Last Christmas was not my best Christmas ever to say the least.

I had put off worrying about the impending redundancies at work until after #ontourwithBFlow2010 was done. I didn’t want anything to spoil those moments. Consequently November hit hard with “at risk” letters falling right on top of my Post Gig Depression. Our good employers then deemed that giving us their decision as to whether we would have a job or not before Christmas might ruin it for us. Well, thanks, put I think I’ll be the judge of what will ruin Christmas, and frankly the worry and stress of not knowing was worse than losing my job.

The New Year kicked off in style, with a nice letter to say I was being made redundant. I wasn’t expecting it. I was expecting to get put on the resilience team, a “back up” team for when people left in droves and they needed some experienced people to do the job. This would involve an up to 3 hour journey each way to do a job I hated. Redundancy was the better option.

After the initial shock, I picked up myself up, dusted myself off and started planning my new life. I had been less than happy in my job for quite some time. Not the actual work itself, just the situation. There were way too many bad memories and associations there. This was a chance for a new start, which I badly needed.

After looking at the meagre job options available to me, I decided to try a new career, one that would hopefully lead to me achieving my dream of retiring abroad despite me now having no money and no pension to rely on, Teaching English as a Foreign Language. I took an introductory course and was promptly informed that my employers did see fit to give me a job. On the dreaded resilience team. They didn’t get the joyous reception they were expecting. My year had gone from bad to worse.

Meanwhile, in other parts of my life, things were great. My health was holding up, I introduced Niamh and Michelle to conventions and not only had The Killers announced some “come back” dates, including one in the UK, but Brandon Flowers threw in a few festival solo dates. Throwing caution to the wind I decided to have a last hurrah before I was permanently broke and booked a trip to London for The Killers and to Cornwall for Brandon Flowers. Best. Decision. Ever. Those memories will never fade.

Just as things were beginning to look particularly bleak, and the time was approaching that I was going to have to hand in my notice, rather than do the horrid, horrid job that I hated, I was offered a full time post at Halifax. Not ideal, but So. Much. Better. than my current options.

And then, the impossible happened, I spent an evening in a pub in Manchester with Ronnie Vannucci of The Killers and his side project Big Talk. I think he must have some kind of Midas Touch, because my life finally turned around and got better right around this point.

Despite, the awkwardness of the travelling, I am incredibly happy in my new job. All the stresses and strains and headaches of the past few years are gone and I can look to the future once more. This Christmas has been a happy one and I look forward to 2012 with great anticipation.

In retrospect, 2011 was a good year, I went through a lot, I had some amazing experiences, I made some wonderful new friends, and I start 2012 with hope instead of despair.

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This is a true tale of drunkeness and Norwegians.

So there we were, at a music convention in Llandudno of all places, staying at a quaint little B&B with something of a dodgy locking mechanism on the bedroom door.

Music was played, alcohol was consumed, much merriment was had and finally we staggered back to our hotel room, slammed the door behind us and collapsed into bed. Several hours later…

Cider (waking up): Grunt… moan… urgh… (ponders to self) Why is Carl on the wrong side of the bed? Huh. Why is Carl also on the right side of the bed? Why are there two Carls? Wait…… (shakes the Carl on the right side of the bed). Carl… Carl… there’s someone in the bed.

Carl: Urgh…

Cider: Carl… Carl… THERE’S SOMEONE IN THE BED!

Carl: Urgh, grunt.. shut up woman, you’re dreaming.

Cider: Erm… nope. There’s really, really someone in the bed.

Carl: (sits up) THERE’S SOMEONE IN THE BED!

Cider: Uh huh.

Carl: (shakes person in bed) Oi! Get the fuck out of our bed.

Stranger: (waking up… looks around) This is not my bed. This is not my room.

Cider/Carl: Uh huh.

Stranger: (gets out of bed. See’s Cider’s skinny jeans on floor. Tries to put them on. Gets them to his knees). This is not my pants.

Cider/Carl: Uh huh.

Stranger: (spots Carl’s pants hanging over the back of a chair. Starts to put them on).

Carl: Get get the fuck out of my pants and out of the room.

Stranger: (fiddling with door lock) This is not good lock.

Stranger Exits.

Cider stares at Carl in disbelief that he was more pissed by the stranger putting on his pants than being in bed with his girlfriend, while Carl locks the door ensuring no one else can try and steal his trousers.

Cider and Carl fall back on bed laughing.

Later that morning. Over breakfast. General chatter:

Guest 1: You know, someone tried my door last night.

Guest 2: Yeah, me too.

Guest 3: And mine:

Cider/Carl: Yeah, someone tried OUR BED last night. (surreal Goldilocks moment) (describes night time adventure to wrapt hotel guests)

Guest 4: Ooh, I think that was one of those Norwegian guys that were at the convention. They were drinking Vodka. They were REALLY drunk.

Cider/Carl: Uh huh.

Investigations lead to the following conclusions:

Two Norwegian brothers got very drunk on (comparatively) cheap Vodka. Return to their room and drift off to harmonious sleep. Our Norwegian wakes up with a desperate need to pee. Heads to bathroom. Forgets where his room is. Tries all doors until he finds one open (stupid dodgy locking mechanism) and climbs into bed oblivious of the sleeping couple the bed, and the rest is well, up there!

The moral of the story? Always ensure your hotel room door is fully secure before retiring in case of wondering Norwegians.

Happy New Year.

Dr Horirble The Book

My second attempt at writing this as dear old WordPress decided to lose the
first attempt.

If you’re not aware of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog by now, then you’ve probably only just stumbled across the internet when your parents introduced you to Rebecca Black as a way to learn the days of the week, or you’ve been stuck in a tardis or fallen down a wormhole or been scared of computers since the last time you were rick-rolled or some other random happenstance that has prevented you from logging on.

For those three people, I will re-cap. Back in the 2007/2008 writers’ strike, Joss Whedon and his real life ensemble family, got together and wrote themselves a little musical just for the fun of it.  The small idea of a podcast turned into a 3 part extravaganza of a musical, telling the story of wannabe supervillan (Neil Patrick Harris), his egotistical superhero nemesis (Nathan Fillion) and their shared love interest (Felicia Day), which, in true Whedon-style, broke the internet on the first day.

Almost three years later and fans are still awaiting a sequel which has been held up by surprise TV renewals and a little independent movie project Joss insisted on working on.  While we’re waiting, we can now peruse what is possibly the best companion book I have ever laid my greedy nerdy little hands on which fits on tables of all sizes.

The book opens with an introduction by Captain Hammer himself, from an undisclosed location in a booby trapped underground bunker, where he would like to make clear that while it may have appeared that he was running away from the auditorium, he was actually running towards danger and saving the day once again. Neil Patrick Harris wraps things up with an afterward but before that you get the full shooting script including lyrics for the both the Sing-Along Blog and Commentary! The Musical,  which is interspersed with insights from cast and crew, an ‘origin’ story from the writers’ Whedon, behind the scenes titbits, handwritten lyric sheets, Haiku (yup) and plenty more to keep you occupied, including, right at the end, the sheet music.

In short, all the horribleness you need until those lazy Whedons get off their backsides and give us a sequel is available at all horrible bookstores now.

I have loved White Lies since the first time I heard them back in 2009. One of those bands, like The Killers, where I was instantly in love. Their first album To Lose My Life was on my top played lists for an awful long time. After a year of completely amazing gigs (including 4 ventures out to see The Killers, a Blur and Wonderstuff come back gig amongst others) we headed to Leeds Academy to see this young band.

While they couldn’t hold their own against these other much more experienced bands, they certainly didn’t disappoint. Having had somewhat of a quick rise to fame that year, they appeared a little nervous and overwhelmed on stage with lead singer Harry McVeigh’s intense dark eyes darting around with the look of a startled rabbit caught in the headlights.

This time around, was so very, very different.

We arrived just before doors opening to a queue wrapped around the building despite the pouring rain and headed for the barrier, making second row, with a good little opening for a barrier spot with a little squeezing. Fortunately for me, as the band came on a couple of girls were pulled out of the front row giving me room to get a prime position at the barrier.

White Lies had brought along two support bands again. First up was Active Child, an electronic duo from Los Angeles. I could have really got into this band if it were not for the lead singer’s voice, which was quite gorgeous when he sang deep but grated like nails down a chalk board when he went for the high notes, which was sadly way too often. They certainly didn’t endear themselves to my husband when they covered New Order’s Ceremony (although I quite enjoyed this, it being way more upbeat than their previous offerings.)

You can check them out at www.myspace.com/activechild

Next up was Crocodiles, a San Diego band with their roots firmly in 80s indie music such as The Jesus and Mary Chain and Echo and the Bunnymen. The singer, sporting a leather jacket, shades (and, in my husband’s words, Arnold J Rimmer’s uncontrollable hair), bumped, grinded and gyrated along to their upbeat, guitar heavy tracks. I loved them, I can’t wait to see more of them and I’ve just gone an bought their latest album, Sleep Forever.

You can check them out at www.myspace.com/crocodilescrocodilescrocodiles.

Crocodiles got the crowd all warmed up, and the obligatory drunken late arrivals had pushed their way to the front so it was clearly time for the main event. The excitement built and White Lies proved they had come a long way since that first gig 18 months ago. Harry walked on stage with confidence in his still intense and darting eyes, interacting with the crowd, encouraging them with fist pumps and shouts of “Come on!”, he got us all going, clearly enjoying himself and the crowd.

The 90 minute set included a mix of tracks from both their albums, smattering their energetic hits between the slower, more atmospheric material from their new album. Their three song encore featured my favourite tracks from both albums, Unfinished Business and The Power and the Glory and they ended with their latest single, Bigger Than Us, coming to the front to wave their goodbyes before finally leaving the stage.

The gig was all that I was hoping for and more, a throughly exhausting, sweaty, exhilerating night, and a great set up for the first of what I hope will be many gigs this year. I’m covered in bruises and wearing every single one with pride. White Lies have set the standard and there’s going to have to be some tremendous performances to beat them this year.

It was great to see just how far they have come in this short period of time, I’m sure they’ll be taking the stadiums on soon.

Yesterday fan club only pre-sale tickets became available for a few select shows Brandon Flowers is playing in the States. As usual it became a bun-fight as fans fought against touts to get tickets, which were gone in minutes and on eBay at extortionate prices with the hour.

It really makes me angry that these people are able to infiltrate the fan club, get their hands on these tickets and sell them at ridiculous prices before they have even gone on general sale. Touts annoy me at the best of times, but when they take tickets that are meant to go to the diehard fans, one of the little perks the band gives out to thank them for their loyalty and support, it really, really angers me, especially when I see my friends disappointed and upset because they couldn’t get tickets.

Unfortunately there appears to be little can be done about it, the fan club can’t vet each member, and it’s hard to prove who they are in order to ban them. While people are still desperate enough to pay the prices, the touts will stay in business, and unfortunately in some cases, it’s not even touts, but so called fans that are selling the tickets for a profit.

Of course part of the problem here is that Brandon is playing much smaller venues than he could fill, so demand is much greater than the supply, even without the touts, people are going to be disappointed, which forces the prices up even higher on eBay.

This week the Arctic Monkeys announced two huge dates in Sheffield, billing them as “for the fans” they have gone to great lengths to try and ensure that tickets can’t be sold on. Only four tickets can be bought per billing address, each ticket will have the last four digits of the card used to purchase them printed on it, and the cardholder must be present with the card on entry to the gig. How effective this will be remains to be seen, these are huge gigs with 10s of thousands of ticket holders, it seems doubtful that every ticket holder will be checked.

The only way we will ever stop touts from ripping off fans is when people stop buying from them, so don’t buy from the touts kids, you might miss out this time, but in the future everyone will have an equal chance of get a ticket at a fair price.

For some time now I’ve been wanting to make a workout mix for the gym. I usually just stick my iPod on shuffle and go for it, but it can be annoying when a track comes on that doesn’t really fit with the exercise you are doing at the time. Music also triggers memories so if I do the same exercises to the same music all the time it helps me remember where I am in the workout so I can concentrate more on the exercise I’m doing and let the music tell me where I am.

So here is the playlist I came up with, it may need some tweaks, but it’s working for now.

To kick off with I do a 20 minute warm up on the bike. I don’t particularly enjoy the exercise bike, so I mixed a couple of some new favourites with some old favourites to get me through it, with a slower song at the end to remind me to slow down for the cool down.

Animal – Neon Trees
Losing Composure – Transfer
Atomic – Blondie
Echo Beach – Martha & The Muffins
Reward – The Teardrop Explodes
Lust For Life – Igyy Pop
Return To Innocence – Enigma

Next up is some stretches, which I find a little boring, so I’ve stuck quite a long track there to make sure I see them through to the end.

Angel – Massive Attack

For weight lifting I like something a little aggressive:

19-2000 – Gorillaz
The Way I Am – Eminem
Smack My Bitch Up – The Prodigy
Vox Populi – Thirty Seconds to Mars

Then it’s on to some high energy dance for the cross-trainer:

Time to Burn – Storm
Silence – Delirium
Sky Fits Heaven – Madonna

The final stage of workout is the treadmill which, call me crazy, but I love it, so to increase my enjoyment it’s mainly made up of my two favourite bands in the world, Depeche Mode and The Killers. I threw a couple of other bands in there though just for variety, with a cool down track at the end. Most of the tracks are either remixes or live versions, so they have a little extra energy and a little extra length to them than the originals.

Bizarre Love Triangle – New Order
Read My Mind – The Killers
Nothing – Depeche Mode
Somebody Told Me – The Killers
Recover – The Automatic
Never Let Me Down Again – Depeche Mode
When You Were Young – The Killers
Barber: Adagio For Strings – William Orbit

Finally, cool down stretches:

Cafe Del Mar – Energy 52

And that’s me done.

Whilst browsing the internet for musical goodies yesterday, I came across a band called The Twilight Sad. The name immediately conjured up images of a large gathering of Twilight fans, a collection of Twihards if you will, and it amused me greatly. The only logical thing to do, was tweet my amusement to the world.

Of course, The Twilight Sad are on Twitter, they (or whoever runs their account) picked up on my tweet and re-tweeted it, much to the non-amusement of their fans it would appear. I woke up this morning to a torrent (well 4) of abuse (well, pointed suggestions that I should maybe listen to the music) from their avid following.

I have to say of all the possible repercussions of my tweet I could imagine (1) this was not it.

So, to appease their fans, I went off to listen to some of their music.

I’ll start with their name, which is what got me into trouble in the first place. Apart from conjuring up images of Twihards, which to be fair, not their fault, The Twilight Sad is a poignant, beautiful, dark and sad (in the correct sense of the word) name, it’s just unfortunate that Twilight will forever mean something else to a whole horde of tweeners and housewives; admittedly probably not the band’s target audience.

The Twilight Sad are on the dark side of indie, with dirty guitars, darkly melodic keyboards and a heavy-accented Scottish singer that puts me in mind of Glasvegas. Their music would fit nicely alongside the goth era of the late 70s/early 80s, bands such as Bauhaus, Joy Division, The Sisters of Mercy, early Cure and Fields of The Nephilim are surely influences. Very much in the vein of White Lies, but not quite as melodramatic and over produced and, unlike White Lies, they have not added anything new (other than the Scottish accent) to make the music unique to them.

Overall I did enjoy their music, but after a while it became rather samey, and kind of depressing, which is probably why, with the exception of The Cure, I could never listen to those other bands for more than a song or two at a time.

You can check them out for yourselves at www.myspace.com/thetwilightsad.