Wanderlust: Iceland

It’s Wanderlust Wednesday again and today I want to talk about Iceland.  Iceland is one of my dream destinations, with its dramatic volcanoes, waterfalls, amazing winter landscape and, of course, if you go at the right time of the year, the Aurora Borealis.

Here’s some pictures that really capture why Iceland floats my boat:

iceland volcano iceland hot baths iceland wanderlust1 iceland waterfall1

What would I do when I went to Iceland?

Well, you can’t always count on seeing the Aurora Borealis – some of my rellies were there for 2 weeks and never saw it at all, at the specific time of year when it should have been at its best.  For that reason, I wouldn’t go to Iceland just for that, and I wouldn’t depend on seeing the Northern Lights as a make-or-break the trip kinda thing.

First, I’d want to see the blue lagoon, a geothermal lake that’s also a pretty nifty spa resort.  Can you imagine traveling through miles of icy glaciers, then getting into a swimming costume and swimming outdoors in hot spa temperature water, surrounded by ice.  Access to the Blue Lagoon is limited by tickets, and ticket prices start at E35.  More information at http://www.bluelagoon.com/

Then, if that hadn’t blown me away (and doing these in order matters, otherwise I would never appreciate the Blue Lagoon in all its glory), I’d take a trip across to Askja.  Here’s a picture:

askja volcano lake

You can climb it.  Not only that, but once you’ve climbed inside this amazing volcanic crater, you can totally swim in that.

But if you do it first then Blue Lagoon will be a teensy bit anticlimactic.  More info on Askja.

I’d probably be fairly tired of swimming after all that (I’m not a great swimmer to start with and I’m terrified of specifically shaped swimming pools – don’t ask me why, it only makes sense to me.  Needless to say that when I was in Sindelfingen I was clinging to the side like a limpet nearly in tears).  So I’d go do some museuming after that lot, with a visit to the Culture House in Rejkjavik, where you can find The Sagas of Icelanders manuscripts alongside modern Icelandic art.  Guided tours in English are at 2pm!  Find out about opening hours and ticket prices here (it’s in Icelandic Krona so you may need a currency converter).  Other Icelandic museums worth visiting in Rejkjavik include The National Museum of Iceland (Thjodminjasafn) which covers a lot more of Iceland’s thousand-year past.  If you’re anything like me and love a good romp around the geological and non-human aspects of a place, The Natural History Museum of Iceland might be for you.  I would certainly love to go there, as its British equivalent is one of my favourite places to go in London.

After all that indoor stuff, I’d probably want to get out again, this time I’d go for some of the world-class waterfalls, a handy top 10 list of these can be found here (with stunning photographs).

To round up my visit, (if I had enough money to spare – it costs 39,000 Icelandic Krona which I just converted, is about £202 British Pounds), I’d want to top my visit off with a trip into the heart of a dormant volcano with the “Inside the Volcano” tour (it’s one of those guess the hidden meaning names, amirite??).  There’s a video and full tourist details here.  It’s not for the faint hearted/people with a fear of depths (heights?)/claustrophobic though so it’s probably not for everyone, but for me it would be a truly stunning experience to round off the rest of the trip.

That’s my take on what I’d do in Iceland if I ever get there:  What would you most like to do in Iceland?  Have you been?

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Mysteries and Histories of Newgrange, Ireland

I slept like a log last night.  Do logs actually sleep?  How do logs sleep?  Like me?

This is Newgrange, a Neolithic site in Ireland that was on my 30 list, which I visited in June when I went to Dublin to see The Who (I recently re-read that article and I’m glad I waited to write this one because I wasn’t making a lot of sense back then).

All the photos from Newgrange came out very, very brightly, because the light was doing something strange here.
All the photos from Newgrange came out very, very brightly, because the light was doing something strange here.

Archaeology:

Newgrange was constructed around 3,200BCE (it’s 5,000 years old; BCE means ‘before common era’).  It’s a chambered passage tomb in Neath, Ireland, about 40 minutes drive up the road from Dublin Airport.  It is ringed by kerbstones, most of which are carved.  The site was previously filled to the top with soil and remains (I have no idea what they were remains of), but in an act of Archaeological Stupidity, it was cleared out in the Victorian era (Ireland did also call the time period this because they were under British occupation at the time) so we don’t have as much evidence as we would like, so archaeologists can’t really say what was going on except that it was a chambered passage tomb.  Which I said already.

It’s mostly risen to significance in the last hundred years because of an interesting phenomenon:  For a couple of days before and after the winter solstice (December 21, midwinter), every year, when the sun rises, it shines in through a hole above the doorway and shines on the floor of the tomb, making it a clever way to mark the passage of time because it marks an annual event.  You can get entered into the lottery that they draw to get a ticket to see it in December but you’d have to make your own way there and you’d have to go alone because the lottery is per ticket.  I went alone but I’m not sure I felt like repeating the trip in the middle of winter and I have to wonder how many people win a ticket then don’t show up for whatever reason, causing other people (who would have turned up) to miss out.

Why does it only do it on Solstice?  Because the Earth is tilted, and it’s orbit around the sun is slightly elliptical, so the sun appears to move position in the sky to different heights (in its second dimension, it rises and sets on one plane and lifts and falls on another; see the diagram below) at different times of year.  In Ireland, in winter, it’s at its lowest during the winter solstice, so the rest of the year, it’s too high in the sky to shine through the hole above the entrance to Newgrange.  In summer, it’s got further to travel than in winter, so the days are longer (actually, we’re the ones travelling, but it’s easier to think of it this way if you’re stuck).

I just drew this to show how the sun appears to move across the sky at different heights at different times of year.
I just drew this to show how the sun appears to move across the sky at different heights at different times of year.

Why go to all the trouble to build something so big just to mark the passage of time?  Well there’s a few reasons (if we’re assuming this was its only purpose which is doubtful due to the human remains that have been found inside), but it’s mostly to do with the fact that during the Neolithic (when Newgrange was built) most of the world had transitioned to agriculture – in fact, these days, we define “Neolithic” as happening at different times around the world depending on when the onset of agriculture was, nothing at all to do with stone tools or fire or whatever.  The Neolithic fits into our current “age system” for prehistory (was the “three age system,” but sort of expanded now) like so:

Palaeolithic – Was “Upper Stone Age” (really long time ago, all of human prehistory until 10,000 years ago)
Mesolithic – Wasn’t a thing, now defined as between 10,000 years ago and the onset of agriculture.  The time of the “hunter-gatherers”
Neolithic – Onset of agriculture.
Iron Age – Discovery of and use of iron.
Bronze Age – Discovery of and use of bronze (an alloyed metal)
Historical – documentary evidence of events in the past.

These “ages” are debatable and the time we reached them differs around the world and particularly how they are defined differs around the world as different cultures view different events as being pivotal moments in their past development.  It is fairly likely that Newgrange, then, was built without the use of iron and was built by people who were living in an agri-culture.  Because this is really all we know about them, it has been put forward and agreed upon by many archaeologists that Newgrange’s function as a big calendar probably has something to do with needing to keep track of the time of year for purposes such as planting crops.  This, of course, would depend on what sort of agriculture was taking place because there is always a bit of an assumption that agriculture has always looked the same since it was first brought to the West, but we don’t actually know that to be true (and are gaining evidence that this is not the case – a topic for further discussion at some point perhaps).  Evidence for agricultural practices has pre-historically been difficult to find although advances in bioarchaeology might move us forward with this if people start seeing farmed land as legitimate archaeological sites instead of just looking for settlements.  Anyway…

I’m not using “absolute” words because you can’t point to anything in the past and say it’s a fact or an absolute truth, because it’s all down to whether we’ve made the correct interpretations of the evidence or not, and while scientific methods can reduce the margin of error, they can never fully eliminate it so most of the time we can’t construct those elaborate “histories” or narratives of the past that people like to hear with any great amount of accuracy.  Which sort of defeats the original point of archaeology if we’re to believe it was ever really about finding narratives of the people from the past in the first place (which I don’t believe, I believe that came later).

Enough Archaeology!  Show Me The Photos:

On the approach. The darker stones to the left are original, the whitest ones are part of a reconstruction.
On the approach. The darker stones to the left are original, the whitest ones are part of a reconstruction.
The entrance to the actual tomb, from almost straight-on (at a slight angle so you can see some contrast in the pic because the sun shines directly on it).
The entrance to the actual tomb, from almost straight-on (at a slight angle so you can see some contrast in the pic because the sun shines directly on it).
The opening through which the sun shines around the December solstice.
The opening through which the sun shines around the December solstice.
The corridor leading to the chamber in the heart of the tomb (photography not allowed inside).
The corridor leading to the chamber in the heart of the tomb (photography not allowed inside).
Another interesting structure nearby.
Another interesting structure nearby.
The site is still disappearing into the landscape and becoming one with its environment, making it hard to get a good picture from a distance.
The site is still disappearing into the landscape and becoming one with its environment, making it hard to get a good picture from a distance.
Many of the rocks were carved in the Neolithic, into intricate patterns that many call "Celtic."
Many of the big rocks (kerbstones) were carved in the Neolithic, into intricate patterns that many call “Celtic.”  These carvings would probably have been done with flint (a type of stone) tools because there were no iron tools yet.
Rock art in one of the rocks forming the outer back wall.
Rock art in one of the rocks forming the outer back wall.
A side view of Newgrange.
A side view of Newgrange.
A tumbledown farmhouse near the site. I thought it was particularly beautiful.
A tumbledown farmhouse near the site. I thought it was particularly beautiful.
A closer picture of the old and reconstructed stones.
A closer picture of the old and reconstructed stones.
A shot of Newgrange taken from the Visitor centre.
A shot of Newgrange taken from the Visitor centre.

The Tour:

It was remarkably short but still enjoyable.  For the fact I’d waited so long in line and on the bus and for the tour to start, I thought there could have been a lot more made of the age, construction, and archaeological finds (by contrast, the tour at Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh is fantastic, if you want an out of the way and mysterious site to visit with a damn good tour, go there).  Most of the information I gave you in “archaeology” was stuff I had researched as part of my archaeology final year dissertation (and never used, because I decided to stick with British Neolithic sites).  There were also too many people visiting for the size inside the tomb, and the guide told the taller people to get to the back (which is fair on the shorter people, and usually I’m all for this, but when the taller people are then unable to see much, it’s just a bit unfair).  It was stunning inside, but there was no photography.  More annoying still, there were no photos of the inside of the tomb available to buy in the gift shop, all the pictures focussed on the light on the floor or this one specific rock with carvings in it.  For you, dear readers, I did sketch while I was in there.  Forgive my crude drawings; I got a D in GCSE Art and when I did my degree, I only did archaeological drawing for 2 days then I dropped it because it was the stupidest course I ever went on, and everything we learned there had no real use in a situation like this (y’know, an actual archaeological site).

This was done inside the main chamber. The roof (bottom right) was from standing in the middle of the central atrium (see pencil arrow) and looking straight upwards.
This was done inside the main chamber. The roof (bottom right) was from standing in the middle of the central atrium (see pencil arrow) and looking straight upwards.  The zigzags and swirls were copied from some of the stones in the three chambers.

Given the way that the sun was behaving, and the fact that I went two days after the Summer Solstice (midsummer’s day) I would like to put forward, based on the evidence of my own eyes, an additional theory about Newgrange:  That it wasn’t originally just a winter calendar, but also a summer one – there’s a straight up and down arrangement of rocks (see my drawing) with a capstone which may not have been original, through which, I’m fairly sure the sun could have shone in from above if the capstone hadn’t been in the way.  So perhaps, since it was full of soil and overgrown when people found it back in the Victorian days, the whole thing was repurposed and filled in at a later date (when the capstone went on)?  I don’t have any hard evidence of this, just my drawings, but it seems entirely possible to me.

A major redeeming feature of the tour was that the guide was open in admitting  that we don’t really know much about Newgrange – there are all sorts of theories and ideas bouncing around in the academic and “fringe” circles, but at the end of the day what they’re all lacking is any kind of evidence.  Some people (not archaeologists, I hope,) make it their life’s work to concoct plausible stories for big sites, using the least amount of evidence (a grain of truth to support their lies, if you will), and the most amount of drama, fantasy and “inference” (in quotation marks because it’s not so much inference as ‘making it up to get on the History Channel’), and sadly these versions of things run around the world before we can research, get evidence, assess context and investigator biases, consider reductionism, and all the other things that need to be done to support an idea about the past.  I’ve been to a few “historical sites” and found the guides to be reiterating as “facts” some complete gobbledegook that has no basis in evidence at all.  I found it very refreshing that what little the guide did tell us was all clearly stated as interpretation and she did tell us what those interpretations were based on (and why we don’t know more) and I think there’s a middle ground between “we just don’t know” and “a wizard did it.”

Accessibility:

There is no disabled access to the actual Neolithic tomb of Newgrange itself.  This picture is taken at the entrance, this is as far as you can get if you’re not pedwardly mobile:

There is no disabled access to the tomb of Newgrange.
There is no disabled access to the tomb of Newgrange.

Tickets must be bought at the Visitor Centre not at the site, and there is a walk and a bus ride between the Visitor Centre and the site.

Newgrange 3

You must get there early.  I got there before 9:00am and went on the first  tour of the day, and this was the queue already for tickets when I arrived:

This was before 9:00am and there was about 30 people inside the building who I had to wait behind before I got to the ticket desk.
This was before 9:00am and there was about 30 people inside the building who I had to wait behind before I got to the ticket desk.

Buying tickets:

When I visited, the combined ticket was the same price as the separate tickets for Newgrange and Knowth, so you may as well go to Newgrange first (because that sells out) then decide whether that’s enough chambered passage tombs for you or not (I decided it was enough for me but then I’d been up for 2 days and that always kills my attention span).  Ticket for Newgrange cost 6 Euros.  Check opening times and do some Googling before you go so you don’t miss out on the significance of this site.

My Official Bands Bucket List

So I keep referring to my bands bucket list when I write about things I’ve been up to.  Today I wanted to go back and explain what it is.

You are probably aware that a bucket list is usually something written by people of all ages to ensure that they get to do all the things they’ve dreamed of doing in life – all the things they want to do before they “kick the bucket,” to coin a term.

In my case, that would be my ever-dwindling 30-list and my currently being written 40-list, which are the things I want to do before I reach age 30 and age 40, respectively.  It would probably not surprise you, then, to know that, when I was eighteen, I started this whole thing by writing a 20-list, a set of things I wanted to do before I turned 20.

The Bands Bucket List is very separate.  My age-lists are really more a set of things I feel would be achievements, accomplishments, or that I have some control over.  Things you can get with work and dedication.  They are lists of things that are within my power to make happen, however unique the circumstances would need to be for the achievement to be made.

The reason I don’t include bands on my 30-list and 40-list is because anyone can buy a ticket and travel to a gig.  Yes, some bands only tour in their homeland of Japan or The Faroe Islands, but by and large, live music is a capitalist, class dependent commodity (ooh er) that anyone with time and money can engage in.  For that reason I don’t think it’s an achievement to see The Who or Lynyrd Skynyrd, in the same sense that it would be an achievement to climb a mountain or get a master’s degree.  It would certainly be an achievement to play in a band, an honour that I have never been privy to (flutes tend to get stuck with orchestras rather than popular music bands, and ukuleles are the sonorous pariah unwanted in most ensembles), but seeing a band?  I am responsible for quality control of my lists and I decided it would cheapen the accomplishment of a PhD or climbing Everest to liken them with going to Download Festival (sorry, Download, it’s not that I don’t think your wonderful, but you are very easy).

I did need to keep track of a large set of data though, to make it possible to organize, and as I was spending more and more time on the internet typing different band names into Google, I thought I needed a spreadsheet.  I do love a good spreadsheet.

So I wrote them all down in alphabetical order, every band I could think of who, if their members died in a plane crash and they ceased to exist, I would feel like I’d missed out if I had neglected to attend them.  I know I won’t see all of them, but I wanted to make a concerted effort to see as many as I could while I could.

The list doesn’t distinguish between bands who have been apart for 30 years and those who are still coherent, it does separate out individual artists who are known to currently have a solo career and also link them to the band they used to be in (so, for example, the entry for David Gilmour states “Dave Gilmour/Pink Floyd” and Roger Waters’ entry is “Roger Waters/Pink Floyd”) ensuring that the musical genius that spawned the bands are placed to be seen even when they can’t be in the same room as one another.  Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are another example, where their entries are “Jimmy Page/Led Zeppelin” and “Robert Plant/Led Zeppelin” respectively.  Either entry can be ticked off once the required people have been seen, so if I’d seen Jimmy Page, it would then be at my discretion whether I decided the performance was sufficient to tick off Led Zeppelin, or whether I also wanted to see Robert Plant first.  I have ticked Guns n Roses off because I’ve seen Slash, and his performance with Myles Kennedy would be sufficient to tick off Guns n Roses (although GnR weren’t on my list) even though I haven’t seen Axl Rose and the band he’s put together when he kept the name Guns N Roses.

This list, and the ticking off part especially, has raised two very interesting dilemmas facing the modern music fan of older bands:  To what extent does the name of the band matter if none of the original members survive, and what actually counts as having seen a band?

The naming question is difficult.  So for example, there’s only one founder member of Lynyrd Skynyrd left in the band, but when I went to see them you could tell straight away that it didn’t matter.  Trying to define a band as who they were when they first signed on the dotted line of that fateful first record deal in the 1960s is a constrained and counterproductive way of going about things.  Take Pink Floyd again – guitarist Dave Gilmour wasn’t even in the original line-up, but for many people, he IS Pink Floyd, moreso than any other member.  Likewise, I need to be cautious about letting too many things be defined as the correct band.  It gets to a point where the only member of a band worth seeing is the drummer, and unless it’s Ringo Starr or Keith Moon, you might as well go and see a tribute band and tick off the real thing.  It’s false.  So somewhere between these two polarized opinions lies the way forward.

With The Who it was easy – the lead singer/guitarist and the lead guitarist are both still knocking around, the drummer is Ringo Starr’s son, and the bassist is an excellent session musician.  Hearing them play, you can tell they’re the real deal not some tribute band which have learned their songs meticulously to the letter and never deviate from the script.  They had the spark of Who-ness that made them Who-lesome.  I make no apologies for the wordplay.  Not all wordplay is a pun.

With Guns N Roses it would have been harder, since Axl kept the band name but is the only remaining member.  Seeing Slash play was such a jaw-droppingly stirring experience that I decided there was no way any replacement guitarist could ever possibly outdo him, unless Axl had hired Hendrix or Jimmy Page (which he hasn’t, which is a good job because Hendrix is dead and in either case, they’d want to play like themselves so you’d not get the same result).  It’s all a matter of style and substance.  Tribute bands and lesser replacement musicians can copy the style but have no substance.  Replacement musicians who are greater than the original will have substance but a differing style.  It takes a rare genius to walk the line between these two and still come out on top.  So I ticked off Guns N Roses.

The second dilemma is also one that I could spend years obsessing over if I wanted to:  How much of a band counts as “having seen” a band.  Here are my criteria:

1. It has to be live.

2. I had to be close enough to see and hear the band, not just watch the video screen, because that defeats the point.

3. I have to have heard the actual band play at least one full song.

4. Televised appearances are lovely, but there is so much loss of quality and atmosphere that they can’t possibly count, and the same goes for Youtube and other ways of seeing them.  For example, I watched the Pink Floyd Live 8 performance live on the BBC as it happened less than 20 miles from where I was sat (2 days after my mother had tried to kill me resulting in my being removed and never returning home, and 5 days before the 7/7 bombings), but it doesn’t count as having seen them, even though it had a profound and evelasting impact on the course of my life after that moment and probably stopped me killing myself.  That bit where they played “Wish You Were Here” and dedicated it to Syd had me in tears.

5. It doesn’t matter what they play:  If I wanted to hear a specific song I could buy and listen to the proper recording studio version.  That’s not what I’m looking for in my quest to see these bands.

Then there’s the single criterion for removal from the list:  If there are no living members of a band or if a solo artist dies, they are taken off the list.  Here is the list so far, there are currently 60 entries, and things are always being added:

Click to enlarge, again to zoom.
Click to enlarge, again to zoom.

For planning purposes, only the bands in white/orange matter:  The ones in pale grey are supposed to be ones who are just not touring at all, so they’re discounted from planning purposes (but breakups/reunions etc are so fickle that I don’t exclude reunion tours until the last member has kicked the bucket).  The ones in dark grey are ones I’ve now seen.  The ones in lime green are currently not attainable due to either dates, cost, or some other factor of sheer preposterous awkwardness that makes them unachievable such as announcing on the day of sale, selling out in 10 minutes and placing ridiculous resale criteria on the tickets, that only means that WHEN the tickets are resold, they’re triple the price they would have been so the resellers make even more money.  The ones in lime green are generally ones I’ve written off for this year.

So that’s my bands bucket list.  What do you think?  Who would be on yours?

Psychedelic Ghost Photos as The Who Turns 50 In Dublin; Trivia and Ryanair

Longtime readers will have realized I never ever miss a Travel Tuesday post.  Yesterday, I decided that rather than pre-scheduling, I wanted to talk about the trip I was actually going to be on when I was due to post (if you see what I mean).  At 3am yesterday morning, I got back out of bed to go to Dublin to see The Who.  I just got back at 11am when I started writing this post (yeah I got interrupted by something VERY important to do with our house’s roof).  Tired now.  I packed some other stuff into my 24 hours in Dublin, I’ll do a separate article each on Dublin and Newgrange in future posts.

Anyway, I digressed, so I’ve cut my digression into a separate article, and I haven’t had much sleep due to sleeping last night for about an hour, all on the cold stone floor of an airport, so I will keep rambling I’m afraid.

The Who concert didn’t start well for me:  When you’ve flown abroad and spent time hiring a car, the absolute last thing you want to hear is “your tickets been declined” at three different doors.  I did eventually get in to find out I was seated next to the lighting rig.  In case you’re wondering, that’s a terrible place to sit because the sound quality is as shit as a tyrannosaurus with dysentery.

It’s a shame because I was actually closer to the front (at the back of this venue) than I was to Marilyn Manson 2 weeks ago at Download, and I could see and hear a lot better at Download because they’ve got sound engineers who know how sound waves travel, and know they need to angle the goddamn speakers to point at the crowd, not aim it all at somewhere in the middle.  The high notes were painfully shrill and the bass was non-existent.  I fashioned myself some earplugs out of toilet paper so I could overcome the distortion as best as possible in order to actually enjoy the gig.

This is another of the best photos I've ever taken.  Every single aspect of this photo is bizzarre, but the eeriest thing is the aura round the man in the hat at the back.
This is another of the weirdest photos I’ve ever taken. Every single aspect of this photo is bizzarre, but the eeriest thing is the aura round the man in the hat at the back.  I promise that’s The Who!!
That's Pete Townshend in the middle of the most trippy photo I've ever taken in my life.
That’s Pete Townshend in the middle of the most trippy photo I’ve ever taken in my life.  It’s like the camera’s picked up on the sound waves and made them visible or something.  So surreal.
Another psychedelic phenomenon photo from The Who concert in Dublin last night.  The music seems to be visible here as well.  It's so odd!
Another psychedelic phenomenon photo from The Who concert in Dublin last night. The music seems to be visible here as well. It’s so odd!  It’s like there’s a giant hand at the top pulling strings of the players.

The Trivia:

At the beginning there was a slideshow of The Who pictures and trivia.  I wrote some of the more interesting things down to share with you, because I can’t not take notes when someone puts words on a PowerPoint and plays it to me:

Apparently the proper name for their “target” motif is a “roundel” which is symbolic of Mod culture (I knew I didn’t like it for some reason, presumably because I inherited a dislike of scooters *cough*hairdryers*cough* in favour of real motorbikes – but then, I always thought the mod vs rocker thing was a bit of a non starter because they all dropped off the face of the earth when the hippie movement turned up and I think it was probably a lot of the same people wearing a different badge – psychedelia instead of “mod” or “rocker” but no-one seems to really know).

Zak Starkey, drummer for The Who, replaced Keith Moon.
Zak Starkey, drummer for The Who, replaced Keith Moon.  I thought this was a normal photo but I’ve just seen the ghost behind the drummer (look at the hairline, it’s clearly Keith Moon)… wtf was going on at this concert??  I don’t touch my photos except to make them smaller, and I have the originals if anyone wants to verify this.

The drummer who’s been touring with The Who since 1996 is Ringo Starr’s son – Zak Starkey.  Having seen him in action I can say he is an excellent drummer.  There’s something that separates a good drummer from an outstanding drummer, and whatever it is, Zak Starkey has got it.  I guess when your “Uncle Keith” (Keith Moon) buys you your first drum kit, you’re going to probably be inspired to become a great drummer.  He has more than earned his unofficial membership as an honorary member of The Who.  What’s bizarre is the photo above shows a figure with black hair and white face standing behind him, and I just looked for a picture of Keith Moon and he looked like this on Wikipedia:

Keith Moon in 1975, from Wikipedia, see the hair parting and compare to the figure behind the drummer in my photo above.  I don't even have software on my computer that could do this, I wouldn't know how, and I don't even retouch my photos for color!  I am really freaked out by this now and am going to dig the "blurry" deleted pics from the recycle bin.
Keith Moon in 1975, from Wikipedia, see the hair parting and compare to the figure behind the drummer in my photo above. I don’t even have software on my computer that could do this, I wouldn’t know how, and I don’t even retouch my photos for color! I am really freaked out by this now and am going to dig the “blurry” deleted pics from the recycle bin.

I don’t know who replaced Moon from 1978 (when he died) to 1996, but John Entwhistle was replaced straight away when he died in 2002 by Pino Palladino.  I found out by experience that he can pull out a canny bass solo when he feels like it.

I often feel like replacement members in a band as legendary as The Who have to be twice as good as the originals they replace.  Taking Pink Floyd as a comparable example, Syd Barrett was replaced by Dave Gilmour, who is responsible for the characteristic sound of Pink Floyd as they were when they made it really really big.  In fact, Gilmour was so good that his membership overshadowed Syd’s, and tragically, Syd was not welcomed back when his manager tried to arrange a “surprise reunion” at the recording of Wish You Were Here.  Another example is Myles Kennedy, currently touring with Slash (of Guns N Roses) and I would say that their rendition of Anastasia (which gives me chills) must make Axl Rose green with envy that he missed out on being part of such a fantastic piece of music, not only that but Myles can cover all the old Guns N Roses stuff and you wouldn’t know it wasn’t Axl singing.  I was very impressed by that.  And I was very impressed last night in The Who Hits 50 in Dublin by Pino and Zak; certainly they are very, very good players and they are by no means a lesser substitute for John (E) or Keith.  You’re not getting second best, you’re getting first best from people whose life path brought them here from a different place.

Apparently Keith Moon used Premier Drums.  In 1967 they gave him a Pictures of Lily version (the famous Day Glow Victorian pictures of a similar style to the Monty Python’s Flying Circus animations).  Keith Moon used this drum kit for 2 years, calling it something like (and I’m sorry if this is slightly wrong, the slide disappeared as I was scribbling it) “Keith Moon Patent Exploding Drummer Kit.”

The Who in Focus live Dublin tour
Look behind the drummer’s head, you may need to look from an odd angle, I see it from when my eyes are higher than the laptop screen. That ghost again!

The guitar smashing was apparently inspired by one Malcolm Cecil, a teacher at Ealing Tech, who did a performance where he sawed through his cello, inspiring Pete Townshend to think about the deeper artistic statement of it (yeah folks were all doing a lot of weird stuff back then).  Pete smashed his guitars with the stated purpose of making an art statement about value and cost, as well as proving that there would be no encores after the guitar was wrecked.  Apparently, because it’s  become too commonplace and too many artists do it, he doesn’t smash guitars as a spectacle.  Since 2000, 4 guitars have been smashed total – one in 2000, two in 2002 and one in 2004, although these were apparently because he was displeased with the performance of the instrument and wanted “to prevent a bad guitar from returning.”

The Union Jack jacket was inspired by Pop Art (the art movement) and David Bowie was inspired to get one for his 1997 Earthlings album as a throwback to The Who (also that year, Geri Halliwell made headlines when she wore to the Brit Awards a Union Flag dress which was very very short, but this wasn’t mentioned in The Who Turns 50’s slideshow, presumably because it’s less cool to inspire the Spice Girls than to inspire David Bowie, who was after all a contemporary of The Who).

Apparently The Who played at Woodstock.  They didn’t like it because they had to leave the van miles away and one of them was carrying a tiny baby at the time.

The supporting band:

The supporting band were called The Last Internationale.  The lead singer had a powerful voice but she was shrill despite not being high pitched, which was a distinct disadvantage.  This was when I made earplugs because my ears were in pain and I guess it serves me right for going to a The Who concert with a migraine.

I wasn’t very impressed with them because they seemed to have no idea what to do with a crowd that big, and I think the best way they could have warmed the crowd up would be to leave. They failed to win me over, and I’m not sure that what they were playing classes as music, but they at least started to get my attention, from about their 3rd or 4th song, which was called something like “Wanted Now” and by their finale they were successfully demonstrating that it was possible to play and jump around at the same time, which seemed to be their party trick.  Apparently they’ve just released their first single in the US so you’ll probably hear about them s’more soon unless they bomb on the charts.  Not sure Wal-Mart will add them to the playlist though since they tend to avoid rock-y sounds, but you never know.

A very long wait during changeover while the stage is re-set:

I don’t want a sausage inna bun.

I don’t want a sausage inna bun.

I don’t want a sausage inna bun.

I should have had a second lunch before the show.

I don’t want a sausage inna bun.

Or a programme.

Yes, it will be a collector’s item in 20 years’ time but will the increase in value justify the space I’d need to keep it in my house just for that reason?  Nope.  Imagine if I did that with every potentially valuable item, I’d end up keeping millions of things just for the sake of selling them again at some point in the future.  It’s hoarding, and it’s the complete opposite of minimalism.

Maybe I should distract myself with a sausage inna bun?
NO! I don’t want a sausage inna bun!

The trouble is, the snacks available are either full of sugar (eg skittles) or they are hot dogs.  Which are also very bad for me as I cannot tolerate pork at all and I’d probably get more nutritional value from eating the programme than the sausage inna bun.

 

The Concert:

The Who In Almost Focus.  When you see how far back I was (next photo has no zoom) you'll see why these pictures didn't focus as well as I would have liked.
The Who In Almost Focus. When you see how far back I was (next photo has no zoom) you’ll see why these pictures didn’t focus as well as I would have liked.
This is with no zoom.  Those heads are the two who went out of their way to cause nuisance.
This is with no zoom. Those heads are the two I mentioned below.

Half to two thirds of the attendees didn’t turn up until 5 minutes before The Who started – I think about 50 people in consecutive seats all arrived at once, presumably a late coach, but the others just seemed to have it sussed to avoid all the waiting.  They’ve clearly been before.  There was so very much waiting.

Here’s as much of the setlist as I managed to write down:

Song 1 and 2: ???

Song 3: Who are you?

Song 4: The Kids Are Alright [sic]

Song 5: I can see for miles.

Song 6: My generation.  Which had a verse which was a drum-underscored bass solo.  Excellent.

Song 7: Behind Blue Eyes.

Song 8: Bargain.

Song 9: I wasn’t sure at the time, thought it was “join the river” which was really confusing but it’s actually “join together.” I’d never heard it before.

Song 10: You’d Better You Bet.

Song 11: I’m one.

Song 12: Love Reign O’Er Me

Song 13: Eminence Front

Song 14: A quick one (while he’s away).

The heat was problematic, and the temperature control was non-existent.  I was sat by the lighting rig.  Lights get HOT at concerts.  But I wasn’t the only one suffering.  The band paused after a song to try and get someone to do something about the temperature.  They weren’t precious about it though, and even made a bit of a song out of it while they waited for someone to put a fan on, the Air Con, or get them some water because it was far too hot.

Sadly, at this point in the concert, I was overcome with heat and listened to the next two from the doorway.  I think if it’d been brought back with something I had wanted to hear after A Quick One (while he’s away) I would have stuck around, but the last one I’d actually heard before (and I’m not an ignoramus I just don’t know their whole back catalogue) was #8, and number 15 was nothing I recognized so I decided we must be nearly finished, and that I would just go back to the car hire place and return the car.  When I looked up what I’d missed, I found that only two (Pinball Wizard and Baba O’Riley) of the five remaining songs were ones I’d wanted to hear.  I know it’s good for a band to play what THEY want not just what fans want, but when you’ve got such a fabulous back catalogue I don’t know why you would pick below average pop-tastic songs unless they just can’t play the others any more or hate them so much that they can’t stand them.  Who knows.

See what I did there.

I did it again there.  Instead of a question mark, the full stop makes it a statement which answers the question which would be posed if there was a question mark.

I digress.

Leaving:

 

Anyway, I enjoyed what I saw of The Who, despite the heat and stress of the two people in front of me being coked up twats and very tall and talking nineteen to the dozen with grand gestures and snogging (like, the gross kind that 15 year olds do to show everyone in the vicinity that they’re going out, not the passionate kind of snog that people in love do) and stretching whilst talking and snogging and basically doing as much as they could to ruin my view and then trying to feel me up (I shit you not), and despite the fact the sound quality was awful in that part of the 3 Arena, it was still a very good show.  I was struck by how much interaction The Who had with the audience – literally, after every song they would talk for a bit and tell you a bit about the background to the next one.  It was fascinating.  I made brief notes because I didn’t want note-taking to get in the way of enjoying the show.  But they didn’t short-change on the songs, either, and they played plenty (although theirs tend to be shorter than most other bands I listen to, because they were always more poppy when they were making big hits).

Afterwards I balked at how much parking had cost – my ticket came up as E30 when it should have been E12 for event parking, but I had to get the car out of the car park because it was a hire car so I just paid.

So lots of things conspiring to put a downer on the day, and I wasn’t necessarily in the right place to be as caught up in the hype as I would have been if I hadn’t needed to manage a migraine, but even though I left early I was happy with what I’d seen, felt it just about justified the effort and more than justified the expenditure (which was STILL cheaper and more convenient than going to London) and think I can definitely tick them off my Bands Bucket List.  I should post that list at some point in its entirety.

More on Ireland, specifically Dublin and Newgrange, soon…

What do you think of those weird psychedelic photos?  I was going to delete them until I saw that some of them looked very artistic, now I’m intrigued by the possibility of interference from the spiritual realm.  Glad I bought a silver Virgin Mary medallion (it’s an Irish thing) earlier that afternoon!

See what’s on the rest of my Bands Bucket list
Other concerts I’ve reviewed.

Anything Can Happen At A Festival…

It’s anything can happen Thursday and I’m going to Download Festival on a three night camping ticket until Monday.   I have ordered a tipi for the camping to happen in.  When I return, I can tick the following bands off my bands bucket list:

(ahem)
Motley Crue
Billy Idol
Kiss
Dragonforce
Muse
Apocalyptica
Judas Priest

And possibly Alice Cooper if he’s making a surprise guest appearance (it’s a possibility, because he’s supporting Motley Crue on their farewell tour and is playing at all the other festivals that they’re doing).

Also I will see Slipknot, Lacuna Coil and possibly Marilyn Manson (possibly not, the set timings have NOT been thought out very well on the Saturday) although these aren’t on the bands bucket list – the list of bands I want to see before THEY kick the bucket.

Still, exciting times. I’m a little nervous as I’ve never camped at a festival before (last year we got a day ticket for the one day all our favourite bands were playing on, and got to see Iron Maiden, Slayer and Anthrax on one day), and I’m going with my best friend rather than my husband so I am concerned that I might not sleep so well. Add to that, the tent arrived while I was on the school run, literally two minutes before I got home, and now I’ve got to collect it from the depot this evening (they very specifically said I could only collect it at 6:30… bizarre), and it will need waterproofing (which I knew when I ordered it) and I am still off alcohol and sugar for reasons of sanity, and no, that’s NO pressure at all.

Still, I’m sure it will be great. I felt like backing out of Lynyrd Skynyrd at the last minute and it turned out to be the most awesomest show ever.

Lynyrd Skynyrd, the most recent band that I ticked off my bands bucket list.
Lynyrd Skynyrd, the most recent band that I ticked off my bands bucket list.