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Archive for the 'travel' Category

Christmas Catch-up: Events & Places

Posted: January 2nd, 2010, by Marceline Smith

AC/DC at Wembley Stadium
Every song brought something new. They understand that watching a band with 90000 other people requires a lot of attention-getting so every 5 mins you were treated to something extra be it video screens, fireworks, a fucking great big train crashing through the stage and then being ridden by a 100ft high inflatable woman, Angus emerging in the middle of the crowd on a flashing podium etc etc etc. Absolutely value for money. (Chris Summerlin)

Ophibre; Nature; Hunted Creatures; Peace, Loving at Church (Boston, MA)
This was one of the best drone shows I went to all year. It was the first night of a monthly event at Church put on by The Whitehaus. Sadly, they didn’t keep it up for too long. It was great while it lasted though. Review. (Justin Snow)

Lightning Bolt at the Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Being at the front for the whole of their set was a personal achievement, one for grandkids I think. Breaking your phone pales into insignificance at such immensity – I got to speak to Brian Chippendale afterwards – lovely chap! Watch this space. (Pascal Ansell)

Spending three weeks travelling around Japan was amazing. I am in love with the place. The details are too many to go into, but it was endlessly fascinating, enjoyable, welcoming and intriguing. It’s one of those places where everybody says ‘Ooh, I’d love to go…’ and I’d urge everybody to actually do it. You won’t regret it. (Simon Minter)

You know, I don’t think I went to a single gig or festival this year. Finances and far too much work left me a bit of a hermit in 2009. I finally gave in to the reforming bands of my youth craze and have a ticket for the Yummy Fur in a few days, which I hope will be awesome, or at least awesomely nostalgic. So, my event of the year was going to Oban for my dad’s birthday in the summer. Family events are not supposed to be this much fun – we spent a week going on ferries and boats and miniature trains to tiny islands and ruined castles, seeing seals and puffins and otters and eating more cake than even I would think is necessary. Good times. Photos here, if you like THE SEA. (Marceline Smith)

Mark Eitzel, St. Giles Church, London, 7 October
I am Jack’s total lack of surprise at this hugely predictable number one. What’s remarkable is that I went into the church thinking this would be the show of the year, and it actually lived up to my own personal brain-hype. I have never seen a performer with the same intensity as Mark Eitzel. He lives every note of his songs, but he’s also wickedly funny and self-deprecating. And to see him accompanied on piano, on his knees in the aisle of a beautiful church singing ‘Johnny Mathis’ Feet’ was the best five minutes of music of 2009. (Stuart Fowkes)

We moved to Texas from Glasgow in February.  I feel like we only arrived last week.  Adjustment is slow but ongoing… er… y’all. (Alex McChesney)

4 weeks trotting around Europe
Finding out family history and couchsurfing. Visited the city I’ll be living in next year: Berlin!! You can find my every footstep in this blog hyaaa. (Pascal Ansell)

Lord & Karlheinz, Audrey Chen & ID M Theftable, Jajuno Trio at The Piano Factory (Boston, MA)
One of the many truly fantastic shows put on by Semata Productions at The Piano Factory. Lord & Karlheinz fucking destroyed the room with epic noise, Chen & Theftable were just batshit insane, and Jajuno Trio was about as minimal as you can get without copying Cage’s 4’33”. Review (Justin Snow)

Summer catch-up 2009: Places

Posted: July 29th, 2009, by Marceline Smith

Bruges is beautiful, welcoming and small enough to completely explore within a couple of days. I really enjoyed it, and this was brought home to me soon afterwards by a quick stop in noisy, dirty, hassle-packed Brussels. [Simon Minter]

Once residents of Glasgow, we moved to Texas at the end of February.  By necessity we’ve wound up near Dallas, largely to be near to family.  The suburb in which we live is deathly dull, and Dallas itself ain’t what it used to be, with it’s “Deep Ellum” district – once a thriving mass of clubs, bars, venues and galleries – now a virtual ghost town.  But it was vibrant, liberal Austin we always intended to move to, and still do.  Next year, once our lease is up, we are heading south. [Alex McChesney]

This weekend I discovered that there’s more to Berwick-upon-Tweed than a grotty bladder break on the way to Newcastle. It has a mile of complete Elizabethan city walls to keep Scots out then and kids with plastic swords happy now. There’s also a beach, the tidiest allotments, a great bar (Barrels) that has a venue, real ale and cheap Leffe. Best of all, the streets have comically plain names: Bridge End, Railway Street. [Stan Tontas]

Hyde Park, Leeds
Specifically the skate park. In the evenings, walking about after a skate with a malt beer from the Abu Bakar supermarket and a nice windscreen of sweat on your forehead. Phew! [Pascal Ansell]

Mono, Glasgow
Obviously, Mono has been brilliant from the day it opened and we all realised here was somewhere you could buy records while drinking beer (this never gets tired). I’ve bought a lot of records in Mono, seen some great bands, played there myself twice and imbibed a large amount of their homemade lemonade. However, this year myself and the Glasgow Craft Mafia have taken up a residency there on the last Sunday of every month and they’ve been some of the most enjoyable afternoons of the year – sitting sewing or sketching by the bright sunny windows listening to good music while watching people wander in for records or lunch, their kids happily entertained by our activity sheets, and then even making a handful of cash to take home with me. I’m almost going to miss it this month. But I’ll be in Oban so maybe not. Yeah, you heard me, I’m in Oban RIGHT NOW. [Marceline Smith]

After my Baker Street nightmare I now find myself working in St Johns Wood and loving it. Working on a street parallel to Abbey Road and only a stone’s throw away from Lord’s I really love being in a place that is truly on the map and that changes almost daily. My knowledge of town is no longer confined to Soho as the places to explore are endless and exciting. [JGRAM]

Water Eaton grain silo
A big abandoned grain silo outside Oxford you can see from the A34, and as such I must have driven past it 200 times wondering what it was like and how awesome it would be for a stupid great party. It’s brilliant in there – check it out. [Stuart Fowkes]


Posted: July 16th, 2007, by Marceline Smith

I will be getting “the gang” together for a proper round-up article shortly but I think it’s fairly safe to say everyone had an awesome time. What a great place The Custard Factory is. Anyway, in the meantime you can look at our photos which should start turning up in the diskanteers Flickr group shortly. I’ve added a few of mine but typically all my photos are of Birmingham Botanic Gardens and the sky and not of bands or anything. Others will have that covered though, I’m sure.

I’d also like to thank Fate for sticking to just having a laugh with the weather and ignoring the more tempting possibilities offered by a) me flying on Friday 13th in what appeared to be a toy plane and b) me and Mogwai being on the same flight back to Glasgow. If there’s one way I don’t want to die, it’s in a plane crash with Mogwai. My obituary would pretty much write itself. Although if there’s any LOST-style shenanigans involved then having Mogwai around would probably be quite amusing.


Posted: February 13th, 2007, by Chris S

I went to Berlin, it snowed. It was beautiful. And a bit scary in a Gothic, Eastern-Block kind of way.
I took hundreds of pictures. Waste time by viweing them here:

Chicago Trip

Posted: October 6th, 2006, by Chris S


Like great adventurers of yore, Team Damn You! set off to Chicago in September to attend the Touch & Go 25th Anniversary.
We took a squillion photos and they, along with some diary style blurb is here:


Sitting opposite the base of the 'Corn Cobs'

Enjoy with your brain!

My A-Z of Japan

Posted: April 3rd, 2006, by Marceline Smith

My photo diary is here. Enjoy!

ARIGATO – really the only word of Japanese you need and even that can be bypassed with enough bowing and smiling. I’ve never met so many polite and helpful people, from the convenience store staff that call welcomes in unison as you enter to the gift shop staff that package your purchases with intricate care.
BOTANICAL GARDENS – Our free day in Kyoto was my birthday so we went to the Botanical Gardens. I have a thing about Botanical Gardens. It was the most beautiful day and half of Kyoto had the same idea but this turned out to be the most Japanese thing we did all holiday with not a single other tourist in sight. More fool them. The cherry and plum blossom was out and glorious, there were carp in the lake, a garden of bonsai trees, small Japanese children practicing their English by shouting HELLO at us and plenty of room in between the camphor trees to just sit and relax. And all for fifty pence!
CHERRY BLOSSOM – The Japanese go nuts for cherry blossom and when you see it, you understand why. Our luck was in as the cherry blossom was a little early this year and there were pink and white trees blooming everywhere, usually surrounded by hordes of Japanese cooing and taking photos on their mobiles.
DEPARTMENT STORES – We were urged to go to department stores (indeed, our tourist maps from the hotels mainly had department stores and temples marked on them) but we were highly disappointed by the reality of floors and floors of western designer fashion. The two exceptions were Tokyu Hands, basically a hardware store full of cheap mentalism, and the enormous department store within Kyoto Station where we got lost numerous times and spent lots of money in the stationery department and in the little store entirely devoted to cute bunny-related wares.
EATING – Food was probably the most difficult part of Japan, as the hotel was expensive and proper Japanese places were a bit confusing (especially with a vegetarian sister). However, this did allow me to sample all kinds of random foodstuffs from local shops including some awesome chilli noodles and a very pretty (and tasty) bento box. The snacks were considerable fun as well. I’m now quite lost without my tubes of tiny cake slices and panda biscuits. Typically, the two worst meals I had were the ones on included tour days – some very dull ramen in miso and the ‘western style’ meal of barely warm breaded chicken with spaghetti.Why couldn’t they have taken us out for sushi?
FUJI-SAN – We were so lucky to see Mt Fuji. At first we were told we might not get to go at all because of heavy snowfalls then were were allowed up as far as the Fourth Station but there was thick cloud so no views of the summit. And then the clouds lifted magically for 2 minutes so we could see it and then closed back up. Fuji-san really is shy
GASHAPON – We call them egg machines here, you know machines full of plastic eggs containing toys of some kind. Japanese gashapon are full of amazing things usually for ¥100 or ¥200 (50p-£1). We soon started collecting ¥100 coins purely for gashapon and nearly hyperventilated when we found a little shop entirely for the purpose of gashapon in Shibuya. Best find was in the Pokemon Center – gashapon containing tiny Pokemon-branded working gashapon machines full of Pokeballs. Even better you got to build them yourself in ye olde Kinder Egg style. Awesome.
HELLO KITTY – Japan really takes Hello Kitty to a whole new level of madness. Not content with the usual lines of Hello Kitty, Japan has its own series of tourist souvenir Hello Kitty for literally every tourist attraction and destination in Japan. Hello Kitty Tokyo, atop Tokyo Tower with a camera; Hello Kitty Harajuku, dressed up like a cool teen in tartan and leather; Hello Kitty Kyoto, as a geisha; Hello Kitty Nara, wearing a deer costume; Hello Kitty Hakone, inside a black sulphur-cooked egg…
IKEBUKURO – Our base in Tokyo where we stayed in a rather fancy hotel with 25 floors and an all you can eat cake buffet (which, luckily, we only discovered on our final evening). It also sounds great on the automated train announcements. Ikebukuro, Ikebukuro!
JAPANESE FILMS – I watched two of them on the flight. NANA, based on a manga comic about two girls with the same name who meet by chance – one is in a punk band and the other is the most adorable puppydog girl that ever existed. I loved this. I also watched a film called Beat Kids, about some school kids who set up their own marching band and get back at their nasty teacher who tries to take all the credit. This was great until after the obvious ending where they do a crazy jazz routine at the inter-school competition it then carried on with an ultra-complicated plot about two rival rock bands that got so confusing I gave up.
KAWAII – Everything in Japan is kawaii. It only took about 2 days for our cuteness monitors to be reset at a much higher level. Our first afternoon’s shopping in Tokyo ended in Sunshine 60, a vast labyrinth of shops full of cute stuff where we reached a level of cuteness exhaustion that eventually had us on the verge of nervous breakdown in Toys R Us.
LEGWARMERS – My only actual birthday present on the day since technically being in Japan was my birthday present. Nicolette knitted them for me and I highly recommend legwarmers for cold temple floors when they make you take your shoes off.
MUSEE D’ART GHIBLI – The Ghibli Museum was amazing, one of the many highlights of the trip. The building is full of hidden corridors, nooks and staircases displaying original artwork and Ghibli ephemera, as well as explaining the concepts of animation The Totoro zoetrope is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen, a revolving set of 3D models that magically come to life via strobe lights. It’s impossible to describe but it truly feels like magic. Biggest disappointment of the trip – adults not being allowed to romp on the huge cuddly catbus.
NARA – Home of the world’s largest wooden building which contains Japan’s largest Buddha statue. All this was very interesting but mostly we were amused by the hordes of “wild” deer that harass you for food. Taken singly they will bow to you for a piece of bread in a rather adorable way. In groups however, they become herds of scary zombie deer mowing down anything that gets in the way of FOOOOD.
ONIGIRI – Rice balls. I wish these were readily available in UK shops. I particularly enjoyed the element of surprise of what random foodstuff might be hiding in the middle. I even bought a big cuddly smiling onigiri pillow to take home.
PLASTIC FOOD – Japanese restaurants have creepily accurate plastic imitations of all the meals they serve laid out in the windows so you can see what’s on offer. Bowls of noodles are one thing but plastic imitation pints of beer made my brain hurt.
QOO – Simon P asked me to look out for Qoo which we spotted in the very first vending machine we saw in Japan. Not entirely impressed by what is basically orange squash in a cool bottle, we were still somewhat surprised not to see Qoo in any of the next lot of vending machines. A couple of days’ searching later we spotted Apple Qoo which was much nicer and thus we slowly got sucked into Qoo-spotting insanity and spent half the holiday peering at vending machines. Thanks Simon. Tropical fruit/milk Qoo – odd but nice. Fanta Grape – awesome. Suntory happy apple juice – double awesome.
RIVER KAMO – In some ways we didn’t really ‘do’ Kyoto, having only the one free day there and spending most of that in the Botanical Gardens (and trying to find our way through the vast, shop-filled Kyoto Station). We had intended to have a wander through the geisha district of Gion (an apprentice geisha being pretty much the first thing we saw after getting off the shinkansen) but the nearest we got was wandering back to the hotel along the River Kamo as the sun began to set. It was a lovely walk but we couldn’t work up the energy to leave the hotel again that evening.
SHINKANSEN – We got the bullet train both ways between Tokyo and Kyoto. The first time one went through the station we all collectively gasped at the speed. When you’re on it though, you don’t really notice how fast it’s going (up to 150km). The shinkansen doors are set remotely in Tokyo so they close on time regardless of whether you’re on the train or not!
TEMPLES & SHRINES – We were on an organised holiday tour called ‘Japan Highlights’ but we soon renamed it the Temples and Shrines Tour. Almost everything we were taken to visit or pointed out were Buddhist Temples and Shinto Shrines. Some of these were indeed amazing but really, how many do you need to see? I am still baffled by the people who went on the optional temples and shrines day out to Nikko rather than have a free day in Tokyo. Thank god for the guy on the tour who joined in our OOHing at the sight of Nintendo HQ.
UENO PARK – We were urged by our first guide Suzy-san, a cherry blossom nut, to go see the cherry blossom in Ueno Park before we left so we squeezed it into our last evening. I’m glad we did as the trees were strung up with lanterns, there were glowing 3D sculptures of animals outside the zoo and swan boats on the lake. I wish we’d had time to go in the daytime as well.
VIRGIN ATLANTIC – This was my first long haul flight and I was frankly amazed at how bearable it was. I’d packed a bunch of stuff to keep myself entertained on the 12 hour flight but barely touched it, thanks to the in-flight entertainment and constant provision of food and gifts whenever there was a risk of boredom. My highlight though was peering out of the window into the night and seeing all the constellations so big it felt like I could touch them.
WEATHER – was lovely, thanks. Snow on Mt Fuji, blue skies and sun for my birthday and warm and uneventful in Tokyo.
SAN-X – Thanks to Alice for recommending Kiddyland, 7 floors of toys and cute stuff. We spent so long on the San-X floor that one of the staff came over smilingly with a basket, obviously realising we were in for the long haul. San-X is impossible to describe but you need plenty time to fully drink in the madness of Mamegoma (honking seals of varying hilarity), Nyan Nyan Nyanko (a cat who likes to pretend to be food) and Wan Room (a set of furniture with dog faces).
YAMANOTE LINE – I am in awe of the logic, order, simplicity and cleverness of Japanese transport which is easier to use in Japanese than the London Underground is in English. The Yamanote Line runs in a circle round the centre of Tokyo and we spent much of our time on it (all the way round in the course of one day). We also fell in love with the Suica penguin, the mascot of Tokyo’s pay as you go rail pass who is all over the rail system.
ZZZZZ…. Jet lag, not fun.

I’m back…

Posted: March 29th, 2006, by Marceline Smith

I’M GOING TO JAPAN! (part 74)

Posted: March 19th, 2006, by Marceline Smith

I really am now, tomorrow! I’m sure the rest of the diskant team will keep you entertained in my absence but for the next couple of weeks expect no major updates to the site, mail to go unanswered and many many review CDs to pile up on the kitchen table. I will be staying at this hotel in Tokyo! I see it has an internet room so I will endeavour to post some frenzied babblings mid-holiday. Woo!

iPod Walking Tours

Posted: February 14th, 2006, by Marceline Smith

Free iPod Tour Guides – I am really starting to see the possibilities of podcasting. I laughed initially when given a huge phone on a necklace when I went to the Turner Prize exhibition at the Tate but it was actually pretty cool being able to hear the artist talking about the work while you looked at it. Walking tours seem like even more fun, especially if they are like ‘turn left here, after the post office. Look at that!’. I always like wandering in cities I visit but it’s rare you get to find out anything about the buildings you see.

Anyway, my main reason for posting this is The Glasgow Indie Music Tour!

You’ll discover:

– the hang-outs, rehearsal spaces and even workplaces you’re likely to run into band members such as Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian and more.
– What Glasgow’s got that makes it musically hot!


Of course what this will amount to is having a pint in King Tuts (where Oasis were discovered!!!!) and going to the Safeway on Byres Road (where Belle met Sebastian!!). I wonder if it includes popping into Monorail to gawp at Indie Legend Stephen Pastel!

Easter in London – Part 1

Posted: March 31st, 2005, by Marceline Smith

I was in London over the weekend for the first time in ages intending to go see all the things I never have time to go see. I stayed in an amazing hotel which has reminded me that I need to make loads of money so that I can be one of those crazy old rich people who live in hotels and wander around in my pyjamas carrying a cat.Easter Sunday was my Art Day which started with a lengthy walk past the Tower of London and across Tower Bridge to the Design Museum. I don’t know if they knew I was coming but they appeared to have organised the whole thing with me in mind. A whole floor on the history of maps, road signs, diagrams, typography and safety leaflets was exciting enough but the next floor had exhibitions on Penguin Books and Factory Records, not to mention an N64 with Mario to play on. The only disappointment was the shop which was a bit small and not as full of quirky things of wonder as I had expected. I did get some badges covered in the insides of envelopes though. I’m glad someone else notices these things.

After this I went over to the Tate Modern having heard great things about it. I loved the building but I was a bit disappointed by the art on show. There were very few things I liked that I hadn’t seen before and they seemed only to have inferior works by artists I like. I also found the new Modern Art is Important seriousness of the people there kind of tiresome. I think I liked it better when everyone scoffed at modern art, rather than thinking it’s all very serious and clever. Some of it, at least, is supposed to be fun so stop pondering it.

What did I like? The Rothkos were awesome in real life, sucking everything into themselves. All the pop art was fun to look at close close up to see all the human flaws that never show up in glossy reproductions. There was also a great room of prints by one guy, all with similar motifs of flowing body lines and flower overprints.

I was also impressed with the Bruce Nauman exhibitions – a room of colour treated projections of his studio recorded overnight, like a room of CCTV screens with nothing much happening. You’d get interested in the detail of one projection until a clank or thump made you think you were missing something on another side of the room. I could probably have sat there for hours. He also had a sound thing in the Turbine Hall with a series of speakers randomly muttering and hollering at you as you walked the length. It sounds a bit crap in print but in location with all the concrete and the high roof it was great; a child’s voice fading into sinister rasping fading into robotic repitition and so on. There’s a virtual version online.

To be continued with my trip to the THEATRE as I have not yet caught up on sleep and this is getting a bit long.