Thursday, February 26, 2015

I'm So Sorry.

One month into 'living the dream', I'm ready to tell you, it's not easy. Three weeks ago, the hardest issues I faced were figuring out how to drag my suitcase up three flights of stairs from my taxi to my brand new apartment. Now, I face not being able to sleep at night because of the screaming people, screeching motorbikes and wailing sirens outside my window; I face the inability to be granted a bank account; and I'm forced to face the fact that I grossly underestimated the cost of living in England. It is not, for example, possible to survive on 100 Pounds per week, after rent. Sure, my bill at Tescos comes to 25 Pounds for the week, but that's not counting the extra 20 I spend on lunch at work for the week, or the 20 from those few times I popped to Sainsbury's because I fancied a treat. And what about the cost of entertainment? Sure, I'm saving on transport by walking to work, but using just as much on the Tube at weekends. Good thing I don't have any friends, or I'd be spending even more money on transport and entertainment.

Sometimes it crosses my mind that I could be sitting in the Durban sunshine right now, accompanied by every family member I possess, and perfectly able to take my very own car down to the shops to buy absolutely any item of food I could possibly want. Instead, it's pouring with rain and pitch dark at 5pm, and I face going home alone yet again to eat stale bread for supper (I can't even toast it as I don't own a toaster, and my oven sets off the fire alarm every time) and perhaps reading a PDF of Harry Potter until it's 8pm and I decide it's late enough to go to sleep. This is not the dream, this is the nightmare.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Kaiser Chiefs Live at the O2

Apparently it’s weird to go to concerts alone. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never been one to do things the normal way. After spending so much of my time alone, and having to do everything with just myself for company, I’ve kind of gotten used to it. I don’t think I even realise what I’m doing is weird anymore. Well, the couple next to me at Kaiser Chiefs sure noticed it was weird. I spent most of the evening trying to figure out if the looks they kept casting me were confused, suspicious or pitying…

After swearing I wouldn’t buy any more concert tickets until I’d been paid, I somehow found myself typing my card details into Viagogo two days before Kaiser Chiefs were set to play at the O2. It’s only 22 quid, I told myself. Plus, I’d missed most of Kasiers’ set before Foo Fighters back in December, because I’d been, ya know, meeting Dave Grohl. No biggie. Plus, I’d never been to the O2 before, so I bought my super cheap re-sale ticket, and off I headed to Greenwich North station, after a cross-Baker Street station trek. Seriously, the Jubilee Line is unnecessarily far from the rest of the world.

With gates set to open at 6.30pm, I stepped out of the station at 6.29pm, unconcerned as I had a seated ticket. In the corner of the station, someone was busking to ‘I Predict A Riot’, and I had just enough time to ponder how interesting it sounded in a female voice before I got close enough to realise it was a dude. Though sadly not Ricky Wilson.

Starving, but wanting to spend as little money as possible, I scanned the area for a McDonald’s, but was unsuccessful. My options were thus Subway, or… Subway. I opted for a chicken sub which was 1) out priced 2) tiny and 3) so full of onion that I could still taste them after brushing my teeth three times. But, one lives and one learns, and next time I’ll simply wait until I’m INSIDE the O2 before I stuff my face. See, there’s a Starbucks, and even a SPUR! That’s right, a good old-fashioned, burgers-and-barbecue-sauce Spur.

Inside, I made my way up the fancy escalators, then found my seat (next to the judge couple) and then took a stroll around the arena. Yes, I am perfectly entitled to stroll around all by myself, and that’s exactly what I did! And by some miracle, I remembered a half-eaten slab of Cadbury Oreo chocolate in my handbag, sparing my from paying for snacks, or throwing away 2.40 on a cup of tea. I’m not even from this country, and I can tell that’s daylight robbery. I also managed to restrain myself from buying any kind of tour merch. I mean really, I have enough band t-shirts. [edit: I feel really bad for saying that and right now I’m on the verge of grabbing a Killers tee out of my drawer and pressing it to my face whilst sobbing. Moving countries is a very emotional thing, okay?]

Moving along.

Opening act Public Service Broadcasting could have done everyone a public service and just not gone on stage. Seriously. Out of respect for them, I stayed in my seat, but headed out for another stroll as soon as they and finished. Seated tickets are surely the only way to go. After a full day of work, I couldn’t even imagine being in standing. Guess I really am getting too old for this…

Now, I’d seen Kaiser Chiefs twice before: once at Reading in 2012, squished halfway through the crowd, with my back against a barrier and the sun baking down upon the body that was aching to be back in a bed that was not a tent. The second time was after I’d just met Dave freaking Grohl, and all I could register was that the crowd didn’t appreciate anything, and that ‘Never Miss A Beat’ was still my favourite Chiefs song. Needless to say, the third time I got to see them was the first I got to truly appreciate them.

And they sure didn’t disappoint. Full of humour, Ricky is so endearing that I honestly just want to hug him. I have this huge soft spot for this band that I can’t even explain. Maybe it’s because of the hilarity with which they recounted the scarf-in-the-soup incident in that YouTube video. Perhaps it’s because I still feel a little guilty for not loving Ruby when it first came out…

So Kaisers start off with The Factory Gates and then without, well, without missing a beat, move straight into Everyday I Love You Less and Less. Aaaand the crowd are extremely happy. I’m surprised but not unhappy that oldies like this and Everything Is Average Nowadays still make it into the setlist.

When Ricky - somehow - makes his way to the B-stage in the middle of the standing section for The Angry Mob, I literally witnessed two people in the disabled section just above me completely disregard their wheelchairs and get up to dance. I am not kidding.

In my extensive Kaiser Chiefs listening, I had never before come across Roses. In fact, I was quite convinced at the time that it was a cover, and made a mental note to look up the original song, because it sounded great. Well, I was wrong. And somehow it gave a glimpse into what KC could have become if they’d wanted to be a band who took themselves a little more seriously, dispensed with the catchy choruses and repetitive lyrics, and toned down the crazy stage antics. If they had focused on musical ability and vocal talent instead. And I was blown away.

But before I could become too contemplative, we were back to normal, rocking Modern Way and my own favourite, Never Miss A Beat, and then a band member selection. Peanut chose Time Honoured Tradition, but only after Ricky reminded him in a stage whisper to please choose something the new drummer knows how to play… “Why are you all shouting ‘Ruby’?” Ricky asked the crowd, sounding genuinely amused, “We’re going to play Ruby!” And they sure did, following their biggest hit with arguably their best song, I Predict A Riot.

Now, sometime during the day, I’d read an NME article about a video of Dave Grohl which was being played before the encore during KC’s tour. From the way NME put it, it was real footage filmed when the two bands toured together, of Dave losing his temper with Ricky and co. Instead, we were treated to an obviously staged video of Dave employing every swear word he had ever come across, insulting the hair-dos of every Kaiser Chiefs member, and ripping into Ricky for judging the X-Factor. I tried not to cry from laughter. I also tried not to imagine Dave laughing his ass off and apologising to the rest of them as soon as the director yelled “Cut!”

The three song encore ended, as usual, with Oh My God, and I had the time of my life singing along, because as we all know, I really have never been this far from home.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Kodaline Live at the Roundhouse

Nothing could have prepared me for the emotional rollercoaster that is Kodaline. I'm not even just talking about their gig at Camden's trendy Roundhouse on Tuesday, I'm talking about the band in general. 

It was around April or May 2014 when I settled down to watch some Coldplay videos on YouTube, and because I'm a sucker for punishment, I watched 'The Scientist' on repeat about 5 times, before deciding to try one of the 'suggested videos', which just happened to be something called 'All I Want' by Kodaline. Ohhhhh, the emotions I'd felt by the end of that video! I mean, that poor freak in the office! And the girl who fell in love with him no matter what anyone else though! It was just so beautiful! And IF I'd been an emotional human being, I'd have been sobbing into my teacup because the world just isn't a nice place. But, I'm not an emotional human being.

Just look at this!!

Anyway. I was as impressed with the rest of the band's album 'In A Perfect World', and what almost did make me sob into my teacup was the delayed realisation that this band, that I was now firmly in love with, had in fact played at T in the Park 2013, which I had attended, without knowing who they were. Oh, the regret. I had spent my afternoon falling asleep to Earth, Wind & Fire rather than crying to 'All I Want'? Great. Either way, I stuck their album on repeat for the next few months, all the while marvelling at the fact that I somehow felt like I'd known this music for my entire life. There are few bands that produce music I'd class as 'so beautiful it hurts', and I'd discovered three: Coldplay, The Shins, and now Kodaline.

It was with a surge of OMG that I find out that Kodaline would be playing in London in mid-Febraury 2015. Unfortunately for me, I slacked and tickets sold out in 30 minutes. Fortunately for me, I was spared having to pay 60 Pounds for a re-sale due to a very useful connection managing to help me get one at face value.

And so I showed up at the Roundhouse to a queue to rival anything I've ever seen at Wembley. Seems I've been completely underestimating this band's popularity. 

Queue or no queue, we managed a spot about 6 rows back, and I had a chance to take in my surroundings. Well, they sure weren't lying when the named the venue. The room is completely circular, with seats in a circle above the back of the standing area - it's basically a mini Royal Albert Hall. Kind of. 

I feel that two opening acts are unnecessary for such a small gig, but luckily they both were entertaining - despite the inability of our group to agree on 'which of the Mispers was the hottest'. Moving along...

Kodaline themselves finally ambled onto the stage in all their Irish glory, and opened with 'Ready', off of their brand new album, 'Coming Up For Air', then straight into 'Love Like This', cue crowd going wild. But it wasn't until 'High Hopes' that I really realised the impact of the band. For I could barely hear them over the sound of the crowd, singing along to every single word. Even me, I almost felt emotions! And the band were just loving it - they love having this kind of power over their poor, defenceless audience!

Whilst we all held our breath and prepared for 'All I Want', they decided to keep playing games with us and instead play 'Brand New Day', and a new song called 'The One', which Steve wrote for a friend's wedding (can you imagine being at that wedding? Can you imagine being that friend?? The emotions, I tell you!).

They warned us that 'Love Will Set You Free' was their last song, and we waited with baited breath (again) for them to come back and play new single 'Honest', and that elusive 'All I Want'. In fact, someone in the audience took it upon themselves to start singing the chorus of the latter, and soon the entire crowd was singing along. I could just imagine the band backstage, giggling little Irish giggles.
It was really quite rude of them to play with our emotions to such an extent as to save 'All I Want' for last. A collective 3000 tried to disguise their tears as 'something in my eye' as Kodaline, accompanied by the Mispers' violinist, broke 3000 hearts.

And so I braved the tube back home, grumbling about the fact that it's almost impossible to get from the Northern Line to the Hammersmith and City, but at the same time quite pleased that way back in 1998, it had been another Irish band - with a singer called Steve - that had sparked my love for music, and now, in 2015, the Irish were still going strong.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Imagine Dragons Smoke + Mirrors Album Launch

I used to say that I never win anything, but since the Dave Grohl Incident, I’ve had to eat my words slightly. Still, I don’t win things often. Not at all. Remember the Two Door Cinema curse? Yeah? When no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t acquire tickets to see TDCC at their win-tickets-only gig in Cape Town three years ago? (Yes, it’s been three years and I’m still extremely bitter…)

Anyway. When I entered to win tickets to see Imagine Dragons play an exclusive gig at the House of Vans in London, I did so without even considering that I might actually win them. But hey, I moved to London to go to concerts, so I may as well try.

Imagine (ha ha ha) my surprise when I got the email saying I’d won tickets! My first choice for a plus one was, of course, Amii who absolutely adores Dragons, but seeing she couldn’t make it down from Birmingham. In the end, I was accompanied by a Victim named Sam, along with Sinead and her friend Abbey.

It must be part of the fun of exclusive gigs, that they’re never in normal venues. From TDCC in a silo somewhere near Cape Town airport, to The Kooks under a highway in Joburg and in a warehouse in the wilds of Salt River, it’s all the more exciting to be dumped into a hipster-cool venue. Dragons held their show at House of Vans, a mix between a skate park and an abandoned train tunnel, next to Waterloo Station. With the walls covered in lumo graffiti, and the inside exuding  the kind of industrial-cool that wouldn’t be out of place in Cape Town’s Woodstock area, it was the perfect place for an album launch gig.

Pretty sure this is an abandoned Tube tunnel
 After failing spectacularly at the photobooth, we managed a second row spot behind another groups of Victims (seriously, I felt like I was seeing The Killers, which is never a bad thing), and prepared ourselves for the hour and a bit wait until the band came on stage. Thankfully, the gig was live streaming around the world, so they had to be on time.

At precisely 9am, the band trouped onto the stage, and began a slow chorus of ‘It’s Time’, with frontman Dan Reynolds holding out his microphone for the audience to sing along. Somewhere between this opening chorus and the actual beginning of the song, I burst into maniacal laughter, somehow unable to believe that I was really standing here, in the middle of London, at an exclusive gig by one of the best new bands in the world, with said band less than 2 meters away from my face. And then I lost myself in the music.

The last time I saw Imagine Dragons was from the very back of a very hot, very crowded and very dusty King Tut’s Tent at T in the Park 2013. I was stuck behind the VIP platform and couldn’t see anything besides the fact that one member had Mark Stoermer-length hair. They were good back then, but this time, they were phenomenal. Intimate gigs are just that much more special. In addition to old favourites like ‘Demons’ and ‘On Top of the World’, we were treated to new material, and it went down a treat with the audience, many of whom knew all the words to ‘Gold’ already, much to Dan’s surprise. “YOUTUBE” we shouted back, when he asked how we knew it. ‘I Bet My Life’ is a million times better live than recorded, even ‘Shots’ sounds great, as does another new song called ‘Summer’. But one truly stood out for me, and that’s ‘I’m So Sorry’. It’s not often that I take to new songs when I hear them live before hearing a recorded version, but I already know that this is going to be my favourite Imagine Dragons song ever.

Hi there, Dan.

Closing with ‘Radioactive’, during which Dan beat the hell out of a massive drum on the stage, unfortunately no amount of screaming could bring them back. And so ended my first gig in London for 2015, and believe me, it’ll take The Killers to better it. Or maybe Taylor Swift.

Because yes, that’s why I moved to London. I moved here so that I can do ridiculous things like see Imagine Dragons at an exclusive gig on a Wednesday night. So that I can eat a 99p MacDonalds burger for dinner because I’ve spent all my money on tube fare to get there. So that I can leg it across Waterloo to the tube so that I make it back home before midnight. So that I can forego a leisurely stroll to work the next morning in favour of a mad dash because I’m so exhausted and chose to sleep an extra five minutes. So that I can spend the next day recovering before I see another band. That’s why I’m doing this.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Fangirl In Looooooondon

Everyone in London smokes. I’m not kidding, literally EVERYONE exhales little puffs of white smoke when they breathe, eat, speak, or just generally open their mouths. It may have something to do with the fact that the average temperature since I’ve been here has been minus three. Maybe that’s also why I haven’t blogged. I mean, this morning I was literally too scared to get out of bed for fear of the cold. I’m thinking that a onesie might be an EXCELLENT idea right about now, but I can’t afford one of those at the moment…

Right, so, a week and a bit ago, I picked up my entire life and traipsed across the globe, all by my lonesome self, to live my dream in London. And I’m not going to lie, it’s been difficult. I mean, I don’t have the arm muscles to drag 40kg of luggage up three flights of stairs, nor do I have the patience to explain to the lady on the other end of the Virgin Mobile helpline just why the billing address for my debit card is different to the home address I just gave her. The struggle is real, man. So real.

I’m being facetious here, of course. So far, things have been going pretty swimmingly, with the exception of a few little snags here and there. The cellphone situation was the worst (imagine being stuck in a new country with absolutely no way to contact home because Virgin won’t sell you airtime if you don’t have a UK bankcard). The cold has also been something to get used to. I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be warm when I’m outside. I’m pretty sure my extremities (read: every bit of my exposed at all to the air outside) are in danger of developing frostbite any day now, and I can say with certainty, that 11 degrees in London does NOT feel like 11 degrees in Cape Town. It feels like someone left off the ‘minus’. 

After packing my suitcase so full that not even plonking my mother’s very fat cat on top of it would allow the thing to close, I prepared for the worst and stepped onto the scale holding my bag (with serious difficulty). According to my calculations, the combined weight of my two bags was only 27.5kg! I had 2.5kg to go! But yeah, that’s what I get for trusting a scale older than myself, and at the airport, my checked luggage actually weighed in at 31kg. Somehow, I managed to pass it off as the weight of the cling wrap I’d paid R60 to have wrapped around my bag in case the zip broke. Phewwww.

My mother had jokingly asked me not to cry at the airport, and I’d regarded her with a look of disgust, but I could tell that she and my gran (with grandpa safely across the airport in a book store) were bracing for the worst (i.e.: me high-tailing it back to the car [side note, it hurts just to type the word ‘car’ right now, but we’ll get to that later] and swearing never to leave the safety of the Lower South Coast EVER again). They were pleasantly surprised (and so was I) when I waved goodbye cheerily and lined up for security. 

Halfway through security, the zip of my handbag decided to give up on life. Seriously? It was a while 24-hours-old, and I’d searched high and low for something big enough to fit my laptop! Argh. I grumpily hit passport control and then spend the next hour (successfully) attempting to fix my zip and listening to voice notes from a certain friend who is ADDICTED TO VOICE NOTES (I say this in the best possible way). 

The flight is long, by the time we’re somewhere over East Africa, I’ve watched so many episodes of the Big Bang Theory that it’s just not funny anymore, my neck is is pain, I’m tired but I can’t sleep, and nor can I stop sneezing. I fear the worst, and as soon as I’m in Dubai airport I find a pharmacy and nearly overdose on flu pills. I’m taking NO chances. Benefit of these is that they put me to sleep verrrrry nice - approximately 5 minutes before boarding. Great. 

The flight to London is filled with more of the freaking Big Bang Theory because Emirates doesn’t have the latest season of Downton Abbey. Seriously. I also try to sleep somewhere along the line here. Passport control at Gatwick is as awful and un-airconditioned as I remember, and even though I do have nothing to declare, I still sneak through customs as though I’m doing something very wrong. And then, as I take my first step outside, I’m exposed to British winter for the first time. And damn, it’s cold. It’s not that the temperature is very low in terms of degrees (its 7 or 8), but it feels like I’ve just walked head first into the freezer section of Pick n Pay (or Tesco’s, if you will…) I stare out the cab windows, straining my eyes for  a glimpse of snow, but there’s none anywhere. In fact, it’s nine full days before I get a taste of actual snow. 

Anyway, it’s nine days in, and I’m still alive. The issues? No one will give me a bank account; it’s completely impossible to get internet installed quickly; and no matter how I stick to my recipes, food here is just plain tasteless; and I can’t afford all the clothes in H&M. Also, it gets dark at 5pm, and that’s not okay. 

The good stuff? Primark exists (and it’s cheap, even with the exchange rate. R180 for a pink, faux-leather jacket that would have cost me R700 in Woolworths? Yes, please); Starbucks exists; the tube is still kind of fun - and by fun, I mean fun for people who enjoy slow torture - AND LAST NIGHT IT SNOWED. 

There is, however, something I miss terribly about home. I mean, yeah, I miss my friends and family and cat, but there's something else, something that aches deep within my soul. I find myself glaring at the families as they tuck the small children into the backseats of their cars, laughing and joking on their way out to enjoy dinner. So what is it that I crave so? Is it human companionship that I’m missing by living alone, completely isolated? Is it the joy of family? The longing to be joined by a partner? Haha. Lol. No. It’s my car. Yes, friends, an inanimate object is what I miss most about my country of birth. The ease and simplicity of getting behind the wheel and taking myself somewhere. The way I could get absolutely anywhere I needed to get, safely ensconced within the drivers seat, from where I controlled the heater and the music. Oh man, I’m a spoiled brat unaccustomed to public transport, and it sucks. I mean, an hour and a half across London on the tube? PLUS having to walk? No, no thanks. I don’t care how many people tell me it’s not worth the hassle and the expense, I’d feel far better if I could hop in my automobile and drive to Birmingham this weekend rather than hop on a train, thanks very much. 

PS: I am guilty of muting people on Facebook when they do too many cool things/seem too happy/get married/have a baby/go travelling, because it can get exhausting, so in order to not become one of those people, I'm trying to shut up about London on there (well, trying is the operative word here) so if you really want to keep up with my adventure follow me on Instagram, Fairycat101.