Farewell George

It is with utter sadness that we learnt of the untimely passing of a beloved icon and on Christmas Day too. There can't be many children of the 80's who grew up without remembering the upbeat songs of Wham! pervading the soundtrack of their youth. Behind the bouffant hair and catchy pop ditties was a true song writing genius. George Michael was an outstanding musical talent who produced some truly beautiful, heart wrenching songs.  We will miss him greatly. Sleep soundly George.

Here's our tribute:-

 I feel I need to precede this piece with a disclaimer: I love music, but I’m not an expert.  I’ve got a fairly broad taste, but I‘m not one of those people that seeks out the obscure bands that are brilliant but underrated.  I’d describe myself as fairly mainstream with a bit of a penchant for Northern Soulbut open to ideas.   I also wasn’t anticipating being asked to write something about the gig, so I didn’t attend with a notepad to jot down notes about songs and running orders (although I did swipe the set list from the stage as a memento, but subsequently binned it because it was, after all, just a printed sheet of A4 with someone’s boot print on it). 
I’d gone to this gig as a punter who had got a bit over-excited, listening to Craig Charles Radio 6 Funk and Soul show one Saturday night.  I just wanted to dance somewhere other than my kitchen for once, because the truth is I don’t get out much.  But this was too good an opportunity to miss. I didn’t know what to expect.  I’d never been to Band on The Wall before and if Charles’ radio show was anything to go by I was hoping for some soul and funk classics mixed with some up-to-date stuff that I may or may not know.  What I got for my £15 ticket was a vibrant, energetic live set by Smoove and Turrell followed by the most animated, engaged DJ set I’ve ever seen! 
Smoove and Turrell and their live band are slick, meaning that their flawlessness was perfect for the small and intimate Band on the Wall.   Their set featured some of their better known stuff (you may recognise ‘Hard Work’ from an ad campaign), a good selection of their back catalogueincluding their blinding cover of Yazoo’s ‘Don’t Go’ , and new songs  from their recently released third studio album ‘Broken Toys’.   You can hear the jazz influence in parts so you just know this is a band that like to test themselves,  but ultimately it was clear that they were enjoying themselves just as much as the audience.   They got to everybody: there was such an eclectic mix of people in the audience from students to pensioners, hipsters to a bloke that looked like BB King himself.  Their appeal is obviously wide, so it makes you wonder why they are not better known.  I’ve been inspired to investigate their albums (easily accessible for download from popular sites BTW) with a view to knowing them better next time I see them.   
The reason for my original kitchen-based over excitement was Craig Charles’ Saturday night Funk and Soul Show on Radio 6 Music.  Charles’ plays a mix of classic soul and funk and up-to-the –minute  music on his radio show and his live set offered the same degree of variety with added  ‘clubby’ vibe (is ‘House Funk’ a genre?).  There were remixes of absolute classics like ‘Heard it Through the Grapevine’ and Michael Jackson’s PYT, coupled with total surprises like Cookin’ on 3 Burners interpretation of Gary Numan’s ‘Cars’ and a cover of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit (can’t tell you who that was by I’m afraid, but I can tell you even in its funked -up loveliness it managed to retain its grunge metal feel).  All delivered by Charles with the enthusiasm of a man besotted with sound.  There is a physical ‘performance’ element to his set that you don’t expect.  So much so that I ended up on the balcony in part to get some space to throw some shapes, but in part to watch him work.  It’s fascinating, and genuinely lovely to see him interact with the crowd.  You can’t help but walk away from there as a fan. 
If you asked me for a highpoint – the absolute pinnacle of the night – it would have to be the Hot 8 Brass Band’s cover of Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing.  I will be forever grateful to Craig Charles for giving me this:  I heard it on his show about three weeks ago and have played pretty much nothing else since.  I defy you to find a happier sound anywhere. And there it was: right in the middle; glorious, perfect, sexy and beautiful and begging me to make pilgrimage to New Orleans. 
So here’s the crux of it: Charles knows his stuff because he loves it.  That is exactly why he champions bands like Smoove and Turrell and Lack of Afro, who should be household names but, sadly, aren’t.  And somehow that’s why going to this gig makes me feel like I’m in on some amazing secret;  that just by being there I’ve been a bit cool for once.  It also makes me feel like there’s a lot to learn, and that I should be braver about listening to new bands.   In my heart I feel that I should have known about all this years ago, that I’ve missed out.  For that alone I can’t recommend it to you enough: if you’re a seasoned funkster go because you’ll love it; or if you’re completely naïve, just go for the atmosphere and the possibility that you might hear something that really is music to your ears.   

P.S. I did go and rummage in the recycling bin last night to see if I could retrieve the set list, but it is gone.  Sorry. 

Band on the Wall is part of the not-for-profit Inner City Music charity which offers community and school education programmes. For more information and to find out what else is on visit www.bandonthewall.org  
Craig Charles Funk and Soul Club is next at Band on the Wall on 28/03/2015.

I Love Mcr

Scrolling through these pics of Manchester it's made me wonder...whatever happened to the 'I Love Manchester' Campaign?

Tried and tested- Dermaroller

Eek! Needles...on my face. Could I? Should I? Would I? When I hear that it encourages collagen production, it's cheap as chips and I can do it at home myself, so am the master of my own pain threshold, then heck yes I would.  After hunting around every Boots in Manc for some sterilising alcohol spray I settle for surgical spirits, soak it for 20 mins and then I'm off...  Ok well not that fast. Understandably terrified it's another 20 minutes before I dare put it anywhere near my face but when I do...cor I'm not sure what the fuss is about.  It doesn't hurt that much. I get braver as I roll harder and even after the first session I honestly can tell the difference. My skin is glowing red immediately afterward and tingly but this subsides within a couple of hours and the next day is clearer and smoother. So if your brave enough give it a go girls...and boys.

Disclaimer: Read all the safety tips and make sure you're thoroughly hygenic first.

PINK is my favourite colour

It's the wildly exotic scent of quince, gardenia petals and coconut orchids that hits you before you're even in the store, the black gloss fixtures, pink candy striped wallpaper, footage of the catwalk show on a big screen, the luxury of the boutique style changing rooms, the vast array of lingerie, body lotions, perfumes, hair products, lip balms, make-up bags, iPhone cases that have my heart racing ten to the dozen at just the mere thought of a visit to Victoria's Secret and just when I think my pulse rate is starting to ease there's the lure of PINK right next door and it starts all over again. Augustus Gloop in Mr Wonka's Chocolate Factory has nothing on me. It's glamour with a capital VS.

Oh Danny Voice!

For anyone in need of a musical treat in the new year Irish rocksters The Script come to MEN Arena on Sunday March 17th.With their new single 'Hall of fame' hot in the charts right now sounds like something to look forward to! 

Film Reviews


Ostensibly two concurrent stories the Spielberg-produced Super 8 is simultaneously a convincing coming of age film about a bunch of kids making a zombie film whilst growing up at the arse end of the 1970s, coupled with a fairly pedestrian rampaging monster movie.  Director JJ Abrams (brainchild of TV phenomenon Lost and the Star Trek reboot) talked about having two great movie ideas and then combining them both into one.  What he actually seems to have done is make them separately and then stitch them together like Frankenstein’s Monster.  Admittedly “Five Kids Making Rubbish Zombie Movie” would not have had the mass reach or appeal of “Space Monster Terrorises Town” but the Kids movie is actually the far more compelling of the two.  In much the same way that Will Smith’s I Am Legend was a great apocalyptic survival movie by day but a load of rubbish old cartoon cobblers by night* Super 8 is irresistible and fun whilst it focuses on the interplay of the kids growing up and falling in love and falling out.  But when it comes to the monster movie aspect expectations are crushed and the pace actually slackens.  Remember the gigantic, scary monster in Cloverfield that wrecked and terrified New York?  Well this looks like the Transformers people had a bunch of ungraded left-over CGI that wasn’t working and said “You can have this if you like”.  The monster is shambling, unimaginative, and unthreatening and the rudimentary plot surrounding it is utterly unoriginal.  Like Simon Pegg’s ‘Paul’ it is more of a love letter to Steven Spielberg than a film of its own merit.  The young cast are mostly newcomers except for Elle Fanning, Dakota’s sister, from a strange family of preternaturally gifted and sort of ‘aged’ children.  All in all, the film is good, and silly space monster aside there is a lot to like.  But when the credits roll and you finally get to watch the kids’ own zombie film (shot on the titular ’Super 8’ film stock) just ask yourself – is this actually better than the movie I’ve just watched?
*  not to mention it being a gigantic dump on Richard Matheson‘s fantastic book…

The Adventures of Tin Tin


We have a Steven Spielberg Special this month (stay tuned for Super 8)!  Hergé famously said that only Spielberg could do his beloved Tintin justice on film.  Well, he finally, albeit posthumously, had his vision realised with this strange 3D performance capture interpretation of the great, ginger-coiffured Belgian detective/journalist’s exploits.  The CGI allows director Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson – the guy who did those Rings films – to beautifully homage the source material with uncannily lifelike reinterpretations of the iconic characters.  This ultimate filmmaking duo also convincingly flesh out Hergé’s cartoonish ligne claire or “clear line” style with fully rendered locations and stunning set pieces.  Following a heavily Hitchcockian opening which dazzlingly sets the action/adventure/mystery tone it might take your eyes a minute to adjust to the new technology format and the photorealistic environments and lighting.  From then on you’re in for a Boy’s Own Adventure™ which recalls the spirit of Indiana Jones and the old serial adventure movies from decades gone by.  With good performances from Jamie Bell (the ballerina kid from Billy Elliot) as Tintin, motion capture champion Andy ‘Gollum’ Serkis as Captain Haddock, comedy support from Nick Frost and Simon Pegg as bungling Thomson and Thompson and even a half decent villain in Daniel ‘Blond Bond’ Craig, the key ingredient is just plain fun.  The bravura action centrepiece on the side of a mountainous African seaport really sells the advantages and creativity born from the film format, whilst also confirming that great 3D CGI motion capture does not begin and end with Avatar.  Tintin also delivers a brilliantly atmospheric musical score boasting some of John Williams’ best work since the Star Wars and Superman themes.

MancMode Meets Manchester Composer Francesca L Hall

With the release of her second album 'Lost' featuring 12 stunning original tracks, MancMode catches up with Francesca L Hall to get the lowdown on life as a busy composer living and working in Manchester. Being born into a musical family and having played the piano since the age of four, Francesca has composed the soundtracks to numerous short films,  which have exhibited at the Raindance, Edinburgh and Cannes film festivals, dozens of promos and the acclaimed 'Lost', a follow up to her first album 'Beyond the Wall of Sleep.' She is married to a Manchester film producer and has a two year old son.
MancMode: Congratulations on the release of Lost. 

Francesca: Thank you.  It's good to finally get it out there. I started this album about four years ago and then life and other projects got in the way of its release but I made it my absolute goal this year to get it finished.

MancMode: Four years is a long time! What inspired you to keep going with it?

Francesca: Mainly the support I have received from people all over the world. I set up a Myspace page around the same time as I started composing Lost and was overwhelmed by the response.  When you see that your music has been played by thousands of people on every continent on the planet that kind of serves as a boost! 

MancMode: Who are your musical influences?

Francesca: How long have you got? I grew up in a musical family (her Mother is a concert pianist and Grandfather, Rudolf Botta, was a Professor of violin at the Royal Northern College of Music) and have listened to music since birth. I adore classical music and composers such as Bach, Beethoven and Rachmaninov, but then have been greatly influenced by modern composers such as John Barry, John Williams and David Arnold and it is probably their music that inspired me to write soundtracks for films.  Of course I am an avid follower of my favourite band Elbow too! I think I have very eclectic taste and will listen to anything and everything as long as it moves me in some way.

MancMode:  David Arnold (Official Bond soundtrack composer) said he thought your music had a stillness to it and compared it to the music of his friend David Julyan who has composed the soundtracks for the Descent and Memento amongst others. How did that feel?

Francesca: Wow that was a massive day for me.  I have been a huge fan of his ever since I heard Bjork singing Play Dead when I was 15. To think that one day he would listen to my music and actually like it is still surreal to me! Also to be compared to David Julyan is very humbling. His music is outstanding.

MancMode: You not only wrote the music for but also starred in a short film that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Is this another career path you'd like to pursue?

Francesca: Gosh no! (laughs).  Don't get me wrong I'm really proud of Incubus but it didn't come that naturally to me to be in front of the camera. I'm definitely committed to making music and in particular film soundtracks. 

MancMode: So what's next for you?

Francesca: I'm currently working on the soundtrack for a game called Fantasy Quest, on promoting Lost and organising a couple of live performances in Manchester for late this year/early next year. I'm also the Mum of a gorgeous two year old son, so I'm kept pretty busy!

Visit Francesca's official myspace page:- CLICK HERE

Swinging in to Manchester at various venues in the near future are the 'Swing Commanders'.  A five piece group of multi talented musicians, playing 1930's 40's and 50's music and creating a happy infectious atmosphere wherever they play.  For anyone with an open mind (ear) for music, this group should not be missed.  You will end the night smiling, such is the quality of their playing and their original presentation.  This group, already popular are now selling out venues
Help yourself to their website and catch them where you can.
31.Dec.11 -  St Kentigern's social club, Fallowfield.
3.Feb.12     -  Waterside Arts Centre Sale
2.Mar.12     -  Mayor's Charity Ball Salford

Quick! Get Your Clothes Back

The Laundry Shop on Peter Street is to open, albeit briefly, on Tuesday and Wednesday 18th & 19th October to allow the people of Manchester to liberate their clothes.  After months of captivity relieved owners are looking forward to being reunited with their apparel and getting long awaited answers to those burning questions including- 'Did you get dry cleaned during your ordeal?',  'Hey, how come there's an extra stain on here which wasn't there when I dropped you off?' and 'That's strange, why don't you seem to fit anymore? Well it can't be me I hardly eat anything.'

If you are planning on taking part in the big reunion don't expect to waltz in there with your ticket and claim what is rightfully yours. As well as the ticket your going to need more ID than you would if you were planning to adopt a Romanian orphan. So go armed with passport, driving licence, utility bills, bank statements, and a full description of the item you are claiming in the form of a sworn affidavit together with character references from your last 12 employers, a warrant and your great grandmother's entire credit history. Oh and if you don't claim your clothes back apparently they are going to be donated to charity so if you are reading this on the 20th October after returning from a holiday, bad luck. I bought your Armani suit for 50p at Barnardos to use as lining for my dog bed. Unfortunately Fido sicked up on it so I have to get it dry cleaned tomorrow. Know anywhere good?

Chopin in Manchester without your credit card...

Manchester has a new work of art. A bronze statue of the great pianist and composer Fryderyk Chopin was unveiled on Deansgate on 16th September 2011.Created by Polish sculptor, Robert Sobocinski the statue is the largest of Chopin outside of Poland and celebrates his visit to Manchester in 1848 and the 200th anniversary of his birth.
The statue depicts, 'Chopin at the piano gazing across at his muse Baroness Aurore Lucile Dupon. Carved into the work is an eagle in flight, the symbol of Poland for over a thousand years and a battle scene representing the Polish fight for freedom.'

A great addition to our fair city not only aesthetically but also culturally showing that we Mancunians have an appreciation for great music and artistry that is anything but limited to our Hacienda heritage.