Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Knock2Bag - Comedy Gold!

21st April 2010 - Shepherds Bush - Bar FM

Ascending the steps to the underground 'Bar FM', there seems to be no better setting for a comedy night than this. There seems to be an undeniable sense of other-worldiness in the plush darkness within. The Knock2Bag stage is raised almost imperceptibly from the ground as chairs tables and sofas occupy the surrounding space creating a sense of intimacy. We are all in this together, which is just as well as in a setting this small, very few can escape the ever watchful eye of the comics, especially MC Fergus Craig, starting off the evening with a tailored brand of childish imagery and musings, effortlessly delivered and sandwiched between his sharp wit and impeccable timing.

Tonight's ensemble are a charming mix of established and upcoming talents, and without much ado Mike Wozniak appears onstage, the embodiment of Tom Selleck after a nervous breakdown. With perfect diction he delivers an observational eye, twisted with a surreal cerebral vision, culminating in a story about his father taking a job cleaning mice on the underground. Perfectly executed with a remark about his fathers competency in such a job, given the state of underground mice these days, he exits to a roar of applause, replaced with an even fresher face, named Grainne Maguire.

Gawky and nervous as she is, her comic style takes some getting used to. There is a fine line between comic awkwardness and a nervous disposition. Nonetheless, a fair few laughs bestowed to us from this 2009 Mercury New Act Of The Year finalist, especially in her take on our relationship with the new Conservatives, drawing links between the British public and a battered wife. "They've changed! They recycle now!". Finishing with a terribly awkward but lovable 'reclaiming of the belly' rap, which only serves to reinforce her naive charm, she scurries off stage indulging us in a quick break to sate our thirst for booze.

The next portion of the event is reserved for the well established comics which took the headlines of this particular event. Doc Brown takes to the stage, armed with a folder and an amazing penchant for comic rapping. His swagger and charm are a winning combination, and rapping about anything from his love of David Attenborough, to the correct pronunciation of urban 'gang speak' and its middle class translation, a quick scan of the audience will see most people bent double in silent fits, or choking on their chips. As usual, this particular set is not long enough. We move on to the mysterious 'top secret telly guest'.

Award winning writer and actor Stephen Merchant is not one best known for his standup. A change he is prepared to make, as he introduces himself thus, stating his interest in having something "he can't get his hands on". No need to ask to whom he refers! unleashing his wealth of observations on the responsibilities men have in the dating stakes, height and levels of 'geek', he is every bit as brilliant as you can imagine. Here is a wealth of talent which we hope he will continue to utilise to great effect. His personality, passion and delivery smack of his unique writing style, a winning combination it seems.

We end on an absolute high, as Robin Ince spews bile on all and sundry, covering a ten mile radius in enraged ramblings. Prophecising the failure of his set due to his 'good mood', he is soon berating all those who own up to "guilty pleasures", calling for these pleasures to be far more guilty, crossing the lines into downright illegal. Just how far into guilt is a bit too rich to put into print! After too short a time, the end is nigh, and we are spilling out on to the streets once more, a gaggle of half remembered jokes, too rare to be repeated, and too blue to be aired on television! With the wealth of amazing upcoming and well-known comics treading the boards within the realms Knock2Bag enterprises, it is a perfect gem of brilliance which never fails to deliver. A cheap night out at £8 per ticket, the only solution is to go and see it for yourself. You will choke on your chips, so be careful!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Fionn Regan - A Late Review If You Please!

The Shadow of an Empire – 8th February 2010

With a grand chasm opening up between Regan’s last album, ‘The End Of History’ in 2006, one could be forgiven for thinking hope had been lost for the Mercury award nominated Dandy-haired wonder. However, time has given birth to his latest little capsule of Irish folk-itude in the form of ‘the Sahdow of an Empire’, an album that doesn’t so much ask for your attention, but forcibly pulls you to the ground and shouts in your face, urging you to give a damn.

If Fionn Regan’s debut album envisions the “morning after”, then ‘The Shadow of an Empire’ is most definitely the fabled “night before”. With much the same vocal tones that made his brand of magic unique, and an extra unmistakable tinge of Bob Dylan as exemplified on House Detective and Coat Hook, Regan shatters his easy acoustic image and spins a revved up electric country-folk concoction, engorged with harmonica soundscapes, banjo rhythms, and the odd piano solo. Even with tracks like Little Nancy, which is slower than most, the resulting effect is louder than any you will find on ‘The End of History’.

The single release Protection Racket continues on the Dylan trail, rich as it is in Americana culture reference such as the perfect lyrics “you curse the darkness and I’ll strike a match’, and of course “Let’s raise our glasses to Mr Onasses”. Its upbeat nature and untiring rhythm is sharply backed up by Catacombs, who’s lyrics “Let’s take it outside…I’ll pay you to do me some damage” support the overall Texan bar-brawl feel, along with the atmospheric Genocide Matinee, with its classic rock overtones.

Fionn Regan has broken radically with expectation, and while it is clear that the long wait has proved necessary for personal growth and upheaval, there are still those tell-tale glimmers of the route taken to reach this altered perspective. This is obvious in Violent Demeanour, where the deep and dark lyric prevails over all others “and now there’s pennies on your eyes”. Again, in Lines Written In Winter Lord Help and My Poor Soul, with the raw and beautifully under-produced vocals we had become accustomed to, arching over those nostalgic lilting acoustics, we are treated to a celebration of his old youthful melancholy. This is harking back to times of a more authentic innocence, whereas Fionn Regan’s subtly deeper newfound voice heaves with the challenge of maturity and experience.