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September 30, 2005

Plugging the Demon Barber Roadshow

I mentioned this in the sidebar, but it needs promoting*. The Demon Barber Roadshow is Britain's premier live folk extravaganza. The music is provided by Damien Barber's rather nifty band the Demon Barbers and fiddler Bryony Griffith. And it's great. But the show is also rounded out with clog (Tiny & Fiona Taylor), morris (Dogrose Morris) and rapper (Black Swan Rapper). Just in case you weren't sure what traditional English dance was like.

The Demon Barbers are very much to my taste, with a mixture of folk and electric instruments, and a proper bass section. Damien fronts of course, and I think one of the finest things about this band is that he has a brilliant authentic folk voice. I can't think of another electric folk band with such a strong, traditional vocalist (I know, you're going to give me dozens in the comments). The songs are traditional but obviously the arrangements are not, and it's good and loud.

The Roadshow is something really fine though. I am not a big fan of clog but the clog is well-done, and wisely set to the full band music. Dogrose Morris call themselves "Morris with Altitude" and I don't think I've ever seen morris dancers jump so high. But the showstopper is the rapper. Rapper is a dance for five athletic young men with flexible swords who weave in and out at high speed. Black Swan Rapper are just about the best rapper side there is at the moment. And if the fabulous dancing weren't enough, they also use glow-in-the-dark-swords. It's a complete showstopper.

We've seen them live twice, most memorably at Cecil Sharp House where we were about ten feet from the dancers. And very exciting it was too.

I think in an effort to persuade people to book the Roadshow, they've put together a promo DVD, and you can download it all from their website. You'd probably want broadband. The videos are pretty good quality for internet downloads, and include studio versions of all three of the dances, songs by the Demon Barbers, and festival footage. Oh, and some very cute footage of a schools workshop with kids doing rapper with balloon-animal balloons instead of swords.

When I tell people I like electric folk music, they sort of wince and you can see they're thinking of late sixties stuff played by people in floaty dresses. I have to say, no, I like the stuff that's new and exciting now. And hey. Now there's a website I can point them at.

One more thing. You won't see it live because they're never repeated it, but at Sidmouth a couple of years ago Black Swan did a rapper firedance. Because they are nutters. Actual nutters. And you can download the video for that too. It is the most amazing thing and required watching for anyone who thinks English dance is dull. There is a bit of a flaming pentacle issue though -- I'm not sure if they'd worked out that would happen in advance.

flaming rapper swords forming a five-pointed star

hot flaming pentacle action

*Admission: Damien said I could have one of the actual DVDs if I plugged the band on my blog. But you know, they're brilliant, I'd go to a festival just to hear them play and I have everything they've ever recorded.

Posted by Alison at 12:16 AM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2005

Overheard on 6Music

Phill Jupitus was reading the papers. Turns out they're using stem cells from mice to repair sheep hearts. It looks likely that in time they will be able to use mice to generate heart cells for people, and possibly other sorts of cells as well.

"Which means", he said, "we're finally going to have Marvellous Magical Mouse Organs.

Posted by Alison at 08:12 AM | Comments (0)

Cabvision: The Way the Future Is

I took a taxi the other day. It was a new taxi, and as I sat down the cab driver turned on Cabvision, a system which broadcasts 'entertainment and information' to the captive audience in the back of the car. I looked to see if I could turn it off. It played me a short safety video, because, you know, cabs are dangerous environments that I might not be familiar with. I felt uncomfortable. I had papers to read for my meeting; I didn't want to watch TV. I don't generally watch TV, except for turning it on for a particular show.

It then played me a short video about the controls, and I located them. One of them had a picture of a TV with a cross through it. Ha! I thought. It then turned to 'standby' mode, where it cycled quietly through a series of news headlines. I wanted to turn it off properly, but of course I couldn't.

We already have static ads on the backs of toilet doors, on the seat in front of you on buses, on anywhere, in fact, where the people who don't watch advertising on television can be caught. We have television ads in places like doctor's surgeries, airports and other waiting areas. There are ads on the tops of takeaway cartons, and the backs of bus tickets. Every few days, I see an ad that makes me think 'gosh, I hadn't thought of advertising there'.

Soon, all the static ads will be screens. All the ads on the escalators will be screens, timed to show you a complete ad in the 40 seconds it takes you to get downstairs. I think billboards and other static ads aimed at drivers are probably safe. But I could be wrong.

I huddled down miserably in my seat, trying not to watch Cabvision and wondering once again whether I've finally found the technology that I can't cope with, the one that turns me into one of the Old People.

Posted by Alison at 07:55 AM | Comments (3)

September 14, 2005

Searching Lyrics

The discussion over at Making Light about Dives and Lazurus caused me to notice two things.

First, iTunes now has a 'lyrics' tab on the song info. About time too. And apparently the iPod nano supports this; you can look at the lyrics while listening to the song. I've pretty much finished grabbing album art now -- I'm at the stage of making my own 'iTunes artwork' for live sets and other things with no associated music. So a nudge towards finding 15k sets of lyrics is very timely. I must get started. Automatic lyrics searching tools appear to be able to find the lyrics for about 20% of my collection. Which is a bit depressing. (Also, I really need one that I can leave overnight searching for the entire collection, rather than a song by song one).

Second, the iTunes lyrics data isn't searchable in iTunes. And the lyrics metadata isn't indexed in Spotlight. I am boggled. Why do it without search?

Posted by Alison at 10:23 AM | Comments (0)

September 04, 2005


I'm not writing a lot here about the flooding in Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states. I've posted some links to the right, of various types. I encourage people to consider what they can sensibly do to help. I visited New Orleans when I was really too young to properly appreciate the city; it would be nice to return.

I lived in Houston for a while as a teenager. It's not a city that gets a good press in the UK, and Texans as a whole do no better, but I found them friendly and kind. The people of Texas, and particularly Houston, are, in huge numbers, opening their homes to strangers and near strangers, and finding all sorts of furnishings and equipment to help people out with. Good for them.

Posted by Alison at 10:37 AM | Comments (0)