Monday, July 04, 2011

Pulp, Wireless Festival @ Hyde Park

Seeing as though I was 9 years old back when Do You Remember The First Time? came out, well, I don't. Not really. His 'n' Hers rather passed me by, but just a year later I had, apparently, acquired something of a taste for intelligent indie pop, and bought (was bought?) both The Boo Radleys' Wake Up! and Pulp's Different Class. Who could have guessed that I'd go on to be a Divine Comedy/Ben Folds/Rufus Wainwright fan, eh..?

Fast forward sixteen years and I properly discovered Do You Remember The First Time? for the first time on a balmy July evening in Hyde Park. (I'll stop doing these weird puns now.) It was Pulp's opening song at the Wireless Festival, and I don't think I've ever seen such a happy, excited crowd as the moment when the chorus kicked in, and streamers exploded out into the audience.

It was pretty beautiful. The whole set was pretty beautiful, in fact, and - while I'm sure the aficionados pledge their allegiances to guitarist/violinist Russell or keyboard player Candida - to me I'm afraid most of that was down to Jarvis Cocker. Jarv is one hell of a front man; funny, generous, great singer and a freaky mover, he climbs over every inch of the stage and you can't take your eyes off him. You pay for a musician and you get a raconteur and dancer too. Not bad going.

And yes, the songs aren't half bad too. ....First Time really was a highlight, but the singalong quality of many of their tracks means they're a perfect festival band. Sorted For E's and Wizz is, of course made for festivals (and I'd forgotten how much I adored it when it came out), and This Is Hardcore and F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E are just stunning live.

Plus, I can't help but have a little soft spot for Common People - when I was feeling a little homesick during my first week at uni, it was shouting "watching roaches climb the wall" with the rest of Indie Soc that persuaded me everything was going to be ok. I'll probably always remember that - and I'll probably always remember singing it with my friends and a few thousand others this weekend too.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Pajama Men - In The Middle of No One, Soho Theatre

I wrote this gushy little review for the British Comedy Guide...

A Pajama Men show is one of life's unadulterated joys. This is the second show I've seen by the flannel PJ-clad double act Mark Chavez and Shenoah Allen, and - just as with the first - I left the theatre on a glorious high, quickly rifling through my diary to see when I could fit in a second viewing.

The set-up is similar to their previous show, Last Stand To Reason, too. In In The Middle Of No One, Chavez and Allen again present a chronologically-skewed tale in which they play all the characters, with the aid of nothing but two chairs, a wonderful musician, and their own comedy genius; constantly and effortlessly jumping back and forth in time and between roles.

Some scenes drive the plot forward - when Chavez stumbles over his words near the start of the show, Allen shouts "get the exposition out!" with gleeful encouragement - some are just silly vignettes that allow these performers to show off. The story involves a very formal adventurer, child services, aliens and a time-travelling fraud, but frankly you're more concerned with the cutsie girlfriends chatting about their love lives and the rare bird with a 'come hither' call.

Sometimes the comedy is based on clever word play and an obvious love of messing with language ("I'll see your wife and raise... your children"). Sometimes it's all about their superb mime and physicality, with the two playing at being marionettes, or getting ridiculously up close and personal. Sometimes you just find yourself guffawing embarrassingly loudly at the phrase "sideways decanter".

Chavez and Allen appeared in particularly giggly mood this evening but is all that corpsing for real? I don't know, and because I don't know, I don't care - it felt special to us, and if it feels special every night then so much the better.

It's funny, but it's more than that. It's clever and sweet and you actually care about the multitude of characters you meet in this twisted tale. If this all sounds hyperbolic, it isn't - the Pajama Men are simply this good. I'd never say kill for a ticket (how hackneyed), but do what you can within the bounds of the law and common decency to get your hands on one.