Ernie and I met at the station after work on Thursday and headed down to Kings Cross and across the road to the Scala. He was there to see Hundred Reasons with support 65 Days of Static as an added bonus, I was more the other way round. But before we got to either there was Keiko from Redditch, who weren't too bad. They need someone better on the mixing desk, since a lot of the time you couldn't barely hear anything but one frum and the vocals, and they could do with another song pattern than loud bit-quiet bit-loud bit - it's quite effective once in a while but grates a little when seems like you're doing it every song.
Once they were done we spotted Erns mate Johnny who's doing sound for 65 Days on this tour, and popped over to the sound desk to say hi. We were more than delighted to be invited in to watch. Great view from there and good sound and fun to see all the knobs and sliders and things and watch Johnny at work. 65 Days are *great* though - they have a backing track of electronic stuff played from the computer, and the drummer has a little click track playing in headphones to keep him in time with that, and they play guitar, bass and sometimes electric piano over the top of that. It's much more engaging for me than purely electronic stuff, though I can kind of see why Mike feels it's not *quite* as real as music played entirely live. And they don't sing, which is rather different to most of the music I like too. Still they're really on form and I loved it.
Ernie tried to describe Hundred Reasons at one point. He started out from Metal, but to be honest they're not really - a lot more melodic especially in the vocals. Timeout's description had "post-hardcore" as part of it. I can kind of see where it's all coming from. Certainly a subset of rock anyway, and pretty loud. Very sing-along-able as I soon discovered and sang my way through songs I'd never heard before, from the safety of a bit of crowd which was lively but not too dangerously so. I still don't find any of their stuff particularly memorable unfortunately, but it's pleasant and I had a good time.
We hung around afterwards and met up with Johnny again as he was packing the van. He did the polite "remember Mike and Ellie" thing with Joe Fro, 65's lead, and he sounded pleased to see us again. Interesting to hear what he thought about touring with Hundred Reasons. Sounds like it feels a bit too much of a step down after filling some of the same venues as headliners. But they're off to Europe next week, have a festival in Japan in the summer, and are hopefully going to be at Reading too. Excellent! We were kindly invited to join the after-show party in the VIP room - which turned out to have a bar just as expensive as the one for the punters. We mostly talked to Johnny though as the band were busy, but Tom from Keiko came and said hello and thanked us for "rocking out" while they were playing. He was sweet. It was a nice way to end the evening before we headed off to get the bus to another Tom's to hand over a Morrissey ticket (personal delivery :-) before sleep on his very welcome if not the most comfortable sofa bed. Thanks again Tom.
Friday we got up while it was still more or less morning and followed my nose to find that my sense of direction had not entirely failed me and Holloway Rd tube station was in easy walking distance. And stopped for a nice full english breakfast en route, which definitely set us up for an afternoon of pottering around the Science Museum.
They've got an exhibition on at the moment "Pixar: 20 years of animation" and we stumped up the 9 quid each to look around. A lot of it was sketches and models which seemed a bit beside the point for a science museum where we'd expected to learn more about the way computer animation works, but it was interesting to see just how much of the process still involves old fashioned art! There was a rather fab modern version of a zoetrope. Instead of having a spinning set of images which you only see through the slots in the side giving the impression of motion instead they had a bog spinning table with models built in circles around it. Once it was spinning full speed they turned off the lights and switched on a strobe, and all of a sudden it was animation. There was Buzz running on a ball, little green aliens toddling out from behind it, being bounced into somersaults off a see-saw and disappearing down a hole, toy soldiers parachuting, and jessie doing lassoo tricks. It was really nifty, and particularly fun when they turned the light back on while the strobe was still going, so you could see the spinning things at the same time as the illusion. There were also some screens showing some early pixar animations - the one with the two lamps and the ball being my favourite simply because they have so much personality and are well within the limitations of the medium. It's amazing how little that's dated. They also had a bunch of computers with headphones which had a bunch of short films with the animators talking about how various things actualy *worked* and in some ways this was the most interesting part of the exhibition - though very much the least museum-like if you see what I mean. Thankfully they had subtitles too, so while Ernie listened I read. Good stuff.
We also wandered down eventually to the Launch Pad area which is full of fun hands-on stuff for kids. We spent some time try to build a counterbalanced crane out of blocks - I was amused how involved Ernie got with that. I wandered off and built a 7 foot tower out of odd-shaped polystyrene blocks: intended to teach how you need to get the centre of balance right to stop it falling over. My Jenga skills definitely came in handy here. Though I think I'd reached the limit of how well I could make it balance, as well as how high I could reach. They announced a show on bubbles at this point, and I looked around for Ernie with no luck. Only to find they'd shut the doors for it with him inside - so I watched through the windows at the back and it looked like good fun stuff though perhaps pitched a little young. Once again I had no sound and this time no subtitled either :-) We briefly wandered round the rest of the ground floor of the Wellcome wing and were amused to find a very snazzy display about the bluetooth chip Ned's company makes! Then we decided we'd had enough and it was time to head to Soho for our second gig: Less Than Jake at the Astoria.
Once we got there Ernie bought himself a Fear Factory ticket for a fortnight's time, cunningly saving on both postage and booking fee, then we found ourselves some coffee and an excellent burger and chips and milkshake at Hamburger Union - though we were amused by the concept of free range meat. Definitely a lot more expensive than your usual burger bar but with really good home-cooked style food it was lovely, and less than we'd have spent if we'd gone for the thai across the road. And now I know how Soho Square actually ties in with Oxford Street and so on - my London geography is terrible really :-) Still, we finished in plenty of time to join the queue before the doors opened, where we were most amused to have the guys searching people on the way in suspect Ern's earplugs of being drugs. Well, they *are* brightly coloured and in a little plastic pouch.
In search of merchandise we ended up upstairs, and discovered the balcony at the Astoria is made up of tiers of little booths so we found ourselves at a little table for two in the middle with an ace view and given we were somewhat knackered we figured we'd stay there for the support acts. First up were Bullets to Broadway and were great fun. They definitely won the crowd over anyway, and I'll be thinking about looking out for their EP. Hey and it looks like they're playing at The Man in The Moon tomorrow. Might have to go to that. Second support didn't grab me at all after that, and I didn't catch their name at the time but I think they must have been Boys Night Out. Similar sort of style (modern punky stuff) but it just wasn't as engaging, dunno what the difference was.
We headed downstairs in the last couple of tracks of their set, in order to insinuate ourselves into the crowd for Less Than Jake, with a certain success, though I admit I ran away about a track and a half in and found myself a quieter spot at the back where I was less likely to be squashed and more able to see. I don't mind a bit of a crush now and then, but it's no fun when your head is ending up below the shoulderline around you. Anyway by the end Ernie was raving about what a *fantastic* gig it was, and I look forward to reading his review especially since he seems to have got a few good bits of banter. For me it was good fun but definitely would be better for knowing more of their stuff. A couple of listens to a borrowed double album is just not enough really. But I did my best and jumped about a fair bit and sang along where I could and generally had a good time. And they're definitely a band who are fun to see because the brass section (I love ska punk for having brass :-) get up to all sorts of antics when they're not playing, and the lead singer (cute short bleached blond spiked hair, who cares if he can fit in womens jeans or not) has a real way with anecdotes and taking the piss out of the other band members and so on which works well for me. The bass player's dead cute for someone with dreads too. It was a good gig. Though I still think Reel Big Fish are a bit more for me.
Gigs at the Astoria always end quite early it seems, so we got a comfortably early train home and it wasn't even packed. And now having had a brilliant weekend away and a whole day to recover I find there's still another day of weekend left to have fun in. Awesome.