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Blog Archive: July 2013

Pacific Rim - something familiar?
Yesterday I took my nephew (i.e. persuaded my nephew he'd like to come with me) to see PACIFIC RIM. It was GRATE - lots of excitement, ACTION, funny bits, Idris Elba being AMAZING, and tonnes of bits where you think "Well, the obvious thing to happen here would be... oh, THIS!" but don't mind because it is done SO WELL. I read a review that said it was like watching a favourite cartoon from your childhood that you'd somehow forgotten about, and it totally WAS.

Still, there was something about it that seemed oddly familiar, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe if I tell you what happens? It starts off with these HUGE MONSTERS appearing from SPACE and BASHING cities all over the planet.

Just when it looks like these huge monsters are going to destroy humanity some GIANT ROBOTS arrive.

And then there's a lot of BIG FITES.

I just CAN'T PUT MY FINGER on where I might have heard something like it before. Or indeed why I felt the monsters should have been dancing the hornpipe, but anyway: it was dead good. More please!

posted 30/7/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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Open East Festival
This weekend my household and assorted faaaamily headed off to the Open East Festival, part of the celebrations for the anniversary of the Olympics. It was on the other side of Westfield Shopping Centre, so like dutiful East Londoners we went and had some LUNCh there, then bought some STUFF - some BROLLIES in this case, which came in very handy later.

The weather was very nice to start with, and we spent that time mostly loafing around in the PARK (which had also just opened for the first time, and was ACE) or queuing for HALF AN HOUR to get a BEER at the Beer Festival Tent. Everything ELSE was really really well organised, but whoever was in charge of the 10 Mile Beer Festival Tent didn't seem to realise QUITE how many people might want some Real Ale i.e. approx 50 TIMES more than they expected!

We strolled along, looking at the various Attractions, PUZZLING at the fact that WIRE (Wire!!) were playing in a tiny tent the next day, and went to see the Bouncy Stonehenge. Around this time it started to TIP it down, so we huddled under the brollies drinking LAGER (which was a LOT easier to get hold of!) while being laden down with SAMPLES of Posh Instant Coffee by some Sample Givers who clearly wanted to get home!

It HEAVED it down, so we abandoned GRUB and instead went into the big tent to see The Waterboys. Even though we used GIG SKILLZ (we went round to the FAR side of the tent, where it was peasy to get in and get near the front) we still met some Annoying Gits At Gigs e.g. The Girls Who Want To Sit On The Floor And Are Surprised When People Stand On Them. We also met a NEW Annoying Git At Gigs: CAMERA GUY! I've HEARD about these sort of people, but never met them in the flesh before - halfway through the gig he BARGED in front of us, stood right in the MIDDLE of a family, and spent 20 minutes leaning over people, taking pictures, looking at his (rubbish) pictures, and then doing it again. After 20 minutes The Band At My Gig BRILLIANTLY leant over and suggested to him that he might want to WATCH the gig like other people were trying to do, instead of being REALLY ANNOYING. It was my favourite part of the whole day - he left, TOLD!

The gig itself was dead good - I prefer it when The Waterboys do their 80s Rock Band stuff to their Fiddly Diddly songs, and there was lots of both. It was VERY noticeable that their core audience these days are NOT grumbly old folkies like you might expect, but WOMEN in their early 40s, who THRONGED around and DANCED A LOT, while associated boyfriends/husbands and children patiently bopped nearby. Thinking back, it WAS women who used to like The Waterboys when I was at Poly - does this make Mike Scott the Alternative Michael Buble?

They did a GRATE encore, when half the band played a song while the rest TITTED ABOUT dancing around the stage, before we all headed off en masse for the "Spectacular Finale". Huge crowds gathered along the River to watch... er... two boats float around tipping DYE into it while a couple of lights flashed and somebody played a xylophone. It was all Mildly Confusing, as if the organisers had thought that the BEST way to end the day was to Mildly Confuse everyone. It certainly made for a trouble free exit, as everyone TROOPED back along the 20 minute walk to the station, all saying "what was THAT all about?" It was an ODD, indeed Mildly Confusing, end to a lovely day, in a GRATE new park. When can we go back?

posted 29/7/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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Sounds Of The Shows
I'm in a pretty fixed state of "A Week From Now" at the moment. Yesterday I kept thinking things like "A Week From Now we'll be getting on the train to Edinburgh!" and "A Week From Now we'll be in the flat!" and "A Week From Now I hope to be having a curry!" whereas today, so far, i have mostly been thinking "A Week From Now I plan to still be enjoying my first lie-in!"

It's all very very VERY exciting and I'm trying to calm myself down by doing Social Media Stuff, including loading up the soundcloud section of our page in the online Fringe programme with SONGS. I've got FIVE different songs on there now, recorded at various radio stations (OR, in the case of Do It Yourself, for the PBH Free Fringe Benefit ALbum) and I must say they sound pretty darn good!

You can also listen to them on
my soundcloud page, where there's a HEAP of other songs, largely from previous shows. Of course, these isolated songs don't give you an idea of the scope, or indeed sheer TITTING AROUND, of the show itself, but hopefully they'll give you some idea.

It really isn't far off now - come on Universe, get a MOVE on!

posted 26/7/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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We Never Won An Award
The awards for the Buxton Fringe festival were announced on Monday and BLOW ME if we weren't nominated in TWO sections - Comedy Show and New Writing!

We didn't WIN, but still, being nominated is VERY exciting INDEED. I don't think we've ever had ANY of this kind of recognition before - Steve says it's definitely a THING which we can show off about, so I've done a sort of press release/email to Reviewers saying "Look! They thought it was good, so YOU should come and review it too!" Here's the full text:
We're very proud to report that "Total Hero Team", our show for this year's Edinburgh and Camden Fringes, has been nominated for two Buxton Fringe Awards.

We were nominated in both the "Comedy Show" and "New Writing" categories, and were described as "the happiest show on the fringe" and "the type of 3-D experience Hollywood can only dream of".

"Total Hero Team" is a two man musical about superheroes, and will be appearing at The Edinburgh Fringe on August 3-17 inclusive (6pm at The Dram House Upstairs) and The Camden Fringe on August 23-24 (8pm at The Camden Head). It would be lovely if you could make it!

I fully expect that this will result in us winning The Perrier Or Whatever It's Called Now Award, becoming regulars on "Mock The Week", taking over Michael McIntyre's Roadshow and by this time next year being MILLIONAIRES. What could be more straightforward?

Obviously a large part of my BRANE is REALLY thinking along those lines, even at MY great age and experience of that sort of thing not happening, but I'm generally TRYING to concentrate on our achievable goals i.e. 1) having loads of lie-ins b) drinking lovely beer c) eating curry d) seeing lots of pals. This time next week I'll ALSO be PANICKING about what to pack - I CANNOT WAIT!!

UPDATE: We got certificates!!

posted 24/7/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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I dug out my "big" guitar for the first time in AGES on Sunday for LO! The Validators were playing in Sheffield at The Tramlines Festival and Certain Band Members (Tim) are on record as Not Really Liking my "small" guitar. Thus I SUFFERED for my art, lugging it North!

On the way I had a moment of PANIC at St Pancras - I bumped into Thom from The Understudies, and thought "YIKES! What if he discovers me in [my pre-booked seat in] First Class? Will this threaten my hard-won reputation as Working Class Hero/Man Of The People?" Luckily when I got on the train I found Thom in the same carriage - PHEW! Our secret was safe!

On arrival in Sheffield I checked into My Usual Suite at the Ibis then went back to the station to meet Mr F Machine at The Sheffield Tap. He had brought his own personal roadie Mr J Machine, who we both DELIGHTED (he definitely LOOKED delighted I'm sure) by telling stories of him as a TINY BABY. Teenagers love that sort of thing, right?

We got a taxi to the venue, which took us to The Red Deer, not The Red House, but this being Sheffield the taxi driver apologised and lopped a few quid off the final fee, it was all Very Reasonable. Within the venue we found The Pattisons EN MASSE and settled into what turned into the usual LOVELY Validators get together. The Tiger arrived a little while later and there was a LOT of chat and beer and LARKS, and also a BAND MEETING. People who will remain nameless admitted that he had MISSED The Validators (hem hem) and suggested that we try and do a couple more gigs than in previous years, INCREASE the number of songs written using the new Validators Write Music/I Add Words methodology, and move gradually to some new recordings. This motion was passed unanimously - it was a GOOD meeting!

There was also a whole HEAP of lovely PALS who I'd not seen for a while and, as ever, I was moved to comment that it almost seemed a shame to interrupt the jollity with a GIG, but interrupt it we did, thusly:
  • Theme From Dinosaur Planet
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • Billy Jones Is Dead
  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • I Want To Find Out How It Ends
  • Hey Hey 16K
  • Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
  • Do The Indie Kid
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Easily Impressed

  • It all seemed to go pretty well - there was a nice large crowd and a LOT of singing along, and we did TWO songs we'd never played together before! The first ever full band rendition of The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B) flew by at high speed and the World Premiere of I Want To Find Out How It Ends worked rather nicely... until we got to the end when, in an incredible departure from tradition, everyone APART from me got the final chorus wrong! I managed to even things out by cocking up Hey Hey 16K, and LO! the Universal Balance was restored. The rest of the set passed without incident, except of course for the incident of TOTAL ROCK!

    Tom's sister arrived halfway through, completing the feeling of it all being like a Wedding Reception, which had been especially enforced by doing the whole gig with THREE Validators' Children standing at the front throughout with that LOOK that says "I may LOOK like I think you are all SO EMBARRASSING but, really, deep down, I think you're dead cool, no really."

    After all that there was HUGS, some GRATE sets from Lardpony and August Actually, and, all too soon, time to say our farewells. I got a lift back to the Ibis in The TigerMobile and, in a marvellous piece of Grand Tradition, we got hopelessly lost, like ALWAYS. I look forward to it happening again SEVERAL times over the coming years, as The Validators take to the road once more!

    posted 23/7/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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    Due A Deuchars
    As previously discussed, Steve and I have entered the Deuchars Beermat Fringe competition. To enter you needed to send them a short video that mentions "You're Due A Deuchars" somewhere. We did THIS:

    As you can probably tell, it's a whole NEW SONG what I wrote and recorded specially, with a video filmed (mostly) last Sunday afternoon while we were in Buxton. It's also, I have found, RIDICULOUSLY CATCHY - Steve and I spent most of that weekend wandering around singing "Deuchars Deuchars Deuchars" and it KEEPS leaping back into my head. So, if you've already listened, I apologise for the fact that it may be popping into the Walkman In Your Head later on today!

    As also previously mentioned, I have been GRAPPLING with the ethics of doing something like this, and finally decided it was FINE via various routes. Firstly it's a NEW SONG, so it's not re-purposing any old songs and thus not running the risk of spoiling somebody's associations. Secondly i really really DO love Deuchars IPA ("You're always on about it", sources close to ME said the other day), and thirdly I realised that most of the people I'd heard in the past SLATING others for doing ANYTHING commercial were Comedians, and taking Moral Advice from a comedian is like taking Marriage Guidance from a priest: they keep on GIVING it, though they never actually EXPERIENCE it.

    And finally I asked myself the question I asked myself when I entered "Boom Shake The Room" for the Word Magazine contest (which worked out causing LOTS of fun) i.e. "What would Bobby Gillespie do?" I reasoned that Bobby Gillespie would NEVER do something like this, so it MUST be a good idea!

    I hope you agree, dear reader. The plan now is to get some people to WATCH it - if we end up in the Top 6 Most Viewed Videos out of all the entrants then we get JUDGED by Ian Rankin (and some other JUDGES) and the one they like the most gets 750 QUID (in vouchers, but still) which would come in VERY handy in Edinburgh!

    posted 22/7/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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    Artwork Comparison
    In a bid to try and get some people to come and see us in Edinburgh I'm sending out some emails to COMICS-type webpages, telling them we're doing a musical about PROPER superheroes. I feel/HOPE it is something they might be interested in, though I must admit that doing so is partly due to JEALOUSY towards a Doctor Who-based musical which is all OVER the Doctor Who sites at the moment.

    As part of this I thought it might be FUN (also About Time) to demonstrate quite how MASTERFUL Mr J Allison's character designs are. As I may have mentioned at the time, we sent him some pictures of me and Steve wearing HATS and pulling FACES, and asked him to imagine that we were particularly half-arsed cos-players, and to REVERSE-ENGINEER the ACTUAL costumes from what he saw. To show what an AMAZING job he did of this I've put up the original photographs (along with the little bits of text we gave him) on a special comparison page on the Total Hero Team website, along with the finished article. He did do, I think you'll agree, a pretty fantastic job!

    Interestingly (NB may only be interesting for me) some of the quotes we used to give an indication of character have long since been CUT from the actual show. Looking at that huge chunk of DIALOGUE we gave The United Statesman, for instance, reminds me of just how MUCH talking there used to be in the show, and gives me great RELIEF to think that we chopped it all out and replaced it with ACTING! Well, Acting and also Realising It Wasn't Necessary, but just in case any AWARDS COMMITTEES are reading this: it's ACTING!

    UPDATE: I wrote all the above yesterday, when I sent the emails out to comics websites. I have since realised that THE EVE OF COMICON (i.e. the night before the start of THE BIGGEST COMICS EVENT OF THE YEAR) was perhaps NOT the best time to do so. Relaunch next week i think!!

    posted 19/7/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Bishopsgate Singers
    On Monday night I met with The Singers In My Choir to go to the end of term "sharing" performance of The Bishopsgate Singers. This is an open access choir that meet every Monday night during term-time at The Bishopsgate Institute to learn up a whole batch of songs, which they sing for friends and family at the end of term.

    The aforesaid Notes In My Tune hadn't gone this term but has been part of it many many times before (I went for two weeks once and was TERRIFIED by the ACTUAL SINGING and FLED!) so we'd gone along this time to see what they'd been up to lately. It was MAGICAL! There were about 60 people altogether, I reckon, as they combined at times with another group taught by the same teacher, and they made a MIGHTY noise. As The Words On My Song remarked, it's incredible to hear people making such a huge sound JUST with their voices - "only using what they were born with" rather than instruments, and all singing together in a huge SOUND.

    It's an open access choir, which means that some people in the group had never done anything like this before, so it wasn't PERFECT ... which made it much more JOLLY and REAL and if anything MORE enjoyable for the occasional tiny wavers than it would be watching a CRACK SQUAD. It also meant you got to join in with the JOY and RELIEF when each song went well!

    They did a range of songs, including some FOLK and a very pertinent version of "Too Darned Hot", but my favourite was a CRACKING version of "The Man Who Sold The World" and a spookily TERRIFYING take on "Love Will Tear Us Apart". It really worked with a choir, I think everyone was amazed!

    Afterwards there was MUCH applause and pleasure, it was a beautiful way to enjoy music. If I could fit them all into the top room of the King & Queen I'd try and book them for Totally Acoustic!

    posted 18/7/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Greater Manchester Fringe
    After all the WORRY about TIMING (we had two hours to get from Buxton to Manchester, check into our hotel, get to the venue and start the show) Steve and I rolled into Manchester Piccadilly bang on time on Sunday afternoon and walked round to our accomodation - the Mercure Hotel. This was a LOT more like it, it was SWANKY! Confident of time we unloaded, rearranged our bags, went down to the lobby, out and straight into a taxi. This was going SO well!

    We drove round the corner... and stopped. Our driver checked some DIALS and then got out, opened the bonnet, and looked within, concerned. We sat inside the taxi, also looking concerned, until he came round and suggested we just get another taxi.

    Panic! Danger! Peril! We only had five minutes left to get to the venue for our set-up at 7pm! WOULD WE MAKE IT!?!?!?

    Well, yes, we did. We got another taxi just round the corner and all was FINE. It was lovely to be back at The Kings Arms as a) it's a lovely pub b) it always feels like you know it more than you really do, just because it was on Fresh Meat. We went upstairs to set up and asked the sound guy how ticket sales were going. "Slowly this year" he said. "How many have we sold?" I asked. "Two".

    "That's Warren and Ellen" then, I said to Steve, and LO! I was entirely correct, for downstairs in the bar we found Ms E Pemberton and Mr W Pilkington, and we gathered together for BEER and a CHAT. We did this for 20 minutes then all went upstairs to find that Warren and Ellen were the ENTIRE audience!

    Steve and I went and stood backstage and, as the lights went down, I said "If we were comedians we wouldn't be doing this". "I KNEW you'd say that!" he said, almost as if I have expressed my DISAPPOINTMENT in Comedians in the past, when they have refused to do gigs due to lack of audience. Two people is MORE than enough for us (ONE is enough!) and so we went on and BY JIMINY we gave a show! At a couple of points (during It Only Works Because You're Here and Control Alt Delete we had the ENTIRE audience singing along! The show is SUCH good fun to do now it WHIZZED by, and it was VERY exciting at the very end when I said the bit about Fufu returning "at the Edinburgh Fringe!" ZOINKS! That's our next show!!

    Afterwards we regrouped in the bar for a drink, as can be seen from this picture of the ENTIRE AUDIENCE:

    Soon, however, it was time to wend our way home and, after HUGZ, Steve and I set off in search of some TEA, as we'd not eaten since breakfast. Manchester seems to be full of HUGE GINORMOUS BUILDINGS, but not many actual PLACES, and in the end we had to resort to PHONES to find a curry house. As we sat in the Quite Posh Curry House, having Rather Nice Curry, it almost felt like we were in Edinburgh already!

    And so ended our weekened ODYSSEY to two Fringes, where we found that while me and Steve may not be quite MATCH FIT yet (we were both KNACKERED next day) the show itself totally IS. Next stop: EDINBURGH!!

    posted 17/7/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Buxton Fringe, Day Two
    When we first walked into our Student Lodgings in Buxton I was reminded of my own days staying in similar bedsits, and overnight I was reminded once again, being woken several times by people storming around, slamming doors and, at about 4am, ringing the doorbell repeatedly which rang out clearly THROUGHOUT THE BUILDING. Aaah, student days!

    Steve and I rendezvoused at noon and sloped round the corner to have a LOVELY breakfast in The Hydro Cafe - I had SCRAMBLED TOFU, which I'd never had before. It was NICE! I also noticed, in the corner of the room, a man who looked a LOT like George Formby. It felt like The Spirit Of George had come to visit us!

    We strolled back through picturesque Buxton to our DIGS and set to our big project for the afternoon: recording a song and video for the Deuchars Beermat Fringe. This is the competition I mentioned the author day - the idea is you do a SONG about Deuchars and they give you a PRIZE. I did wonder whether this'd be SELLING OUT but everybody I mentioned it to seems to think it'd be fine (it's a NEW SONG), and anyway: I bloody LOVE Deuchars IPA!

    So, we recorded Steve's vocals (I'd already done mine) and then set to MIMING to it in various parts of the bedsit in various hats, recorded on my phone with the track playing through Steve's phone. MODERN! We did a pile of these, and then set out into Buxton itself to film some outside-y bits. It turns out that Buxton looks a LOT like Edinburgh, so we'll probably just pretend it IS, standing in like Cardiff does for London in Doctor Who. We had FUNTIMES filming each other titting about around the town, and have a pile of clips to splice together. The only downside of the project is that the song is VERY CATCHY INDEED and is STILL in my head days later!

    That done we went back and listened to the end of The Cricket (EXCITEMENT!) then handed the keys back to the landlady (who was very nice and popped round to get them specially) before returning to the venue, where we met Messrs G and J Williams. Gareth was taking Jude out on a FUN DAY because it was his (Jude's) eighth birthday, and that included a visit to the show. It also included some TERRIFYING Jenga building, as can be see in this picture:

    MAN ALIVE, we spent the entire show waiting to hear that tower collapse, but it was still standing when we left. PHEW!

    Just before we went on GEORGE FORMBY returned! I was astounded - was he coming to see us? Was the Spirit Of George coming to give his blessing to "Come On Pussy"?!?

    No. He was there for something else. Oh well.

    The show itself was, again, DEAD GOOD. We had a slightly smaller audience than before but again they gently allowed themselves to get into it, and there were smiling faces aplenty at the end as I handed our badges and free CDs. We're giving away copies of Forest Moon Of Enderby to everyone who comes, and I was using this weekend as a test to see how many people TAKE one. I had, as usual, over-estimated the number of CDs I'd need - most people DO happily take a copy, but I had not accounted for the fact that COUPLES only need ONE copy between them. This is good, as it means I don't need to LUG so many to Edinburgh with me... but does mean I'll still have hundreds left at home at the end of the run!

    With the show done we said our farewells and wandered round the corner to Buxton station, where the long awaited PANIC was due to commence. We had two hours to get from Buxton to The Kings Arms to start the show - in theory all would be well, but as the train slipped out of the station, bang on time, i couldn't help but worry. Everything else had gone so easily, would our luck hold out?

    posted 16/7/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Buxton Fringe, Day One
    I met with Mr S Hewitt on a lovely sunny Saturday afternoon, ready to spend several hours on a train heading for Buxton, where we were due to do TWO shows at Underground Venues for the Buxton Fringe. As it was summer, and the Fringe, and ESPECIALLY Carnival Weekend, Buxton was VERY booked up, and so we'd got ourselves a couple of rooms in a student lodgings place that, I guess, was letting rooms out during holiday times.

    It was a right funny old place - a MAZE of corridors, bathrooms, single rooms, kitchens and bathrooms, with Steve two floors up at one end and me on the ground floor at the other. I felt a bit NERVOUS about the whole thing - the idea of there being other people wandering around all day and night was slightly SCARY, and also it gave me FLASHBACKS to when i WAS a student and lived in a place just like it (except smaller) for seven months. They were not FUN months!

    Anyway, we decanted ourselves and wandered over to the venue, where we left our GEAR so we could have a bit of an old wander. Our first stop was the Opera House gardens, where we had an ICE CREAM and watched a band doing covers of indie songs, called The Indie Annas. I thought that was quite clever, although they seemed to have chosen to play songs by bands that have had ONE hit, but to play something ELSE by them instead. Next we strode up to the Market Square, which was playing host to the FAIR as part of Carnival. It was DISSOLUTION CENTRAL, a DRUNKEN BARRAGE of DRUNKS, with people staggering around in not much clothes, demanding to see, and showing, breasts and bums EVERYWHERE, with the general feeling that a FITE would be breaking out any moment.

    It was a bit strange because the rest of Buxton was so CALM and GENTEEL - after a cheeky pint and a CHIPPY TEA we went back down the hill to the place of FRESH SPRINGS and OPERA HOUSES. I think I preferred it there!

    We went back to the venue and got set up - our room was a long low cellar, which was ACE except for the fact that it was a bit TOO low for the WomanDroid hat, and I kept hurting my head as it prodded the ceiling and clunked down on my bonce! Other than that the show was GRATE - as we'd hoped, doing it in an ACTUAL Fringe venue made a huge difference, and we RELAXED into it and had a THOROUGHLY good time. We had a decent sized audience who LARFED, both at the GAGS and also at some of the Running Jokes. I don't know if I've mentioned it here - i certainly have to Steve, a LOT - but I really like the fact that this time around there aren't any LONGEURS, where the whole thing SAGS. There ARE some bits where there aren't any LARFS, but it doesn't seem to matter so much as in previous shows. It feels like a whole, finished, THING.

    It was good fun, especially getting an audience who (as far as I could tell) had no idea what to expect from us to get INTO it, although CRUMBS, i had forgot quite how KNACKERING it is doing a full on show in a tiny room with bright lights and not much ventilation, my shirt was SOPPING!

    With everything finished we said cheerio to the LOVELY people running the venue, dropped our gear off at the flat, and then popped round the corner to a SUPER beery bar, which had Thornbridge Festival ale on. There were two festival ales on - the other was a Fringe Beer which, at 2.8%, made VERY easy/sensible afternoond drinking. We watched some of The Young People demonstrating YOGA to one another, and Steve got EATEN ALIVE by Midges.

    On the way home we stopped for a POSH WHISKY and retired safe in the knowledge that the show was WORKING, and all was well. The next day, however, promised EFFORT - for LO! we had another show in Buxton at 3.30pm and then one in MANCHESTER at 7.30pm. WOuld we make it?

    posted 15/7/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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    The First Meeting
    It's two weeks since we finished SKOOL for this year, and I've been missing it. On Monday nights I head home with the vague feeling that I should be going somewhere else, and on Wednesday nights I keep thinking "Shouldn't I be in the pub with my mouth round a pint of IPA by now?"

    So it was DELIGHTFUL last night to meet up with some SKOOL CHUMS in the suitably artistic surroundings of The Phoenix Arts Club to talk about a GRATE IDEA. Ms E Morgan, of our lot, had suggested we get together to work out how to do a WEB SERIES between us. We've got various experiences of this sort of thing between us, and so we sat down to talk about it and, amazingly, ending up coming away with AMAZING PLANS of not only WHAT we were going to do, but how we were going to go about DOING it.

    This has always been one of the best things about doing this course - whenever we discuss something as a group everyone gets ON and DOES it, rather than mithering around like happens in most OTHER similar situations that I've been in, and then comes out with DECISIONS at the end. It was ACE! The plan is for us all to go away and work out STORIES for our own episodes (we're thinking of doing 6ish related stories of 3ish minutes each) which we can PITCH to each other at our next get together, work through each other's ideas like we have been all year, and then WRITE them. If all goes as hoped we can then FILM them around October/November time for release in December on YouTube/Vimeo.

    It was all VERY exciting, and we all scurried away full of IDEAS and ENTHUSIASM. Usually a cynical part of my BRANE would, at this stage, think "I wonder if it'll last? Will anything ACTUALLY happen?" but this time around I rather think it will. More news, as it happens!

    posted 11/7/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Final Preview
    Last night I met with Mr S Hewitt in The King & Queen for the FINAL preview of Total Hero Team. People have asked me what i MEAN by "the final preview". Basically it means that NEXT time we do it it'll be in a Proper Theatre to a Ticket Buying audience (hopefully) who have every right to expect a proper show. THIS time, therefore, was our last chance to try and get it RIGHT before taking it out on the road.

    It was lovely to be back at The King & Queen, though a little odd to be there and NOT be doing a Totally Acoustic (although, hopefully, those evenings will be returning in the not TOO distant future). We went and set the tables up as normal, dragged the modest yet charming audience upstairs, and BEGAN.

    And do you know what? It was pretty DARN GOOD. I mean, yes, there were mistakes and FLUFFS and so forth, but hey! that is part of OUR UNIQUE CHARM, right? The show itself actually flowed incredibly well - so much so that both Steve and I were SURPRISED a couple of times and PAUSED a moment, one or the other of us thinking "Hang on, that's surprisingly easy, surely we've missed something?". In all previous versions I've had to wait until Steve says "this is my story", about half way through, to RELAX, but this time I was into it almost straight away. I think the fact that we did the theme tune for that podcast the other day, and that it sounded GOOD, was a bit of a confidence BOAST. It sounded pretty good THIS time too, and gave the whole extravaganza the kick up the BUM it required at the start.

    Suffice to say then that we were quite pleased with it all, and the audience seemed to like it too. I did notice LARFS in the proper places and, once again, where there WEREN'T laughs it didn't seem to matter, as there was STORY. All in all I'm TENTATIVELY feeling pretty good about the whole thing - we've got THREE shows this weekend in Buxton and Salford as part of the Buxton and Greater Manchester Fringes respectively, and then we're finally off to Edinburgh. I've got a feeling it's going to be FUN!

    posted 10/7/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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    Meanwhile, In The Edit Suite
    Enormous events were underway in Woodhouse Eaves at the weekend, as AUTEUR and film maestro Monsieur T Pattison was at work with a crack team of trained actors and assistants filming the video for our next single, I Want To Find Out How It Ends.

    The theme of the video has been the source of MUCH DISCUSSION amongst The Validators, via email. Early on Tim suggested that we get a bunch of KIDS to pretend to be us. This seemed good, so I asked (with my MA SCREENWRITING STUDENT hat on) "What happens then? Eh? What is the story, where is the inciting incident, what's the problem of Act 2 eh?" To which Tim replied "We should get a bunch of kids to pretend to be us."

    This went on for QUITE SOME TIME, with a story VERY GRADUALLY emerging, until I decided to sit down and write a TREATMENT. I forwarded this to The Vlads, there was more discussion, and eventually I had a list of SHOTS for the aforesaid AUTEUR to shoot.

    This he, and Emma also, very much DID. They gathered a cast of local kids, gathered/made a load of props (Tim got VERY excited about making some Blake 7-esque teleportation bracelets), booked the Village Hall, and got to WORK. Here's a couple of pictures from the day:

    Looks GOOD doesn't it? You should see the RUSHES, for LO! yesterday Tim managed to send a HUGE volume of FILEZ over, and I got to have a quick look through. There is a TONNE of stuff, enough for a ten minute SHORT rather than a 2.5 minute ROCK VIDEO, which is actually rather nice - the SURFEIT of material means I get to play around with the story, and the fact that some parts of the shooting script appear to have been forgotten (he did have a LOT to get done!) means that I've got lots to work with and am making something NEW, linked to the various original ideas and the day's shooting, but not actually WEDDED to them.

    Maybe I've still got that hat on?

    The upshot of all this is that I've started doing the first CUT of it all, hoping to have it sorted by next week some time, so that we can see what we've got and then work out what we still NEED. Not wanting to give away any SPOILERS, but there is going to be a section featuring the ACTUAL Validators, which we're planning to film when we play Tramlines in a couple of weeks, so it'll be HANDY to know exactly what we still NEED, especially as it's all in FLUX at the moment.

    It's all jolly good fun so far - a whole week STARING at all the clips may change my mind about it, but at the moment I'm rather excited. I think this is going to turn out GRATE!

    posted 9/7/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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    Podcasting And Party Playing
    It was a RIGHT busy weekend this weekend, especially on Saturday. The day began with myself The Food On My Plate returning from distant Hertfordshire, where we'd been to see some PALS, and stopping off in St Pancras on the way home for BREAKFAST OUT! It was RIGHT posh, also ACE!

    Back home I had a quick turnaround before heading back out into the sunshine to meet Mr S Hewitt in The Crown & Shuttle in Shoreditch, ready to pop next door to Unlimited Media, where we were due to record a bit for the Three Weeks Podcast. It was a bit STRANGE to BE there as I've emailed them many many MANY times over the years, both for Fringe stuff AND for the CMU newsletter that they also publish, and we had a nice chat with Mr C Cooke (proprietor) about Various Issues, including the impression that last year's Edinburgh Fringe was a bit flat. Chris made the v.interesting point that USUALLY being at the Edinburgh feels like you're in the MOST EXCITING place in the WORLD, but that last year this was clearly untrue, as it coincided with the OLYMPICS. I'd never thought of that before!

    We went into the studio bit where young Tom recorded us doing the main Total Hero Team theme tune from the very start of the show. Me and Steve were both quite surprised with HOW GOOD it sounded - and it sounded EQUALLY good when we did it again, just to be sure it was recorded. We said our farewells and then popped back next door for a celebratory PINT - maybe... maybe it was all going to be OK?

    Then it was back to the Central Line for me and far off Buckhurst Hill, where I was due to meet up with the aforesaid Songs On My Playlist, also The Landlady, to go to my sister-in-law Ati's birthday party. Ati had asked me to play a few songs so I'd LEARNED UP a few Classic Singalongs, but I was surprised, several hours into sunshine and BOOZE, to be asked to do one of my own songs. I was a bit worried about how that'd go down, especially after the "support act", a 12 year old lad called Josh, did two songs and WOWED everyone. Nervously, I stepped forward and done THIS:
  • Can't Take My Eyes Off You
  • Back For Good
  • Payday Is The Best Day
  • Boom Shake The Room
  • It seemed to go OK - keen observers might have noticed that I removed huge chunks from nearly ALL of the songs, to make sure that we got back to the CHORUSES (which everybody knew) and away from the VERSES (which, it kept turning out, I did not currently know very well). I think it was OK, but CRUMBS: it's much easier doing gigs to LOADS of people who you DON'T know and are ALSO a bit tiddly!

    A busy weekend then, and things don't look like calming down now for AGES. It's the last preview of Total Hero Team tomorrow and then we're off to Buxton and Manchester this weekend. And then: HO! for Edinburgh!

    posted 8/7/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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    Are We Nearly There Yet?
    Today I ordered our FLYERS for the Edinburgh Fringe - we're sharing them this time with the lovely people at Stand Up Tragedy thus DOUBLING the handing out of flyings and HALVING a) costs b) Environmental Impact. CUNNING huh? Here's what our side looks like:

    Now that THAT'S all sent off and paid for, that's pretty much ALL the jobs done that need doing before we get up there. Obviously there are SHOWS to do - London on Tuesday 9th, Buxton and Manchester on the 13th and 14th (details here) - but that's ALL we have to do. All of our trains, accomodation, publicity doings (the final part of which was popping into the Camden Head last night to drop in posters. "OOh, lovely!" said the young lady behind the bar, and I was forced to agree) and so on are completely BOOKED. In theory the next Edinburgh Fringe-related thing I need to PAY for will be my first pint of DEUCHARS when we get there.

    I cannot bloody WAIT. Yesterday I took a stroll on Google StreetView from our venue round to my favourite curry house, Red Fort, and I've been looking LONGINGLY at pictures of The Halfway House, one of my favourite pubs. Four weeks from RIGHT NOW we will BE there, hopefully nursing a gentle hangover, helping set our room up in the venue, wondering whether to have chips for lunch. I have a feeling it's going to be GRATE.

    One thing IS bothering me though, and it's THIS: The Deuchars Award. To enter you video yourself doing SOMETHING, including the phrase "You're due a deuchars" somewhere, and the winner gets 750 and, if they like, a gig. Now, on the one hand, a pile of CA$H would be lovely, and it'd be a nice bit of publicity for the show, but on the other, I feel mildly queasy about saying "You're due a Deuchars". I'm not sure why though - i bloody LOVE Deuchars IPA and it's a FAIRLY LARGE part of my festival experience. I shall have to consult with Mr S Hewitt about it I think, but any THORTS about whether I/we should do it would be very welcome in the comments section. The last time I did something like this was "Boom Shake The Room" for the late lamented Word Magazine, and that worked out PRETTY WELL!

    The main thing though is this: it's not long until we're actually THERE! Trudging up and down hills, visiting lovely pubs, bumping into pals, seeing shows, eating curry, and SHOWING OFF. Come on August, hurry up!

    posted 5/7/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Final (ish) Practice
    Earlier this week I entered Total Hero Team for an AWARD for being environmentally friendly - there's loads of these sorts of things around Edinburgh Fringe time, but this looked like one we were QUALIFIED for: we re-use props (and - hahaha -also - HO! - JOKES! ROFLZ!!!), we share our flyers, we don't use lights or amplification and we go everywhere on public transport. I know we do all those things ANYWAY, but hey! If there is an AWARD to be had for being UNWITTING SAINTS i am well up for it... especially after LUGGING the aforesaid re-usable props through the aforesaid public transport during rush hour last night after work. BLIMEY! You'd think people would be used to squeezing in beside a guitar, ukulele, hand puppets and HATS - isn't London meant to be COSMOPOLITAN?

    This was all for the brief journey to balmy South Tottenham, where Mr S Hewitt and I were due to have our last rehearsal before we start the final big run up for Edinburgh. I bumped into Steve on the way there and he regaled me with his tales of Glastonbury. This was all very jolly, but something had been bugging me. I'd realised that we hadn't sorted out whose turn it was to have the Most Important Job at the Fringe this year: Knowing What Day It Is. This is a VITAL position that gets a surprising/alarming amount of use during any festival, so when we got settled into the studio I brought it up. "There's one thing we haven't worked out yet..." I began. "It's my turn!" said Steve, straight away. I'm glad it wasn't just me who'd been FRETTING about it, and I'm glad it's not my responsibility too. Now i can RELAX!

    That agreed we leapt into the practice, and it went RATHER well. As ever the first twenty minutes were a bit nervy, but as soon as Steve said "This is my story" we both gave a SIGH of relief, as it is PEASY for thereon. We worked out a couple of IMPROVEMENTS - the word "sidekick" now appears to great effect and the bit where *A CHARACTER* climbs up a tree has been Fixed With Acting - and when we got to the end we turned round and did the first twenty minutes AGANE, to try and get it SORTED. The reason this bit makes us nervy is because, I think, it's where most changes have been made. They must be GOOD changes though, as when they come in we keep surprising ourselves with how much EASIER they make things!

    When it was all done I think it's safe to say we were BOTH quite RELIEVED, also EXCITED. This show has had the longest gestation EVER (I don't even think Dinosaur Planet went through so many changes and rehearsals, and we did that TWICE in two very different versions!) but it feels like it's PAYING OFF. My big hope is that everything will fall wonderfully into place when we start doing it in the venues it's DESIGNED for - up until now we've done nearly every show in somewhere not used to such shenanigans, like pubs, back gardens, big ROCK stages etc, where there are many distractions and people are not generally USED to sitting down and watching a 55 minute (it's about 55 minutes long now, by the way: PERFECT) show all in one go. I kind of think it MIGHT be similar to training for a Marathon in your WELLIES, round an office building, and then finding everything MUCH easier when the actual race starts.

    I've probably JINXED it now just by saying that, but hopes are HIGH and I'm really looking forward to getting up to Scotland and SHOWING this to people. Four weeks today I shall be PACKING ready to go - I can't WAIT!

    posted 3/7/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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    Self-Googling And The PPL
    Last year I spent weeks - BLOODY WEEKS - slogging through the dreadful PPL (the people who, basically, pay record companies for their records being played on the radio - similar to PRS, but for RELEASING a thing, not writing it) members' website slowly adding in every song of mine and every recording that I've ever self-released. It took AGES to do because, as I say, their data entry system is DREADFUL, like one of the first Content Management Systems that was designed to look good in a presentation 15 years ago and then NEVER FIXED.

    I'd been advised to do this by a number of people, as in theory I'd be owed quite a bit of CA$H for plays over the years, so i STUCK to it. Not so much because I wanted the CA$H (though it wouldn't go amiss) but mostly through bloody-minded determination NOT to let MY money being given to The Major Record Companies instead of ME.

    I kept going and entered MORE in earlier this year, and when I finished I made a note in my diary to CHECK on June 28th, the Day Of Distribution that they did pay me. I didn't hold out much hope - much like PRS they seemed designed to STOP smaller people from getting at their money, and all their systems are incredibly complicated and unhelpful. However, come the big day, I was EXCITED to find that they HAD paid me!

    I was somewhat less excited to find that they'd ONLY paid me for the songs from Dinosaur Planet that got played last year. Eight quid did NOT seem sufficient reward for all that data entry!

    I knew I should be getting MORE because their own database showed "Airplay Reported" for TONNES of my songs. I rang them up and pointed this out to the nice young lady on the phone, and she said that that didn't prove anything. This seemed odd, so I persisted, and she said she'd send me a Music Usage Investigation form, which I should fill in, giving evidence that songs HAD been played. Surely, I said, the evidence of airplay was the fact that their own database SAID there had been Airplay. She said no, I still had to fill the form in. "So, you want me to copy and paste information from your website into a seperate form and send it back to you?" I asked. She seemed very happy that I had GRASPED it.

    The form arrived and OH MY but what a performance it is - not only do you need to include the PPL ID number for every song, but also the full name, performers, ISRC code and date it was registered with them. All things, SURELY, which they could get themselves from their own ID number? Why, a cynic would suggest it was designed to put people off claiming!

    I managed to get most of THAT off their webpage - amazingly it turns out it IS all connected to the ID number i had already given them - and then turned to details of each airplay. Here's what they wanted to know:
  • Name of Channel/Station
  • Programme the Recording was Played on
  • Year of Play
  • No. of Times Played
  • Date of Play
  • Time of Play
  • Evidence of Airplay ("Links to official webpages , playlists etc.")
  • Yes, they DO ask for "Year Of Play" AND "Date Of Play". They also ask for a seperate entry for every play AND have a field "No. of Times Played" which must thus ALWAYS be entered with a "1". And yes, they also ask for all those other details which, surely, THEY WOULD ALREADY KNOW. They collect data on EVERY song played on national radio stations, and nowadays MOST local and commercial ones, so while I can understand wanting to know a DATE of play and the station, why do they need the time and name of show? Surely they would find that by THE NAME OF THE SONG? And if that isn't there, surely that means they wouldn't pay you? And on top of all that: if the fact that A PLAY IS IN THEIR DATABASE ALREADY isn't enough information, how does a mention on a webpage make it more real?!?

    ANYWAY, I decided that rather than getting annoyed... all right, AS WELL AS getting annoyed, I would USE my Computing Superpowers to DEFEAT the form. I thus deployed my MAIN SKILL: Self-Googling! I am, as mentioned on other occasions, an inveterate SELF-GOOGLER, riddled with guilt for CONTINUOUSLY thinking "Ooh, I wonder if anyone has mentioned my record/gig/video/SELF" in the 15 picoseconds since I last looked? I'll just check!" and so it was nice to think I could at last use these skills for GOOD.

    And OH MY but WHAT a lot of evidence I found! I'd copied out ALL the songs they'd listed, but found playlists for LOADS more. The BBC website is brilliant for this - I did a site search for "Hibbett", and then "Hibbert" on and LOADS of them popped up, not just on 6Music but also LOCAL stations. It was LOVELY - it turns out that the lovely people at On The Wire on BBC Lancashire and PMS on BBC Merseyside have played something off pretty much EVERY CD I've ever released. And as for Mr Steve Lamacq - if you ever see me within 100 yards of him and NOT buying him a drink, CHASTISE ME HEAVILY!

    So yes, it was a delightful few hours for my EGO, being reminded of the delightful people who've played my stuff over the years, and also many of the PALS around the country that I've met doing Radio Sessions or NATTERING at, like the immortal Mr Bob Fischer on Radio Cleveland or the Bristol Uncovered chaps down that way. As I sat form-filling I thought "COR! There has been a LOT of fun along the way", and that's not something you get OFTEN when completing Excel Spreadsheets.

    The finished form flew off this morning, and I await further news not with high hopes of success, but with thoughts of the great JOY inherent in this sort of thing. As I say CONSTANTLY, the likes of B Springsteen, P Collins et al probably DON'T have to deal with this level of ROCK ADMIN, but I do sometimes think they're missing out.

    posted 2/7/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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    Haiku Salut and Allo Darlin'
    I went to my first gig in AGES on Thursday, to see Haiku Salut and Allo Darlin' at the St Pancras Old Church. It's not a venue I've been to before, and it was LOVELY - it's a proper church mostly lit with CANDLES, and it felt oddly RELAXING as soon as I stepped in, though I did have to stop myself going into Immediate Church Mode i.e. wandering round the walls, hands behind my back, examining the ARCHITECTURE.

    I'd gone on my own, confident of bumping into various PALS, but I was surprised to find there was hardly anybody I knew there - more people DID roll up as the evening went along, but to start with I found myself in a room FULL of people I didn't actually know. This NEVER used to happen at indie gigs of the past, and it always takes me by surprise that there's people at these gigs who AREN'T either friends of the band OR in the other band anyway!

    Haiku Salut were the support act and they were AMAZING - I never ever would have thought I'd like an instrumental band AT ALL, let alone having an ALBUM of same being one of my favourites of Recent Time, but Haiku Salut are BRILLIANT. I think it's the fact that, unlike usual Instrumental Acts, their songs are full of STUFF - they sound ACTUALLY inventive (rather than repetitively "experimental") and full of IDEAS, and the way the three of them move around between instruments all the time becomes like THEATRE or something, you find yourself WATCHING as much as LISTENING and it's just FAB. If you've not got their album yet I would suggest you rectify it PRONTO, it's dead good!

    In the break I DID end up chatting to delightful persons various, and rather marvellously, while talking to Fortuna Pop Supremo Mr S Price somebody said "Excuse me, are you MJ Hibbett?" Sean REFUSED to believe that this happens all the time, I insisted that it TOTALLY DOES! Well, at gigs anyway. Sometimes.

    And then it was time for Allo Darlin', who were doing this as part of their COMPASS shows - playing four gigs in different compass points of London to try out a load of new songs before they go in to record their third album. This is a TERRIFIC idea - goodness knows The Validators have often ended up playing songs properly several YEARS after we've recorded them - and made for a very interesting show. These Modern Indie Bands, they're always so ADEPT and GOOD at playing, back in my day all gigs were ham-fisted and full of ERROR, so it was lovely to see a band as ACE as them doing a whole set of songs that they didn't know completely. Don't get me wrong, if you didn't KNOW these were all new songs you wouldn't have noticed, but it was fun to watch them occasionally surprising themselves with how different bits worked, or indeed watching Mike The Drummer furiously trying to get his head round the drum patterns of one song. The expression on his face is one I know well, from watching Tim trying to work out a GROOVE for a new song, and it is a SAD FACE. Watching a drummer struggling with THE BEAT is like taking a cat to the VETS - you see panic, you see worry, you see frustration, and all you can do is try and explain that it'll be FINE.

    And then, of course, you give them drugs and shave lumps out of their fur. IT'S A KINDNESS.

    Anyway! I think it's safe to say that the third album is going to be RIGHT up there with the first two i.e. BRILLIANT. I already love "History Lessons" from YouTube, and everyone who told me that "Romance And Adventure" is a future hit was RIGHT. I also really really liked "Bright Eyes" which has developed HUGELY from the tentative first time I saw them play it to a ROCK GIANT. I can't wait to hear how it all turns out for the final versions!

    Once the show was over I stepped out into the rain, ears ringing with GRATE songs, and very happy that I was heading home to BED rather than to a tent at Glastonburry!

    posted 1/7/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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