Christeene @ Islington Mill: We Are All Going Through The Same Shit by H. Me

Paul Soileau, drag, queer, electro, punk, rap, butt plugABOUT halfway through this gig a friend called Antoine in his favourite Alien Sex Fiend tee was shown a red rectangular piece of cloth by a  tattooed woman. Dangling from the centre of the material was a ribbed three-inch piece of black rubber about as long my ring finger.

“I was near the back and it still managed to hit little old me in the face,” Barbara said amazed.

“That’s Christeene’s butt plug,” I yelled into Antoine’s ear and pointed to the band on stage, “she pulled it out and wenged it into the crowd during the opening song.”

Before he could say anything both our faces fish hooked as we caught a whiff of brown town causing us to flinch backwards. A moment later he flung the offending item back across the dancefloor.

“Mental,” he said as he absent-mindedly wiped his hands across the front his tee. I went to the loos to wash mine. Barbara followed and washed her face.

The tidy arse the butt plug came from belongs to Paul Soileau a drag artist currently residing and honing his electro-punk-rap-nuts music in Austin, Texas. Christeene Vale is his second creation and she is not your usual fayre. Noted for her weird looks, trampy black hair, a string vest and heavy smeared make-up around a mouth housing a gold front tooth – Christeene is more like homeless person having a bad hair day about to go all Texas Chainsaw Massacre on our asses.

“When Christeene came out of me,” he says on his Wikipedia page, “I was searching for something that had the action of a switchblade in my pocket – a character I could put on quickly but effect people in a much stronger way. There’s a lot of social and political commentary going on. It allows me to process and understand me, Paul, as a queer, as a southern boy.”

What comes out of Paul via Christeene would give Freud a field day. The box he ticks on his personality test is Drag Terrorist. On stage Christeene is backed by two well-oiled dancers, naked apart from thongs and harnesses occasionally auto-asphyxiating themselves with black ties. They’ve got moves too such as the elegant and seductive fisting the air in tandem either side of Christeene. In between songs they get a break while Christeene butters us up in her high-pitched twisted Texan drawl:

“I know you people have got something special in your hearts and in your assholes,” she compliments.

“Just keep doing what your doing. Keep being you. You don’t need me to tell you,” she urges.

“We are all going through the same shit,” she relates.

Let’s make no bones about it. We were all gone. Egos vanished into air, flimsily constructed personalities melted away as the relentless throbbing gristle of their sound gouged us into being.

“I’m so confused,” shouted a lesbian next to me, “I want to fuck him.”

Watching songs like Tears from My Pussy and African Mayonnaise, as provocative as they are on Youtube, doesn’t prepare you for the live club show. Like Peaches gone before Christeene manages to sculpt sex and pain into vicious beauty with a knowingness and honesty and depth you don’t normally get from drag acts unless you’re at a David Hoyle show. You could be forgiven for thinking this review is promulgating a notion that gay culture revolves around cock and arse. It’s not. Beneath the sexualised motifs of Christeene’s act hidden in the words and beats is a message that’s all heart. A black electronic heart maybe but one nevertheless delivered with devilish ironic wit and sheer grime.

The song slowly / easy is like making it through a carpet bombing and finding out your the only survivor.

I can find no better reaction than Bubble Shield’s comments on Youtube to explain the power of this song:

bubble shield 1 month ago

30 seconds in I had a che

(who quickly updates the comment to)

bubble shield 1 month ago

Ciezure I ment ciezure

(and then just decides to go the whole hog and let us all know the true impact )

bubble shield 1 month ago

And shit myself and Died

(you can’t make this stuff up)

In the mosh-pit bodies buzz and hum. Sharp fresh odour, the fruit of a committed dancefloor, stung my nostrils as vital nervous energy got a welcome release. It poured from the blinged up man who used to work at Kim-By-The-Sea with flesh tunnel ears; from Zsa Zsa Noir tottering on her to-die-for legs; from the Chinese Lala who kept slipping in her own spilt beer; from the literary gays in their cut-off rock tees; from the hipster gays in their tight trousers and soft shoes; from the academic gays in their clean tees; from the andros; from the straights; from the staff at the back; and me.

The venue plays no small part in this. There is something about Islington Mill that elevates events into nights where you know you’re going to come alive. It’s been a haven for the avant-garde and underground for so long now, the mill has become a sprawling feeling spread across the city, something warm that stirs the in the chest and loins like a promise waiting to be redeemed the moment you step across the threshold. In part a gay hacienda, in whole a springboard for artists to contribute something special to life. Izzy Mill Head Honcho Bill Campbell once told me that it was important that a space existed where people felt free for anything to happen because that’s where true creativity is born.

Get born. Go mental. Now wash your hands.

Christeene performed as part of Off With Their Heads and Tranarchy’s Bummer Camp at Islington Mill on the longest day of the year supported by Zsa Zsa Noir, Kurt Dirt and a bouncy castle.

A special shout-out goes to DJ Louie from Sapphic Traffic. His donky-wonky dance set made my eyes bulge like eggs. More of that please!

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Margaret Thatcher Dead – Munchkins Celebrate by Munchkin Boq

Ding Dong!

Is anyone at home? Not anymore for Margaret Thatcher who died yesterday from a stroke aged 87 in bed at The Ritz Hotel. An event to what many munchkins celebrating across Munchkin Country have been referring to as ‘a stroke of good luck’.

Arguably there hasn’t been anyone at home since birth in the mind of this woman who rose to power against class and gender barriers to be the UK and the West’s first female Prime Minister. There also hasn’t been British politician so demonized and demurred to since the Pendle Hill Witch Trials of 1612. Witch sympathizers say she put the drive back into Britain and saved the country from rack and ruin. The munchkins say she was a non-stop talking blue and blonde Technicolor nightmare.

Her daughter Carol previously described that her mother had a mind like a website, but in recent years the brain disease Alzheimer’s has mugged the Iron Lady of her fearsome personality and her ability to function in public life. In keeping with the apt adage out of sight out of mind some people could be forgiven for thinking she had popped her ruby slippers yonks ago.

But for many munchkins at long last yesterday they found that their dreams had come true from somewhere over the rainbow when they awoke to the news that the wicked witch was dead. Top of the celebrations ringing out across the land is the song Ding Dong the Witch is Dead. Sales shot up on iTunes and it has become unofficially the new munchkin national anthem. Munchkin Boq said when my council house, which I bought in the eighties, fell out of the sky and landed on the witch triggering the stroke well it was just about the best thing in all of Oz. Other munchkins have suggested her state funeral should be privatized and that ATOS have claimed her fit to work.

Munchkin capital Glasgow was first to get a death party going with hundreds of munchkins gathering in George’s Square toasting her demise with bottles of milk. Meanwhile in the sleepy hamlet of London village one munchkin reorganized the letters on the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton to read ‘MARGARET THATCHERS DEAD LOL’.

Much like the lion, the scarecrow and the tin man in their search to become true to themselves – to become an individual – no one can argue that Thatcher’s self-guiding principle to make sure her own life mattered has been a resounding success. In a diametrically opposed style to finding your heart, brain and courage she ruled the Conservative Party with an iron fist from 1979 to 1990 with pain and suffering highlights for the miners, the unions, the crew members of the Belgrano and the rioters against the Poll Tax.

The tributes (and the race for column inches) have been pouring in:

BAFTA and Golden Globe and Oscar winning munchkin Meryl Streep said it was an honour to play her in the sentimental semi-biographical film The Iron Lady. She said to Fox 411: “Margaret Thatcher was a pioneer, willingly or unwillingly, for the role of women in politics. To have come up, legitimately, through the ranks of the British political system, class bound and gender phobic as it was, in the time that she did and the way that she did, was a formidable achievement….To have given women and girls around the world reason to supplant fantasies of being princesses with a different dream: the real-life option of leading their nation; this was groundbreaking and admirable. Also to return the honour she was brilliant as me in Mama Mia!”

Munchkin  President Barack Obama tweeted in along much the same lines:

Barack Obama Margaret Thatcher

AOL Product Manager Munchkin Sorab Shroff writes here persuasively about her political impact and legacy. While witch-in-waiting Boris Johnson aka wolf in sheep’s clothing said in his Telegraph blog she was much prettier in person than you might expect ‘in an English rose kind of way’ and quoted her as saying ‘Pwhof’ at an EEC summit but it was, he says, how she transformed the country’s self image that has left every politician since Churchill in her shade.

As the events of yesterday unfold many munchkins living in the newly formed United Kingdom of Tesco, X-Factor, Greggs the Bakers and Northern Ireland are asking at what cost has this come about and what does the future hold? Their key point being her father’s greengrocers on the high street in Grantham is now a massage parlour.

Film-maker munchkin Ken Loach said Margaret Thatcher was the most divisive and destructive Prime Minister of modern times. In his latest documentary The Spirit of ’45 he looks to the past when the NHS and welfare state began in the hope to inspire a new breed of politicians to be more socially-minded today. Another exalting film on release is Will and Testament about Labour’s longest serving munchkin MP Tony Benn. Munchkins are campaigning that every newly elected politician should see these films back to back before taking up their seat in the Houses of Parliament.

Munchkin Dr Seuss who treated the witch on her deathbed said it’s hard to know if she was conscious of who she was or that if she knew in actual fact she was dying. For most sufferers this last point is possibly the only saving grace of the disease but in this particular case it is probably it’s biggest tragedy.

He said her final words were:

I know that some people

Call me Tony Soprano

I was right on the money

About the Belgrano

After her body was taken from the hotel in a private ambulance Dr Seuss said a munchkin nurse nearby was heard to mutter quietly under her breath, ‘No you weren’t’.

Margaret Thatcher’s funeral is due to take place next week at St Paul’s Cathedral with full military honours. Our thoughts and condolences go out to the family. It’s not their fault.

Chumbawumba’s Margaret Thatcher EP In Memoriam was mailed out on 8th April to all who pre-ordered the CD. No further orders will be taken. Full tour to follow….

Oz the Great and Powerful the new Disney film starring James Franco was released in February 2013.

 

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Save Alexandra Park Trees: A Love Letter by Teresa Green

RIP Red Sycamore Avenue

Dear Alexandra,

It’s been nearly three weeks since we started hacking trees off you left, right and centre. My heart breaks into a thousand pieces that we can’t fix the damage that has been done. Please forgive us. I owe you so much. Many a morning I’ve woken and been unable to get out of bed but the mere thought of running through the outstretched arms of Red Sycamore Avenue boughed heavy with green, yellow, orange and red leaves has motivated me to get up for years. You make me want to live! And all from trees that just stand there. But RIP Red Sycamore Avenue. You are no more. You have been felled nee murdered. And lie horizontal on your backs like lazy cheap whores instead of being my first true love of the day. On the second Saturday of protest I walked with Nev, a mountain of a man, in his grey towelyn hoodie and matching trackie b’s down Newly Decimated Avenue, we both had tears in our eyes and we almost held hands.

‘They’re heartless cunts,’ he said.

I couldn’t say anything. The sight of light brown discs of wood chainsawn open and scattered through the park like lost Connect 4 counters was too sad for words.

save alexandra Park, eco warriors, MCC, manchester city council,But for that moment as strangers we were brought together. Amongst the tree graveyard are some tattered tents. More strangers brought together. The strange brothers and sisters of Moss Side and Whalley Range and Trafford. They have been here since the felling began three weeks ago. I don’t know what they’d be doing normally if they weren’t trying to save the park trees. When you look at the destruction of 50 of the 400 trees already taken down to make way for tennis courts the situation seems hopeless. Yet the protestors have hope. This is the sign of first rate intelligence and compassion in human beings. Being able to find hope in a hopeless situation. Lots of them have become ill from their cold and wet vigil day after day and night after night in the park. Some days a bearded black leather jacketed protestor psychs out the police by filming them with his camcorder in their faces and on demo Saturdays when the community comes out in triple figures he rouses them with shouts of Whose trees? Our trees! Another protestor says let’s go to the homes of the council and start chopping trees down in their back gardens and see how they like that. A cop snickers at a woman who is shouting until she’s blue in the face that he should speak to his boss about quitting because it isn’t his job to kill birds it’s his job to save them.

Oh Alex I’m sorry your trees are being torn down and wildlife put at risk for tennis courts. Apart from the glaring fact that the park has tennis courts already albeit run down and in need of some TLC, and if we’re being honest, much like the rest of you. You are a big raggedy and do need a bit of a facelift. But tennis courts?! FFS. London creeps closer every day. We are not Manchester-upon-Thames. It is an urban park. It has an urban edge. Some days when I’m running through you and stare at the over-grown bushes I wonder if someone’s going to jump out and mug me. It makes me run faster. I am going to live longer. You are life-giving. So I’ve come to visit you again today on Valentine’s Day to show you some love. There are only two protestors left. A man and a woman. It feels like the end of the affair. A strange garden of Eden with not an apple tree in sight.

Grey Spotted WoodpeckerNo says the owl-like woman grabbing my arm earnestly we are not here to stop them we are here to make them question how they’ve done this. We are wholesome. We are right in what we are doing. As security dismantle the barricades she is worried they will now be arrested for camping in a public space. We move a tent backwards out of the swamp onto firmer drier land towards Claremont Road. She is right. In the end everything will be alright even if it isn’t alright. Mother Nature shall prevail and the trees shall all grow up and rise again. She is too powerful and does after all own all of the higher moral ground.

Thank you Alexandra for being my lungs of the city,

Love Teresa Green xx

It’s not over ’til it’s over. Keep supporting the campaign:

facebook.com/savealexandraparktrees

www.savealexandraparktrees.wordpress.com

twitter: @saveAPTrees

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Snezana Pupovic: The Art of Emotion by Nikki Wordsmith

World Event Young Artist, Montenegro, best collage, best illustration, best pictures in the world

Book of Emotion by Snezana Pupovic

I was hurtling along on a train from Manchester to Nottingham waiting on a text to see if an old friend was going to make it to meet me at the World Event Young Artist where she was exhibiting. We’d had a good time in the past then a falling out and now we were making a hash of trying to get the friendship back on track. An hour later I knew she was going to be a no-show. At the venue I had a heavy heart and couldn’t see her work clearly, then a picture called Secret on the opposite wall with a bright blue eye poking out of it caught my attention and WHOOSH! art did that thing that it does best – it helps make sense of our emotions, allowing new personal truths and a chance to be a better person perhaps?

World Event Young Artist, best graphic design, best collage, best drawings

Secret Snezana Pupovic

I was moved. A few hours later I put a call out on the blog:

It’s difficult to find anything about this young artist whose work I recently stumbled into at the 2012 World Event in Nottingham.  A quick ging-gang-google reveals that she was born (1989), lives and works in Podgorica, Montenegro, a country squished in-between Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Her homeland has a beautiful coastline onto the Adriatic Sea that gives the place its main economy – tourism – until the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s in neighbouring countries crippled that industry. Perhaps this is why her airy colourful images belie content with a much blacker heart. Who knows? Not me. I’m just guessing. Snezana get in touch so I don’t have to keep babbling on about the place where you come from instead of what’s going on with you.

To be continued…

A couple of months later in November an email landed in my inbox:

Dear Nikki,

I just see your text about my work which you seen in Notingham on World Event Young Artist Festival. Thank you for publication so much  

Best regards, Snezana

Since then a trail of emails have kept us in contact while this talented 23-year-old graphic designer, illustrator, drawer and painter graduated last month from Faculty of Fine Arts, Podgorica, Montenegro, picking up a bagful of best student awards and scholarships on the way.

Currently working in a publishing house, she uses a wide range of mix media materials such as gouache, ink, watercolor, pens and collage in her extensive portfolio but it is drawing and painting that are her first love as demonstrated in the deeply moving fine art pictures she creates.

Last week she took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few quick questions:

What are the significant moments that have brought you to be the person you are today?

I am not sure in existence of those moments; in fact, I think that person is born as is. While the good or bad moments are those which “force” you to choose direction and they actually participate in building of a person’s character. We are all different characters, so for each of us these moments isn’t same. In fact every moments which touch us, actually influence in building us.

Tell me about your art, one thing, one picture or a story that sums up your practice?

Our emotional states, how they effect on our lives and our bodies, and the way they can lead us is the core topic of my artworks. I prefer sensible souls and their states of mind and emotions. Sensible souls are those which feel and experience much more of other souls.

Anything you want to say?

Works which I have created in last two years talk about very sensible souls, and how their divine emotions enlightens their souls, but in same time that strong emotion can kill their bodies.  In working and thinking process in one moment I asked myself:

What would happen if these two souls met each other?

How to build a relationship between them?

Would they be in love and how would their souls and bodies behaved in that case?

With this question I continue my work based on topic “Two Souls”, I have created a lot of works on this theme, but “Two Souls” aren’t done for me, I am still working on it…

 

World Event Young Artist, Montenegro, Yugoslavian art, Faculty of Fine Arts Podgorica

Love Me by Snezana Pupovic

 

And the Secret picture can you tell me a bit more about that?

His secret is fear of the world. The world where his body and soul existing produced deep in him a beautiful and difficult emotions…so his arms want to protect him of that strong feelings, but in same time his eye still want to feel because emotion is the only thing that makes you alive.

To see more of Snezana Pupovic’s work please visit her online portfolio where you can hire her skills and buy her work.

Check out the rest of the 999 artists from around the globe selected for the cultural olympiad World Event Young Artist 2012. 

Go on holiday to Montenegro and visit the beautiful coastline kissed by the Adriatic Sea.

Nikki Wordsmith flumps around the city in a big wooly hat looking for new and exciting people and places and things to write about.

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Bunny’s Things Of The Year For Us To Disagree About…

MIXTAPE 2012

 

“I’m sooo sad. I don’t even think I can go to Spencer’s party…” Frisky and Mannish

So, 2012. What were the really neat things that were cause for a reel around the kitchen with my shirt off with the windows open while cooking up something spicy on a hot day? Well… I went to New York. Twice. (Thanks to Michael. Shout outs to Sam and to Koos.) I went to the Olympics (thanks, Mike). I turned 40. I got a bit depressed. (Sorry to M, M, I, J and J – all of whom put up with me when I have been mean.) Some friends of mine had kids. The Queen celebrated something. Blah blah blee blee bloo bloo. Who cares about all of that? What was I WEARING?
ARGUABLY THE BEST T-SHIRT OF 2012: well, the Perfume Genius super-cute, curious-looking cat pic was pretty much a shoo-in until I got a Lovely Eggs T-shirt featuring a picture of Holly and David standing in a bin. I’ll just repeat that in screaming caps: STANDING IN A BIN. Best. Band. T-Shirt. Ever. (This week.)
ARGUABLY BEST BOOK I READ IN 2012: When I Was Five I Killed Myself by Howard Buten. Don’t be put off by the title (as I was, for ages). This is so funny and truthful and I was a wreck towards the end of it. (Thanks, Andrew, for the recommend!)
ARGUABLY BEST GIGS OF 2012: Chain and the Gang and Trash Kit on the same bill at Kraak, Frisky and Mannish at the Lowry made me feel weirdly like I was celebrating my birthday six months after it had happened and every Lovely Eggs gig that happened anywhere in the country was undoubtedly the best for everyone that saw it. *air punch*
ARGUABLY MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2013: It’s a Manchester International Festival year so let’s hope that’s good (again), I’ve got Ian Svenonius’s new book on pre-order (YES!)… and Trash Kit are back, back, BACK… *explodes leaving a pair of smoking, Mallard-green Underground creepers and a cloud of purple glitter*

1. Octan Hudson Mohawke
2. Telescope (Submerse Remix) Yoshino Yoshikawa feat. Karin
3. Bacon Pancakes Song (Gunter the Evil Penguin Remix) Jake the Dog
4. Katy On A Mission (Captain Planet Remix) Katy B
5. A La Modeliste (Bonobo Remix) Zigaboo Modeliste feat. Erykah Badu, Mos Def, Mark Ronson, Trombone Shorty and members of The Dap Kings
6. A Thing Like This Friends
7. Daylight Sky Frankie Rose
8. Crystalized Melody’s Echo Chamber
9. Dies in 55 Trailer Trash Tracys
10. Got To Let Go Charlotte Gainsbourg
11. Bad Religion Frank Ocean
12. Hood Perfume Genius
13. How Are You?? Soko
14. Made In Chelsea 1 Frisky and Mannish
15. If I Only Had A Brain Chain and The Gang
16. Do You Remember Being a Roller? Hunx
17. Number 10 Giuda
18. Purple Rain Big Daddy
19. Watermelons The Lovely Eggs
20. I Don’t Know What To Do (Fabian Remix, Magic Edit) The Magician feat. Jeppe
21. You Can’t Run From My Love Munk feat. Peaches
22. Put Your Collar Up Magic Arm
23. Sunshine Shonen Knife
24. Colours Ashley Eriksson

[1. Octan Hudson Mohawke] It’s weird now I’ve been doing these mixtapes for a few years now and there’s beginning to be a little bit of a narrative. Who knew that HudMo (who made his first appeared in a Things… To Disagree About in 2009) would end up working with Kanye and that last year’s pop crush The Death Set would end up flogging Google’s Chromebook.

[2. Telescope (Submerse Remix) Yoshino Yoshikawa feat. Karin] Runcorn to Tokyo! Submerse is this year’s HudMo. I’m sure he’ll be doing something incredible in two years. He’s, like, 24 and he’s created a whole new genre of music – J-Garage – by putting loops of speeded up J-Pop over British 2-step beats. Sounds a bit rubbish when I read it but, when I hear it, I feel like I’ve got sunshine coming out of my eyes. I have to wear sunglasses to stop other people getting burnt.

[3. Bacon Pancakes Song (Gunter the Evil Penguin Remix) Jake the Dog] This is 1 of only 2 Adventure Time-themed tracks included here. If you hate housey-housey music then count yourselves double dog lucky that I didn’t pick Ancient Tandem Psychic War Elephant by Cold Blank (YouTube it, Adventure Time fans – by which I mean everyone). For anyone still watching boring live action shows about cop procedurals and would-be terrorists, there’s this wonderfully imaginative show on Cartoon Network from which some people take bits of dialogue and mix them into songs. One of my favourite things about this mix (apart from the way everything just looks a little brighter to me when I hear those opening piano chords) is one of the comments on this video on YouTube. Stabz McGee says, “I am aÒ 65 year old man. This is the best thing I have heard in my life.” (A 65-year-old man called “Stabz” who loves Adventure Time? He sounds ber-rilliant!) One last thing before I get off the subject but how bad can a show be when one of the characters speaks as though he is reading out the sleeve notes from a lost Frankie Goes To Hollywood record? The old Royal Tart Toter says, “This cosmic dance of bursting decadence and withheld permissions twists all our arms collectively but, if sweetness can win – and it can – then I will still be here tomorrow to high five you yesterday my friend. Peace.” *swoons with joy*

[4. Katy On A Mission (Captain Planet Remix) Katy B] I’m not too proud to admit that I was way late in boarding the Katy B train. I was probably sitting in a “value” café listening to Kreayshawn when it left. The great thing about this remix is that it’s just as good as the original yet completely different. I love the words though. They are evocative and clever.

[5. A La Modeliste (Bonobo Remix) Zigaboo Modeliste feat. Erykah Badu, Mos Def, Mark Ronson, Trombone Shorty and members of The Dap Kings] Another year, another Erykah Badu song. She’s been all over the place lately. I can leave her Rocket Juice and the Moon and The Flaming Lips hook ups but I will very much take her work with Robert Gasper as well as this song – which you can download free, completely legally, thanks to a car manufacturer. Altogether now, “Yo’ mama don’t wear no drawers-uh, we was there when she took ‘em off-uh…” – that’s my gurl right there!

[6. A Thing Like This Friends] Friends is a great, droll name for a band from Brooklyn. How vexing that I was in New York when they were in Manchester. Thanks, “Friends”.

[7. Daylight Sky Frankie Rose] Also from Brooklyn, a former Dum Dum and Vivian Girl, signed to Slumberland Records. Do I have to say more? If Frank Ocean was Summer and The Lovely Eggs were Autumn and Winter then Frankie was Spring. I was so excited to see her at the two greatest music venues in the World – The Deaf Institute and The Brudenell Social Club. At Leeds I got a song dedicated to me (I don’t care if that sounds like bragging, Frankie is the Queen of Indie and I got knighted) and learnt a new and oh-so-useful word – hangry. You can work it out.

[8. Crystalized Melody’s Echo Chamber] Melody Prochet is the girlfriend of Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker (a former star of Things… To Disagree About, playing a second-best Gig of the Year back in 2009 – pipped to the post by The xx supporting Micachu and the Shapes). Melody’s album basically sounds like Tame Impala but with a better singer.

[9. Dies in 55 Trailer Trash Tracys] Worst band name ever? Still like this, though, and enjoyed seeing them at an embryonic Kraak – no stage! Crap sound! Only one toilet! (It’s better now. Trust.) This is the now legendary (in my small book of legends) five-pounds-to-get-in-or-free-if-you-like-us-on-Face-Book night when me and Simon made the promoters’ jaws drop by saying we were happy to pay because, we’re not on FaceBook!

[10. Got To Let Go Charlotte Gainsbourg] I have a crush on Charlotte’s voice. It’s a strange mix of comforting and unsettling – like the dusty clag at the bottom of a cup of hot chocolate. I include this because I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t like a bit of Charlotte sometimes. Heh.

[11. Bad Religion Frank Ocean] Honestly, I know y’all think I’m indier-than-thou but I am so not. It’s a really nice feeling to like something that is actually popular. It gives me hope. Makes me feel like I’m living in the right times. It hasn’t happened for a while, though. The last time was with the first Arctic Monkeys album and the second Amy Winehouse album… in 2006! I started to write something about Frank Ocean and ended up writing two and a half pages – so let me tell you in four words how and why I like him: the new Amy Winehouse. His (and her) lyrics deal with youthful drug-taking, ill-starred relationships, morality and mortality with a sense of irony, smart pop-culture references, a neat line in visceral images in relation to heart break and a humbling sense of perspective (being laughed at by the fates in Amy’s case, disappearing into the ocean in Frank’s). Sheesh, what a patoot! Pretentious much?

[12. Hood Perfume Genius] Here in 2010 and back again in 2012. Short and perfectly formed. The song is too. “I tick like a bomb…” [13. How Are You?? Soko] Like many good pop stars Soko sounds like a difficult person – sophisticated yet adolescent at the same time (those two teenage-angst-y question marks). But, also like a good pop star, she can express a universal truth with total originality. What a great idea to write a song about how difficult it is, sometimes, to answer the simple question, “How are you??” I love it when the music drops out, as though she is thinking about whether or not to answer honestly, and then she says, “I am fine.”

[14. Made In Chelsea 1 Frisky and Mannish] Every. Line. Of. This. Makes. Me. Laugh. So. So. Much. “Millie! Niii!” I want so much to include more Frisky and Mannish here but you’ll just have to go and see them. Their Lana del Ray spoof almost made me throw up with laughter.

[15. If I Only Had A Brain Chain and The Gang] Hey! It’s Things… to Disagree About regulars Chain and the Gang with their best album yet! I would start quoting the lyrics to this only I’d end up writing out the whole song. Their latest record In Cool Blood is steeped in drollery (from the title down) at the same time as being indefinably funky. To be so smart and make it look this spontaneous and fun is true genius.

[16. Do You Remember Being a Roller? Hunx] What’s this? Classic Brix-era The Fall? No, wait a minute! It’s Things… to Disagree about regular Hunx with his best album yet! How can anyone not love an album called Hairdresser Blues? Do I even need to say that it comes with a FREE COMB?! Hunx is an idol to me. I can’t even think of him without seeing something like gold cardboard stars through Top of the Pops starburst filters circa 1979 turning in my head. [Number 10 Giuda] It’s not what you think. They’re Italian and the singer’s black. The idea of being from a European style capital that isn’t exactly famous for it’s pubs and then wearing ugly clothes and playing pub rock is just so fun. The album finally gets released in the UK on Christmas Day-ish. On Damaged Goods. Have I sold it to you yet? (FYI: it’s pronounced ‘jew-da’.)

[17. Purple Rain Big Daddy] I am visualising my imaginary early-Prince-fan-club-membership-card burning as I confide to you that Purple Rain is one of my least favourite Prince songs. It’s certainly my least favourite song on that album. It’s probably all you need to know if I tell you my favourite part is when someone goes “Ow!” at 2’45. For ages I thought it would be amazing to make a documentary that tracked down the person who “Ow”s on Purple Rain until I realised (dur) that it’s probably just someone in the band. “Oh, boy!” Aside from being fantastically amusing, this cover only lasts two and a half minutes. So it’s short, sweet and never gets to the “Ow”.

[18. Watermelons The Lovely Eggs] So hard to choose one Eggs’ song! Many of them are so brilliantly funny while others are curiously profound and all are catchier than Fuzzy Felt. But I worry if I choose a funny song then you will think of them as a joke band. But they are not. They are simply. The. Band. Of. The. Year. The band of forever-now. I could happily watch them play live every night of the week. You just know during the first few seconds of this song that it is going to be mufftotally fuzztastic. Like a giggle bubbling up. Like falling without hurting yourself. The way you can hear the smile in the corners of Holly’s mouth. And, sorry, but… kazoo solo! KAZOO SOLO!!! I love them so hard that it almost goes to opposite of love and I feel like crying. I’m not even exaggerating!

[19. I Don’t Know What To Do (Fabian Remix, Magic Edit) The Magician feat. Jeppe]

[20. You Can’t Run From My Love Munk feat. Peaches] For goodness sake, I have to write less or the font size is going to be so small only ants will be able to read this. And so I’m conflating Peaches and Jeppe. It just wouldn’t be a mixtape from me without one or both of these artists. I don’t know anything about Munk or The Magician but what’s amazing is the huge, 80s-sounding voices that both Jeppe and Peaches have pulled out of their lungs lately! When Peaches starts singing it’s like a Finn punch to the solar plexus – boof!

[21. Put Your Collar Up Magic Arm] Lovely bedroom music from Manchester. Album out soon on Switchflicker!

[22. Sunshine Shonen Knife] The inclusion of this is my attempt to make up for the fact that I didn’t pay full attention to it when hearing them play it live this year. As soon as I got the new record I was, like, “Aw. That’s my favourite song on the album!” It’s not like I went for a wee during it, but I might have been thinking, “I hope they play Cookie Day!” *Looks down, bites lower lip, looks back up again*

[23. Colours Ashley Eriksson] Here’s your other Adventure-Time-themed song. Nothing to do with the show except Ashley sings the song that plays over closing credits. This is from her latest solo album on K Records – also home to Chain and the Gang. You should deffers take a look at their website! Just sayin’!

With love from Bunny aka the Pop Police – finding it impossible to choose favourites since 1972
(❍ᴥ❍ʋ)

P.S.

The rules I set for myself when making my Things… To Disagree About compilations are, fairly obviously, only as many tracks as I can fit on one CD as AAC files in iTunes (this does mean some quality stuff gets left off). And the ‘sleeve notes’ have to fit on two sides of A4 and still be legible-ish. I try for 10 point font size and usually end up at about 8.5. I don’t make a rule that ALL the songs have to have been released in the corresponding year as, sometimes, songs get released at the end of the previous year and so only make it onto the next year’s compilation – but I do try and include as much new stuff as possible. The Lovely Eggs song was from 2010 but the reason for that was timing. I needed a short-ish song and my favourite songs off Wildlife are all a bit longer (e.g. Allergies) or just bonkers (i.e. Don’t Patent That Shoe). Much as I LOVE Don’t Patent That Shoe, I couldn’t help but think I might win more people over to the Egg-side with the more… ahem… conventional Watermelons.

Bunny is a kids’ TV writer who has produced scrips for shows ranging from Octonauts and Rastamouse to House of Anubis and a brief stint on the briefly reanimated Crossroads where his references to Daphne and Celeste were not appreciated. His favourite TV show ever is The Marvellous Misadventures of Flapjack. He also loves jelly sweets, LEGO, Harris Tweed and rolling around on the floor and calling it dancing.

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Manchester Music with Matthew Duffy

Matthew DuffyFrom the kickstart of punk rock to the dizzy heights of acid house and all that exists inbetween, Manchester has been the UK’s pioneering city for musical innovation. Finding unlikely inspiriation in the post industrial gloom, songwriters, musicians, DJs and artists flourish in the city’s eclectic multicultural party-loving creative hub.

However, at least twenty years since producing a decent band or even a decent song, Manchester now desperately clutches to its past glories hopelessly denying the city’s return to the soulless wasteland it was in the 70s with almost all of its cultural landmarks bought up and converted into shoddy Urban Splash pads or Poundstretchers. One of the most historically important cities in the modern world is now culturally cold, crowded, loud and littered with lost expectations, Costa coffee cups and suspiciously looking human excretia.

As a stereotypical raincoat Mancunian I am going to take you on a sulky wander round the living musical museum of this city stopping off at the most significant spots to get mugged. So whether you want to terrorise Terry Christian by posting offal through his letterbox every night, or run your key down the side of Mick Hucknall’s car or just rifle through Peter Hooks wheelie bin, The Lost Ruined Guide To Manchester Music Tour is an essential part of any visit to the city.

Prestwich: Starting on the northside of the city, Prestwich is the longtime stomping ground of Fall frontman Mark E Smith. One of the more innovative songwriters of the post punk era, Sid James look-a-like Smith wrote and sang all the Fall’s songs using only vowels and performed all the live shows entirely in burp. Keep you eyes peeled as the toothless elderly yob can often be seen scurrying through the overspilling bins on Bury Old Road. And no serious music fan would want to miss out on the opportunity of being glassed by one of rock’s most prolific arseholes.

Collyhurst: While touring the US in the early 80s Granada TV star and entrepreneur Bernard Manning stumbled upon a Detroit house club. Entranced by the pulsating techno beat and immediately realising the potential audience Manning brought the new sound back home with him and opened the Embassy Club and the rest is as they say history. By the end of the decade Harpurhey had become the unlikely epicentre of a flourishing dance scene. World renowned DJs and racist work men club comedians flocked to perform for the flat-capped, gurning crowds downing Best bitter and Mandies and dancing for days on end. Although Manning died in 2007 the Embassy Club still stands with the proud portrait of his fat racist fucking face above the door. The club made household names of DJs such as Mike Pickering, Paul Oakenfold, James Stanions and Umberto.

Salford: Manchester’s tough cousin and Ewan McColl’s ‘Dirty Old Town’, Salford’s artistic influence has a traditionally darker edge. From the blocked kitchen sing of Sheila Delaney to the artless stolen-car-hardcore of Bowlers, their refreshing no nonsense attitude is the Salford brand. Just across the Irwell from the city is the iconic Salford Lads Club immortalised by photographer Stephen Wright  for the cover of Bill Tarmy’s ill-advised soul album ‘Jack Duckworth is Dead.’ Salford’s most famous sons were ‘Madchester’ heroes the Happy Mondays. Professional crackpot Shaun Ryder and his imaginary friend Bez were at the forefront of the dance / indie crossover marrying the paranoid migraine of acid house with the cidertinged B.O. of rock. Their reputation preceeded them and there are many Monday’s landmarks around the city particularly Oldham Street’s Dry Bar where Shaun Ryder fired a gun at band and Hacienda manager Anthony H. Wilson somehow missing his hugely swollen and over-inflated head.

The bard of Salford, John Cooper Clarke, brought poetry and comedy to punk audiences with high velocity machine gun lyrics and became one of the country’s true cult figure. His distinctive ground-breaking style inspired so many loudmouthed Mancunian copy-cats that even he now wishes he hadn’t bothered.

Stretford: Connecting Salford to Trafford side of south Manchester is Stretford. A Mecca for many Manchester music fans, 384 Kings Road, was the childhood home of Steven Patrick Morrissey. It was here in his bedroom, crying and wanking, that Morrissey honed his lyrical art on subject matter as profound as missing the bus, having to do his homework when he didn’t want to, burning his last crumpet and cutting his fingernails too short. Life’s a bitch. And so is Morrissey. The previous owner would allow fans a guided tour of the house. We contacted the current owners to see if this was possible but we were told, “It’s not their home, it’s my house and you’re welcome no more”. It was the tough streets of Stretford that bullied Morrissey into the middle-aged mard arse he is today. But newcomers to the city maybe surprised to find Stretford isn’t really all that bad. Had he grown  up on the Moss Side end of Kings Road, Morrissey would surely have topped himself before he hit puberty.

Timperly: Heading deeper into Trafford we come to Timperly. Born in Warrington, swaggering chimpoid Ian Brown moved to Timperly as a young man and attended Altrincham Grammar School for Posh Boys. Threre he teamed up with organ grinder John Squire and co to form The Stone Roses. With his mumbling inaudible lyrics, their inability to perform live, the fact they only produced 45 minutes of decent music throughout their entire career and Ian’s morbid fetish for air hostesses hands means The Roses will quite rightly top many Best Bands in the World lists for years to come.

Also from Timperly were The Inspiring Frank Sidebottom and sidekick Little Frank, who despite their severe disabilities (Frank suffered from elephantitus and Little Frank was only one and a half feet tall) still achieved fame and a special place in the nation’s heart. Tragically, they both died on the same day! A statue is to be built in Timperly centre to commemorate the brave duo next year.

Stockport: If Salford is Manchester’s tough cousin, then Stockport is our cross-eyed cousin that keeps trying to kiss us. Home to the legendary Strawberry Studios – the Abbey Road of the North – session have been recorded by 10cc, The Buzzcocks, Joy Division, The Happy Mondays, John Cooper Clarke, The Smiths, The Stone Roses and even Sir Paul McCartney. However, despite the outstanding musical heritage, don’t go to Stockport!!

Burnage: Hastily leaving Stockport brings us to Burnage home of comedy musical duo the Gallagher Brothers. Their hilarious slapstick covers of the Beatles and T-Rex made Paul and Barry’s ‘To Me…To You’ album the smash hit of the 90s. Just as entertaining was their off stage rivalry with shandy-pants southern band Blur, who’s cartoon frontman Scrappy-Doo confronted the Gallagher Brothers at the Top of the Pops ‘Brit Pop Special’ in 1997, resulting in a huge Bugsy Malone style custard pie fight during which Charlatans keyboardist Rob Collins was crushed to death and presenter Andy Peters lost an arm.

Moss Side: Dubbed ‘Gunchester’ by the tabloids in the early 90s, back then the life expectancy of a Mancunian gang member was 21, which means there are a lot fewer of these moody party-poopers around than there could have been. Despite the overhanging intimidation of the gang culture many artists such as 808 State and MC Tunes, The Ruthless Rap Assassins and A Guy Called Gerald kept Moss Side as their creative base and the strong community worked hard to shake off its bad reputation. Yet this positive example of the Mancunian Spirit has since become lost in the sulky murk of UK Hip Hop and now everyone round here talks like Plan B for some fucking reason.

Hulme: 6th January 1979 and photographer Kevin Cummins captures several shots of the band Joy Division as they try and talk frontman Ian Curtis out of throwing himself off the Hulme bridge. After eight long hours Steven Morris managed to coax Curtis down with a packet of Rolos. Unfortunately the Rolos eventually ran out and Ian Curtis hung himself the following year but the shot went on to become one of the defining images of that chapter of Manchester music.

Hulme was also home to the notorious Bull Ring flat blocks. Demolished a decade ago the doomed slums  were owned by ruthless Mancunian landlords The Bee Gees. The billionaire disco ghosts bought up vast areas of land in the Manchester for cheap in the 1970s. They still keep their tenants trapped in squalid stinking poverty hassling them for rent from beyond the grave.

Manchester: The Twisted Wheel, The Electric Circus, The International One, Jilly’s, The Hacienda. the list of legendary Manchester night clubs and venues turned into flats or just flattened is the shame of the city. Now a fancy tea shop on Peter Street, the Free Trade Hall was the exact spot where the Manchester music revolution began. It was not only the venue where Dylan turned electric to the cries of ‘Judas’ and started a riot of his own in 1966, ten years later on 4 June 1976 The Buzzcocks invited the Sex Pistols to play the Lesser Free Trade Hall. All the events of the locations we’ve covered can be directly traced back to this one inspirational night. Everyone present at that gig embraced the raw energy and DIY attitude of the Sex Pistols performance and they all went on to become architects and aristocracy of the future of Manchester music. Thousands of Mancunian musicians and fans claim to have witnessed the gig yet only forty tickets were sold. The truth of who was actually there and who’s lying was investigated by David Nolen in his book ‘I Swear I Was There’ and the audience did prove to be a list of legends. Mick Hucknall, Cressa, M. People, Candy Flip, The Seahorses, John Shuttleworth, Crispy Ambulance, Beady Eye, Solstis, Embrace, Northern Uproar, Gary Barlow and David Jones from The Monkeys all went on to produce music so bad they made Sid Vicious sound like he could actually play.

So now we’ve come a full circle (missing out Droylsden, Wythenshawe and Oldham and quite a few other places you really wouldn’t want to go to, believe me). Night has fallen and you’re ready for a drink so why not head to one of the many overpriced charmless bars where a student from London is probably the DJ. You drink heavily as the audioly patronises you with his set of plinky plonky minimalist electro of no distinctive origin mixed with ironic 80s singalong shite. Depressed, you stagger vomitting into Piccadilly shaking your fist at the passing trams cursing. You sit at a bus stop to rest a while and soak up the atmosphere and wake up two hours later to find someone’s stolen your shoes. So you decide to call it a day and wrap up your evening in true Mancunian style by driving a stolen motorbike into a group of doormen for not allowing you into one of the city’s many shite clubs.

For a personal two hour guided tour with Matthew please bring your own umbrella and a £50. Price includes a drink of Best bitter, a meal somewhere and a dayrider bus ticket.

Born in Southern California, Matthew Duffy aka Thick Richard was diagnosed at birth with arpats, a rare skin condition meaning he suffers a deadly allergic reaction to sunlight. Following medical advice his family moved to Manchester where Matthew has been able to live a perfectly normal life beneath the impenetrable black thunder cloud that covers the city. He studied music snobbery at the Royal Northern College of Music for four years while working as an aloof and fickle store manager for Fat City Records. He now spends most of his time sat outside Chorlton ‘restaurants’ talking loudly about how much better ecstasy was twenty years ago.

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Kraak Club the Best Refuge for Free Spirits…

On the rare occasions when I’m not playing the card game Shithead and I fancy a stroll out into the vulgar world of fun, the place I like to frequent chat, drink, smoke rollie fags and dance is the converted textile building-cum-club called Kraak. Don’t be fooled by hip high handwritten whiteboard with the word KRAAK and an arrow underneath pointing to a brick alley behind the Police Museum of Stevenson Square that this is a double-bluff public crack den, it is of course Manchester’s most authentic city centre hangout for people who’ve fallen through the cracks of society. It took its name from the Dutch word to crack something open. In a city succumbing to regenerationitis where the Cornerhouse is moving to become a multiplex on the newly unveiled First Street opposite the Hacienda apartments, club owners Jayne Compton and Dom O’Grady keep the lone flag flying across the city for D-I-Y independent unbranded good times.

In the last two years avant-garde hungry audiences have made their way down the crack in the alley, up the stairs and through the doors into the two hundred capacity main space to see the likes of JD Samson’s band MEN, Demdike Stare, Mark Fell, DJ Boogie Blind, David Hoyle, Womb and regular Filmonik screenings to name but the tip of the iceberg. The space has also become a staple for local and national cool-hunters to launch their albums and magazines, plus individual hedonists celebrate birthdays while the more adventurous of the city’s organizations encourage staff to let their hair down longer and wilder in its anything goes late curfew atmosphere.

Jayne showed me the up and coming gigs on her iPhone Google calendar and said, ‘We’re pretty much booked every Thursday, Friday and Saturday for the next few months.’ She reeled off a few names, ‘There’s Wet Play presents Magic Touch, Jan Krueger, Manatees and Wode, Black Bee Soul Club, MCR Scenewipe, Richard Youngs and Dylan Carlson.’ She added that the venue’s draw to both artist and audience has made the place a creative hub and art scene.

She’s right of course, artists are the lifeblood to any event space and so are the piss-artists who watch them. And Kraak likes to treat them in equal measure. The cheap honed-down choice of drinks in a stand-alone fridge that wouldn’t look out of place in a house is ideal for the addled mind. A round of five black sambucas costs between 8 and 13ish quid depending on who serves you. I’d recommend you ask for The Doctor for the former price or muso-extraordinaire Magic Arm, who’s second album Images Rolling is about to be released, for the latter. Or is it the other way round? Either way the staff’s friendly uber-laid back chatty devil-may-care service style is endemic to the place. The latest addition to the team is a state-of-the-art blue Kentucky mop and bucket with detachable ringer so different mop heads can be attached a la Wurzel Gummage depending on which part of the club is being cleaned.  ‘Toilets are the pulse of any club so they’ve got to be regularly cleaned with the right tool for the job,’ added Jayne.

*Please Drink Reprehensibly*

Nikki Wordsmith flumps around the city in a big wooly hat looking for people and places and things to write about.

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The Lovely Eggs – Sponsored by Greggs

Roadhouse. Manchester, Lancaster, The Lovely Eggs Dave Holly, BBC, musicIt’s now fourteen hours since I’ve seen married mop top couple Holly Ross and Dave Blackwell and The Unborn Bump perform at the Roadhouse, Manchester and I’m still up and I’m sure everyone else who was the gig has hit the hay. Just had a text from my gig-going partner in crime Bunny who told me they are faux-naive in their musical style. (Think that’s a posh way of saying they sound reet northern but are actually quite clever.) Three punks were in the mosh pit area backed up by old indie-heads. Things are still all well with the world when I see at least one punk and it was a good job they were there. Initially they danced like Morris pole people to Bad Grammar (the support band) but when The Lovely Eggs bulleted out the opening lines of Wildlife ‘there are five flies in this yard there are eighteen flies in this yard there are forty-nine flies in this yard’ a loose kind of hell broke through the crowd led by none other than the punks. It was nice to see and even better to feel. I saw the Eggs a while a go with my friend Lowri at a tea and cake do downstairs at Ruby Lounge run by Clint Boon’s missus. That was plain odd. It’s not every day you see the former Angelica front-woman and all her punk feminist shenanigans playing to the mother and baby crowd. But that’s somehow perfect too don’t you think? They also did a cameo as part of the Twin Peaks night at Islington Mill in 2009 as James and Donna but a lot has changed since then. In another parallel pop universe they had had a string of No 1 hits with Have You Ever Heard A Digital Accordion?, People Are Twats and the new Lancaster and Manchester national anthem Fuck It. In reality each album release new finds them little armies of fans including a guest apprearance by John Shuttleworth as the man with a sausage roll thumb in the vid for Don’t Look At Me I Don’t Like It.

The Lovely Eggs, Manchester Roadhouse, Holly, MusicWith their latest and third album Wildlife something is stirring. Everytime I turn 6Music on one of their songs seems to be on and lots of people I know from all different walks of life keep asking me if I’ve heard of The Lovely Eggs? Songs on their youtube hits regularly get into five figures and along with the John Shuttleworth patronage they’re reaching that status that other more fickle people than myself might accuse them of: Being Professional Northeners. You know the kind, Mark and Lard, Sara Cox, Liz and Andy Kershaw, Vernon Kaye and that other woman with blonde hair who’s name I can’t remember but is a stand up comedian with a deep voice and I think she’s called Jenny Eclair. Anyway you know the type I mean. There are loads more. And Jenny Eclair has the brilliant line that no-one with a northern mum can get depressed. That is what seeing The Lovely Eggs is like. The music is top. But their ace up their sleeve is lyrically and live they are a bloody good laugh and have not forgot the best part of having a sense of humour is to take the piss out of yourself. They happily fuck up songs. Laugh off missing verses. Have a great in-joke for all women in music with the song Dave’s Turn and at one point in between songs Holly patted the bump protruding from her stomach saying ‘sponsored by Greggs’. But best parting shot of night for me was going up to the merch stall and seeing a hand-written sign in big black marker which outlined the words that said: Shit Fer Sale.

 The Lovely Eggs are on tour now.

Nikki Wordsmith bumbled about in her big wooly hat with Bunny and some punks and had rather a lovely time.

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The Kentucky Derby: Booze, Bets, Oh and a Horse Race

The 138th Kentucky Derby – The View from the Backside

A red-stitched baseball cap wearing man named Jamie swigged a Miller High Life and said, ‘I’m going to pace myself to three or four beers an hour.’ He was the favorite to fall first. An internal sweepstake had him pegged to go by 12.34pm. His wife Sophie, who wasn’t wearing a hat, knew better. She drawled confidently under her breath with more than a hint of pride that, ‘thatt mahn cahn ruhn and ruhn’. She should’ve saved her breath. All bets were off for this unofficial first race of the derby. A cool skinny white man wearing a basket weave flat cap and a Casio digital watch was already unconscious. Cliff was out like a light. His head slumped back awkwardly into a camping chair caught in the shade of the gazebo. LCD digits dangling out from under the sleeve of his charity shop seersucker Prada jacket said 08:59am.

Thumbing through the centimeter thick program for the day there were thirteen races to lose our hard earned money on. Betting systems varied; Lana, not wearing a hat, chose every horse with a turquoise saddle-cloth, I, wearing a joke plastic jockey hat with taped on black goggles, very sensibly went off previous form. Others in the group of friends even more sensibly closed their eyes and jabbed at the page with a pen. Jamie piped up that nobody had ever won out of gate nineteen. Nobody paid him much mind. He shrugged, drained another bottle of High Life and trotted off in hairdryer heat to place his bets. He was not alone. The ‘greatest two minutes in sport’ as the main race is known globally or more locally as the ‘Race for the Roses’ attracts c160,000 spectators to Churchill Downs and 15m television viewers. It is the oldest continuous sporting event in American history and carries with it a $2,000,000 prize tag for the winner. Punters’ bets totaled from all sources were expected to reach a record $187 million.

The odds and sods inside the track pan out like this: the rich and famous fill up the iconic two spires main grandstand; the hedonistic beasts slug it out in the in-field until bourbon, mint julep cocktails or the heat take them down; if you own a horse, or belong to the itinerant Latin American community of stable hands or are lucky enough to know someone that works at the track you can get, where I was now residing seventy bucks lighter, into the backside.

‘No side like the backside,’ said Graham, wearing a straw top hat and aviator shades, ‘It’s the best place to be. You don’t have to get dressed up, you can bring in enough supplies to eat like a horse and drink like a fish all day long.’

The friends I was with were spectacular to this commitment. They were a loving bunch who’d stuck to each other over the years by a bond much stronger than all the drinks at all the derby days ever run.

Most of us had hit the hay by mid-afternoon. A bi-plane moaning a message across the sky woke me up.

‘What’s it doing?’

‘A circle…’

‘An eyebrow…’

‘A smiley face….’

‘A cloud smiley face…’

In the shade of the stables horses hung their heads over saloon doors cooling themselves on electric fans. At the end in a dormitory room half the size a Mexican family watched the races live on a small television fixed up onto the wall.

‘We love the horses,’ said the black baseball cap wearing Padre, who didn’t want to be identified, ‘There is a great tradition of cowboys in our lives. We invented the cowboy through the vaqueros and Spain. Horses are in our blood.’

Outside in early evening sun a loose coherence suddenly came across the crowd as the state anthem My Old Kentucky Home injected anticipation and offered some semblance of order into the atmosphere. In the small spectator stand, a man wearing a white cap with Breeders Cup embroidered on the back sucked heavily on cigarette and attempted to sing along on the exhale.

Worked to the bone, his weathered body swayed precariously as he climbed to his feet on his seat. He was too zonked to sing along to Stephen Forster’s old slave lament song instead he said, ‘Hang the Mexicans, hang the Mexicans,’ when he saw a family of Latin Americans wearing cowboy hats further along the stand.

‘Put that thing out,’ screeched a woman at the back of his head, she was wearing a tennis brim, ‘For the love of God you’re killing us.’

Another man, wearing a grey baseball cap complete with earpiece, binoculars and a video camera pointing at the first bend took it upon himself to become the race commentator.

He started saying, ‘Bodemeister. It’s Bodemeister. Still Bodemeister…’ long before we saw any action on the track. Then suddenly the thundering hooves of nineteen thoroughbreds appeared with boy-men jockeys jammed on top.

‘Bodemeister, Bodemeister, Bodemeister,’ continued the opportunistic commentator.

‘Bodemeister, Bodemeister, Bodemeister, BODE- I’LL HAVE ANOTHER has won. I’ll Have Another RIDDEN BY MEXICAN JOCKEY MARIO GUTIERREZ HAS WON!’ he exploded.

‘Unbelievable,’ said Jamie, ‘That’s the first time I’ve picked the derby winner. I want another beer.’

Nikki Wordsmith flumped around Louisville for a few weeks of April 2012 in a big wooly hat looking for people and places and things to write about.

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