How the Barbican’s still trying to be the future

Henry learns that Artificial Intelligence is about Golems. Yeah, it’s all definitely about Golems.

This Friday I was dragged to the Barbican’s AI: More Than Human exhibit. It’s about our relationship with artificial intelligence, focusing on the evolution of AI as a concept and its current implications. It’s running until 26 August 2019.

Entry’s steep at £15 and it was totally packed.

I however, didn’t pay (my girlfriend did), so I was able to enjoy a guilt-free evening in what I’ve always thought is the real life set of JG Ballard’s dystopian thriller, High Rise.

For an exhibition about the destruction of social norms through technology, there probably couldn’t have been a better venue. Poor phone reception’s our best defence against the singularity spreading.

But remarkably, the most interesting thing about the exhibition was not the technology, instead it was the narrative.

But I thought Artificial Intelligence meant no more tears (reading)?

From the get go, the exhibition goes hard on the establishing where AI came from. It implies that today’s examples of artificial intelligence (chatbots smart enough to ignore attempts at tomfoolery) are the embryonic realisation of humanity’s long-standing desire to imbue the inanimate with life.

You know, so we don’t have to do stuff that we don’t want to do, or demean ourselves by paying people to do stuff we don’t want to do.

It argues that the first dreams of electric sheep were our own fantasies of mysticism – the Judaic legend of the Golem (a lot of the exhibit’s devoted to golems, I really don’t know why) and the Shinto belief that inanimate objects have souls (otherwise known as the historical obsession of giving objects faces – plush chocolate ice cream emoticons – how far we’ve come).

Throughout, it’s easy to get the impression that the curators were trying to inspire fear, disgust and mild panic. If they were, it definitely worked.

Next to the entrance you’re subjected to looped reels of familiar sci-fi scenes, all depicting the dire consequences of non-human intelligence, from the astronaut murdering AI in 2001: A Space Odyssey, to scenes from Dr Who (what happens when you let robots write shit for tv), and a clearly-phoned-in-to-fit-the-narrative scene from that Simpsons episode with the Golem (do you even remember that one?).

After passing a table of more Golems and a projection of a video game that utilises AI to procedurally generate greenery (as if Speed Tree hasn’t existed for years), it moves from of the concept of the mystical into practical science; specifically alchemy, mathematics and psychology – as if those things weren’t just made up.

You get to jump from the the philosopher’s stone, to how people in China and Japan actually had their own numeric systems (who knew that maths wasn’t invented in England?), and finally to a really big wall chart explaining the concept of the uncanny valley.

There’s a lot of emphasis on the uncanny valley. You know, the psychological concept coined by Jasia Reichardt about how humans are pre-programmed to experience emotions of disgust when faced with androids that look almost human. It’s made all the more relatable (and less serious) with deliberate linkages to fictional horror, with displays devoted to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Hoffman’s Sandman nearby.

This all gets the point across well, but it can feel like you’re being led.

Scaling the uncanny valley

I’d like to do a really scientific survey to prove whether the uncanny valley’s real.

It’s genius. I’m going to ask a group of teenagers how attracted they are to Lara Croft character models from 1996 to now.

There’s also this low, pulsating track playing throughout, which adds to the feeling of unsettlement and to my argument that throughout the whole exhibit’s trying to manipulate your emotions.

If you manage to get this far (and have a soul), you’ll probably feel like you hate AI.

Getting serious about computer science

As soon as your emotions have been are appropriately toyed with, the exhibit gets all serious about computer science.

I like how it’s made of circles and rectangles! Turing machines are SO fascinating. AI: More than Human @ the Barbican

There’s a sonnet penned by the grandmother of computing, Ada Lovelace (a sonnet?) and a replica Turing Machine. There’s also a bunch of wall monitors that explain the history of computer science and provide a timeline of the long and interesting past of AI grant funding (BORING).

It’s strange though, I don’t recall the exhibition offering a clear definition of what artificial intelligence actually is.

Maybe that’s because there isn’t a very good definition, at least for Luddites like you and me.

But it’s ok, I think I managed to cook one up myself. It’s pretty simple:

  • Computers that don’t have the gift of artificial intelligence are like those people that you manage at work who require step-by-step lists to prevent the unintentional loss of fingers.
  • Computers that have artificial intelligence are the ones who you can give high-level objectives to, and are creative enough to have ideas worth stealing.

Make sense?

Anyway, it then moves onto a lot of examples about the great achievements of AI today:

  • From the Sony robot dog (why would anyone want a dog that’s not fluffy? – Sony, do you want to hire me? I think I just fixed your robot dog)
  • Some chips from Deep Blue, and
  • A mechanical arm that likes to play Go. (I mean, if it was truly intelligent, would that arm really be playing Go? I think it’d be more into Shake Weight.)
I’m sorry lover, but I never bring flowers. Why? Because they’re not thoughtful, machines can think up millions an hour. Computer generated flowers. AI: More than Human @ the Barbican

Towards the end, you’re presented with both positive and negative applications of AI, as if you’re meant to decide whether you want AI to come to your party or whatever.

Good applications included hypothetical robotic bees (because nothing says good better than letting all the bees die?)

Bad applications included Chinese government’s planned use of artificial intelligence to deliver a social credit rating system, which unfortunately wasn’t explained as well as it could have been (there’s a decent Wired article on it here – turns out it’s just the communist version of Experian).

So, if the good things are bad and the bad things are just really boring, is the answer that we shouldn’t really be worrying about artificial intelligence and instead about how awful humanity is?

Artificial Intelligence is more about humans than machines

While the imagined consequences of artificial intelligence can be frightening (aka – the neo-stasi or actual automatic weapon systems), it’s still just computer programs doing things that humans want to do.

I guess that would change when machines have the capacity to set their own objectives, but if we don’t have the imagination to do anything better than reenact the plot of WarGames how likely is it that we’ll get there?

Instead, it made me think that the scariest thing about artificial intelligence is how it has the potential to make administration really efficient and the potential to rob a lot of fun from the world (inspire social homogenisation).

And that made me think that one of the main things that the exhibition did wrong was that it applied human characteristics to machines, rather than the characteristics of machines to humans.

If it had been inverted, I believe that the exhibition would have forced more people there to reflect on their own humanity.

Like, isn’t it funny how we don’t actually know what our hands look or feel like, we just have some weird image in our brain, inspired by a solution of chemicals and electrical pulses.

Vicious, you hit me with a flower. You do it every hour. Machines trying to understand the motivation behind our favourite words. AI: More than Human @ the Barbican

So yeah, the exhibition was alright. But delivered the message the wrong way round and had way, way, way too many Golems.

GIG REVIEW: False Advertising – Three Free Gigs #7

There are a bunch of free gigs in London. Each week I go to three and review them.

The rating system’s simple: how many beers did I buy (drink)? The more, the better.

7. False Advertising @ Old Blue Last, London

Monday, 3 June 2019

Is it False Advertising if they were definitely playing alternative rock?

False Advertising at the Old Blue Last
False Advertising pretending not to play alternative rock @ the Old Blue Last

Today, I saw False Advertising, a half female / male fronted alternative rock trio at the Old Blue Last. They were there to launch their latest single, You Won’t Feel Love. It’s pretty cool. Listen to it.

As the night’s only band, False Advertising didn’t need to do much to hold the crowd’s attention. Despite this (maybe they didn’t realise), they still delivered a solid performance that didn’t seem to lose momentum despite two drummer / guitarist switches. (I have no base comparison, but their parents seemed delighted, so I’m going to stand by that statement)

The songs were the standard alternative rock stop / start affair, mixed with some jarring hardcore rhythms and the usual discordant guitar. The lead single inspired memories of Veruca Salt’s second effort, Eight Arms to Hold You. That’s meant to be a positive. Also, it was definitely better live. They’re actually pretty decent live.

To mark the single’s launch, the band bribed the audience with a mason jar filled with swirly-pops. I didn’t take one because my reviews are totally impartial, but apparently the track’s lyrics were singed into the stopper. Sweets are obviously the natural extension of the concept art that’s accompanied a few of their singles (You Won’t Feel Love, You Said and Give It Your Worst) – yeah, actual examples of false advertising.

The rest of the performance sounded a bit more like Shudder to Think mixed with a bit of Jawbox– but less hardcore and alternative now it’s 2019.

Good gig for a Monday.

NB: If False Advertising find themselves stuck for inspiration for the next single, I’d recommend Head & Shoulders (visibly reduced flakes at a distance of 2-feet – yep, the claim was investigated in 2006 but it’s still on the bottle).

Four_Beers

FOUR BEERS

I went to the future – even the local chippy was vegan. Oh wait.

How Homerton’s Kingfisher somehow made vegan food authentically British

Today was the launch of the vegan menu at the Kingfisher, a traditional (not fancy) fish & chip shop in Homerton, east London.

I dragged my girlfriend along expecting a hilarious excursion; the only thing hilarious about it was how wrong I’d been.

I can honestly say that I think this is the first time I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating authentic British vegan cuisine. You know, not tofu salad, a nut roast or a beetroot burger, but something that felt (and tasted) British.

And who managed this great feat? A little independent fish & chip shop in Homerton, which is pretty damn remarkable.

How I ended up going to the Kingfisher’s vegan menu launch

How did I get there? It began at a barbecue last night.

In someone’s garden with a bunch of people I didn’t know, I tried to make friends (started showboating).

To do it, I strung them along with a captivating story about the plight of a local fish & chip shop, and its misguided attempt to get with the times by launching a vegan menu. Then (and this is how you make friends) I got everyone involved.

Passing around a poster I’d spotted in window of the Kingfisher earlier, I asked everyone what they thought:

Invitation to the Party
Why didn’t you RSVP to the party?! Vegan menu launch @ the Kingfisher

For those who can’t see past the permanent marker, it’s an invitation to the launch of the Kingfisher’s vegan menu on Sunday, 2 June 2019: a bring-your-own-booze spectacular and the first ever VEGAN ONLY day in the establishment’s 47 years of business.

Then I said, “for a fish and chip shop that still doesn’t accept cards, that’s one hell of a statement. Why don’t we go?

Everyone was hooked (or at least pretended they were). So, much to their amusement, I called and booked a table for four.

Surprise-surprise.

When I got up the next day everyone had forgotten about the plan.

So that table for four became a table for two (my girlfriend’s long suffering).

And hell was I surprised.

Much to my disbelief, the Kingfisher’s vegan menu launch featured decent vegan food. For the first time, I was sharing my culture with my girlfriend (who’s not from round here) and I wasn’t embarrassed about it.

Leaving, I couldn’t help but root for them. Businesses like this should be succeeding.

Authentic British vegan food? How can you make a claim so bold? (THE REVIEW)

The Kingfisher doesn’t boast. It’s a modest, traditional fish & chip shop situated along Homerton High Street. It’s pretty accessible at five minutes walk from Homerton overground and fifteen from Hackney Central.

Profile of the Kingfisher
A modest profile. Vegan menu launch @ the Kingfisher.

Compared to its neighbours (the Adam & Eve and the Spread Eagle): it’s not flashy.

But that doesn’t matter: it’s the real deal: no need for sequin dresses, an imported Club Mexicana menu or DJ sets that no one listens to.

Inside, it’s what you’d expect – the deep fat fryer bubbles, there’s the occasional spray of salt and vinegar and the placemats are kinda sticky. 

Interior of the Kingfisher
Why can’t I have a saveloy?! Vegan menu launch @ the Kingfisher

What makes the Kingfisher different is the menu.

This Sunday, it was totally vegan:

Kingfisher Vegan Menu
Beyond the permanent marker, it’s a pretty bold vegan offering. Vegan menu launch @ the Kingfisher.

When I first saw it, I didn’t really read it properly and instead just laughed. I was fully expecting deep-fried Linda McCartney sausages and slices of lukewarm tofu.

I was really wrong.

For their vegan menu, the Kingfisher had gone the whole tempeh (get it? Tempeh’s a pork substitute). It was wide-ranging and from what I tasted, very well executed.

Talking to the owner, it was clear that it was founded on a lot of research, experimentation and definitely was not half-arsed (yeah, I’m looking at you the Diner).

We saw them prepare the Classic (standard vegan beef burger), the Chickadee (their own attempt to rival Hackney’s vegan burger emporium, Temple of Seitan), their namesake ‘the Kingfisher’ (a mock fish-fillet burger) as well as their own vegan take on chip-shop classics including the doner kebab (every fish & chip shop in London is a glorified Super Kebab – it’s what the people want) and pie & chips. There were also a bunch of vegan desserts and smoothies.

Also, like me you probably associate traditional British cafes with Nescafe Gold. But look, the coffee actually wasn’t granulated:

Coffee at the Kingfisher
Actual coffee. Vegan menu launch @ the Kingfisher

As a party of two we had: 

  • the ‘Kingfisher’ (vegan breaded fish-fillet burger)
  • A Vegan Pie (vegan take on a steak and onion pie)
  • Some chips
  • And a Super Green smoothie

Look, it’s almost like someone might have posted that picture on Instagram:

Food at the Kingfisher
The ‘Kingfisher’ (a vegan fish fillet burger) and vegan pie. The mayonnaise is actually vegan. Vegan menu launch @ the Kingfisher.

It was surprisingly good.

I’ll start with the Kingfisher. For context, I’ve been to the vegan Sutton & Sons in Hackney central (the fancy-ish fish & chip restaurant chain) and I’ve had the fried banana-blossom mock-cod. I can confidently write that the Kingfisher’s breaded vegan fish-fillet tasted more like fish, had texture more like fish and was actually pretty nice to eat, like fish. I’d recommend it over almost any other battered vegan fish I can recall (and I’ve made vegan fish fingers with tofu and seaweed – so I’m pretty much the authority).

The chips were chip-shop chips (better than Chinese takeaway chips, kebab-shop chips and the pub-enamel-mug chips – irrespective of what this survey says). There was also complimentary vegan mayonnaise and a whole range of other free condiments that Mildreds would definitely charge you for.

The vegan pie, normally only offered takeaway, tasted like a meat pie and it came with vegan gravy (a real boon). It was good (in the sense that pie and chips are good). The offering at Camden’s Young Vegans (a dedicated vegan pie shop) isn’t any better.

And the smoothie? The Super Green was made out of avocado, banana and added pea protein (and some seeds. Apparently people who drink smoothies like seeds). It was thick (the right sort of thick), very green and pretty fresh. After a conversation with the owner, I learned that she’d worked a lot on getting the consistency right and even consulted her son, a sports nutritionist, on how to boost its nutritional value.

Smoothies at the Kingfisher
Can you see the pea protein? Can you?! Vegan menu launch @ the Kingfisher.

The food was well executed, well researched and the owners put in a lot of effort to deliver it. Even though it was 100% vegan, it really didn’t seem out of place or phoned in. It wasn’t up itself (pretentious) and most importantly, it tasted good and is actually something I’d eat again.

The whole menu’s also pretty reasonably priced – it cost about as much as a standard meal at a London chippy (just over £20 for two – not including the smoothie).

Why weren’t more people at the launch?

When I arrived, there weren’t that many people there.

When I left, there weren’t many people there either.

It’s not my business, but that made me feel pretty sad.

The food was good, the invitation was charming, it was all well priced and you could bring your own booze. It also had something that you don’t find at chains – charm. I don’t want to be sentimentalist here, but it really felt like you were part of the community.

And if the food satisfied, going there this weekend was certainly a better story than a nutroast at an anonymous east London pub.

For the Kingfisher to deliver a wholly vegan menu was incredibly bold. Maybe it’s a sign of how tastes are changing – adapt or die – but honestly, how often do you see relics of the British High Street trying to innovate and reinvent themselves for 2019? And actually accomplishing it?

The owners were incredibly sweet too. You could tell they’d put one hell of a lot of work into delivering this and cared a lot about their business.

I really don’t want to rant, but if people like you and me don’t go out and support risk takers like this, then we’ll end up with exactly what we deserve – a London with way too many Pret a Mangers. Who honestly wants that?

I cannot implore you enough, vegan or not, to try the new menu at the Kingfisher.

I guarantee that you’ll be just as surprise as I was.

GIG REVIEW: Mellow Gang – Three Free Gigs #6

There are a bunch of free gigs in London. Each week I go to three and review them.

The rating system is simple. How many beers did I buy (drink)? The more, the better.

6. Mellow Gang and Hobby Club @ Lion Coffee + Records, London

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Compact space, small crowd, embarrassed band, no crescendos. Other’s would call it ‘intimate’ – but I’m a realist.

Mellow Gang
So compact you can’t see the band past the camera man. Mellow Gang @ Lion Coffee + Records, Thursday, 30 May 2019

This Thursday, I saw Mellow Gang at Lower Clapton’s premier coffee-come-cocktail-come-record-shop, Lion Coffee + Records (it’s almost in the title, isn’t it?). It was a taster gig, organised to showcase Mellow Gang’s upcoming album, Adjourn. Hobby Club supported.

Unfortunately, I didn’t arrive in time to see Hobby Club, but my girlfriend did. She gave me a download: the guitarist pulled faces at the crowd and the singer looked really Hackney (after she’d taken off her jacket). Great then.

So on to Mellow Gang, who I definitely didn’t miss.

For those who haven’t listened, Mellow Gang play dreamy music that would go great in your lounge. Kinda like Cocteau Twins with Lana Del Rey vocals: a lotta’ chime bells (keyboard), electronic drums that could attract an orca (sonar sounds) and female vocals that pour out like molasses. Also, their song Carousel sounds like Supertramp.

During the show, I stood at the front of the audience – a decision I immediately regretted. Yeah, I kept getting in the way of the hired cameraman (he probably hadn’t been to Hackney before – he was wearing a stab-proof) and I didn’t have anywhere to look except directly into the bassist’s eyes. My gaze made the bassist really uncomfortable (shame, I was trying to express that live, he was the highlight).

Technically, Mellow Gang were good (except for some lacklustre guitar – but no big deal). By that, I mean they played songs from Adjourn successfully live. 

However, live, they didn’t recreate the draw of their studio material – really dense crescendos. 

But that might have been the space.

NB: The space is cool, sounded like the mixing could have been better though.

Three_Beers

Three beers

GIG REVIEW: Fake Turins – Three Free Gigs #5

There are a bunch of free gigs in London. Each week I go to three and review them.

The rating system is simple. How many beers did I buy (drink)? The more, the better.

5. Fake Turins, Shattercones and Japan Review @ 26 Leake Street, London

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Henry learns that Fake Turins are NOT Hard-Fi beats with William Burroughs inspired lyrics.

26 Leake Street
This place will definitely impress Sandra in HR – outside 26 Leake Street, London

This was my first visit to 26 Leake Street.

It’s an open-plan, neon-lit bar, hidden under covered railway arches near Waterloo station. I’d describe it as ‘organise your next post-work binge here and it’ll probably impress your colleagues’ cool.

Yeah, swathes of graffiti, skateboards clattering and kids screaming, ‘fuck off’ at each other. The bar’s also hosting an official Nelson Mandela exhibition, so there’s culture too (great excuse to miss that mandatory weekend gallery excursion).

It inspired me to ask myself, “is 26 Leake Street a bar for revolutionaries?

Then I remembered that I knew the answer to that already:

Yes, of course it was!

Are you Nation of Ulysses? Oh well, chin up…

I was there to see Fake Turins.

The facebook event page described them as, “Nomadic Disco-Punk that blends the poetic irreverence of Burroughs with the modern cynicism of David Foster Wallace.

How Henry inspired Fake Turins 

The description quoted above has been revised.

Ahead of the gig, it claimed that the band were, “Hard-Fi beats overlayed with poetry inspired by William Burroughs carrying the modern cynicism and irony of David Foster Wallace.” Or something like that.

It’s funny, they must have changed it because they overheard me saying how ridiculous it was. Look Fake Turins, I know I’m a pretty big deal, but please stop being so insecure.

I’m sure I’d heard boasts like that before!

Who did it remind me of? Oh yeah, Nation of Ulysses, everyone’s favourite Washington DC punk band to quote when you’re having an argument about how Refused aren’t that original. You know, that band that claimed to be revolutionaries working hard to overthrow the capitalist system.

Fake Turins seemed to be describing themselves in a very similar way. But maybe they were just joking.

I mean, I don’t mind a bit of intentional over exaggeration (I’m not a monster, am I?).

Then they did sound check.

Between ‘1-2 1-2Fake Turins’ front-man recited poetry.

It confirmed my suspicions: Fake Turins were really pretentious (and insecure).

So, having established that this review is completely objective, let’s get to it:

The actual review

Japan Review kicked it off with some dreary dreampop; a lot to distortion and aural landscaping (the legacy of U2 lives on). Singer sounded like Thom Yorke, but the songs weren’t very interesting (no fake plastic watering cans).

I hadn’t showered or changed my boxers that day. Guess who was drearier, my boxers or Japan Review? Nailed it.

Next up: Shattercones. They promised a unique and (potentially) unhinged performance. I can now confirm that no, fiddles do not make performances unique or unhinged. Vocals like Johnny Cash come that posh guy with the double-barrel surname from the Vaccines, but those mid-western vibes might have just been inspired by the attire; they looked like they’d walked off the set of a high-school production of Stranger Things

And now to Fake Turins.

Fake Turins
Sound checks aren’t any good without a bit of poetry (bleugh). Fake Turins @ 26 Leake Street

I’d held out one hell of a lotta hope for Fake Turins.

I mean, they were meant to be “Hard-Fi beats overlayed with poetry inspired by William Burroughs carrying the modern cynicism and irony of David Foster Wallace.

Can you imagine?

Oh wait, you probably can’t.

I’ll help you.

Imagine that song, Living for the Weekend. Now surgically remove the vocals.

Ok good.

Now, I know this one’s difficult, but what do David Foster Wallace and William Burroughs have in common? The former is ‘iron-ic’, the latter shot his wife in the head during a drunken parlour game and then let his friends abuse his son.

Go on, I know you read.

That’s it!

What they have in common is the throbbing (imagined) iron of Naked Lunch’s Steely Dan III: a rubber dildo used to penetrate the dead body of a hanged man.

So Fake Turins were going to play Hard Fi’s Living for the Weekend and read that scene about Steely Dan III from Naked Lunch.

BOLD.

Oh wait, they didn’t.

Actually, they sounded alright. But after so much boasting, they weren’t able to live up to the hype.

The music wasn’t interesting, inspired, or even that different.

It was just a lot of people playing a load of instruments (including bongo drums) and two guys wailing over them cryptically.

The highlight was that Charlie came.

Charlie, don’t worry, the beers are for the bands, not you.

Fake Turins: Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.

Three_Beers

THREE BEERS

GIG REVIEW: Crying High – Three Free Gigs #4

There are a bunch of free gigs in London. Each week I go to three and review them.

The rating system’s simple. How many beers did I buy (drink)? The more, the better.

4. Crying High, Vanity Fairy, Aunt Lucy, ILKA @ the Victoria, London

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Henry crashes a karaoke house party, fails to make friends and realises that no, it really isn’t about the music.

Crying High - Free Merchandise
Crying High @ the Victoria – there was a free merch table. Isn’t this the best bits of merchandise you’ve ever seen? It’s a branded post card! If you send me your address I’ll send you a message!

On Tuesday, I went back to Dalston’s Victoria.

I expected to see another bad gig.

I didn’t.

No, I had the pleasure of seeing three acts (ILKA, sorry but you didn’t make the cut) delight in exposing themselves to an audience of friends. It was like a burlesque show, expect less 12A.

Alone at the back, I felt like I’d crashed a party.

Not the usual party (sitting around someone’s kitchen table playing with the salt shaker and sugar dispenser). No, it was a celebration of friendship, courage, dignity and a night of rolling around in magnetic tape (crooning over pre-recorded tracks).

When it was over, I couldn’t help but imagine what my life would have been like if I’d actually been invited.

Then I took it too far.

Now it’s a story that I’m going to tell everyone this weekend.

How I partied with your Aunt Lucy, Vanity Fairy and Crying High:

Henry:So, I went to this party on Tuesday.

Acquaintance:A PARTY? OH MY GOD HENRY, YOU’RE SO COOL. TELL ME EVERYTHING.

Henry:

It all started with a rap at the door, immediately followed by disappointment.

It was a disaster. That couple ILKA (not-as-synthy-or-strange-as-the-rest) were the first to arrive – no one actually thought they’d show up. 

The conversation wasn’t very inclusive, they insisted on telling everyone what they’d achieved since graduation (yes, they played the most instruments: there was a dedicated drummer, some standing keys, a lil’ bit o’ guitar and a pad-thing that you bash with a stick).

When they started recounting the merits of owning a 4-bed, I realised that the chattier half (singer) sounded like that guy from White Lies (posh English boy who still plays rugby).

I think they thought the boasts were impressive, but really it was just a bit embarrassing (they couldn’t play all the instruments at once).

Also, I should have said to the guy, but if you’re with a new partner, it’s not a great idea to talk incessantly about another girl who you’re trying to get to come over, even if you say she’s like a cactus (sang about how the girl he fancies is a prickly minx).

After one non-alcoholic beer, they left.

Funny how departure can have such a profoundly positive effect on the mood.

Then (you really wouldn’t have guessed itsurprise! your Aunt Lucy showed up.

Aunt_Lucy
Doesn’t she look well? Aunt Lucy @ the Victoria

She’s looking great for her age. Leaving Mike’s given her so much confidence.

To everyone’s delight, she’d done herself up like that guy from Kasabian – decked in a shiny lycra playsuit with shades and stubble.

Don’t look hurt. It wasn’t actually your Aunt Lucy. It was a skinny guy that everyone but me seemed to know.

He spent the whole time requesting songs from Liars’ Mess, then proceeded to thrust manically to them.

We had a brief conversation.

He slurred about the previous afternoon (just one more biscuit) and his upcoming weekend plans (a countryside excursion with the fam).

So forgive me for thinking it was your Aunt Lu?

Everyone was happy. The party had started.

Then the conversation turned to feminism.

It got a bit intense, then this pretty girl, Vanity Fairy made a statement by plundering the dressing up box upstairs. She came back down dressed as Little Bo Peep.

Vanity Fairy
Vanity Fairy coming out of her bonnet @ the Victoria (you can tell we’d had a bit too much at this at this point)

She carried the persona well, announcing her emancipation from sheep and stereotypes, while delivering a fabulous new introduction, “Vanity, baby.

We all celebrated with a bit of a boogie to some ‘nostalgic’ disco numbers.

And then something funny happened. I might have just imagined it, but as the lights turned green, I thought I saw her point out to me and sing in her throaty drawl, “hit me with a move tonight,” but I was nervous, so didn’t. 

Crying High @ the Victoria
Crying High @ the Victoria – honestly, I wish I’d been bold enough to capture an image of all the masks on the back of everyone’s heads

And just as the mood was beginning to subdue, Crying High found a guitar in the front room.

Internally, we all groaned.

He then proceeded to play and, turns out he can actually sing.

We all groaned a bit more.

Thank god he was only joking!

After one song with the guitar he flung it out of the window and got funky, entering his own sing-on-top-of-the-pre-recorded-track routine.

It injected so much new life back into the gathering.

My friend even found the time to make some paper masks with Crying High’s face on, which we all wore on the back of our heads, while the man himself as he stood on a coffee table.

And he sang and sang. And with two microphones (someone told me that’s how you train mics for live performances – start them off in pairs).

I didn’t want the night to end. But it did.

At least there were party bags (a free merch table) filled with post cards, polaroids and paper masks – just so we could remember the great time we had.

Conclusion

A lot more heart than you normally see at the Victoria on a Tuesday.

Four_Beers

4 BEERS

REVIEW: All Points East – Victoria Park, Saturday & Sunday – 25 & 26 May 2019

or how Henry learned that day festivals suck (AGAIN)

Thanks to my own initiative (a competition on Dice), I’d bagged entry to All Points East: London’s premier-early-summertime-day-festival in Victoria Park

I was now able to attend performances on both Saturday AND Sunday, which meant I had the chance to see at least two headliners: the Strokes AND Christine and the Queens.

It didn’t matter that I didn’t know who Christine and the Queens were (probably a French Queens of the Stone Age cover band). I’d finally won tickets to something and two at that!

Like a toddler that hadn’t been changed all day, I felt the urge to roll around and share the glory of my own majesty with everyone.

And what was the easiest way to do that? Reminiscing, stupid!

So I thought back to last year’s All Points East. Oh yeah, I went to that one too and what a time we had!

There was that duet between Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue. It was magical.

Then I remembered feeling totally inspired by Patti Smith’s wail to action. It was also magical.

And as I made sure that the memory was spread evenly across the carpet of my mind, I remembered that everyone had sung in a field of roses, roses without thorns and it was absolute bliss.

Why you should always think a little harder than you actually do

As the memory hit its climax, I remembered Patti Smith calling out to the audience:

Rise up, oh rise up my young flowers, if we all sing together we’ll break the machine and be free to love each other forever. It’s the sixties all over again. Yeah, we changed the world and it’s great now because of us.

Wait, the world isn’t great now, is it?

I then learned that everyone else had won tickets on Dice too.

Then my girlfriend said she didn’t want to come on Sunday.

Then I realised that I wasn’t going to be able to rub anyone’s face in the fact that I’d finally won something.

And then I started to remember that no, last year’s All Points East hadn’t been that good, had it?

I looked on the internet to confirm my suspicions. Reading this review on Resident Adviser just confirmed that people who write for RA take too much ecstasy (it really damages your brain).

Yep, it was confirmed. Last year had definitely been awful.

But I tried to not get myself down. I mean, it was going to be sunny. Maybe I could still drink too much and have a fun time?

Turns out I was wrong. Just like I had been wrong last year.

Having definitely experienced this before and now having absolutely no desire to experience it again, I decided to write down exactly why All Points East was an awful experience (AGAIN) and why I never want to go back, EVER AGAIN.

Henry’s list of things that you should definitely read before accepting tickets to go to All Points East

1. The people often suck

Why do a lot of the people at day festivals suck?

Because they’re the types who think the best place to see Foo Fighters is from the seated bit at the back of Greenwich O2.

It’s not. The best way to see Foo Fighters is sticking your head down a u-bend screaming Monkey Wrench.

I don’t need to labour this further. No, someone provided me with the perfect example while I was queuing on Saturday.

Get comfortable and I’ll set the scene:

To the left there was a poster boasting that Mumford & Sons’ latest LP was the Daily Telegraph’s 2018 Album of the Year. Even though I don’t think it was?

Ahead, there were swathes of white people and despite the overpowering scent of sun block, the back of everyone’s necks and ears were piglet pink.

All Points East - Entrance
I think Instagram invented ‘English people filters’ that help mask all the pink – All Points East: the queue

And get ready, because behind there stood the most disingenuous couple I have ever had the pleasure of eavesdropping on, EVER.

The mysterious couple’s All Points East queue conversation

The girl, “Oh, you know that babe that I’m totally obsessed with on Instagram? Yeah? Well she’s in Majorca and it looks so LUSH. She just looks so LUSH. She’s SO beefed right now. It’s really inspiring me. You know what? I’m gonna go beefer.”  

The guy, “Ah, babe this is why I love you so much. It would be my absolute pleasure to go beefer with you.

The girl then responded, “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH [BEEF] BABE.

Lucky for them, everyone’s cattle prods were confiscated at the entrance.

2. The bands don’t have a very good incentive to play well  

If someone wrote you a check for £50,000 and then said all you had to do was jump around the stage at the petting zoo, would you put on your best performance?

Probably not.

This year, it’s already been reported that the Strokes sounded like underwater karaoke. Look, it’s in the Independent.  

For some reason though, the Independent didn’t get in touch with me for a quote.

It’s a shame because I actually spent most of the Strokes’ performance standing to the right of the main stage – exactly where it sounded bad. I’m afraid that I need to testify that while the Strokes were hard to hear (and there was one hell of a lot of booing), it did not sound like underwater karaoke.

All Points East - the Strokes
Proof that I definitely saw the Strokes. Actually, it does look a little like underwater love – All Points East on Saturday

But I can tell you that it’s a shame it wasn’t underwater karaoke. If it had been, all the people who were singing, “nah-na-nahh-na-nah-nahhhh-nahhhhh,” to that guitar bit that everyone knows in 12:41 would have probably swallowed a little too much water.

3. The blatant commercialism

Is there anything more rock and roll than new tires, credit cards, electronic cigarettes and an inability to seduce someone in person (Tinder, I’m looking at you)?

Apparently not.

All Points East’s website describes the companies that sell all of these great things as partners not sponsors.

You know that’s the corporate way of saying ‘I’m with the band’.

And I hate to labour the point, but the adverts are so hard to ignore.

Here were my favourites:

  1. The Logic Vape tent (how is it ok to advertise vapes but it’s not ok to advertise cigarettes? All those vape adverts just remind everyone that they used to smoke real cigarettes. I mean, if I was working in Marlboro’s advertising department right now I’d just invent a vape that looks like a pack of Marlboro Reds and plaster that everywhere)
  2. The Huawei spying platform (yes, Huawei had a platform directly opposite the main stage, where else would it be?), and
  3. The totally Radical American Express card holders wristband that granted an ever so exclusive set of people access to an ever so exclusive tent at the side, filled with other people who also had American Express cards.

Can you imagine a tent full of people who only have two things in common: an Amex card and a desire to only hang out with other people who have Amex cards?

I bet the Amex tent’s great.

Who doesn’t love spending time at concerts comparing their Experian credit rating (by the way, it’s 300 (that means good 😉 ). How about you send me some money in the post?).

4. No one seems to be angry that it’s blatant commercialism

Let me tell you a story:

Once upon a time, at All Points East there was a Tinder Van.

Everyone walked past the Tinder Van and said, “Oh, sweet, it’s really useful that there’s a Tinder Van at All Points East. You know, somewhere you’re able to change partners when you fall out of love for forty minutes and both no longer want to see the same band. It’s just great that you’ll still have someone else’s back pocket to keep your hand warm in.

Then, when Interpol started playing Henry’s girlfriend went up to the Tinder Van and said, “Oh please Tinder Van, can I exchange this Henry for someone who doesn’t want to see Interpol?

And then the Tinder Van lady said “Oh no Henry’s girlfriend, I’m afraid not, this van is just for beer, but if you pull your top down a bit I’ll set you up with a new profile.

And in the end poor little Henry got abandoned at the carousel that looked like it was dancing to the end of the world.

Have you worked out what’s strange about that story yet? You guessed it, no one’s angry that I was abandoned.

All Points East - Tinder Van
The usual suspects at the Tinder Van @ All Points East

Want to hear something else people weren’t angry about?

There was this All Points East app that was meant to tell you when and where your favourite acts were playing. But it’s like they made sure it was completely web-based on purpose.

Of course it wasn’t going to work.

When have you ever had mobile data at a festival?!

The organisers clearly knew it wasn’t going to work. That’s why they hired a bunch of people to stand around with physical guides on really cool lanyards that cost £5 each.

My point here is that no one seemed to care that they were being ripped off. Or angry about anything. It was just kind of like everyone there wanted vanilla icecream and everyone got vanilla icecream.

5. The hypocrisy

I really wanted to see Parquet Courts on Saturday and I did. It was great. I think Parquet Courts are ace.

But, despite a solid performance of Tenderness, no one seemed to take the lyrics to heart.

All Points East - the Apocalypse
#plasticfree @ All Points East. It really looks like the apocalypse, doesn’t it? Were Parquet Courts not just singing about the end of the world?!

And like that magnificent band from New York City, this weekend, I too was left without a fix of a little tenderness.

Excerpt from Parquet Courts’ Tenderness

Nothing reminds the mind of power

Like the cheap odor of plastic

Leaking fumes we crave, consume, the rush it feels fantastic

But like power turns to mold, like a junkie going cold

I need the fix of a little tenderness

Redemption

But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t any good bits.

I mean Jarvis Cocker somehow managed to convince the Hamburglar to join his band.

All Points East - Jarvis Cocker and the Hamburglar
That is definitely Jarvis Cocker and that figure circled in red is definitely the Hamburglar. You believe me right? @ All Points East