normal, which translates into whipping my 'cape' off and turning it into a belt instead. Hey, it's something. Anyway, after the set I went over to say hi to Ted and get a photo, and ended up walking with him for a few minutes - I told him how I'd come over from SA, and we chatted about Johnny Marr, Bernard Sumner, and the rest of the tour. What a cool guy!

The Stereophonics crowd was packed tightly at the front, but contained some huge gaps, and many people simply milling around. For the sake of tradition, I was headed for Mark's side, because that's just where I go at Killers shows. We managed to get right up to the front ... behind the metal fence on the side, where we couldn't even see the screens, let alone the stage. Luckily a lot of people cleared out after the Stereophonics' set, and we managed third row, just to the right of Mark, with a perfect view.

The show started late, and I began to panic that the set would have to be cut short, but the rest of the crowd was unconcerned. Now, maybe it was just the people around me, and not the crowd in general, but unfortunately it was one of the worst crowds I have ever been in. For example: girl at barrier sits down to pee on the spot; her friend slips in it and both fall over laughing; said friend of pee-ing girl offers drugs to girl to my right "it's not really drugs, you just put it on the inside of your lips..."; pee-ing girl asks me to move to let her friend get to barrier - I am left balancing on one foot because I have no space left; young girl to my left nearly bursts into tears when man next to her vomits on her and her friend; girl behind me is being held upright by her boyfriend, as she is literally unconscious from alcohol consumption. As I'm shoved from behind into the poor young boy in front of me, I growl "The Killers only have one song. It's called Mr Brightside. It's not that good. Please go see David Guetta [on the other stage] instead." This gets an uproarious laugh from the few people around me who are still possessed of sobriety.

Moving along...

Our flawless band bursts onto stage with Somebody Told Me (cue massive crowd reaction), Brandon decked out in his starry shirt, and all grinning from ear to ear. Looks like they LOVE Scotland. Next up is Spaceman, one of my favourites, but the number of people jumping is sadly low. Smile Like You Mean It excites the crowd again, and they break into a chant of what is apparently 'Whomp, there it Is', but from where I am, it sounds a lot like 'The Killers, The Killers, The mother****ing Killers!' Brandon's confused, but giggles his way through an Ole-ole-ole-ole chant, and a slow piano intro to Human (to a mass singalong), before exploding again with Bling. When Human does come along a few songs later, the crowd goes wild again: although most people don't know the words to any of the lesser known songs, they sure make up for it when the big hits come along. And boy, is Human a big hit!

At the first intro beats to 'From Here On Out', I immediately recognise it from Wembley, and shout out 'Mark, have you got your dancin' shoes on?' I then watch the woman to my left inch slowly away from me when Brandon says the same thing 10 seconds later. She thinks I'm possessed. Dustland, my very favourite song in the world, is up next, and I can't even sing along, because at that moment it hits me that I've flown across the world to see this wonderful band, and this is the song that made me love them. I'm completely overwhelmed.

The Travis cover, Side, goes down a storm too, as does All These Things. Again, people start leaving before the encore, so by now I'm second row. If we needed more proof that this band is the best live act in the world, the last two songs do it. When You Were Young and straight into the ridiculously epic Mr Brightside: I brace myself against the surge of the crowd and then allow myself to become absorbed into it. There is no dignity anymore: no trying to look presentable, no attempting to stand still to take a good photo, no hoping to not have your feet stamped on, and no death stares when you're hit on the head by yet another cup of what you hope is beer: there is nothing in this moment other than the band in front of you. All-consuming, all absorbing. Perfect.

And then they're gone, I'm asking the nice security guard to pick up a handful of fresh confetti for me, I'm shouting to Rob (who can't hear me) on the stage, and taking one last picture of the bolt. Then it's back on the bus to sleep until my plane leaves... another bus to the airport, attempting to revive myself at the airport but feeling like I've been hit by a bus... and then we glance out the window of the Edinburgh airport, and what do we see? The Killers' jet taking off, on their way to Italy to amaze yet more fans. There are no words.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Obsessive Fandoms: Where Do We Draw The Line?

I'm no fan of One Direction. Sure, you'll occasionally catch me humming along to 'What Makes You Beautiful', and I have been known to say I'd be willing to see them live as long as I had a bag with which to cover my head, but I'm no actually a fan. They exist, and I am more tolerant towards them than I am towards the likes of David Guetta, but I don't go out of my way to listen to them. That said, however, I do respect them a bit for becoming such a phenomenon, in an age where kids are so wrapped up in trying to be cool that they avoid becoming passionate about anything. I mean, what really separates these young 'Directioners' from my own Victims? As it happens, a lot.

I'm accustomed to almost daily One Direction Twitter trends, and usually I don't even understand them, so I pass directly over them. Much the same way as 90% of the world reacted when the Victims managed to trend 'Inclement Weather'. But hey, cool, the fandom has inside jokes. Carry on.

Anyway, yesterday a few tweets involving One Direction and The Who caught my eye. Seems The Boys used a little bit of 'Baba O'Riley' as the intro for their new song, the super-smartly named (#sarcasm) 'Best Song Ever'. I took it upon myself to have a little listen, and yes, the intro is exactly the same. And so I allowed myself to explore the tweets, and was shocked at what I found. Now, it's one thing to stand up for your favourite band, if anyone insulted The Killers within 5 miles of me, they'd get a punch to the face (I'm still holding a grudge against Zebra & Giraffe after almost 4 years, for one tiny insult). It's a whole other thing to send the opposition death threats. "I will kill you and your whole band!" read more than one tweet. Well, honey, 50% of The Who are dead already, so you'd not have a very large job on your hands. Perhaps even worse were the "Who are The Who?!" and "They're so much less famous than 1D lol no one even knows who they are." Tweets. I mean come on! If you're not British, I might let it slide, but these little UK citizens who don't know who The Who are?! But I digress...

Today's Twitter trend shocked me even more. #RIPLarryShippers was a trend from early this morning, and - under the assumption that Larry Shippers might be some famous but unfortunate soul - I clicked on it. Well. Turns out Larry Shippers is not a person at all, but rather a group of One Direction fans who 'ship' (imagine a relationship between) two of the members - Louis and Harry. The Twitter rumour goes on to say that some unknown number - ranging between 14 and 100 - of these fans killed themselves last night.

Just absorb that for a moment.


Okay, let's continue. Rumour has it that after a documentary about the 1D fandom aired, these kids got a bunch of online hate and killed themselves. Said documentary apparently portrayed the fans as crazy, obsessive kids who do nothing but stalk the boyband all day, every day.

Now firstly, no one should be bullying anyone about their taste in music AT ALL. You may ask if that's not exactly what I'm doing here, and the answer would be no. I am writing an exploratory opinion piece on fandoms. You go ship whoever the hell you want.

Secondly, I 100% believe that this is just a rumour. I mean really, if there had been some sort of mass teen suicide all citing the same cause, we'd definitely have heard about it by now, right? This leads me to my third, and most disturbing point: if these kids did kill themselves over this, it's awful, and horrible, and just not okay, but if it's just a rumour, perhaps it's just as bad. What kind of disturbed human beings would make up a rumour about such a thing? And if they did, what is the reason behind it? To get a Twitter trend?

I meant to write a post about how crazy some of the One Direction fans are, but halfway through I realised that I'd answered my own question posed at the beginning: how different are they from the Victims? Haven't I flown across the world to see my favourite band? Haven't I trawled the streets wondering which hotel they're in? Haven't I taken photos with their road crew? Haven't I stayed up to ridiculous hours of the night to watch live streams and take part in Twitter Q & As? Some might call that pretty obsessive, but to me it doesn't feel creepy. And I'm sure that to the kids in the documentary don't think they're doing anything abnormal.

So where do we draw the line? What is okay and what isn't? I have a few guidelines:

- You need other interests. If you obsess over just one band, you'll miss out on other seriously good music. Have your favourite, have that one band you'd do anything for, but love other things too.

- Don't Tweet them obsessively. You also need to have some kind of limit on what kind of online content is appropriate and what isn't.

- Respect their privacy. It's one thing to wait outside venues hoping to meet your favourites, but another to stalk their houses. (Says the girl who went to Coldplay's studio.)

- It is completely fine to say that music saved your life. Because sometimes it's true. But really, nothing is worth suicide pacts and cutting (Beliebers, I'm talking to you).

- Do it for the music. Love your favourite band members like they're your family, but remember that you're never actually going to marry them. Love them primarily for the music. (Says the girl who refers to The Killers as her children).

Actually, you know what, ignore me. I'm just as bad as the worst kids on that 1D documentary, aren't I? Screw it, go find Harry's house and tell him I say hi.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

One Night In Cape Town: Yellowcard and One Deftones Song

By now we're super used to going to concerts in Cape Town - so used to it that we've become complacent. Going to a concert used to be a week-long hysteria fest, including a road/plane trip, a hotel room, and 5 or so hours worth of queuing. Now we simply pop down the road to the venue, don't even both with a "OMG 5 days to go" countdown on Facebook, and barely bother to analyse the band's tweets for possible creeping sessions. But none the less, a concert is a concert...

And so the day of One Night In Cape Town arrived (ie: Yellowcard day), and we left home a whopping hour and a half before gates opened, spent an hour of that in traffic, and then slowly ambled through Grand West to the arena, where we still managed to be close enough to the front of the queue to get a side barrier spot. Easy game.

First up: Manchester Orchestra, playing to all of three rows of standing crowd and absolutely empty seats. Ouch. But then, I'd only heard of them once before, and that was because some member of the Parlotones mentioned them in a tweet, and The Parlotones like The Killers, so they must have great music taste, right? Clearly I'm right, because the band isn't half bad, although I do miss a few songs by going on a search for Coke (of the legal sort)... note to self: please remember to eat on concert day next time.

So Yellowcard are on in approximately 20 minutes, and perhaps 50 more people have entered the arena. The rest are all chilling outside with their beers, waiting for Deftones, which is absolutely fine - it's the ones inside the arena that I have an issue with, but I'll get to that. Between sets, the playlist is composed of everything from Bring Me The Horizon, to Green Day, to Foo Fighers...yeah, just about every band I've seen live recently. Concert addiction, what concert addiction? I am completely normal.

Cue dimming of the lights, and Yellowcard hitting their first South African stage ... to the applause of about 5 people. Sometimes you're in a bad crowd, and you know it, but the band don't. This was absolutely not the case here.

"There are about 30 people asleep on the barricade..." Says lead singer, Ryan. My heart drops for him. The band have flown 16 hours to be here for this show, the least the crowd could do is at least look a little enthusiastic. Musicians don't owe you anything, they're not doing you any favours by being on stage in front of you, and the fact that you paid money to be there does not give you the right to act any way you want. I'm not saying you have no know all the songs, or sing along, but at least crack a freaking smile if you're at the barrier, and shout a clap just a little bit! I've been in the crowd for bands I wasn't 100% keen on, but it's really not cool to let the band see that you feel that way. They're the ones doing YOU a favour.

Despite Ryan's attempts to get the crowd to engage ("Do you want to be the only country that doesn't make a mosh circle?"), almost everything feel flat, and he ended up having to teach the audience the chorus of 'Here I Am Alive' so that they could attempt a sing-along. It was honestly and truly a disgraceful crowd. I can only hope that the few of us that did bother to look like we were having fun managed to make an impression.

Rockstar violinist Sean is certainly having the time of his life on stage, and we definitely make eye contact with the bass player because of Lauren's extensive Yellowcard lyric knowledge. Ha. He's totally impressed.

Their 13 song set including their well known songs (well, at least I thought they were the well known ones, you'd never have guessed...) 'Light Up The Sky' and 'Way Away' to newer releases including the super catchy 'Here I Am Alive' of course had to close with their biggest hit, 'Ocean Avenue'.

Yellowcard really are quite an interesting band: from the fact that they walked on stage to the Star Wars theme and their Yoda reference in 'Surface of the Sun', to the very existence of their rockstar violinist, they're unique and different, but in a cool way.

We manage to stick around for one Deftones songs, simply so that we can say "We've seen Deftones", before sneaking away. And yes, that is perfectly okay. We watched from the back and then left, instead of standing at the barrier and glaring at Chino. You don't like a band, you leave, end of story.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

ABC Of Songs

So I just saw this trending topic on Twitter, and it's really something I can run with. What follows is not particularly a list of my favourite songs beginning with each letter of the alphabet, but rather an ABC of cool songs to check out - either forgotten favourites, new obsessions, or just songs I'm listening to at the moment. [Edit: I've just written about half my list, and all bar one have festival references. Sigh. I'm addicted.]

A) All This And Heaven Too - Florence + The Machine: I listened to this on the way to work today, and it's been stuck in my head ever since.

B) Back To Black - Amy Winehouse: Sometimes I hear 'Rehab' too often, and I forget that I actually liked Amy Winehouse. This is one of my favourites by her.

C) Caring Is Creepy - The Shins: Definitely my 5th favourite band in the world, this is the song they opened with at Reading last year.

D) (A) Dustland Fairytale - The Killers. Do I have to elaborate? This is the song that changed my life, I'm sure that says enough.

E) Everlong - Foo Fighters: When Dave Grohl and co. ended off Reading's set with this, I really did wonder if anything could ever feel this good again...

F) Film Noir - The Gaslight Anthem: I just love this entire album so much, I feel like it would make a great black & white movie, who's with me?

G) Grace Kelly - Mika: Oh so what if I have a few pop guilty pleasures here and there? I still love trying to reach these high notes!

H) Hometown Glory - Adele: I've not listened to this song for years, because it opens old wounds from my homesick first year university student days, but it's an undeniable masterpiece.

I) I Dreamed A Dream - Les Mis: Whether Anne Hathaway, Susan Boyle, or the cast of Glee sings it, I can't help but singing along to the overly dramatic "I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I'm living."

J) Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts - Brandon Flowers: The best song from his solo album, in my opinion. I also think that if he'd saved it for The Killers' next album, it would have been a #1 hit.

K) Keepsake - The Gaslight Anthem: This is in my top 5 songs of all time, the riff makes me want to melt into a puddle at Brian Fallon's feet.

L) Lover Of The Light - Mumford & Sons: I think Mumford & Sons have a great sound, even if it took me longer than usual to get into them. One question though: if they're so good, how did they get so popular?!

M) Monarchy Of Roses - Red Hot Chili Peppers: Opening song at Cape Town stadium, and forever forcibly reminding me of Downton Abbey due to my two obsessions beginning in the same week.

N) Nuclear Family - Green Day: Fresh from the surprise Reading set last year, this was the first song on !Dos that I really bonded with, and it's still my favourite on the album.

O) Oh My God - Kaiser Chiefs: A fitting ender to the Reading set... I truly had never been that far away from home.

P) Panic Station - Muse: I'm still holding out some hope that the band will let me direct a music video for this, set in a haunted London Underground station called 'Panic'.

Q) (The) Queen Of Lower Chelsea - The Gaslight Anthem: Promise this is my last Gaslight song! I'm not obsessed, it's just that not many songs start with a 'Q'! Alright, I'm obsessed.

R) (The) Rising - Bruce Springsteen: Emotive and uplifting yet still dark, this is without a doubt one of my favourite songs by The Boss.

S) Stop Crying Your Heart Out - Oasis: Sure, the Gallagher brothers are both a little nuts, but it's a great song, plus it reminds me of T in the Park and the mass sing along between sets.

T) There Is A Light That Never Goes Out - The Smiths: A bit depressing to say the least, but hey, at least Morrissey thinks that dying by my side would be heavenly...

U) Use Somebody - Kings Of Leon: Despite Caleb not liking it very much once upon a time, I'm sure my little Southern boys are more than happy that they decided to release this song after all.

V) Violet Hill - Coldplay: The first 30 seconds of this song were enough to make me sit up and take notice of Coldplay, and after the first minute, they were already my favourite band.

W) Walk The Line - Johnny Cash: It's about time my oldies country obsession was exposed. Johnny's probably the artist that I'm most sad I'll never get to see live.

X) X & Y - Coldplay: I don't even like this song that much, but according to my my only other option for this one was 'X-Kid' by Green Day, and I've never even listened to it.

Y) Yellow - Coldplay: The way this song kicks in just transports me to another planet. Beautiful, Chris, beautiful.

Z) Zombie - The Pretty Reckless. How sad that they dropped out of Reading this year. Oh wait, I'm not going to Reading this year anyway.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Road to Muse in Rome

You know that awkward moment when you travel around Europe spontaneously, and don't spend enough time creeping tour dates, meaning that you end up in the same city as one of your favourite bands, but without a ticket to their sold out show? What, that's just me? Oh. 

Way back in 2008, I'd barely even heard of Muse, so I gave absolutely no thought to the fact that they were in SA... they were filed away with The Killers, in that section of my mind reserved for bands that sounded scary. And there they stayed for approximately... well, the month or two that came between their performance at Coke Fest, and they first time I listened to 'Starlight' properly. I do apologise, Matt Bellamy, your band is awesome. 

And so I spent the next 5 years thinking that it would be pretty cool to see Muse if we happened to be on the same continent... I mean, I'd be willing to do a little traveling for them, but nothing that involved flying across an ocean. Unless, of course, that 'ocean' was just the English Chanel, and Muse just happened to be performing in France when I was in the UK to see The Killers! Unfortunately this plan quickly unravelled when I found out that their Paris and Nice shows were both sold out. Hence I ended up arriving in France the day after their Paris show, and 3 days before the Nice show. Aw, sadness, but I'd get over it.

Roll on the 4th of June, when I sat in a hotel room in Florence, Italy, plotting my route to Rome. I frowned to myself as I attempted to dredge up some vague memory ... Muse... tour... maybe I read that they were playing in Rome... on the 6th... hold on a second ... THAT'S THE DAY I GET TO ROME! The fact that the show was sold out did nothing to diminish my excitement this time: I'd discovered a handy little website called Seatwave, that claimed to still have tickets. 

Now, I'm very wary when buying tickets from anyone but the official retailer. I'm even warier when I have to pay online using my credit card as there's no outlet, and even more so when I find out that I won't be told where to collect my tickets until I have paid for them. I hesitate and eventually decide to make a call on the day of the 5th, I'll give myself some time to think it over, because this could go very, very wrong. Seriously, how would I know if it's some kind of scam, run by a corrupt computer nerd who's now using my credit card details to book himself a quick getaway flight to a remote part of Colombia? 

So what do I find myself doing on the 6th of June at around 12pm? Using the hotel's computer to purchase two tickets for Muse at Stadio Olimpico, Roma, Italia. My feelings of dread only increase once the booking is final, and the address for collection is given as a mail box. Huh? It's with some trepidation that we make our way to the general region around 3.30pm (collection time is 5pm sharp), and by the time we've located the correct street and walked up and down it twice without finding mailbox 1, you could say I've hit, well, Panic Station. Popping into a hairdresser's near the end of the road proves to be my saving grace: at my request for directions to number 1, the receptionist smiles and asks "Tickets?" then points me down a flight of stairs next door. Aha! So it does exist. 

In that case, we may as well walk around a bit and kill time before we collect the tickets. The weather's looking a bit ominous, but it's nothing to worry about, surely just a few clouds that'll blow over long before the show starts. Other than that, it's been another beautifully warm day in Italy, and I'm in jeans and a t-shirt, with a thin jacket just in case the temperature drops during the show. 

We set off across the road to the Piazza del Popolo, and are happily snapping some pictures in front of a fountain when the first drop of rain hits the top of my head. I don't even bat an eyelid. Then I feel the second one. And the third. That's when I notice the tourists running. Not even just speedwalking to the nearest bit of shelter, I mean flat-out, omg-there's-a-monster-chasing-me running. "Haha, why are these fools running, have they never seen a drop of rain before?" But the words have scarcely left my lips when the heavens open. I'm drenched before I can move a muscle. As we flee the square in search of shelter, I'm forcibly reminded of that scene in 'The Day After Tomorrow', when the tidal wave is destroying NYC, and they only safe place is the library. No lies. We manage to get under the eaves of a building, but it's not much help. This is literally end of the world type weather, the piazza is already flooded, the gale force wind is blowing the icy-cold rain onto us, and we're forced to just give up and wait it out. My shoes are disintegrating, and my jeans and top are soaked through. 20 minutes later, we're granted a brief reprieve, and manage to make it back across the piazza before the rain comes back with a vengence, and we're forced to take cover under an archway. By the time round two eases up, it's almost 5pm, there's no time to go home and change, the ticket collection office is about to open, and I look like I've just had a bath in the Atlantic. Great.

Ticket collection goes off smoothly (minus the two small puddles left behind from the residual rainwater evacuating our hair and clothes onto the floor of the ticket office), and before we know it, we're stadium-bound, with real, live tickets for MUSE! Well, at least I hope they're the real deal. I'll only get excited once I'm in my seat, there's still too much that could go wrong.

The Internet claims that the best way to get to the Stadium is to hit the Metro to Ottoviano, and then take the bus number 32 to the stadium, but being the seasoned concert pro's that we are, we're pretty sure that it'll be quicker and easier to walk from the station. Having ascertained that we're going in the right direction, we set off for the stadium, a couple of hundred others also giving up on the bus and following suite. Twenty minutes later we're in the grounds, we've scanned through the turnstiles (massive sigh of relief), and we're in line for merch. While my thin top has dried a bit by now, my jeans are still soaked, but at least my new Muse t-shirt is warm and dry. I should also mention here that there's NO SECURITY at this stadium whatsoever. No guards, no handbag checks, no sniffer dogs, no metal detectors, nothing, nada, zip, zero. Maybe that's why it's so easy for the guys behind me to get their weed in. Ew. 

Seats located (halfway through the second opening act, thanks to ushers who have no idea how the stadium layout works), we're supposed to be in the 'limited visibility' area, but I can see just fine! I'm not at all surprised to see that the set up for the night includes giant, light-up neurons and something that looks a lot like a gigantic blow-up lightbulb. It's Muse, after all, and they're known for ridiculous live performances. The stage itself is set up much like Coldplay's, T-shaped with a B-stage at the end, where Matt will, no doubt, perform the slower songs on piano.

Some time later, a disembodied voice says a few words in Italian, and then one that I can understand: "DVD". We're being filmed!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Geneva 2013: The Swiss, The Science, and The Super Expensive Ketchup

Geneva, Switzerland is the next stop on the adventure. Or is it Geneva, France? Well, seeing there are no borders in Europe, it could be either, really. We tried to figure it out by turning the map upside down and inside out and comparing the location of the border line to where we were, but we failed at this too.

Our train leaves from the Gare de Lyon, which is a 45 Euro taxi ride from our hotel. Ouch. We're deposited in a scary-looking underground parking lot, but once inside it's super-modern station, and it's clean, which somehow makes up for the general lack of organisation. We locate a Costa and a mini-supermarket for breakfast, but by now I am downright sick of not being able to understand any of the food labels, and having to act out my order to the cashiers. In fact, I'm just sick of travelling and being tired, and France in general, and I'm not in the greatest of moods. The sooner I'm out of here the better.

"I .... would.... like... a muffin.... this one.... blueberry one?" I say slowly and carefully, tapping on the glass to show exactly which muffin I was after. "Blueberry muffin?" asks the cashier in perfect American English. Despite feeling slightly foolish, I've never been so happy to hear American in my life. I also purchase a ham and cheese sandwich, which is kind of gross because no one here has even heard of buttering their bread, let alone chucking some mayo on the stuff. Anyway...

Geneva is about a 3 hour train ride from Paris. The tourist websites punt it as being a journey filled with scenic mountain and lake views, but the truth is that it's flat countryside for a good 2.5 hours. The last half hour though, is really something spectacular.

We've got directions printed out from Google, but no way to figure out which way is North, South, East or West once we're out of the trainstation, so we try to hail a cab. The driver refuses to take us because he says it's too close. We end up wandering the streets for about two hours (luggage in tow), before we finally find the hotel. By the time we do, I'm surprised that it even exists, and pleasantly surprised that the girl at the check-in desk speaks perfect English. There's also free wi-fi, and - even better - a kettle in the lobby that we can use to make tea whenever we want - winning!

We still have much of the afternoon and early evening to explore, so we head down to the lake, but not before stopping to - once again - satiate our hunger. Literally the only thing open is McDonald's, where we're forced to pay the equivalent of R330 for two chicken burgers and chips. Plus extra for ketchup. Are they kidding?!

But empty wallets aside, the lake is really a sight. If I'd been wearing my glasses, I'd have even been able to see Mont Blanc, snow-capped and very, very far in the distance. It's not particularly cold around the lake though, and although there are water buses back and forth across the lake, it's very possible and pleasant to simply walk around. We also find Geneva's clock made of flowers in a garden near the lake, and much like at Abbey Road, take turns to have a photo with it, accidentally photo-bombing every other tourist in town in the process.

Geneva also just happens to be home to CERN, and I could really do with a dose of science, so off we head the next morning. Tours are supposed to be booked out 9 months in advance... but at least there'll be a giftshop. After finding perfect directions on the internet, we still manage to get horribly lost, and when we eventually locate the tram we're supposed to be on and flat-out run for it, we realise we're so close to our destination that we may as well have walked. Fail.

Luck is on our side in one way though - a tour is just about to leave, and it's not fully-booked after all! We're handed visitor passes and shown into a dark room to watch an intro video which is - thankfully - in English.

We're packed amongst nerds and geeks and kids furiously taking notes, and of course much of the nuclear science goes over my head, but I remember enough from Chemistry 101 to understand the basics. The thing that disconcerts me the most is the fact that much of the particle collider is located underneath the airport. Can anyone saw 'Flight 815'? Luckily none of my flights are numbered thus.

I'm not sure if I'm being clear on this: I went to CERN, where the Large Hadron Collider is smashing things together trying to re-create the Big Bang. Do you see how cool this is to a geek like me? Yes? Good.

Okay, moving on. Back in town, this time by way of one tram direct to the station, lunch is a thrifty two-for-one pasta deal (note how much pasta I have eaten so far, I would live to regret this) at an Italian restaurant next to McDonald's. Ha, take that Micky D's, we can get two bowls of pasta for what you'd charge for half a burger.

Just for the fun of it, we hop on a water bus and ride back and forth across the lake, simply so that we can giggle and squeal about being on a boat on Lake Geneva. It increases our coolness factor, see. Our fellow passengers on this voyage are none other than a family of South Africans! It's amazing how many we'll come across on this trip.

Of course, a trip to Switzerland (well, at least I think this is the Swiss part of Geneva... no borders, remember?) wouldn't be complete without some chocolate. Although anything in this town in likely to cost me an arm and a leg or two, I manage to acquire a tiny packet of Swiss chocolates. Turns out they're so good that I feel the need to keep them forever and only eat one the entire trip. In fact, it's currently a month later, and I've just consumed my third.

It really is a pity to check out of the hotel the next morning, it's very cute and quaint, and home to mom's new best friend: a boisterous boxer dog that wants to lick us both to death. There's also the situation of the tea in the lobby and the fact that I'd been quite enjoying the fact that this one had a shower with a door, if you can believe it! (Even though one had to stay inside the bathroom for a few minutes after showering so as to not let the steam set the fire alarms off.) Who knew what or where was next...

But all in all, Geneva is well worth a visit. True, you should probably stock up on food before you go, as you could probably buy half of Marks & Spencer for what you'd pay for a coffee here, but on the plus side the public transport is all free, the lake is really pretty, and there's a huge jet of water that shoots up constantly in good weather, making the lake look like some kind of magic hot spring. And who's to say it isn't?

Paris 2013: To the Top of the Tower!

I'm sure the British countryside is lovely, and the French countryside perhaps even more so. Sadly, I might never know for sure.

Come 7am the day after Wembley, (read: 4 hours sleep later) we were to be found dragging our suitcases down Belgrave Road, in the direction of Victoria Coach Station. Roughly 100m down the road, we decided that it would be far better to hail a cab - although we're treated to a raised eyebrow and a "It's right over there." from the driver, it is without a doubt the best 6 Pounds we've ever spent.

Of course our coach would leave from the very furthest possible gate, cue dragging bags even further. I attempt to revive myself with a doughnut and cup of tea although opening and closing my mouth to chew proves too much effort for my exhausted self, and I give up and clutch said doughnut like a comfort blanket instead. On the coach, I'm not even aware that it begins to move. I have no idea which direction we head, the next time I'm vaguely conscious is when passport control boards to bus to stamp us into France just before we go through the Channel Tunnel. I see a sign that says 'France', and although I intend to take a photo of it, I cannot find any such photograph later, so I'll assume that I failed here. The coach is loaded onto some form of train to navigate the tunnel, and after being inside this train for about 15 minutes, I begin to wonder when we're actually going to start moving. Five minutes later, when we emerge, I realise we had been moving. Oh.

And that's it, goodbye England, hello France. We're driving on the wrong side of the road! But of course in Europe it's the correct side. But really, last night's limited sleep means that I'm conscious for about ten minutes while the bus makes a petrol stop; 5 minutes when we stop to drop passengers at the airport; and then again about 20 minutes from our stop in Paris.

Now, apparently the Ibis is a relatively decent budget hotel, much like a Travelodge. Seems legit, right? Well, sure, but who knew that this particular Ibis was located in the heart of the ghetto? Not us, that's for sure. After dragging aforementioned luggage through the station (which smelled a lot like wee to me), we located what we thought was the entrance to the hotel down an alley and up a flight or five of stairs. Whilst I resolutely refuse to stand alone for fear of axe murderers, we eventually figure out that the entrance is actually up a different flight of stairs. Which also smells like wee. Enter room (which does at least have wi-fi, or wee-fee as the receptionist pronounces it) to find no kettle. At least there's a shower curtain though. This is already promising to be an interesting few days.

Morning dawns chilly and overcast, and after finally getting a breakfast (petit dejouner, which does not include tea, but they hadn't counted on me having my own tea with me, ha! Also, they don't seem to use plates, it's quite odd really), we attempt to make our way into central town. I feel that the Paris Metro is slightly more confusing than the London Underground: for one, no one speaks English, so there's no way you're asking for help if you get lost; secondly, the lines are numbered as opposed to named; and thirdly, everything is kind of dirty, gross and old-looking. But we end up at Notre Dame without any majors issues. Not that we can get inside, with the lines of tourist going around the block about 17 times. This place is busier than I've ever seen London, and 90% of the tourists are American. It would normally be annoying, but in this country full of people I can't understand, hearing English is so welcome.

The next much welcome piece of American culture is the Starbucks - they even make a great cup of tea. We walk up and down the streets for a while, before crossing the river to find the Louvre. By now I'm beginning to wonder where all of the high-fashion shops are - all I've seen are some street vendors, one of which happened to be selling a scarf in the exact pattern of a certain starry shirt belonging to one Mr Flowers. It's almost lunchtime, and this has been my only purchase so far.

The entrance to the square in which one will find the Louvre's giant glass pyramid is unfortunately decorated with a group of young girls claiming to be 'mute', but who are able to shout to each other very quickly as soon as a police car drives down the street. It seems nowhere is without corruption. But then there's the actual glass pyramid itself: in the movie of The Da Vinci Code, a police officer (I think his name was Bezu Fache, but don't quote me) describes the pyramid as a scar on the face of the city. He couldn't be more wrong. Of course I need one of those awful tourist shots of myself 'touching the top', This involves standing on top of a pillar, which is of course perilous for someone with balancing skills like mine.

Tourist photos complete, we decide it's time to fill our stomachs.The first restaurant is rejected simply on the basis of not being able to read the menu - and the fact that nothing is under about 13 Euro... we'd like some money left for the rest of the trip, thanks. We end up in a little sidewalk cafe, and I end up disappointed that my spaghetti bolognaise renders me too full to try one of the amazing-looking desserts in the window.

On to the next thing then: the Champs-Elysees. Ah, here are those designer shops. Since there's no McD's or Starbucks nearby, we stop at a 'mall' for the loo... 2 Euro each later, at least we've had the chance to use pink loo roll once in our lives.

At the end of the Champs-Elysees stands the Arc de Triomphe, necessitating even more tourist photos. Feeling adventurous, we head in what we hope is the direction of a certain Tour Eiffel. Before long, we're rewarded with a glimpse of the beast of a building - it's massive. Truly huge, and truly impressive. I mean, when I set eyes on Stonehenge, I laughed at how small it was. I'd later do the same thing upon spotting the Leaning Tower of Pisa - that one is so small that it's actually cute. But there's nothing cute about the Eiffel Tower. It's just a monster of architecture and engineering. Once the tourist photos have been completed, we fall in line for a ticket to the top. Half an hour later (which isn't really that long, considering the line), we step into the giant double elevator to the first level. It's not that high really, but the view is great. Paris is very pretty from the top, and it's also massive, going on as far as the eye can see in any direction.

But then we step into the second lift to the very top, and my life flashes before my eyes. I'm not lying, we're going up into the clouds! This is high up on a whole new level. Well, that would be because it's 280m up into the air. I wish I could say that the view makes you forget how high up you are, but if anything it just keeps reminding you. It is completely and utterly worth it though, probably one of the most stunning views you'll see in your life.

By the time we're down and have made our way back to the metro station, it's 8pm, although you'd never say so from the way that the sun (which has now decided to come out) is shining. We easily make it back to the hotel room long before dark, but I'm disappointed when the McDonald's at the station tells me that they don't serve tea with milk. Sigh.

With most of Paris completed in one day, we still have day to make the trip to the Palace of Versailles, half an hour out of town. Upon disembarking the train, we follow a long line of tourists in the hope that we're all headed to the same destination. As much as I don't advise this type of chance-y optimism, I will admit that it paid off this time. The Palace is easy to identify simply because the opulent gold gates and fence are visible from at least a mile away. As usual, we're already thinking of food, and a cute restaurant in the gardens happens to serve Nutella crepes, something I'd been looking forward to since I'd first set foot in France. I was not disappointed. In fact, Nutella would become my staple food for the next two weeks.

The palace gardens are huge, and one could probably get lost amongst the maze-like hedges, fountains and ponds quite easily ... were it not for the 45 million tourists. But let me not complain, I was one of those annoying tourists of the worst kind: ooh-ing and ahh-ing over everything and snapping photos every few seconds. Apparently in 1901, two women experience a time-slip in these gardens: they claim to have gone back in time and seen Marie Antionette or something... but then again, they may have simply indulged in a it too much red wine and fallen asleep on a bench in the sun. As much as I'd love to have sent some of the thousands of school groups slipping away through time, I found Marie Antionette largely absent during my visit. How disappointing.

We're leaving Paris tomorrow, so a good night's sleep is in order before we go and board that train to who-knows-where...

London 2013 Part IV: Return, Wembley, Departure

Brandon Flowers is on the cover of the new NME (which I purchase at the tiny corner store, and walk down the road reading), The Killers are playing at Wembley in three days, and I'm in London. This is about as close as it gets to perfect.

One can literally never have enough time in London - there's just far too much to do and see. We take a trip to Covent Garden and the West End on the Thursday, and of course this has nothing to do with NME's comment about The Killers being in some kind of upper-class West End hotel. The entire area is a conglomeration of neon signs advertising stage plays, mixed with Chinese restaurants, a scattering of casinos, and the usual tourist shops. We settle on lunch at an Italian restaurant, and proceed to watch the window carefully for any signs of certain celebs. We are, however, unsuccessful in that particular mission.

It's getting difficult to concentrate on anything but what is to come on Saturday, and so Friday is supposed to be a quiet, relaxing day to help us prepare. It's also the day that half of the world is descending upon London for the same reason we're there: the Victims are arriving. Amii's coach gets in to Victoria, which is just down the road from the hotel, so we kill time having a burger at the bus station before crossing the road to the coach station to meet her. Cue Victim freak-out because guess what? We're seeing The Killers! That's right, The actual Killers.

In the evening we take a walk along the bank of the Thames, all the way to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. This part of London still confuses me no end. How the heck did we end up here?! I was pretty sure this was in a completely different part of town. Anyway. Sleep is a problem tonight because everything is just far too exciting. There are soundchecks and tweets and plots and plans and friends and of course we're seeing a certain amazing band in the morning...

I've blogged about the Wembley show before, but if you don't feel like reading that mammoth of a post, suffice it to say that it was perfection. From sitting all day in the freezing cold and rain, to meeting and re-meeting Victim friends, to having the band photographer take our picture, to finding out that the show was being filmed for a DVD... then to the mad rush inside, the stage with the massive lightening bolts, the fact that The Gaslight Anthem were one of the opening acts, to the beautiful opener of 'Enterlude' and 'When You Were Young', to the Wembley song and Dustland, to getting our dancing shoes on for 'From Here On Out', it was simply perfection. We left feeling both satisfied and hungry for more... luckily for some there was an intimate show at something called 'The Garage' in Islington at 1.45am.

We waded our way through the crowds and hopped on the first tube to Green Park, where we got a bus back to Victoria. At Victoria we caught the bus to Islington, and then walked until we found the venue, unfortunately arriving just after it had reached capacity. But anyway, as I sat on the bus back to Victoria, almost falling asleep, I couldn't summon the energy to be disappointed at not getting in. And hey, at least we found the place. Plus we're off to Paris in the morning, so I can do with all the sleep I can get...

Friday, July 26, 2013

Dublin 2013

So London is left behind in a haze of post-concert exhaustion, airport shuttles with no free wi-fi and mazes of security checks (be sure to put all your liquids and gels in a clear plastic bag, but no worries if you completely forget you have about 5 bottles of hand sanitiser in your bag). Before long, we're flying over something very green and, well, island-ish. I think it's safe to assume that this is Ireland. Oh, how I look forward to speaking to people who all sounds as though they've just popped out of an early 2000s boyband (cough, Westlife). On the bus from the airport into town, I'm astounded at how normal Ireland looks. Now don't get me wrong, I didn't think they'd be living in little druid hills, but London just seems to hisorical, and the outskirts of Dublin would probably be mistaken for some cute little central KZN town.

Once in town itself, we dodge a couple of 100 G8 protesters, and luckily are able to find the hotel relatively quickly (this is the last time things work out so easily, sigh). Set above a pub, our room is on the 4th floor, up at least a million narrow stairs. But it's lovely and comfortable and - thankfully - has a shower curtain. We take a quick walk down to the shops, and are rewarded with the presence of an M&S - and our first experience with their outstanding custard slices. Interesting thing in Dublin is that they use Euros here instead of Pounds - so no we get to multiply everything by 14 instead of 16. Oh well, it's something.

While my real mission here is seeing The Gaslight Anthem, I'm quite happy to spend the next morning wandering around the streets, checking out all the cute little souvenir shops full of shamrocks and green and sheep. Turns out Dublin is really quite tiny and we're able to get everywhere on foot, even the Olympia Theatre, where Gaslight are to perform, is only a ten minute walk from the hotel.

Although we've got seats for the concert (due to my failed creeping skills resulting in my not knowing Gaslight were even playing until a few weeks before), I've decided that we need to get to the venue early so that we can creep the tourbus and make buddies with the roadies. And if we just happen to run into frontman Brian Fallon and his neck tattoo, then so be it.

The tour bus is - of course - outside the stage entrance by the time we get there, and a small group of hopeful fans have gathered outside, hoping for a glimpse of the band. Said group includes two young teenage boys, a guy with a camera bigger than his face, a reporter-type in a U2 t-shirt, and his buddy who keeps asking me who my favourite bands are, so that Reporter-type can show me photos of himself with them. When he says that The Killers were pretty stand-offish and didn't stop to speak to him, I tell him how they came to hug the fans at Leeds and he seems to believe me. We're best buddies for about 5 minutes til he wanders off. Report-type (in my head I am referring to him as 'NME' by now) disappears too, and the five or so of us remaining are left to jump everytime the door opens. Sadly it's always a member of staff. We're eventually rewarded when a pair of tattooed knuckles appears in the window above our heads. It's none other than Brian himself, having a sneaky smoke out the window in hopes that no one will see him. He doesn't respond to Giant Camera's request to please come down for an autograph, but I forgive him - he's shy and we're creepy.

Inside, we discover our seats are in the second row on the bottom level, so we're basically looking down on the band, and it's a great angle. Support act Jogging are not exactly my cup of tea, but I tolerate them because they're Irish and when they say their name it comes out 'Joggin' ' and it sounds really cute.

By then end of Gaslight's first song, 'Handwritten', I've already decided that I'll have to get tickets for their show here tomorrow night as well - perfection like this needs to be witnessed on as many occasions as possible. Although I saw Gaslight last year at Reading, nothing can compare to seeing a band at a show that is entirely their own. Brian's on top form, making quips about everything from Obama who's in town visiting to how Jon Bon Jovi couldn't possibly reach the high notes in 'Living on a Prayer' anymore. He also tells of his love for the song 'Blue Dahlia', and how sad he is that it didn't make the final cut of Handwritten. 'Film Noir', 'Keepsake' and 'The Queen of Lower Chelsea' are my three standout songs of the night, but absolutely every track was perfect. Brian's voice is beautiful, and he puts an unbelievable amount of feeling into his performance. Right, that's settled then, tomorrow I'm booking the next set of tickets.

As it turns out, the only tickets left happen to be in the unassigned seating area right on the top level, but it's really not that bad. We can still see and hear perfectly, and are still 100x closer to the stage than at 90% of the stadium shows I've been to in the past few years.

We don't feel the need to creep around the tour bus for hours today, so we wander through the town looking at various churches, parks and ... the Dublin Castle, which is really not that impressive. Later on, we're rewarded with a Gaslight set slightly varied from last night's, including 'Meet Me By The River's Edge', which I'd not heard live before.

All in all, a more than successful trip to Dublin, which ends off with a quick and painless ride back to the airport, to begin London: Round Two.

London 2013 Part Three: More Touristy Fun and The Boss at Wembley

The Tower of London: a place of murder, treason, terror and... murder. Crawling with 11th century ghosts and positively overflowing with the presence of doom and despair. Or simply crawling with overseas tourists and positively overflowing with overpriced souvenir shops. But it is a great tourist attraction after all, and it was something we just had to do. At 21 Pounds entry each, it sure had to be something spectacular, and we weren't disappointed. Although I'm sure the Beefeaters didn't quite know that when they signed up they were really becoming glorified tour guides, they manage to do a decent job leading our herd of sheep-like tourists around. Oh, and might I mention that it's about -4 degrees by the time we get to the Tower. OK, I'm probably exaggerating, but only slightly. Clad in jeans, boots, jersey, hat and whatever else I could find, I'm still shivering in the icy wind, and attempting - unsuccessfully to shelter under a signboard. The Tower really is impressive, but cynical me is left wondering how much of it is the real 11th century building, and how much has been reconstructed in recent years. Nevertheless, it's interesting, and quite an exciting way to spend a morning. The highlight is most definitely the crown jewels (you know, those things Mr Bean stole in Johnny English... or protected... or something). There's also an obscene amount of gold basins, goblets, and who knows what else - you name it, and there's a gold one at the Tower of London. Sadly no pictures are allowed in this area. The things you are allowed to photograph are the several suits of armour scattered around the museum and grounds. And the ravens. Lunch is - thankfully - just about anything you can think of in a help-yourself type restaurant. I opt for a chicken stew as the one and only thing not on offer is the one and only thing that's been on my mind since landing - a good old roast chicken accompanied by some roast potatoes and gravy. Mmmm.

The rest of the day is spent around Picadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square, the latter of which the news tells me is now being guarded by a massive, blue, uh, chicken (I kid you not, google it). All pretty fountains appropriately stared at, we make our way back to the hotel for yet another welcome night of sleep.

The last touristy/cultural thing we really feel the need to do before we give in to temptation and just hit the shops, is the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. Turns out the palace is supposedly only a ten minute walk, so we hit the road yet again, and - of course - turn up about an hour early. After a quick walk through St James' Park (where a pigeon doesn't take kindly to my pretending to have food for him and gives me a good bite on the finger), the nearest Starbucks is swiftly located, and the most delicious sticky/custard/chelsea bun in the world is obtained. Yum. It also just so happens that said Starbucks is directly opposite Scotland Yard - cue more photos. Despite our best intentions,we never actually end up watching the changing of the guard at all, but we do see them all lined up about to march to the palace, and that's more than enough. Back on the tube we go.

The Royal Albert Hall is probably my very favourite building in London (for reasons 'unknown'...), and I insist that that we make a stop here so that I can repeat last year's photo of myself starring in awe as I touch the building in which my favourite band recorded their first DVD. Oi, stop judging me.

At some stage we also end up at Kennsington Palace - where Brits are sprawled out on the lawns taking in some rare sunshine, and even I reluctantly undo the buttons of my coat.

We've chosen tonight to go on a two hour walking tour of London, exploring sites related to Jack The Ripper. Rephrase: my mother has chosen tonight to take me on a two hour jaunt into the wonderful world of frostbite. A scarf, hat and coat are nothing against this so-called 'summer' weather. In an amusing turn of events, the guide is the same guy who took us on a walking tour of Harry Potter sites last year. He pretends to recognise us. I proceed to recite his lame speech about how his name is Richard, but he's really glad he's not Richard III. Some things never change.

Saturday. The day of The Boss. Yes, that's right, that star-spangled rockstar who's been dancin' in the dark since the 80s is still going strong - so strong in fact, that he's playing Wembley tonight. Although I had sat compulsively refreshing Ticketmaster the day the tickets went on sale, the best seats I was able to get were in the top tier, but so what... we're seeing Bruuuuuuuuce!  My sources (OK, Jess and Ryan who arrived from Manchester at 8am) say that there are almost 2000 people in the queue already, so I'm actually quite glad I'm sitting for once.

After a lovely lunch (finally, roast chicken and veggies!) and wander around the V&A Museum with Jen and Cara, we make our way to Wembley around 3pm. Although the immediate vicinity lacks a visible Starbucks, we are able to find something even more familiar - a Wimpy! Yes, the logo and colour scheme are a little different, but there's no mistaking that it's the same brand. Whilst sitting cozily in said Wimpy, nursing my third cup of tea, the heavens open. Here I am actually not exaggerating at all. I'd never seen rain like that in my life (until I got to Rome, that is). People outside run for cover, brollies inside out in protest against the howling wind. Eek. Here's hoping Wembley has one of those cool little roofs that can close at the first sign of a torrential downpour (it doesn't).

Luckily it's not too long before the rain subsides, but the damage is done: next time I see Jess and Ryan they're soaked though, raincoats and all. And if I had thought it was cold the day before; if I had thought it was cold at last year's Rocking The Daisies; if I had thought that it had been cold at 4am when I woke up for work, I was about to discover a whole new level of cold. Although Google tells me that the predicted temperature for that day dropped to 11 degrees, this doesn't take into account the wind chill, and the fact that Wembley Stadium  seems to summon wind to zoom around it in hysterical circles. I estimate the real feel to have been about 4 degrees. Bruce t-shirt acquired (nevermind that I'm too cold to take my coat off to put it on), we're soon let through the turnstiles. Although you must please remember to hand the cap of any water bottles to the security guards on your way in - it's perfectly acceptable to chuck a bottle of water into the crowd, but Heaven forbid you should possess a cap  to throw. #logic

The average age of the people around me is approximately 90 ... no kidding, I'm the youngest person by 26 years (next youngest is my mother). So either all the young fans are down in the golden circle - or young people simply have no taste in music. Sigh, kids these days.

Of course, Bruce has no need for something as mundane as an opening act, as he quite enjoys playing a three hour set himself. Opening with 'Land of Hopes and Dreams', the audience response in my section is less fanatical screaming and more quiet appreciation - lest any concert-goers should lose a denture. I'm not even going to pretend that I'm familiar with the next three songs (sign requests from the crowd) but 'Rosalita' makes me feel a sudden urge to put on my dancin' shoes. 'Hungry Heart' is possible my favourite Bruce song, so when that comes up as the last sign request, I squeal and positively jump up and down in delight. As is customary, Bruce lets the crowd sing the first verse and chorus, and delightedly tells us that we sound great. Aw, thanks Bruce. It's as though someone has forgotten to tell Bruce Springsteen that he's a 63-year-old man, rather than an 18-year-old boy, playing some tunes in the garage with his mates. He has a mischievous grin on his face all night, and a boundless energy second to none. It's evident from the way they play that the E-Street band have been together for as long as any of them can remember. They seem to form a seemless whole, able to take one glance at a sign request and all launch into the song at exactly the same instant. Plus they just seem to be having so much fun! Drummer Max Weinberg must be into his 60s, but is going for it just as hard as the 20-something drummer of any number of awful mainstream pop-rock bands. And Bruce himself... well, there's a reason they call him The Boss: he's flawless.

"We could keep taking requests, or we could play Darkness on the Edge of Town in full..." We probably didn't really have a choice, but seeing Darkness is most people's favourite Bruce album, we had no problems with this. After the album has been completed, fun comes around in the form of the ridiculously  upbeat 'Shackled & Drawn', a tiny audience member brought onstage for 'Waiting on a Sunny Day', and my other favourite 'The Rising'. Encore includes a touching 'Bobby Jean' (which is totally about Steve van Zandt), a danceable cover of 'Twist and Shout' (finally the old age home around me starts standing up), and of course 'Dancing in the Dark', which makes me jump so much that for a second I honestly fear that I might fall off the stands and topple into the row in front of me. Bruce takes to the stage one last time - alone - for a special second encore: an acoustic of 'Thunder Road'. I'm genuinely surprise (but not disappointed, really) that they don't do 'Born in the USA', but I guess when you're The Boss, you don't have to answer to anyone. Seeing Springsteen is a bit of a life-defining moment - it's definitely something everyone should experience at least once in their lives. Whether you know all the songs or not, it's about appreciating that there are some real legends in the world of music, and this man is one of them. An absolutely amazing show, and definitely in my top 5 concerts ever.

By the time the show ends (after Bruce's little joke about wondering if someone's going to pull the plug on him for going over time), I'm completely and utterly exhausted. The walk from the Victoria Station back to the hotel is the longest 8 minutes of my entire life. I can't even think. And I have to be up at 6am tomorrow for a flight to Dublin.