Sci Fi Weekender 2016 – part 2

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Phoenix

Sci Fi Weekender 17th – 20th March 2016

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Day 2 at SFW, and again it’s all a blur.  I recall it was a lazy start to the day for me, breakfast and chilling in the caravan.  Kurt was feeling better, but Greeny was starting to suffer with the illness.  It would be mostly be another day of watching Star Trek, Big Bang Theory and Top Gear for those two.

Adam had got up early and made it to see a showing of a new independent film called Pandorica.  Classed as an action-horror, reports about the film were very enthusiastic.  The Q&A with Director and cast was my first event of the day – it was interesting although I’d not seen the film!  Definitely one to keep and eye out for: word of mouth was very positive.

The highlight of the afternoon was, undoubtedly, an appearance by the incomparable Brian Blessed.  Larger than life and twice as loud, Blessed’s sci-fi credentials are suitably top notch.  A life long fan of science fiction, as well in starring in numerous genre pieces – you may have heard of Flash Gordon – his enthusiasm was both apparent and infectious.

Professor Elemental hosted the Q&A with Brian Blessed, who wisely let the great man get on and tell his tales!  A solid job from the Professor – a daunting task well executed.

Blessed’s talk ranged from his acting work to his many explorations and mountaineering adventures.  His recollections of the Flash Gordon movie, and it’s well deserved appreciation by audiences the world over, were affectionately told.  An unmissable audience with a real living legend.

In the afternoon I took some photos and looked around the stalls again.  Unfortunately, this years SFW again clashed with MCM Memorabilia in Birmingham, so genre based merchandise was thin on the ground.  I picked up some cool Elvira cocktail glasses though!

A good feature this year was the retro gaming section, where numerous old consoles could be played for free.  This was very popular, and although I don’t play video games it meant I always knew where to find my crew if we split up.  They were always playing games…

Every year at SFW, the Cosplay final is something to behold.  There’s always a sense of excitement in the air, as the costumed competitors take the stage.  And every year, the audience and competitors are enthusiastic and good natured.  Everyone cheers for each other, and there’s a real sense of community.  It’s nice to witness all the attendees rooting for each other; even though there will always be favourites, there is no bitterness.

The costumes were exceptional, as you can see (hopefully) from the photos here.  Not everyone entered the competition, but there were so many great costumes whether they were entering or just dressing up for fun.  Massive respect to everyone.

I find it great fun spotting and naming the characters.  The variety and imagination on show is consistently astounding, not to mention the talent that goes into making the costumes.  So again, thanks to all the Cosplayers for letting me take your photos.  Too many of my pics didn’t work out.  I also missed far too may opportunities.  But I hope that the photos here capture some of the creativity I witnessed.

And I sincerely apologise for not dressing up!  I lost count of the number of people who chastised me (with good humour, of course) for not dressing as Tony Stark…

Anyway, there can only be one winner of the Cosplay final, and that was the Robot Overlord fellow.  I can’t remember the character’s name, but I swear it was truly incredible!

Later on in the evening, I zoomed over to the Prog Rock area to catch some music.  I was very happy to catch the Focus set; the song “Hocus Pocus” was an obvious highlight.  I only saw a couple of songs by Ian Anderson (of Jethro Tull fame) – though they were impressive – before heading back to the spaceport.

For the rest of the evening, my compadre, Ste and myself had a few beers and hung around with various SFW attendees.  We saw some old pals and met a few new ones.  I took more photos – including the now traditional “no photos” social media-proof shades pics.  And we managed to stay up partying till after 2 in the morning!

Not such a good thing going home Sunday…

Still, another great time at Sci Fi Weekender.  And yes, Greeny and Kurt got better, thanks for asking.

If you were there, it was good to see you.  Hopefully we’ll see you next year.

And big thanks to Adam, who organised the whole thing for us!

The Sci Fi Weekender site is here.

The HRH Prog site is here.

PS: There are photos left unpublished, so there will be Bonus Scenes in a few weeks.  Be warned!

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Cosplay winner!

Sci Fi Weekender 2016 – part 1

IMG_20160318_114228066Sci Fi Weekender 17th – 20th March 2016

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Wow.  This year’s Sci Fi Weekender was a blur – it went faster than light speed.  All the usual geekery was in full swing, though I’ll be gosh darned if I can remember everything and what order it happened in.  Too much blue milk?

Never mind, I have numerous photos of the weekend to share; to help report on this cosmic adventure.  Except that didn’t go to plan this year.   My trusty Canon was on the blink, so I resorted to a little digital snapper and my phone.

Not ideal, but sometimes you have to compromise.

So what is Sci Fi Weekender?  For the unititiated, it’s a weekend of events and special guests, all held on site at the Hafan Y Mor holiday park in Pwllheli, North Wales.  Think Comic Con but at a holiday camp and with a party atmosphere.  All manner of interview panels, Q&As, games, and musical entertainment are part of the festivities.

Plus a prog rock festival – HRH Prog – was also being held on the same weekend.  Not a massive tie in with science fiction you may think (at least not without Hawkwind playing).  However it gave additional entertainment for those with musical interests.

Our weekend began with four of us – Adam, Greeny, Kurt and myself – driving from our corner of north east Wales to the north west.  On the way we popped into Cob records in Porthmadog to feed our vinyl addition.  Then we settled into our caravan home from home – complete with haul of supplies from the local ASDA – and planned our DVD watching schedule for the night.

Unfortunately the DVD player wasn’t working, and without tickets for the Thursday evening SFW party, we were stuck.  Rather than watch TV, we went for a pint in the onsite pub.  We then popped in to see what the prog rock was all about.  We didn’t think we would get in, but it was no problem.  As a result we were able to see Third Quadrant (quite good) and the excellent Crazy World of Arthur Brown.  Arthur is over seventy years old and jumps around on stage like a nutter.  Highly entertaining and some great tunes.

Friday began with the bad news that Kurt was ill.  He’s only 16 so booze wasn’t the issue.  As a result, Kurt and his dad Greeny were pretty much out of the running for the day.  They watched TV and chilled.  Plus Ste, our remaining member, had burst the inflatable camp bed by leaving it too close to the fire.  He suffered a bad night’s sleep on the sofa as a result.

The rest of us headed over to the arena and started checking things out.  I took a few photos and looked round the stalls.  We caught a Cosplay panel with Tabitha from Artyfakes that was very interesting, with extremely impressive Space Marine costumes and hints and tips about the hobby.  I bottled asking my question though, which was “How do you go for a wee?”.

I also watched an interview panel of comic book artists.  The panel consisted of 2000AD greats such as Glenn Fabry, William Simpson, Clint Langley and Simon Davis.  Hosted by Dez Skinn, the panel was informative and also amusing; it seems some of the assembled masters had been on the pop?  Either way, these guys were like rock stars to me when I was a young 2000AD fan, so it was pretty cool.

The vibe around the arena was good natured as always.  I took some cool photos (thanks everyone) and despite our numbers being depleted, we had a good afternoon.

After a delightful pizza from the onsite Papa John’s (it was great!); we were ready for the evening’s entertainment.  I’m afraid to say that the Imaginarium and magicians weren’t really my thing this year.  It’s difficult to dig the magic when you can’t see it up close.

The highlight was the one and only Professor Elemental, steam punk hip hop pioneer.  His smooth raps mixed with groovy beats like a well tuned gin and tonic.   A pleasure to witness, as always.

At the end of the night, I teleported across the site to see the end of the set by Caravan.  Not only a very apt band to be playing, they were actually pretty good.  The Soft Machine were on last with a more jazz orientated approach.  All very impressive and I’m glad I got to see something different.

I’m ashamed to say that we all ended up crashing out early on Friday night.  Illness and lack of sleep took it’s toll.  I was last man standing, going to bed at 11.30pm.  Pathetic, I know.

In Part 2: Brian Blessed, the Cosplay final, more Prog Rock…

PLUS: will we be able to stay up late?

Stay tuned to this frequency…

The Sci Fi Weekender site is here.

You really should check out Professor Elemental.  His website is here, plus he’s on that Twitter and stuff too.

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night #7

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night

Queen’s Head, Mold

Friday 26th February 2016

Welcome back to the Queen’s Head in Mold, North Wales!  Get yourself a pint and make yourself comfortable, ‘cos you know what time it is.  That’s right, it’s Bring Your Own Vinyl Night again!

Remember the rules: there’s a fifteen minute slot for each person; play whatever you like, so long as it’s vinyl.

Only Greeny and myself made it this time – Adam and Ben the Swede were both unavailable.  No theme for my set this time, just a few songs I really had a yearning to play…

Ennio Morricone – The Ecstasy of Gold

This song is of course from the soundtrack for the classic Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  My version came from an album called “This is Ennio Morricone”.  You don’t need me to tell you how great that film is.  And Morricone’s soundtrack is stylish and ground breaking.  In particular, this track (which plays while Eli Wallach’s character runs frenziedly through a Civil War graveyard) is sheer class.  It builds magnificently and captivates the listener.  A bit over the top, I admit, as the first song in my set – but never let it be said that Platinum Al doesn’t do drama.

Ramones – Surfin’ Bird

If I was going to recommend a Ramones album for a novice to start their education of NYC’s finest, I’d go for “Rocket to Russia”.  I thought that this frenetic cover of the Trashmen’s surf rock gem would be a suitable place to go, after the majesty of the last track.  I love the Ramones and this song was a ton of fun to play.

Soundgarden – Fresh Tendrils

This song, from the simply fantastic “Superunknown” album, is probably my favourite Soundgarden song ever.  And I’m a bit of a Soundgarden nerd – I’ve collected tons of their stuff.  Rather than play a more obvious, well known song, I decided to go with my top tune.  “Fresh Tendrils” has an epic, classic rock sound that I love.  No idea what Chris is singing about, however.  The version I played was from the “Spoonman” 12″ single (on clear vinyl!).

Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues

Originally I was going to play a Stooges song, but then I remembered that 26th February was Johnny Cash’s birthday.  So I decided to play a song by the Man in Black.  “Folsom Prison Blues” is a legendary track, one of Cash’s best.  And I’ve already stated how big a hero this guy was to me.  The album this came from – “Original Golden Hits Volume 1” – was my Gran’s.  After she passed away, it was given to me.  I’d heard a lot from bands I was into how Cash was an inspiration, so I checked the record out.  I loved it, and my Johnny Cash fandom was born.  The first Cash record I heard, but not the last!

That’s my list for the night.  There were may great songs played through out the evening, though.  Budgie!  Hawkwind!  Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy!  Anthrax!  Check the link below for the complete list.

Wax is back – get spinning those tracks!  Thanks for a great night!

I’d also like to thank my old mate Graham, who turned up with a couple of Suicidal Tendencies records for me.  You see, I’d sold these two exact albums to Graham some twenty years ago, when I was a broke student.  Although I could’ve tracked the records down on eBay, I decided to message Graham and see if he’d sell them back to me (if he still had them).  The reason being that one album, the awesome “Join the Army”, had been given to me when I was 15 by my friend Kelvin Bedford, who I used to skateboard with every day.  Sadly, Kel passed away a couple of years ago.  So it was cool to get that actual copy back in my record collection, as a nice memory.  It even had the same plastic protective sheet over the album – and the selotape strip I patched up the inner sleeve with many, many years ago!  Graham gave me both records for free – so I bought him a pint or two.  Thank you!

The Halcyon Dreams blogspot is here.

The Halcyon Dreams mixcloud page is here.

The Halcyon Dreams Facebook page is here.

Sci-Fi Weekender 2015 – part 2

Sci-fi Weekender 19th – 22nd March 2015

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Welcome back to part 2 of my Sci-fi Weekender 2015 update!

Saturday began in the usual manner for for my intergalactic crew mates and I – fairly lazy hanging around the caravan.  The home comforts were pretty good t be fair; with a fridge stocked with beer, decent TV and plenty of space we had a good base for our weekend.

To be honest there was less of interest to me personally on this day.  The highlight though was a Q&A with Judge Dredd creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra.  The two were escorted on to the stage by a squad of mean looking Judges, and proceeded to tell the audience about their many years working in comics.  All good stuff, though a bit less about the Dredd movies and more about the actual comics would’ve been preferable.  But I guess that serves me right for not asking my own questions.

One Man Lord of the Rings was next, and not being a Hobbit geek (unlike Star Wars) I was off.  I heard it was good though.  Time to mill about round the various merchandise stalls, though there less of a science fiction theme to this year’s traders.  With MCM Comic Con on the same weekend at Birmingham NEC, I guess most traders opted for that instead.

Another strange tweak to the event this year was that Hafan Y Mor was also hosting a Prog Rock event on the same weekend.  Hence the large number of music related items on sale, perhaps.  Though having these two events at the same time appeared to be a strange mutation at first, I decided to check a few bands out over the weekend and found some that were certainly worth hearing. IMG_4015

Back on Friday I witnessed the strange jazz prog of Knifeworld, which I enjoyed after my ears got used to it.  “I want this music out of my head!” was the view of one of my gang.

On Saturday afternoon, I witnessed Landskap.  They had an almost doom/stoner rock sound, with slow heavy guitar riffs – augmented by an almost Doors-like keyboard.  Very, very good – saw the whole set and loved it.

Next it was back to the Sci-Fi Arena to see the Cosplay preliminaries.  As ever there were some amazing entries – well made, authentic, but also incredibly original.  The best part was spotting characters from film and television that you just weren’t expecting to see.  The Guardians of the Galaxy and Mad Max ensembles were both awesome.  Lego movie Batman, Futurama robots and more were just amazing.

You can see some of the photos here, but there were also dozens of fans who were dressed up, and hadn’t even entered the competition.  Plenty of people had obviously put a lot of thought and effort into their costumes, but were happy just to be part of the fun.

I did feel bad for one group, though – they were all in monochrome outfits (complete with make-up) to look like the old black & white Flash Gordon serial.  However, they’d missed registration through no fault of their own.

The Cosplay was again a real highlight od Sci-Fi Weekender this year.  So many fabulous and imaginative outfits, I couldn’t pick a favourite.  My thanks to all who agreed to me to take a photo – you’re all superstars!

In the late evening, I popped over to the Prog Rock arena to see Rick Wakeman.  Rick was performing on his own, with just a grand piano.  Instrumental versions didn’t really appeal at first, though it turned out to be a fantastic set of lush, almost Classical songs.  There was a Sci-Fi tie in with an absolutely wonderful recital of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars”, which Rick had preformed on originally.  Plus the between song banter was hilarious! IMG_4068

Back to the Sci-Fi arena for the Cosplay finals – which saw a hard fought contest eventually won by the young Tim Burton character family!  We ll done!  Then it was party time, with characters from all conceivable franchises across the genre seeing the weekend out in style.

It was a long trip back to the real world.  We met some awesome people, saw a few familiar faces from last year, and had a great time.  Here’s to next year.  If only I had a Tardis, I could do it all again…

I have dozens of photos left.  I’ll do a bonus section as per last year in the coming weeks.

The Sci-Fi Weekender website is here.

You can find Sci-Fi Weekender on Facebook or follow on Twitter: @scifiweekender

The Prog Rock website is here.

Random Longboard Playlist #2

On Sunday 2nd November I went out for a quick skate on my longboard.  Luckily the weather has been fairly warm and dry, meaning that a short skate trip was possible.  Usually at this time of year, it’s too cold and wet outside for cruising and carving.  That skate might be the last of 2014, as the pleasant autumn has now decayed into winter.

As is often the case, the iPod went on shuffle, and here are the songs that provided a soundtrack to skate.

  1. Napalm Death – “Blind to the Truth”
  2. Volbeat – “Our Loved Ones”
  3. Blaze Bayley – “Madness and Sorrow”
  4. The Offspring – “Killboy Powerhead”
  5. Curtis Mayfield – “Party Night”
  6. Alice Russell – “Living the Life of a Dreamer (Mr. Scruff Remix)”
  7. Rocket From The Crypt – “Normal Carpet Ride”
  8. Electric Light Orchestra – “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head”
  9. Smokey Robinson – “Being With You”
  10. Anthrax – “Imitation of Life”
  11. Buckcherry – “Broken Glass”
  12. Pink Floyd – “Wish You Were Here”
  13. Zombina & The Skeletones – “I Go Psycho!”
  14. The Clash – “Rock the Casbah”
  15. Screaming Trees – “Witness”
  16. Run DMC – “Can You Rock It Like This”
  17. Judas Priest – “Living After Midnight” 10366066_10152942352488714_5260061854670921576_n

New Year – New Playlist: Part 3

The last few songs…

OK, so I know it’s not even New Year any more.  It’s almost May.  But we’ve only just got round to finishing off this A – Z playlist game, so I’m posting it no matter what.

The idea was to play one song by an artist, moving alphabetically through the iPod list.  No repeats.  This time however, we had to repeat the artist – as there’s only one band in my iTunes beginning with X.

  • Al: Van Halen – “Panama”
  • Ness: Vile Valo & Natalia Avelon – “Summer Wine”
  • Al: Waylon Jennings – “Theme From The Dukes of Hazzard”
  • Ness: Weezer – “Hash Pipe”
  • Al: X-Ray Spex – “Identity”
  • Ness: X-Ray Spex – “The Day the World Turned Day-Glo”
  • Al: The Yardbirds – “Shapes of Things”
  • Ness: Yes – “Owner of a Lonely Heart”
  • Al: Zodiac Mindwarp & The Love Reaction – “Prime Mover”
  • Ness: Zombina & the Skeletones – “Your Girlfriend’s Head”

That’s the end, sorry it took a while to finish the list off!

The can read Part 1 here.

And Part 2 is here.