Tuesday, 17 February 2015

20.15 Blog #3: We Don't Do This To Win (but we still won)

The 20.15 Blogs are a series of blogs over 2015 that are written 20 mins and 15 seconds much to the chagrin of my fingertips.

In 2006 I was discovering the live music scene in York, which for me consisted of going to see my mate’s grungy/rock bands (RIP Tungsten Beanbags and Me-Me-Me and the Bicycle Pilots) and local punk bands (RIP The Mighty Booze).  Usually at Certificate 18 (RIP)

 This is not a eulogy to yet another band.

Now, we all rocked up to catch the Mighty Booze one April evening.  The local streetpunx band were supporting some random band called Random Hand, who turned out to be some weird metal-rap-ska-punk fusion.  I bought the EP.

Random Hand quickly became one of my favourite bands, I remember when their first album, Change of Plan, came out and I don’t think an album ever sat neater on my iTunes.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen them live, but that’s because they were such a committed force.  Like a ska-punk sped up glacier.  I saw them at the Cockpit in Leeds.  I went over the Huddersfield to see them at the Parish, I’d return home to York whenever they were in town, for my sins I saw them at Reel Big Fish shows and that awkward The King Blues Are Now A Big Band gig at Leeds Met.  Last time was the Packhorse.  That was fun.  I went to London to see them support Suicide Bid, I went over to Bradford and bought pretty much every t-shirt, even the rubbish one with blobs that wasn’t a very good design.

If you don’t know, RH are going on indefinite hiatus at the end of the summer.  A lovely tour across the country spiced with festival dates, then that’s it. 

RH are a local band.  A Yorkshire band.  By that I mean, their humour, their approach to punk, their politics and the atmosphere they encouraged always made me feel at home.  Their gigs were sweaty, packed with jokes, relevant statements, friendliness and I don’t doubt their constant energy towards gigging inspired hundreds of bands on the scene flying the chequered flag high.

But you know all this.  You’re reading this because you’re a Random Hand fan.  You were knocked out in their pits, you laughed at Robin’s quips onstage, you got the Alien reference at the end of British.  You bought the t-shirt.  You shouted DYNAMO DEATH PENIS BASTARD.  Every album had songs which nailed it live, every performance meant something, every circle pit was a circle pit to remember.

What RH did for me was three things:

  • Get me into a modern punk scene.  I was into 70s/80s punk and ska.  It made we realise there was a whole scene which ‘adults’ dismissed. “There’s no good music these days”.  Random Hand always, and always will, prove that statement is ignorable in the same way that RH are not.
  • Opened my eyes to the fusion that makes ska and punk so flexible.  You can pick and mix with your music fix, there’s a lot of stuff around .  Robin’s vocals (as well as those of the Sonic Boom Sixers) were a gateway to picking up other hip-hop and hardcore styles.  That idea of reworking the structure of a genre stayed with me when I got into folk-punk.  The gigs I put on (5th March, Fulford Arms, Petrol Girls) always try and mix up genres and styles, to the extent of having poets alongside music.
  • Scum gonna be triumphant.

This is not a eulogy.  Random Hand are still alive and skanking.  I’m playing them on my iPod right now.  Can’t you hear them?

We're a band
are you in demand? 
well no not quite but the CD’s in our van
would you like to listen?
It’s just what society needs

This is not a eulogy.  It’s the moment at the end of the gig when you give the band a thumbs up and dash for the last bus.  See you at the next gig.

Top facts:
I quoted Robin in a blog years ago
Random Hand’s name comes from a joke combat move the lads invented and it stuck
I have one of Matt’s plectrums with an old RH logo I picked up at a gig at Cert 18
The figure on the first RH t-shirt I bought with the TV head is modelled by Tilston
Random Hand played their 77th gig on Mars.  Martians are well into ska-punk
Morally Blind was, and always will be, my favourite song by Random Hand.
At Uni, I used Eyeballs of War during my Practical Essay theatre piece.  We chucked toy soldiers around
I convinced a prospective student to come to Uni because I chatted about Random Hand instead of the course during a open day
In London at the Suicide Bid gig, someone asked if I was in RH because I was northern

Their rubbish bins are surprisingly easy to access.

Monday, 9 February 2015

(Another) We Love Youth Theatre poem

A poem I wrote for York Youth Theatre Fete on Sat 7th

I am the master of splat.  If you try and zip me, I’ll boing you back to base, shouting freeze is my catchphrase.  Role call for Play In A Week and Play In A Day.  Colourful clowning through to ensemble devising, scripting scenes and free writing.  The session starts on time, well, maybe we’re a little behind but within those ninety minutes we can take you to another world, another era, make your quake with fear or laugh you into tears

There’s a feeling in my guts and heart that never went away because it was planted by the desire to make something truly great with our ad hoc stage, ramshackle script with limitations we didn’t even see beyond our enthusiasm of age.  The next Laurence Olivier isn’t waiting in the wings, but already strutting across a stage, the next Shakespeare wrote her first scene at the age of 8.  About a dinosaur.

Like bruised knees on the workshop floor, these memories still feel raw. When I started Youth Theatre, as it happened we didn’t have apps, no workshop rooms 1 and 2, just a cold, creaky, unfurnished Ballroom.  Just us, and, as the Grey Lady is witness, the manifesto that if you think Youth Theatre isn’t high quality, you’re not watching it properly.
Because if the highest complement they can pay us is: “yeah they were pretty good for kids” then to put it bluntly:  They’re a bit thick.

The Studio is splashed with Kafka, Brecht, political farces, swarms of bees, slave-master clowns and bombs falling down.  The main stage is accused, watched, gets it’s sealegs, sings and breaks into another world.  But as time goes, we remaking stately homes, gardens, art galleries, museums, churches and car parks, each one the scene set for making great art. If all the world’s a stage, we’re on a mission of conquest through every line learnt, every accident report, every movement sequence nailed, every prop bought.

There are two ways to leave:  one’s not pretty it involves aiming for that wall at full force during a game of tig, missing, going too fast and smashing through glass.  The second is no less painful or monumental, it’s realizing it’s time to move on and carry that love burning bright like a spotlight.

From the De Grey Rooms to Palestine, changing the world one ticket sale at a time, make your voice louder than mine, shout it so the Arts Council can hear ya…who loves Youth Theatre?