Wales Comic Con 2019

Wales Comic Con 

Saturday 27th – Sunday 8th April 2019

Glyndwr University, Wrexham

Storm Hannah was raging on Saturday when my family and I made one of our regular visits to Wales Comic Con.  The usual site at Glyndwr University was drowning under torrential downpours and lashed by fierce winds.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it really was grim.  Thor, God of Thunder, must have been in a really bad mood.  Or maybe it was Storm from the X-Men?

As a result, our family day trip was a bit of a washout.  Corridors were packed out as attendees shuffled along like zombies from The Walking Dead.

We managed to get into the merch tent, which was also very crowded and difficult to get near to the stalls.  Some traders looked to be suffering as the marquis roof was leaking rainwater.

I didn’t manage to get many photos of Cosplayers or props etc.  Most people were wrapped up against the elements, or there just wasn’t room to take a pic.  I don’t think anyone particularly felt like dawdling, posing for a photo – and I didn’t fancy hanging around in the wet!

The queue to get in to the signing tent was massive, stretching outdoors as people waited to get in.  As it was still chucking it down, we decided not to bother joining the line and decided to leave.

No big deal for me as I wasn’t really interested in autographs; Mrs Platinum Al had been thinking about meeting Kiefer Sutherland for a signing though, so that never happened..

But we’d had enough – the miserable weather had us beat.  We were wet through.  Basically, we paid £22 each to look round some stalls in a leaking tent.

Now nobody can be blamed for the weather, it was just unfortunate.  I did feel sorry for the traders with their soaked merchandise.  And the people in the rain waiting to have a photograph with a celeb whilst they looked like they’d just been rescued from the Titanic.

And the poor celebs too – what a welcome to the country!

Well the only answer was to just get on and make the most of things, which I think most did.  The organisers can’t be blamed for Storm Hannah.  Maybe in the future they need to consider shelters for the queue, rain or shine.

Sunday’s weather was much improved, however we’d only got tickets for Saturday.  The reason for that was because Rupert Grint, some Harry Potter kid, was there that day.  For some reason this was a big deal in our house, so we booked tickets for Saturday (the only day Ron Weasley was there) rather than our usual Sunday.

After buying the tickets, we then found out that autographs with Rupert would cost over £130 – so he was priced out of our range anyway.  Ironically, had we known that cost up front, we’d have bought Sunday tickets; avoided the storm and had a great day.

Rupert Grint better not show his face round here, I’ll stick his wand where the sun doesn’t shine for him.

The Wales Comic Con website is here.

Chester Rocks 2014

Chester Rocks

Saturday 7th June 2014

Chester Racecourse

I went to the first Chester Rocks festival at the Racecourse back in 2011.  The main reason for this was to see the living legend, Godfather of Punk, Iggy Pop.  With the Stooges, no less.  Performing songs from (one of the greatest albums of all time) “Raw Power”!  That was not to be missed, not when Sir Iggy and pals were playing so close to home.  Also playing on the day were attractions such as Feeder and Leftfield – so a bargain of a day out right on my doorstep.

That was the “rock” (as in “Chester Rocks”) day.  The previous day had seen a pop theme with McFly, The Saturdays, Sugababes and some geezer called Taio Cruz (is that how you spell it?  How the flip do you say it??!).  Our rock day saw glorious weather and a fun day out, and the consensus was that this event would be a great annual fixture, should we see more of the same in the future.

Alas, Chester is a city (small C) with no culture.  No cinema, no theatre, few options for live music.  Culture, in Chester, is thousands of drunken, vomiting Hollyoaks wannabes watching horses run round a field.  And so, alas, Chester opted to jettison the “rock” for the far more lucrative teeny bopper pop market.  Chasing the dollar won out, though Rocks was retained as a (somewhat inappropriate) name. CR1

This year, I was lucky enough to be offered a couple of free tickets for the Saturday, and happily snapped them up.  Although none of the bands were favourites, it was a chance to enjoy a day out and see some live music.  So why not?

The featured acts – three big name bands, plus local support – were all on the big main stage on the field.  Quite an impressive place for the smaller bands to play.  The only negative was looking to be the weather – a thunder storm that morning with more forecast for that evening.

The first band I caught were local Chester band The Suns.  I’d never seen them before, but had heard some good words in advance.  I was expecting some friendly, straight forward Indie, but they were very different.  Taking to the stage in black suits, with a vocalist with a massive beard, they actually sounded more like a rockabilly band.  Oh wait – I get it!  Sun Records – The Suns?  Bloody marvellous!  The rumours are true, The Suns are fantastic.  Full of swagger and charm, they’re like The Hives if they’d been formed in 1956 by Elvis, Cash and Perkins.  Catch them soon.  Band of the day and no mistake.

Next up were The Fallows, another local band.  Coincidently, I had seen this band before at my previous visit to Chester Rocks.  Back in 2011, Shaun Ryder had disgraced himself with an incompetent, puked-up set of utter shit.  I wandered off to see a Battle of the Bands in another area, where I found The Fallows making Ryder look like a lager chimp.  Four years later and The Fallows are on this huge main stage.  They’re still great.  The singer has obviously been to Indie School, where he majored in Richard Ashcroft; but fair does he’s got the balls to superstar it up, way up there.  There are hints of U2 and The Verve, and the rumbling bass helps make this set another success. CR2

Purge are next.  Never heard of ’em, but they had to be on soon, judging by the number of punters wearing their t-shirts.  They brought the whole fan club.  Hailing from Manchester,   these guys are more of an early RHCP/Primus hybrid.  Bring the funk!  Good fun, these boys have tons of confidence and are worth keeping an eye on.

Before Purge’s set began, we had a fine example of the type of punter Chester Rocks attracts.  Purge fans were waving a huge, home made blanket banner – and a group behind who had their view obscured were unhappy.  So riled were they, they barged in and grabbed the banner down and made off with it, in an eruption of petulant self-righteousness.  Obviously they don’t go to gigs much.  Can’t see?  Move.  It’s a big fucking field.

The main bands of the evening were The Hoosiers, The Feeling and Razorlight.  Can’t say I’m familiar with any of them.  It’s light weight, inoffensive Indie pop – though it all seems to blur into one another.  A couple of songs I recognised from DFS adverts.  They’re all enjoyable and nice enough.  I don’t really want to say a bad word about any of the bands, as despite the rain, it’s a jolly day.  I won’t be buying their music, but for a free evenings entertainment I ain’t complaining.

Just think how cool it could have been though.  From Iggy Pop to Hollyoaks.  Where next?

Classic Albums

The first in an ongoing series, where I will be discussing some of the best records ever made.  These are the “classics” of my record collection, that no-one should be without.

1. The Cult – “Love”

Released in 1985, The Cult’s album Love still sounds fantastic to this day.  It’s a potent cocktail of resurrected blues-rock riffs, screaming psychedelia and murky atmosphere that transcended music of the time.  Listening to it now, it seems unbelievable that the record was created in the mid eighties.  And yet it has enough power – and melodic charm – to still sound great.

In late 1988 I had become obsessed with Electric, the full-on rock monster that the Cult had released a year earlier.  A friend lent me a copy of Love, promising that the songs contained therein were the best the band had recorded.  cult-love

At this point I had explored some rock, metal and punk.  Love was to be a bridge between these genres in many ways.  Happily it was (what would become) “alternative” rock – though it worshipped at the altar of Hendrix, The Doors and Led Zeppelin, it was birthed from the fire of punk rock.

Opening track “Nirvana” kicks things off in blazing style.  It has a fast pace and contains a euphoric instrumental section.  Both “Big Neon Glitter” and the title track “Love” offer up the Big Zep riffs and allow guitarist Billy Duffy to add a psychedelic shimmer.  Then “Brother Wolf, Sister Moon” provides a quieter moment.  If the earlier tracks were ideal for blasting out the windows of a 1970 Dodge Challenger, this track is more singer Ian Astbury sitting on a pony surveying the prairie.  As the song ends, rumbling clouds herald the next track: “Rain”.  One of the best songs the Cult have ever recorded, “Rain” has a truly classic riff that is instantly recognisable and never forgotten.

Side Two (!) opens with “Phoenix”.  This track, unashamedly adorned with Hendrix inspired acid rock guitar, hints at the heavier sounds to come in later chapters of the bands story.  “Hollow Man” provides more driving bass (Jamie Stewart) and a simpler, melodic lead guitar.  Astbury has the chance to really shine on ballad “Revolution”, with a calmer moment that harks back to the bands Goth post-punk phase.

Next we have the mother of all Cult songs – “She Sells Sanctuary”.  A vaguely Eastern sounding intro leads into a stomping rhythm as the song grabs the listener and drags them along for the sheer hell of it.  This song became an instant favourite and still has an impact all these years later.  Final track, “Black Angel”, is a sombre Velvet Underground do Spaghetti Western affair that again adds some darkness to the proceedings.

The band received a lot of criticism for having a somewhat “hippie-ish” element to their sound, and look, on this album.  There are a few moments where the “peace and love” vibe wear a bit thin (see “Revolution”), however the overall sound of the record retains a dark edge to it – more decadent than naive.

The Cult would go on to fully embrace their heavy rock interests with Electric.  But for a kid who had never heard Zeppelin or Hendrix, Love was a monumental discovery.  Put it on and listen to it now, this record has a magic that is of it’s time and yet speaks of the past and future.

The Cult – Love

  1. Nirvana
  2. Big Neon Glitter
  3. Love
  4. Brother Wolf, Sister Moon
  5. Rain
  6. Phoenix
  7. Hollow Man
  8. Revolution
  9. She Sells Sanctuary
  10. Black Angel

Best tracks: Rain, She Sells Sanctuary, Nirvana, Brother Wolf, Sister Moon

Other cool points: great cover!

Buy this Classic Album here.