BACK STAGE AT PEPPERMINT IGUANA HQ: Gigs, Festivals, Parties, CDs, Books, Protests, travels, photography and Cardiff City FC

Saturday, December 31, 2005

CALENIG: A Welsh New Year

Following the match, me and Sparky headed into town to check out the ‘Calenig’ celebrations.

Every year Cardiff city Council put on a ‘Winter Wonderland’ on the park near the museum. Basically it is an open air skating rink, plus a bar and a small funfair. For new year the whole are metamorphosis’s with the addition of a huge funfair, more bars and a stage for live bands; the whole thing taking up several streets around the museum/university/City Hall.

We nipped into town first and i bought the 25th anniversary edition of the Damned's 'Black Album' (last CD of the year) , then we had a few pints and wandered around the Calenig site for a few hours. The Calenig goes on until the early hours of New years day, including a massive fireworks display at midnight, but we did not stay there for midnight, we headed back up the valleys to see the New Year in with some mates.

CITY 2 SOUTHAMPTON 1: Kick starting the New Year

The Grangened Bar
Photos of footballers can get boring after a while, but i will never tire of photos of city hitting the back of the net

Well, it’s the end of the year, so what better way to celebrate the dawn of another than watching City beat the once mighty Southampton 2:1, followed by a few pints with some close mates.

The game was far more interesting than the Plymouth game, not just because we won but the standard of football was much higher and the game more exciting. Add to this the fact that I did not have the car so was able to indulge in a few ciders and you have the recipe for a good day out.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

SNOW PATROL: 4x4 and camera out on the mountains

The days when the party started a week before Christmas and did not end until New Year are now sadly (fortunately?) gone. After a few pre Christmas bashes with colleagues and mates, then Christmas with the family, all was quite in the run up to new year. The only thing worth blogging really was the night it snowed.

I was on standby, so when it snowed I was out and about on the mountains in a 4x4 checking the condition of the roads and where necessary calling the gritters and snow ploughs back for an extra run. I took me trusty camera, but it was not a lot of use, because the snow was coming down heavily just about all I could get pictures of was a million snowflakes heading straight for the camera. I had hoped I would be able to get some decent shots once it stopped snowing, but as soon as it stopped it started raining heavily and it was not long before the snow that had caused so many problems for a few hours was all but gone.

It is strange how a little bit of snow can bring everything to a standstill. Because we have snow so rarely these days (global warming?) most people have no idea how to drive in it. As part of my patrol I had to call to deal with a BMW that had lost control and completely flattened a lamppost in a quiet little side street. Obviously the cause of the problem was that the road was not gritted, that really annoys me… the real cause of the problem was because there was snow on the road and the driver was travelling too fast for the conditions; you don't knock down a lampost unless you are motoring some.

Anyway, I managed to get a few decent snaps, one of which is shown above. This caught my eye straight away, it is the entrance to Tower Colliery, the only deep mine left in South Wales following the vicious attacks on the coal industry by Thatcher and the Tories in the ‘80’s and early ‘90’s; all part of their attempt to smash the trade union movement in the UK…. But that is another story!

Monday, December 26, 2005

CITY 0 PLYMOUTH 2: Spy in the camp

Shhhh, don't tell anyone you are from Plymouth

After a very pleasant Christmas spent with the Iguana tribe, Boxing Day was time to blow off the cobwebs and watch the City do battle with Plymouth Argyle at Ninian Park.

Sparky and I took a couple of infiltrators today; an old friend from school who had joined the navy straight from school, later settling down in Plymouth, and his Plymouth born and bred son.

On the way down we assured the poor lad that there would be no problems, so long as he did not jump up if Plymouth scored. Fair play to him, he didn’t even smile when they banged two in, taking three points off us.

The two goals were the only interesting moments in an otherwise forgettable 90 minutes from both sides.

Although he kept a poker face throughout, I think the boy enjoyed his first away game with Argyle… so not a bad result.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

LAS VEGAS ELVIS: Ladies and gentlemen, the Cowboy Killers have left the building

As we hurtled into Christmas Eve, we were met by the Ghost of Punk Rock Past.. in the shape of The Las Vegas Elvis.

Like TSK and Skindred, The Las Vegas Elvis are punks with pedigrees. They started out in life as an alter ego of The Cowboy Killers, possibly the punkest thing ever to come out of Newport. Along with the afore mentioned Rectify and 100,000 Bodybags, The Cowboy killers formed the backbone of the Gwent punk scene for much of the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, strutting their stuff while the ‘Cool Cymru’ crew came and went.

Towards the end, the Cowboy Killers started performing the odd Elvis gig, then they continued in the Elvis guise for a while after the demise of the Killers but it was not long before that little party came to a halt as well. They got back together again recently for a few gigs (Beddis’ birthday me thinx, but I might be wrong) and somehow ended up doing this Christmas show.

Las Vegas Elvis are not so much a tribute to Elvis, more a parody. Beddis, by day a mild mannered guy that looks after the legendary Rockaway Records when Simon is away doing his record fairs; by night a crazy 90mph incarnation of the sequined Elvis of the Las Vegas era. Those that worship at the alter of the big fella and are purists about it, need not come along to a gig ‘cos they will hear all those classics tied to a rocket and shot across the stage into oblivion. Imagine the Damned recording Suspicious Minds, sending the demo to John Peel, and him playing it at 45rpm instead of 33rpm, and you will be somewhere near it.

Despite the fact that it was now Christmas eve and I had been drinking all night with some of me best mates and we had already seen two of my favourite bands I still remember being impressed with the hardcore treatment they were giving ‘The King’, but I don’t think I could stretch to giving too much detail. Eventually it all had to come to an end and it was time for home.

I saw some brilliant gigs in 2005, but as the year was coming to a close this night raced its way into the top five nights of the year. Roll on 2006.

Friday, December 23, 2005

THIS SYSTEM KILLS: guitars with attitude

This System Kills, the name says it all really

As soon as Skindred had strummed their last note we rushed over to the Newport City Live Arena to ensure we had not missed anything. We needn’t have rushed, no bands had been on and it was clear that this was going to be a late one.

I don’t really remember who the first band were, I had never heard of them before and although they were ‘OK’, we were there to see the two main bands and did not pay much attention. Eventually, This System Kills hit the stage and we started to take notice of things other than the bar.

This System Kills (TSK) have not been around that long, but the band is made up of lads with a long rock ‘n roll history. Front man Pig was singer with Rectify, a shouty anarcho punk outfit from the valleys that seem to have been around forever; punks throughout South Wales would have been familiar with them, but they were know far wider than that and often toured the old Eastern Bloc, spreading the work of uncompromising punk to audiences hungry for hardcore.

Most of the rest of the band are former members of 100,000 Bodybags who, as the name implied, were as punk as f*ck. Based in Blackwood they relentlessly toured the toilets of the UK making a name for themselves but their uncompromising attitude meant they were never going to make it onto top of the pops. One moment of folklore was the time when Funeral In Berlin (who went on to become the Bodybags) played the Little Theatre in Blackwood. F.I.B. Fans booed heckled and bottled the support band in their eagerness to see F.I.B. At the time the support band were unknown, but most of you will know the name now… Blackwood’s very own Manic Street Preachers.

But TSK are far from being just a band with history. This little outfit show the sharpness of a band that has been around the block a few times but are still as uncompromising as ever and would no doubt scare the living daylights out of any unsuspecting Manic’s devotees that wandered in off the street by mistake. They are as angry and as ugly as a bulldog chewing a wasp, but somehow Pig manages to keep a smile on his face and keeps things light-hearted between the songs, which are played as if the guitars are on fire.

The last time I saw TSK was when they played an anti-G8 benefit gig that I helped organise in Cardiff when they stole the show. Tonight demonstrated, as it did at the G8 gig, that they are a tough act to follow.

But the Las Vegas Elvis were always gonna give it a go!......

BABYLON IS BURNING: Skindred live in TJs

Bloody hell, nothing ever seems to happen on its own these days, tonight I managed to squeeze in two gigs in one night, SKINDRED and ELVIS!

First of all there were too many of us to go in one car, then someone dropped out and we had a spare seat and ticket, but Sparky was not psyched up for going out with five minutes notice, so we had to go and sit in his house and nag him till he gave in, jumped in the bath and donned his best drinking trousers.

First stop was The Legendary TJs, to catch Skindred.

TJs is… lets not beat about the bush… a dive, but a dive with a lot of history and a lot of character. For many years it has been a first stop for many bands that have gone on to bigger and ‘better’ things, such as Green Day, Hole, Fugazi and… actually it would be silly to try and list all the big names that have played there. I have put on a few gigs there myself, including P.A.I.N., Inner Terrestrials, Tofu Love frogs, Citizen Fish and New Model Army.

For some strange reason John, the owner, has a habit of completely rearranging the club every couple of years. Actually, he has not messed with it for a while, mainly because he finally had the layout sussed, but tonight we were greeted with a completely re-arranged club which is nowhere near as good as it had been for the last year or two.

Tonight’s entertainment was provided by Skindred. Hold tight, I will try to explain… Skindred started out as Dub War, an awesome raga metal crossover from Newport. A few years ago they split, and formed Skindred who then went on to cause quite a stir in America and released an album, Babylon. Recently however, the band ‘split’ with the band continuing with only Benji the signer remaining. Jeff and Ginge, original members have since been working with Roni Size under the name Raw Bud, although it is not clear if this is going to turn into a long term project….. anyway, tonight’s gig was by the band fronted by Benji. Now that we have that out of the way………

Skindred are how a metal band should sound in the 21st century, they have taken on elements from other cultures, raga, rap, and a tiny bit of ska, chucked them all in a turbo charged blender without a silencer and come up with an awesome in ya face sonic attack that knocks you off ya feet. The new band have taken on the old songs with enthusiasm, though it would be interesting to see if they can write stuff as good as the old crew.

There were quite a few young gunslingers in the crowd, including children of my mates (made me feel old!); but being Newport, there were lots of old heads around who remember Dub War, so it was a bit of a homecoming gig for Benji, which made for a special vibe in the venue. This vibe was heightened somewhat when Jeff Rose, the original guitarist climbed on stage for a few numbers.

John has some strange ideas sometimes, so at 10;30 we were all chucked out of the venue but if we wanted to we could pat £6 to get back in for his club night. We decided to head across the road and catch The Las Vegas Elvis in the Newport City Live Arena.. which deserves a post of its own………

Thursday, December 15, 2005

BLOODY M*CROSOFT: Strange codes messing things up

I use firefox as my browser. I had a quick look at me blog in work today, using M*crosoft Windows Explorer, and noticed there are lots of bits of code in some of my posts, stuff that does not show up in Firefox!


if I can be a*sed i might go back and do something about it, but will probably just makesure it does not apear in new posts.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


The Apple Market, the crafty centre of Covent Garden

Today I managed to squeeze in a seminar on surveillance in the workplace and shopping in Camden and Covent Garden.

Although the seminar I was attending did not start till lunchtime, I headed up to London nice and early so I could try and finish off my Christmas shopping while I was at it.

First stop was Camden, one of my favourite parts of London. I think that Camden has been overtaken by corporate culture and has lost its old spirit, though in truth my vision of a market run by punks and rebels, for punks and rebels, with a healthy music scene, probably has not really existed for at least 20 years, if ever. I still like it though; the market and the shops around the lock are like one big permanent Glastonbury Festival market, with loads of wacky, crazy, freaky stuff on sale, from clothes and furnishings to CDs and ‘smoking paraphernalia’. It is very expensive though, and all the shop/stall holders are card-carrying capitalists. I would rather give my money to them than some trans-national chain though.

My favourite book shop (Compendium) and a cool CD shop, the name of which escapes me, disappeared from the high street some time ago. On this visit I found that a wicked little CD shop in the Lock had turned into a clothes shop. I still managed to sort out a few things for Christmas.

Then, it was on to the main reason for my trip to London, a seminar run by the Institute of Employment Rights on ‘Surveillance In The Workplace’. This might sound boring, but I am horrified and fascinated by the thought of a big brother society. Surveillance is a problem with any employer, but it soon became clear that the union members I represent have it easy. We were presented with outrageous tales of monitoring and snooping on staff, the call centre industry in particular was singled out for disturbing case studies. All food for thought, tying in with latest moves around ID cards, CCTV, tracing people through mobile phones, storing peoples e-mails…. All very Orwellian.

After a few hours of thought provoking civil liberty stuff, it was back to dehumanising consumerism and more shopping, this time around Covent Garden. The market in Coven Garden has more of an ‘arts and crafts’ vibe to it than Camden, it reminded me of Greenwich Market. It was still a bit tasty though, with the price tags aimed at the American tourists that come to indulge in theatre land.

I particularly liked the buskers, a very high calibre of opera singers, string quartets and jugglers on unicycles. The hustle and bussle is quite welcoming, particularly with christmas in in the air as well.

After hunting down a few reasonable priced gifts for the Iguana Girls, it was off to Paddington and home.

Monday, December 05, 2005

FA CUP DRAW: City draw Aresenal in the cup

YES! we have Arsenal away, nice one. We beat them in the 1927 final!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

BATH: Christmas shopping

Bath Chritmas Market, set amongst some of Bath's legendary Romanesque arechitecture

I hate consumerism, but every year I end up spending a fortune on presents. I like to buy things that are a little bit out of the ordinary and try not to go to the big chain stores that can be found in every high street in the UK (and increasingly Europe). This is partly because I like to get unusual gifts and partly because I would prefer to give my money to indipendent traders that multi-national mega-companies. To this end, I travelled to Bath this week on a shopping expedition.

These days, if you walk down your average town centre, you will see the same shops, Boots, WH Smith, HMV, Waterstones….. and so on. It is all so depressing, big business is taking over the world and our towns and cities are losing all their individuality. When I was in Prague last year, there were people on our flight that had bought presents from Marks and Spencers. Now what the hell is the point of that?

One of the reasons I like Bath so much (apart from the Roman History of the place) is an abundance of independent shops. There are lots of little alleyways with nice little craft shops and emporiums of unusual delights. This was consolidated this weekend by a Christmas market, with lots of craft stalls, hand made soap, home grown cheeses and much more.

Zoë, daughter number one, and I had a good old wander and I managed to get quite a few presents sorted. I did pop into the odd chain store, but on the whole managed to get most of my stuff from independents.

I very often find myself out buying Christmas presents on Christmas eve, so to have made a dent in the shopping this early was quite pleasing. That, combined with the fact that I managed to shoot off a few photos of the legendary bath architecture, made it a very pleasant day out.