Tag Archives: London

So Long Astoria

I read an article in the paper the other day about the fate of the site that once housed London’s Astoria music venue. Read the article for yourself here (yeah I read the Financial Times. I’m still punk though).

The Charing Cross Astoria theatre in London’s West-End housed the Astoria and Mean Fiddler music venues, which formed a large part of my youth. The building was demolished in 2009 for the building of Crossrail, the new underground railway.

Here’s a picture!

Because if this, the article brought back many happy memories, and of course, tugged at the heartstrings.

Growing up in one of the capital’s many suburbs, the Astoria was just 35 minutes on the tube from my parents house. This meant that I was lucky enough to see many great bands there.

This led to a well practiced gig routine that my friends and I developed: School, tube, change out of uniform on the tube, McDonalds in the queue, go in, mosh, go home sweaty.

One such time I was when I saw Hot Hot Heat with a few friends. Whilst the headliners were cool, we were all blown away by the support, a completely unknown band called Franz Ferdinand. We met the leader singer outside the venue afterwards, who signed my tube travel card. A month later the band had exploded into the mainstream.

Another time I saw the All American Rejects, who, let’s be honest, are not a great band. I went purely in pursuit of trying to win my ex girlfriend back. I’ll point out now that I was 15 years old at the time.

Needless to say, my romantic endeavours were not successful. My frustrations boiled to the surface when the lead singer staged dived into the crowd directly in front of me. I then did what all other romantically challenged teenage boys would do. I wrestled the singer for his microphone. I’m still proud of the fact that I made him miss several lines during their hit song “Swing Swing”.

Of course there can only be one song fitting for such a trip down memory lane. That is of course, So Long Astoria by The Ataris. I saw the Ataris at the Astoria Theatre, and actually got with girl who I was pursuing at the All American Rejects gig. We dated for a few months until she broke my heart, as you do when your fifteen. I still can’t listen to this song because it reminds of that time. Happy days!




Filed under Gigs

Cool Guitars – A retrospective

I’ve just read an interesting post on musical instrument stereotyping, by Canadian Bassist and blogger Adam McKay-Allen Jarvis. Check it out here!

In his post Adam talks about guitars that are cool, and in vogue. This got my thinking about my choice of instrument (guitar) and reminiscing over my choice of guitar (Mexican Fender Stratocaster in a wine red colour).

I was inspired to play the guitar because when I was fourteen I wanted to emulate the bands I saw on television (in particular The Offspring and Sum 41). I chose guitar because I knew my parents would never let me have a drum kit in the house, and at the time I didn’t know what a bass guitar was.

In retrospect I often wish I had taken up bass. Because there are so few bassists around it may have been easier to slot into bands, and maybe any tuition I had would have focused more on timing rather than chords.

But I asked for a guitar for Christmas and that’s what I got.

My current guitars I obtained around this time. My first was a cheap Encore acoustic which my parents bought me for Christmas. I hated it! It was heavy, slow, painful to play and moreover, boring. The thing is now that I’m ten years older, I love this guitar! For a cheap first guitar the tone is brilliant and has really become my main guitar.

Because I hated the acoustic so much, I saved up for an electric. I was 17 and had a weekend job washing dishes in a local restaurant. Anyone who has worked in catering will know how difficult it is. It’s hot, hard work, you stand on your feet for the entire shift, you rarely get breaks (let alone food) and the working hours are quite unsociable.

I worked all summer saving for a guitar. When I reached the three hundred pounds mark in my bank account I quit, and headed up to London’s West End after school one evening with a friend.

My intention was to buy a Gibson or Epiphone SG (you know, like Angus Young from AC/DC). This was because I was really into metal and hardcore at the time and just wanted to fit into the demographic.

In and out of each of Denmark Street’s shops we went, trying them all out. To my disappointment I found that I didn’t like Gibsons! The fretboard was flat, and the body unbalanced.

Thankfully, we ended up in a second hand shop, where I asked to play a Fender Stratocaster. I knew from the moment that I slipped it into my lap and strummed an E Major chord that this was the one for me! The body was perfectly balanced, solid but not heavy. And the fretboard! Rounded. Perfectly rounded. It fit my hand perfectly. I told my at-the-time girlfriend that it compared to holding her hand (she was quite flattered by this compliment). I haggled the price (twenty five pound discount!), and walked away very happy.

I still love my Strat. Her colour may not be punk, or even rock and roll, but I like that even more. I don’t fit in with everyone else on stage, it makes me stand out. I love the strat’s versatility, I can play virtually any form of music with her.

Despite the fact that I can afford a much more expensive guitar now, I have absolutely no intention of replacing the Stratocaster. Maybe this goes to show, when looking to buy any kind of instrument, don’t think for the short term and try lots, try them all.


Filed under Band, Gear