Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Panic! At The Disco; Top 5 Songs

So after getting over my initial displeasure that Panic! At The Disco were the much-awaited final headliners for I Heart Joburg, I remembered that they sing 'Nine in the Afternoon' which featured in one episode of the second season of Heroes, and then I got excited. So why was I initially so displeased, you ask? Well, because they're a little alternative, electro-rock band from Vegas, they have a little song about Vegas lights, they shoot little videos in the desert and the little fool that leads the band is called Brendan of all things. Basically, they're as close to being The Killers as you can be without being The freaking Killers!!!!! I was so close to seeing my favourite band in my country again and then they whip out the closest thing to them in the world!! It's adding insult to injury, I tell you! Like seeing 'cola' on the menu and then having it be Pepsi instead of Coke. Like, just give me Creme Soda instead FFS! Anyway, this displeasure lead to a temper tantrum at the office, with me basically running around shouting 'Panic! At The Disco' at the top of my lungs, whilst trying not to burst into horrified sobs. When asked what was wrong, I simply replied 'Panic! At The Disco'. I think I was having a breakdown.

Fast-forward a month or two, and I've calmed down a bit (unless someone mentions the video for 'Vegas Lights', then I lose my shit) and I'm forcing myself to listen to the band that I really did like until they offended me by not being The Killers. So let's break down a top 5 - nah, let's be realistic and do a top 3 -  and I'll try to keep my cool:

3) 'I Write Sins, Not Tragedies' - Probably Panic!'s best-known song, it was many people's first taste of Brendan's vocal range, quirky lyrics, and song titles that don't make sense (a-la Fall Out Boy). 

2) 'The Ballad of Mona Lisa' - I swear, I once said that I wish The Killers had written this song. In fact, every time I hear it, I imagine Brandon Flowers singing it into one of those old-fashioned 50s stand-up microphones. Anyway, Brendan and his crew do it pretty well too (I'd expect so, seeing they wrote it). I have a vivid memory of singing it in the car on the way to PE one day back in 2011, when going to PE was the most exciting thing in the world.

1) 'Nine in the Afternoon' - I don't care who tells me what 'I Write Sins...' should be number 1; it should not be! I mean, what even is nine in the afternoon? I don't know, neither does little Brendan Urie I bet, but either way, it's a catchy tune and I love a few nonsense lyrics every now and then. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Top Five: Fall Out Boy

As I Heart Joburg Festival draws ever closer (flights booked, friends bugged for accommodation, and slight panic that omg-the-whole-thing-is-going-to-fall-through initiated), I've set my playlist to nothing but a constant rotation of Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco - because in all honesty they're the only acts worth seeing. Anyway, I can sing along to all of Jason Derulo's songs without even trying - all I need to do is belt out "JAAAAAYSOOOOON DERULOOOOO" at random intervals. (I'm just being facetious here, I'm really quite fond of Jessie J too, it's not about the money, money, money and all that, and my friend assures me that Jessie is the only reason she agreed to fork out all those cash monies to join the concert-pros in golden circle. Plus, B.O.B did that song with Hayley Williams. And the one with Rivers Cuomo. Okay, maybe the line-up is good all-round.)

As the playlist on my iPod progresses through the various stages of FOB, I'm left squealing "Ahhh I forgot all about this song" every time "I'm Like A Lawyer..." starts, and positively squeaking over "Sugar, We're Going Down". So what are the top must-listen sing-along faves for the 6th of September? Let's break it down:

5) 'Just One Yesterday' - I know the premise is a little depressing, but I love the title line in this song. Anyone pick up the reference to 'Me & Bobby McGee'? No? Oh well, the band probably didn't either. This song is a little slower and more serious than the FOB we've grown to know and love, but nonetheless it's one of my top.

4) 'This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race" - after many moons spent trying to figure out exactly what tisseenaseenitsaguuhuhsru actually meant ("this ain't a scene, it's a g*d-damned arms race) and many more trying to figure out why this guy is weaving such intricate lies (still haven't got that one down) it became another FOB classic. But if you say this one's your all-time-favourite, I'm afraid the bandwagon's full - please catch another.

3) "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark" - it was the moment every Fall Out Boy fan had been waiting for: the reunion. Despite my mother's hilarious suggestion that perhaps the guys had fallen out, die-hard fans never quite gave up hope. And then, on the day of Reading Festival 2013 line-up announcements (I CALLED IT), FOB decided to come back, and they dropped a new single, which just happened to be this one. For that reason alone, it should be on the top 5.

2) "Thnks Fr Th Mmrs" - I finished school in 2007, the heyday of this song. For our 'yearbooks' we each had to provide a song quote/title/something to accompany our picture: something that summed up our personalities, or our feelings on leaving school. I went with 'Thanks For The Memories', but unfortunately so did half my year, so I didn't get to use it. Either way, I perfected this song on SingStar, and felt like a boss belting our Patrick's vocals. All together now, "one night and one more time!" and soon we'll be thanking Joburg for the memories. 

1) 'Sugar, We're Going Down' - ahhh, the sweet sounds of 2006! I think my 'Now' CD almost wore out from over play of whatever track number this was. When the times comes at I Heart, I will definitely be falling over a barrier, laying flat at Pete/Patrick's feet and crying. Remember, I'm flying up from Cape Town for this song, and everything else is a bonus. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Scotland Part 1

We make it to the airport with several hours to spare, and whilst waiting to check in, we observe the behaviour of others around us. Turns out that no matter how much of a fuss you kick up, there's no option of taking extra luggage with you. "Go over there and empty your bag, bring it back to me when it weighs less than 6kg." I hold my breath and gingerly place my suitcase and hand luggage on the scale. Mine is 1 kg under weight, and mom's is 900g over, so together we're alright. The next obstacle is finding food. I would soon live to regret my mumbled "I'll eat through security" when I realised that there was NO FOOD THROUGH SECURITY. Not even a crappy Costa rip-off to sell my exhausted soul a cup of milk-less tea and a dry doughnut. After making besties with an older lady who asked us to watch her handbag whilst she visited the loo (cue minor internal panic that she had definitely just left us with a bomb), she was most interested to hear that we were from South Africa. "Is it safe there, though? The whole Oscar Pistorius thing..." No, lady, it's not safe in SA... every former sports star is a raving lunatic with a gun. 

Eventually we fall in line to board, way at the back of the line, underneath a large poster bearing the image of a designer handbag. I don't know more than 5 words of Italian, but the message is pretty clear: if you're found with counterfeit products, you're in big poo. Hmm. Good thing I managed to tear myself away from that beautiful handbag I'd seen on the streets of Rome. 

Once in the air, the food trolley can't come around quickly enough, but once it does I have to be difficult once again. Rather than grab a coke and packet of crisps to help my rapidly-dropping sugar levels, I insist on tea and a cheeseburger. What? I was starving and it was the most substantial thing on the menu. Little do I know that we'll be 15 minutes from touchdown when my pathetic excuse for a cheeseburger will finally arrive, along with the ketchup I'd paid 50c for. Sigh. I'm done with you, EasyJet.

Upon landing, it's all I can do to not throw myself upon the Great British ground and kiss it. While crying. And throwing back litres and M&S lemonade. Seriously, I've never been so happy to touch down in an English-speaking, Starbucks-offering country in my entire life. I never have to see another gosh-damned pizza again in my life!

We make it onto a bus (and pass a Toby Carvery - cue flood of emotions - remember the server caller Chris? - but unfortunately we don't get time to pay a visit to this particular restaurant) but by now my mind is starting to lose itself in an "OMG The Killers" deadlock, because I'm seeing my favourite band in exactly 4 days. 

After checking in to our hotel - a neat, pretty MotelOne complete with a kettle - we hit the road to the nearest M&S. I have a vague recollection of lemon-flavoured biscuits, buying a dress from H&M or Primark or somewhere, a mad hunt through Primark for a suitable pair of wellies for T, dinner composed of a stuffed baked potato and an interesting cold drink, a quick glance at a few more shops, then heading back to the hotel just in time to hear the news saying Mandela was on his death bed and Cory Monteith was actually dead. I also felt a pang of a minor elation at the fact that there was a Starbucks just up the road. And then... I slept. 

But dawn breaks early when you're so far north, and we waste no time in hitting Starbucks for a snack before proceeding to explore the town. Edinburgh Castle comes first, where we bump into a large collection of Canadian school children, before pottering off down the Royal Mile in search of tartan scarves which cost less than 30 Pounds (read: rip-offs that weren't 100% cashmere - ain't nobody got time for that). 

Scotland is everything. It's the walk up a steep and winding path to the Castle, at the top of which you find the best view of the city you could imagine; it's the record shop that stocks enough Springsteen vinyls to keep an E-Streeter happy for the rest of his or her glory days; it's the fact that there's a freaking volcano in town, and another castle at the other end of the Royal Mile. It's everything. Once again with food on our minds, we head towards the centre of town and locate the Hard Rock Cafe, where the waiter frowns and informs me that I don't look like I'm dressed for T in the Park. Please. It's taking every ounce of self-control I possess, for me to still be wearing normal shoes rather than prancing around in my brand new pink wellies. 

The Edinburgh Dungeons are not the be missed, and we brace ourselves for the scariest possible tour. We pass a giant fake guillotine (maybe, I can't remember what it was, but I know for a fact that it could chop heads off...) and venture down a dark passage way, decorated on each side with a fake rat or two. From somewhere inside comes maniacal laughter, and a guy in a long cloak takes our money, before handing us our change and saying "Thank ye' " in a thick Scottish accent. I giggle and fight the urge to beg him to say "See ye in another life, Brotha." Trying his best to be menacing, he leads us into a room and orders us to stay there, along with a woeful-looking dad ('What am I getting myself in for?'  is surely his predominant thought) and his two teenage daughters. Eventually we're ushered into a makeshift courtroom and interrogated for various crimes: someone's broken the laws of fashion; someone else was caught dancing naked at midnight. And the dad? "Where're you from?" asks the 'judge'. "Belfast." 'Sorry." "BELFAST." "Oh no, I heard you, I'm just sorry that you're from Belfast." and the poor dude is certainly sorry at this very moment that he ever left Belfast. And so we move on through the tour - the ghost girl in the window is a nice touch, as is the way the seats move below us when we're inside the rooms of some dodgy lady doctor. The cannibalistic cave-people are quite fun too, but then we're made to board a 'boat' and row off down a 'river' to escape them. 'Scuse me? You want to launch me through the pitch dark in a mechanical boat, without any idea of what's ahead of me? Not about that life. I repeat: I am not about that life. Luckily I manage to keep calm enough to not plant myself upon anyone's lap (unlike Belfastian teens in the seats in front of me). Next we're loaded onto a mini-rollercoaster and zipped up into the air and then dropped. Child's play after that boat. I'll stay on this tour as long as someone can promise me that the rest of it will be fully illuminated. It is, although we do have to fight our way through a maze of mirrors to find the exit, where we leave through the gift shop after purchasing photographs of ourselves beheading each other. 

Darkness also falls late here, meaning that we have been able to squeeze in a full tour of the city before passing out back in the hotel room with an adequate supply of M&S and tea, to ready our bodies for what is to come the next day...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Going Neopolitan

After a train ride bypassing Rome and heading further South to the Neopolitan coast, I'm excited to explore the famed Bay of Naples. Oh boy, am I in for a surprise. Yes, I'm on a spur-of-the-moment Eurotrip; no, I did not thoroughly research every stop before boarding my train (rookie error); yes, I've landed up in perhaps the dodgiest city in the whole of the Northern Hemisphere. I exaggerate, but only slightly: Naples is Hell on Earth. 

If the repeated voice over of "Please be aware of pick-pockets" in the train station isn't enough to send you right back on the next Trenitalia back to Roma Termini, perhaps the homeless people outside will do the trick. Or the fact that you can't cross the street without almost getting hit by a car because there are no stop streets and no robots! Phew. Good thing our hotel is about 100 paces from Napoli Centrale Stazzione. We hit the local 'pizza kebab' (read: chicken takeaway shop owned by immigrants from Pakistan) because if I see another gosh-damned pizza in my life I will hurl the thing moonwards quicker than you can say "that's amore". Adequately fed - and holding onto our handbags for dear life - we manage to dodge the throws of people trying to sell us a myriad of stolen items (iPads being the most plentiful) and make it onto a circumvesuviana train to Pompeii Scavi.

Yes, "scavi" is Italian for "ruins", which means I am on my way to the ruins of the actual city of Pompeii, destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius wayyyyy back in the first century AD. Goodness, gracious me. "If you close your eyes", that episode of Doctor Who with Peter Capaldi, and the ACTUAL CITY OF POMPEII. It's almost too much for my little brain to handle. The train ride there is pretty gross and goes past a million slums and poor fishing villages, plus when we reach the modern town of Pompei, everything is closed (it's afternoon), but we make it to the ruins around 2pm, and spend the rest of the afternoon wandering around, lost in the history, architecture, and the fact that these ancient human beings had pizza ovens. Some things never change. But Pompeii is truly something spectacular, there are no words to describe experiencing the remains of a city so ancient that parts of it were built before Jesus (whoever he might have been) even walked the Earth. Breathtaking, isn't it? 

But it's true what the guidebooks say, the maps aren't kept updated, and after walking towards an exit for a good 20 minutes in the 36 degree baking sun, we find it blocked and have to try to figure out another way to leave. It's not pleasant, but we persevere, and eventually make our way out. We stop on the way back to the train station for one of those lovely lemon-slush-drink things, and then make sure we catch a train which lands us back in Napoli long before the sun goes down. If the place is dodgy during the day, I'd hate to imagine it by night. But in stark contrast to the rest of the town, our hotel is the nicest I've seen the entire trip... plus there's a kettle. A kettle, I tell you! Luckily we still have some of that Irish tea with us. 

The next day dawns slightly overcast, but warm, and we know that it's the perfect day to tackle Mount Vesuvius. Now, I'm probably the least athletic person you will ever stumble upon, so it's a miracle that I even agreed to go near the Mountain, but hey, when in Naples, do as the tourists do, right? And so we head for the Circumvesuviana line again, this time stopping well before Pompeii, to catch the little tour bus up the side of the mountain. Tourists pay a fee, get dropped off halfway up the mountain, then have 90 minutes to reach the top, explore, and get back down before the bus leaves again. 

And so we're hustled into the front of the minivan with a large Italian driver, wearing a bright green t-shirt and a slightly menacing grin. It doesn't take long for me to absorb my surroundings, and take in the fact that the dashboard is covered in old photographs of the driver's presumably-dead relatives. Hmm. Before we know it, the bus goes racing off, driver speaking into his cellphone in rapid Italian, one hand pressing the device against his ear, and the other precariously balancing the steering wheel between its thumb and forefinger. I'm sure I'm going to die. Driving with an Italian is not the faint of heart, and the speed at which the bus hurtles around the corners on the twisty mountain road are enough to give me nightmares for the rest of my life. Eventually, we slow down behind a massive touring bus, and I breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that at least now our driver has to stick to some kind of speed limit. I've never been more wrong in my life. All at once, there's an explosion of hooting (this is how drivers communicate that other cars should get out of the damned way) and we're flying past the tour bus, on the wrong side of the road, and narrowly avoiding being taken out by various cars zooming down the mountain. I decide that perhaps I should close my eyes for the rest of the ride. 

Finally, we're deposited in the parking lot, and dumped unceremoniously from the van. 90 minutes and we'd better be back, unless we really want to walk all the way back to the train station (though after this ride, perhaps that would be safer). And so we set to work, heading up the mountain. Young men in the parking lot hand out long wooden hiking sticks, and whether or not you think you'll need one to help you, the answer is yes, you do. The path is steep and full of loose stones, which make it difficult to get one's footing. But once we've gotten into a rhythm, we manage to make it up the mountain with no major problems. They key is to pace yourself, and not try to get up too fast. We take in the view, and that fact that we're in the midst of an actual volcano, and then take our time exploring the rim of the crater and buying souvenir postcards. I completely disregard the "No removing anything from this natural site" rule, and pocket a tiny piece of rock. What? I'm a former geology student, I'd be a complete disappointment if I didn't try! By the time we're finished wandering around, however, we realise that the bus is due to leave in 14 minutes, and we're still at the top of the volcano. Oh. Cue mad rush down, and the realisation that it is in fact impossible to do anything other than run down Vesuvius, due to the steep gradient. We try our hardest not to lose our footing and become casualties of the nearest hospital (*shudders*). 

The bus ride back down the mountain is even more terrifying, this time the smell of something burning is followed in quick succession by the driver furiously making the sign of the cross (Oh good lord, I am going to die, this is how it ends!), before launching his vehicle into second gear, where it was to stay for the duration of the ride. Yes, the fool had burned his clutch out. 

Invigorated - if slightly worse for the wear - we stumble back to the train feeling very impressed with ourselves. And although we immediately lock the doors and windows upon arrival back in our Naples hotel room, this dodgy city has been good to us. Tomorrow, Rome awaits.