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Benedick & Beatrice

Benedick & Beatrice

So you have more or less all your TV projects cancelled at some point or another, you work on different films where your vision isn’t fully realised* and eventually you make the third highest grossing film of all time**. Now science fiction provocateur and all round nerd god Joss Whedon, has hit the heights of Hollywood power with Marvel geek fest ‘Avengers Assemble’ how does one follow up this mighty and well deserved success… well you get a load of your pals together to film an adaption of William Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ round your house when you’re on holiday, apparently so.

Suave bastard.

Suave bastard.

Returning from success in battle, Prince Don Pedro (Reed Diamond – Dollhouse), with his loyal soldiers Benedick (Alexis Denisof – Angel) and Claudio (Fran Kranz – Cabin in the Woods) by his side, seek shelter with nobleman Leonato (Clark Gregg – Avengers Assemble) and his family. Benedick, the egotistical gentry immediately heads into another battle, of words, with Leonatos’ niece Beatrice (Amy Acker – Angel) – hinting at a past that no one is mindful of. Claudio, immediately rekindling his love for Leonatos daughter Hero (newcomer Jillian Morgese), proposes and the wedding day is set. In order to amuse themselves throughout the preparations – Don Pedro, Leonato and Claudio set themselves a challenge – to make Benedick & Beatrice fall in love. Behind the scenes, Don Pedro’s bastard brother Don John (Sean Maher – Firefly) is looking to cause trouble for all in attendance. Will Beatrice and Benedick get together? Will Claudio and Hero get hitched without a hitch? Can, against all odds including himself, Inspector Dogberry (Nathan Fillion – Firefly) stop the disreputable Don John? ***

Dogberry at work...

Dogberry at work…

Before watching this movie I must admit that I had trepidation on how Whedon could handle such a low key endeavour without his usual wit and pop culture**** littered dialogue to fall back on. It would transpire that I had no need to worry as Whedon handles the play expertly with the respect it’s due and the main reason for this success is – casting. Denisof & Acker***** rekindle the chemistry displayed previously in Whedon’s ‘Angel’ and it is through this intelligent casting that the film rests on and ultimately succeeds. The whole ensemble bring their A game****** and look like they are having a ball doing so. Everyone is cast to their strengths whilst also displaying a side of their work which we have not seen before hand. Maher is positively treacherous as Don John, Diamond displays some fun and playfulness not seen in previous roles and Fillion shows that he can still be hilarious whilst performing 19th century prose. It is evident throughout that the cast are having a ball in this picture and thankfully this feeling is contagious to the viewer.

Beatrice, sneaking much?

Beatrice, sneaking much?

Whedon has picked the material intelligently as the characters fit nicely into the archetype characters of previous accomplishments. Especially Beatrice, who would not be out of place in Dollhouse or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. One could argue that the characters in ‘Much Ado’ fall into the categories in the Whedon co-scripted film ‘The Cabin in the Woods’, the Virgin (Morgese), the Jock (Denisof), the Fool (Fillion), the Scholar (Beatrice) and the Whore (Don John)*******. It is a testament to the source material and to Whedon’s tight and reserved direction that the performances of the cast really shine through; making what could have been a visually bland snooze fest into a heart-warming and frequently hilarious film.

Yes ladies, bearded Denisof... CALM DOWN!

Yes ladies, bearded Denisof… CALM DOWN!

It seems that what got this film attention (how it was filmed) seems to be what has made this truly special. This is a picture of love from its Director and the fact that it was done independently meant that no compromises needed to be made. Don’t be put off, yes its Shakespeare but it’s a hoot. Quite possibly this is Whedon’s greatest triumph and it now displays that he is not just the snappy dialogue guy but a serious Director that can handle all types of material.

I genuinely can’t wait to see this picture again.

*Except Serenity…

**And it was good too!

***A lot happens, a slight nightmare trying to explain the plot of this.

****It is interesting that he is now such a high profile pop culture icon now.

*****These two need to be in more things!

******Get it?

*******Admittedly I may be reaching a bit far with this one.



Placed in the thick of the audience of Glasgow’s Classic Grand; it’s crowded, hot and difficult to get to the bar*. So it is with genuine excitement, helped by the countdown timer projected onstage, that Low arrive on stage as the timer hits 00:00.

Proceeding with a flurry of tracks from their new album ‘The Invisible Way’ leading to the highlight from that album ‘Clarence White’, despite solely playing new material by this point there was no indication from the crowd that they were getting restless. If anything the way person whooping throughout was told by a fellow audience member to “shut up you fuckin’ twat!” much to lead singer/guitarist Alan Sparhawks’ amusement**.

So far the tone has been set by sombre and introspective musings aided by the super 8 film projections taking place behind them. It is with this that the band proceeds into older material signalled by the hypnotic drum of 2005’s ‘Monkey’***. What was to follow was a mixture of tracks throughout Low’s career with particularly haunting renditions of twin tracks from 2010’s ‘C’mon’, ‘Witches’ & ‘Especially Me’, drummer & singer Mimi Parkers vocal on the latter proved especially mesmerising.

Throughout the set though, Low had to not only endear themselves to the crowd**** but to compete on the loudness scale due to the punk covers band playing downstairs. Which if you are at all familiar with Low’s back catalogue could prove problematic*****. Possibly in response, Sparhawk & Parker, head into ‘Pissing’ which amps up the volume and provides the crowd with one of their few rock out moments.

As the main set finished with ‘To our knees’, Low returned onstage fairly promptly for the encore. However, as aforementioned, the band downstairs began to repeat the challenge of loudness. Sparhawk recognised the song as Talking Heads ‘Psycho Killer’ and led to the crowd through a rousing rendition of its chorus, as he fully admitted that these were the only lyrics of the song he could recall.

After this uncharacteristic fun was finish with, the band headed straight into ‘Canada’ which caused more movement in the audience than had been previously seen that evening and was successful in drowning out the racket from below. Finishing with ‘I hear…goodbye’, from their recent record store day reissue, the night is closed******. An intimate gig, where their environment worked against them, Low were able to rise above it and present something very special for all.

*Not to mention the smell of stale sweat & oddly… Stilton?

** It was a well-deserved put down – how dare you whoop a band!

*** Is this their big hit?

**** They didn’t have to worry there.

***** What can you do when a cash till plays havoc with the quiet nuances of your set?

****** Threatening to stab us all in the heart, much to the Mrs’ (Parker’s) horror.

Not exactly an up-to-date photo.

Not exactly an up-to-date photo.

A great weight of expectation & excitement befalls the Glasgow Barrowlands ballroom this evening as shoegaze and general noise merchants My Bloody Valentine return to the stage. The My Bloody Valentine camp has seen a wealth of activity* with the recent reissues of their back catalogue & a new album to tour ‘MBV’. Can a group as mighty as MBV live up to the heights written about them & the expectations of this sold out crowd… the next two hours should hopefully answer that**.

Casually walking onstage, the band were greeted with a deafening reception from the audience, which really made the earplugs given out for free upon entry rather useful***. Heading straight into ‘I only said’ the crowd were instantly hypnotised and proceeded with the moshing down front. The pace of the opening continued into ‘when you sleep’ and progressed for a good portion of the set peaking and culminating with ‘only shallow’****.

The set plodded forward after this with songs from every release of MBV’s back catalogue. There was a surprising lack of new material but those that they did play melded easily into the set just fine. Second to lastly, MBV played ‘you made me realise’ which of course has the much spoken of Holocaust section which drenched the crowd in a cacophony of feedback and squealing***** to much delight. Finishing with, all band members down front, new album track ‘wonder 2’ leader Kevin Shields finally acknowledged the crowd with a “thanks” and they left very much as they came on – with a captivated and enthralled Glasgow crowd bellowing out their name.

However, I was not as enamoured as most of the crowd. The band came across as so disinterested in what they were doing that I was left wanting******. It seemed that the band’s focus was to try and recreate their albums onstage as closely as possible that I found it intriguing that Belinda Butcher was not playing her guitar at several points in the evening*******, considering it is well known how many guitar overlays there are on tracks especially on ‘Loveless’. This led to an air of doing things by numbers, especially with the lack of audience interaction, and which culminated in a safe show without even an intimation of spontaneity.

Having once been the peak purveyors of ethereal noise, My Bloody Valentine are now running behind those that they have inspired, more or less summed up in the ‘Holocaust’ section. At one point this would have been astounding, but now rather run of the mill and rather lacking impact. A major disappointment for myself but who am I to complain? The crowd seemed to fuckin’ love it!

*Unbridled for this group…

**Can any group… except for Neil Young… and even he can be inconsistent.

***It proved to be the only time they did.

****’You never should’ was fucking ace to be fair.

*****So that is what they were for.

******I even went out for a cigarette at one point… I’m not proud of it.

*******I am not a guitar player so apologies if I am missing something.



Well it’s been 11 years since the release of Desaparecidos first, and only, album ‘Read Music/Speak Spanish’ so it has been a fair wait to see them perform on those shores. Now that I have grown oh so much in that space of time, have I matured too much to still enjoy the angry, quivery wails of Conor Oberst and company*?

Entering Glasgow’s Arches to the echoed bombast of support act We are the Physics, coming across as a shoutier and angrier version of the Futureheads. There were some good tunes there but not enough to keep me from heading bar wards for the remainder of their set.

Positioning ourselves left of centre** in preparation for the main act arriving, I must admit that the song selection on the PA (Fugazi, Far, etc.) which seemed to get everyone in the mood and the mind-set of 2002. Kicking right into ‘Greater Omaha’ without any necessity for a grand introduction the band looked like they had something to prove and the set continued this way for the next 50 minutes. The set was scattered with the newer entries in the bands catalogue with ‘Backsell’ showing to be a highlight of the entire evening. If the new tracks are anything to go by then Desaparecidos have taken their jackhammer, youthful frenzy and honed it further into adulthood where nothing has been lost in the transition, if anything it is further enraged***.



Crowd interaction remained at a minimum except for drummer inciting some unison hand clapping. No one seemed bothered though as we had all patiently waited some time to hear these songs live, testified by the reaction from the crowd for ‘Survival of the fittest’ and ‘Mañana’****. After the band played everything in their repertoire they exited looking very happy with the reaction they had created in the crowd. Alas no encore*****, much to chagrin of the stationary audience who had to be escorted out by security in the end.

So was it worth the wait? After seeing Bright Eyes a couple of times in their heyday I don’t tend to revisit those records that much anymore, they just don’t mean the same thing to me that the use to. Desaparecidos on the other hand have been a mainstay in my record player for those 11 years this wasn’t really a nostalgia trip but just seeing a band that are as still relevant to me when I first heard them******.

*You fucking kidding, course not!

**The company I was with was scared of a mosh pit occurring.

***They have aged pretty well too…

****’Survival’ being a personal favourite.

*****What else were they gonna play? A cover?

******Yes it was worth it, I need to stop being so damn poetic in these things.

Colin MacNeil Judge Dredd

Due to the recent resurgence of interest in the character of Judge Dredd*, thanks to the recent reboot of the franchise with Dredd 3D hitting our screens** and the back catalogue of stories presented in 2000AD being published in compendiums, the patrons of the Glasgow Film Festival were treated to a conversation with his creator John Wagner & famed Dredd artist Colin MacNeil.


Arriving sharpish at the Glasgow CCA to find that a large queue had already scurried into the auditorium, disappointingly there seemed to be more than enough room for everyone and that this was far from a sold out event***. Greeted by our host John McShane who explained that the set up would be the usual for these events (he asks questions for a while and then it’s open to the floor), we welcomed on stage the men we were here to see.

What we were treated to was a bit of history on the character, the situations that he has found himself in and the inspiration behind these creations, as well as Wagner’s tendency to argue with his employers. Of course the subject of Dredd 3D took up a large portion of the conversation, covering the Stallone incarnation of the character…

 “I can’t say a bad word about Sylvester Stallone, the film would not have been made without his involvement, but because of his involvement this led to the problems with the movie”.

 …to Karl Urban’s**** portrayal. This led to the gentlemen stating their favourite incarnation of the world they have created to be the fan film ‘Judge Minty’ – which was being shown a couple of days later*****. However, the discussion on movie adaptations of the character led to the revelation from both men that they do not really watch films, the irony of which was lost on no one.

Judge Dredd was not the only topic of conversation, John Wagner’s ‘A History of Violence’ was covered in detail, both the comic and the Cronenberg adaption, Colin MacNeil’s inspiration for his visuals and working conditions, and other related 2000AD characters. This heralded the questions from the floor, which covered the recent American comics’ adaption of the character…

“I haven’t read it, is it as bad as the DC version?”

 To the recent indication that Dredd may be gay…

 “It doesn’t matter!”


Once several questions had been attended to, we were at the end of our event with the points of our attention doing some signage for afters******. This was a fascinating discussion with some nice revelations on the films and how the comics were written/drawn, but not too much focus on the Judge himself, as we more or less know everything we need to know about him through 30+ years of reading his cases.

*He is a hard bastard, what’s not to like?

**All 10 people that saw it in the cinema.

***Due to a general lack of interest in British comics or the quality selection of alternative events at the GFF?

****Eh, fucking ace!

*****Nae time off to go and see it.

******Later moved to the café due to other performances taking place.

Ted Leo

On my second expedition to Glasgow in a week for the punk music selection offered by the Celtic Connections festival, I found myself running to Glasgow’s ABC venue from the train station. This was due to receiving the knowledge that Ted Leo* would be on at a sharp 7.30pm. Luckily due to a recent bout of health consciousness prompting some running on my part prior to today, I entered the auditorium as the first song of Ted Leo’s set was finishing.

Getting myself to the front of the stage proved to be no great achievement as the audience was meagrely populated at this early hour**. Despite appearing with a lack of his backing band the Pharmacists, Ted Leo still had all the impact that I expected as he remained an enthralling performer despite flying solo on a rather large stage. He treated the audience early to his ode to Glasgow ‘A Bottle of Buckie’ followed by ‘Bottled in Cork’*** from his last release ‘the Brutalist Bricks’. As a gift to those who arrived early; our headliner Aimee Mann joined Ted on stage to perform a couple of songs from an untitled EP that they have collaborated on. A bit more country influenced than usually expected from Mr Leo, it was an interesting detour in the set with ‘The Gambler’ proving to be a highlight of the whole evening. Previous to Aimee Mann joining our support act, an in the know member of the audience shouted a polite request for the song ‘Timorous Me’ which was initially refused due to limited time. Upon pondering his response before heading into the next song, Ted Leo returned to address the audience member and stated that his request would be the song that finished his set which was the case****. A real treat for those that got there in time, and judging by the decibel level of applause I was not alone in discerning that.

Next up in our speckled evening of entertainment was Amelia Curran, who presented what would be more in line with the music presented usually, be Celtic Connections. For the next half an hour or so we were plied with whiskey soaked tales of love, and with the announcement mid-way through that we were hitting the ballads, the loss of that very love. Everything was well written, impeccably (if a little endearingly shyly) performed and Ms Curran was a charismatic character. However it just didn’t grab me wholly and in such an over populated bare bones market of singer songwriters’ oot there I would say that being grabbed was fairly essential*****.

Aimee Mann

Now for the closure of our adventure in Glasgow, Aimee Mann & band****** arrived on the platform. Despite the relatively low keyness of her music, Aimee Mann certainly has presence and was the focal point throughout the set. After the obligatory opening of relatively oldies, Mann forewarns the inclusion of new material from this point on. She admits this is a precarious move as explained by an anecdote involving her brother stating that no one goes to a gig to hear the new material*******. Ironically, things really come alive when she plays her biggest hits ‘Save Me’ and ‘Wise Up’ from the Magnolia soundtrack followed by a pleasant cover of ‘One is the Loneliest Number’. This more or less sets the template for the rest of the show, a solid mixture of old and new, finishing up with ‘It’s
Not Safe’
. Returning for an encore that ended the evening with ‘4th of July’, but not before Ted Leo re-joined her onstage for some Thin Lizzy noodling. To come clean, I wasn’t too au fait on Aimee Mann’s back catalogue, but I had read that she was a rather stand offish and cold artist. I did not get that from her this evening. I was entertained throughout and found that when she really comes alive is when things get really quiet.

*The main reason that I was going to this show.

**By gig standards anyway.

***Are we all drunk or something…?

****Jolly nice if you ask me.

*****Even Bon Iver went all E-Street on us.

******Do you ever get the fear when you see a band that looks like they have just stepped out of that move ‘Almost Famous’?

*******Depends on the artist I suppose…

Hamell on Trial

Another Celtic Connections is upon me and one of the required viewing gems is Mr Hamell of Hamell on Trial playing at Glasgow Oran Mor. I wasn’t quite sure of the set-up as Celtic Connections tends to throw a few curveballs each year* to fuck your expectations up a little. For a festival that brings together folk, country and world music genres to the fore, I always seem to end up at a punk gig** and tonight was no different…

Upon entering the venue support act Lach was already on stage*** regaling the audience with twitchy folk rock goodies. Looking like a cross between Christopher Lloyd and Elvis Costello****, he was treating the sparse crowd to some jokes and banter which wasn’t fully connecting with the audience. This seemed more than apparent to the man himself thus audience interaction was shunned for the next few numbers. However, as the venue began to fill up with late arrivals, Lach was greeted with a friendlier and louder response – a highlight being his shout out to the Kiss army*****. Sadly as Lach was hitting his stride and audience appreciation grew, time was up.

Strolling onstage to rapturous applause looking like the bastard son of Fu Manchu if he had made a cultural visit to Syracuse, New York, came Hamell on Trial. Opening with ‘Glad You’re Gone’ and continuing on for a couple of numbers before we were promised by Mr Hamell himself that there would be no jokes or stories, instead we would be treated to an evening of interpretive dance with the finale involving the sight of our main act in a thong******. Mr Hamell is not a man to keep his promises…Continuing on, we were diverted with an ode to Mr Hamell’s 1937 acoustic guitar, which by the man’s own admission he wields like a Tommy gun, which I can confirm is the truth.

Hamell has always seemed to me to be an artist who moves with the times, not particularly his style of music, but in terms of mood and feeling. He provides a document of what the collective are feeling and offering possible solutions that only a man who has lived his life according to punk rock can. Hence a lot of this evenings set list focused on highlighting tracks from his new album ‘The Happiest Man in the World’*******.  After the midpoint in the set the audience were treated to a double whammy on the effect of the economic recession on the working person. ‘Jennifer’s Stripping Again’, explaining the measures people will take to keep things going. This was followed by ‘Richards Got a Job’; displaying some hope and that if people keep trying things might be alright.

The rather diverse characters******** in attendance lapped it all up, especially when the floor was open to requests. I am surprised he was able to make any of it out due to the barrage of ineligible cries*********. Obeying those that he could comprehend & finishing the evening with two tracks from his beloved album ‘Choochtown’ (When Bobby Comes Down and Choochtown) left things on a really fucking high note. Not exactly a Celtic evening but Hamell on Trial made a connection with everyone who turned out.

*Or the Scottish equivalent of that saying.

**Hey, I am not closed minded, kay!

***At 7.35pm you can’t say Celtic Connections aren’t prompt.

****If they both went into that machine in Cronenbergs ‘The Fly’.

*****Kiss rules Motherfucker!

******Say what you will, I would clearly have remembered it.

*******It’s pretty tidy.

********Dead Kennedy beanie hatted gents next to those in full tweed suits.

*********I did shout for Coulter’s Snatch, but was denied… yes it is a song.

Metal dudes can go out during the day.

Metal dudes can go out during the day.

Due to the potent cocktail of limited funds and an extraordinary liaise faire attitude  I had not ventured to see Cult of Luna, playing Glasgow’s Ivory Blacks, in around 10 years*. Touring on the back of forthcoming release ‘Vertikal’, their 4th album since I last saw them (6th in total). I came to the hypothesis that things would have changed substantially… I was wrong but as it turned out that aint no bad thing**.

Arriving in the densely occupied venue to the sounds of support act Humanfly, me and my partner in crime headed immediately bar wards*** before nestling in between some dashingly tall gentlemen to watch the events on stage. Humanfly were perfectly enjoyable; mashing a mix of metal, prog and alt. rock, which reminded me of Cave-In circa their Jupiter album.

Once the stage had emptied we fuelled up on beer before an endurance test of Adam Richman proportions took to the stage. Her Name is Calla were the next band on, what followed was a lengthy 30 minutes where we were treated to 5 songs that went nowhere. Channelling Radiohead Pablo Honey era if Radiohead had spent all their time at the art school, smoking too much weed, listening to Yes records and coming to the conclusion that violins are fucking rock and can carry a 10 minute rock song****. Yeah, 30 minutes of despair where it seemed that the bright spark idea that long automatically means epic, was unfortunately cunting deluded. To be honest I was more angry with myself… It only dawned on me that I could go out for a cigarette during the 2nd to last song…

Next, thankfully, the overhead lights dimmed to reveal a Michael Mann-esque blue haze stage as the Swedes walked on to the backing of new album opener ‘The One’. Considering that the venue was packed oot I and the good lady were watching a platform of heads moving around with the occasional torso for good measure*****.

This is where the modest but rather exceptional lighting work from the stage came into play. The blue haze was mixed up to compliment the music  which was exemplified as the audience was aurally assaulted by the music whilst simultaneously the same being done by the blinding white lights, working particularly well with ‘Finland’. This gave proceedings an oddly cinematic quality, where you could easily imagine the music being used to soundtrack a silent movie. No surprise then that Fritz Lang’s Metropolis was an influence on the new record ‘Vertikal’.

The evening consisted largely of tracks from this very album. From the sounds of it the band have continued to progress down the post-metal route with the vocals being less of a central component than before. Despite this there was no let-up in the music’s ferocity, it just felt that there was a bit more breathing room now. The biggest roars from the audience came late in the evening with the ‘Owlwood’ before ‘In awe of’ brought the night to a swift encore-less close******.

It took a good few days for my hearing to recover & I have begun to investigate the back catalogue, before purchasing the latest*******. A mighty evening which exceeded the memories of the last occasion when I was a hardcore/metal obsessed lad. It did get me wondering why the band has not achieved greater success than their peers such as Pelican, Isis, and Mogwai etc. Is it the vocals? Too metal for the post-rock crowd? Either way they are up there with the best!

*Supporting Dillinger Escape Plan at the Glasgow Cathouse.

**If it aint broke…

***It was a Saturday ok, and we were in Glasgow!

****If you can call it a rock song.

*****Can you really say you saw a band live if you can’t actually see them?

******If they did it would probably be about a ¼ length of the main set.

*******How old school!