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Blog Archive: July 2017

Take Me Home Croydon Road
On Thursday I returned once more to Croydon, this time to perform Still Valid with Mr S Hewitt at The Croydon Comedy Festival. Originally this was meant to be a solo gig, but when our ORIGINAL date for 'Still Valid' had to be cancelled back in June (when I was POORLY) I asked Mr T Eveleigh if it would be OK for me and Steve to do the show on THIS date instead. He said "Yes" and thank goodness he did, because otherwise we would have missed a LOVELY evening.

For LO! It was a CRACKING bill, also featuring not only Ms J Lockyer but also Mr G Osborn with Tim as compere. It was ESPECIALLY ACE for me because The Gags In My Routine had traveled down from Distant Stratford to see the show - quite apart from it just being nice to have her around, it was good because she's never been to a Croydon show before and so never seen Tim in action. We particularly enjoyed his bit about CRAZY GOLF!

Gav went on first and let slip one of a TRADE SECRET of GIGS. Tim had said earlier that he'd been relieved when he'd arrived to find the seats set out in THEATRICAL style (i.e. in rows) rather than CABARET (with tables), as that meant some tickets had been sold. The RULE is that if you've not sold many tickets you set the room out cabaret style to make it look less empty - all gig promoters know, or soon learn this, but I'm pretty sure we're not supposed to tell people... er... like I just have.

Anyway, Gav did a FAB set including a couple of NEW songs, my favourite of which was a story about meeting the band Madness at a service station. He's told me the TRUE STORY of this before, so it was a bit odd to hear it turned into a song. This is the sort of thing I do ALL THE TIME, so I guess it was a dose of my own medicine!

Jenny was next and she was ALSO GRATE. There had been some confusion amongst some of my associates beforehand, as they had expected her to do some songs from her new show, but as there are NO SONGS (It's Theatre!) she did other stuff instead including some more ACE new tracks.

And then it was the turn of me and Steve to take the stage, which we did at SOME LENGTH. The show is usually about 45 minutes long but this time it was more like 55 as we were having SUCH FUN. There was larking about, extra jokes, and general GOOD TIMES. I feel like we've really relaxed into this show now... just in time to have only one more to go, at The Camden Fringe!

With all that done we agreed we would all meet again in a couple of weeks at the Totally Acoustic All-Dayer. The good times just keep on coming!

posted 31/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Storm House Release Day
At long last, all the waiting (for me) is over and it is RELEASE DAY for Storm House!

posted 28/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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The Dredgeland Podcast Spectacular
Last night The Flats In My Block and I headed to London's newly regenerated Kings Cross area of London, where we spent some happy moments having a nosey at the posh new flats (and agreeing that they weren't as nice as where we live) before heading over the road to The Star Of Kings, where we were due to watch The Dredgeland Podcast Spectacular.

As soon as we entered I felt like I should be 3 pints drunker, 2 hours later and 1 curry heavier, for LO! it was just like going to see a show in Edinburgh, with the CAST greeting audience members as they walked into a dark basement for an hour of LARFS. The stage was set up sort of like a radio station, with Mr J Dredge and Mr A Harland sat facing us at a table with microphones etc. This was for two reasons: 1) it was in association with Hove FM 93.5 and 2) it was being recorded for a podcast. I must admit to having a small STAKE in some of the ACTION, as John and I had done some EDITS on a few sketches during our regular LUNCHES, so my opinion may not be entirely unbiased, but I thought it was GRATE. The hour WHIPPED by in a whirlwind of LARFS, some scripted but lots mostly on the HOOF, with my favourite bit being the evolution of a thrilling new catchphrase for the 21st Century - "That's the end of that bit", "Thank God For That!"

NB it was even MORE hilarious when shouted by the whole audience! There was also a QUIZ section which I ended up being on a team for, and which we won a PRIZE for. I thus ended up coming home with not one but TWO Dredgeland Sponsored Bananas, which I can report are tasty as well as cost effective!

At the end of the show Andy said he'd like it to go up to the Edinburgh Fringe sometime, and I must say I agreed. It was a rather wonderful and SILLY way to spend an hour, and the more there is of THAT sort of thing the better!

posted 27/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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The Spider-Man Film
Last night I went to see "Spider-man: Homecoming." My short review is this: IT WAS GRATE!

I went to see it at the Odeon on Tottenham Court Road where I have seen approx 70% of ALL Superhero films over the last decade or so. It's a GRATE place to go and see Superhero films because it is near my work, never hugely busy, and usually populated by COMICS FANS - these latter tend to be sat on their own like what I am, probably because they too have just come from work, and sit quietly, only occasionally grunting approval in unison when a particularly juicy EASTER EGG appears.

The cinema has been refurbished since I was last there, and also re-staffed with, as far as I could see, MORE and HAPPIER people. It was an entirely pleasant experience, which is not always the case at The Pictures!

The film itself was, as mentioned above, GRATE. I do like the Marvel films as they tend to GET what makes comics enjoyable i.e. they do tackle Proper Issues and Big Themes but also do it with a sense of humour, proper characters, STORIES, and also lots of things exploding. This film had ALL of those, and also, crucially, got ON with it. I quite liked the Andrew Garefield Spider-man films, but they weren't half slow going, whereas this one RATTLES along without pausing for Moody Smouldering or Looking Gloomy In The Rain (which tends to make up approx 95% of the screen time for the boring DC films).

Thinking about it afterwards I realised that it was basically a mixing together of BOTH the Peter Parker and Miles Morales Ultimate Spider-man series, notably with Ganke from the Miles Morales stories moved over WHOLESALE with only a name change. I think the way they just didn't do the origin AT ALL was a good idea, and I loved the way they linked it into the Avengers stories without getting TOO distracted by it all.

Basically I really really liked it - Spider-man is, let's be honest, pretty much the BEST of the big superheroes, and it's LOVELY that Sony have seen sense and let Actual Proper Marvel have a go at it. MORE please!

posted 25/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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The Polls Have Closed
The past few days have seen excitement levels even higher than usual in The Validators' Group Emails, for LO! we have been doing something we all thoroughly enjoy: VOTING!

Usually we are able to make decisions about ROCK BUSINESS through discussion and negotiation, but sometimes, in order to MOVE FORWARD, there comes a time for a VOTE. As one of our members is a former member of The Electoral Reform Society (hem hem I was a crazy teenager at the time) we tend to utilise EXCITING METHODOLOGIES, and the voting requirements here certainly required them.

We had been discussing our walk-on and walk-off music for Indietracks. The last time we played there we came on to "Back For Good" and then went off to "Still The One", both suggested by The Songs In My Setlist. That had worked so well that we ALL had ideas for this year (NB it's the only time we get to HAVE walk-on and walk-off music!) and there were some many THORTS flying around that we couldn't come to a final decision, hence the need for a vote.

We had a list of SEVERAL songs for each EVENT, and so the voting methodology was THUS: Everyone emailed me with two lists of songs which they had placed in their order of preference. I then awarded 10 points for a first choice, 9 for a second and so on for all those that had been listed. These were TOTALISED to find the eventual winner.

As votes started to come in (there are only five of us, but still) it all got QUITE EXCITING. For the walk-on music a clear winner very quickly emerged - just before voting commenced Mr FA Machine had submitted a BESPOKE SONIC MONTAGE what he had created - but the walk-off was MUCH closer, and was up for grabs RIGHT until the last moment.

A winner was found however, and just before midnight on Saturday the polls closed and I was able to inform the group of our democratically agreed choices. I'll keep the details of the WINNERS quiet until the day itself, but here's the slightly redacted results otherwise:

50Sonic Montage - Frankie Machine
32Brooklyn 99 Theme
23Formed A Band - Art Brut
20Rockin' All Over The World - Status Quo
16Come Back - Wah
15Saturday Night - Whigfield
15Jump - Van Halen
12Let's get Back Together - Standard Fare
7Like To Get To Know You Well - Howard Jones

25Golden Girls theme tune (Thank You For Being A Friend)
20To The End Of The Line - Travelling Wilburys
19Never Gonna Give You Up - Rick Astley
19If You Leave - OMD
16I Want You Back - Jackson 5
15Don't Stop Me Now - Queen
14I'll Be Back - The Beatles
9Untitled - Interpol
8Come Back - Wah (again)

As you can see, it was a THRILL RIDE from start to finish and, even though I myself didn't vote for the eventual winner, I think we came out with the right choice in the end. As I have said approx 300,000,000 times, one day The Validators will turn their attention away from ROCK and onto Other Matters That Require Sorting Out, and on that day LET THE WORLD QUAKE!!

posted 24/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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A Night At The Para Athletics
Last night The Starting Blocks Of My Race and I went to The Olympic Stadium (THAT IS WOT IT'S CALLED) to see The Para Athletics and it was BLOODY BRILLIANT.

We've been watching it on telly all week and it's been VERY exciting to think that it was all going on over there at the stadium, as seen out of our living room window (because we live in The Olympic Park you see, sorry, that may not have been clear because I Do Not Like To Go On About It). The Days Of My Week had already been last Friday, and reported that it was GRATE, but I was still not quite prepared for how AMAZING it would be.

The AMAZINGNESS began when we walked into the stadium itself and down to our seats which, it turned out, were not only RIGHT down the front, but also next to the finishing line! This meant that ALL NIGHT LONG we got to see the start of lots of races right up close and also ALL THE FINISHES! It was incredible! ALSO all the athletes came running past us waving flags when they won (the best was the shot putter Niko Kappel who looked like he was going to EXPLODE with DELIGHT) AND all the TV crews were filming nearby AND loads of athletes came and sat in our section to cheer on teammates. Georgie Hermitage's family were sat right near us, and she came and sat with them after getting her win, and we waved (A LOT) at Hannah Cockcroft and Whizbee the mascot!

Before going I was sort of expecting it to go on a bit, and had been advised to bring a BOOK for LULLS, but the entire three hour session FLEW by, with races and track events going on all over the place. They were doing the F11 Long Jump for a lot of the evening, which is basically the long jump WHILE WEARING A BLINDFOLD! It looked absolutely TERRIFYING, and the whole stadium had to be quiet while they did it so the athletes could hear their coaches telling them when to jump. It made the T11 400m (also visually impaired - what, have you not been memorising all the categories too?) look like a BREEZE!

It was utterly fantastic and we all entered a state of JOYFUL DELIRIUM which culminated in EVERYBODY singing along to "Sweet Caroline" and DABBING with gusto. We staggered out with huge GRINS on our faces - there's still tickets available, so if you're anywhere near I would THOROUGHLY recommend going. I think we will be!

posted 21/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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A Tour Of Reading
Wednesday evening found myself and Mr S Hewitt getting one over on THE MAN, this time in his guise as TRAIN TICKET PRICES. We were heading for Reading and all the tickets for direct, fast trains were over 30 quid. You could get a cheaper one for about half the price BUT it took over twice as long... except for a couple of exceptions that only took 10 minutes more than the fast trains, but were at the lower price. HA! We felt QUITE the insider rebels when we spotted and USED this information - who says PUNK ROCK is dead?

We were in Reading to perform Still Valid at The Reading Fringe. Our venue, The Milk Bar, was very close to the station and, once we'd arrived, it took about 2 minutes to say hello to the organisers and have a quick look round. As a result of this efficienty we ended up having plenty of time to Explore Reading. By "explore Reading" I mean, of course, "Go to some pubs", so we popped into The Ale House (exactly what you'd expect from the name, including beer mats on the ceiling and walls, and as Steve said "more ponytails than women"), The Monk's Retreat (basically a Weatherspoons but not actually a Weatherspoons) and The Bugle. This last one was a GLORIOUSLY old-fashioned pub that was old-fashioned in that it was like old pubs ACTUALLY WERE, rather than what marketeers would like us to think i.e. it was, to quote TripAdvisor, "a bit rough" with people swearing loudly and happily at each other across the bar, beermats that had seen better days, and regulars mumbling to themselves in corners. To PARAPHRASE the philosopher D Emery, it was awful but I liked it.

Our tour complete we returned to The Milk Bar where we found a gentleman gloriously attired in a Keith Top Of The Pops t-shirt, who would make up just over 10 percent of our audience. Steve, our nine audience members, and myself were all ready to get going at 8:50pm but we politely waited until the alloted hour to start the show, and once we did it all went pretty well. The first ten minutes were strangely similar to when we did the Leicester Comedy Festival, in that it felt like nobody AT ALL was laughing, but once we all got settled in the LARFS became audible. They were a lovely audience, and we were VERY excited to get to 100% PER CENT AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION for the "Air Punching" section of (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock. It was BEAUTIFUL!

Job done we finished our drinks, consulted our timetables, and headed off back to That London. The next show is in CROYDON (where I appear to do ALL my gigs these days) at The Spreadeagle. You can book tickets in advance if you fancy coming to that one. It should be a good old do, not only are Jenny Lockyer and Gavin Osborn playing, but on the evidence of last night it would seem that Steve and I have a SHOW to show you!

posted 20/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Cockcroft And Kitson
While I was busy ROCKING CROYDON on Friday night, The Trams On My Track was at the OLYMPIC STADIUM (I know we're supposed to called it "The London Stadium", but that's not its real name and everybody knows it) to see The Para Athletics. She had a GRATE time and so on Saturday afternoon we wandered over to The Hero Village to see the MEDALS ceremony. The organisers had - quite sensibly, I thought - decided NOT to have the ceremonies during the event itself, but the next day so that other people could go along and be part of it.

It was all very exciting. Next to us was an Indian Delegation who WHOOPED like mad when their guy got his gold medal, then stood RAMROD straight when they played the national anthem, and then later still got all excited again when their winner came over to chat. We cheered and clapped a LOT, none more so than at the end when ACTUAL HANNAH COCKCROFT came out to get her medal. It was DEAD exciting!

I was out and about again on Sunday, heading to Chalk Farm to meet Mr S Hewitt to go and see Mr Daniel Kitson at THE ROUNDHOUSE. It was a lovely warm day, which made having a pint of cold lager in a pub garden nearby MUCH NEEDED, though also slightly alarming when Steve told me the show was TWO HOURS long without BREAKS!

Once we got into the roundhouse I was further alarmed by signs saying you wouldn't be let back into the main area if you DID leave for a wee, and it seemed that this was the HOT TOPIC amongst the audience. A LOT of us went for nervous wees pre-gig!

It was dead nice inside the Roundhouse. The show was happening In The Round, with the stairs tiered all round in a circle like a CIRCUS. There was a HAZE over everything, which I think might have been an air conditioning thing - we went on a PLANE a while ago that had a MIST coming out of the roof, and they told us then that that's what it was!

I've never seen Mr Kitson do a GIG before - I've met him a couple of times as he's chums with Mr G Osborn, and he's always seemed DELIGHTFUL, but it was still a bit surprising finding him taking to the stage and being IN CONTROL of the whole thing like he was. It was dead impressive, but I did have to stop myself waving and going "Coo-ee!"

The show itself was BLOODY GRATE I must say. I kind of see what all the FUSS is about now! He had a very clever system of LIGHTS which signified different sections of story, narrators and Types Of Narration, and he also occasionally sent his voice to different speakers around the room. It was technically very impressive, but the main thing was the stories he was telling and how FUNNY they were. The two hours pretty much FLEW by, although a break halfway through would have been much appreciated by quite a large proportion of the audience, and there was a MAD DASH for the loo as soon as he went off!

Apart from that though, it was dead good. I wander what ELSE everybody else has been right about all along?

posted 18/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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A Tram Trip To Wandle Park
On Friday night I headed out to distant Croydon, a place I have been to MANY times before, to do something for the first time: ride on one of the Croydon Trams! These majestic transports have whizzed past me every time I've been to Croydon, but I'd never had cause to actually BOARD one before. This evening, however, I was playing a gig in Wandle Park and had been told that the TRAM was the best way to get there.

A tram rolled up just as I excited East Croyon Station and I HOPPED aboard. It was a DELIGHT, and I exited at my destination full of the joys of TRAVEL. I quickly found the bandstand, where things were being set up under the direction of Ms J Lockyer, who was hosting the evening, with fellow ACT My Favourite Andy nearby. This was part of a regular series of gigs put on by Mr T Eveleigh aka The Croydon Comedy Festival - Tim is pretty much the only person who still books me for solo gigs, which is why I'm in Croydon as often as I am!

To use the LOO you had to find the PARKIE and get him to unlock it for you. I noticed one of the Andys following said Parkie so hobbled off after him. My back was playing up (AGANE) so I didn't quite catch them, and when I arrived at the loos they both seemed to have DISAPPEARED. There were several LOCKED doors, but no indication which to use. I thought I'd just wait until Andy emerged, which meant hanging around the back of the Public Toilets near a small group of young men wearing CAPS and smoking VERY FRAGRANT CIGARRETTES. I was VERY relieved when Andy emerged and I was able to hop inside!

There was a little while until showtime so I asked directions and headed off to the nearest off-licence. As I say, I've been to Croydon many times and always found it dead nice. It has a reputation as being a bit grotty, but i have always found it CHARMING ... so I was a bit surprised to find myself in pretty much exactly the sort of Croydon that everyone thinks is ALL of it. I was once again very relieved to get back to the bandstand!

I thought the show itself would basically be My Favourite Andy playing to ME, and then vica versa, but as it went along quite a few people appeared. My Favourite Andy went first and were ACE - they've played Totally Acoustic before, so I knew they would be, like a South London Simon & Garfunkel. Then it was my turn and I did THIS:
  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • Mental Judo
  • In The North Stand
  • I Want To Find Out How It Ends
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • Payday Is The Best Day
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • We Did It Anyway

  • It all went pretty well - singing inside the bandstand meant there was NATURAL REVERB which sounded lovely, and as I looked around the park I could see dots of people scattered hither and thither watching. It was, in fact, a LOVELY gig, only added to by the traditional Very Stoned Person Asking For Requests. This used to happen to me all the time when I played in Lewisham, so when a gentleman staggered over to ask for "Country Road" I knew how to deal with it i.e. NOT to ask if by any chance he knew how to play it (NB they always do) but instead to carry on with the gig!

    Afterwards most of the performers and also the audience wandered over and CRAMMED themselves onto a VERY busy tram to head home again. I'm back in Croydon with Steve in a couple of weeks to do Still Valid, maybe we'll get the tram then too!

    posted 17/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Crisis On Infinite Earths
    Last week I went to the UAL library to get some BOOKS. Nothing strange about that, you might think, but this time I was getting some GRAPHIC NOVELS. Again, bearing in mind that I'm doing a PhD about COMICS this might appear fairly straightforward, but actually I had until that point taken NO graphic novels/collected comics out of the library. I've got a subscription to Marvel Unlimited so don't usually need Actual Physical Printed Comics, but this time I was after (YIKES) non-Marvel product - at the conference in Dundee someone had recommended "Hellboy" for representations of Eastern Europe in US mainstream comics, and several people had mentioned Alison Bechdel's "Fun House" which I hadn't read and thought I ought.

    I got both these books out but have as yet read NEITHER of them as something MUCH more exciting caught my eye - the collected edition of DC Comics' "Crisis On Infinite Earths"! I have mentioned this myself in VARIOUS presentations as one of the possible endpoints for The Bronze Age so thought I should have another look at it, as I've not read it for at LEAST fifteen years, since I sold my original comics collection. Also, it looked really cool and I fancied something a bit FUN.

    I have been TRYING for the past year to read "Secret Wars", which is the Marvel Comics equivalent of the above, but have been constantly thwarted by the fact that it is BLOODY AWFUL, so I was half-expecting Crisis to be much the same. Imagine my surprise, then, when it turned out to be GRATE! It's exciting, intriguing, full of ideas, MOVING, and also looks GRATE! It does share some of the same problems as "Secret Wars" does, but I think those are problems shared by MOST comics from back then. The most obvious thing is that all the characters keep introducing themselves ALL THE TIME and addressing everybody by their full titles e.g. "Hey Captain Comet, how are you getting on in your battle with The Monitor's Shadow Demons?" "All right thank you, Shade The Changing Man - I knew being a mutant born 10,000 years before his time would come in handy!" NB this is not me joking, this is how they talk.

    They are also CONSTANTLY describing things that are happening to them ("Oh no, this building! It is falling down and I am trapped in it!") and explain everything to THEMSELVES in thought bubbles. I know that much of this is a hangover from newsstand distribution (any comic could be someone's first, so all characters must be named) but the description of events gets a bit tiring. "I know the building is falling down, Kid Flash, I can see it doing so there in the picture!"

    With all that said it is still a RIGHT riveting read, and a LOT happens. Flipping heck, when you're used to today's decompressed comics (and compared to Crisis, ALL comics are decompressed) with splash pages galore, duplicated images and a four panels per page norm, it comes as a bit of a shock to find page after page with TWENTY tiny little panels, all PACKED with dialogue, corner boxes, thought bubbles and CONSTANT ACTION. Each issue takes FOREVER to read through, and you certainly feel you've got your money's worth when you've done so!

    Two things REALLY surprised me about it, that I don't remember from previous readings. Firstly, it's rather MOVING, especially when (SPOILERS) Supergirl dies. I got quite worked up at that bit, and there's a real heartfelt sadness to lots of sections. We think we're all modern and characterful with today's comics, but the Bronze Age stuff can still pack a punch!

    Secondly, it didn't work out AT ALL like I thought it did. I'd forgotten all about the various twists and turns, the different ways that the Multiverse got moved around, and also that, really, it is "Crisis On Five Earths" rather than infinite ones. MOST OF ALL though I was astonished to get to the end and find that, according to this series at least, loads of the superheroes remembered exactly what happened, with most of the leftover Earth-2 types just getting conveniently killed in a final battle. Eh? Wot? I distinctly remember John Byrne's "Man Of Steel" being a complete reboot going RIGHT back to the start in a modern setting, what happened there then?

    Alas I may have to force myself NOT to find out - I've got the flipping Marvel Multiverse to worry about, I don't need to get involved with another one!

    posted 13/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Lit Just Got Real
    You find me today giggling coquettishly with excitement, like a medieval monarch with a new serfdom to dominate, for LO! there has been progress on THE NOVEL.

    For the past couple of weeks I have been talking to the BRILLIANT comics artist Rachael Smith, who has been designing a COVER for me. I first saw her stuff when she did the poster for All In The Same Boat with Lost City Writers, which was ACE, so I was VERY pleased when she agreed to do the cover for 'Storm House'. It has been a LOT of fun working with her - I say "working" but, as with when Mr John Allison did the artwork for Dinosaur Planet, it was mostly a case of me trying not to AUDIBLY SQUEAL when she emailed me drafts and occasionally asking for something to be a slightly different colour. The finished work is GORGEOUS, I'll show you it soon I promise!

    Once the image was sorted I added the LOGO and suddenly it looked like an Actual Real Book. It was really strange - out of nowhere, after more than a year of working on it, there it was, MY NOVEL! I sat and just STARED at it for ages, ASTONISHED that it could actually have happened.

    Yesterday I started the process of uploading it to the Kindle Select Program, which is where it'll be hosted. When you upload it they have a VIRTUAL KINDLE which you can read it on and, again, I was AMAZED by the FACT that it looked JUST like a real book! The cover, the acknowledgements and even the CONTENTS PAGE looked like an Actual Book On The Kindle. It seems weird to be saying it because OF COURSE it does, but it suddenly struck me that this was a proper actual thing I was doing. I realise now that this is EXACTLY the same sensation I had 300 million years ago when The Masters Of Nothing recorded a cassette one afternoon and I made sleeve for it using a piece of lined paper and some coloured pencils. It felt REAL, the same as it did years later with Say It With Words or the Hey Hey 16K DVD, and it was EXTREMELY exciting!

    Things are PROCESSING as we speak, but I think we're all on track for the OFFICIAL LAUNCH over Indietracks weekend. Last night I met with The Author Charles Flowers to get some HOT TIPS on publicising it (also, beer) and I have many IDEAS. The initial plan is to make the book available for FREE for a few days so that hopefully I can get it off to a good start with the mighty Amazon Algorithm, and I shall be using every opportunity to remind you about THAT when we get nearer to the time. For now though: ZOINKS! It looks REAL!!

    posted 12/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Validators Practice 2017
    Myself and The Validators consider ourselves a rigorously professional, finely honed squad of committed musicians, and thus we make sure that we have a practice EVERY SINGLE YEAR, whether we need to or not. This year's practice was booked for Saturday lunchtime in Leicester, which meant that I had to drag my hungover self there from Northampton via THREE (3) trains. Three trains, it is KRAZY! When I lived in Leicester I NEVER went to Northampton, despite it being REALLY close, because it is hideously difficult to get there. Three trains!

    I had arranged to meet Mr FA Machine at the station but was delighted to find that the whole Family Machine had come, and the four of us thus relocated to THE SPOONS for a much-need pint of precisely the dog wot had bit me (CARLSBERG) and some GRUB. I am not super keen on Weatherspoons at the best of times, but it provided some much-needed succour on Saturday morning! It was lovely to see The Machines, and I was DELIGHTED to later discover that, when I went to the loo, a puzzled young Evan Machine had asked his father why nobody in the pub was pointing at me, as I am in a band and therefore FAMOUS.

    I'm with Evan on this one - it's WEIRD!

    Our dining complete Frankie and I hopped into a taxi and ZOOMED over to Quad Studios. Tim had recommended it from when he'd had Prolapse practices, and coo er gosh but it is DEAD POSH. It looks like just another Studio Inside An Old Factory from the outside, but inside it is all airy spaces, decent equipment and CLEANLINESS. It was SO clean that it felt like practicing in a CONFERENCE CENTRE or something, inside the practice room there was a SKYLIGHT and it didn't even STINK!!

    Once we'd all recovered from the shock and got ourselves set up we settled down to the serious business of practicing. A few weeks ago we'd had a lengthy email discussion and agreed a MENU of songs which we all agreed, ratified, and then (as usual) CHANGED the day before we met up. The final menu was a good mix of HITS and a few we hadn't played for YEARS or, indeed, have NEVER played live. We worked through most of them (we don't really NEED to play Easily Impressed any more times, it's not going to get any better!) and then had another LENGTHY discussion about the best ORDER to play them in. There's a couple of songs that sound, SHALL WE SAY, hewn from the same cloth (despite being written nearly twenty years apart!) so WORK had to be undertaken to make sure they were kept a safe distance apart, and then of course we needed to apply the usual setlist rules e.g. two BANGERS to start with, "quiet" ones not too close together, and HITS ALL THE WAY for the final third.

    When all that was finally agreed we pick up our instruments and performed the WHOLE SETLIST in order! We are like THE ROLLING STONES or something! We timed it all to make sure that it fitted into our timeslot, which was a good idea as, though we DID do the lot in under 45 minutes it did not leave much spare for Accidents or indeed REMARKS, so we agreed to DROP a song. I'd rather run slightly quick and be able to introduce the band (and impart various other WISDOMS, of course) than have to cut the final song because the soundman's giving us EVILS!

    With our work complete we packed up, said our farewells, and then Frankie and I headed back into Leicester City Centre. It has changed A LOT in recent years. Whole chunks of town seem to have been knocked down and replaced by Student Flats, and everywhere still standing has been turned into a BAR.

    Talking of which, I completed my tour of Pub Chains I Don't Usually Approve Of by visiting Brewdog where we met the rest of the Machines, I was interrogated about Marvel Comics by a small child (this happens a LOT) and then said hello to Charlie from The Retro Spankees, who happened to be there. Clearly it was Meet The Retro Spankees In Different Midlands Towns weekend!

    Soon it was time to head back home, safe in the knowledge that we had successfully completed our Continuing Professional Development In ROCK for another year. You've got to keep yourself up to date haven't you?

    posted 11/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    In Town On A Friday Night
    Friday night found me meeting up with both Mr S and Mrs M Hewitt at Euston Station, ready for a trip up to Northampton to perform Still Valid. I am CLEARLY out of practice at this gigging lark, as I was foolishly lurking around in the station waiting for them, when OF COURSE we always meet in the Euston Tap. I missed a pint!

    We were soon back in the swing, however, doing LINEZ on the train then checking into Our Usual Suites at The Ibis... although this Ibis has had a refurb since last time we were there, which seems to have, somehow, made the rooms LARGER. Or maybe we were just on a different floor, who can say?

    Our venue for the evening was a new one for us, and it was a bit FANCY. It featured the words "pop-up" and "street food" in its description, had paint brushes instead of door handles in the loo, and of course had various Grumpy Middle-Aged People complaining about it all. It's not my cup of tea but it IS nice to know that THE KIDZ TODAY have created an environment seemingly DESIGNED to annoy the older generation. It is how it should be!

    My favourite bit of Hipster was when I asked for a PINT of San Miguel. "We don't serve San Miguel in pints" said the young man behind the bar, as if I had just asked for a tonne of lemurs. This seemed odd - I know STRONG beers get served in smaller measures, but surely that didn't apply to San Miguel? "Why's that?" I asked. "We don't have any pint glasses."

    Despite, or possibly BECAUSE, of this fun the actual evening was lovely, booked for us by Ms T Payne, and the street food was flipping GORGEOUS. They also had a VIDEO playing downstairs, showing Vic and Bob's The Weekenders. I'd never seen it before and very much enjoyed it, though it did slightly WARP my perceptions for the next half hour or so, as I kept expecting things to comply to Vic and Bob logic!

    We were supported by Winston Echo, who was GRATE and did all the HITS - if feels like ages since I have heard "Winchester Cathedral Choir"! Then it was our turn, and it all went pretty well. There were laughs where we hoped for laughs, lots of opportunities to MESS AROUND, and I even got to put my foot up on a Raised Stage Edge during (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock, which felt a) appropriate b) ROCK!

    Afterwards we stood around for various CHATS, which included me getting a little over-excited when Mr D Middleditch revealed he was a Forest Green Rovers fan. I really want to try their half-time food! After that we headed out for another drink, and had a stroll through Northampton Town Centre which reminded many of us EXACTLY why we tend not to go out in TOWN of a weekend evening. We ended up in The Black Prince, which was rather nice, for a LENGTHY discussion of diverse topics, which reminded me why I used to LIKE going out in town at weekends!

    It was thus Quite Late when I rolled into the Ibis, my alarm set for further ROCK the following day!

    posted 10/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Grand Finale
    The first Thursday of the month has, since time immemorial (well, about two years ago), been Totally Acoustic night. However, the show that occurred last night will be the last of these for a while. We've got the ALL-STAR ALL-DAYER next month (details HERE) but after that I'll be putting Totally Acoustic on a temporary hiatus so I can get some PhD and OTHER stuff done!

    With all that in mind I could not have WISHED for a better FINALE for this batch of shows. I arrived at the King & Queen at 5:30pm to find Mr S Hewitt already in place, sat looking at his phone with half a pint in front of him AS IS TRADITIONAL. We discussed some of his recent globetrotting and then headed upstairs. We had arrived an hour earlier than usual so that we could have a quick practice for Still Valid, which we'll be performing TONIGHT in Northampton. We WHIPPED through, having a delightful time and even doing some extra jokes for the entirely fictional audience!

    Towards the end we were joined by Mr D Green and Mr K Top Of The Pops, two GIANTS of Totally Acoustic. They were harbingers for an ARRAY of Superstar Performers and Beloved Regulars - there were so many FACES, it was like THE AVENGERS or something! For instance, I enjoyed a delightful chat with Mr J Jervis, who suggested that I could do a READING from MY NOVEL in the Merch Tent at Indietracks! Part of me thought "But that's a crazy idea!" although to be honest it wasn't a very BIG part - I'm going to see if there's a bit that would SUIT public reading, but I do rather like the idea. I shall pretend to be DICKENS!

    When Steve and I were setting the room up I had noticed Steve putting out LOADS of chairs, including several Theatre Style rows behind the normal tables. I thought this was a bit unnecessary but I turned out to be entirely WRONG, as we got a HUGE audience - probably the biggest EVER!

    This was no doubt due to the stellar line-up we had, kicking off (after me and a ROUSING version of the theme tune) with Deerful. As I said in my introduction, LOADS of people have recommended BOOKING her, and ALL of them have added "I'm not sure how she'd do Totally Acoustic though." Turns out she would do it MARVELLOUSLY, sitting on the floor with three gadgets and a tiny amplifier, all battery powered to conform to THE RULES. It was a small cramped room full of hot people sitting in SILENCE, ENTRANCED by the amazing music she seemed to be making from almost nothing. I liked it a LOT!

    Next up were The Indelicates, at least 50% of whom were sporting some MAGNIFICENT silver trousers. They were mostly performing songs from their new album, and thus there were many Metaphors For Brexit. It was DEAD theatrical, especially when they did a song about SPIRITUALISTS. Suddenly people in the AUDIENCE started singing back to Simon as he interacted with them, it was a) STARTLING b) AMAZING. That one is DEFINITELY going on the podcast!

    And then finally we had the fantastic Emma Kupa, playing totally solo this time. She RANGED across her output, including HITS, tracks from the forthcoming CONCEPT ALBUM (I *knew* concept albums would get cool again one day!) and best of all some NEW songs which sounded BRILLIANT. She is, as I have said many times before, one of the BEST peoples to come out of the Indiepop scene and I cannot WAIT to get a listen to the new records, once Jerv gets them made!

    With the whole show finished it simply remained to dole out the IMPRESSIVE whip round (also the biggest ever!) amongst the acts and then head out into the Summer Night with The Cash In My Bucket, feeling very happy that this particular run had ended on such an enormous HIGH.

    As I say, next month is the all-dayer with Pete Green, Gavin Osborn, Jenny Lockyer, Matt Tiller, Peter Buckley-Hill and Keith Top Of The Pops plus maybe more. CJ at The King & Queen is even ordering us in some specially chosen SESSION BEERS, it's going to be GRATE!

    posted 7/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Storm House Incoming
    Regular readers of this THRILLING BLOG will know that earlier this year I got myself an AGENT for my NOVEL 'Storm House' and then, a few weeks after that, I LOST the aforesaid agent for the aforesaid novel. The whole thing was a RIGHT pain in the arse and a source of MUCH disappointment which, I must admit, did rather knock the wind out of my sails.

    However, after a suitable interval of MOPING I picked myself up and sent it out to a bunch of other agents. In the couple of months since then I have received precisely ZERO response so recently decided to say "SOD IT" to the whole business and just do it myself. It would have been nice, I guess, to get a Professional on my side, but a LARGE part of me was actually quite relieved . I'd tried doing it the conventional way via GATEKEEPERS and now I was free to follow my natural inclinations and go INDIE. It's what I've done in ROCK for DECADES, so I might as well do the same in LITERATURE!

    I've been doing some reading up on how to DIY Publish via Amazon Kindle and apparently you need to give the book a big BOOST when it first comes out to send it flying up the bestseller rankings, which means that the ALGORITHM will then push it at lots of other people. With this in mind I have decided to a) make it FREE for the first few days and b) release it over the weekend of July 29/30th when I'll be at Indietracks and thus have access to literally SEVERAL people who I can try and persuade to buy it. I'm going to do FLYERS and everything!

    The FREE period will also cover the following Monday, which is newsletter day, so hopefully I can LEVERAGE my MAILING LIST for OPTIMUM LAUNCH VELOCITY. As you can probably tell I have got myself Quite Excited about it all, and that's before I even start to think about the fact that I'll FINALLY be able to get people to actually READ it too! ! I'm also rather enjoying the process of FORMATTING it, as I have not only taught myself how to do automatic tables of contents in Word (ROCK!), but have ALSO been able to commission some COVER ART. I shall save further details on that until it's all done, but so far it is looking GRATE!

    The main message for now is to say GIRD THYSELVES, for LO! not only will I be going on about this quite a bit over the next few weeks, I shall also be asking for some ASSISTANCE. Mainly this will involve asking everyone I know to DOWNLOAD the book when it's free (I don't think you even have to have a Kindle, you can get it for reading in one of their "readers"). If anyone then wants to actually READ it that would be lovely too - I can't promise it's the BEST self-published science fiction action-adventure story with JOKES in, but I CAN promise that it is a) SHORT b) SPELL-CHECKED and c) HOPEFULLY AMUSING!

    More - much MUCH more - on all this as we approach release day, but in the meantime, stand by for EXCITEMENT!

    posted 5/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Annual Art And Architecture Adventure 2017
    Every year The Exhibits In My Gallery and I like to have a day where we go and look at the Serpentine Pavilion and The BP Portrait Award and this year that day was the Saturday just gone.

    It all began with some additional MUSIC, as the aforesaid Voices In My Chorus was taking part in the Chorus Festival at the South Bank Centre, along with her CHOIR. She set off early so I ended up rolling up on my own to wander round looking for her lot and getting a bit CONFUSED as there were many many choirs and they had ALL decided to wear BLACK. I eventually found our team just in time to go to the outside stage where they were performing and it was PRETTY FLIPPING GRATE, especially their version of "Fix You" which was approx 17 times nicer than the original. It was really good!

    After a quick change out of STAGE GEAR we headed West to Hyde Park where, despite having done this annually for YEARS, we managed to get A Bit Lost. We did find the Serpentine Gallery in the end, though not before a walk round the Round Pond which featured lots of a) SWALLOWS b) DUCKLINGS. I would happily get lost like that any time!

    This year's pavilion was Quite Nice - it looks like a very posh Bus Station, and smelt deliciously of freshly planed WOOD, but ALAS (for it) could not compare with how much we liked last year's. On the way into the pavilion we'd noticed a QUEUE into the gallery itself, which turned out to be for a Grayson Perry exhibition, so we queued up for a couple of minutes and went in for a look at that too. The first two-thirds were good - lots of POTTERY about BREXIT, basically - but I liked the last section the best, where he'd done a customised MOTORBIKE and a bicycle and a Marriage Shrine. It was funny AND moving, two things which most ART singularly fail to be, and I liked it a LOT!

    At this point we had been STOMPING and being CULTURED for quite some time, so went back into town to TIBITS for a BIG LUNCH, then stomped round the corner to the National Portait Gallery for the BP Portrait Awards. It was, basically, All Right. There seems to have been a real push towards REALLY realistic pictures in recent years, with quite a few that you had to STARE at really closely to work out whether they were a painting or a photograph. The question in these cases is, as The Words In My Manifesto pointed out BALLA had asked, "Why bother?" If you can perfectly replicate a photograph, why not just take a photograph and save yourself HOURS of painting? We weren't sure whether this was ART being a bit boring at the moment or just The Curators of the exhibition being REALLY into something slightly dull.

    There were SOME paintings that we both liked, all of which seemed to have a point to them BEING paintings. I liked My Father Studying Form by Gary Lawrence, The Strokes Of My Brush liked Archipelago by Brian Shields (which in real life is painted on a sort of mirror), and we BOTH liked The Mayor Of Woollahra by Sinead Davies. There were a few other good ones, and it's always worth a visit, but all those highly detailed realistic portraits don't half get samey after a while!

    With our artistic impulses SATED we headed home, arriving JUST after Doctor Who had begun, which for me meant 55 minutes of DILIGENT Not Looking At The Internet until it popped up on the iPlayer. COR! I was glad I kept myself relatively unspoilerised! I mean, I knew quite a few things that happened (esepcially re: the ending) due to repeatedly looking at FORUMS for MONTHS beforehand, but there were HUGE CHUNKS of surprise, also FUN and EXCITEMENT. Roll on Christmas!

    posted 4/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Week In Beanotown
    I spent most of last week up in Dundee, where I was attending The Eighth International Graphic Novel and Comics Conference. My original plan was to go by TRANE but that turned out to be SO heinously expensive that I ended up FLYING instead. I flew from London City Airport, which is INCREDIBLY easy to get to (14 minutes by DLR from my house!) and LUDICROUSLY straightforward to get through. I had to go back to the check-in desk just to check that I really COULD waltz through as quickly as I was!

    I was on the first flight from London to Edinburgh and so the waiting area was FULL of Businessmen, doing Business and reading Business News. Not only was I NOT reading The Business News I was also NOT even wearing a tie - I was THE BAD BOY of the Departure Lounge!

    Getting to Edinburgh was the quickest part of the journey, as the leg from there to Dundee involved lots of waiting for trains and trams and then, when I arrived, a DELUGE of wind and rain. I'd left that morning ready for the sort of summery weather we'd had in London, so was VERY glad I'd packed my brolly and jumper!

    Once I'd got myself checked in at The Holiday Inn ExpressI wandered across Dundee to my first session. As I strolled through town I couldn't help notice that it was Actual BEANOTOWN. DC Thomson, publishers of The Beano and The Dandy, are still based in Dundee, and it rapidly became clear that this was where the LOOK of many of their characters had come from, especially those drawn by Dudley Watkins. I saw Oor Wullie (aged about 30), several members of The Broons and half of Lord Snooty's gang on the way, then was served in a newsagent by Desperate Dan!

    Once I got to the University I got my badge, went to a Keynote Speech, and then headed for my first actual Seminar. Five minutes in I thought "Hang on, this isn't about comics podcasts, this appears to be... COMICS FORMALISM!" and had to hastily sneak out and into the next room. Here I managed to ANNOY people with a question about Comics Ages (some people get Quite Upset if you try to use fan terms like "Golden Age" and "Silver Age" in academic texts - I asked why this was the case when, for instance, Music Historians use similar terms like "Jazz" and Punk") which was fun, before heading to the PUB with my fellow student Mr T Yu-Kiener. I'd missed the first day as I'd had to do my talk at RNUAL, so Tobias filled me in on what had happened so far. We were then joined by various other TYPES and there was DISCUSSION on ISSUES before I had to face the fact that I'd been up since 5am and had to go to BED!

    The next day also started early, as we all got on a BUS at 9am to be driven to GLASGOW where we were going to look at an exhibition called Frank QUitely: The Art Of Comics. Franky Quitely HIMSELF gave us an introductory talk and then we all went into the exhibition itself which was a) ENORMOUS b) UTTERLY BRILLIANT. Mr Quitely was hanging around the gallery chatting to people, but I knew from previous experience that it was best for me NOT to try and talk to him lest I end up GIBBERING and telling him "YOU ARE BRILLIANT!" fifteen million times before being dragged away. It truly was GRATE though, he is a flipping genius at comics!

    After a CHIPPY LUNCH we got on the bus again and went to Clydebank, where we we meant to be looking at another exhibition called Comics Invention, which was Quite Good, but spent more time looking at one about LEGO which was in a rather lovely converted swimming pool at the back of the gallery. There was TEA and CAKES and WINE but also a bit too much TIME so a large subset of the convention went down the road to a PUB. It turned out to be VERY MUCH a locals' pub, but the locals were also VERY FRIENDLY and, I like to think, many new and surprising friendships were made!

    The journey home took about TWO HOURS which was approximately NINETY MINUTES longer than was comfortable, bladder-wise, for much of the demographic involved. When we got back to town I headed home to attempt a SKYPE CHAT with The Comics In My Rack. I had been away for a LONG old time by this point and I must admit that I was really MISSING her, so even though the low quality Holiday Inn Express wi-fi meant we couldn't use VIDEO and had to say "OVER!" at the end of every sentence to deal with the time delay, it was a MUCH happier Hibbett who went to bed post-chat than before!

    THURSDAY was the big day, for LO! I was doing MY presentation! I took the morning off to practice and I was glad I did, as I was VERY nervous. In the course of my ROCK career I have spoken at LENGTH to all sorts of people, but this was the MAIN academic conference for comics and the audience would ALL know more than me, so at least knowing my talk would be the right LENGTH gave me one less thing to worry about. I was EXTREMELY conscious of the need to stick to my script and NOT start waffling and/or making extra JOKES, and I mostly managed to do so, although i DID make a couple of extra GAGS when I knew I was getting some LARFS. At some point I need to convince myself that the point of Academic Presentations is NOT to get as many LARFS as you can, but I am not quite there yet!

    The other talks in my session, concerning Harley Quinn and Ms Marvel, were GRATE and I was astonished to realise that part of the reason I like the latter so much may be because her stories follow Silver Age storytelling outlines really closely. Most questions at the end were about Ms Marvel, though somebody did ask me about the fact that one of the images I'd shown appeared to be Doctor Doom quoting from "Candide". "Could you talk around that?" they asked. "No," I said. I hadn't got a RUDDY CLUE about "Candide" and thought it likely that several other people WOULD, so chose not to risk it!

    At the end a whole heap of people came over to give me HOT TIPS for other sources of FACTS, which was ACE, and then I had a chat with the other presenters and ended up missing the final Keynote of the day, so instead went to have some TEA and DECOMPRESS. Whilst I was eating Professor R Sabin i.e. my Supervisor texted to ask if I fancied a PINT so I went and joined him and a group of DELIGHTFUL types for a few beers nearby. This was LOVELY and was made all the more so when I wandered back to the hotel at 10pm in DAYLIGHT (Dundee is NORTH!) through huge crowds of very very happy Little Mix fans, who'd just left a CONCERT. The Police trying to marshal them away looked TERRIFIED by the hordes of small girls, Mums and Aunties, and I had a LOT of sympathy for them!

    Friday was the FINAL day of the conference and, though I'd THOROUGHLY enjoyed it, I was very much ready to get home. I went to some more interesting talks, chatted to a few people (Comics Studies seems to be a VERY small field, also a FRIENDLY one) and even got RECOGNISED for my Alan Moore song! I skipped off before the final session in order to collect my bags and then attempted to send out the newsletter but was FOILED by the aforementioned crappy Holiday Inn Express wi-fi, so had to go to a (very nice) cafe over the road to do it instead. It's a very First World Problem, but CRUMBS the relief of getting decent wifi again is like taking off a heavy rucksack full of ROCKS after a ten mile hike!

    The train from Dundee to Edinburgh was RAMMED, and then when I got on the tram to the airport I found myself once more surrounded by Little Mix fans, this time going TO a concert. Edinburgh itself seemed to smell of STINKY CHEESE for some reason but thankfully the airport did NOT, so I once I'd been through Security and so forth I settled down for a nice relaxing PINT. Unfortunately this was a bit TOO relaxing, as when I emerged they were doing the FINAL CALL for my flight, and I ended up having to run and got on the plane as The Last Passenger. Once again, I was THE BAD BOY!

    I finally got back to That London and was DELIGHTED to find that The Wings On My Plane was WAITING for me as I came out of baggage reclaim, which was FLIPPING MARVELLOUS. As Mr F Sinatra so wisely sang, it's very nice to go travelling, but it's oh SO much nicer to come home!

    posted 3/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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