MJ Hibbett & The Validators


The Final Preview
I was in leafy Croydon on Thursday night, to do the LAST official preview of Hey Hey 16K at The Oval Tavern for The Croydon Comedy Festival. The festival's been organised by Mr T Eveleigh and it seems to have turned out GRATE - a great variety of ACTS, big and small, and several other venues attached around the HUB of The Oval. Being there in the inaugral year felt like being at the START of something proper!

I was joined by Mr S Hewitt who, much to my surprise, had never been to The Oval before. I thought everybody had! Shortly after we arrived we had a conflab with Tim about the stage set-up - usually the gigs for the Comedy Festival have taken place on a raised stage/dining area out in the beer garden, with a microphone and fairy lights. We agreed that, as we'd not be using amplification, we'd do our bit on ground level, so we moved the seating around accordingly and then Steve stood in various points to make sure he could be seen. He could!

Tim then introduced us to the bar staff so we could get my favourite kind of beer (FREE BEER) and we settled down for Danielle Ward, who did approx half of her Fringe Show "Dani Frankenstein" on the actual raised bit. She was singing along to backing tracks, which sounded GRATE through the pub's PA system, it really worked!

The interval found Tim back on stage reading out NUMBERS - people who'd ordered food from the barbecue got given a NUMBER which Tim then read out to let you know your food was ready. It was VERY exciting, in his words it was "like Bingo but everybody wins".

Then it was us, and it went Quite Well. I was a bit worried about keeping people's attention for the whole show, and this worry was borne out as some of the audience DID get a bit "lively" towards the end! It was about 3 or 4 hours LATER than we'd usually do the show, and as with last week in Balham I think people expected something a bit more Standard Comedy. However, it was still a LOT of fun to do and we got it almost entirely RIGHT, and also afterwards there were lots of smiling faces when we got out from under the stage lights, so all was well. Steve and I chatted to various lovely people who'd enjoyed it and i ended up having a lengthy discussion about The Sylvester McCoy era of Doctor Who, and thus it was a very happy MJ Hibbett (and Steve) who set off into the night shortly afterwards, bound for London town, safe in the knowledge that the show WORKS.

Now all we have to do is perform it 15 times in a row in Scotland. EEK!

posted 31/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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The ThreeWeeks Interview
It's AGES since I've done a radio/podcast interview - i really LIKE doing radio/podcast interviews (despite the fact that I hate talking about myself etc etc etc it is for the sake of THE PUBLIC that I do it) so I was very excited yesterday to set off for London's Fashionable Silicon Roundabout area of London to speak to Mr Chris Cooke for the inaugral Threeweeks Podcast of this year's Edinburgh Fringe.

It took me a while to find the building - it was at number 69 Wilson Street, and whoever was in charge of running the building had decided to BRAND it with a logo that, when you looked closely enough, vaguely resembled a 9 and 6 twisted round each other. From a distance, or even a couple of feet away, however, it looked like a CELTIC TATTOO, so I had to work out what number it was by going past SEVERAL times and counting backwards.

Upstairs an Annoyed Lady had never heard of anybody I'd come to see, but just as I was questioning my very sanity and/or whether that door number really DID say "69" (I keep saying 69 dudes!) someone else came in for the same purpose. PHEW. He was a very nice chap dressed in pink shoes, a powder blue suit and a bow tie. "I'm a magician", he said. That explained it!

We sat chatting and after a couple of minutes Chris turned up and WHISKED me away to a tiny studio where we got ourselves sat down and ready to CHAT. And OH but we had a good old yak, it was lovely - I told him about the show, about how PROPER it is that Steve does the flyering (preferably in the rain), how and why the show was written, my opinions about The Theatre, and much much more.

I staggered out of the building pretty much SPENT - I'm sure I COULD have managed to chat just a little bit more, but it may have done me in. I think it went all right, but you can judge for yourself later today when it goes LIVE!

posted 30/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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My Boss Was In Cardiff
On Tuesday night I went to Cardiff to see my sitcom script "My Boss Was In An Indie Band" performed as part of The Sitcom Trials.

A few weeks ago I'd been to BIRMINGHAM for the evening to see the same event there, but Cardiff is not quite so accessible from That London so this time I was staying overnight. I usually utilise the Ibis for such trips but this time I'd booked myself into the Ibis BUDGET as it was a) cheaper b) available and c) something I'd not tried before.

The Ibis Budget is a bit WEIRD. It's perfectly nice, but like sleeping in a SPACESHIP. The online booking said my room slept three people so I was expecting something VAST but it turns out that the room is only just big enough to hold a double bed and that there's an extra single BUNK BED above it! The toilet and shower are two seperate tiny PODS with the sink in the room - as I say, it's like a little SPACESHIP room, it was Quite Exciting!

After utilising the SHOWER POD I headed into town and, as usual in Cardiff, got a bit lost. Have the council spent so much money on printing signs in two languages that they ran out before they could do the ones in the city centre? It's impossible to get around without EITHER having lived there for years OR asking people for directions - I was stopped TWICE in ten minutes by other lost people asking for directions, and had to ask around MYSELF to get to the St David's Hall, where it was all happening. Mind you, once I got there the fun didn't stop as there were NO signs saying where any of the rooms were or indeed what was going on in any of them so I had to ask for help again... THREE TIMES!!

Eventually I DID find the right room so got a beer, and sat down for the show itself, which was TOTALLY worth the effort, for LO! Kev F Sutherland hosted and was GRATE, managing to make hilarity from Hats In Sitcoms and then introducing each script. The actors were really good, reading from scripts but also acting out scenes with someone else ALSO reading out stage directions. I think this worked really well, as you could SEE what was supposed to be happening much more clearly without losing any of the momentum.

My script didn't win and, as before, this was MORE than fair enough. I think if I write an entry for NEXT year's shows (which I most probably will!) I'll write one set in a single location, with fewer characters, and less hesitant JOKES. It's interesting seeing your words read out by people you've never met, as they do it DIFFERENTLY to how you thought they would. BOTH times I've seen this script read I've thought "But that was meant to be a JOKE just then, and you missed it!" which I have to accept is probably more to do with the SCRIPT than the people reading it. For future versions I'll try and write a script FOR a live audience who HAVEN'T seen the characters before, rather than Episode 8 of Season 3 of a show that exists only in my mind!

The actual winner was a very worthy one and all the scripts were GRATE with an excellent cast - I had a lovely time independent of my own stuff being done! Afterwards I had a quick chat with the mighty Mr Sutherland and then headed out into Cardiff which appeared to be SHUT. Every time I've ever been to Cardiff this has happened - whatever pub I've been doing a gig in, I've emerged to find the entire rest of the city quiet and in DARKNESS. It's weird!

Thus I returned to the Ibis Budget and found myself back in my SPACEPOD by 10pm consuming pre-purchased BEER and CRISPS. This writing lark, it is ALL the glamour!

posted 29/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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I Was Going Down To Balham
On Friday night I undertook some field testing of a new method of prop transport for Hey Hey 16K i.e. I put all the props in a rucksack instead of our usual great big JJB Sports Bag. This worked well, with the only item unable to fit being my collapsible hula hoop, which I tied on using an old guitar strap. I thus looked rather fabulous, striding out of Balham Station with my pink and silver sparkly hoop lashed to my back with a rainbow strap.

For LO! I was down south for the Balham Free Fringe, a weekend-long fundraiser for the PBH Free Fringe, all happening at The Bedford pub. I arrived to find Mr S Hewitt already halfway through his first pint and, after joining him in that position, we went upstairs to find the organiser, Mr C Coltrane, very pleased to see us. For LO! part of the deal with doing the gig was that we agreed to help out with some of the WORK, which in our case meant dashing around setting up chairs then sitting in on shows to mind the door and hold the collection bucket at the end. I also got to ANNOUNCE the act for the show I was in - it's the sort of thing both Steve and I always seem to end up doing at gigs ANYWAY, so we were very happy to pitch in!

Some lovely PALS had told us they were coming and Steve and I had assumed that they would be the whole audience, as Mr R Herring was playing at the same time as us and we thought everyone would go to see him instead. As I went up to our room I saw a MASSIVE queue for his show, and said "Ho! Is that for us?" "No", came the reply, "Your queue's upstairs!"

And there WAS a queue - all right, not as long, but still, it was a LOT more than we expected. Steve and I said we were fine to let people come in while we were setting up, which led to PANIC as LOADS came in while I was unable to find a vital PROP. It turned out that it was in one of the many many pockets of the rucksack (the JJB sports bag has NO pockets), so all was well, and we were ready to begin.

It was a job of WORK to do the show, for LO! we couldn't get any windows open so it was VERY hot in the room even BEFORE it filled up with people and only became more so once we commenced hula hooping/dancing/titting around. I was VERY sweaty! Also we got a bit put off by the fact that a group of Very Drunk Men had come in - I know this is the sort of thing that Club Comedians have to deal with on Friday nights, but we are not club comedians so found it hard! ALSO I could see Richard Herring watching us from the room next door before going down to do his own set! EEK!

Happily things calmed down a bit - the drunk men (noisily) left after 15 minutes, as did a few other people who couldn't stand EITHER the heat OR us, and I think we lost about 10 stone between us with our Mighty Movements! However, it got more and more fun as it went along and when people left at the end there were many smiles, not least for us, and a LOT of CDs and badges got given away!

Chris The Organiser had suggested that Steve and I do ANOTHER show soon after finishing the first one, to drag in the people coming out of Richard Herring's show, but I had regretfully decline his offer in the grounds that it would KILL me. Sure enough a five minute walk around the corner to The Duke Of Devonshire to see the aforesaid PALS afterwards nearly DID ME IN, and it took a little bit of rehydration to get me talking again!

So, all was well that ended well and now there's just one more show to go - at The Croydon Comedy Festival on Thursday - and then it is full steam ahead for Edinburgh. YOINKS!

posted 27/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Bits And Pieces Session
I was in DERBY on Wednesday, back in the pleasant surroundings of Snug Recording Co to do a whole HEAP of overdubs on the ever-approaching new Validators album.

Myself and Mr R Collins had a VERY productive day. Here's what we did, in LIST format:

  • Added UKULELE to the middle section of That Guy and then put some LEAD GTR in the instrumental breaks to go along with the violin.

  • Added ukulele to History's Rewritten, got Rich to add some keyboards, and double-tracked the vocals. Here's a picture of Rich trying to cope with me going "Make it go da da DA! da DA da!"

  • Made it sound like Tom was duetting with HIMSELF on The Future Is Amazing on PICCOLO!! This sounded INCREDIBLE and may be the most BRILLIANT thing Rich has achieved with his technology EVER. I was impressed! Also I added the phrase "In the future" to the start of the song (VITAL) and put down a guide vocal for when Emma does her vocals, for LO! it is a DUET!

  • Double-tracked some vocals and added a GTR SOLO to Burn It Down And Start Again. Both of these took a while due to my RIGHTEOUS IRE and definitely not because vocals and gtr soloes are things I'm not very good at.

  • Got Rich to add a "keyboard pad" (STUDIO LINGO: it means "some keyboard sounds") to 20 Things To Do Before You're 30.

  • Did the vocals for In The North Stand. This song OFTEN gets to me, emotionally speaking, and this time was no exception as I suddenly remembered that one of my oldest PALS has a LAD whose Grandad was also a Posh fan and I managed to WELL UP a bit. Curse you, Emotional Song!

    Luckily Mr FA Machine had arrived by this time so was able to lighten the mood somewhat with a) COMEDY WHISTLES and b) taking over recording duties. He was there primarily to play a bit of trumpet, but I'd realised that I could also get HIM to record some parts that were too difficult for me, so this is what he did:

  • Recorded the trumpet solo for In The North Stand. "It's got a musical joke in it!" he declared proudly. He spoke truth!

  • Added guitar to Can We Be Friends? "Make it sound more indie!" I said, and he did exactly that. It's so much easier doing overdubs when you can get people in who can actually PLAY their instruments, rather than spend an hour failing to do it yourself. I am basically a 21st Century BRIAN WILSON in this regard.

  • Did a similar guitar overdub on (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock. The three of us spent a while debating what STYLE he should go for - Bon Jovi? Status Quo? Or Queen? In the end it was None Of The Above.

    With all THAT finished we had a quick check to see if he needed to add something to We Did It Anyway (he didn't) or if I needed to add something to Get Over It (I didn't) and then that was THAT. An extraordinarily succesful day's recording DONE!

    We said our farewells to the ever patient and delightful Mr Collins then headed out for a gentle stroll through some of the many many delightful pubs on the way to Derby Station, during which Frankie told me some EXCITING and REVOLUTIONARY news about HIS new album and we agreed on MANY issues, musical AND political. After finishing up at The Brunswick (it would be rude not to) we hugged our goodbyes and I set off back for London, happy in the knowledge that, though there's still a couple of things still to do, the new album is a) well on track and b) sounding GRATE!

    posted 23/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Who Needs A Glowing Review?
    As I'm sure you are aware, neither myself nor Mr S Hewitt care much for the opinions of so-called "critics". Reviews are as nothing to us, which is just as well because we hardly ever get them and, indeed, got pretty much NONE when we did Total Hero Team in Edinburgh.

    So you can imagine how little we have been moved by the fact that we've had a SLEW of reviews for Hey Hey 16K and the almost indefinably tiny amount we're even bothered about the fact that they have all pretty much LOVED the show. It's not something we're interested in, and we definitely haven't read them aloud to each other several times while squeaking excitedly.

    However, I know some people ARE interested in such things and i SUPPOSE we should get used to quoting them as a way of encouraging more people to come and see us, so despite hating all forms off self-promotion and against my better judgement as an ARTISTE, here ARE those reviews.

    To start with, Alt Reading was a bit worried about everybody else being older than him (surely not?) but enjoyed himself and said it was " like watching your dad perform except that he’s actually funny." Me and Steve? Like a pair of drunk Dads? Where DO they get their ideas from?

    Meanwhile Get Reading gave us five stars - not that that's something we even care about, obviously, five stars, it's just a number even if it is quite a big number for that sort of thing. She does make an interesting point about how it's even possible for someone to drop out of character when they ARE that character (the answer? About 3 pints) and there's a VIDEO if you're interested in looking at me (and Steve) which, of course, is not something that me (and Steve) ARE interested in.

    After all that in Reading we had ANOTHER pair of reviewers - not, as I say, that we care about that sort of thing either way - in Buxton. One came from The Buxton Fringe itself, who a) thinks I'm called Mike but b) used the phrase "hooting with laughter" which, if it was the sort of thing I took delight in, I would take delight in.

    However, as I say, I don't repeat these for my own pleasure - far from it - but because I know that such things can influence attendance, and so the final review, from Fringe Guru is probably the best example of that sort of thing. Not just because it says things like "a superbly constructed piece of musical theatre" (which I'm sure some people would be all chuffed about, flush slightly and say "golly") but also because it seems to get what it's all about. I especially like the fact that he links our bodged together enthusiasm over expertise with the way the ZX Spectrum itself was constructed and...

    CURSES! Caught like a TREEN in a disabled spaceship reading its own reviews! Yes all right then, I am maybe a BIT pleased that we've got reviews this time and that people seem to like the show. If that is a crime then I ask for 20 years of occasional other offences to be taken into consideration, but if you wish to charge me you'll have to come to the show, COPPER!

    More of this sort of thing please, THE MEDIA!

    posted 22/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Mountain, Not A Slope
    Mr S Hewitt and I met for breakfast in Buxton on Sunday, where we discovered that the advantage of staying in a Somewhat Old Fashioned Hotel is that you do get rather a nice fried breakfast.

    Suitably FILLED with FOOD we set off for a wander round town, enjoying the really rather LOVELY Pavilion Gardens, where we noticed that we were pretty much the ONLY people under 70 unaccompanied by small children. We continued our perambulations by walking up what Buxton casually calls "The Slope" but which I call "A Ruddy Great Mountain". Next morning I had EDINBURGH LEG i.e. the aching leg pain caused by constantly going up and down ridiculous inclines. It was HUGE!

    However, once at the top we found Buxton Museum And Art Gallery, which was BRILL. There was an exhibition of the Arto Fuduklian Collection (try saying that after a lunchtime pint) and a GRATE display about the history of the peaks. It was really really good, and we celebrated by going back into town for TEA and CAKE. We are nothing if not ROCK AND ROLL!

    After all that excitement we collected our stuff from the hotel and then headed back to the Hydro, which we found even MORE packed with people eating than the day before. Our "performance area" was taken up by a table FULL of a ten-person group considering whether to have dessert. Steve and I beamed MIND THORTS at them until they decided not to (our powers are immense) and while we waited for them to leave we had a chat with a lovely couple who turned out to be from PETERBOROUGH. I always get a bit excited when I meet fellow Peterbrugians out and about, and had a marvellous ten minutes saying "My Dad went to that school!"

    When the large group left we were presented with a "thank you for waiting" free pint each by The Hydro, which was very nice of them, and then we FLEW into action sorting out chairs, for LO! we had an audience, and quite a large (for the space) one at that! Everyone was in place by 13:50 so we ended up starting a couple of minutes early on a HUGELY enjoyable version of the show with slightly less mistakes than the day before but just as many LARFS and HI-JINKS. I was unable to hula hoop in the confined space, so at the end I went outside and did a brief display for the assemblage, which was a daft and delightful way to end an extremely daft and delightful hour.

    Thoroughly happy with how everything had gone we retired to The Buxton Tap for a well-earned pint and to discuss how much fun it had all been. We've been doing the show for MONTHS now, but it's only in these last three shows that it's really started to feel like it's HAPPENING - suddenly it's all falling into place, with new bits coming in and old jokes (they're mostly old jokes) being HONED.

    Back on the train home we both had a little bit of a nap, getting our strength back for the Balham Free Fringe this Friday and the Croydon Comedy Festival a week on Thursday before - YOINKS! - we head to Edinburgh!!

    posted 21/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Back In Buxton
    Nothing says "On The Road" like meeting Mr S Hewitt at 12:30pm for a cheeky pint in The Euston Tap before heading off to take our SHOWBUSINESS to another town. I know this because that's exactly what happened to me on Saturday lunchtime!

    Post-pint we toddled off to get our train and arrived in BUXTON three hours later, where we were due to perform the latest preview of Hey Hey 16K for The Buxton Fringe. Laden down with GEAR we stomped across town to our hotel, which turned out to be Shall We Say A Little Old Fashioned. Steve pointed out that the bar only lacked a MAJOR to be sitting in it, though over the course of the weekend we did see several candidates for the job. There was a PLAQUE stating that it had been opened in 1987, and INDEED the accomodation only lacked a ZX Spectrum to make them mirrors of my own teenage bedroom.

    We unloaded, watched a bit of telly (TOUR Tradition) then headed back across town to The Hydro, our venue. We booked it MONTHS ago (just before New Year, in fact) and I'd been a bit worried about whether they'd REMEMBER us, so had been relieved to see we were definitely in the Fringe programme. However, when we arrived we found that though they knew we were coming they weren't entirely sure what to do with us. The Hydro is a CAFE which, at this time of day, was pretty much FULL of people having their tea. It was suggested that we set up in the corner but a) I didn't really want to disturb people whilst they were eating and b) couldn't see how we'd charge on the door if DINERS were still coming in. It was a bit worrying, to be honest, but after some thought we decided to do the show in the small side area next to the bar. It wasn't IDEAL - we were between the bar, the kitchens and the LOOS so there was a lot of traffic and noise - but it was at least its own area.

    The trouble is, as I later discussed with my colleague, that THIS is exactly how gigs GET you. Every time I end up in a situation like this I think "Hey! This probably means that the gig'll turn out to be AMAZING!" and usually they're NOT, but every now and again it DOES happen like that and you end up spending another DECADE doing gigs and THIS was one of those - for LO! it was BLOODY GRATE!

    The audience all fitted nice and snugly into the room, including (we discovered) two reviewers, who therefore made up 20% of the audience. In Reading the level of reviewers was 10% - this must have been what it was like being in a ROMO band. Anyway, the audience were WELL up for it and LARFED and sang along and were generally a DELIGHT throughout. This was handy as the show was not without mistakes, but they took that as All Part Of The Fun and together we had a FANTASTIC time.

    After all THAT excitement all that was left to do was pack up and go for an ACTUAL CURRY (DELICIOUS) and a couple of beers at The Buxton Tap. A rather lovely end to a very lovely day - with still a day to go!

    posted 20/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    On The Road Again
    Yesterday evening I met Mr S Hewitt at Paddington Station to take Hey Hey 16K back out on the road again. For LO! we were heading for READING and The Reading Fringe, where we were due to perform as part of its second day.

    We found our way through Reading very easily (thank heavens for Streetview - how did EXIST before we could have a pre-wander through new places?) to find TWO surprising things about our venue, The Purple Turtle. Firstly, it had a range of ALES (i was expecting NONE) and secondly it was EMPTY! We sat around for a while and then one of the Fringe organisers came and said hello. Like everyone else we were to meet she was very enthusiastic and friendly and very much knew what she was doing, which was ACE. She also took our picture for The Record. Naturally Steve and I were very shy and did not in any way POSE like MAD.

    We dropped our stuff off downstairs in the Performance Area, said hello to a TONNE more lovely people, and then popped outside ... where we discovered that the front of the pub was empty but the back was PACKED! We had a pint and went back in to find an actual AUDIENCE had arrived - it was showtime!

    And lo! The show was GOOD! As ever it was a good job I did the "There will be mistakes" speech at the start because CRIKEY there totally were but it made the whole thing ROLL along, and I realised that the lack of an incredibly complicated plot this time meant that it was MUCH easier to mess around more and make REMARKS to the audience - I feel that this may become more and more of a THING as the show goes on!

    Afterwards everyone appeared very happy, grinning while accepting badges and Dinosaur Planet CDs - indeed, a couple of people said they already HAD a copy! We thanked the organisers THOROUGHLY (they really were EXTREMELY good) and headed back to Reading Station (NOTE to Reading Station: you are not an airport, BEHAVE) where we had a pasty each before our train arrived. As we sat there it really felt like this was the final big run up to Edinburgh, and I found myself EXCITED at the prospect of larking about doing this show every day. It's going to be GRATE!

    posted 17/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Shoe Shop Guys
    It's Neil Tennant's birthday today, and that's pretty much all the excuse Mr J Dredge and I needed to finally unleash The Shoe Shop Guys upon the world, THUS:

    We filmed this a few weeks ago and had planned to wait until OCTOBER to release it, once John's new podcast series is over and I'm back from Edinburgh, but it's been difficult to STICK to that plan because I LOVE The Shoe Shop Guys - so much so that we've done two more videos with them, and I suspect we'll be doing MORE in the future.

    It's Chris Lowe's birthday in October, so we MIGHT wait until then for the next one... but it'll be difficult!

    posted 10/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Afternoon Of Art
    Yesterday The Picture In My Frame and I left the cosy confines of The Olympical Village (have I mentioned that that's where I live?) to head into London Actual for an afternoon of ART.

    Our first stop was The Serpentine Gallery to see their PAVILION. Every year they get an architect who's never designed anything in the UK before to build them a temporary cafe-type place, and they are always INTERESTING to go and look at. This year's one looks more exciting in pictures than it does in real life - it looks glowy and funky in images, but when you go it looks, as The Pegs On My Tent put it, like something you'd see in a field in Glastonbury. In parts it looked like something you'd see in a CAMPING field several days in, lashed together and likely to fall over. It was OK, but they've had MUCH more fun ones. More importantly the cafe was run by Fortnum & Mason again who charge A LOT for a small bottle of water!

    As we were there we nipped into the gallery itself to see their current exhibition which turned out to be a lot of rather bland paintings of Not Much Happening. We were there with our friend Ms M Murray who reported that it looked like "the sort of paintings you buy for hotels", which it did. I was as yet Not Hugely Impressed by our afternoon of ART, but this was about to change.

    For LO! Our next stop was The Sackler Gallery, a new bit of The Serpentine Galleries just down the road, where we saw a Duane Hanson exhibition. It was GRATE! It was all very lifelike sculptures of ordinary people doing ordinary things and it was A Bit Creepy. As you came round a corner you got a JOLT when you saw people standing there, not sure if they were REAL or not. They were all JUST slightly not right - usually the hair looked mildly fake - which was SPOOKY in an Uncanny Valley sort of way. As we went round everyone was leaning super close to LOOK right at them, all slightly wary in case they suddenly sprang to life, and I noticed that as we were STARING much more than usual WE were being stared at by the many many gallery staff who were making sure we didn't actually touch anything.

    With that done we got one of those new routemaster buses (i know they're not THAT new but I'd not been on one before), a TOOB and then STROLLED round to the National Portrait Gallery to see The BP Portrait Award. By this time I was OFFICIALLY FLAGGING so was intending to have a Bit Of An Old Sit Down with a cup of tea while The Pictures In My Portfolio went for a look round. However, we rolled up just as the cafe had closed so I ended up going for a look after all and CRIKEY I was so glad I did because it was ACE.

    I've been to a few of these before and usually they are All Right but this one had a TONNE of brilliant stuff in it - this was the first year they'd accepted online submissions, so maybe the fact that it was open to more people made it better, because it was PACKED with good stuff. My favourite was A Portrait Of Ben The Masseur by Lee Myles Simmonds as it GLOWED out at me, while The Winner Of My Prizes's favourite was The History Men by Milan Ivanic, but there was LOADS of really good stuff. INTERESTINGLY a huge amount of it was extremely detailed and photorealistic, which i guess is The Thing at the moment. Years ago when I was first forced into art galleries on school trips everything looked WEIRD and ABSTRACT but now it all seems to be about super realisticalness. FEAR ME! I have made An Observation About Art!

    Anyway, it was brilliant and I would HIGHLY recommend a look if you're about in That London between now and September. Also, like all the ART what we saw, it was FREE - HOORAH!

    posted 8/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Sitcom Trials
    On Friday evening I headed up to distant BIRMINGHAM for a flying visit to the Old Joint Stock pub, where Foghorn Improv were performing part of my sitcom pilot "My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once" for The Sitcom Trials.

    It felt very strange to be heading out of town for the evening WITHOUT my guitar, but I used the train time wisely to edit ANOTHER script what I'm writing at the moment - SO professional. When I arrived in Brum I was amazed to see that Birmingham New Street Station is STILL awful. I had worried that the recent refurbishment might have changed it to somewhere vaguely habitable by human beings, so was relieved to find that they had DUG UP half of the passageways and retained the classic GLOOMY, DAMP and DREAD that has always made it such a unique transport destination.

    Once out of that HECKHOLE I stomped up the road to the Old Joint Stock - I'd been there once before many years ago after a Hibbettfest, but hadn't realised how VAST it is. I got lost traipsing round the various floors and had to ask for help getting to the theatre bit!

    I did find it eventually, had a drink in the dinky bar, then filed in with a pretty much sell-out crowd to the theatre room itself. It was a long thin room set out mostly in The Cabaret Style with other seats round the edges and the "stage" along one long side. It was a HOT day outside but very pleasantly cool inside which helped make it a DELIGHTFUL evening.

    The first half contained ten minute extracts of three sitcoms with two more in the second half, so it all flew by at high speed, helped along by the compering of the cast. All the scripts were really good, though over the course of the evening it became clear which ones worked best in this sort of environment. Scripts like mine, with lots of characters and scene changes, were difficult to get into when it kept chopping and changing, while slower-paced scripts where it was character comedy rather than gags tended to feel a bit QUIET in The Live Setting. The one that won - "The Cleaners" by Richard Constable & Roger Sanders - was a very straightforward single location set-up featuring (mostly) just two characters, which worked brilliantly, helped by a TONNE of great gags. It was perfect and pretty clear that it would be the winner, so I was very happy that it was - losing is FINE when something that very definitely SHOULD be the winner IS!

    It also helped, to be honest, when I found out at half-time that I'm also in the finals of the CARDIFF Sitcom Trials, which are happening at St David's Hall on July 28th - HOORAH!

    When it was all done I said a quick cheerio and thanks to whichever cast members I could find and then DASHED back to the station, where I managed to get a slightly earlier train which got me back to London JUST in time to catch the high speed home. Hey, I might not have won at WRITING, but I definitely did at TRANES!

    posted 6/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Totally Acoustic Presentation
    As per usual for the first Thursday of the month, I was in The King & Queen last night, though NOT for a Totally Acoustic. When I booked the dates for the recently completed series I added an extra one on a the end so that we could do a Hey Hey 16K preview, and so THAT was the reason for the attendance.

    It was an attendance LATE in beginning as we got WAYLAID beforehand, but I took it all Surprisingly Calmly. I usually get in a right old lather, as there's other acts arriving, but there WERE no other acts this time so it didn't matter so much. After a hefty STOMP across London Town The Steps In My Journey and I arrived to find Mr S Hewitt holding the fort by HOSTING our audience downstairs. I went upstairs to drop off GEAR and discovered a very odd sight - somebody had set the room up in THEATRE style. The Seats In My Auditorium and I looked at it ASKANCE - had Steve done this on purpose? Was it meant to be a practice for Edinburgh-style room set-ups? What was his plan? After WORRYING about it for AGES The Steps On My Stair suggested I could just ASK, so I did. Amazingly, this KRAZY PLAN worked - turns out that's how it had been left by the last lot, so we put it into OUR configuration and all was WELL.

    All continued well as we guided a sizeable crowd of people upstairs and then Steve and I entered a DRAMA HUDDLE - we'd received NOTES when we'd played at Isabelle's house last week, so discussed what new sections we'd be doing to answer those suggestions. One of the new innovations was to have SONG SHEETS (suggested by my in-house dramaturge) for the chorus of Hey Hey 16K which we handed out beforehand. In addition, we agreed to try out The Bucket Speech (the bit you have to do for Free Fringe shows where you ask for CA$H!). How would it all go?

    It went quite well! As usual there were heaps of wonky bits but we are SO USED to these that they bother us little. We did the usual speech about how it's a PREVIEW so bits going wrong is All Part Of The Fun which sets the tone nicely - INDEED I think we'll still do a version of it when we're NOT previewing - and the new adjustments fitted in nicely. We're very much in the TWEAKING section of the run, with notes afterwards providing MORE tweaks for next time, and it seems to be shaping up nicely... I think.

    It's a bit odd with this show - maybe it's because I'm mostly just playing ME, and there's more LOOSENESS to it overall, but it all feels a lot more CASUAL. At the end when people SMILE at the OUTCOME I always think "Oh yes, there WAS a story wasn't there? I thought it was just us NATTERING." Or maybe it's the fact that it makes SENSE this time that makes it all feel easier?

    Whatever it was, everyone seemed happy, and after tucking into a much needed PINT (it was HOT) afterwards so was I. Next stop: READING!

    posted 3/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Sweating For My Art
    Yesterday was The Hottest Day Of The Year: OFFICIAL and CRIKEY but it really was. With temperatures in the mid to high thirties (i.e. so warm it defies understanding - i know 25 degrees centigrade is HOT, but what on earth is ten more!?) it was of course the perfect time to spend two hours in a small room wearing COATS.

    For LO! that is exactly what I was scheduled to do, having booked myself and Mr J Dredge into Theatre Delicatessen for some more FILMING. It's great, Theatre Delicatessen - not only does it feature really big rooms for rehearsing in that ALSO double as Actual Offices for filming things, it's ALSO dead easy to get to. Hoorah!

    We had a number of tasks to complete, and complete them we DID. The first job was recording John doing a THING for a THING which was PEASY as it didn't involve putting on COATS or JUMPERS. The rest of the session was, however, somewhat different, as we filmed things involving BOTH. I mean, look at us:

    The picture above is for something called "The History of The World in 2,786,402 Items" which we'd had a first attempt at on Hampstead Heath a few weeks ago. That version didn't really work out, but this one DID, even though I was basically MELTING by the end of it.

    As we were finishing some people stood GLARING in at the door. John answered to see what they were after. "What time are you in until?" they asked. It was 6:50pm and they'd booked the room from 7pm. What time did they *think* we had it until? People being ODD and slightly RUDE is one of the many things that are the same in ALL rehearsal rooms, theatrical or ROCK, but at least this time nobody came in and stole all our chairs!

    On the way out John once AGANE bumped into somebody he knew, then as he was chatting to them some MORE people he knew, doing an entirely different thing, came in too - it was like hanging around with a CELEBRITY! With that done we popped over the road for a quick drink and to plot STRATEGY. The vague idea is to get some stuff in the CAN (so far we have the aforesaid History thing begun, plus "The Shoe Shop Guys" and "Dave The Actor") and then release it in September/October time, once John's podcast series is finished and Stave and I have returned from Edinburgh. That's the PLAN, anyway - it depends on us NOT getting over-excited and launching it all early!

    posted 2/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Doctor Hibbett (pending)
    Years and years and years ago, when I worked at The University Of Leicester, I had the chance to do a PhD. I worked in Medical Statistics at the time so the idea was I'd be researching THAT. I was excited about the idea of being called DOCTOR Hibbett, so investigated what it would actually involve. "It's a lot of work", everyone said, "it takes over your life, so make sure it's something you're really interested in."

    Now, I spent over 20 years working in the field of Medical Statistics and, with the best will in the world, "Interested in" is not how I would describe my relationship with it. "Catatonically bored by" would be nearer the mark, even back then, so I decided that perhaps that wasn't the best idea in the world. It was a decision I have always been VERY happy with.

    However, flash forward a decade and a half and I find myself in possession of a DISTINCTION for my post-graduate degree. I only mention my DISTINCTION because it is important for the rest of the story, I don't like to go on about my DISTINCTION. After all, it's just a DISTINCTION isn't it? A DISTINCTION is good for two things: 1) showing off and 2) getting accepted to do a PhD and as I'd already done a lot of the former I thought I'd try the latter (not least because eventually being called Doctor Hibbett would lead to a LOT of showing off). Thus I had a think about what I'd be really interested in doing. My first thought - as it is on a daily basis - was THE BEATLES, but I soon realised that this would lead me to becoming, basically, a music critic i.e. the lowest form of human life imaginable, so I turned to the SECOND thing I usually think about: COMICS!

    This turned out to be a Pretty Good Idea - comics is a BURGEONING topic in The Arts and there are several Actual Courses you can do. There are also several PROFESSORS of it, including a very nice chap at St Martins College who not only met me for a cup of tea and a LENGTHY and EXCITED chat but then also got me into an Art Exhibition for some FREE BOOZE. This is my kind of Professor! I then wrote up a proposal which he suggested some amendments to, sent it in, and got invited to an INTERVIEW!!

    I was told to prepare a Presentation so I did for this by having A Good Old Think. When I got in they asked if I needed a computer so I said "Oh no, I prefer to do it verbally" and they all looked IMPRESSED. This was GRATE news as I was expecting them to say "Come off it, you haven't prepared at all have you?" to which I fear the answer "I've had A Good Old Think!" would have been inadequate. Anyway, it all went really really well and I was THOROUGHLY enjoying talking about COMICS until I came to the fateful question: "What research methodology theory will be using?"

    URK! PANIC! I had absolutely NO IDEA what to say. I went "UMMMMM" for a bit then realised that honesty was probably the best policy so FESSED UP that I hadn't a clue. The interviewers tried to help me out by suggesting I might have covered some things in my course. "OH yes!" I said. "Plato's ideas of theatre and 'Save The Cat'" What we ACTUALLY covered were SOCRATES' ideas of theatre and 'Save The DOG' but they were too polite to mention it.

    Weeks passed and a couple of days ago I got an email to say I had been offered a place! HOORAH! I then got another very lovely email of congratulations from the Professor saying well done, even though I'd messed the methodology question up. HOORAH AGAIN!

    The only slight fly in the research ointment is that I don't think I'm going to be able to start it this year. In September I'm going to have to start looking for an Actual Proper Job again (unless Holywood calls, OBVS, or Hey Hey 16K gets a TV deal) so will probably be a bit BUSY. Also, because it all happened so quickly, I missed all the chances to apply for funding, so deferring until 2016 would give me more chance at that. Also also if I start a PhD AND a job this year there won't be time for much writing.

    All very sensible reasons to defer, which grapple daily with the compelling counter argument i.e. "A PhD in COMICS! Doctor Hibbett! WHOOOO! Come ON!!!" I'll have to see what happens but let the world know this: some day, somehow, DOCTOR HIBBETT will stalk this land!

    posted 1/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    My Boss Is On Stage (once)
    I haven't been banging on about THE WRITING much just lately because there hasn't been much of interest to report. I mean, things are HAPPENING - I'm busily writing all SORTS of things and seem to have more ADMIN to do than I ever did when I had an Actual Job - but nothing as FASCINATING as all the various gigs, shows and wotnots I've had to tell you about of late.

    However, something rather jolly IS happening this week - my sitcom pilot "My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once" (wherever did I come up with the title?) is through to the LIVE FINAL of the Birmingham branch of The Sitcom Trials. It's a show where they perform the first ten minutes of five sitcom scripts, the audience votes for which they like best, and then they do the last five minutes (they're short scripts!) of the top two to see which is the winner. It's all happening at The Old Joint Stock pub/theatre in Brum this Friday, and I plan to be there to see it!

    The script I sent was based on one I wrote a couple of years ago on my MA course. I had to do some "research" for a MODULE so I thought I'd "research" ("watch") some sitcoms. The tutor thought maybe some ACTUAL research might be needed, so I ended up reading a book on How To Write A Sitcom In A Month to see if it would work, then ended up ALSO writing an essay anyway. The book was a bit of a disappointment, to be honest - a bit of theory at the start, some highly dubious examples, and then it said things like "Day 14: Keep Going!" to pad it out.

    ANYWAY I applied their rules, wrote a script, and then forgot about it until this competition came along, at which point I dug it up, LARFED (i am a GRATE fan of my own jokes), then did a HEFTY re-write to make it a) funnier b) fit the requirements of the competition c) work on stage. I was, I must admit, quite pleased with how it turned out, and VERY happy that it got through to the finals.

    It's ABOUT (spoilers) a bloke who used to be in an indie band who bumps into his old songwriting partner thanks to the interference of the people he works with and then, obviously, hilarity ensues - or so I hope. I guess I'll find out on Friday!

    posted 30/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Tim At The Roundhouse
    Last Wednesday night myself and The Acts On My Bill went to the Camden Roundhouse, officially to see Mogwai celebrating their 20th Anniversary, but ACTUALLY to see Mr T Pattison of this parish on a MASSIVE stage playing to THOUSANDS of people as part of the revived Prolapse.

    I was expecting it all to be much the same as a few weeks ago in Dalston, with a room full of people I knew, but in fact the ONLY people I saw for the first half hour were Mr D Forbes and Ms C Pop, both of whom were also there for Prolapse. We DID see another band though, the support act who appeared to be covering Music Of The Future and being Quite Serious about it. "It's like Yoga Music" said The Sun In My Salutation.

    We found our places and then the most exciting thing of the whole evening happened: Tim came out to set his drums up so we shouted "TIM!" and waved. He saw us and waved back - I don't know why but I found this entire experience AMAZING! Goodness knows I have waved to Tim on stages ENOUGH TIMES (usually adding "Do you want a drink?" afterwards) but it felt SPECIAL doing so in such a huge venue as part of a massive crowd. Look, here's a picture of him in ACTION:

    Shortly after this we saw Mr and Mrs Machine wandering past looking for us, so after some more shouting and waving we were all united, and all Quite Excited about the ROCK that was about to occur. A few minutes later the ROCK very much DID occur, as Prolapse came onstage and were FRANKLY AMAZING. Here is an action shot of that happening:

    I should really be working as GIG PHOTOGRAPHER shouldn't I? Come on Melody Maker, CALL ME!

    In all honesty I preferred the gig at The Victoria as it was a) smaller b) longer c) louder and d) more full of old chums GRINNING, but it was still pretty KRAZY to see them playing somewhere so IMMENSE. However it WAS a bit odd to see people just wandering in and out of the room as if it was just some random support act or something. I wanted to shout "OI! Stop going to the toilet and/or bar and watch this, this is GRATE!" Linda introduced the last song as possibly "our last ever", but surely that can't be allowed to happen?

    Afterwards we found Mr D Dixey for another chat, and then, I thought, it would be time to go home. However, much to my surprise, it turns out that The Repetitions Of My Beats now likes Mogwai, so we stood and watched a good old chunk of them. Personally I've never really been into them, but she really liked it - she is, after all, significantly more ROCK than me, so maybe that's the reason?

    Anyway, it was a pretty darned MAGICAL night and hopefully not the last time we'll see Prolapse in action - come on, Mr Stewart Lee, book them for ATP next year!

    posted 29/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Live From The Living Room
    On Monday night I met Mr S Hewitt in Finsbury Park for a SECRET GIG - so secret in fact that even I didn't know where it was happening. Well, I did a bit - Ms I Adams, who had very kindly TECHED for us when we did the two-man Dinosaur Planet at Edinburgh in 2010, had asked us to come and do a show in her front room as part of a series of preview shows she's doing in the run up to this year's Fringe - but did not know the actual ADDRESS. Thus I followed Steve and Ms A Paynter (who was also going to the gig) through Finsbury Park and then into Stroud Green, an area I'd not heard of before, probably because they were keeping it quiet from the likes of me as it is Quite Posh, a bit like I always imagined Islington before I moved to London, all Organic Barbers and Free-Trade Chemists.

    Steve had promised me a trip to "the crazy off-licence" which turned out to be an AMAZING cavern of BEERS called Jack's. It was FULL OF BEER and we walked the shelves unable to decide, much like (I told Steve) it is when you're Vegetarian and read the menu in a Vegetarian restaurant! We then nipped to the pub for a quick pint during which Steve and I discussed our AILMENTS - well, he IS officially in his forties now - before finally heading for the venue i.e. Isabelle's house.

    The gig was occurring in the living room, as stated, and it was set up PROPERLY with the furniture loosely arranged into rows and Actual Stage Lighting. We sat and chatted as various chums turned up, including a chap in a Hey Hey 16K t-shirt, which is ALWAYS a delight to see!

    Around 7:45pm we got set it up and did the SHOW, and it was GOOD! As usual we did the "it's a preview, there will be ERRORS" speech and as usual this turned out to be an accurate prediction, but we are EXTREMELY used to it and, I think, dealt with the situations as they arose. Steve did a particularly good bit of freestyle swannee whistle at one point, and also launched us into an entire section where we stepped OUT of character to explain something and then back in again to restart the show - although this was a bit confusing for me as my character IS me! The only downside really was that we couldn't properly use the hula hoop, but we DID manage to do the tap dance sequence even though we were both in our socks!

    After the gig we packed up and headed home, Steve to watch The Women's Football and me to cook some TEA, but not before getting Isabelle to agree to send us NOTES - she did GRATE notes for Dinosaur Planet so this was one of the reasons for going and DOING the gig. The other reason, the main reason, tho was for the DELIGHT of going and playing a gig in a living room. They are the BEST gigs!

    posted 26/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Kerfuffle At Beautiful
    On Saturday night The Parents came down to join myself and The Actors In My Cast for a night of THEATRE! The musical tastes of myself and Mr CM Smith do not overlap MUCH (i.e. he seemed to enjoy listening to THE MOODY BLUES at HIGH VOLUME on Sundays during the 1980s when some of us were trying to sleep) but they definitely do on Carole King, so we booked ourselves tickets to see "Beautiful", the musical of her life what is on in the West End at the moment.

    It was a bit of a DASH to get to the theatre but we made it JUST on time. The overture (musicals lingo) music had just started when we got to the end of our row but the lights hadn't gone down, so we prepared to inch our way past to our seats. Normally this involves everyone shuffling up and us making smiley/apologetic faces, but before we could do ANY of that the man on the end said. "GET A MOVE ON. Haven't you got watches? BLOODY RUDE." As we passed he continued to remonstrate aggressively and we each turned to smile at what we assumed was a joke, but it WASN'T. He was suddenly, inexplicably, violently angry about the fact that people sitting a few seats down from him at a West End Theatre on a Saturday night had DARED to turn up after he had.

    It was all very strange and slightly upsetting, but it did not bother us for long for LO! the show was AMAZING! Obviously the Carole King songs were BRILLIANT anyway, but they did them in a FANTASTIC way, especially when they did versions by the bands who had hits with them. Man alive, I would pay GOOD MONEY to go and see a Drifters tribute act after seeing the version we saw on stage on Saturday night! There were a tonne of other songs too, many from Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann who, apparently, the show had originally supposed to have been about as much as Goffin & King, but also snippets of other songs from the era. It sounded BRILLIANT, we sat and GRINNED our way through until half-time!

    During the interval the four of us gathered in the bar, agreed about how much FUN we were having, but also about how STRANGE the Angry Man had been. "We weren't even late!" we said to each other, "It was totally out of proportion!" we added, but of course with that sort of nasty sod/loonie there's not much point arguing, they are just nasty sods/loonies. Still, as soon as the BELL went for part two we hurried out, eager not to incur his WRATH again.

    I went to the LOO on the way, so came back separately from my party, causing Angry Man the incredible inconvenience of having to stand up to let people in AGANE. "I'll just give him a friendly smile", I thought, "who knows? Maybe then we'll all have calmed down." That is NOT what happened - "KEEP SMILING" he said, threateningly, as I passed. "I intend to!" I said, and then he launched into his madness again as his wife sat beside him, looking GLUM. "Bloody rude!" he growled angrily (NB this time we were among the first people coming back to our seats) and "An apology would be nice!" I had had about enough of this twattery so replied "Yes, it would be" and LOOKED at him with another LARGE SMILE. I've met enough nasty little bullies like this in life to know that a) it's pointless trying to reason with them and b) all they want is to make you unhappy, so, while he reeled off more AGGRESSION I looked at his wife, gently rested a sympathetic hand on her shoulder, then turned to him and politely asked "Why don't you just go and fuck yourself?"

    It was one of those things that i IMAGINE happening when I meet idiots but rarely carry through on - it was basically The International Rock Star taking over. Clearly Angry Man hadn't experienced it happening enough either, as all he could come back with was a surprised look and "piss off!" The people sat between me and them looked DELIGHTED as were The Family when I sat back down. He was a PRAT and I TOLD HIM.

    Luckily we had another half of BRILLIANT show to take my mind off the whole incident, as we got into the SAD bit of Carole King's the show with EVEN MORE fantastic songs. It was wonderful, HOWEVER I did recoil a little at some of the liberties taken with the chronology e.g. surely in no way did she record a demo of "Chains" in 1967 (come on! The Beatles did a version on their first album!!). Also the structure was a bit strange - at SKOOL i was taught the Three Act Structure and how final quarter of a piece of THEATRE should see the hero face their biggest challenge, but in the final quarter of THIS the main drama was her saying "I think I'll record a solo album, but who can I get to produce?" "How about Lou Adler?" said her publisher, "He's really good." "OK!" said Carole, and then it was all fine.

    All right, some other stuff DID happen and it was ACE - the whole Gerry Goffin Turning Up Again bit was BRILL and MOVING and then there was more of the songs - and there was a GRATE GAG which I think I was the only person there to get. "Oh Carole King", said her publisher, "What will you do when you move to The California?" "I'm thinking of getting a house," she replied, "They have wonderful big ceilings there. And window seats. And I might get a cat." I chortled but no-one else did - come on guys! That's the cover to "Tapestry"! That's a GOOD GAG!

    It was basically lovely, and we emerged with big GRINS on our faces, not even spoiled this time by needing to pass Angry Man again - I'd noticed when the rest of us were stood up singing along at the end he was the only person still sitting down, with a face like TOILETS, and he'd clearly left as soon as the show had finished, probably to avoid more of my WITTY REJOINDERS.

    We wondered round to The Ship for a pint and some agreeing how ACE it'd been, and also for The Parents to launch into tales of The 1960s In Peterborough And Stamford. There were tales I'd never heard before, it was amazing, and a MAGIC end to a WONDERFUL show. Go and see it, it's GRATE (but don't sit at the end of a row!).

    posted 24/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Take That at The O2
    Last Friday, for my BIRFDAY, The Days In My Diary and I set out to right an historic wrong. Several years ago we'd booked to go and see Take That at Earls Court - as regular, or indeed irregular, readers may know i BLOODY LOVE Take That for personal reasons and also just because they are ACE, so I was very excited to see them. We'd spent ages working out where we wanted to sit and spent CA$H MONEY to get exactly what we wanted. All was well until a few weeks before the show when we got an email saying that we'd been MOVED to "equivalent" seats which were miles away and also behind a PILLAR - we were distinctly UNAMUSED and so put the tickets on eBay! We made a MILD profit on them, but still, it was disappointing!

    SO when we saw that The That were not only playing on my actual birthday this year but also at our local, favourite* big London venue (*i.e. the only non-horrible one) we thought it would be rude NOT to go, so once again worked out where we wanted to sit (pretty much the same place as we did for Macca and Mozzer) and the aforementioned Numbers On My Ticket got us BOOKED as my birthday present. HOORAH!

    Come the day itself I was EXCITED. As we headed to the Jubilee line a part of my BRANE kept saying "Crikey, this train is going to be PACKED with teenage Take That fans, singing and crying and shouting!" The rest of my BRANE kept pointing out that this was unlikely, but it wasn't until we got on board that the truth was proved: there were indeed quite a lot of Take That fans in the carriage, but they were NOT teenagers!

    When we arrived at the O2 the makeup of the audience was made clear. There WERE some people in their thirties but it was mostly people our age who'd loved Take That the first time around, some of whom had brought their kids. There were also a surprising amount of BLOKES there - though nowhere near as many women, definitely not any GROUPS of them, and mostly escorting PARTNERS. Thinking about it, weren't Take That supposed to have a gay following? If so, they were not much in evidence! It was like being in a room with a MASSIVE hen do, but a hen do that was going to have a drink and some fun but was going to be SENSIBLE. Mostly.

    We saw a bit of Ella Henderson (it was OK, she can sing LOUD), waited twenty minutes or so, had a beer, and then the SHOW began! Well, it had sort of begun already, and then it took quite a while to PROPERLY begin, for LO! you know when you read a review of a huge pop band doing a gig and the review says "It was more like a Broadway show than a gig!"? This was one of THOSE, although to be more accurate I would say it was more like an OPENING CEREMONY than a gig, as there seemed to be TONNES going on all over the place, all the time. There was a normal STAGE at the front, with another raised stage above it, but also a circular stage in the middle of the room with great long stairways leading to it, and EVERYTHING was used. The opening was something about a small man dashing around lots of people doing complicated things with bicycles and umbrellas, running in a wheel to get a floating city to come to life and make everything turn to colour - you know the sort of thing: Opening Ceremonies. I was pretty darned cynical about it to start with, but by the time it had PEAKED with LOADS of people dancing around and running about and Take That THEMSELVES came on I was WHOOPING along with the best of them.

    The first song (it was one of the new ones but I can't remember which) was HUGE and CAMP and set the tone for the rest of the night. There was to be very little in the way of Quiet Acoustic Moments as everything was LARGE - part Broadway but also very PONTINS with shiny smiles, a grinning band and lots of DAFTNESS. It was EXTREMELY English with lots of silly remarks and "oh stop mucking about" sections. My favourite was probably near the start when they introduced themselves as "We're what's left of Take That." That combination of glamorous pop, northern english daftness and cheesy trying-a-bit-too-hard (Gary) is, i reckon, one of the reasons people who love Take That really do love them.

    Aside from the SHOW of it all, the songs were AMAZING. They haven't HALF had some hits, and it was amazing how many of them were post-restart. All right, I could have done without 3 or 4 of the album tracks that popped up, but there aren't many bands who've been going over 25 years who can casually finish their first set (introduced with "this is our last song... but we do have a couple more exhaustively rehearsed ones if you clap enough") with a NUMBER ONE hit from last year and then another from a few years before (i.e. "These Days" and "Rule The World"). It was very noticeable that a lot of the new stuff was BUILT for huge stadium gigs - it was NOISY! - but also how pleased everyone was to hear old stuff. Oddly "Patience", the comeback single, felt like an OLDIE now, but the biggest cheers came when they did songs like "Could It Be Magic" and "Pray". They even did one of their old DANCE routines to (i think) "Pray" which featured a LOT of going own on one knee, then both knees, then back up again. You could feel the entire audience WINCE as the three of them did this, and then applaud the fact they could still manage it when they got up again! Well done boys!

    It was a bit of a STRANGE gig for those of us unused to this sort of thing though. Every half hour or so there was a sort of INTERVAL when the band went off and there was an Opening Ceremony THEATRICAL bit or, once, a FILM projected onto massive closed curtains. Everyone else seemed used to it and took the opportunity for a sit down, but we felt mildly confused - we'd just got going and now we were having a break? The other ODD bit was when Howard and Mark did an INTERPRETIVE DANCE PIECE! Gary sat and played a song and then the other two DANCED AROUND like BALLET or something. It was very sweet, but not what I'm used to!

    Another odd thing was the fact that they had about 50 people at the back of the stage who were sometimes an orchestra, sometimes a choir, and then sometimes just leading the audience in a Mexican wave - people as set dressing!

    For all the oddness it was totally BRILLIANT all round - other exciting features included ACTUAL FLAMES in the middle of the auditorium for "Relight My Fire" (I thought they'd get Ella Henderson back on for The Lulu Bits but they sang it themselves), Gary's big happy face that the new ones were going down so well (OBVS a part of me wanted to shout "Pay Yr Tax Gary!" but clearly he had spent it on FIREWORKS), and OF COURSE them doing "Back For Good". Before the song began the three of them spent AGES introducing the musicians in the band, and it was LOVELY as it turned out it WAS an actual band, most of whom had been with them for DECADES. Then Mark introduced the song itself by saying they were going to do it sitting on stools ("we started that") just like they had the first time they ever performed it live at The Brits in 1995, thus proving that The Lesson Of The Smiths is FACTUALLY ACCURATE. He then undercut his own announcement in the same PONTINS way as ever by saying "So, this is the first time we've done this since... yesterday". It was LOVELY.

    That would have been enough for me, I was SATED, but then they did the encore with "Shine" and then BUT OF COURSE "Never Forget" which was AMAZING. I'm not saying it's as good a song as "Hey Jude" or anything, but I did have a similar feeling as I had a few weeks ago watching 20,000 people singing along to it when we went to see Macca. EVERYONE in the building sang, did the handclaps, and whooshed up a HUGENESS of shared emotion, partly about Take That and what they meant to everyone, but mostly about ourselves and where we'd been in our lives and... I'm sorry, one of those bits of ticker tape what fell from the ceiling must have got into my eye.

    It was, basically, BRILLIANT - a wonderful introduction, for us, to a very English kind of Stadium Pop. I don't think I'm going to ever want to swap it for the tiny indie gigs that I love the most, but it was an INCREDIBLE way to spend an evening and an historical wrong VERY MUCH righted!

    posted 23/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Roy Wood At Christmas
    One of the things discussed during the Validators' weekend in Congleton the other week was our CHRISTMAS SINGLE. As longterm chums will know we try to add a song onto our Christmas Selection Box album every year, and this time around I have been planning ahead. Indeed, on Boxing Day 2014 I wrote myself a NOTE to write the song on June 19th (my BIRFDAY) to make sure I didn't forget. With this in mind I mentioned it at our Band Meeting, in the hope of getting some IDEAS in advance.

    And LO! an idea did come, from Mr F A Machine. He launched into an anecdote about Roy Wood sitting at the bar of the Blue Note in Derby and how, every night, someone would get drunk and go up to him and ask "Hey Roy! Do you wish it was Christmas today?" As soon as the story began i THRUST my phone into Frankie's face and demanded he DICTATE it into the recording App. Here was the song!

    As stated, I was scheduled to sit down and write the song on the 19th but the TUNE appeared unto me a day early, on the 18th, and I spent a very pleasant few hours going about my business, humming it and working out the words. I knew exactly how it would be structured and how it would end, and it was HUGELY enjoyable working my way through it. I've written various bits and bobs of songs lately but it felt like AGES since I sat down and wrote a "proper" one, it was GRATE!

    The song is now DONE and a demo has been taped and sent Vlads-wards, but I fear you will have to wait a few months to hear it. Hopefully it'll be worth the wait!

    posted 22/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Free Dinosaurs
    I sometimes think that maybe I'm NOT the world's greatest social media optimisation expert. The other day The Pics At My Flicks and I were talking about going to the cinema to see a FLIM, and I was suggesting we could go to see "Jurassic World". We watched a trailer for it and she said "You know, this could be a good way to give Dinosaur Planet a plug!"

    I was immediately struck by what a GRATE idea this was - of course! A modern day story of Dinosaurs rampaging about? It's a perfect fit! I mean, obviously S Spielberg and Star-Lord don't have giant robots and ROCK SONGS, but still, they can only do so much. "I could make the album Pay What You Want for a week!" I said! "Excellent," my other half replied. "So when does the film come out?"

    Ah. It is, of course, already out and breaking Opening Weekend records. If only I'd thought of this a WEEK ago I could have said it was to celebrate the RELEASE of the film and it would have been a brilliant bit of cross-platform promotion.

    Still, it's a nice thought and if it means some other people hear the album then it's ALL GOOD and SO: I am pleased to announce the unleashment of the Pay What You Like version of th album on BANDCAMP!.

    It'll be that way for another week or so, so if you've not got the album yet this is your Ideal Opportunity and if you HAVE, well, why not tell somebody else? Thanks!

    posted 19/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Laundry In Kroatia
    A couple of weeks ago I got an email from Ms Angelika Schwarz asking if she could use one of my songs in a VIDEO. She writes a travel blog and had lots of pictures of LAUNDRY in Kroatia, and wondered if she could use Another Man's Laundry Hanging On Your Line as background music.

    Clearly this had come about through a bit of GOOGLING and I did at first wonder if this might be a very weird bit of SPAMMING - the day will surely come when Artificial Intelligence can pinpoint human vanity so PRECISELY that we will be unable to resist their calls (SIDEBAR: when the inevitable rise of the machines finally happens it will be caused not by military-industrial complexes but by people trying to sell you viagra) - but after having a look at her site it all looked perfectly delightful, so I said "But of course!"

    A few days ago I received another email from her, with the rather lovely results contained below:

    Nice isn't it? I do worry a bit about The B Word appearing in the lyrics (I certainly wouldn't do that if I was writing the song nowadays) but that's Young Me's fault more than anything else. Apart from that I think it's lovely, and the blog that goes with it is rather MEDITATIVE... especially when you don't listen to me BELLOWING about washing lines over the top of it!

    posted 18/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Going Up The Country
    Saturday lunchtime found me at Leicester station, where I was to met Mr T "The Tiger" McClure, hop in THE TIGERMOBILE, and travel North to Congleton, where we would be joining the rest of The Validators for the Going Up The Country Festival.

    All went to plan and we even got there without getting lost, thanks mostly to Christina sitting in the front and saying things like "I think that says 'right' Tom, not 'carry straight on'." She was much better than Tom's usual gig navigator, who was otherwise engaged in the back seat swapping texts with Mr T Pattison (working out that he and Mrs E Pattison were about 5 minutes behind us on the A50) and Mr FA Machine (who reckoned that a SPOOKY GHOST had switched off his TV while he was in the shower - oooo!)

    We got to the hotel and found the aforesaid Frankie sat in the bar and the also aforesaid Pattisons coming in just after us. Five minutes later, me, Tom, Christina and Frankie were sat in the bar not having a drink. When I asked why not I was told that we were waiting for Tim and Emma to come back so we could go to the nice looking brew bar over the way. "Why don't we go now and text them to tell them where we are?" "THIS is why you are our LEADER!" said Frankie, correctly: going to the pub sooner rather than later is the key skill in ALL great leaders throughout history.

    Tim and Emma joined us over the road shortly after and we had a LOVELY hour or so swapping stories and LARFING, as well as having Nice Beer (it was The Barley Hop, it was good!). Tim told tales of his recent experiences as de facto manager of Prolapse, which we all enjoyed with a lot of "WOT?" and "You were right!" It was such fun that we had to DRAG ourselves out to get to our next port of call: the festival!

    We got to The Church House Inn (i.e. the venue) to find all SORTS going on. After parking near some friendly caravanners we strode round to find a BRILLIANT small stage with a large open-sided tent opposite so that everyone could still watch the bands if it rained. There were more small tents with stalls inside, so it really felt like a proper actual festival. We wandered into the pub saying hello to the many many friendly faces we found within. This, I thought,is going to be LOVELY!

    Spoilers: it totally was.

    After an hour or so it felt like time for tea, so we combined this with a BAND MEETING. Action Points to be taken away were: a) we're going to try and finish recording the album before I go to Edinburgh b) we're probably ALL going to be doing the mixing this time c) we'll do a VIDEO single in November and d) hopefully have the whole album out early 2016. It was a GOOD meeting!

    We went back to BEERZ and enjoyed the other bands IMMENSELY, most of whom seemed to be filled with CHUMS, and soon it was our turn to hit the stage. Here's what we did:
  • Billy Jones Is Dead
  • Can We Be Friends?
  • That Guy
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Easily Impressed

  • This was the democratically selected setlist that I was on about the other day, and it worked out really well! It was the full-band LIVE DEBUT of Can We Be Friends? and That Guy, both of which seemed to go down well, even though it was also the first time that all five of us had ever even PLAYED Can We Be Friends? together! To our great delight the new songs appeared to go down just as well as the old ones, and those went down GOOD. It was a lovely audience and a GRATE sound - the chap doing it was BRILLIANT and it makes a HUGE difference for us when you can hear all the words! We had a totally ACE time, and as we came off ALL said "We really should do more gigs!"

    It's funny - I used to prefer doing solo gigs, as band gigs tended to be too Crash Bang Wallop with the words going missing and us flailing about in a racket, but lately I've come to think that the band set-up is the BEST way to hear these songs. Maybe it's because we've had quite a lot of good soundmen over the past couple of years but for me, standing up with my CHUMS, sounding GOOD and trying to make them LARF is the best fun ever!

    We spent the next couple of hours BOOZING and then DARNCING and also arguing about RECORDS, it was BRILLO. Emma had booked us 2 taxis for a quarter past midnight, so we hugged as many people as we could and went out to wait. The first arrived bang on time, but the other was nowhere to be seen. It wasn't far to go so the original chap came back for the second half of us - the mystery of what happened to the second taxi was solved just after noon next day, when the Pattisons received a text at 12:15pm to say it had just arrived to pick us up!

    Next morning it was a slightly quieter Validators who met for breakfast. It was an EXCELLENT, PLENTIFUL breakfast, just what we needed after our ROCK night. As we checked out the owner of the hotel (it was The Lion And Swan) regaled us with tales of its HAUNTING, then we gave the receptionist, also his daughter, a copy of WE VALIDATE! (she'd asked if we were all the same band, we didn't force it on her!). "I'll have a listen then I'll know the songs for when you come next time" she said, and I thought, "Next time? That would be GRATE!" for LO! it would be - we had a lovely lovely time, thanks for having us Kevin And Linda Who Organised It, it was FAB!

    posted 17/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Hey Hey 16 June
    Today we are delighted to UNLEASH upon an unsuspecting world the excitingly modern VIDEO TRAILER for Hey Hey 16K, THUS:

    I think I speak for both Steve and myself when I say that I hope you find it both informative and INTRIGUING. As I said the other day, we'd set out to make the video because I'd had 2 (two) emails asking for such a thing, but now I'm thinking of sending it round other places, for LO! festival season is very nearly upon us. We're playing at the (deep breath) Reading, Buxton, Balham, Croydon and Camden Fringes and also of course Edinburgh - it was very much a conscious decision to do it like that this time around, rather than doing individual gigs, as a) hopefully random people will come and see us and b) if we DO do a proper tour we can do it after Edinburgh when (theoretically) we've learn it properly!

    That's the current plan - open to change of course if we transfer to Broadway, so if you CAN catch us at one of those there festivals it's probably safest if you DO!

    posted 16/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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