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People's Vote March
On Saturday The Words On My Placard and I headed into central London to do some ACTIVISM by attending The People's Vote March.

The aforementioned Stops On My Tube Line suggested that instead of going for the announced NOON gathering at Marble Arch we instead aim to get to Green Park just after 1pm and join the march there, thus avoiding the usual interminable waiting about and then AGONISINGLY SLOW shuffle down Park Lane. This turned out to be a GRATE idea, and one shared by several hundred other people, who all came out of the station at the same time as us!

The march itself was ENORMOUS. We are more used to going on Anti-Badger Cull demoes, which have a slightly more SELECT crowd, but this felt like half the country was there. We had out "I (heart) EU" banners ready, and it was fun to look around and see all the creativity that had gone into everybody else's. Doing "funny" banners seems to have become a THING at demos over the past few years, and it is something I SUPPORT, not least because it gives you something to look at while you're trudging along. It was also VERY noticeable that there were no SWP or similar banners this time (as I guess they are, for reasons I am obviously too FALSE CONSCIENCED to understand, pro-Brexit) but instead a wide array of anger and GAGS. There was also a wide array of PEOPLE (and children, and dogs) of all sizes, shapes, colours and backgrounds. The weirdest thing about the day was when I kept seeing POSH people and I'd assume that they were somehow lost, but then one of them would turn out to be carrying a "Piss Off Farage" placard.

We shuffled along to Trafalgar Square and then stopped on Whitehall to eat our sandwiches, which meant we got to stand and watch as LITERALLY THOUSANDS of people marched past us. It was remarkable what GOOD HUMOUR everybody was in - Billy Bragg has said that the point of a demo is to remind everyone that they are not alone, and GOODNESS ME but that was certainly the case here. We were ALL doing this together and it was lovely!

We got up to as far as Downing Street, but couldn't get any closer to Parliament Square where the main speeches were being given. However, we DID get close to a video screen, where we heard Caroline Lucas be ACE, and then got close enough to SEE Tom Watson be... well, let's say "slightly disingenuous" about whose fault it all was. I'm PRETTY SURE he voted FOR Article 50 and AGAINST the People's Vote didn't he? Still, at least it was NICE to see SOMEBODY from the Labour front bench there.

THAT, however, was pretty much the only slightly sour note in what was otherwise a LOVELY afternoon's stroll amongst like-minded and DELIGHTFUL people. I don't know if it'll do any good - I have no doubt Express Columnists will claim we were all RUSSIAN BOTS, and I was amused to see twits on twitter saying we were ALL MIDDLE CLASS just for being there - but it's heartening to know that at least we made our opinions known. In the words of so many poets, FUCK BREXIT!

posted 25/3/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The Tour Is Over
After our Cocktails And Pie exploits in Sheffield the other week Mr M Tiller went looking for Pieminster Pie Outlets in That London, and was delighted to discover that The Hope in Fitzrovia, just a few minutes round the corner from The King & Queen, was one such purveyor. So it was that we met at half past five (or half past PIES as he said!) for a celebratory end of tour PIE. I had mine with Swede and Carrot Mash - goodness knows what me aged 8 would have thought if he'd known I'd ever eat such a thing by choice, but it was DEAD nice!

We then went round to the King & Queen where Totally Acoustic was scheduled to happen, and were extremely pleased to find Mr S Hewitt already there. The three of us went upstairs, got the room set up, and then settled into waiting for our audience to arrive. To my GRATE delight the audience DID arrived, and so at around 7:40pm Matt went on and did his FINAL set for the tour.

It was, as ever ACE, if only slightly spoiled by some berk singing along quietly with every song hem hem. Halfway through the set Matt presented Jann, TOUR SUPERFAN, with a bottle of 7-Up to mark the fact that he had been to all SEVEN gigs, and also the promise of a TOUR MUG! He'd done one for me too but they hadn't arrived yet - they look FAB!

As I said several times last night, touring with Matt has been BRILLO. I have been blessed - BLESSED - over the years to have toured with some Very Good Eggs, many of whom even turned up to see us on THIS tour, and Matt is very much welcome within that particular pantheon of HEROES. The FABNESS of his sets is only a tiny part of the joy of this tour, especially compared to the Excellent Organisation, Ongoing Chats, and of course PIES that have been such a part of it. Several people last night asked if there was anything that had happened that WASN'T on the blog - they claimed that sometimes on my blog they can read between the lines and see where I have OMITTED certain things, which I of course could not comment upon - but for this tour there honestly hasn't been. It's all been fun! HOORAH!

Anyway, after Matt we had a short break and then I done THIS:
  • Rock & Roll Mayhem
  • Cheer Up Love
  • An Office Ballad
  • I Don't Have To Worry About That
  • Say It With Words
  • Someone Else's Turn
  • Chips And Cheese, Pint Of Wine
  • I'm Doing The Ironing
  • You're A Tory Now
  • Come On Apocalypse
  • Hey Hey 16K
  • Two Blokes, One Pub
  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)

    There was a WHOLE LOT of new songs in there, and a COMPLETELY re-written version of Rock & Roll Mayhem which I wrote especially for the evening (with an A3 sized lyric sheet to help me through it!). I started off with a BIT that I'd thought of that morning, saying that I had listened to the British people and heard them when they said they were TIRED of me forgetting my words, that I was on their side, and blamed it all entirely on the bar staff downstairs. I mention this now because I'm pretty sure that in a few weeks we will all have entirely forgotten Theresa May's speech and have no idea what I was on about!

    The rest of the gig seemed to all go well and when I'd finished the main set Matt very kindly encouraged an encore. "Come back and do a few more," he said. Steve, I feel, spoke for the Will Of The People by saying "Do ONE more", which was very wise. We all needed a wee and/or another drink by then!

    All that remained was to sit around having a natter, try out some whisky (turns out they make ACTUALLY NICE whisky in the Cotswolds, who knew?) and then say our final farewells. It has been a BLOODY LOVELY tour all round - thanks to everyone who came, and especially thanks to Mr M Tiller who suggested it. Let's do it again some time!

    posted 22/3/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Lost In Bristol
    Another week, another ROCK show!

    One of the (many) GRATE things about doing a weekly tour, I am finding, is that you get into a right good RHYTHM. Last Thursday night I packed my bags with the usual assortment of clothes, toileteries, MERCH and laptop, took it all to work on Friday, and then just after lunchtime left for Paddington where I got the train to Bristol, got slightly lost (as is THE LAW when arriving at Bristol Temple Meads), found the Premier Inn I'd booked in, had a shower, and then set off for the venue. I have done much the same on SEVERAl gigs so far, and it is a lovely way to travel!

    The venue this time was the New Bristol Brewery, which was ACE. I was told when I arrived that I shouldn't worry, it was much nicer inside than it looked from the outside, and it WAS. Outside it was an industrial unit on a dark street, inside was a lovely warm bar that was part of an Actual Genuine Real Brewery. Everyone was VERY friendly too, even giving us a LOT of free beer through the evening - the 'If Bristol Could Talk' beer was described as FRESH and it really was, it was delicious!

    Matt and I soundchecked, then we were joined by the ever delightful Mr Gavin Osborn, who I had not seen for AGES. We were ALSO joined by a LOT of other people - the bar had a 75 person capacity, and we'd sold 68 (!) tickets which, with door sales and guests, meant it ended up being a SELLOUT!

    Gav went on first, and as it was his first gig in about three months he decided to do a HITS set and OH MY but what hits they were - singing along with 'Albert' and all the others reminded me of just how GRATE he is, to the extent that I worried about following him. Still, on I went and did THIS:
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • Hibbett's Golden Rules Of Beer
  • Can We Be Friends?
  • Come On Apocalypse
  • I Don't Have To Worry About That
  • You're A Tory Now
  • Cheer Up Love
  • Chips And Cheese, Pint Of Wine
  • In The North Stand
  • Two Blokes, One Pub
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • It went pretty well I think - I was very pleased to do TWO (2) songs that I'd not done before, and there was much happy singing along throughout, but there was some Heavy Lifting for me. I think it was because of the venue's TIN ROOF, which meant that ANY talking ANYWHERE, even at the bar, got amplified, which meant that anybody else who wanted to say something to their neighbour had to SPEAK UP, and so gradually throughout the set the volume of talking got louder. It wasn't like people were being RUDE or anything, but by the end it did make it difficult to be heard - as in so many cases, I believe DRAPES would be the answer here!

    I was followed by the MAGNIFICENT Mr Tiller, who was GRATE as always, even including a song that I had not heard before, on this tour or elsewhere, and a proper actual encore too! It all finished WELL before closing so there was time for YET MORE beer, including a BROWN ALE that tasted a) a bit like cola and also b) DELICIOUS, and also some CHAT with the lovely people who had come down. I think I must have caught a cold, or possibly been hit on the head with a heavy object at some point though, as when I left the building I found myself slightly CONFUSED, and it took about twice as long to get back to the hotel as it did going. I can think of no other explanation!

    In summary then, gigs in Breweries a) are GRATE though b) may require DRAPES, while touring is just FAB in general. Only one date left now, at Totally Acoustic on Thursday. I'm going to miss all this when it's done!

    posted 18/3/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Talking about Spectrums
    I was up and about early on Saturday morning to head to SURBITON which, despite my suspicions, turns out to be an actual place rather than a comedy made-up name. I don't know, first Croydon turns out to be real, now Surbiton - perhaps that package holiday to Narnia wasn't such a daft idea after all?

    I was there to meet Professor Will Brooker and a couple of other Gentleman Of A Certain Age/Inclination to talk about people's memories of ZX SPECTRUMS for a film what Will is making. He said in his email that we should meet in reception and that we'd recognise each other by being the oldest people there. He was not wrong about this.

    We spent the next few hours walking from floor to floor in the building. Kingston University (where we were) has colour coded FLOORS, and each room has at least one wall painted the colour of its floor, I guess so you always know where you are, as otherwise they all look exactly the same. His cunning idea was to film each of us talking against the backdrop of one of these coloured walls, again (I imagine) to make us (mostly) middle-aged white men look a bit different to each other, and also to echo the screen colours of the Spectrum. Having seen some screen shots later on I must say this was a GRATE idea!

    We each did a brief interview on a different floor, keeping the three of us together throughout. This made it all feel a lot more comfortable, especially when you were the one talking as you could see the others nodding along with you. In between the interviews there were LENGTHY periods of us all just talking about ZX Spectrums, and most of THAT was someone saying the name of a game and the rest of us REMEMBERING. Saying "Dun Darach" or "Pyjamarama" OUT LOUD felt incredibly DECADENT, as these were SECRET WORDS that none of us had spoken out loud for DECADES. My BRANE started to hurt after a while as it was continually being forced to go and dig out information it hadn't accessed this entire century, but it was all a LOT of fun, and made me want to dash home and get an emulator running!

    Once we were all done the four of us popped round the corner for a coffee, where much the same thing continued. The only sad thing really is that the film isn't due to be finished and shown until the futuristic space year 2022 - I don't know if I can wait that long!

    posted 13/3/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Latveria In The Cold War
    I took the day off work last Wednesday, to go to... well, to go to UAL, where I work, but for a different reason than usual. For LO! I was heading to the London College Of Communication to spend the day at a conference about Transnational Comics.

    It was DEAD GOOD - there were lots of interesting talks, my favourite being the keynote given by Dr Ian Horton about Donald Duck in The Netherlands. Walt Disney comics are still hugely popular in Europe, and he showed how in a single issue there were stories taken from four or five different countries, also different time periods, with different backgrounds showing markedly different places. He talked about the weirdness of Donald sometimes clearly being Dutch and knowing how things worked, and sometimes clearly NOT, as well as how the different time periods all seemed to happen simultaneously. It was MOST INTERESTING, and I reckon gives a pretty good idea of what this Transnationalism is really ABOUT.

    I was doing a presentation myself, about how portrayals of Latveria (Doctor Doom's fictional homeland) changed over the course of the Cold War. It was an adaptation of a talk I did nearly two years ago, and it was a VERY different experience doing it this time. The original version had been my first comics presentation, so I STUFFED it full of quotations and footnotes, and read most of it off a piece of paper. Since then I've realised that it's actually better to SUMMARISE and express the BIG POINTS from a place of KNOWLEDGE i.e. have an idea what you are on about and what you want to say, but instead of working it all out like a SPEECH, use the SLIDES to guide yourself through it, more like a GIG.

    This way is a bit more NERVE-WRACKING but does involve a lot less LEARNING of text, and also tends to be a lot more entertaining to watch, I reckon, and it all seemed to go pretty well. The only downside of it was that, originally, I was meant to be doing a PAPER based on the original presentation but, after getting EXTENSIVE feedback from the peer reviewers, I'd decided not to. Now I'm thinking maybe I should! CURSES!

    posted 12/3/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Taking ROCK To Manchester
    I haven't played many times in Manchester, and so I wasn't sure what to expect when I headed off for this gig on Thursday, but my hopes of a GRATE night were raised when I arrived in town and received a text from my colleague Mr M Tiller informing me that we had ALREADY sold EIGHTEEN tickets! I know this is not quite Coldplay levels, but I am always amazed when ANYBODY books a ticket in advance (what if you can't go? why risk a fiver?!?) so was DELIGHTED!

    I was even more happy to arrive at the venue, Gulliver's, and find that it was DEAD NICE. Matt had got the PA system set up, and then we enjoyed the traditional 10 minutes of trying to get the lights to work before having to call the landlord in to stop the whole thing flashing on and off like a DISCO RAVE PARTY.

    I keep saying that the nicest thing about going back on the road is that you meet old chums, and this was entirely true again, notably with Ms E Pemberton and Ms C Birkby rolling up. There was time for some chat and a pint but then I had to go and sit on the DOOR - I really like doing the door at gigs, especially when we're also doing the lights and the sound and everything, it makes it feel as if the room is OURS for the duration! Matt went out and SCOOPED up everybody, and then it was time for me to go on and do THIS:
  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • Say It With Words
  • Cheer Up Love
  • Another Man's Laundry (hanging on your line)
  • Billy Jones Is Dead
  • The Perfect Love Song
  • You're A Tory Now
  • Two Blokes, One Pub
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • I Did A Gig In New York

  • I had a BLOODY LOVELY time. Usually when I do a gig I get to the song before last and think "Yes, it is time for me to finish now, my angelic voice is gently hinting at amphibian qualities and I have perhaps ROCKED everybody almost TOO much" but on this occasion I could have gone on for AGES more. As you can see above, it was a funny old set full of songs I hardly ever play live, with very few actual HITS in it - I have a BIG list of songs that I want to try out on this here tour, and now that we're over the halfway point I thought I'd better get on with DOING some of them!

    After a short break Matt went on and did, I think, the best gig he's done of the tour so far. They have all been GRATE, but this time it was like he was SURFING on WAVES of LARFS all the way through, with all sorts of silliness and big belly laughs at all points. It was an absolute DELIGHT to watch, and especially to feel the whole room DIGGING what he was doing, and especially especially when he did songs about his WIFE with his Father-in-law in the front row. It was ACE!

    I had originally had Hey Hey 16K on my setlist, but when I got to it I thought "This doesn't look like an audience that would be too bothered about ZX Spectrums" so didn't bother. However, when the show was over it turned out that someone had come SPECIFICALLY to hear that song, so a small group of us went into the back room to do it. I bet you do not get THESE levels of service with Mr B Springstreen, although if you did he would probably be better at remembering all the words.

    So ended yet another GRATE night of what is turning out to be a GRATE tour. We're in Bristol next, on Friday night, if you are in the area I would advise coming along, it will be FUN!

    posted 11/3/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Pancake Day
    Today is that most wonderful of days related to food items - PANCAKE DAY!

    There have been loads of songs about other parts of the year, notably Christmas but also Valentine's Day, New Year's Day (sepcifically how quiet it is) and of course everybody's birthdays, but there's never been one about Pancake Day.

    UNTIL NOW!



    For LO! this is the new single, out today, from John Dredge & The Plinths, the band what I am in as a sort of cack-handed Johnny Marr to John Dredge's Morrissey without the embarrassing bits (we should put that description on the next press release, it is a sure fire winner), along with Andy Harland as Mick Joyce and the mysterious Bob Burgon as Andy Rourke. The song's available to buy and stream on all the usual sites, most notably the band's bandcamp page, and we are SINCERELY hoping that it will be the song that, in future, everybody looks to when they need to run a news item on the telly about Pancacke Day or have a MONTAGE in a Romantic Comedy about Crepes. We're basically hoping it will do for Pancake Day what Prince did for 1999!

    There's a whole other EP of Plinths songs to come later on in this year, but for now we hope you "flipping" (flipping!) well enjoy this one!

    posted 5/3/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Rock And Roll Mayhem In South Yorkshire
    The 'No Headliner' Tour continued last week with a trip to Sheffield which was packed - PACKED I say - with mayhem of a rock and roll kind.

    It began with a terrifying SEVEN MINUTE delay to our train from London to Doncaster which meant that we missed our connectipon to Sheffield, despite the fact that Mr M Tiller has a fantastic APP on his phone which told us exactly which platform we needed to leg it to. What it didn't tell us was that the platform we ended up on had an ACTUAL PUB on it, The Draughtsman, which was a DELIGHTFUL place to a) wait b) have a pint in. There was then FURTHER TREPIDATION when we got on the next train and realised that we might have to buy new tickets, as it wasn't the one we'd booked for! PANIC!

    But then the very nice ticket inspector was fine about it. PHEW! MAYHEM!

    When we got to Sheffield we had AGES before showtime, so decided to have our tea a bit early. We were staying at the home of The Landlady (who now lives up there) and she'd promised us that she'd do us a MICROWAVE PLATTER for when we got home, so it seemed like a good idea to eat now. As we wandered down the road we saw a sign that said "Vegan Pies" - I feel that it is vitally important to support vegan/vegetarian endevours, ESPECIALLY when they involve PIES, but also cakes and beer, so we went in. It was VERY nice, and once we'd finished our tea Matt said that he was half thinking about maybe having a cocktail. The waitress said it was 2-for-1 so what could we do?



    It would have been rude not to really.

    After all that it was time to head for The Green Room, where we found our sound engineer for the evening, Brad, setting things up. Soon Mr T Eveleigh, promoter, arrived, and soundchecks were had. We met the headline act, Mr Roger Davies, and then we welcomed the various marvellous people who had come to see us. There were a LOT of them, and they were VERY marvellous - I flipping LOVE going to Sheffield because there are TONNES of bloody brilliant people there, a huge number of whom came along!

    The evening kicked off with Eve's Alias, which is Tim's new ACT - apparently this was their first gig, but if they hadn't mentioned it one would not have known - and then Matt took to the stage and WOWED the assembled throng of Sheffield Indie Royalty. He was so good in fact that he made me NERVOUS of doing quite as many UNFAMILIAR (to me) songs as I'd been planning, so switched it round a bit and did THIS:

  • Payday Is The Best Day
  • That Guy
  • Someone Else's Turn
  • You're A Tory Now
  • I'm Doing The Ironing
  • Two Blokes, One Pub
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • Clubbing In The Week
  • We Did It Anyway


  • Happily for me it all went down pretty well - everyone sang along with the end of Two Blokes, One Pub, as well as the choruses of It Only Works Because You're here, and I got to make some exciting and new REMARKS too. My one mistake, however, was saying that I was only doing Clubbing In The Week because I knew there was no chance of anybody suggesting it...

    The gig finished with Roger Davies, who was dead good - he doesn't SOUND like Ivor Game, who I've booked for Totally Acoustic as many times as I can, but he did REMIND me of him, in that he had all these SONGS that sounded like there were covers of HITS I'd never heard, but weren't. He was good!

    We then settled into CHAT, until one of the aforesaid Indie Royalty suggested we ACTUALLY DO go on somewhere else after closing, so a whole heap of us ended up crossing the road to The Devonshire Cat for EVEN MORE BOOZE and also GOOD TIMES, accompanied by various other delightful types such as the travelling army of Plymouth Argyle Supporters who have joined us on tour. It was BLOODY GRATE, and it was only the realisation that we had to get up in the morning that dragged us away to a taxi, and thence to the previously mentioned Micro-Platter.

    It was a BRILLIANT evening, as it pretty much always is in Sheffield. Touring is GRATE!

    posted 4/3/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Validators At The Roundhouse
    Friday afternoon saw me heading back to the Midlands, for LO! The Validators were playing their first gig of the year, and we were playing THE ROUNDHOUSE!

    All right, it was the Derby Roundhouse rather than the slightly more famous London one, but still, it was Quite A Big Deal for us. We were booked to play at the Derby Winter Beer Festival, a gig which I was understandably rather excited about playing - I have BEEN to many beer festivals, but actually PLAYING one has long been a dream!

    I thus got checked into my nearby hotel (I suspected I would not be wanting to do any travelling after this particular gig!) and then went to meet Mr FA Machine outside the station before heading over the bridge to the Roundhouse, where we found a GIGANTIC queue. Luckily Frankie knew what he was up to, and we found a Security Guard who waved us through the VIP entrance. Top Beer Festival Tip: it's much easier to persuade people you are "In The Band" when you have a guitar to wave at them.

    We had a drink and a wander around, and I must admit I started to feel a bit nervous, as there were LOADS of people around. The people themselves looked, to quote Tim later, "like a Fall gig" (who'd've thought?) but I was a bit trepidatious about how they'd react to us bellowing at them. I was thus quite relieved when we found our stage, in a marquee attached to the main building, where people could CHOOSE to visit or not.

    The rest of The Validators arrived in The Tigermobile, and Emma foolishly asked for my advice on How Beer Festivals Work - I was VERY happy to give it! We then went back to the stage area and met the other band. Tim had been in contact with their drummer, and it turned out that they had a LOT in common. Look, for instance, at this delightful picture of the two of them!



    Kevin, their drummer, had ALSO been in a Band You Read About In The Melody Maker back in the day - Adorable! Tim INSISTED that he had not been the first to mention being in a band before, and of COURSE we all believed him, and it was a delight to see the two of them together. Also, should Tim ever be kidnapped mid-tour, we know where to get an almost identical replacement!

    We did our soundcheck (which sounded LOUD), bumped into various PALS, and then wended our way back to the stage to do THIS:

  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • Can We Be Friends?
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • Billy Jones Is Dead
  • Two Nights, One Pub
  • Hibbett's Golden Rules Of Beer
  • Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met)
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • Hey Hey 16K
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Easily Impressed
  • We Did It Anyway
  • It was A BIT OF A WEIRD ONE! It was a set of HITS, The sound was GRATE, and we sounded, if I may so so, PRETTY FLIPPING GOOD with shockingly few errors, and the audience down the front BOTH liked it, but everybody else in the marquee pretty much ignored the whole thing! It felt STRANGE - we'd BLAST through a song VERY loudly and then the aforesaid two chums at the front would clap... and that would be about it! I am a VETERAN of beer festivals and very aware of the fact that people are there for the BEER and not the acts, but it did feel odd to be on the other side of things!

    Still, it was good fun, and what followed was MORE good fun as we staggered around in various combinations of Validators trying out all sorts of BEERS and having a bit of a yack. We also watched the other band, who were a (really good) indie covers band, doing a broad selection of songs that went down A LOT better than ours had! I think their lead singer must have been a bit of a Liam Gallagher fan though, as surely there is no other reason to cover a Liam Gallagher solo single? Other than that though I doff my ROCK hat to them, for LO! they got the whole tent going in a way we certainly did not!

    Eventually time was called and we were forced to depart, thus concluding what turns out to have been our first gig in Derby in FOURTEEN YEARS! Fear not, Derby, you will not have so long to wait for our return, as we're hoping to be back in May... for another Beer Festival!

    posted 25/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Tour Hits Leicester
    I had the afternoon off work on Wednesday, in order to head to my old stomping ground of Leicester to perform once again at The Leicester Comedy Festival. This time I was doing a show with Mr M Tiller, as part of our 'No Headliner' tour, rather than the more usual Mr S Hewitt, but just like Steve Matt was at the station early, and our ensuing journey went off without a hitch. We got to Leicester about two hours earlier than we needed to be for the show, due to tickets pricing, so we went to a nearby cafe, where Matt spent the two hours doing some work on his modern laptop, and I spent the two hours on the phone to My Literary Agent. Crumbs, it was a LONG conversation - we had spoken for an HOUR the night before about the next batch of changes to THE BOOK and overnight I had had a Good Old Think and come up with some IDEAS what we talked through at some extreme length. He is DEAD excited about the whole thing, hence the LONG discussions which, hopefully, will make the finished MASTERPIECE even better than what it is already. HARD TO IMAGINE I KNOW.

    While I was talking NOVELS and Matt was typing TV PITCHES two Comedians (including one Off The Telly) came in for a cuppa too. It was SO GLAMOROUS!

    With our work done we headed over to the Globe for a VERY MUCH needed pint, pausing only for a Vegan Sausage Roll from Greggs on the way (my first, it was good!). We were soon joined in the pub by Mr C Fisher, Mr T McClure, Jan from the Plymouth Argyle Supports Club (London Branch) (AGANE!) and then various delightful audience members. The only thing we DIDN'T have was a representative of the Cookie Club who we were doing the gig for. It turned out that the person they'd arranged to do the door for us hadn't turned up, but they IMMEDIATELY sent someone else running round the corner to sort it all out, which was GRATE, and meant the show was able to go on!

    Matt went first this time, with an ACTUAL FRENCH TEACHER (it turned out) doing 'Henri'! He also did his song about his family being Tories, which was a) GRATE but also b) meant I had to take MY song about people being Tories out of the setlist, and do THIS instead:

  • Clubbing In The Week
  • An Office Ballad
  • Cheer Up Love
  • I'm Doing The Ironing
  • Hibbett's Golden Rules Of Beer
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • Two Nights, One Pub
  • Easily Impressed
  • I also tried to do Chips And Cheese, Pint Of Wine but drew a complete BLANK on the words. Other than that it all went pretty well, and I was especially pleased to get all the way through Hibbett's Golden Rules Of Beer as I'm planning to do that at the Validators gig at the Derby Beer Festival tonight!

    We packed up, thanked the audience, and nipped downstairs for some more BOOZE, and I was once again reminded that the BEST thing about touring like this is that I get to see various PALS around the country. It was LOVELY, but all too soon it was time to head back to the station, where we saw the same two comedians ALSO waiting for their train back to That London. It's handy being able to do a gig like this without staying over, but it didn't half feel like a long journey home!

    And so ended the first section of TOUR - next is a string of gigs where I'll be staying OVERNIGHT in different cities! PREPARE FOR MAYHEM!

    posted 22/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Walthamstow Wetlands
    Over the weekend myself and The Ducks On My Pond went to Walthmstow Wetlands for a stomp around. It's what used to be (and partly still is) the reservoirs that you go through the middle of on the GOBLIN line after Blackhorse Road, but it's been spruced up with a visitor centre and signage to make it into A Thing You Can Go To rather than A Thing You Go Through. They've done a nice job of it too!

    Getting there was easy, on the secret train that goes twice an hour from Stratford to Tottenham Hale i.e. the same train I used to get when me and Steve used to practice at Bally. The short walk to the wetlands involves crossing the border into Waltham Forest, which was one of those ABRUPT changes where it stops being Tottenham and becomes almost LEAFY.

    The Wetlands itself is a bit like that too - there's trees and lakes and WATERFOWL so you could almost be in the countryside, but then if you look to the horizon you can see that it's surrounded by tower blocks and clumps of SKYSCRAPERS off in the distance. It also reminded me of The Olympic Park, where I live but don't like to go on about it, as a man-made place inching towards wildlife but with constant reminders that you were in a city. We were on the lookout for BIRDS - we didn't spot any Kingfishers or similar, but DID see a LOT of DUCKS. I like ducks, so this was fine with me!

    We may not have seen any rare plumage, but we did get to do a bit of CELEBRITY SPOTTING - I'm pretty sure we saw that bloke who was in 'Scrotal Recall'/'Lovesick' and also the start and end of 'Sex Education' (you would know him if you saw him). I did the traditional DOUBLE TAKE which he noticed, then we both did Polite Casual Pretending Not To Notice It Had Happened, which felt very sophisticated.

    It was a great visit, but crikey, we was KNACKERED when we got home, there is a LOT of reservoir to walk around!

    posted 19/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Taking The Tour To Camberwell
    On Sunday night I packed up my gig gear (guitar, MERCH, clean t-shirt) and headed out to CAMBERWELL, for the second night of the No Headliner Tour with Mr Matt Tiller.

    We were playing at The Joiner's Arms, one of those venues that I've HEARD about for years but never actually been in. It was dead nice! The front of the pub is A London Pub (i.e. it has one of those MASSIVE bar areas in the middle that London Pubs seem to love) and the back room is, well, a back room, with a stage area and a pool table. I knew we were in safe hands, venue-wise, when someone came out before the gig started and put a cover on the pool table so nobody could use it while the gig went on - sometimes in the past I've done gigs at pubs that almost seem to resent the fact it's happening, and determinedly maintain things like the pool table or juekbox, but the Joiner's very clearly LIKED having gigs on, and did it very well.

    Matt was already there when I arrived, and after some table shuffling and a brief, yet perfectly executed, soundcheck we were ready for people to arrive. Amazingly, LOADS of them did, including various Cresswells, Greens, Gilroys and Sarlls, and also my little brother! It was a GRATE turnout, full of friendly faces, and it almost felt like an imposition for me to go on and shout at them. ALAS that was what I was there for, so after a fulsome introduction from Matt I went on and did THIS:

  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • I Come From The Fens
  • Someone Else's Turn
  • The Saturday Lunchtime Wrestlers
  • An Office Ballad
  • I'm Doing The Ironing
  • You're A Tory Now
  • Do The Indie Kid
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • I REALLY enjoyed it. As previously stated I am setting out on this tour with the INTENT to do lots of different songs, so this time I did an almost entirely different set from what i did in Croydon last week. I've got a big list of ALL the songs I've been practicing, with ones I've already done marked, so in a way it does make it easier to PICK the setlist, though it feels a bit weird not to have access to all of the GUARANTEED BANGERS that I'd usually fall back on. The main thing is that it forces me to do more than just the old Uberset, and give some of the NEW songs more of a chance - as you can see from the above there were a LOT of them this time, including the world debut of An Office Ballad!

    There was a BEER interlude then it was my turn to go on and introduce Matt, who was of course FAB. I'm really enjoying playing with Matt on these gigs, I think our styles are COMPLIMENTARY yet Sufficiently Different to make for a Good Evening Out. I'm ESPECIALLY enjoying the 'Henri The Lorry Driver' song, which is a wonderfully different world of delight every time - last night he got a GENUINE (very drunk) FRENCHMAN to join him and it was HILARIOUS!

    After the gig there was time for chat and also some MERCH SALES, which is something I very much enjoyed, before fond farewells and then a LENGTHY journey home featuring an entirely kaput Jubilee Line. Apart from that though it had been a BLOODY GRATE night - it turns out that touring is ACE, come and see us on the other dates and I'll prove it to you!

    posted 18/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Stage Times Furore
    Yesterday there was an article in one of the tawdry free tabloids saying that The 100 Club were going to stop publishing stage times. This caused an ONLINE FURORE with sensible people pointing out the 300,000,000 very good reasons why this was stupid, some Perfectly Nice People saying "It's to make you see the support band" and 17 wazzocks saying "It's about the music maaaan."

    The 100 Club claimed that the reason they were doing it was to force people to come early and see the support bands because, hey, they could be the next big band, yeah? Obviously this is a load of bollocks, as the only reason they want people there early (as casually mentioned in a follow-up on the BBC) is so that you're forced to spend more money at the bar while you wait. "If people come here and see another band we are going to make a bit more money but it's not going to pay the rent on Oxford Street," he says. No, I imagine you make that money from hiring out the venue, what with that being YOUR BUSINESS and everything. Also, if venues like The 100 Club were ACTUALLY PLEASANT places to be in, and sold beer that DIDN'T turn you inside out the next morning, then people WOULD spend more time in there, rather than going to one of the MANY much much nicer around Oxford Street (who I imagine also pay rent) before heading down to see the band they had ACTUALLY PAID FOR. As The Beer In My Glass remarked when we discussed this, if the venue did things like telling you ACCURATE times when you went there you'd have a much nicer time and so would be MORE likely to go AGANE and spend MORE money too!

    I'm all for going and seeing the support band, having been a support band for the VAST majority of my gigs, but if you are the ARTISTE you specifically DO NOT want an audience of people who explicitly DO NOT WANT TO BE THERE. These are the absolute WORST people to try and play for - they will refuse to listen and talk LOUDLY all through your set, spoiling it for anyone who actually DOES want to see you, and will on occasion get on stage and try to PHYSICALLY REMOVE you so that their mates can come on and, invariably, play an hour of "blues funk with an indie twist", generally while wearing HATS.

    What you need is a set-up like they used to have at the Bull & Gate, back in the 1890s when I used to play there. That had an ACTUAL PUB which you could sit in and chat, undisturbed by whatever dreadful nonsense you were sharing the bill with, a dedicated GIG ROOM without a bar or toilets which was JUST for seeing bands in, and between the two a sort of halfway house with a BAR and some seats where you could hear the bands and, if you were curious, pop in to see them. This meant that punters could CHOOSE to go and look at someone they'd not seen before, rather than be forced to SHOUT over them, and once they were in it was up to the BAND to try and KEEP them there.

    It all comes down, I reckon, to who you think that gigs are FOR. I have been a gig-goer, a promoter and, of course, an International Rock Star, and in all those guises it has been clear to me that a gig is for THE BLOODY AUDIENCE. They're the ones who've come out to be entertained and have often PAID for the privilege. It's the JOB of the promoter to persuade them to come (by doing things like TELLING THEM WHEN IT'S HAPPENING), and of the band to ENTERTAIN them when they get there to such an extent that they a) want to come again and b) buy your MERCH. Oh and, of course, c) GET THEIR MINDS BLOWN BY HOW AWESOME YOU ARE.

    Sadly, many many bands what I have experienced over the years think the gig is for THEM. These are the ones who have all the costumes and pre-worked BANTER who get upset if it doesn't go exactly how they imagined, or the ones who do not even LOOK at the audience, let alone speak, and then complain that they didn't clap enough. These sort of bands or acts would be MUCH happier if they stayed in the rehearsal room, and to be honest so would the rest of us!

    In conclusion, then, I would say that it IS worth going to see support bands - they're usually crap because ALL bands are usually crap, but occasionally one isn't - but GOOD LORD if you have bothered to turn up then, as long as you don't spoil it for other people by e.g. standing at the front and talking loudly all the bloody way through the gig, you are free to come and go as you PLEASE. Any band, or promoter, that thinks otherwise does not deserve an audience in the first place!

    posted 13/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Tour Begins!
    On Thursday night last week the 'No Headliner' tour began, as all major international ROCK tours should, in Croydon. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: it went pretty well!

    I took the exciting new(ish) Thameslink route there, which goes DIRECTLY from underneath St Pancras and is DEAD handy. It's also not hugely busy, partly because TfL seems to be keeping SCHTUM about it. When I tried routeplanner it told me all sorts of long ways round to get from where I work to East Croydon, but the national rail planner had no such problems. I wonder if that's on purpose, to stop to many people using it? I ended up coming back that way too, on a train that was going all the way to PETERBOROUGH! THRILLZ!!

    The gig was at the Urban XChange Bar, which I'd not been to before, so I diligently researched it and found that a) I had to leave through the SIDE entrance of East Croydon Station (i.e. on PURPOSE rather than ACCIDENTALLY as I have before) and then b) go through Croydon's Hotel District. I wasn't aware that Croydon HAD a Hotel District, but it does make a lot of sense, location-wise, and sure enough it turned out to be a district full of HOTELS. It was also a bit confusing, with me ending up back near the main entrance of the station before I eventually found my way back to the correct venue, wherein I found Mr M Tiller and Mr T Eveleigh, ready to get things going.

    The venue is part of a HOTEL (see above re. District) which meant I could order my TEA directly from the Hotel Restaurant next door, which felt quite fancy. I continued my experiments drinking BEER again rather than Lager too, which again worked dead well as, SCIENCE shows, I do not get quite as DOOLALLY drinking Session Ales as I do drinking LAGER BEER.

    Various delightful people rolled up, not least Mr B Parker who I'd not seen for AGES, and soon it was time for the SHOW to begin, with Big Tim doing the introductions and local ARTISTE Mr D Sears on first. Dave mentioned several times in his set that the audience was "quiet" during the songs, as if it was something he wasn't used to - he is one of them FOLK musicians, so maybe people at those sort of gigs CHAT throughout? I always remember being confused seeing folk music played in a pub with the singer apparently unbothered by people YACKING, so maybe that's how it works?

    Next up was Matt who OBVS was GRATE - he did some fab NEW songs including a dead good one about being CLUMSY, but my favourite bit of his set was when he did the French Lorry Driver one. This is where he gets someone on stage to "translate" his French story, and starts with him asking for someone who can speak French to come on stage. The first volunteer was eating a pizza, so couldn't spare the time, and nobody else wanted to do it until a chap at the back decided to help him out. He'd shouted things out a couple of times already and practically strutted on stage, so I wondered whether he was one of those people who want to mess things up and/or be difficult, but he was actually BRILLIANT! He read the whole thing out properly, except for one line which he DID A JOKE with, and was all round MARVELLOUS. I love it when that sort of thing happens, it was An Theatrical Moment!

    Then it was my turn to go on, and this is what I did:
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • You're A Tory Now
  • In The North Stand
  • Mental Judo
  • Two Nights, One Pub
  • Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • It seemed to go all right - it was a bit difficult to tell because the stage lights were quite bright, so the only people I could see were the members of The Plymouth Argyle Supporters Association (London Branch) who'd come to see Matt. They looked happy, so I took that as a good sign!

    I must admit I was a bit nervous as this was my first gig of the year, and my first actual full-length PUB-based solo gig since I last played in Croydon, nearly ten months ago! This meant there were a couple of ERRORS (notably getting the verses mixed up and occasionally re-written during Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid) and I think I rushed through the CHAT a bit (although nobody seemed to complain - just being polite, I expect), but otherwise if felt GOOD. I very much enjoyed singing Mental Judo, and was ESPECIALLY proud of myself for doing You're A Tory Now, which I had only actually finished writing the day before!

    It was a GRATE first date of the tour, and hopefully a sign to ME that doing new songs is FINE. I have a list of about 38 potential HITS to bring out over this string of dates, and hopefully I will try and DO most of them, rather than what I usually do i.e. chicken out and do the same UBERSET on every date! If you're in London, Leicester, Sheffield, Bristol, Manchester or ENVIRONS then do please come along to one of the tour dates and see how I get on!

    posted 11/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Confirmation
    As mentioned last time, I'm currently going through the process of 'Confirmation' for my PhD. This sort of thing apparently works differently at different universities, but at UAL it's basically the bit where I have to prove that what I'm doing is sensible, and that they should definitely let me do it as a PhD. This seems a bit over the top to me - is there anything MORE suitable for research than Doctor Doom between 1961 and 1987?!? - but I am HUMOURING them.

    As part of this process you have to present an ASPECT of your research in front of your PEERS, so on Monday this week I rolled up at an all day SYMPOSIUM to do exactly that. I'd taken the day off work to do it, so it felt a bit of a let down to still turn up AT work on my day off (NB I work at UAL too), at the same time I usually get in, and then just go to a different room. Also, I know the people who RUN these events, as they only sit a few desks back from me (and excitingly have Access Databases which I know how to fix)!

    Once it got going it was not entirely the same as my day job, as there were a lot more POWERPOINT presentations than in a usual day. There's a HUGE range of research topics being done at UAL, and so some of the talks were VERY interesting and some of them were Somewhat Less So (to me anyway), but I was constantly Mildly Distracted by the fact that I was on LAST, and so had to wait until the VERY END to do my bit.

    When it was eventually my turn I went up and did a version of the paper I gave last November at the Transitions Conference, all about Doctor Doom's appearances in 'Not Brand Echh', Marvel's rip-off of 'Mad'. I made a few changes, like explaining the idea of the PhD a bit at the start, and cutting out some of the more esoteric gags (I guess not everybody finds J Michael Straczynski's run on 'Amazing Spider-Man' INHERENTLY AMUSING), but otherwise it was pretty similar and, actually, good fun to be doing it again.

    Afterwards there was a panel discussion and, JUST like last time, everybody else got piercing questions about their research and MY first question was 'Who would win out of Magneto and Doctor Doom?' I don't know why, but pretty much EVERY time I do a comics presentation, no matter how HIGH FALUTIN' the event, people ask this sort of question. Luckily I knew the answer ("It's always Doom, except if he fights Squirrel Girl"), but the other questions were a bit trickier, notably when somebody asked me what the contribution to knowledge was and I went OFF ON ONE a bit about how studying comics is PRECISELY as viable as studying films or books.

    Everyone seemed to think it went well, although my supervisor did warn about being TOO FUNNY (a constant trial!) as it gave people from Other (SNOOTIER) Fields an excuse to dismiss Comics Studies as Not Serious and Not Important. My initial response, which I expressed at the time, was "Screw Those Guys", but I guess that doesn't really work if you're trying to get Art Historians to give you funding.

    Hang on a minute, is that what I never got funding for the PhD?!? WHY must I be so CONSTANTLY HILARIOUS?!? It's not fair!

    posted 7/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Pulse Pounding Publications
    Those of you who are regular readers of Marvel Age Doom, my ongoing blog where I read through every appearance of Doctor Doom in Marvel Comics between 1961 and 1987, will already be aware of the EXCITING NEWS that I have had my first comics studies academic paper published. Those of you who are not regular readers, give it a go - it's basically the same as this blog, except that the main character is from Latveria instead of Peterborough!

    The paper is called 'In Search of Doom: Tracking a Wandering Character Through Data' and it's in a journal called IMAGE: The Journal of Interdisciplinary Image Science which you can read for FREE online. It's all about how I used databases to put together the ENORMOUS list of comics I'm reading and will, I feel, be fairly interesting to anyone who reads this who is ALSO interested in comics AND/OR computing. I mean, I know that most of you are SPORTS STARS, SUPERMODELS and ASTRONAUTS, but I guess there might be somebody out there who falls into the former categories?

    I'm really chuffed to have got this out there. It's based on the paper I did when I went to Tuebingen last year, and it was HEAVILY helped along by Lukas Wilde, the chap who ran the conference. He was EXTREMELY concerned about it all being CORRECT, and as a result I reckon it has come out PRETTY GOOD, so much so that I'm going to be re-using the article as part of my PhD Confirmation process, which is currently ongoing. More on that, next time!

    posted 6/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Band Meeting
    It was CHRISTMAS in Leicester on Saturday night - I know this because when I checked into the Premier Inn that afternoon the receptionist said they'd got quite a lot of Christmas parties staying. She then asked what I was in town for.

    "A Christmas party!" I replied. For LO! It was time for that that most FESTIVE annual event, the Validators' Christmas Curry! Last year's was in Leicester and it was SO nice that we decided to have it there again, and so it was that I dropped off my bags, popped back to the station to collect Mr FA Machine, and then walked over to The Ale Waggon for pre-dinner BEERS, and also a BAND MEETING.

    It was, as ever, flipping LOVELY to get everyone together again, and also incredibly EFFICIENT. We discussed many issues pertaining to the year ahead, not least a decision have a go at recording a new EP. As Tim said, we can't be in the 2019 Dandelion Radio Festive 50 if we don't actually release anything!

    It was also a chance for me to experiment with drinking ACTUAL BEER again. For the past year or so I've been trying to reduce YEAST intake by drinking LAGER instead, but it doesn't seem to have achieved all that much, so I thought I'd trial a return to ALE. It was a trial I very much enjoyed taking part in!

    With all business concluded we strolled round to Kayal for our curry, which was ACE. At first I was a little disappointed that the portions actually fitted on our plates, but later on when I did NOT have eyes BULGING with food I was grateful. It was dead nice!

    We discussed the usual topics that all insane rock and roll bands do - writing wills, the works of JK Jerome, wellbeing practices etc etc - and had a flipping DELIGHTFUL time all round. Normally I'd come away from these events sad that we wouldn't be seeing each other again, but happily we're playing at the Derby Winter Beer Festival in a couple of weeks. We don't know what time we're playing or anything, but I'm pretty sure I'll have a chance to try ALE again!

    posted 5/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Culture In Camberwell
    Sometimes I think I should hire this blog out to Time Out or The Face or something, as it is basically a CULTURAL DIARY full of HIGHBROW ARTS. For instance, today's missive is all about an ART SHOW what I went to on Wednesday night, in distant Camberwell.

    I was there to see some Performance Art featuring The Artist Tom Smith (AKA my baby brother, leave him alone, he's only little), taking place at the South London Gallery, which happens to be right next door to the Camberwell College Of Art where I sometimes have to go with WORK. I thus knew how to get there and arrived a good half hour before showtime, which mean I had plenty of time to sit in the cafe and have a nice, but VERY expensive, cup of coffee, and a nice, but INCREDIBLY expensive Small Can Of Lager. 4.50 for a coke-sized can of lager?!? I've lived in London a long time, but even I had cause to raise an eyebrow!


    The show itself was GRATE, although it was a bit weird a) seeing things that Thomas had TALKED about in the pub for the past year appear before mine eyes and especially b) hearing him tell stories about his youth that I KNEW to be untrue. It was all I could do to restrain myself from jumping up and shouting "You never had a Lazer Disc player! NOTHING IS REAL!" There was also a dead good bit which he'd TOLD me about where (spoilers) everything seemed to go wrong, which was done SO convincingly that I thought it actually had!

    Anyway, it was dead good and it was called Messages From Friends and it was dead good and if you go be nice to him because HE IS ONLY SEVEN.

    After his bit there was a BREAK, during which I discovered that certain ROCK skills are very much transferable to ART i.e. as SOON as the lights go down for the interval you need to DASH to the bar otherwise there'll be a MASSIVE queue. How I chortled at the poor fools queuing up five minutes later, as I sipped another can of LUDICROUSLY priced lager!

    posted 1/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Good Grief, Charlie Brown
    On Saturday The Panels In My Strip went to see Good Grief, Charlie Brown, at Somerset House, an exhibition about Charles Schultz, 'Peanuts', and art inspired by it.

    It was DEAD GOOD.

    We'd been meaning to go for ages, and it was WELL worth the wait. It was set out over two LONG rooms over two floors, with double sided boards throughout the middle, almost all of which featured the original artwork for several strips. The best thing about THAT, obviously, was that there was a lot of 'Peanuts' to read, but there was all sorts of information along the sides packed with new (to us) FACTS. I grew up thinking of 'Peanuts' as just another cartoon in my Nan's newspaper, not much different to 'Garfield' with its cheesy gags, tonnes of merchandise, and sligthly sentimental cartoon shows. I never thought of it as anything more than that at the time, but seeing it in this context made me realise how funny it was, and how touching it could be too. Also, things like Schultz's support for feminism, and the introduction of Franklin, and his invention of the term 'security blanket' and... well, lots of things, were all EXTREMELY interesting.

    I was also surprised to see 'Peanuts' described as the longest ongoing work of art produced by one person. I'd just assumed that, like most daily newspaper strip cartoonists, he'd used a studio of some kind, especially when it all got famous, but apparently not. I suppose that is why you can see the style change as it goes along, especially in the first few years.

    In theory it was also an exhibition about the art that 'Peanuts' had inspired, but to be honest we didn't pay much attention to that, and I didn't see anybody else doing it much either. The central displays were much too interesting to be distracted by a big Charlie Brown jumper, although I DID really like Good Old Gregor Brown, an extremely clever version of Kafka's 'Metamorphosis' using the 'Peanuts' characters which was respectful to BOTH.

    The one thing they didn't seem to mention much was the commercialisation of the strip. There were LOTS of displays of actual Merchandise (including some copies of the Peanuts Books which I'm sure I wasn't the only person to SNIFF as they passed by) but not much discussion of what some people would say was an oversaturation, to the point where PILLOCKS like me only saw the Cuddly Toys and not the stories themselves. Other than that thought it was BRILLIANT - I would highly recommend it, and also a trip through the GIFT SHOP on the way out!

    Afterwards we headed up to Angel to attend the BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS of that most marvellous of humans, Mr J Jervis. We'd gone for the EARLY session, before the main evening DO at The Lexington, which meant we got to spend a lovely few hours chatting to him and Mr B Clancy before they had to go round the corner, while we got to go home for curry! It was the perfect end to a ruddy DELIGHTFUL day!

    posted 30/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Billy Bragg In Islington
    On Friday night last week I went to see Billy Bragg, an artiste whom I do not know much about, honest guv, who has had no influence wotever on my own stylings, no really, it is true.

    Oh all right yes, he is probably second only to John Otway in the great list of Acts I Have Ripped Off Been Influenced By. I hadn't seen him for AGES though, so when Mr S Hewitt suggested going I jumped at the chance. It was originally meant to be happening at ULU, but then got moved to Islington Assembly Hall. We got emails from the promoters apologising for the fact that our tickets had been designated in the balcony upstairs, where ALAS we would have to SIT DOWN for the duration. DISASTER!

    I met Steve beforehand in The Taproom just over the road from the venue. This was a Craft Beer Bar, in Islington, selling Vegan food and directly opposite a Billy Bragg gig, yet it was weirdly NOT full to the rafters with beards, radical bookshops or union convenors. What is the world coming to? It was still very nice though, and I had a LOVELY vegan pizza!

    Eventually we wobbled over the road, arriving just in time to get a beer in and catch the last 30 seconds of the support band. Some skills never leave you! After an appropriate interlude Billy himself came on, and was GRATE. He was talking about the fact that he now has a Senior Citizen's Railcard, which seemed incredible because a) Billy Bragg is 27, everyone knows that and b) however old he is, he looks very good on it. The actual set had a surprisingly large amount of material from what I think of as his "middle period", around "William Bloke" and "Don't Try This At Home", which I guess in reality is more like his "really really early period", and was FAB. It was also rather wonderful to be able to sit down. The Assembly Hall was dead good, especially as we got seats on the end of a row with easy access to the bar, the loo, and, for certain members of our party (NB not me) a space to stand up and punch the air.

    It was a lovely evening, I must learn more about this Bragg character!

    posted 29/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Hardest Job In The World
    I've spent a huge amount of my time this past week or so doing THE WRITING and I tell you what, it is surely The Hardest Job In The World.

    This batch of The Writing has been brought about by My Agent (ZANG!) who rang up last week for a lengthy conversation about what needs fixing with THE NOVEL. One of the GRATE things about My Agent is that he applies the full force of his mighty BRANE to these things, and had a metric TONNE of EXTREMELY good points to make. Long-term chums may recall a couple of years ago when I briefly had another agent, who suggested that THE NOVEL needed a few TWEAKS before it was ready to go off to publishers. She left that Agency before contracts got signed and I was dropped, which at the time was pretty upsetting, but now, like a California Wellness Guru, I realise that it was actually a Good Thing, as there was loads of stuff that needed sorting out that hadn't been picked up on, but which IS being picked up on now.

    The only trouble is that I now have to go through and DO the changes! This is the second time My Agent has rung up to highlight a bunch of issues that need addressing - the first lot got done just before Christmas, and involved some vast chunks of New Stuff which was a LOT of fun to write, but this batch is a) not as extensive but b) a lot more hard work, as I'm going through picking out things like "tone" and dialogue changes and Narrative Consistency that is important but not quite as much of a LARF to do. It feels like WORK!

    The most difficult bit is thinking up new JOKES. About once a day I get to a section that needs a new joke, and I usually end up having to go for a walk around the flat, mumbling to myself, to try and think it up. On the bright side, it does mean at least once a day I get to LARF at one of my own (brand new) jokes!

    Concurrent with all of this literary activity I am also gently gearing up for the No Headliner Tour with Mr M Tiller which begins next week. I'm trying to do around 20 minutes of SINGING a night to a) get my THROAT used to it and b) try and work out which songs I know. So far, to my surprise, both throat and BRANE have been functioning well, but my FINGERS are a mess of blisters. Oh how I suffer for ART!

    posted 24/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Two Nights At The Cinema
    It was a right cultural whirligig round our way last weekend, with THEATRE, LIVE FILMING, and then on Sunday evening the first of TWO trips to The Pictures!

    The Lights and Camera of my Action had suggested we go to see "Bohemian Rhapsody". the Queen film that came out a while ago. We'd meant to go and see it over Christmas but hadn't got around it it, and assumed it had long gone, but she discovered it was still showing at our local VUE. I confidently declared that we would probably be the only people there, as it had been on for so long, so was a little discombobulated when we arrived to discover that it was SOLD OUT!

    We would later discover that it was showing in one of the small rooms upstairs in the Vue, where they usually show The Art Films, and guessed that it had probably been put there to finish off its run, only to suddenly get attention again with The Golden Globes win the other week. We had got all dressed up to go out of the house and didn't want to just slink home so we had a look at what ELSE was showing, booked tickets for "Stand & Ollie" a little while later, and went for a DRINK!

    Having a DRINK was such good fun that we decided to have another during the FILM, which was a lovely idea except for the fact that OH MY WORD it takes a long time to buy anything in that cinema. Unless you go at approx 10am there is ALWAYS a huge queue, and we later debated whether this was a tactical decision. Maybe Vue think punters will initially queue up just for a ticket, but after spending TWENTY MINUTES waiting in line they eventually decide to make it worth their while and spend A MILLION POUNDS on a drink and popcorn as well. If this is the case, then they only have themselves to blame for people choosing to stay home instead - drinks and snacks are easily accessible and FREE there, and all you need to do to get That Real Cinema Experience is sit closer to the telly!

    EVENTUALLY we got in, and even managed to get an "upgrade" to the VIP seats by... er... going and sitting in them. I must say they were very comfy, and you get a GRATE view - take THAT, Vue Cinemas! Actually I spent the first ten minutes of the film terrified we would get Told Off, but luckily I was with an International Rebel who said, correctly, it would be FINE.

    We had differing views on the film itself. The Steps In My Dance Routine didn't like Steve Coogan in it, and thought he was basically doing Alan Partridge with a weird unconvincing accent, which is a criticism I can accept. I, however, flipping LOVED it. I don't know what it was about the story of MEN going on the road together and playing to small audiences, but something about it clicked with me. I especially loved the bit at the end where they're on stage and the camera goes back to just show their Iconic Silhouettes. It MOVED me!

    There were no such difference in opinions the NEXT night when we tried again to see "Bohemian Rhapsody" and this time succeeded. It was GRATE! I do LOVE a good Rock Biopic and this was a REALLY good one. There were Astounding Impersonations! Re-workings of Well Known Events! Clearly Shoe-Horned-In Moments Of Jeopardy! A MONTAGE within the first twenty minutes showing them going from rehearsal to sellout show! Several other "writing the song" MONTAGES going from "No, I don't want to play the hit song 'Under Pressure' I refuse" to it being a HIT! Several people saying "There is no way that this song will be re-released several times and become a major international anthem"!

    One of the few things it was missing was a series of PUNS based around song titles e.g. a clear opportunity was missed to show a magician at one of Freddie's parties and have John Deacon say "What do you think to the illusionist, Brian?" and Brian May reply "Well, It's A Kind Of Magic, I suppose... HANG ON!" or at ANY POINT Roger Taylor hurting himself and insisting that they do the gig because "The Show Must Go On guys... HANG ON!"

    What it did have in BULK was Historical Revisionism. Crumbs! When we left the cinema we were wondering why it had got such bad reviews, but then a look online later showed that a lot of it was due to people OUTRAGED by how much things had been changed around. I am not the sort of person to know the in-depth histories of bands (NB apart from The Beatles OBVS, but surely everybody knows exact dates for all events in their lives and has read The Big Mark Lewisohn Book?) so was Quite Surprised to find quite HOW MUCH they had changed things. As The Dates On My Calendar later remarked, it was less a biopic and more of a ROCK MUSICAL loosely based on The Story Of Queen.

    It was still dead good tho, and my only complaint about its Golden Globe success would be to say that The Bloke Who Played Brian May was ROBBED - and I say that as someone who has stood mere FEET away from the great man at a Badger Demo for SEVERAL minutes. He was AMAZING!

    posted 18/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Filmic Innovation
    I was back in the STUDIO on Sunday afternoon to commence filming new VIDEOS for the next PLINTHS release.

    Myself and Mr J Dredge gathered in Theatre Deli in Broadgate to do filming for TWO (2) films. We only really needed to do ONE (1), for the next single which should be out in March, but I knew that we are SO EFFICIENT that we usually only use the first hour of our two hour bookings, so we worked out something else to do if that became the case. SPOILERS: it did.

    The first video we did was for the song "Pancake Day". I've wanted to do a DANCING video for AGES, ever since The Knees In My Legs watched the video for What Is Life by G Harrison and LOVED it. John and I discussed what we could do, with the initial idea that we'd have John doing simple dance moves, and make it look like there were three of him doing them at the same time. However, once we got started I realised that a) this would be really difficult and b) it looked GRATE with just him doing it on his own. It may surprise you to find out that I am NOT a professionally trained DANCE director, but it turns out that watching several series of Strictly and going to CHARLESTON lessons about a decade ago is all the training I needed to stand there saying "PLACE your hand! STRAIGHTEN your leg! Marvellous darling!"

    It may also surprise those who know him to find out that John is NOT a professionally trained dancer, but once we got going he WENT for it, and looked GRATE. We did a whole bunch of different moves which we'll cut together, and I fuly expect "Pancaking" to take its place alongside "Dabbing" and "Flossing" at all of next season's high society balls.

    After that we did some stuff for a song called "Idiots Rule The World". The idea for this was to film John's face singing the song, so I could superimpose it over some ACTUAL idiots who rule the world. To enable this I had bought some sheets of green paper from the Art Shop at work, and we spent some very happy minutes cutting a hole out to fit John's FACE. This left a gap around the sides, so we stuck another sheet across the back, making a rather marvellous Personal Green Screen, as seen below.




    Watch out Andy Serkis, there are new Special Effects Experts in town! To make it work properly I ended up stood behind John, holding the side of the sheets with one hand and shining the torch from my phone down the back with the other, to try and keep it all the same shade of green, which I feel made John look like the SECOND daftest person in the room. I was very glad the the windows along the sides of the room were FROSTED!

    When I got home I had a quick check to make sure that this had actually WORKED, and was amazed and relieved to find that YES, it actually had! There will now follow several weeks of tinkering with both videos before we UNLEASH them on the public, but hopefully this blog will serve as a Behind The Scenes Documentary TEASER until then!

    posted 16/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Back To The Panto
    On Saturday afternoon myself and The Rising Of My Curtain went to the THEATRE in London's Fashionable Stratford area of London, there to see THE PANTO!

    We last went to the panto at the same venue a couple of years ago, but that time we had sat in the STALLS. THIS time we'd been invited by a chum who had splashed out (about four months ago when there were bargains) on a BOX. I've never been in A BOX at The Theatre before, and found the whole experience Quite Luxurious. It was right up by the stage, so you had to lean out sometimes to see what was going on, but it was dead nice being in your own private little ROOM. If I ever get to do something like that then I will investigate taking a PICNIC!

    The show itself was Quite Good, but much like last time I found myself taking NOTES throughout. It was the penultimate show of the run (with the last one that evening) so I thought it would be full of LARKING ABOUT and also EXTRA BUSINESS but it was actually played Very Straight Indeed. Almost TOO straight in places - the whole show stuck very firmly to The Story, so there wasn't much in the way of topical gags, and the Jokes That Only Grown-Ups Will Understand came thick and fast for the first ten minutes, and then petered out in favour of Getting Children To Dance, which, to be fair, was FAB. Is "flossing" on The National Curriculum, or are The Young People just very mobile these days?

    The cast were GRATE throughout, though there were bits where, if I had been DIRECTING, I would have said "No, that line is a JOKE, try saying it as such." It's WEIRD - on the rare occasions I have encountered Actual Actors they never seem to notice JOKES and have to have them pointed out, but then try and do OTHER lines as jokes that AREN'T. Do they not teach GAGS at RADA, or is it Advanced Flossing instead?

    One thing they definitely DID do properly though was Mention Local Places e.g. when they had to go into the forest it was EPPING FOREST, the shops were Westfield, the palace was in Stratford etc etc. It is always weirdly exciting to hear Somewhere You Live mentioned like this, I must remember to add it to my Things Everyone Likes list, along with Seeing Two Or More People Moving In Unison and Finishing On A Song.

    In fact, I must remember to send that list round Theatres next year. Come on, PANTO BOOKERS, call me!

    posted 15/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Collaborative Curries
    The Validators are world-renowned for their rock and roll excesses, crazy lifestyles, and "don't give a flip" attitude, but, beneath that surface layer of sheer 100% punk rock, it may surprise you to learn that we can also on occasion be Quite Organised.

    This was evidenced a few days ago when everyone received an email from Mr FA Machine with SIX agenda items for discussion regarding our activities in 2019. Along with items about GIGS and RECORDING he also made the very VALID point that we had not yet arranged our Christmas Curry. This is an hallowed tradition, undertaken almost every year, generally just AFTER Christmas when we... well, have a curry. We also take the opportunity to have a Band Meeting too, and after Frankie's email several more items were brought up for the agenda, not least a BOOK SWAP which, I am sure you will agree, is about as flipping rock and ruddy roll as it is possible to get. Watch out, William Idol, there are some new crazy rebels in town!

    We will thus be convening in early February to dine and discuss. Coincidentally this will take place only a couple of days after ANOTHER grand tradition with Artistic Collaborators i.e. a CAMDEN curry with Mr & Mrs Hewitt. Two curries in one week? No wonder Him Out Of The Libertines is looking worried!

    posted 11/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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