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

Monday, May 29, 2006

DIGGIN IN THE COAL (EXCHANGE): Sick Note play all day party in Cardiff

Another attempt to see Sick Note again, this time at an all-dayer in the Coal Exchange, Cardiff.

The Coal Exchange was once the hub of Western capitalism, dealing in the huge quantities of coal that were shipped out from the valleys through Cardiff Docks during the industrial revolution. Apparently the worlds first ever Million Pound cheque was signed there.

The coal industry is all but gone, and much of the docks is now full of expensive restaurants and water front apartments, the Exchange has for some time now been a venue for corporate functions, raves and gigs.

Vibration White Finger... must be all the coal they been mining!

We arrived at about 10pm, just in time to catch Vibration White Finger; not quite ska punk, but punk with a hint of ska and a bit of techno chucked in. Somewhere between the Buzzcocks, Mighty Mighty Bosstones and the Chemical Brothers. A good start to the evening.

Two geezers who went on too long

Then there was two geezers, whose name we never worked out, making a noise with just keyboards and vocals (plus occasional bass guitar). A bit like the Pet Shop Boys on testosterone. They started off a bit crap, but improved as they went on and got the house rockin’. They did like the stage though and went on for ages doing six numbers for an encore. Not good when there are more bands to come.

Tootin' Ska Moon, hotter than an Egyptian's jock strap

Tootin’ Ska Moon next. Decent rockin’ ska, more ya Splitters or Bosstones than Top Cats, a nice warm up for the main event.

Sick Note, would you take a doctors paper off this man?

Then it was Sick Note, at about 1:45am. They were even better than the last time I saw them, pounding out sick distorted punk/funk/dub and shaking the whole of the Coal Exchange like an underground collapse in a deep groove mine.

This is only the second time i have seen them, but numbers like 'Give Me Dat Harp', 'Brand Man' and 'Fuck The Pain Away' are all indelibly printed on my brain. A nice selection of visuals made the gig a little bit different from the norm, but then there is nothing normal about these guys!

Sadly, because of some of the earlier bands going on longer than they should have Sick Note were prematurely cut off after only half an hour. A tragedy.

I will bet my bottom dollar that this outfit are going to be the next big thing to come out of Wales.

Friday, May 26, 2006

WALES TUC CONFERENCE: Time to wake up people!!!!

Rhodri Morgan, First Minister of the Welsh Assembly
Spent 3 days at the Wales TUC conference in Llandudno. I really do despair for the Trade Union Movement some times, I am sure there are better ways of spending time than sitting around agreeing with each other.

Does anybody REALLY believe that the Labour Party is still the friend of the worker?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Another conference, another drive through Mid Wales. I don’t understand while people moan about this journey; some people I know actually go out of their way to nip over into Engl@nd, drive up the M5 then come back across. They are missing a treat.

I wont say too much because I have said it before, but today I travelled the 200 miles on my own, taking 5 hours and loved every mile of the mountainous journey. I stopped several times to get out me trusty Finepix.

In particular I spent a while wandering around Blaina Festiniog, an amazing little town that grew up around the slate mines/quarries. This must be one of the most rugged settings for a village anywhere in the UK.

Monday, May 22, 2006

SICK NOTE, OR NOT SICK NOTE: A trip around the Cardiff coastline.

Cardiff bay

Went to Penarth tonight to catch Sick Note again. Weird set up, seats laid out like a school concert, loads of 'teens' about, no bar that I could see. We left without watching any bands.

Tried to get in touch with Cosmo, who was also on the bill but there appeared to be zero reception on mobile phones in Penarth. Spoke to Cosmo about it a few days later, he said it was a weird, but cool gig. Sounds like it was more interesting back stage though. Definitely gotta catch Sick Note again.

We went for a look around Cardiff bay instead.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

VIVE LA STAND UP: Mark Steel in Brecon.

A seat in the front row right in the middle seemed like a good idea when I was buying tickets to see Mark Steel in Brecon. Obviously everyone else who bought tickets had been there before because apart from us the front few rows were empty.

As soon as we sat down, knees bent up to squeeze in by the stage, I thought, “I hope he has got nice shoes”, because it was obvious we were going to spend the night looking up.

There is also the little matter of being singled out for sitting at the front. I suppose this is an obvious risk when going to see a comedian, but I did not know everyone else was going to sit towards the back! It was not long before it was established where we are from and when the second half of the show started everything was delayed while he waited for us to get back from the car park.

I had known that there was a bit of a risk sitting at the front, but this is Mark Steel we are talking about, not Chubby Brown or Bernard Manning.

I had not expected there to be much heckling for Mark to deal with but one local woman decided to point out to him that there were probably not many Welsh people in the room. He found this quite bizarre, given that we were smack in the middle of Wales, and developed it into a bit of a theme throughout the gig.

After about half an hour of debating whether or not we were in Wales he eventually got stuck into the show, which is loosely based around his book on the French Revolution. Basically it is about the fact that history taught in the classroom is boring so by throwing some humour into the whole thing makes it more interesting, therefore you are more likely to learn. It works in the book, I cannot comment on how it would work just live if you have not read the book, cos I have, if you see what I mean.

Whether or not you learn anything, the show is very funny and Mark demonstrates his sharp wit when dealing with hecklers and is at his best when he wanders off script for anecdotes, particularly funny as he takes the time do adapt his act for wherever he is playing.

All in all a cool way of spending an evening in Brecon, no matter where you are from.

I did take my camera, but I lost the bottle to take any pictures sat so close to the stage, so the picture above is nicked from Indymedia.

You can get a flavour of what the show was like by checking out these MP3s
Lecture at Marxism 2002
Lecture at Marxism 2003

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

GAGGING FOR IT: latest issue of the South Wales Anarchist Newsletter hits the streets.

GAGGED, Wales’ answer to SchNews is out this week. It is supposed to be hosted on the Cardiff Anarchist Network website, but the website is temporarily off line, so you can find it hosted here by those lovely people at Indymedia.

I really must pull my finger out and get the CAN site back on line!

HEAVY DOSE OF CHEESE: Lyrics from 1999 pop record set this old punk thinking about advice to young people

Tara Iguana, innocent youth in need of advice?
Last weekend I found myself watching ‘50 Greatest One Hit Wonders’ on S4C (The Welsh Channel 4) at three o'clock in the morning. By and large it was a pleasant but meaningless nostalgia trip, a smile coming across my face occasionally when I remembered old tracks I had not heard for a while. However, there was one song in particular which set me thinking. ‘Everybody’s Free (to wear sunscreen)’

I don’t really remember the song, I vaguely remember catching bits of it on the radio occasionally, I don't think I ever heard it in it's entirity, I certainly do not remember it being number one for four weeks in 1999 (not that I could tell you any of the number one's in the last few years). It was an unashamed pop song and not meant to be heavy but I like the lyrics, there is something slightly profound about them, even though they are cheesy and ultimately nonsense.

The lyrics were originally written for a column in the Chicago Tribune by Mary Schmich. An urban legend soon grew up around the column and eventually it was picked up two years later and read out by Australian voice over artist, to music by Baz Luhrmann. The whole thing is about advice to young people on how to live life, given by someone with the benefit of hindsight. I would agree with huge chunks of it, but the fact is kids will only learn through experience and they will not understand these words till they are also looking back... youth is wasted on the young an all that.

Anyway, enough ado. Here are the lyrics:

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’99... wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be IT.

The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are NOT as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements.


Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself, either. Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s. Enjoy your body, use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance. Even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings; they are your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography in lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you're 40, it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

BEYOND BAKA BEYOND: Will the real Baka please stand up!

I have been a fan of Baka Beyond since before they even formed, by which I mean I was an avid fan of Martin Craddick’s previous outfit, Outback. I have seen Baka many times often travelling many miles, so not seeing them in Cardiff was simply not an option.

Martin used to play guitar with Outback, together with didgeridoo player Graham Wiggins. They were mighty awesome and pretty damned unique; this was well before didge’s became trendy. But this is not a blog about Outback. Graham went on to form Dr Didj, and Martin went on with his partner Su to form Baka Beyond, who are even more unique!

Baka Beyond was founded 14 years ago when British musicians Martin Cradick and Su Hart visited the Baka tribal people of the Cameroon forests after seeing a TV documentary. So inspired were they by the magical rhythms and melodies of the Baka people, that they recorded an album "Spirit of the Forest" under the name Baka Beyond which pushed them into worldwide recognition. Since then, the band has evolved into a multicultural, dynamic live stage show with album sales of over a quarter of a million copies and their sixth album, 'Rhythm Tree' released in March last year’ (from website).

They mix western, mainly Celtic, rhythms with African rhythms and vice versa. Whereas bands like the Afro Celt Sound System use samplers to mash the two styles of music, Baka use musicians from the two continents… and beyond… to create a truly unique vibe that has rocked festivals crowds and discerning gig goers across the world.

But they are more than just a band. They are seriously concerned about the environment, often utilising the Rinky Dink pedal powered stage. One of my claims to fame is that I am featured on their 1995 album ‘Live And Pedal Powered’, all be it off my head at the Forest Fair pedalling like mad to provide electricity. Most importantly, profits from CD sales are channelled back into improving the lot of the Baka people through their charity ‘One Heart’. This ongoing relationship with the Baka community has helped them to win land rights and recognition as Cameroonian citizens as well as the funding of their own medical centre and a beautiful Music House. These steps all help to protect the Baka's culture, forest environment and unique hunter-gatherer way of life.

I interviewed them a few years ago for the Peppermint Iguana fanzine, or rather I interviewed Martin; the band is made up of players from across the world and most of the line up at the time I interviewed them were not great English speakers and a little nervous of the whole touring thing.

Anyway, on to tonights gig. I normally do not like Saint David’s Hall, it is a bit too sanitised for me and as I mentioned in my Geno Washington blog I do not like cinema style seating arrangements. I have not deigned the place with my presence for many years, probably something like Hawkwind about 20 years ago. However, I think I would watch Baka in any environment and maybe the civilised venue was just the place to see probably the most civilised band I like.

So five of us headed down to the big smoke (still listening to that Paul Murphy mix) and found our seats just as the band were starting the first number. It was not long before the mix of tribal rhythms and Celtic traditions had people up out of their seats bopping away. The whole room was literally shakin’ (which was good for the vibe but a pain in the a*se fro taking photographs without flash… I feel a photography rant blog coming on) and the diverse crowd, made up of all ages, shapes, sizes, classes and colours became slaves to the rhythm.

Just as things were getting really hot, having only skimmed the surface of their back catalogue, the first half of the show was over and we were off to the bar for a very civilised intermission.

For the second half, we were in for a treat. After years of bringing the sound of the Baka people to the world, for the first time ever we were actually going to see members of the tribe performing on stage.

Martin and Su have been taking instruments out to the forest for many years now and now members of the Baka people have formed their own band, Baka de Gbine, and released an album of their own, ‘Gati Bongo’. The album was recorded by Martin using a solar powered lap top in the jungle, and is a beautiful selection of sounds that they Baka want to share with us.

This was the first tour where they have been joined by the ‘real’ Baka, but apart from a few moments trying to work out how to plug in to the amps, it was hard to believe this was the first time they had performed to ‘Western’ audiences. Only a month ago they had never used microphones when performing, now they were well into their stride performing like old hands. Despite the fact that they have never been on stage, the Baka grow up with music, it is an integral part of their village life, and it showed. They played incredibly naturally and when people got up and danced they smiled from ear to ear.

I felt privileged to be there and hope I can witness it again, rather than in years to come reminisce about the time when the ‘real Baka’ joined Baka Beyond on stage.

Monday, May 08, 2006


Nothing to blog today really, but I am sat here writing reviews of CDs for the forthcoming Iguana Webzine and I just came across this photograph which made me smile and I thought I would share it with you.

This is The Restarts from London, very loud, very angry young men who despite looking like throwbacks to the 1980’s are quite fresh and I have just given them a good write up. While trying to think of words to describe them i visited thier website for inspiration and i think this photograph is definitve proof that a picture can paint a thousand words. Visit them here

Saturday, May 06, 2006

SICK NOTE SHAKE DA HOUSE: Who said old people can't rock?

Sick Note, Old heads rockin' da house

Tonight we set out to see a band I have been a fan of for many years, but ended up going to a completely different gig but finding a band I will be a fan of for many years to come.

Alka is something of a legend locally, tirelessly promoting local bands in local venues, expending incredible amounts of energy for, as far as I can tell, little personal reward. He is also a hard working drummer playing with numerous bands. The last time I saw him he was with Captain Paranoid and the Delusions, as far as I know he still is with them, but tonight he was playing with a new band, Sick Note.

With it being Alka’s 40th birthday, the gig was filled with loads of faces, some I had not seen for ten years or more, there were even a few old friends from Bournemouth that had made the journey.

First up were some old friends drumming. They have been gigging for a while now and I am sure they must have a name, but if they have it escapes me (note to myself, ring them later and find out). When Alka introduced them he said “This band is a bit like being in the Green Field in Glastonbury”, which I did not think was a very good way of introducing them, but in fairness he was pretty spot on. Relentlessly thumping out a shamanic tribal beat that had toes tapping and heads nodding in time, until some people were driven to get up and groove on the dance floor. They tied in quite nicely with the funky mashed up free style trip hop vibe that DJ Christian was beaming out from his decks to those gathered in the candle lit venue between bands.

Then came Sick Note. With just drums, bass, vocals and a laptop (no guitar) they pumped out a pretty unique and original vibe. Initially the bass and drums beat out a funky dark rhythm for the vocalist to lay some Captain Beefheart style weirdness over, but as the gig went on the laptop kicked in to provide some mighty heavy dance grooves. They floated in and out of organic and traditional rhythms and full on techno stylee seamlessly.

I think it fair to say that the whole house was rockin’. It would be criminal if these boys don’t break out of the local scene and make a name for themselves.

Thank you Blackwood ‘Stute for having no idea how to put a gig on.

GENO WASHINGTON: A legend comes to Blackwood.

Geno shaking the dancefloor in the Spinning Disc, 1966
We started off tonight by going over to Blackwood to see the one and only Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band, the legendary ‘60s soul man who’s 1968 album ‘Hand Clappin’ Foot Stompin’ Funky Butt’ sums up exactly what Geno was about; getting up and stompin’ the dance floor. I have seen him several times and he just picks up the crowd and has them rockin’ uncontrollably, boppin’, groovin’ and grinding on the dance floor.

I had originally thought the gig was in the bar of the ‘Stute, which would have been a brilliant intimate little venue for him. I was somewhat surprised to hear that the gig was going to be in the larger main hall upstairs because, lets be honest, no-one under 35 would remember the Dexy’s Midnight Runners song about the man, ‘Geno’, let alone remember the man himself. This theory was confirmed when we arrived and went for a pint in the bar, no disrespect but it was the oldest audience I have EVER seen for a gig. I am sure I saw a few blue rinses there. When I discovered that the seating arrangements upstairs were, as they put it ‘concert style’, or as I would put it ‘cinema style’, with everyone in neat rows, no dance floor, no beer allowed, I decided, despite the fact that I had been looking forward to it for weeks, I had somewhere better to be.

As we sat finishing off our drinks the manager came around and got quite shirty that some people were not going up to see the support band, she even had a row with a friend of mine who had gone up early and walked back down to the bar when the support band came on. So we drank our Drinks and headed off to Alka’s 40th birthday party, which I think deserves a post of it’s own.

Friday, May 05, 2006


I regularly get 'humourous' e-mails sent me. Some of them make me cringe, some of them make me smile and some of them make me laugh. Rather than just let them sit in my inbox while i decide what to do with them, I have decided to create a blog for the best ones, which can be found here.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

GET YOUR NEW PASSPORT IN MAY: Or find yourself on the National ID Register

As part of the campaign against ID Cards, NO2ID are calling for people to renew their passports in May. If yours has less than half way to go (say, five years) it is to your own direct advantage to renew your passport before time.

Why? May is the last month you can get a passport and not be automatically entered onto the National Identity Register - worth it in it's own right. Also once the technology is in place for the ID Cards themselves you will be charged £95 for a passport and ID Cards - regardless of whether you 'choose' to take an id card. So buy now and save later. Lots more details and info can be found at Renew for freedom

For more on why ID cards are bad for your health, check out
No 2 ID
Defy ID
Charter 88
ID Folly
Justice not vengance
The Register

JOYRIDING RAM RAID: More free music

While we are on the subject of free music, I might as well tell you about a demo CD that landed at Iguana HQ last week. It is the latest project of one time free party DJ Dr Alf.

The Joyriders is pretty much a break from the previous breakbeat/jungle/techno stuff that Alf was involved in back in the last century, although it retains a healthy lack of respect for authority.

This is what Goldie Looking Chain might have sounded like if they had gone down the country and western route, or what Country Joe and the Fish might have sounded like if they were from Pilgwellny. Yep, it’s hillbilly music, but redneck it aint. The ironic humour of the lyrics makes you grin, but still nod your head and think “Yeah, spot on”.

Some of it is old classics with new lyrics, some of it original (at least I assume it’s original, I aint heard them before).

Step back from the lyrics and you have some half decent music, for Country (which I hate). Alf demonstrates that he has been making music in one form or another since long before the sampler hit the scene. The phrase Billy Bragg on crack has just entered my head, but I think we have had enough comparisons.

This is getting dangerously close to being an actual review; which reminds me, I really must get on with the Peppermint Iguana webzine. Alf is planning on a site for all you lovely surfers to download the tracks from, I will post a link fwhen it is sorted.

Right, while I am here.. Al Iguana has read me blog about downloading and has sent me in the direction of DJ River the Swedish chill out DJ. There appears to be loads of downloads on there, I have had a bit of a rummage and it appears to be of the highest order so I will be having a session on there later.

Also, I should have mentioned this before now cos I have had it book marked since I first had Internet access. You can download a shed full of MP3s/MP4s and assorted media stuff from the Zion Train multimedia page and stuff from label mates and friends on the Universal Egg site.

Now I don’t often mention football, but I did mention a disco at half time at Coventry, well you can check out a video of the shenanigans by going to the Valley Rams TV website and clicking on Coventry Away 1st May, most (but not all) of the videos on there are a bit tedious to be honest, but this one is well worth awatch ( be warned it might take a minute or two to download, and i have never yet managed to get it to work with Firefox).

And finally, in memory of me old mate Bloke, there is a website in his memory, appropriately called, and you can view a video of his family and friends performing the Oi Mush song. The original of which an be found here

Right, I am off to have a look at this DJ River site.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

SAT SHED BOOGIE AND BEYOND: Free mixes to download.

You may have noticed a link to S.A.T.’s Shed Boogie blog over in my links section. Can’t remember how I first came across the site, I think me virtual partner in grime Al Iguana may have alerted me to the site. The site has not been updated for a while… until recently. SAT has just uploaded a mix he has put together for all to download, called ‘Spring in the Shed boogie’. I duly downloaded it and burned it onto disc. It is a nice little blend of jazz, funk, and dub with several spoonfuls of salsa/marimba jive type stuff. Well worth the wait since the last update.

After giving his new mix a listen I decided to have a root through his links and revisit some of his older posts. My hard drive is starting to clog up with stuff I have now found. Many of you will find this old hat, but this is all fairly new to me; I have been too paranoid about viruses to do much downloading but Number one daughter persuaded me to let her download some stuff then the next thing you know I was up till the wee small hours plucking old classics from Limewire. Anyway…. I will highlight some of the stuff I have found from diving off S.A.T.’s virtual surfboard.There are a couple of sites where you can find mixes uploaded.

BoomBox deals only with ‘Virtual Mix Tapes’, i.e. compilations of stuff already released but not remixed by the ‘uploader’, cos re-mixing obviously has legal implications. It looks like anyone with a bit of technical knowledge and a half decent record collection can upload. There is shed loads of stuff on there and I aint even scratched the surface, but I did find a few interesting things done by BONG, the poor mans Orb. I particularly liked his ‘Cosmic Ambience (Your’e Going Home Ina)’ and ‘Astral Chatterlings’. the quality obviously varies, but I aint found any howlers (yet). You can even download covers to print out.

Beatonic appears to be stuff uploaded by ‘proper DJs’, the Paul Murphy ‘Afro Beat Mix' is nothing short of awesome, I also liked the Boogieburg ‘Solid Steel Mix’. There’s some other stuff I have downloaded from there but not had a chance to listen to them all yet.

The mixes on the above sites are downloaded as one long MP3, which can be a bit annoying when trying to work out what it is you are listening to or if you want to skip to your favourite bits, but on the other hand maybe they should be listened to as a complete piece of work to be fully appreciated.

Also through rummaging around SATs blog I happened across Go Home Productions, where Mark Vilder has some MP3 goodies for you to plunder (his words, not mine). He has done some pretty wicked mash up/bootleg thingys, I particularly like ‘Strung Out’, which mixes Elvis Presley and the Farm (yes, the Farm) and his mash up of Primal Scream’s ‘Kowalski’ with the Beatles and Beyonce.

This is just a sample of some of the stuff I have found since surfing off SATs platform, Big shout to ya SAT, who ever you are!

While we are on the subject of freebies, you can download a welly full of really nasty crusty hardcore by going to the 'pukebox' on Scrap Records , home of 2000 Dirty Squatters. Not quite as classy as SAT and his mates, but stuff that is pretty hard to get hold of elsewhere.

Watch this space, i am sure i will have more for you in the future!