Joan As Police Woman – the gig

Well I’m very glad I went. I got there at just the right moment, I reckon, when it wasn’t so crowded that I couldn’t get a spot right in front of the stage but not so early that there were hours to wait.

I took up my position feeling like I was doing a very good impersonation of a pro. Looked at the position of the singer’s mic, the lighting, set various important-seeming settings on the camera. Of course I’d forgotten that she (Joan) divides her time between keyboards and guitar so I ended up on the wrong side of the stage and therefore not in the best position at all.

she wore a hat

She wore a hat. She told us it had been a bit of a last-minute decision. She took it off later and apologised for her hair being such a terrible mess. I found the effect anything but unpleasant.

she took off the hat

Here’s another one of bassist Rainy Orteca. Is it as good as the one I put up yesterday? I dunno. Slightly out of focus, no smile, but I’m not sure I don’t prefer it.

rainy orteca - bassist

The drummer, Parker Kindred (what a great name it is, now that I’ve discovered it), spent a lot of the time with his brow furrowed in a worried-looking fashion like an emaciated bloodhound. In this picture he looks somewhat more sanguine.


I love watching musicians. The intense inward concentration, the expressions sometimes bordering on agony; it reminds me of people enjoying really good sex.

she played guitar

I’m sure it’s a comparison Joan would appreciate. She explained that the song (from the forthcoming album To Survive) Hard White Wall was a song about lust and the consummation thereof against the eponymous structure.

So, as TG pointed out on the previous post, enough with the visuals already, what was the music like? I am sorry to have to report that the sound balance was so appalling that I can’t really give any meaningful appraisal. Maybe it was my position at the front of the stage, but I really can’t imagine that I should not have been able to hear the vocals above the keyboards.

The opening song was To Be Loved which is lined up to be the first single from the new album. She was nervous, visibly and audibly nervous, but warmed up quickly.

The set mixed new material with the three tracks from Real Life which had been released as singles – Flushed Chest, Christable and, as the encore, Eternal Flame. Of the forthcoming release I’m already familiar with To Be Lonely, Start Of My Heart and Furious from the video of the concert she gave at Amsterdam’s Paradiso which appears no longer to be online.

For all these tracks it was just about ok that the overall sound quality was rubbish and the balance appalling, I was singing along anyway. But when it came the stuff I hadn’t already heard it was extremely frustrating.

Worst of all was right at the end. After the encore drummer and bassist left the stage leaving Joan alone at the keyboard. And every sound she made produced a rattling noise akin to the sound of stage thunder from the speaker. It sounded to me like an open mic over the drum kit picking up some kind of resonance off one of the skins. Or maybe by then the speakers themselves were ashamed of the noise they were having to pump out and were giving up the will to sound.

So the finale of the evening, the title track of the album, To Survive, was for me entirely ruined by the accompaniment of the rattling of dried chickpeas in a large tin trunk.

But if I had to draw a conclusion I would say that the new album looks to be as powerful as the debut with a mix of haunting, intimate songs and the harder, faster and syncopated beats of Hard White Wall and spitting power of Furious. As a performer she is protean in her ability to move from tender to ferocious, she’s witty and charming as she riffs with the audience while retuning her guitar. Oh, and her footwear is always worth drooling over. I shall definitely buy the album when it comes out, and would love to see her again live, with the added and as yet unachieved advantage of being able to hear her properly as well.

(Gig on 17 April 2008 at the Roundhouse FREEDM Studio [“the square room in the round building”])


It was so ridiculously sunny and warm today. And it was the first day back at the shrink after the Easter break occasioning a couple of miles of walking equipped with the camera. What I notice most about the pictures I took today is the vibrant colours. Sunlight and flowers. A winning combination.


Forget-me-nots were my favourite flower as a child. Small, shy, retiring, a brilliant blue and signifying the sort of love and tenderness I believed might exist somewhere.


I still remain stubbornly convinced (despite the evidence of this picture) that keria blooms are orange. F claims they are yellow.

pink stuff

I don’t know what this stuff is called, but it’s gloriously, fabulously pink and what after all could be more important than that.

I saw men wearing shorts and innumerable individuals of all ages and sexes in diaphanous, truncated tops. The weather forecast is for snow over the weekend.

A magnificent seventh

It’s such a pleasure to explore with someone from a different culture. Here am I, London dweller for 20 years who has never, in all that time, been to Highgate cemetery. It takes Neha and her new Nikon to get me over there.

In addition (or should it be subtraction) to never having visited I also know nothing about it apart from having a vague notion that Karl Marx is buried there. It is to Neha (who had of course thoroughly researched the topic) I owe the information that it was one of a number of burial grounds all constructed at the same time in different parts of London known as “the Magnificent Seven“. (Does this pre- or post-date the samurai and/or the subsequent cowboys? I can’t find out.)

In 1800 the population of London was 1 million.

By 1850 it had risen to 2.3 million. Such rapid population growth resulted in a lack of burial space. There were instances of body snatching, bodies left out to rot or not buried deep enough and bodies cleared from graves too soon…

From the 1820s onwards, private entrepreneurs solved the problem by creating suburban cemeteries, independent of the parish church, with ample, lovingly-landscaped acreage.

In an era before the existence of large urban parks, these garden cemeteries became popular places for a carriage ride or a stroll…

The Magnificent Seven appealed to the newly emerging middle class, keen to distance itself from the working class and to present to the public it’s social status.

Graves were seen as a public extension to the family’s property, and cemeteries provided a place for families to establish permanent monuments to themselves.

Death shall, of course, have no dominion over the class system. All it takes is a little time and vegetation. The environment was almost overpoweringly green – evergreen and lichen.

danger keep away

I particularly love the irony of carving into stone, presumably as an effort at an enduring memorial, an image of the very plant which shall pull it down.

double dose of ivy

Strolling round with a Hindu from India where death generally means consumption in fire, unmarked scattering of ashes in water and the resumption of life in another form gives added piquancy (or should that be spice?) to the more bombastic inscriptions celebrating warriors, diplomats, bravery, talent achievement and worth. Doughty survivors of “the Kabul campaign” and various actions in India drew particularly plosive harrumphs.

Words and symbols to shore up the living. For after all, with what eyes can the dead see? Although personality leaked out of many memorials, particularly those one assumes were designed or commissioned by the late lamented before they “fell asleep” or achieve the state of being (not being?) “at rest” (particularly popular Victorian euphemisms). Foremost of which was this marvellous stepped headstone.

at rest

There is no trace of name/s or date/s on the large, pierced upright or the equally spacious matching horizontal slab. It might prove to be Dorothy Elisabeth Alice Davis who had a mordant sense of humour or an individual or group of people with equivalent graveyard wit but less of a coincidence to prompt it. It looks very new. I wonder whether more informative details than the current rather obvious statement will be provided later.

I knew of the Jewish custom of putting a pebble on a visited grave but it seems the tradition has morphed to include coins. Both have been placed on Douglas Adams‘s headstone but for that foremost critic of the capitalist system there can be no casting of stones, there can only be change…


…unless you count the stamp, first class, which someone had stuck on the side of the large and ugly monument.

There’s a lengthy discussion about putting coins on graves on one of the flickr groups devoted to cemeteries but it doesn’t give any really convincing particular origin for the habit. One interesting snippet, though, is that copper kills lichen. So Marx will never go green. Other, perhaps, than localised dribbles of cuprous salts.

Even Neha and I, who seem able to laugh at most things, find it difficult to be mirthful in the face of the death of children and this cemetery, like all others, has its share of infant mortality. How to deal with the grief of such a loss? how adequately to express or assuage the pain? Tastes have of course changed. Take this memorial sculpture from the turn of the last century, for instance.

not today's taste

Impossible to imagine commissioning such a work in this day of hyper-sexualisation and paedophile paranoia. No longer can children lift their skirts for something as innocent as gathering rosebuds while they may.

Nowadays we prefer not to inter children with grave goods but leave such offerings visible, accumulated, renewed for as long as memory or inclination might last.

today's taste

I looked on as my own parents wrestled with the problem that probably no mother, no father, has prepared for, that of the funeral arrangements for their child. The result, a compromise between my intransigent and batty mother and more pragmatic father, both barely able to function through their grief, was a peculiar and inconvenient solution.

I wonder if this was why I felt particularly drawn to this monument to a young man not much older than my brother when he died. It seemed, with its combination of European and Iranian traditions and its well-tended appearance, to exude the love it declared.

through all eternity

The great thing about visiting a cemetery is that it gives an ideal opportunity to let ones nearest and dearest know ones own wishes. I reiterated to my children my desire to be freeze dried. It’s greener even than Highgate cemetery in all its lichened verdure.

There’s only one problem. The process seems currently only to be available in Sweden. However my offspring are both thoughtful and ingenious and, with the help of this illustrated guide, some liquid nitrogen and a big hammer I’m sure they’ll be able to do an excellent job.

(Neha’s photoset; my photoset.)

Dripping with honesty


The membrane of each flattened seed pod, along with the seed, has almost entirely disappeared. Despite this its identity is, if anything, even more obvious.


Still loving my macro prime 🙂

Double negative

beautiful bin

I think I’ve never looked properly at frost before.


I love the way it turns the world inside out.

white line

Writing in lines of white where shadows were.

frosty bin

Light and cold. Dark and heat.


A double negative is a positive.

Out and about


I was out and about today, and took the camera.

First to St Martin-in-the-Fields for a short (very short) period of quiet for Just This Day. It seemed particularly appropriate to think about the peace talks in Annapolis. I had read Rachel’s post about hope before I left in the morning, and rather unexpectedly, it was hope that I found.

Then to the Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. I managed not to be utterly depressed and demotivated by exposure to wonderful photographs. My favourite was taken by a 24-year-old who sounded, from the blurb beneath the picture, to be a complete hero. I also liked this one and this one. You can scroll through all the pictures in the exhibition from any of the previous three links.

A spot of spawn-stocking-present-shopping left me exhausted and with a very heavy bag so I retired to an excellent cheap Spanish greasy spoon and took pictures through the window while consuming hearty paella.I’m breaking all my self-imposed rules about taking pictures of people. I only asked one of the subjects shown above if I could photograph them.

Another exciting use of flickr by a UK museum

First we had (or at least the first I knew about) Tate Britain setting up a flickr group alongside its exhibition How We Are which invited participation and gave prizes. Now we have the V&A Museum setting up a dedicated flickr group and encouraging virtual and offline interaction. Shiny!

Here are the terms of engagement:

Post your photos of the V&A Museum, its galleries, collections, events taking place within the V&A and photos of your visit.

We are happy for you to take photographs in the galleries, including flash photography, but photography is not permitted in special exhibitions or where an object’s label indicates a private loan. We cannot include images of these items in this group and they will be removed.

Including flash!! Good grief.

It’s more than just a gesture towards online social network development (although I’m sure its existence ticks all sorts of management objective boxes). The group page makes made good use of flickr group bling (displays of most interesting photos, stats etc) which give the group page eye- and brain- appeal, and it’s linking to (some) other London museum flickr groups only one of which appears also to be an “official” group set up by the organisation in question.

To encourage online activity the group has initiated monthly challenges. It’s interesting to see how the range and number of submissions has increased from the first in October on the theme of gardens to this month’s on the theme of light.

Even more interestingly on the group’s front page there’s a link to the museum’s upcoming Friday Late event on Crafting Couture. Those pages in turn encourage participants to share their photos on the flickr group with a prominently placed link. Firstly this changing specificity on the group front page indicates, together with the monthly challenges, that there’s going to be a continuity of care devoted by the organisation to the group. Secondly it’s an interesting and effective way to drive digital traffic to foot traffic and vice versa.

I found out about the group’s existence after a polite comment on one of my pictures tagged V&A suggested I might like to join. After I did so I got an equally polite message thanking me for doing so. Both are no doubt automated and part of an awareness-raising campaign but that in itself implies to me a good grasp of the technological side of things. The moderators’ entries and responses on the discussion boards are interesting and timely. It looks like there’s serious thought, resources and effort going into this project.

Yes. I like this. I like this very much. I shall watch with interest as it grows and develops.