Ten reasons why 2014 will rock

Skipping the customary review of last year here’s some bands that I saw / heard for the first time during the past 12 months that I’m looking forward to seeing more of in 2014. It’s not a list of ‘favourites’ – just a bunch of great bands that really caught my attention….

Corby punks Cretin 77‘s ‘Cretin City Terminal’ was a really confident debut album full of hooks and strong mid paced tunes. With a nod to Jello Biafra and the Dead Kennedy’s and even a bit of GBH too they are part of what is putting Corby on the punk map of 2014. Most videos on youtube don’t do them full justice so try Sleep In Your Car and Satellite Smile from their live demo on Soundcloud.

Cretin 77 at the Crauford Arms (photo Steve Cotton / artofthestate)

The Ramonas are an all girl Ramones cover band. I never really got the idea of a covers band until I saw the Ramonas – they were more than sufficiently like the Ramones but also sufficiently different too. Excellent live, you’re guaranteed of a great night out – see this footage from the Wickerman festival if you need convincing.

The Ramonas – Reading Sub 89 (photo Steve Cotton / artofthestate)

Maid of Ace - I nearly saw this lot so many times in 2013 but finally managed to catch them live on the 28th December at the New Cross Inn. Their excellent ‘Spittin Blood‘ promo video sums up their style very nicely. They haven’t got any releases yet that I know of – expect that to change in 2014.

Maid of Ace in New Cross (photo Steve Cotton / artofthestate)

I caught the The Computers for the first time when they were supporting the Damned and was immediately won over by their infectious good times attitude  and their full on interaction with the crowd. It’s rare enough to see a band that fires on all four cylinders but when there’s five going off all at once it’s quite something special. Favourite single? Disco Sucks of course.

The Computers – Reading Sub89 (photo Steve Cotton / artofthestate)

Barb Wire Dolls. They may be taking the beginning of the year off to work on their new album and get down new songs such as Heart Attack and Take Me Home but I expect them to be back to the UK with more of their ridiculously full on performances in 2014 – even hospitalisations on their recent tour failed to stop them .

Barb Wire Dolls, Wolverton (photo Steve Cotton / artofthestate)

Louise Distras made plenty of waves in 2013 and with her recently released and critically acclaimed album ‘Dreams From The Factory Floor’ out now 2014 seems like things will only go from strength to strength for the solo singer. Have a look at Shades Of Hate here.

Louise Distras, 100 Club (photo Steve Cotton / artofthestate)

Acidez – Mexico’s UK82 punk metal thrashers come to Europe early in 2014 – and I can’t wait. Their Don’t Ask For Permission LP is constantly on my turntable and their videos are some of the most eye catching in recent times. Check out Don’t Ask For Permission.

Acidez (photo from Acidez)

Thirty Six Strategies – I saw them twice in 2013 and they went from an initial decent rating to excellent in the space of two weeks – so god knows how good they are now having packed a fair few more gigs under their belts as well as releasing their debut CD EP.

Thirty Six Strategies at Water Rats (photo Steve Cotton / artofthestate)

It’s no accident that I’ve seen Blatoidea more than any other band in the past 12 months, either as a support band or a headliner. Yes, they’re London based and play all the time but that’s not the reason. Their debut abum ‘Infected’ is all killer no filler from beginning to end and built solidly on the promise of their Alive EP.

Blatoidea in Stockwell (photo Steve Cotton / artofthestate)

Finally I’m looking forward to seeing Brains All Gone. The Polish trio play ridiculously catchy punky songs. Standout for me is ‘Education’ off their ‘Outcasts Of Society’ EP, see it here in a video recorded and directed by Piotr Zaorski. They play Hell Hath No Fury with Maid Of Ace in April.

Brains All Gone (photo from Brains All Gone)

 

A little bit of fun with a Nokia Lumia 1020

Over the past month I’ve been trying out the new 41 Megapixel Lumia 1020 smartphone from Nokia. As part of the trial Nokia supplied two miniature figures similar to the type Slinkachu uses in his pictures and suggested using these to have some fun with the Lumia’s camera. So I’ve had them in my pocket when I’ve been out and about and here’s the results to date:

First go with the camera and a discarded Sushi roll on a City Of London street is a decent find for the photographer figure.

Down in Brick Lane I added the second figure for the first time – an old lady in a hat and scarf. The centre of a a disused fountain provided the desolate backdrop.

A bit further on and I incorporated the lady into the remains of another miniature street art piece whilst behind was a much larger wall work featuring a lady wearing a great deal less.

Slinkachu style figures are more typically at home on a model railway so knowing exactly where to go to get this photo helped. To give the shot a street art kick I added a Dface D-Dog figure as if it had crash landed there (a nod to this Dface installation).

Out in the early evening alongside the river in Staines a statue base gave the impression that we were more likely to be in ancient Egypt (if you ignore the trees in the background)!

Looking the other way in the same location our lady wanted her image taken against the backdrop of a setting sun. Ah, nice.

Back in Shoreditch – graffiti at the end of Willow Street provided another photo opportunity for the couple. If she looks cold it’s because it was!

Heading indoors this was taken in One New Change, a recently built shopping centre in the City near St Paul’s that looks more like something out of Bladerunner in this picture.

Waterloo Station now with the train departure boards in the background. It’s nice to see the effective blur the camera produces but I was looking for something that would show off the camera’s bokeh capabilities.

 And this was it…a Christmas tree on the concourse provided some beautiful circles of light in the background of the picture and really show off the 1020′s ability to produce a ‘bokeh’ effect.

Finally here’s another shot taken on a model railway with a London Police ‘Lads’ figure causing a commotion in the centre of the village square. The battery grip that can be attached to the Lumia 1020 has a tripod socket which proved very useful in setting up this shot.

The 1020 will be off back to Nokia in just a few days. It’s been just great to have all this capability in my pocket for the past month and I’m going to miss it….

zooming east

As part of the incentive for trying out the new Lumia 1020 (see previous postNokia had arranged for a group of bloggers including myself to go on a street art tour of East London. I’ve seen a lot of these about over recent years and my personal opinion is that some are of dubious quality. No need to worry though – Nokia had obviously done their homework and very sensibly booked us on with Dave from Shoreditch Street Art Tours. Now Dave ‘NoLionsInEngland’ has a pretty encyclopaedic knowledge of London’s street art scene but what I really rated about his tour was the way that he actually understood the art and was able to weave a story of patterns, motives, techniques, style and even history into a well paced walk which took in all the best art East London has to offer. I considered myself familiar with much of the work on show but I was amazed how much I learnt during the afternoon, ably assisted by knowledge imparted by fellow bloggers from Hooked BlogInspiring City and LDN Graffiti - cheers fellas!

 

Clustered around a work by Clet Abraham we all started to get acquainted with our Lumia 1020 phones. (photo Steve Cotton / taken with a Nokia Luma 1020)

Mark from Hooked Blog hopped up on to a handy bin to capture a great shot of  this sculpture by Jonesy, definitely one of my favourite pieces pointed out to us on the day. Mark’s picture turned out just great – have a look here. I should have passed my camera up to him so I got one too! (photo Steve Cotton / taken with a Nokia Luma 1020)

Further on we were shown many fresh new works of art by our tour guide Dave. Vibes fresh and vibrant wall work was one of my favourites. (photo Steve Cotton / taken with a Nokia Luma 1020).

Normally with a shutter speed of half a second you’d expect a photo like this of Steve Espo’s work on Village Underground to be a blurry mess but a combination of digging my elbows into my sides, not breathing and more importantly the Lumias image stabilisation meant that this hand held night time shot came out pretty sharp. (photo Steve Cotton / taken with a Nokia Luma 1020).

As a special extra for the tour we all trooped in to Pure Evil’s gallery in Leonard Street to get a personal tour by accidental gallerist Charlie Edwards. After showing us around key artworks in his collection and having a demonstration of his ambient guitar playing skills we headed down in to the basement for a group photo and a demonstration of his stencil technique. (photo Steve Cotton / taken with a Nokia Luma 1020)

Charley’s guitar had an, ahem. unusual theme. (photo Steve Cotton / taken with a Nokia Luma 1020).

Due to prior commitments I had to leave the tour at this point. It was a great experience and I’d really recommend Shoreditch Street Art Tours, great passion and knowledge from someone with a genuine interest in the subject. A big thanks to Nokia too for the trial of their Lumia 1020 phone and for organising the whole afternoon so well. Last, but not least, cheers to my fellow bloggers – it was great to meet you all and it’s not every day I get to take a picture of five lovely ladies! For a massively in depth review of the afternoon with some great photos also check Posh, Broke and Bored‘s great write up. As a final post in this series in a couple of days I’ll post up some more pictures of what I did with the Slinkachu style figures we were given to experiment with using the 1020. In the meantime here’s some more pictures from the day:

 

Work by Alo in a street off Brick Lane (photo Steve Cotton / taken with a Nokia Luma 1020)

Revolution / Love poster (photo Steve Cotton / taken with a Nokia Luma 1020)

Icon’s comment on street art tours (photo Steve Cotton / taken with a Nokia Luma 1020)

Clet Abraham modified sign in Sclater Street (photo Steve Cotton / taken with a Nokia Luma 1020)

Dan Kitchener in Sclater Street (photo Steve Cotton / taken with a Nokia Luma 1020)

Shok-1′s X Rainbows show now on

It’s a stunning display of skill, technique and fine art and it’s on for just a few more days. Shok-1′s impressive body of work in a very rare solo outing has taken over the ground floor space in Pictures on Walls gallery in Commercial Street, London E1. With the accompanying print already sold out of it’s 80 edition run just the original artworks are left featuring his trademark style in a rainbow of colours – with a few exceptions. Amazing work indeed and on until the 19th December.

Shok 1 at Pictures On Walls (Photo Steve Cotton – taken with a Nokia Lumia 1020)

Shok 1 at Pictures On Walls (Photo Steve Cotton – taken with a Nokia Lumia 1020)

Nokia Lumia 1020 – a 41 megapixel phone

When I heard earlier this year that Nokia were going to release a 41 megapixel camera phone I was intrigued. I normally lug around a 21 megapixel DSLR and associated lenses – which gets seriously heavy after a day and is pretty bulky – so the idea that you could have a decent camera combined with a phone was pretty appealing. Of course such a device can’t hope to replace a fully fledged DSLR but when Nokia UK got in touch recently and offered me the chance to trial their new 41mp 1020 phone for a month it was an easy decision to say “yes”. A week or so in here’s my verdict….

Out of the box it’s as slippery as an eel so I quickly added on the battery grip and a cord to wrap it around my wrist. It’s a simple task to add and remove the grip – just slide the phone in and clip into place. That said I like it so much I’ve pretty much left it in place the whole time I’ve had the phone. Yellow probably wouldn’t have been my choice (it certainly has attracted attention) but it is available in different colours including an altogether more discrete black. Once on it operates like any other camera, press the shutter button top right half way down to focus and fully depress to take the shot. The grip is excellent – there’s even a standard sized tripod mount underneath and a further battery inside which prolongs the battery life to well over a days use.

Nokia Lumia 10 with battery grip in yellow

Controls on the camera when selecting the Procam option are surprisingly good. Just like a DSLR or decent compact camera you can adjust white balance, ISO, shutter speed and you can even manually focus – there’s no aperture adjustment though. Having these controls in place means that you can become a lot more creative and certainly avoids the ‘focus dammit’ frustrations of a lot of camera phones. All good so far but how about picture quality? Well I’m pleased to report that it’s stunning for such a small device. I’m quite used to compact cameras producing ‘smudgy’ results when viewed close up but this cameras very high resolution means that pictures taken in relatively good light retain an impressive level of detail even when zooming in on an image. It’s great to be able to throw out a background when needed by adjusting the controls. Have a look at a few examples here – you can click through to download the larger sizes if you want to peek at a pixel level.

Original image crop

Zooming in to create a more closely cropped scene

The same image again but this time with an even closer crop – and it’s till perfectly usable and retains good detail.

Hard to believe this has been taken with a camera phone

Taking the phone to a couple of gigs it performed very well. I recorded some footage of the Cockney Rejects on it and despite standing next to the speaker stack it recorded the sound with little or no distortion. A couple of days later I took it along to a Barb Wire Dolls gig and using the inbuilt flash recorded some decent shots. Without the flash it struggled a little bit despite using a high ISO4000 setting but it was a very dark venue mainly lit in red!

So what about the phone itself. The screen is excellent and has drawn a great many favourable comments. The operating system (Windows Lumia) is swift and has performed well. It does seem a lot more intuitive than previous Nokia devices I have used – much more like the iPhone experience. I’d say the iPhone still shades it in its usability but the gap has certainly narrowed. I must admit the screen size, the camera and the other features of the Nokia such as the ease of sharing images meant that my iPhone 5 actually seems very dated (and small) in comparison. The apps available are more limited but just about all the main ones are here (there is no Instagram at present but apparently it’s coming and third party clients are available).

So is it an iPhone beater? Well, yes – certainly in the photography department, screen size and more. I’ll miss it when it goes back and that’s surely a good sign that this is a very accomplished device.

There will be a couple more posts featuring this phone shortly – one about how it performed on a street art tour of London and one with some Slinkachu style photos.

 

 

Barb Wire Dolls / Cretin 77 – Crauford Arms, Wolverton, Milton Keynes

A gig on a Monday night in Milton Keynes – who’d go to that? Well if the headliner are the revelation that is Barb Wire Dolls and the entrance is free then it turns out quite a few including yours truly are willing to make the effort. BWD came over from Greece earlier in the year and won over many new fans with their quite frankly incendiary performances. I saw them at the 100 Club supporting GBH back in June and they were one of those rare bands where you think “cancel everything else, there’s no way I’m going to miss this show”. To be fair, however, I nearly did after I blew out their Swindon gig (too far), declined their Hastings performance (same night as the London Punk Festival), dropped their London gig with Sham 69 (wanted to see them headline) things were looking bleak until I took the decision to head up to Wolverton. By this time singer Isis’s legendary crowd interaction had seen her accidentally dumped on concrete in Norwich from the shoulders of an audience member and she now had her arm in a sling with strict instructions from a Doctor to take things easy. Lesser bands would have cancelled the remainder of the tour but BWD ploughed on regardless playing every show that had been booked and so Milton Keynes remained firmly on.

Corby’s Cretin 77 opened up proceedings in fine style. I hadn’t seen or heard them before but they were simply excellent. Not too fast, not too slow they delivered riff after riff of crunching rhythms with hooks you could hang your coat on. So many of the songs landed first time with clear catchy choruses that lodge readily in the brain. Right from set opener “Sleep In My Car” I loved this band. Their singer has a distinctive voice, maybe very reminiscent of Jello Biafra but certainly powerful and with a stage presence to match. Definitely one to check out:

Cretin 77 at the Crauford Arms (photo Steve Cotton)

Cretin 77 at the Crauford Arms (photo Steve Cotton)

Barb Wire Dolls feed off the energy of their singer Isis Queen. With her arm in a sling this was never going to be full on BWD show but even at 70% they beat most other bands for excitement and tunes. New songs including Take Me Home and Contract were aired amongst others from their debut full length LP Slit. You got the feeling that this is a band that’s going places, that they won’t always be playing gigs in the back room of pubs. Time will tell but tonight it felt pretty special.

Barb Wire Dolls at the Crauford Arms (photo Steve Cotton – taken with a Nokia Lumia 1020)

Barb Wire Dolls at the Crauford Arms (photo Steve Cotton)

Barb Wire Dolls at the Crauford Arms (photo Steve Cotton)

 

One Man and His Dog – The art of D*Face

Back in 2001 there were three street artists operating at another level to all others in London. Banksy, Shepard Fairey and Dface were the ones most visible on the streets long before the concept of having time and permission to paint walls surfaced. Of these three two have had comprehensive studies of their work released (Banksy’s Wall and Piece and Shepard Fairey’s Supply and Demand) but the third has waited until 2013 for his first book. I remember years ago buying a piece of art off Dface in a suburban pub and asking him why he hadn’t done a book. It was hardly a unique question even back in 2004. Dface’s well rehearsed reply was that he had plenty of ideas but he wanted to do it right, to create something that wasn’t just a book but that captured his style. This week finally saw the launch of that book ‘One Man And His Dog’ and what a beauty it is too. A simple white cover, embossed with his trademark DDog, and an unconventionally sized dust jacket (in that it doesn’t protect the whole book) ooze quality.Picking it up for the first time reveals that it’s a weighty volume with around 300 pages between it’s thick hard covers. It really is a beautiful thing. Inside the art is given space to be displayed at the scale it should be. As with both Banksy’s and Fairey’s books sometimes what is surprising is just what is left out. Many of the pieces I’ve seen around London over the years never made the cut and there’s plenty from around the world that I hadn’t ever seen before, certainly not in such good quality photographs and detail. All of Dface’s main exhibitions are covered, as is his love of skateboarding. An autobiography explains his unconventional route to being an artist but reading this just makes you realise it was kind of inevitable that he would reach the position he has, it was just a question of when. The art itself is quite astonishing and features a wide variety of styles from miniature model making to walls covering the entire sides of industrial units. His unquestionable impact on the scene is also fully documented (he pioneered the idea of taking street art indoors with his ground breaking Outside Institute gallery in Paddington before moving on his Stolen Space format in the East End). This is a book that deserves to be in your collection, put it on your Christmas Shopping list (if you can wait). It’s a thing of beauty, full of great art and inspiration.

D.O.A. say goodbye to London in style

Well it certainly didn’t feel like a band hitting the blocks at the end of their career. For those lucky enough to be there this ‘farewell’ show from the Canadian punk stalwarts before singer / guitarist Joey ‘Shithead’ Keighley goes into politics was a show to live long in the memory.

I arrived a bit too early to find the venue near empty but by the time Social Schism hit the stage the hall was three quarters full. The Southend three piece proved to be a great support slot, plenty of banter with the crowd with many a story told amongst some driving hardcore punk. A discussion on rock classics and the guitarists request for birthday drinks were aired but the funniest moment of the entire evening was when they split the crowd in half just like they do at those big rock gigs. Great stuff!

Social Schism (photos: Steve Cotton)

Next up were Sick On The Bus with their epitome of punk rock don’t give a fuck attitude and fast thrashy numbers they careered through a decent length set only pausing to take the piss a bit every so often. Near the end they were joined by Wakey (him out of the English Dogs) sporting a rather jaunty hat and a cheeky grin. By this time the venue was full  and everyone was raring to go for the arrival of DOA who duly hit the stage.

Sick On The Bus (photos: Steve Cotton)

DOA have a stronger back catalogue than most and their early material was pretty much essential listening so that’s what they concentrated on here with only a few more recent songs such as Police Brutality added in. Classic after classic had the crowd leaping around in front of the stage, diving off and even performing salto moves at times. I wasn’t taking notes but General Strike, The Prisoner, Nazi Training Camp, Fuck You and Fucked Up Ronnie all got a decent airing. The end of the set list reached the band came back and played some more. They seemed to be really enjoying themselves – surely this can’t be the last time they play little old London, England?

DOA (photos: Steve Cotton)