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Cologne Popfest
Over the weekend The Validators travelled to Cologne to play at The Cologne Popfest. It was BLOODY GRATE.

Most of us - myself, Tom and Frankie, along with Ian and Paul from Frankie's old band The Almanacs - rolled up on Friday lunchtime. They'd all come on the Eurostar while I'd FLOWN, which meant that we'd all had to get up quite early to be there, so once we'd met up outside Cologne Cathedral (which is GINORMOUS) we decided to head to the hotel, where we all had SHOWERS before meeting up and heading back into the centre of town.

Frankie had been before so knew how things WORKED. He took us to a bar in a square where we sat ourselves down in the GLORIOUS sunshine. A waiter saw us and said "FUNF?" to which we replied "FUNF!" and then a couple of minutes later he returned with five very small (200ml) beers for us. Whenever we'd finished, or were near finishing, he'd just bring us more! It was GRATE - it meant that ordering was peasy, you could drink almost PRECISELY as much as you wanted, and the beer was always cold and fresh! ALSO it felt like we were drinking LOADS of beer and thus being DEAD COOL, but were actually being almost sensible. WINZ!

We went to another bar after a while, then another for something to eat, then another really nice Indoors Place where we got a BOOTH to ourselves. It was a lovely sunny day which we filled with VERY intellectual discussions. Normally when The Validators gather we do OF COURSE have Political Discussions and that, and definitely don't sitting around taking the piss out of each other, remembering Gigs We Have Done, or just catching up. Paul and Ian being there though seemed to take us to a whole other LEVEL, and there was LENGTHY discussion of politics and especially MEN'S ISSUES. It was really good!

The evening ended with us going to The Blue Shell, venue for the next day's GIG. I had high hopes of getting there in time to see some bands (as there had been three on that evening) but all the HIGHBROW CHAT meant it was gone 11pm when we arrived. We were reunited with a whole HEAP of pals, including Marcel and the various organisers (who seemed happy with how it was going) and Katharina and Martin (AKA our legendary promoter and all round good guy for gigs in Dresden and Berlin). It was flipping DELIGHTFUL!

The Validators have a WHATSAPP group now, because we are SO MODERN, which meant that we were all fully in touch on our travels. On Friday The Pattisons had kept us up to date with their lunch and gardening while the rest of us were crossing the continent, and on Saturday I awoke to find a whole HEAP of news from them as they struggled to make it via RY*N*IR. Astoundingly, RY*N*IR were difficult and unreliable - who'd've guessed?!?

Just before 2pm all of The Validators were fully ASSEMBLED, and we set off to the venue for soundcheck. We'd been a bit worried about INSTRUMENTS as we hadn't taken any with us, but, just as promised, the organisers had sourced us a whole load of GEAR to use. Over the day they proved themselves to have done absolutely EVERYTHING they said they would, paid us PRECISELY what was agreed, did ALL the Merch Sales for us, and OVERWHELMED us with food and drink. There were drinks and food backstage, our wrist bands gave us access to FREE BEER all day, and on top of that we got given VOUCHERS "for when you start want to doing shots" (NB "when", they said, not "if"!). It was brilliant - it is a cliche for British bands to play abroad and then HARP ON about how well they have been treated, but the difference between the general standard HERE and over there is astounding. I often wonder how European bands feel when they come and play in the UK!

We did our soundcheck, which sounded FAB, and then waited to see if anyone would come. It was a lovely warm day again (Friday had apparently been the hottest April day in Cologne EVER!) so I expected people to stay outside and enjoy the weather, and we were on FIRST, so at about 3:50pm I was not surprised to find the room sparesely populated. However, by the time we took to the stage, bang on 4:00pm, it was RAMMED!

What followed was a FABULOUS gig, containing the following:

  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • Billy Jones Is Dead
  • Can We Be Friends?
  • We Did It Anyway
  • Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Easily Impressed
  • Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met)

  • Do The Indie Kid
  • It was, by general Validator consent, one of the best gigs EVER. Highlights included the audience waving EU flags (which the Pattisons had made especially) during Can We Be Friends?, SPARKLERS being held aloft in We Did It Anyway, and Marcel and chum coming onstage to sing a German verse of Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met), THUS:



    It was all quite emotional really, and also Surprisingy Well Received. The audience seemed to clap for AGES after every song, and I had to just start talking over them so that we'd have time to do the whole set! When we came off I was pleased to see we'd only gone over our time by a couple of minutes, but then PERPLEXED by the fact that they were STILL clapping. We couldn't go on and do an encore, I thought - surely everyone knew that, it was an all-dayer - but they KEPT ON CLAPPING! Eventually we DID go on and do an encore, although as we didn't have much time we cut a verse of Do The Indie Kid out on purpose, and certainly not accidentally. It was FAB!

    The rest of the day was also pretty wonderful. We especially enjoyed The Popinjays, and especially especially when they came outside afterwards and we all had a LENGTHY chat in the sunshine together. It does seem weird to me sometimes when we standing around chatting to bands we used to read about in the NME as if it was Totally Normal, but it does very much seem like the ones who are still out and about these days are all dead nice!

    Another thing I have noticed over the past couple of years is that Indie events now tend to include a BREAK in the middle so that everybody can go and eat and get their second wind. It's almost as if Indie events that I go to are predominantly attended by middle-aged people who know their own and others' limits! We went to get a curry, but when we found that our chosen restaurant was full we went to a PERSIAN restaurant instead. It turned out to be a) quite MEATY but also b) very nice for what Veggie stuff it DID have. We all particularly enjoyed the raw onions and MINT - it simultaneously freshened and de-freshened your breath!

    Back at the gig there was more yacking, more bands, and more GOOD TIMES. Someone told me that he'd been DJing our version of 'Drink Doch Eine Met' locally and people were going KRAZY for it (in a good way - I checked). Other people had other lovely things to say, and everyone lived up to the Cologne reputation for being friendly, including the people who didn't COME from Cologne!

    Emma and Tom went back to the hotel first, with Emma taking someone's jacket by mistake, so when Tim and I headed back later we took one of the organisers with us to collect it, which was EXTREMELY handy of them. I went to bed full of the joys of ROCK, amazed that we get to play fantastic events like this, and hopeful that our subtle hints* that we'd like to be asked back again sometime (*telling all of the organisers repeatedly) would pay off. Cologne Popfest was GRATE!

    posted 24/4/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Gang Who Broke The Bank At Stratford Westfield
    On Saturday night the Dealer Of My Cards and I went for a SOPHISTICATED early evening out at THE CASINO. We had got a voucher through the door, you see, offering us a free drink and a free SNACK, so not being ones to turn our noses up at such things we thought we'd give it a go.

    The Casino is located in the big shopping centre which we can see from our house, but we have never been in before because, well, why would we? A pal had said it was really nice, so the vouchers were the small PROD required to make us go. I must admit to being a little trepidatious - would they even let us IN to a swanky place like that? Would someone say "Hang on, you don't even know how to play POKER, GET OUT!"? Or would we get sucked into a spiral of iniquity and end up selling our shoes to pay for one more go on the Penny Falls?

    We need not have worried. The doorman smiled upon us and we were whisked up the escalators to a HUGE room which was a mixture of all the wild guesses I had made as to what it might be like. There were LOADS of fruit machines, so it looked a bit like a seaside amusement arcade (though there were no HANDLES to pull), and there were grumpy-looking people slumped in front of them still wearing their coats, so it looked a bit like the corner of a massive BOOKIE'S. But then there were also Blackjack tables and a whole ROOM full of people playing Poker, so it was also like somewhere JAMES BOND might go.

    We wandered around and had a JOLLY nice time. We got our free drink and snack, plus more drinks, and sat down for a go at the fruit machines. Being devil may care types we decided to allocate ourselves an entire FIVER each, to spend how'ere we wished, but to my astonishment some people were spending that on a single go! A bloke sat next to us SLUMPED down looking fed up and put a TWENTY POUND NOTE into the fruit machine! Why would you do that? The Pictures On My Dial was playing for 10p then 20p then 33p a time, which seemed like the very HEIGHT of lavish living, but this guy was paying ACTUAL POUNDS at a time! MADNESS!

    We were just there to enjoy ourselves but amazingly The Coins In My Slot got on a WINNING STREAK and reached the point where her initial 5.00 stake had given her back 9.37! We GOGGLED at this fortune, but like the cool cat she is she decided to pause why she was ahead and CA$H OUT with her MASSIVE WINNINGS. We then went to look for another machine for me to lose my fiver on. I don't understand Poker or any of that sort of thing, but when we were little we DID have a toy roulette wheel (why did we have a toy roulette wheel?!? Surely that must have come from an errant aunt/uncle somewhere? Or a jumble sale?) so I had a VAGUE idea of the mechanics, and decided to give it a go.

    I am a SENSIBLE person and I KNOW that games like this are entirely skill-free, but still as soon as I started I was CONVINCED I was doing TACTICS, especially when I was winning. I had The Numbers On My Table beside me and I have to admit I DID feel like J.Bond with Glamorous Femme Fatale beside me - if it had been a REAL Roulette table rather than a screen I would DEFINITELY have asked her to place some chips for me, it would have been DEAD SAUVE!

    After some ups and downs I got down to 4.50 and decided to have one last go, scattering 25p bets across the different numbers. "It's just a bit of fun," I thought, "then we can go home." But then BLOW ME one of my numbers WON and suddenly my pot was worth NINE POUNDS!

    I cashed out at this point too and we SWANNED over the the CA$H desk to collect our ENORMOUS winnings. We both agreed that the cashier looked VERY impressed with us - we'd changed a tenner into two fives with him earlier, which he remembered (I assume because he doesn't usually meet such big spenders?) and initially he was complimenting us on coming back for 9.37, little realising that we also had MY payout still to come, and thus were in ACTUAL PROFIT!

    I almost expected SECURITY to stop us as we left, like they do in the films when HUSTLERS use a SYSTEM to bankrupt the Casino, but I imagine they must have been busy elsewhere, so instead we strode out with our WINNINGS, utterly flipping DELIGHTED with ourselves. I probably WON'T be giving it all up to become a professional gambler JUST yet, but COR it was fun for an afternoon!

    posted 17/4/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Monet Go-Round
    On Friday evening after work I met with The Canvas In My Frame outside the National Gallery, where we had tickets to see the Monet and Architecture exhibition. Here is my review: it was dead good, but REALLY busy!

    Getting in was quite good fun, as we had to stride through various other galleries studiously NOT looking from side to side (you get distracted that way) and then we met a member of staff who seemed to be being played by Julie Walters as Mrs Overall. We'd printed out tickets out so they could be scanned by one of those cool machines, but she wanted to TEAR the corners of each of them (despite being printed on a single sheet together), and then she checked her watch to make sure we were in the right window of entry (they do it by time) despite the fact that she wasn't actually WEARING one!

    Once in we picked up tiny BOOKLETS which had all of the descriptions of the paintings on then. This was a BRILLIANT innovation as it meant that they didn't have to put the descriptions next to the actual paintings, and thus you didn't get the usual thing of everybody queuing up to READ them and blocking the pictures. Instead you could read the notes beforehand and then SWOOP in when there was a gap in the ever-moving crowds to get right close up. The only disadvantage was that, these being Monets, they often looked better from a little way away. The TRIALS of the ART LOVER eh?

    The books were FAB except for TWO (2) things. Firstly they didn't have the actual PICTURES in (I guess so that you still had to buy postcards at the end if you wanted to have a KEEPSAKE) and secondly the numbering was wonky. We reckoned they must have printed all the books and then the CURATOR decided to move pictures around, which was a bit confusing but not SO bad because, as stated previously, you were diving in wherever you got the chance anyway. Other than that it was ACE - more of these exhibitions should have them, ESPECIALLY when they're charging over twenty quid for a ticket!

    The actual PAINTINGS were GRATE, OBVS, and there were LOADS of them. It got a bit overwhelming after a while - usually when one HAPPENS across a Monet in an Art Gallery (as one occasionally do) one thinks "OOH a MONET, I've heard of him!" but here there was about EIGHTY of them, one after the other. They'd done it by PLACE, mostly, so you got to see several different paintings of the same area, which meant that sometimes it felt like you were looking at a painted version of Google Street View. The BEST, according to ME, was the room that had his some of his paintings of Rouen Cathedral and the Houses Of Parliament all together. I'd not realised before that he did loads of canvases at the same time, but it did make sense - apparently he'd do a BIT of one painting at a certain time of day, then switch to the next one when the light changed, and so on, so they'd all be basically the same composition but showing the change in light. The most DRAMATIC was the three versions of Parliament they had next to each other, with STRIKINGLY different lighting. The guidebook said that Contemporary Reviewers talked of them being MUSICAL, and you could certainly feel a RHYTHM to them, also, for some reason, BRASS.

    With the mobile crowds and the booklets we all seemed to RACE round at high speed, which to be honest is how I LIKE to do my galleries, and we were out the other side in less than 90 minutes, which meant we had plenty of time to nip round to TIBITS for tea. It was a GRATE bit of THE ART, and a DELIGHTFUL way to kick off a weekend!

    posted 16/4/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Made To Be Tape
    When I got home on Tuesday there was a THRILLING ITEM waiting for me in our letterbox - a PROOF copy of 20 Golden GRATES on CASSETTE!

    When I opened the packaging it looked RUDDY BRILLIANT, although it wasn't QUITE as exciting as I was expecting largely because it looked EXACTLY like I thought it would after spending HOURS designing it. I suppose that that's a good thing, and I'm pretty sure that it will remain THRILLING when other people look at it, for truly, it is an item of GRATE beauty.

    I mentioned that I'd received the proof copy on the twitter and a couple of people seemed surprised that it was real, as they'd thought I was only JOKING about releasing an album on cassette. In order to put everybody's mind at rest, therefore, I provide below photographic evidence that it is definitely a REAL THING, and that it is GORGEOUS!



    Once I'd finished GAZING in DELIGHT I then had the ARDUOUS task of checking that the actual audio was OK. To do this I dug out my USB Cassette player (the same one I used to digitise The Council) and discovered that I could put batteries in it and, to all intents and purposes, transform it into a WALKMAN!! Going through all the motions of using a tape player again felt deeply comforting, especially with all the firm CLUNKS and WHIRS of putting the tape in and pressing "PLAY", but the best bit was the sound itself. It was ACE - I've loved the way that music sounds on cassette, it sounds SMUSHED like all the best bits have been turned up and made more EXCITING. Apparently this is because of compression or something, but personally I prefer "smushed".

    And goodness me, SMUSHING didn't half work for our stuff, it sounded AMAZING! As I listened I thought "We have been doing it wrong for two whole decades - we should ALWAYS release our music on cassette!" Perhaps it is because so much of my FORMATIVE musical years were conducted on TAPE (with all those other bands and for my early solo stuff) but it felt as if I had come home at last to the format that I was MEANT to use.

    I had some slight trepidation at first, as the music did sound a bit rough/wonky/loud, but then as the tape moved on it all got SMOOTHER and I realised that that was just what we sounded like! The more recent, (very slightly) more POLISHED material actually sounded BETTER, as the SMUSHING made, for instance, It Only Works Because You're Here sound SUPER LUSH. It made me wonder whether I could maybe one day re-release Dinosaur Planet this way. Surely being played in a CAR on a CASSETTE is what it was MADE for!

    (NB NO I must NOT release Dinosaur Planet on cassette - hardly anybody wanted it on a format that you could actually USE, I am NOT going to put it out on one you can't!)

    It was a highly enjoyable experience which reminded me, as if I needed reminding, that COR! we don't half have some good songs! Reassured by the quality of the PROOF I have now PAID for the main run, which will hopefully be arriving in a couple of weeks. It'll be released at the end of the month, first for newsletter subscribers and then for everyone else - there won't be many though, so if you want one, you'll need to get in quick!

    posted 12/4/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Inducted Again
    There was a time, long ago, when I didn't change employers very often. I worked for Leicester University for about 11 years then made a massive leap to London and worked for Birkbeck for 13, but then after that I worked (not very successfully!) for myself for about 18 months, then had a year at Imperial, then another 18ish months at UCL, and NOW I'm at UAL!

    The downside of all this chopping and changing means that I have to keep on LEARNING how things work, but the UPSIDE of it is that at least I'm USED to it now! When I started here I knew that I'd be meeting lots of new people, would have to do various online training for fire safety and so forth, and that I would, at some point, be officially WELCOMED to the University.

    That welcoming happened this very week - astoundingly quickly, as I've only been here a couple of weeks and it usually takes MONTHS to get round to - with me spending a Surprisingly Enjoyable morning in High Holborn alongside about 30 other new and new-ish starters. I say "Surprisingly Enjoyable" because usually these things are DEADLY DULL but, as I am finding out a LOT at the moment, being at an Arts Institution means they do things a bit differently. For instance, we had a talk from a Vice Chancellor who merrily ran off script to make Political Remarks in an Actually Entertaining Way, and then one from a Former Student who talked about his BAND more than anything else. We also got to use VOTING PADS like off Who Wants To Be A Millionaire to work out which colleges everyone came from, and then we did ... A GROUP EXERCISE!

    I can sense many of you RECOILING at the idea of Group Exercises, and rightly so as they are so often merely exercises in GROUP PAIN, but UAL seems to have a habit of making them quite good fun. When I began my PhD, also at UAL, I had to do a whole WEEK of induction, and though some of it was a bit pointless the exercises were often dead good. For the exercise THIS time they got us to create SOMETHING to express one of the University's OBJECTIVES. We got "Transformative Education" which made someone say "ROBOTS!" (it wasn't even me!) so I spent a happy hour making THIS:



    I am fairly sure that it had not much at ALL to do with UAL policy,but it was a lot of fun and I SUSPECT that the point of the exercise was to get everybody working together and - hey! - ENGAGING. If that's the case then it definitely worked, especially at the end when we all went round the room looking at what the other groups had made. I am pretty sure that SOME of the creations will be getting Arts Council Funding!

    In case it's not obvious, this new job feels like it's going PRETTY WELL so far. I may have to give up on INDUCTIONS for a while!

    posted 11/4/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Slice Of Edinburgh In Angel
    One of the GRATE things about my Exciting New Job is the amazing SUPER COMMUTE what I do every day on the High Speed Javelin Train. One day last week I timed the journey from my actual desk to my actual flat at actually TWENTY ONE MINUTES, which is the shortest commute I have ever had in my LIFE. When I lived in Leicester my shortest walk to work was 23 minutes (I timed it MANY times) so this is something of a personal triumph!

    This was especially handy last night as it meant I could go home after work and have a legitimately useful amount of time to do stuff before heading BACK into town with The Punchline Of My Joke to go and see Mr Nat Metcalfe do a preview of his new Edinburgh show. He was on at 9:15pm at The Bill Murray, sandwiched between two big sellout shows, which we ESCHEWED because they were too commercial and also, obviously, because they'd sold out. Instead we got to enjoy the pub itself. I've been in before but usually when it's rammed, so being there when it felt like a normal, very nice, pub was DELIGHTFUL. They had St Mungo's lager on too, which is RUDDY DELICIOUS. My favourite aspect of this section of the evening, however, was hearing a particularly LOUD burst of laughter from the other room, thinking "That'll be the end of the set!" and getting to the bar before the final applause and mass evacuation of the venue. HA! It's a LIFE SKILL!

    We then went in for Nat's show, which was ACE. Some of it was familiar from other times we've seen him over the past couple of years andthere was also a TONNE of new stuff, including a story that bordered on the SAUCY. The thing I like most about his shows, I think, is that as soon as he starts you know you're in safe hands - he has what I believe is known as An Engaging Stage Presence which makes you sure that whatever comes next, you're going to ENJOY it. We did!

    After the show we bumped into Mr Dec Munro, one of the people who runs the pub and an all-round good guy who me and Steve got to know approximately 1,000,000 years ago when we did Moon Horse at the Edinburgh Fringe, and who notably stepped in to sort us out on the day that Total Hero Team lost its venue. We agreed how GRATE Nat's show had been, also that the pub was really nice, and then shared recommendations for TELLY.

    Drinking Scottish lager, seeing a good show, and then bumping into someone lovely - it was all the best bits of Edinburgh really, all it needed adding was The Hewitts and a curry and it would have been perfect!

    posted 10/4/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Trip To Milton Keynes
    Friday night found me and The Petals On My Rose headed off for a Romantic Mini-Away Break in that most storied of romantic towns, Milton Keynes. Who says we don't know how to live it up?

    Milton Keynes is an ODD place. I know people always say this, but I was not prepared for quite how accurate the description was. For starters, when we got to the railway station there was an approximately 35 minute walk to the town itself... and when we got to the town centre we found that it wasn't actually there. The whole place felt like an out of town industrial estate, except that it was IN town!

    Aspects of it felt EXTREMELY familiar to me. Peterborough was designated as a New Town just after Milton Keynes, and so the way that the roads, pavements and cycleways were laid out was EERILY FAMILIAR. The next day when we took a BUS I found it hard to shake the feeling that we were on the way to EITHER Sainsburys in Bretton (where my Mum did her shopping) OR Peterborough Crematorium, as we zoomed along empty looking roads punctuated by roundabouts that had to have NAMES so that you knew where you were. At least Peterborough has an actual centre in it, Milton Keynes didn't seem to have anything. It was STRANGE!

    The natives seemed friendly though, especially on the aforesaid BUS as everyone who got on seemed to know somebody who was already there. It was like an ongoing social club!

    The bus was taking us to Bletchley Park, which is somewhere that has been on our LIST for YEARS, and was GRATE. Right from the start I found myself deeply MOVED by it all - the fact that all the work that went on there was a) so important but b) kept utterly secret for nearly thirty years meant that lots of the people who work there died without anyone knowing what they'd done. It also seemed to be something of a Pilgrimage Site for... well, for my lot really. Everywhere you went there were people who very obviously worked in computers, explaining things to each other. It was PACKED with us!

    I have read SEVERAL of Ben MacIntrye's history books, specifically the ones about SPIES in World War Two (NB these are AMAZING books) so I knew a bit about some of the work done at Bletchely, and had a hazy idea that Alan Turing began inventing computers there, but learnt A LOT about it all during the four or five hours we spent wandering from hut to hut, LOOKING at things. As I say, it was very busy, but we quickly got into the rhythm of the place, so that we ended up seeing the same fifteen or so people everywhere we went.

    My only criticism of the site is that the texts had a) repetitions b) gaps all over the place. I am now very aware INDEED of the fact that Eisenhower wrote a letter to Bletchley Park to tell them how much he appreciated them, as it was mentioned in nearly every hut, but I'm not exactly sure WHAT Colossus was as it was vaguely alluded to a couple of times but never actually explained. As The Text Of My Message said, they could do with a COMMS person to go round and sort it out for them!

    Other than that it was FAB and definitely worth a visit, especially if you are a Compute Type - it's where it all began!

    posted 9/4/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Revisiting The Council
    Sorry for the lack of blog posts lately - it's partly because of me starting a new job, but also because most of the ROCK stuff I'm doing is ADMIN, and it's the sort of admin that I have to keep quiet about for the moment.

    However, one thing I CAN talk about is some DIGITISING what I did over the weekend. Our esteemed drummer Mr T Pattison is reaching a Significant Birthday later this year, and to celebrate he is having a DO (christened "Pattisonisphere" by Mr FA Machine) where he's getting loads of his old bands to get up and do a couple of songs. The Validators are HEADLINING and the ONLY reason for that is that we are the BEST and not because Tim has the best chance of playing a full set with us when DRUNK than any of the other, significantly FASTER, bands he has played with. That's definitely the reason.

    One of the bands playing is The Council, a short-lived grouping of me, Tim and Dr Kneel of Voon fame. A few days ago we were discussing what songs we should do for the gig, and I remembered that Tim had asked a while ago if I had mp3 copies of any of it. I didn't, but DID have a USB tape player that I could plug into my computer so, over Easter, I settled in for some digitising.

    BLIMEY. What I heard was a bit of a shock. "It'll basically be like Voon," I thought to myself, "but slightly faster and with drums." Friends, it was NOT like Voon at ALL - Voon had DELIGHTFUL songs that were fun to play and listen to, whereas The Council were VERY ANGRY INDEED. About EVERYTHING!

    Reading the brief history of the group I was reminded that there were plenty of fun gigs, but you would not guess it from the recorded output which seems to be very concerned with how WRONG everybody else is about EVERYTHING. As ever, Dr Kneel's songs are much better, whereas most of mine are just SHOUTING about things, in a weird voice that sounds like I've got a cold and/or have been hit on the head with a brick.

    We have selected our "hit" Dirty Old Man (it got put on a compilation CD!) and Dr Kneel's excellent "Malignant Work" for the gig, and now we face the terrifying prospect of learning to play them. I played BASS back in those days and I played it RUDDY FAST - I am considering joining a gym again, just to get my BICEPS ready!

    posted 4/4/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Big Reveal
    Today is Maundy Thursday and, for the first time in my ENTIRE LIFE, I am at work! Up until now every University that I have ever been employed by has been CLOSED on the Thursday before and Tuesday after Easter (and sometimes on one of the Wednesdays too) but here at UAL we are very much open for business. It's actually rather good for me, as it means I'm HERE getting to grips with things rather than off for another week after only being in the job for 5 or 6 days, AND we get the extra days to take whenever we like, but it does feel a little bit un-Easter-y not to be lolling around at home!

    This seasonal working does not, however, affect the timetable of ROCK, and thus this month's newsletter is out RIGHT NOW. Amongst the thrilling FACTS contained within is the announcement that we are going to celebrate 20 years of MJ Hibbett & The Validators by releasing a GRATEST HITS ALBUM... on CASSETTE!

    The album is going to be called "20 Golden GRATES" (of course it is) and will be available in a very very limited edition this time next month via the newsletter and then the website. If there's any left we'll be selling them at our birthday gig on 5 May at The King & Queen, but we won't be making many so if you'd like to get one I'd advise you to get in quick! It'll come with a free download link too, so if, like me, your tape player is long gone you can still get the tracks and put them on your modern interweb walkman (or equivalent).

    The photograph for the cover was taken a few weeks ago by Mr James Indiehorse (as discussed here) and I am DELIGHTED to be able to share it with you here today:
    What a delightful bunch we are! This is of course an image for a non-existent vinyl version of the album - the actual TAPE will feature this image in a slightly different, and frankly GORGEOUS, fashion which I will reveal nearer the time.

    We're all RATHER excited about unleashing this on the world. The tape will, I feel, be a beautiful artefact and a fitting way to begin the celebrations of our two decades of ROCK!

    posted 29/3/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Tertiary Plinth
    It's the end of another month, which means it must be time for another John Dredge & The Plinths video!



    As previously stated, in an ongoing bid to make ourselves even MORE like Duran Duran than what we already are we're planning to make a video for every single song on our debut EP. This is the THIRD such video, though if you've seen the others you'll know it's similar in FILMIC QUALITY to our first one, for Going Down. When we set out to film it the original idea was that all the material would be for 'Going Down', but when I sat down to edit it I realised that we'd shot SUCH a lot of stuff, and the songs were SO short, we'd actually got enough for two!

    It's meant to be a sort of homage to those videos you'd see once a month when The Chart Show did The Indie Chart, when someone would basically prod an indie band with a stick to try and get them to do things then give up and take pictures of statues instead. I hope we have captured the spirit!

    posted 28/3/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Terrified By Instruments
    I'm in the midst of starting a NEW JOB at the moment, so life is a whirligig of Not Remembering Names and Trying To Understand New Things, but last time I found time for some distinctly sophisticated ROCK ACTION.

    For LO! I was in distant TOTTENHAM for a practice with A Little Orchestra in preperation for our forthcoming gig at The King & Queen on Saturday 5 May. The gig is to celebrate twenty years of The Validators, and thus will feature a set of us playing some of our mighty discography, followed by a performance with the aforesaid A Little Orchestra. There may also be an ANNOUNCEMENT of one or more Secret Projects!

    I'd been over that way a few years ago for a similar practice, but in the meantime Spurs had built (or started to build) a GINORMOUS HYPERDROME which LOOMS over the entire neighbourgood like a spaceship from the planet DOUGHNUT which has crash landed into North London. It's very impressive, but also UTTERLY MAD!

    I got round to the house to find Nicola and Alex from ALO already there, and the front room set out with chairs and music stands. It is a very different proposition, playing with these lot, to my usual Validators action. Not only was there CHEESE and BISCUITS and WINE laid on, but the discussion seemed to be of a much more elevated nature. Where we would say things like "Do it again, but less rubbish, and not as fast" they said "Is this perhaps a litte legatto? Should we be using minims, or crotchets?" For all I know that may be LATIN for "slower and less rubbish" but it sounded WELL CLEVER!

    More ALO-ers arrived and we went through four songs that we'd not played together before, and I struggled not to a) burst into tears and run away or b) laugh my head off. The first reaction was because this was Serious Music, where you have to concentrate because everyone is listening to you and you have to do it RIGHT because everyone else has it written down, and that is NOT what I am used to. The second reaction was because it sounded SO lovely that it was ludicrous. I tried to explain later that it sounded like playing music in a garden, as it was so fresh and clear and it felt like there were all sorts of other things going on around me. I guess this is why Music Types have special words for things, so they don't have to spend ages trying to explain what they're on about.

    It sounded LOVELY but, as I say, it was also a bit terrifying. USUALLY, when I'm in a social situation that makes me nervous, I have to constantly stop myself from mentioning The Strings On My Instrument - I guess mentioning her is a way of INVOKING a reassuring presence - but last night I had to force myself NOT to keep mentioning The Validators! I am reliably informed that it's good to get out of your comfort zone, but it will be nice to have The Vlads around when we actually DO the show!

    The gig is, as I say, on 5 May, and will be in the Totally Acoustic format with doors at 7pm and the show commencing shortly after that. Do come along if you can, if nothing else you will get a chance to see my GRAPPLING with my fears to an delightful accompaniment!

    posted 27/3/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Times/Chicken House
    You find me today slightly sunburnt, as I spent last week on holiday in Madeira. There are two main things you need to know about Madeira, firstly that it is very BEAUTIFUL and secondly that it is FULL of PENSIONERS. I have never known the like, it made one feel Quite The Youngster.

    While I was away the longlist for the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition was announced... and Storm House was on it! This is RATHER exciting (if you are me, which I am), especially after it ALSO getting onto the longlist for the Bath Children's Novel Award a while back too. It's almost as if it's... a children's book, maybe? I didn't write it that way, but something tells me that's what it's come out as!

    The shortlist gets announced in a month or so, and I am already planning to send the manuscript out to Actual Children's Fiction Agents (rather than the Serious Science Fiction Agents I sent it to last time) when 'Storm House' doesn't get any further. I'm so excited about sending it out to some more people that I think I might actually be disappointed if it DOES make the Shortlist!

    With all this going on it'll soon be time for me to have a crack at the second draft of the SEQUEL, 'The Utopians', which I finished a few months ago. I am sligthly DREADING doing this, in case what I wrote was rubbish, but am also looking forward to it as I must admit that I DO rather enjoy laughing at my jokes, especially when I've forgotten what they were!

    posted 20/3/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Admin Experts
    As mentioned last week, we recently did a PHOTOSHOOT with Mr J Indiehorse for the COVER (or part of the cover) of one of the SECRET PROJECTS what we will be unleashing soon to celebrate 20 Years Of Validation. A few days ago James sent us the pictures and The Validatiors all had a look through to see which ones we could use. After some discussion I proposed one particular picture and then GIRDED myself ready for weeks - possibly MONTHS - of fevered debate.

    I thought we were just getting going when Mr FA Machine proposed photoshopping my choice together with ANOTHER picture, in order to get the best versions of everybody. "That'll take me a while", I thought but was DELIGHTED, a few minutes later, to receive a new image what he had photoshopped HIMSELF, which did it perfectly. I was then frankly STUNNED a few more minutes later to get emails from ALL Validators to say they liked it!

    I must admit that I hardly knew what to do with myself. I mean, I know we are EXCELLENT at Band Logistics And General Admin, but this was RAPID even for us. 60% of the band can be counted on to pitch into a debate during the daytime, but Tom and Emma a) have jobs where that isn't always possible b) are not quite as interested in Dad Jokes as the rest of us, and also this was EVENING time so I had expected everybody to be out drinking harley davidsons and riding drugs until 3am, much like I was. And yet, after a mere half hour of discussion, we had reached a decision!

    The upshot of all this is that the cover is nearly done - there's still some aspects to discuss, but we have taken an HUGE leap forward, which means that I should be able to get the MANUFACTURING (for LO! this particular secret project is a physical item) instigated when I get back from HOLIDAYS the week after next. Once that's all underway I should actually be able to tell you what it is we're up to!

    In the meantime, please standby for some RADIO SILENCE for a little while. I'm finishing my current job TODAY, then at the weekend myself and The Dates On My Calendar are off for the aforementioned HOLS, so I'll be away for a week and a bit. Once I return though we shall be full steam ahead for the commencement of celebrations around our TWO DECADES OF ROCK!

    posted 8/3/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Road To Tuebingen
    I spent last week in Tuebingen in Germany at a WINTER SCHOOL called "De/Recontextualizing Characters: Media Convergence and Pre-/Meta-Narrative Character Circulation". I am happy to report that I now understand ALL of the words in that title, which is something of a TRIUMPH for me, personally and mentally!

    Getting there was a thrill-ride of TERROR. The night before I set off all the signs were that my travel hopes were DOOMED to failure. Everyone expected a DELUGE of snow overnight, so when I got out of bed at 4:40am I was almost disappointed to find there wasn't any. The news had said that loads of trains would be cancelled, which they very much WERE, so I ended up having to go to Liverpool Street on the (still working) Central Line and then hang around the station while, as per usual, nobody told us anything and nobody seemed particularly fussed. In the end I got on the first Stansted Express outta town and the driver was FANTASTIC, keeping everyone informed and also Being Light-Hearted about it all whilst also recognising that people were a bit stressed. He was GRATE!

    My flight set off about 20 minutes late, which would have been fine except that I had a connecting flight at Hanover airport with very little time to spare. Two blokes just ahead of me leaving the plane asked where they should go to get a flight to Stuttgart, so I ended up following them, with the three of us LEGGING IT for MILES across to the other side of the airport. I arrived at the security barriers (there wasn't an easy interchange) flustered and out of breath, and ended up ripping the skin of my hand on the conveyor belt, but DID get onto the plane... which then sat still on the tarmac for half an hour!

    Once I eventually got to Stuttgart I was amazed to find that I could walk straight off the plane and into baggage reclaim, where my suitcase arrived after approx 3 mins, then out and straight on the bus to Tuebingen, it was AMAZING! It was also BLOODY FREEZING - all week that I was away people back home were complaining about the weather, while I was somewhere EVEN COLDER . I guess this is what it must be like to live in Scotland!

    The University had put me up in a hotel, which was jolly nice but seemed to have been decorated in the 1980s, so I had an EXTREMELY brightly coloured duvet. The Winter School itself was happening on the other side of town, up a HILL and inside an ACTUAL CASTLE. I knew it was in the Tower Room of a SCHLOSS, but I was not quite prepared for the Actual Castliness of it all!

    The actual school itself was MIND BLOWING. As I've said before, I'm used to going to conferences that are mostly/entirely BORING, but this one was PACKED with INFORMATION that was not only INTERESTING but also HIGHLY RELEVANT to my PhD. There were talks about Manga, Transmedia Archeology (hem hem), Comics Continuity, and LOADS about Transmedia Characters, which will be EXTREMELY useful to me. I am currently writing it all up to give as a presentation for my supervisors later in the week, so if you require a full DOWNLOAD of all the info ask me after that. I WILL TELL YOU!

    The only vaguely difficult moment of the week came at the end of the first day, when we went to another part of the Actual Castle for drinks and food. I was KNACKERED so left early, and was let out of a back door... which turned out to lead NOWHERE, TRAPPING me on the top of the Castle Wall! I had to BANG on the windows of the dark, closed part of the Gallery that I'd been led through to try and get someone to come back and let me in again. I had terrible visions of FREEZING to death out there - it was a frightening... er... three minutes and no mistake!

    Other than that it was BRILLO. Winter Schools and Summer Schools are fantastic Continental Things that we don't seem to have much over here. This one had about 20 people involved, half of the attendees were leading BRAINS in their fields, while the other half of us were Junior Researchers, mostly doing PhDs. This meant that it was a fantastic mix of EXPERTS and NEW IDEAS, interacting with each other. Thankfully it was all conducted in ENGLISH - I was the only active native English speaker there, with about half of the total attendees from Germany, but luckily for me English is The International Language Of Academia, so I could understand everything. Well, I could understand the WORDS, I didn't necessarily always understand what they MEANT!

    Everyone there did a talk, so I did mine about my current work so far on Doctor Doom. To my surprise people got MOST excited about my DATABASE METHODOLOGY, which heretofore has mostly been considered "a bit boring". There were also some Interested/Interesting questions about an idea I have to do Observer Ratings on some characters (an idea suggested by, and hopefully involving when I get round to it, Dr M Larkin Out Of Lazarus Clamp). I am still not used to talking OUT LOUD about this sort of thing, so enjoyed it immensely, and also got to plug the twitter handle for the Marvel Age Doom blog!

    It was SO interesting that the whole week FLEW by, but I still felt VERY homesick, not least due to the fact that it was SO cold that I spent most of the time either in a hotel room, in the conference, or SPEED WALKING between the two! Come Friday I was VERY happy to be heading home, though also a bit AFEARED as all week I'd been reading reports about The Weather causing even more cancellations. As it happened my plane was delayed by about an hour on the way back, but I was FULLY appraised of the situation at all points, and the only time my travel arrangements got frustrating was, predictably, when I tried to change at Tottenham Hale for Stratford and found no staff there and none of the computer displays working either. It was at this point that I knew I was back in Blighty!

    It was, all in all, a FANTASTIC experience that is going to have a BIG and BRILLIANT effect on my future thinking. Now all I need to do is get it all written down before I forget it!

    posted 6/3/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Rose Tinted Glasses
    Yesterday John Dredge & The Plinths (the Plinths being me and Mr A Harland) released the video for 'Rose Tinted Glasses', the second song to be taken from our ACCLAIMED (by us) debut release, The Emergency EP.

    As you can probably gather from watching it, this one took a LOT of thought to get right, but I think the results are worth it. We're planning to do videos for ALL the songs on the EP, like some kind of twenty-first century DURAN DURAN - look out for the next one in about a month!

    posted 27/2/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Leicester Indiepop All-Dayer
    On Saturday I was up bright and early to head to Leicester for my first gig of the year. It's nearly March and I was doing my first gig - how things have CHANGED!

    There were rail replacement buses on the direct route to Leicester, but I discovered that if I got two day returns, one from London to Peterborough and one from Peterborough to Leicester, I could do the journey in ten minutes LONGER for five pounds LESS and with 100% less BUSES, so that's what I did. The journey from Peterborough to Leicester is one I made hundreds of times when I lived in Leicester and it was never exactly salubrious, and I can report that it has not become any more so in the years since my last trip. It did, however, mean I got to witness a SCENE between the (very pleasant) ticket inspector and two teenage girls Trying It On. The girls claimed that their tickets were on their phone, but that the battery had died (despite them very clearly using it 30 seconds ago to have a RIGHT old go at one of their Mums). The ticket inspector was MOST polite, but clearly did not believe them. Brilliantly someone nearby said "they can borrow my charger!" so she handed it to the, said "You can charge it in first class," then went to check other passengers. The LOOKS on their faces were HILARIOUS as they stumbled towards first class, DESPERATELY struggling to think of a way out - in the end they hannded the charger back and got off at OAKHAM, a dire fate for ANY traveller.

    At Leicester I met Mr F Machine, who had further phone news - he had FORGOTTEN to bring his! THUS was he transported back to the 1990s, bereft of time-knowledge, contactability and interweb, but it worked out OK in the end - Mrs Machine texted ME for details of his whereabouts, and Tim told him how Derby had got on!

    Our taxi driver kindly gave us a tour of all the cul-de-sacs in the industrial estate where Quad Rehearsal Studios are based, but after consulting the MAP on my phone we eventually got there. Mr T McClure was setting up when we arrived and Mr T Pattison got there soon after. Mrs E Pattison was unable to attend, which is just as well as it was RUDDY FREEZING in there! We thought ROCK would heat us up but I am sorry to report that it did not, although WOOLLY HATS somehow did. A tip there, for future ROCKERS in cold climates: put your HAT on. Maybe that's where The Edge got the idea?

    We had a delightful three hours of LEWD REMARKS and cups of tea (which we thought were free but, it turns out, we just didn't pay for!), very occasionally interrupted by practicing some songs. We tried out one of the new ones in an ELECTRICAL arrangement for the first time, and it sounded GRATE, but we agreed that the title was a bit rubbish. THUS after some serious BRANESTORMING we decided to change the name of "In The Pub (Talking Crap)" to Two Nights, One Pub. Much better! We also had a first ELECTRICAL go at Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met) too and COR it sounded BRILLO!

    Last time we did a gig - incredibly SEVEN months ago, at Indietracks - we practiced the whole set in advance, which seemed to work well, so we decided to try that again. This meant working out the setlist which, as ever, took AGES. It took especially long this time because we decided NOT to finish with Easily Impressed and The Lesson Of The Smiths as we have since time immemorial, so had two extra songs to argue about!

    Eventually it was time to head over to the Firebug, and we arrived to find Mr Simon Tyers, organiser and all-round DOLL FACE, in full control and Emma Kupa onstage in full song. She was one of the very few people we'd EVER played with before who were on the bill though, so it was all a bit weird going backstage and NOT seeing people we knew. We've only stepped off the MERRYGOROUND of INDIEPOP for a little while, but already all the names and faces have changed - when Mr Pete Dale arrived later on in the day, his familiar face was a JOY to behold!

    Our Emma arrived shortly after we did, so there was some time for us all to catch up before we went on stage and did THIS:

  • Payday Is The Best Day
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • Two Nights, One Pub
  • Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met)
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • Can We Be Friends?
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • We Did It Anyway
  • The whole thing FLEW by - maybe NOT doing our traditional closing songs made it feel like we had finished early, or maybe it was just because it was so much FUN. I couldn't see out into the crowd (which I always can at my usual, fully lit, acoustical gigs) so wasn't sure if there was actually any audience, and thus was UTTERLY MOVED when suddenly a whole bunch of people joined in with the end of Two Nights, One Pub. Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met) went down well (which is a good sign for our NEXT gig, in Cologne!), me and Frankie did the Leaning Against Each Other In ROCK bit in (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock and managed NOT to fall over, The Tiger's Roar was heard, Emma disagreed with me A LOT during the intro to 20 Things To Do Before You're 30, and Tim took his jumper off. I do hope the audience enjoyed it as much as we did!

    Afterwards we went downstairs to get a drink and had a chat to Mr James Indiehorse, who had been taking some pictures of the gig, as is his WONT. Emma was keen to see the one he'd taken of me and Rob ROCKING OUT (which you can now see HERE), but we couldn't chat for long as we had to go and get our pictures taken for one of the forthcoming SECRET PROJECTS. "How are we going to do this picture?" we kept saying. "If only we knew someone here who took pictures."

    It honestly took several minutes before I realised that - HANG ON - somebody who was VERY GOOD at taking pictures was standing right there with us! James very kindly agreed to photograph us as ZERO notice, so we all piled upstairs to the Pool Room for ten minutes of us titting about pulling faces and him being Very Patient. I saw some of the IMAGES thus created and they were GRATE!

    After that we watched Fightmilk, a band who I have heard lots about from various people but never actually seen. They were ACE - I especially liked the way they were CLEARLY enjoying a) being on stage b) doing so with each other, and ALSO the way they had Things To Say. It was GRATE!

    And then it was time for us to go. We said our goodbyes to each other, rather thrillingly getting to say "See you in COLOGNE!" and then I headed off for the train station. Gigs are ACE!

    posted 26/2/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Tack Tack, Tech 'Tecs
    After yesterday's admittance of BRANE FAILURE/confession of unutterable 90s grooviness, I received a whole HEAP of comments from people eager to help out. It was a beautiful outpouring of INTERNET DETECTIVES, scouring the elder corners of the web to find answers.

    Thus, thanks to the efforts of Mr J Kell, Mr M Cresswell, and Mr G Wood we're now sure that I DID play a gig supporting Half Man Half Biscuit, but we do not know what configuration it was in. I don't remember supporting them solo but, as we discovered yesterday, that is no indication whatsoever for whether I did or not. Either way, as I said yesterday, we'll be celebrating twenty YEARS of Validation on May 5th, not necessarily a precise anniversary!

    The experience serves as a reminder of all that we have LOST from those early days of the interweb. Nowadays, of course, it's pretty difficult to ever remove something from the public record, with so many copies, back-ups and archive engines, but right back in the early days, or at least the early days of public access, things were regularly deleted without ever being recorded. It's a weird little window when information that might previously have been recorded on physical media would be done digitally instead, but not kept. Thus I have plenty of souvenirs of my life in ROCK in the early nineties, including flyers, posters and photographs, but there's a couple of years when it all switched to online and was swiftly lost forever.

    I know there's the Wayback Machine and suchlike, but those are just snapshots. Huge swathes of VITAL history is LOST! Although, looking at some of the photographs I DO have from around that time, maybe that's all for the best!

    posted 22/2/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    If You Can Remember The Nineties
    Sorry for the relative QUIET on this here blog of late, I hope it has not caused too much distress and rending of garments. The reasons for the silence are TWOFOLD.

    Firstly, I am very gradually coming to the end of my current job - three month notice periods take FOREVER! All is well, but it does mean I've been spending a lot of my time tidying up things that, in the normal course of working life, would get gradually finished off and/or forgotten about over the course of months/years. It looks like there won't be a direct replacement for me in post for a while too, so I have been trying to HOOVER UP as many future TASKS as possible because I am DEAD PROFESSIONAL like that, which means I've not had so much time for my usual Wise Thoughts and Astounding Cultural Commentary.

    Having said that, we're on season 3 of "Friends" now and have found that we can't remember ALL the episodes QUITE as clearly as previous seasons. It's still good though.

    Secondly, there ARE items of ROCK occurring, but not items I am quite at liberty to talk about just yet. What I CAN say, however, is that much of them are based around the gig celebrating 20 years of The Validators, which will be happening on Saturday 5th May at The King & Queen in That London!

    I'll be dishing out more details about this nearer the time, including THE EXCITING THING that we are going to be officially releasing that day, and also THE SECRET PROJECT which we intend to REVEAL that day too, but what I can say for now is that it is HAPPENING, we will probably be doing TWO sets, and that one of them will be accompanied by A Little Orchestra, so put it in your diary! NOW!!

    I originally intended to herald this gig as the actual 20th Anniversary Of The Validators, as it takes place on the 20th anniversary of what I thought was our first ever gig, but now I am not so sure. I know for a FACT that we put together a LIVE BAND version of The Validators in order to support Half Man Half Biscuit at The Victoria Inn in Derby, and I also thought that this occurred on May 5 1998. My gigs page for that year says that I DID play that gig that night, and that The Validators played Abbey Park later that summer, which is another event I clearly remember. However, my gigs page for 1999 ALSO lists gigs supporting HMHB in Derby AND one at Abbey Park AND says the HMHB gig was our first one!

    Normally when something like this arises I would simply consult the blog archives but ALAS I did not START the blog until 2003. I did do fortnightly updates of the webpage, but I did not start archiving these until late 1998, and they are to say the least UNCLEAR about what was going on. It's all very confusing.

    "Hold on though," you may chuckle, "Why don't you just consult your BRANE?!? Surely you must REMEMBER?" I answer that with the simple truism that if you can remember the 1990s then baby you were not THERE. Or, if you were, you were clearly not as uniformly DRUNKENED and/or hungover as what I was for most of the decade. Hey! It was BRITPOP! Being leathered was COOL!

    I definitely remember the events mentioned above HAPPENING, but I can't say for sure what ORDER they occurred in. I know that The Durham Ox Singers were doing their own gigs in early 1999, which I THINK means they must have done some gigs with The Validators before then too, but I could be wrong. I distinctly remember trying to get everyone to clap in time whilst recording one of the songs for Say It With Words and having to a) apologise to Kev Reverb (who was EXTREMELY PATIENT with us) and b) giving up, but have no idea when that actually was.

    I do know for definite that Clubbing In The Week came out in the summer of 1998, and that I spoke to Frankie and Tim about recording Born With The Century as a BAND around then too, so whatever else happened The Validators definitely BEGAN in 1998, and so I am fairly confident that I can call May 5th the start of our twentieth anniversary YEAR, if nothing else!

    What I'm basically saying is that I've booked the pub now so we're doing the gig, and that any inaccuracies in the timing simply prove that I was DEAD COOL at the turn of the century. That, at least, is IRREFUTABLE!

    posted 21/2/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Future Phone Frenzy
    A few weeks ago I got my regular bi-annual call from an unknown number which I answer in a SHIRTY manner but then have to rapidly Become Polite About, for LO! it was my phone company ringing to ask if I'd like a new phone and also a lower monthly tariff? I always end these phone calls pathetically grateful to the nice young person who's saved me some money, but this time I should perhaps have been sterner, as it was the beginning of several weeks of ANNOYANCE, ending in TECHNO FEAR.

    It all began to go awry a week or so after the call, when I realised that my new phone had not turned up yet. I emailed the company who said it had been delivered to a neighbour by DPD. Are there any more DREAD WORDS than "by DPD" in Modern Britain? Pretty much every time DPD have delivered - or tried to deliver - something to me they have dumped it on some unlucky sod SOMEWHERE in my block of flats, not taken a note of which number it was (they seem to think I know everyone in all 43 flats personally) nor left a note for me, and expected whoever took the parcel in to finish off the delivery. I do realise that DPD are a horrible company who don't pay their workers properly, by the way, so maybe this is a company cost cutting policy, all I know for sure is that their presence in my delivery chain affects my life ADVERSELY.

    There followed two weeks of emails back and forth while DPD "conducted an enquiry", which ended up with my phone company giving up and sending another phone... which DPD again "left with a neighbour". This time however they DID record the flat number so when I got home I popped upstairs to collect it, and discovered the TRUTH behind the whole business: my phone company had put THE WRONG FLAT NUMBER on the package!

    There then followed a delightful community gathering when I had a chat to the person who'd taken my current phone in AND the person who it had been wrongly addressed to, after which I ended up with TWO phones (as the original had gone to the same wrong address)! It was all, to say the least, EXTREMELY frustrating, especially as I'd been NICE to the phone company whose fault it was all along! Still, I DID get to meet some neighbours, and I DO now have my new phone!

    With that mystery solved I sat down and prepared myself for a couple of hours transferring things from my old phone to my new one. You know the sort of thing - adding contacts, installing apps, entering passwords for emails etc etc. Every time I get a new COMPUTER of some sort I do this, and every time I am reminded that it is no longer the 1990s and computers are designed to be used by EVERYONE, and not just bearded computer loons with seven types of screwdriver. I was, however, AMAZED to find that the same principle applies to mobile phones. "Do you basically want me and your old phone to sort this out for you?" said a message which popped up on my new phone (I paraphrase a little, but not much). I said "all right then" and, about ten minutes later, it was all DONE. I didn't even need to connect the phones with WIRES or anything, it did it with THE WI-FI!

    I was flipping STUNNED by the whole process. It was so PEASY and now my new phone has all the stuff my OLD one did, plus (hopefully) I will be able to make phone calls without the SOUND disappearing every sixty seconds. It's pretty good, though I have to admit it's taken a bit of the New Phone Novelty out of it - it's almost exactly the same as the old one, after all!

    posted 9/2/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Trouser Emergency
    As VERY briefly mentioned previously, I'm starting a brand new job in March. It's all RATHER exciting, as I'll be based at UAL (where I'm doing my PhD) doing Research Databases for the ARTS. I have a fully formed DREAM VISION of my new life frolicking around surrounded by Arts Students in Unorthodox Trousers while ENTHRALLING academics with tales of SQL. I'm pretty sure that's EXACTLY how it's going to be.

    In the meantime though I have LOADS to do in my current job, making sure that everything is sufficiently in order before I depart and they commence The Era Of Great Sadness which will doubtless ensue. It's all going fairly well so far, and I was congratulating myself on my ORGANISATION yesterday when FATE decided to teach me a lesson by instigating a TROUSER EMERGENCY.

    What happened was that I crouched down to pick something up and heard a mighty RIP, then discovered that I had torn THE ENTIRE ARSE of my trousers asunder! It was not, I promise you, due to them being too tight or mine own derriere being too vast (HONEST), but rather I think that the GUSSET was hanging too low like some street tough youth of approx 5 years ago, and so, when I Bent From The Knees to pick something up from the floor, my ATHLETICISM was too much for the fabric to withstand. Luckily I was ALONE when this occurred, and was able to DISGUISE the event by Walking Primly, but still: what was I to do? What is ANY gentleman to do in such a situation? It's not like I had spare trousers stored in my desk, and HOME is a long old way away!

    What I did do was to calmly and quietly put my coat on and set off down Tottenham Court Road in search of Emergency Trousers. My first port of call was Muji, but I could barely even understand what the trousers in there WERE, let alone if I wanted any of them. There were pictures of people with LEGS, but everything seemed to be "slim" or "tapered" or somesuch, and nobody in any of the images looked particularly happy about it.

    I swiftly left, heading for the TOP MAN which has always been on the corner of New Oxford Street, and which I have used for many previous Clothing Emergencies over the years (e.g. The Coffee/Jumper Disaster Of The Early 2000s), but was horrified to find it CLOSED! There was only one choice left to me: I was going to have to go to PRIMARK.

    As a person of a Certain Age my natural clothing destinations are a) Marks & Spencer b) Fat Face c) THAT'S IT, so I have never really entered this popular retail outlet before, so when I DID I felt like a Caveman faced with an AIRPORT. There were so many things! That I didn't understand! EVERYWHERE!

    Eventually I realised that the Men's Department was downstairs (where, in olden tymes, the Musical Instrument Department in the HMV Megastore had once been), but my quest was ALAS not much easier down there as I was faced with EITHER enormous terry-towelling tracksuit trousers OR more of the slim-fit tapered HELL TIGHTS I had been faced with in Muji. It was awful, and again the models in the displayed photographs appeared to agree with me. "I look like a PANTALOONED NINNY" they seemed to say. "Please help me, or at least send an electric razor."

    Eventually I found two pairs of trousers that seemed to be vaguely normal, though when I tried them on one pair were like putting on JODPHURS. I mean, I'm not asking for FLARES or anything, but I do not wish to parade around in LEGGINGS thank you very much. FINALLY I found a pair that DID at least function as Actual Trousers and, as they were only a tenner, I thought I'd chance it.

    THUS i was able to return to my workstation fully compliant with both health and safety AND public decency. It had been a terrifying encounter with modern legwear - this weekend I'm off to M&S to buy 17 pairs of trousers to keep in a range of handy locations so that this TROUSER EMERGENCY never recurs!

    posted 8/2/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Out On A Saturday Night
    This Saturday was a THROWBACK to the 1990s, as I had a MASSIVE lie-in, loafed about during the day, and then went to a gig in the evening. It only really needed CD:UK on the telly to make it complete.

    The GIG was the Just Joans at The Lexington, which I'd been looking forward to for ages as a) the Just Joans are a GRATE LIVE ACT in their full-band incarnation and b) their latest album is FAB. I met The Hewitts in the pub round the corner beforehand, and had some of that Gloopy Lager you get in fancy pubs. I fear this may have been a mistake, as I have been drinking Very Weedy Lager in the main lately, and found myself becoming quite drunk, quite quickly!

    After some BEER we hied round to the venue, where I was delighted to find that Mr J Jervis was ensconced in his BOOTH. Unfortunately this meant we missed pretty a lot of the support bands due to CHAT, but it was JERV, so definitely worth it.

    There was a TONNE of other chums there to say hello to too, which was delightful. I must say I haven't really missed the GIG aspect since I've stopped a) going to b) playing as many gigs as I used to, but I have missed the PALS I'd always bump into, so it was lovely to see people again. It was like a very small indietracks, in the cold!

    I went down near the front for the start of the Just Joans who, as expected, were ACE. I have known them since before the band even started, when they were all about 12 (approx), so I always think they have done JOLLY WELL to even get down to Big London on their own, let alone ROCK the house, but that is very much what they did. The new songs sounded brilliant and the BIG HITS were MASSIVE!

    I watched the second half of the gig from the comfort of the Executive Box (i.e. the seat in the far corner at the back that nobody seems to know is there) with Mr S Hewitt and then, once there'd been time for congratulations and a bit more helloing, staggered off into the night.

    The next morning I woke up LATE again, feeling slightly DAZED by the hangover and enormous amount of KIP. It was SO 1990s that I fully expected to find myself in the Durham Ox that evening, losing the quiz!

    posted 5/2/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Important Thoughts About Friends
    Now that we have ALL THE TELLY in our house we use to expand our knowledge with insightful documentaries and foreign language films. Very very occasionally though we find time for something a little lighter, and have thus managed to squeeze in the complete runs of 'How I Met Your Mother', 'Community', 'Parks & Recreation', 'Curb Your Enthusiasm', 'Brooklyn 99', 'Sienfeld' and 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt', just in those rare moments between all the hard-hitting independent films about people gazing sadly out of windows, which we definitely watch most of the time.

    The trouble with ploughing through these (mostly) old series is that when they end they TOTALLY END and there's no new season to look forward to, so you have to go and find another one to watch. As you can see, we have pretty much binged ALL of The American Classics (we already watched 'Cheers' and 'Frasier' back when we just had SOME of The Telly), so have been scrabbling about a bit lately to try and find something else. Imagine then our DELIGHT at New Year when Netflix dropped ALL of 'Friends' on us! It was a LOT of delight!

    We're about halfway through the first season now, and THREE (3) things have become abundantly clear. The first is that, between The Handclaps In My Title Song and I we know pretty much every episode off by heart, and can often recognise the entire story from the first few seconds. I know it was repeated endlessly on Channel 4 for years, but I'm sure I haven't watched EVERY episode multiple times. Maybe this is what my brain was concentrating on during the nineties, instead of remembering anything else? It would explain a LOT.

    The second thing, as so many of your modern 'millenials' have discovered, is that it has, in some cultural respects, not always aged entirely well. For one such as I this is not exactly NEWS, but I guess every generation has to have this moment when they realise that TIME HAS PASSED. For people of my age and FORMAT this came when 'Battle Of The Planets' was released on video, and it turned out to NOT be the most amazing thrill-ride ever shown on television, but actually nonsensical, repetitive, and a bit rubbish. I was DEVASTATED by this, especially as me and my younger brother had sat down out YOUNGEST brother in front of the telly and promised him it would be AMAZING. He was NOT impressed, and I imagine our FEELINGS on the matter are pretty much the same as these hepcats who are now discovering that the programme they loved so much as children turns out to has a distinct tendency to use the word 'lesbian' as a punchline.

    Thirdly, and most importantly, watching it again makes me wonder why on earth JANICE was never given her own show? Janice is THE BEST character in the whole show - I am amazed that The Live Studio Audience doesn't cheer ever time she comes in, although maybe they do and it is just obscured by her CATCHPHRASE. Last night she said "OH. MY. GOD" for the first time, and truly it was a moment of television brilliance. They gave a solo show to Joey, for heaven's sake - if only I'd been in Hollywood at the time I could have set them right!

    As I say, we're only halfway through season one - expect more INSIGHTS in a few weeks when we get to MAGNUM turning up!

    posted 1/2/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Romance Of The FA Cup
    Saturday found me up EARLY (for a weekend) so that I could be in PETERBOROUGH by half past eleven. I was there to meet Mr CM Smith for a trip to London Road, for LO! Posh were playing Leicester in the FA Cup!

    I must admit I was RATHER EXCITED about the whole thing, and tho my BRANE was counselling preparedness for defeat my HEART was convinced we were going to DRAW! I know that ideally one's heart should be convinced we were going to win, but even MY heart isn't that daft. I thought it would be a thrilling game in which we held Leicester to a draw, and then we'd get WALLOPED by them at home. I was so convinced of this that i spent quite a while worrying about a) whether i'd be able to get back home from Leicester after a midweek replay and b) what pubs I could go to beforehand.

    SPOILERS: I need not have worried. Within approx 15 minutes of the game starting we were losing 2-0 and the atmosphere at a SOLD OUT London Road (apparently the first time it had sold out since the LAST time we played Leicester City, when both teams were in the Championship!) declined MARKEDLY. Without wanting to get too technical with my FOOTBALL EXPERTISE, I think the problem was that Leicester City are much much MUCH better than Peterborough United. They were really good!

    By half-time it was 3-0 and we were COLD and also WET as the weather was flipping miserable. Later we met some Leicester fans who'd left at this point and gone to a warm pub instead to watch the second half - I thought this was a bit odd when they said it, but in retrospect I can see the merits of the idea. The second half was a bit better, and we did score once (TWICE, if you count Junior Morias's ACE goal, which unfortunately the linesman didn't), but by the end it was 5-1 to Leicester and this was ENTIRELY fair enough. They were, as I say, MUCH better!

    Afterwards we met Mr P Myland and went to the PUB for the aforementioned chat with some Leicester fans, and some IN-DEPTH DISCUSSIONS about... something or other. For some reason I can't quite remember what we were on about, except that it made a lot of sense at the time and was SO DELIGHTFUL that I ended up having to have a little bit of a nap on the way home. It also reminded me that I need to go back for some more home games before the season ends: The Football! It may be cold, wet and inevitably disappointing, but it's also a LOT of fun!

    posted 30/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Unleash The Plinths
    Today is a momentous day in ROCK HISTORY for LO! today is the day that The Emergency EP by John Dredge & The Plinths is UNLEASHED upon an unknowing universe. It's available to download via iTunes, Amazon and all your major music sites, it's on Spotify and you can always buy it direct from us via the bandcamp site.

    As if that wasn't THRILING enough, we're also releasing a VIDEO for the lead track 'Going Down' today. This was filmed a few weeks ago in London's Lincolns Inn Fields area of London, and looks pretty much exactly like THIS:



    The track's already been played on various radio stations (MANY THANKS to all of those who have so far!) and we have high hopes of a bit more airplay this week. In the long term the cunning plan is to put out a video every month, to keep the MAD EXCITEMENT going, but for now I hope you enjoy this first song. I am, I must say, rather chuffed with how it turned out!

    posted 29/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Pre-Plinths
    The exciting DEBUT from John Dredge & The Plinths, "The Emergency EP" is out on Monday, and I'm beginning to get Quite Excited. Monday is the point when it stops being a load of ADMIN and starts becoming FUN!

    For LO! there has been a lot of stuff to do to get to this point. When a band has been going for, say, nearly twenty years, you have got into a GROOVE of how to do stuff, but when it's a new thing you have to work it all out from scratch. For instance, the way the songs have been written for this was all new to me, with me coming up with TUNES, then recording them and emailing them to John to put words and vocal melody to, then we had to think about how HE could demo HIS bits, then how we'd RECORD the proper version etc etc. New accounts had to be set up with all sorts of MEDIA places, new mailing lists were generated, videos done, press releases written, and so on and so on. It's a lot of STUFF!

    We've also been FRONTLOADING - the EP's not even out yet, but we've already got two VIDEOS done and two more underway. The PLAN is for ALL of the songs on the EP to have a video - we are VERY MUCH like Duran Duran in this way, as well as in MANY OTHERS.

    The PRE-PROMOTION has been going pretty well too, we seem to have been played on a different radio show every night this week, and I'm fairly hopeful for more to come. However, the BEST thing will be on Monday when it is finally UNLEASHED and people can HEAR and SEE what we've been up to. I think it's QUITE GOOD, I hope you will too!

    posted 26/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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