Ten Hours in Middle-Earth

So I’ve finally completed a long-held ambition and watched all three Lord of the Rings films in one sitting. Moreover, that one sitting was in an IMAX cinema. Not 3D, thank God, but still, big screen, big sound. I was more destabilised than I had expected by it being the theatrical edition and not the extended – having been watching the EEs for close to ten years now, it’s perhaps no surprise that I didn’t recognise the film I was shown last night. However, I found some of the ways they sidestepped scenes interesting. Definitely prefer the extended editions, but last night, to be honest, I was quite relieved that it was the slimlined version – any more Treebeard scenes would have killed me.

Oh, did I mention? It was an all-nighter – midnight to eleven in the morning, what with the clock-change. To my eternal shame, I didn’t stay awake. It’s difficult to tell, since I “missed” scenes that just weren’t there, but I think I stayed awake through all of Fellowship, only had a few micro-sleeps in Towers, and slept through basically all of Dunharrow and the parting of Sam and Frodo in Return. Which, on balance, I can cope with.

Something that I don’t think becomes really clear without the massive cinema sound system is how much the film relies on the “swelling orchestral music-drop music-crunchy battle noises” pattern – to fantastic effect. I was looking forward to the Ride of the Rohirrim more than anything and I was not disappointed.

The other thing I was half-looking forward to was hearing the soundtrack on loud speakers. Only half because so much of it can make me cry and I wasn’t keen on that. In the event, I was a tad disappointed – having gotten used to hearing it on its own, I had slightly forgotten how low it was in the mix sometimes. But I didn’t cry, so there’s that.

I also ingested about 1.375L of Blue Bolt (so like, all of the energy, and, for whatever reason, Vitamin B) and copious amounts of black coffee, which didn’t stop me falling asleep then but has kept me awake most of the day.

That’s cool, right? Spending a Saturday night in a cinema watching Lord of the Rings?

As if I cared.

Camden’s White Knight

So I got home last night, and played a bit of Batman: Arkham City, as I tend to do. And while I soared over Gotham, randomly diving to the streets below and battering some petty criminals to a pulp, I got to thinking about the speech at the end of The Dark Knight:

Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight. 

NB: This is a framing device – I didn’t really begin quoting Batman in a nightclub.

I don’t know if it’s a widely used term outside the internet, but the accusation is often levelled that people are being “white knights” – leaping to the defence of female posters as if they are damsels in distress. It comes with undertones of benevolent sexism and also Entitled Nice Guyism. I do my best to avoid it online. But when I’m out on the town, I realise I have a creeping tendency to White Knight. When I see a creepy bloke rubbing up against a woman like some oversized feline, my instinct is to somehow provide her with a way out. Sometimes it’s female friends – I’ve developed codes with some as to when I intervene. Last night, however, it was with a girl that I still don’t know by name, just from having been in a group with a friend of mine. Some middle aged bloke on his own approached her not once, not twice, but three times, despite the clear no signals she was blasting his way. After that, I tapped her on the shoulder and asked if she’d like to swap places, which would leave her across the group from creepy. She smiled, said thank you, and moved, simples. And I grappled up into the rafters before gliding off over Camden Lock to find more damsels to rescue and creeps to thwart.

This made me think on a few levels.

  1. Just because it is in the real world, it doesn’t take away any of the problematic features of the White Knight. On some level, it is still as if I’m the big strong hero intervening to protect the helpless wimmenz. Which just isn’t the case. In fact, I’m sure most of my female friends can handle themselves way better than I can.
  2. While not necessarily with the older man, because fuck, if that’s me in twenty years, something went seriously wrong, but generally, I do feel some affinity with the guys throwing themselves at my friends. I’m single, I do go out vaguely hoping to attract female attention, and on some level, seeing that rejection does elicit sympathy. But, the advantage of going out with women is that you instantly see it from the point of view of the victim of that stupid non-consensual grinding that seems to happen and just… understand, I guess. Nonetheless, I feel like I’m somehow letting the team down, slightly.
  3. I had been interested in that girl myself. Linked to point 2), however, is its converse – while I refuse to do the non-consensual dancing, equally, I know that, personally, at least, if I start using White Knightery as a way ‘in’, I’ll be the worse for it. Because then that really does dive into Entitled Nice Guy territory – “I just saved you from that bloke, because really, I want you for myself, and as I did you a favour, you owe me your attention.” So that was frustrating.

So yeah, being a real life white knight. At least it enables me to find pictures like this one and share it.

Out and About in London: 06/02/2012: Gilby Clarke @ The Underworld, Camden

Gilby Clarke

Gilby Clarke today

My route to university on the days I don’t have a Travelcard takes me past the Undeworld, what I take to be quite a famous metal venue/nightclub with pop and indie nights (seriously.). Generally, I hardly spare it a glance, expecting the windows to be full of bands with names and posters that I can only hope are tongue-in-cheek. And, when I saw the poster of a dark-haired man with an angry face making the horns at the camera, I thought it was just another metal band. Then I saw the name – Gilby Clarke.

When Izzy Stradlin left Guns N’ Roses in 1991, Gilby Clarke replaced him on tour for three years. That’s about the extent of my familiarity with him – he makes frequent appearances in Slash’s autobiography around that period. Nonetheless, this was an opportunity to tick another Guns member off the list – two and counting. I think I might have listened to one or two songs of his before buying the tickets. I bought them well in advance however, and had time to Spotify his debut album Pawn Shop Guitars quite extensively, and thought it was a very solid album. Not only was it going to be a good night in terms of being within one degree of separation of Slash and Axl, but, it turned out, it was going to be a good gig anyway.

I’d never been to the Underworld as a music venue, only as a nightclub. However, it’s a great venue for rock – all black, in the basement, in a sort of pit, the stage not too high up. It certainly feels very intimate. Drinks were, as ever, a fortune. However, as they gave me a re-entry stamp, I was able to nip to Sainsbury’s, and then nip home to pick up my phone, only missing five minutes of one of the support acts. Just one of the many delights of living in Camden.

There were three support acts. The first one don’t appear on the website and I didn’t catch their name, but were quite standard pub-rock types. Quite enjoyable music, but little in the way of variation. And the singer was dressed as a pirate.

Next up, Guns 2 Roses, the band I missed a bit of – unfortunately, as they were fantastic. I’m always sceptical of Guns N’ Roses covers, as I feel Axl has one of those inimitable voices, and, sure enough, the singer wasn’t quite there at all times. Nonetheless, the band were really good, the singer had real energy (he had the Axl dances down pat) and this was when the room really started to come into its own. There was a really good atmosphere and lots of energy – I finally understand the point of tribute acts.  Only slight sticking point was the dancers during Paradise City, their closing song. Out of nowhere, they brought up a young blonde woman in little more than fishnets and underwear to dance sexily on stage. It was probably in character, not that the Guns attitude to women was anything to live by, but it just seemed quite cheap. Not that I mind cheap blondes (ahem) but even without putting on my feminist hat, it sat poorly with me.

Touring with Gilby are Swedish band Badmouth, who, to be honest, I thought were the weakest act of the night. Hard rock is a genre that invites cliché, and while usually I don’t mind, I found it grated here, perhaps because of the lack of anything particularly interesting about the band itself, the lead singer’s glorious hair aside. They also kept doing the “everybody clap” thing, which needs to die. It’s just an awkward idea, which will inevitably end up in out-of-time noise, with everyone unsure how long to keep clapping. It also demoralises the musician, I find – when you don’t get a response from the audience, it’s a downer, and it’s not pleasant to inflict that on a band.

Finally, at about ten, out swaggered Gilby. I hadn’t seen him for twenty years, so didn’t quite recognise him at first. The set-up was pretty amateurish, which I didn’t mind – having Gilby come out and fiddle with amplifiers and pedals for five minutes in plain sight was quite endearing. The broken snare drum later on was handled with similar professionalism, which one of the boring people behind me complained about, but again, quite endearing.

The music was fantastic – very tight playing. Gilby was the rhythm guitarist with Guns, but he has a really distinctive lead style, even on Guns covers, with plenty of attack. I can’t really comment too much on the setlist as I only knew his debut album, but it wasn’t monotonous like the first band, and had all my favourite songs on it, so I was pleased.

If only he had played to an empty room. I think the intimacy of club gigs when compared to stadiums and the like is a double-edged sword in some ways. You can’t heckle in a crowd of a hundred thousand.  The idiots who make requests for songs are far more obnoxious when they’re not diluted. And then there’s the unavoidables. Obnoxious people directly surrounding you. Mosh pits. The cameraphones. Moshpits. I seriously can’t describe how much I despise mosh pits. I missed a good portion of Tijuana Jail because I was busy not getting hit in the face, and then I lost my place near the front for the encore.

In conclusion, though, it was a great night. Now to seek out Velvet Revolver – three Guns with one stone!