take me home


Where did our love go?

September 20th: You blink and another month's gone. That's fatherhood for me so far. You check your watch and, oh, it's 5pm. What happened to the day? Time just bleeds away, days vaporise. It feels like a lifetime, and no time at all. He'll be nine weeks old on Sunday. Nine weeks! Nothing but everything. All of my life. All of his too.

So I have a ton of HDIFs to write up, but no mental energy to do it. So instead I'm going to post something here I'd prepared earlier.

There's an excellent piece by Andrew Collins in the current issue of Word magazine about the meaning of the word indie, and what the concept of indie means in this day and age. Andrew kindly devotes a paragraph to the HDIF comp, and quotes me at the end of the piece, talking about haircut indie (or hair indie as it became in the piece). This was taken from a lengthy, rather rambling email that I bashed out a few months ago, and I thought I might as well post the whole thing here.

Andrew asked:

I'm currently writing a piece for Word about the death of Indie. (The word indie, as opposed to the concept.) Your record arrived just as I was launching into writing it, and it fits in. Clearly, the concept as it once was is not dead, as your club nights prove, but there is, I'm sure you'll admit, a degree of nostalgia about it all, for a better time, when indie meant independent and not a haircut in Toni & Guy, or VH2, or Razorlight and Keane. So I ask you this question, and I may quote you, if you don't mind: WAS DOES INDIE MEAN TO YOU?

And I replied:

It seems to me that the word indie is just going through what happened to the word metal. In the seventies, back when metal was invented, you just needed one word to cover your love for hairy, loud music - you liked Sabbath, Deep Purple, etc, etc, you liked metal. Simple. But as metal got more sophisticated, it started to break off into factions and so a whole load of sub genres were needed - speed metal, thrash meal, doom metal, black metal, and hair metal, for the more commercial wing.

If we accept that indie was created in the eighties, then the word's gone through a similar journey. When you talked about the Mary Chain, House Of Love, Primitives, etc, etc, you just needed one word - it was indie. But as indie's developed, it's also fractured - indie pop (which became indiepop), shoegazing, Britpop, indie rock (college rock like Pavement etc etc), post rock, and now, in a direct parallel to metal in the eighties, there's haircut indie - which is the modern brand, as championed by NME and often sponsored with no little irony by Shockwaves.

Indie as a word was always tied to the means of production and a set of DIY, punk values, so it's always suggested a sense of authenticity - this was music that didn't care about marketing or focus groups or street teams. It was just creativity. But haircut indie is all marketing, all the time, it seems. In the samw way that grunge went from being a genuine attempt to find an intelligent middle ground between punk and metal to being a catwalk term for looking a bit scruffy, then indie's gone from being an often middle class attempt to find an intelligent middle ground between pure pop and post punk to being a catwalk term for looking a bit scruffy. In both cases, as soon as the term went mainstream, it became meaningless.

I still use the word indie, but just as a primer. It essentially now means "non-aggressive guitar music". But really indie on its own is a useless word - it needs a prefix or a sense of context. For me, indiepop is now synonymous with what indie used to mean - that sense of DIY values, of wanting to exist outside of the mainstream, of having ideals and often a manifesto, a world of fanzines and seven inch singles and fan-based club nights, defiantly and gloriously insular, and thriving "without your permission", as Huggy Bear once put it. But indie itself is just a pointer. It's the pizza base of musical genres - it needs a topping, be it the sweetness of indie pop, the studied cool of indie rock, the classical ambition of post rock or whatever. If you think of a band that's just indie in this day and age - Snow Patrol for example - you've just got the pizza base. Pleasant enough but a bit doughy.

If you want the real definition of what the word indie means in 2006, though, don't go to the NME or Pitchfork or even the HDIF messageboard - take a look at a recent issue of Vogue. In it Mario Testino did a photo story on the bright young things of London, who were invariably skinny teenagers pretending to be Pete Doherty (which leads me to think that there's another sub genre happening right now - trustfund indie - but that's another story). They were all of a post-Libertines type - they hung out at Nambucca and White Heat, they were into The Holloways and The Paddingtons, they were slumming it for all they were worth (a small fortune, obviously). And right in the middle of one of the groups was a girl with the classic indie look - flick hair, I think she had a stripy t on (very much back in fashion), all of 14, had the look down perfectly. Her name? Indie. Which sums it all up really. When there's a girl calling herself indie in the latest issue of Vogue, you know that the word is all but over.

So there you go.

August 19th: Back at the Phoenix. A fantastic night, with the following highlights:

* Soft And Warm by Voxtrot - worked brilliantly, a great song for dancing
* Alternate Title by the Monkees - such an evil song, sounded great loud!
* Season Of The Shark by Yo La Tengo - such a gentle song, also sounded great live - I loved watching everyone dancing to this
* No Reaction by Saturday Looks Good To Me - a superb new song lifted from their myspace page.
* Since You Showed Me How To Be Happy by Jackie Wilson - an inspired request from someone, who also asked for Plan B by Dexys
* Her Jazz followed by The Happening - one of those mad sudden gear change segues that are totally wrong on paper, but just work brilliantly


August 13th:

Apologies once again for the lack of updates on here. It’s frustrating really, as the last few months have been the most eventful of my life – it would have been nice to have kept a record of my thoughts as everything was happening. But there just wasn’t time or I didn’t have the energy or I don’t know what. But – since I last posted in here I’ve become a father and the HDIF comp has been finished, delivered to me, and posted out to the press and people who bought presale copies online. And there’s been no less than ten HDIF events…! Phew! I’m going to do my best to go back over them one by one, but bear with me. It’s all a bit of a blur right now.
OK, here we go.

June 2nd: HDIF in Brixton, with Sandy and Karren from the Stolen Wine Social as our guests. A great night – very much back to the old school, a private night with friends, my favourite kind of HDIF. Karren and Sandy turned in an excellent set, and I ended the night with twenty minutes of indiepop seven inches, back to back. Lots of fun!

June 8th: HDIF Presents, with Sportique/Salty Pirates/The Ghosts/The Cut-Outs. A boiling hot day, just before the start of the World Cup. I remember turning up to find the Salty Pirates sitting on one of the tables outside the Windmills, looking happy with their pints. Apparently it had been pretty cold back home in Sweden, so they were overjoyed with the sun – they were making a whole weekend of it and their holiday had clearly started already.After the Cut-Outs’ garage pop and Matthew from The Ghosts’ solo slot (the rest of his band didn’t turn up…!!), the Salty Pirates were as fantastic as I’d hoped they be – a rush of energy and charm and excitement, as a lovely a band as they were as people. Sportique closed the show with a great set, and a nice tribute to Nikki Sudden who had just died. A brilliant night.

June 10th: HDIF in Oxford, with Dr David Kennedy from Rollercoaster as our DJ. I did opne of the stupid things that I manage to do every so often at HDIF. I took the memory card out of the camera to download the pics from the gig and then forgot to put it back in – but because I’d been taking some pics successfully at the start of the night, going straight onto the internal memory, I became convinced that the memory card must have fallen out. So I spent half of the night scouring the decks and the ground, with the help of quite a few people, looking for a memory card that was at home all along. Doh doesn’t even begin to cover it. Even so, it was another great night at the Jericho. A cool set from David and lots of dancing, despite the competition of the world cup!

June 17th, HDIF at the Phoenix, with Darren Hayman of Hefner. The big one – our return to the Phoenix after our short stay at Nambucca. The first HDIF on a Saturday night in central London, on a sweltering day, in the middle of the world cup. To say I was a little nervous was an understatement – would people want to come out on a Saturday night? Maybe HDIF was a Friday night club and it was going to be a huge disaster. And wouldn’t the allure of beer gardens and footie be too much? In fact, it turned out that the latter two worked in my favour. As everywhere had been quiet during the hot weather and the tournament, the venue said they’d understand if the turn out was low. And to begin with, there was no one there. But slowly the venue started to fill up and come midnight we were at capacity. Phew…!! And it was a fantastic night. A lovely atmosphere, none of the sound problems we had at Nambucca, and a huge sense of relief that HDIF was back on track. I especially enjoyed Frankie going "Is this the remit breaker?" every twenty minutes or so. I think his shortlist was:
"Subterranean Homesick Blues" - first airing for that, and was a great song for dancing. Can't be the remit breaker though - if I play the Byrds, then Dylan's got to be in too.
"Another Girl Another Planet" - probably should be a remit breaker, except I used to play it fairly regularly in the early days of HDIF.
"Freakscene" - the actual remit breaker, and possibly less of a remit breaker than either of the above...! Sounded great.
The closing triple of "Judy And The Dream Of Horses", "Good Vibrations" and "This Charming Man" was fun too.

June 30th: A one off night at the Buffalo Bar, called Seven And Seven Is. The idea was to play seven inch singles only, with people bringing along seven inches for me to play, and it went like a dream, after a dodgy start where only one of the decks at the Buffalo Bar was working. It was also the most drunken HDIF-type thing for quite some time – and that’s saying something. Here’s what I posted on the HDIF messageboard the morning (afternoon?) after:

“Thanks for coming along to this everyone - a strange, rather messy, often confusing night that I had hardly any control over. Usually with HDIF, I can read how it's all going and then decide what song to play next - this time, I just had to see what people had brought and rifle through my random selection of sevens to see what could fit. I was very pleased to play "My One Desire" though. Just what London needs - a Stray Cats b-side. But I love it. One of my all-time favourites.
Thanks to the Archduke and Bobby-Jean for their set. Hearing SLGTM wafting up the stairs as I was chatting to Kez was one of my highlights of the night. Oh, and....if anyone was baffled by the start of the night, the left hand deck was broken. A bit of problem when you're only playing seven inch records. So I had to alternate between the right deck and the one CD I had with me - the HDIF comp - until my decks turned up in a cab from Brixton. Only took two hours. Still, a fun night. It was nice to be back at the Buffalo Bar.”

July 7th: Canterbury Arms, with Phil Wilson of the Junes Brides as guest DJ. A great night, one of the best I think. A mad mixture of stuff, everyone up for dancing, the pile of shoes at the side of the dancefloor (!!!!), a bout of crossdressing from two people (who swapped skirt and trousers half way through the night), and lots and lots of fun. The Jens Lekman/Jonathan Richman/Kinks segment was just fantastic - "You've Got Everything" sounded spectacular. What a song.

July 8th: Last HDIF in Oxford, Het and Martin DJ-ed. It was a fine and emotional night. Coming back on the Oxford tube on my own, I listened to "The Boy With The Arab Strap". Which inspired this...

July 15th:: Before the night, I wrote the folowing:

I was thinking about how to make this one special on the coach back from Oxford on Saturday night, and I put "The Boy With The Arab Strap" on my walkman to help me ponder. I don't think I've listened to it all the way through for years - definitely not this decade - and it was a real revelation. All those ghosts! Stuart David and his spaceboy dream. Isobel wondering if it's wicked not to care. Memories of the moment when our secret suddenly broke out into the real world. I sat there with my beer, watching the lights of the M4 glide by and just got lost in it all again And that's when I realised what I should do. Apropos of absolutely nothing and tying in with no relevant anniversary, I'm going to play every song from "The Boy From The Arab Strap" on Saturday night. Not in order or all together - just sprinkled through the night like old love letters.

Afterwards, I picked out the following highlights:

* Snaking through the crowd to go to the bar during "A Spaceboy Dream", enjoying the dreamlike atmosphere that had suddenly descended on the dancefloor, chatting to James for a minute or so, then dancing when the bongos at the end came in, dancing back through the crowd, dancing on the
lip of the stage, doing crazy beat poetry hand jives with a couple of guys at the front, all the while knowing that any second now...
* "Dirty Dream 2" was going to kick in - ah, the rush of energy and excitement was glorious - just what I'd hoped for! Seeing people speeding onto the dancefloor, seeing a big throng of bodies, all dancing and singing along...I did think "This is what life is all about. Ba ba ba ba ba ba ba
ba." More or less...!
* "Lil Ole Boy, Lil Ole Girl" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, our soul song of the week. What a tune! One of those songs that just gets me dancing on my heels and tip toes.
* "Wild Bikini" by Tullycraft - debut HDIF airing for this one, but what a song! Reminded me hugely of Throw That Beat In The Garbagecan, Germany's finest indiepop export - I'll definitely be playing more like this!
* "Think" by James Brown. Sometimes you have turn to the masters to get things done. A brilliant, brilliant song.
* The new single by the Strange Idols. Recorded a few days before, handed to me on a blank CDR with the promise it was a dance classic by the band themselves - I took a leap of faith and pressed play! And they were right! Fantastic stuff.
* "Nicola" by Vetty - glorious funky sixties French pop.
* "The Rollercoaster Ride" - I better stop before I list the entire set, but ending with this was just right for me. Floating back down to earth after an evening of highs...with Camera Obscura's "Let Me Go Home" to send us dancing out into the night. Phew...!

August 4th: Back to the Canterbury Arms, with Chris and Gill from Offbeat as our guests. My first HDIF after the birth of my son, so it was an emotional, almost overwhelming experience for me. Arthur Lee had just died, so we played some songs for him. Afterwards I posted the following highlights:
* Papa Was A Rodeo - stopped a packed dancefloor in its tracks, a really wonderful moment for me
* Temptation Inside Your Heart by the Velvet Underground - a gem from the box set. Brilliant stuff.
* The CD plugging triple of I'm From Barcelona, Irene and Voxtrot - seeing people go crazy for I'm From Barcelona in a way they haven't before.
* You Set The Scene - I'd already played Andmoreagain, Alone Again Or and Between Clark And Hilldale for Arthur, but this at the end was glorious.
* The singing along for Get Me Away I'm Dying. Just wonderful.

May 31st: Had a very exciting, inspiring day today working on the HDIF compilation. I don’t want to say too much about it quite yet, but it’s all looking fantastic.

If I could click my fingers and be * anywhere * on Saturday night, I’d magic myself to the Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona. We went last year and had the best time – it’s a lovely festival in a glorious city, and the music’s just superb. And this year, the line up is just heartstopping. In fact, it’s so good that, prior to tonight, I’d banned myself from looking at it, because I knew I couldn’t go. It would be pointless torturing myself with all the amazing bands I wouldn’t be able to see. But tonight I gave in, and indulged myself. Here’s who I’d go to see if I was going to Primavera Sound this year:

Animal Collective, Big Star, Deerhoof, Dinosaur Jr, Final Fantasy, Flaming Lips, I’m From Barcelona, Isobel Campbell, Richard Hawley, Jens Lekman, La Buena Vida, Lambchop, Lou Reed, Mogwai, Motorhead, Shellac, Sleater-Kinney, Stereolab, Stuart Staples, TVPs, Vashti Bunyan, Violent Femmes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Yo La Tengo. And I’d take a chance on the huge list of new bands that I know nothing about – if there was time, between checking out the above. All in a site by the sea, in one of my favourite cities in Europe.

But part of me is there now. Kind of. I was checking out the Primavera site and I stumbled upon a news story about Eugene Kelly, saying that he’s going to be singing the Mark Lanegan parts for Isobel during her set, as he did brilliantly at Bush Hall earlier this year. And the photo they’d used to illustrate the story was the one I took when Eugene DJ-ed at HDIF last year. Hey, that’s my photo! On the official Primavera Sound site! Wow – cool.

So to all those heading off to Barcelona this year – have a fantastic time, I wish I was there with you, either sinking an absinthe in Bar Marsella or dancing to the many, many brilliant bands. I’ll be playing a whole load of the above at HDIF on Friday in tribute.

May 30th: Right, here we are then. The bit where it all goes wrong. Or rather, all goes right.

May 19th: I had a funny feeling about our third HDIF at Nambucca. We had an excellent guest DJ – Bob Stanley from St Etienne – but for some reason there wasn’t much of a buzz about the night. I can sometimes tell if a night’s going to go well by the buzz beforehand, on messageboards and from emails. What our friends at CTU would call the chatter. But beyond a merry group on the HDIF messageboard arranging to invade the Peking Palace opposite en masse, there wasn’t much chatter this time around. Which was weird because you’d think that Bob and HDIF were a marriage made in heaven. He even showed up in the 2005 HDIF Poll in the People You’d Most Like To See DJ At HDIF category – and quite rightly so. An indie pop musician and a respected expert on girl groups and Sixties pop – how more HDIF could a guest DJ be?

So it couldn’t be Bob that was putting people off. Maybe it was the venue. We’d had a couple of successful nights there, but I still felt there was room for improvement. The lighting could be better. The sound was a bit shaky. The layout was a bit odd – it was fine as a live venue, but was it right for a club night? The dancefloor tended to get clogged up with people, and there wasn’t much energy to the night. I thought that if we took down the black sheet between the back room and front bar that things would improve – and, in fact, that was a huge improvement. I felt a part of the night in a way that I hadn’t done before.

But still. When Bob turned up around quarter to ten, the place was pretty empty. I felt embarrassed, but he was fine about it. “It’s early yet, it’ll be OK.” He was right, of course, but as I’m sure you all know by now I do like to worry. There was a pretty decent crowd by the time Bob started DJing at half ten and he turned in a fine set, during which I went off to take photos and chat to everyone. I’m starting up a HDIF label and kicking off with a compilation, and members of five of the bands on the comp had turned up, all eager to know how it was going. When I think back now, that was my favourite part of the night. Excellent music from Bob, and me enthusing about the record – getting excited about the sleeve design, and the line up of bands on it, and the distribution, and all that stuff. I’ve learnt so much over the past few months, and it’s just been so exciting. I can’t wait to have the finished article in my hands.

But anyway, I’m getting sidetracked. After Bob, I went back to DJ, and it just didn’t happen for me. We’d had problems with the sound before, which I’d put down to the mixer. In a bid to sort that out, I brought along my own DJ set up – but it made no difference. Basically the sound would leap in level without any warning – dropping down, then leaping up, then dropping down again, all within the same song. So any energy that had been built up was lost in a second. I have to say I got pretty frustrated and lost my cool a few times – sorry if you came up to ask for a request while I was banging my head against the wall or generally having a moment.

It’s a shame because, musically, I think this was a good HDIF. I played some different stuff, tried some unusual choices – but whereas at the Canterbury a few weeks previously it had translated into a full dancefloor, at Nambucca there was hardly any dancing at all, and it was the flattest HDIF for…well, months. If not years.

It’s funny because I spent the last hour or so just saying sorry about the night to various people – including a girl called Claire, who’d been to one HDIF at the Phoenix and all three Nambucca nights. I was moaning away about the sound and the atmosphere, and she said: “You said this last time – that it was flat and no good. But the pictures from that night tell a different story!” And the photos from this night tell a different story too – everyone seems to be having a ball. Maybe I’m being too precious. I guess I’m just a little too sensitive, as someone once said. But even so, it didn’t feel right to me, and something had to change.

I put out an email to the mailing list, asking for opinions on Nambucca and a possible return to the Phoenix on a Saturday night. And the response was overwhelmingly against Nambucca and in favour of the Phoenix. Wow. But then I picked up a copy of the Guardian Guide – one of the top five clubs of the week was a new night on the third Saturday of the month at the Phoenix. Damnation! The Phoenix had phoned me about a month previously asking me to come back for the Saturday slot, and I’d turned them down, saying I’d moved to Nambucca. So now I’d missed my chance. I sent off an email anyway, and hoped for the best.

And luckily, the gods were on our side. A few emails and phone conversations later, and it was all agreed. We were going back to the Phoenix. They were pleased to have us back, and I’m overjoyed to return. Nambucca is a great live music venue, the guys there were always helpful and keen to make HDIF happen, and I was particularly impressed by the security, who were excellent. But in the end, it just wasn’t right for us – essentially the shape isn’t set up for a club night. A live music night there is perfect – and we may well return to do some HDIF shows later in the year.

So that’s it. From now on, we’re on the Third Saturday Of Every Month at the Phoenix. The first one is June 17th, and our guest DJ is Darren Hayman, of Hefner fame. Hurrah! I can’t wait.

May 29th: Well, have I got a lot to write about. I better do things in chronological order, though.

May 11th: Our tenth HDIF Presents show and what a fantastic night. In many ways, this was HDIF Presents at its best – four superb bands, all of whom looked beyond the simple, four square, blokes with guitars jangling about their sorry love lives format of regular indie pop to something slightly more imaginative and ambitious. This show featured a laptop, an accordion, a bassoon, a gigantic vibraphone, a trumpet, and lots of handclaps. Hurrah for handclaps. Also, as Grant McLennan had just died, I played Grant and Robert songs all night – as a tribute to a life-changing songwriter. Proof that sometimes that format of blokes with guitars jangling about their sorry love lives is all that you need.

Shimura Curves were on first, An all female fourpiece from London, they’ve been described as “The Pipettes with a powerbook”, and while that’s not a bad starting point there’s a lot more to them than that. Featuring three ladies in gorgeous red and white dresses on singing and twirling, and one cool woman in black on guitar (plus a load of stuff on a laptop), they took in the post-Kraut rock pop of Stereolab and the kitchen sink style of St Etienne. Very good indeed.

Stars Of Aviation brought the bassoon and accordion for a sophisticated take on pastoral folk pop, and were excellent too. Mon Fio hauled on the huge vibraphone for a gloriously idiosyncratic take on the Beach Boys. And Irene, our headliners from Sweden, were just superb – exactly as I’d hoped. A finger-popping, hand-clapping, hip-shaking burst of sunny indie pop that had me bouncing down the front and grinning from ear to ear.

May 13th: Our third HDIF in Oxford, and the first that I’d taken the Oxford tube there and back to. After my little escapade to Malmo the other week, I was looking forward to hopping on the coach again – and it was all surprisingly simple. I managed to pack everything I needed into two boxes, the coach was right there when I got to Victoria, and the journey up through Marble Arch and onto Oxford was quick and relaxing. I love sitting on the coach with my CD walkman, listening to music and watching the world glide by. Unfortunately we drove out of good weather in London into grey skies and rain in Oxford, but that didn’t dampen my mood.

It was getting pretty late by the time we pulled into Oxford, but luckily the stop is only ten minutes or so from the Jericho Tavern, so I rushed down, dumped my bags, and nipped across to the Standard for my now traditional pre HDIF Oxford curry. I’m not entirely sure why they use chick peas in their motor paneer instead of regular peas – oh the mysteries of the modern world – but apart from that the Standard is an excellent old traditional curry house.

Huw Pooh had to pull out of the guest spot after a mix up with dates – my fault! – and HDIF regulars Tamla Tim and Frankie stepped into the breach at the last minute. Thanks fellas! They turned in an excellent set, and got the crowd dancing almost straight away – it was really cheering to see people bouncing around to Tilly And The Wall at 9.15!

What was really great about this Oxford HDIF, however, was that I’m starting to get to know everyone. After having a great time the month before, Martin, Matt Gill and Het brought along a group of pals and were determined to have a ball from the get-go – basically creating the HDIF vibe in an instant. It took a good six months before this happened when HDIF started off in London, but we’re beginning to get there in Oxford already – and that’s the best news possible for me. What I love about some of the HDIF nights in London is that I know most of the crowd – just from coming up and saying hello and asking for requests and having a chat – so it feels like I’m DJing at a private party of friends. And I’d love for HDIF in Oxford to be like that too. And it really is getting there…!

There was also a crowd from the Oxford Uni Indie Society in as well, and at the end of the night I was presented with Life Membership. Phew! I didn’t quite understand what was happening when I was given the card, but I was chuffed to be bits when the realisation sunk in. Thanks everyone! It’s a real honour. We also had our first hen night in as well – and the hen and her party seemed to have a blast. It’s quite an honour for your club to be picked as a venue for a hen night, so I was really pleased – and there’s no better way to prepare for married life than with the Pooh Sticks and Camera Obscura.

So a great, great night. I can’t wait until the next one.

May 18th: I failed my test by the way. My driving instructor said a bad word when I told him what I'd been failed on. He reckons I should have passed. I have to say, I really thought I had. Oh well.

May 17th: No sooner have I done one mammoth update than I need to do another. Two UK HDIFs, a visit to Sweden, and a HDIF Presents. Here we go then…

May 5th/6th: I was convinced this was going to be a quiet one. Go Kart Mozart were playing at Legal Tender, and the weather had just changed – always a cue for the world to head to beer gardens and back gardens and forgo the pleasures of dancing in a pub back room. The Charlatans were on at the Academy, which usually would have been a good thing for me, but they weren’t onstage until half eleven. So there was no chance of a few extra folk wandering in from that. Oh well. Never mind. I like the quieter ones at the Canterbury anyway. They always make me feel good about everything.

Clare from Sarah records turned in a great set, including a surprise airing of the new single by The Streets, which I loved, and then it was me. And bizarrely, inexplicably, the place was packed. No idea why. Maybe loads of people turned up to the Academy hoping to get tout tickets and came to us as a second option (seeing as we were the only other “indie” thing going on in Brixton). Whatever the reason, it was full, and the atmosphere was fantastic.

And I turned in a good one, even if I say so myself. I started off with the soul track of the week – “Le Temps De L'Amour" by Francoise Hardy – and then went for a happy wander through the less-visited areas of the HDIF collection. And everyone went for it. It was wonderful. Here’s my highlights:
• “Make Your Own Kind Of Music” by Mama Cass – as a huge Lost fan, I couldn’t resist this tribute to the start of the second series on British TV.
• “Sweet Summer’s Nite On Hammer Hill” by Jens Lekman – been meaning to play this for ages, it sounded glorious
• “Downtown” by Petula Clark. In French, bien sur!
• “Trigger Cut” by Pavement – our very first Remit Breaker –and it sounded fantastic!
• “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones. Last song at twenty past two, and a very emotional, messy end to the night.

And then I jumped in a cab and headed off to Victoria station, to catch my coach to Stanstead. BSE decided to meet me at the airport and come along for the weekend, but alas he got there to discover that last minute flights were the best part of three hundred quid, so we settled for a fry up at 6am. A few hours snatched sleep on the plane and I was in Malmo, meeting up with Daniel who drove us to the venue, which also doubled as a very swish boutique hotel. I had a room with a kitchen and a dish washer – very useful! – and settled down for a day’s sleep, getting up around six, ready to go. I missed Malmo in the sunshine, but it was worth it.

We headed out to meet Daniel’s DJing partner Jonathan and then went to the Golden Restaurant for a pizza and the first beer of the day. I was pleasantly surprised by Malmo – a friend had told it was just another Swedish city, but it has a real alternative spirit. The area where we were staying was packed with cool bars and restaurants, and there were plenty of punks and kids with dreadlocks on the streets. We got back to the venue and I checked my email to find out about Grant, as detailed below. I played my three songs for Grant and got stuck into my set proper and it all just took off beautifully. People streamed down to the little cellar bar we were playing in and started dancing and it all went superbly.

Daniel told me afterwards that the guys from the local soul club had come along and were surprised that I’d played some songs that they didn’t know, which made me happy. I also found out afterwards that we sold out the venue and there was still a queue outside at half past two. After me, Daniel turned in an excellent hour’s set, getting everyone singing along to a Swedish band called Broder Daniel that I’d never heard of, and a soul track by a band called The Butlers which was new to me. In fact, the Malmo crowd were very open minded and very friendly – up for a night out and ready to dance. It was inspiring. Thanks everyone. I’d love to visit again sometime.

May 9th: I quickly checked my email before the club started in Malmo on Saturday. The night was at the Retro hotel and restaurant, so my room was actually in the venue. Very nice – meant I could nip back to use the loo and cool off at certain points in the evening. And I could check email on the machine in the lobby whenever I had a few minutes spare.

The news was bad: Grant McLennan of the Go-Betweens had died in his sleep. I couldn’t believe it. He was just 48 - it’s hard to comprehend that life can just suddenly stop like that. I phoned my girlfriend and texted my ex, and then headed down to the club. The guys weren’t huge Go-Betweens fans, so the news didn’t have much of an impact straight away. I still couldn’t really believe it. Here I was readying for a night of the music that Grant helped inspire, and it was all just business as usual. It felt strange, distant somehow.

I started with three songs for Grant.

Part Company
Bye Bye Pride
Love Goes On

During the last one, a guy came up and shook my hand. Didn’t say a word, just shook my hand.

If you know the Go-Betweens, you’ll know what we’ve lost. If you don’t, then go and buy one of their records. I recommend “Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express”. One of the greatest records ever made in my book. Indie pop through and through – romantic, articulate, pristine, full of life and experience. It’s still hard to believe he’s dead. Just 48. Too, too young.

May 2nd: My second entry. It’s May already and this is only the second entry I’ve made to this weblog. What’s gone wrong? I can’t explain it – it’s not like I haven’t been doing anything exciting. There’s been tons of HDIFs, HDIF Presents gigs every month, HDIF starting up in Oxford….plus I’ve failed my driving test once already this year. So much to write about, and yet….silence.

Maybe that’s it though – I really have been caught up in trying to crack this driving thing. I’ve been a man obsessed. Lessons every day, weekends out with Adrienne, doing my best to become a fully-fledged adult after all this time. My next test is on Thursday May 11th, at 3pm give or take. Wish me luck!

So, in an attempt to atone for this year’s slackness on the weblog front, I’m going to take a crack at the impossible. Back in time we go…

January 20th: Our first night of the year and what a stormer. I thought that this would be a quiet one after NYE, but we were sold out by midnight. Johny Brown of the Band Of Holy Joy turned in a superb soul set, really getting the dancefloor going, and I….well, I wonder what I might have played? Apologies if the next dozen or so entries end up like this. Let’s consult the messageboard. Ah, here’s what I said at the time:

“We sold out at midnight, which is pretty astonishing. I think people were just up for it last night - the club started to fill up as soon as we opened the doors and people were dancing straight away. Having a full dancefloor for the Aislers Set at 10.30 is a first for HDIF! Everything clicked perfectly last night. The venue was ours totally, the guest set was excellent, and I could take a few more chances - 'You Set The Scene' followed by 'The Cemetery' was one of my highlights.”

Feb 3rd: Our first night of the year in Brixton. Phil King of Lush/Felt fame was originally down to DJ, but he agreed to do the extra Phoenix one a week later, leaving Ramesh from Voxtrot in the frame. Ramesh just happened to be visiting London and he and I had swapped a few emails and I asked if he fancied playing some records, which he did. He turned out to be a lovely guy and turned in an excellent set. As for me, well….here’s what I said at the time.

“Last night was huge fun, but I really have to apologise for what has to be my worst ever set, technically. It was almost as if I’d just learnt how to DJ last night - if there was a wrong button to press I pressed it or a switch I could forget to flip I forgot to flip it. Hence the several (!!) gaps - apart from the cutting off of "Jackson" which was caused by someone managing to dance on the cables going into the back of the amp, pulling them out in the process. It sounds pretty unlikely, but at that point it seemed as if *everyone* was dancing. It was a chaotic sight - and would have been the runaway highlight of the night had the music not suddenly stopped dead. By the time we got it working again, the CD had run onto the next song and so everyone got to hear "What A Man" by Linda Lyndell twice. Great song but....arrrggghh! You'd never guess I've been DJing for seventeen years...!!

“But still. A fantastic set from Ramesh, who turned out to be the nicest guy. and a terrific evening. I particularly enjoyed the first hour, where the crowd consisted entirely of me, Crissi on the door, and BSE (and, for the latter part, Sarah Spangle and Jason Treehorn). We sat at the front listening to the Byrds (I played an entire album before anyone showed up) and then three quarters of the new Flaming Lips album, discussing the matters of the day (are Arctic Monkeys any good, etc). Even though it felt like it was going to be the quietest HDIF for ages, all felt well with the world. and, of course, it filled up as always, and there was dancing.”

Feb 10th: A sneaky extra one, this, to co-incide with B&S’ show at Hammersmith Apollo. I didn’t post anything about this on the HDIF messageboard for some reason, but Dianne did say the following:
“What a night! Hooo-o-o-o-o-oorses!” Enough said…!

Feb 17th: Our last Friday night at The Phoenix. Was always bound to be an emotional night, and the final “Get Me Away From Here I’m Dying” was just that.

March 3rd: Onwards and upwards! Our guests were Simon Barber of The Chesterfields and Johnny Dee (of “Ask Johnny Dee” fame), and it was another great night at The Canterbury Arms. Good old Brixton, how I love thee so. I remember gushing about this afterwards, so let’s dig out what I had to say….!

“It was one of those messy, fun HDIFs that leaves me grinning - and clutching my head this morning...! My highlights:
* Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl by Patty And The Emblems - Glorious live soul song, deservedly filled the floor, one of those songs that just makes you happy
* We're From Barcelona by I'm From Barcelona - This was the song everyone was asking about, the joyous, bouncy Hidden Cameras meets Polyphonic Spree one, utterly uplifting...and I had a good bounce around to this one too. Wonderful.
* I Can't Wait Until I See My Baby's Face by Dusty Springfield - Everyone thought it was St Etienne, then kept on dancing when they realised it was Dusty. Lovely song.
* Ease Your Feet Into The Sea by B&S - Haven't played this for ages...if ever, perhaps. Just felt totally right for the moment. Seeing everyone dancing to this made me feel like all was right with the world.
* Viva Las Vegas by Elvis Presley - I don't know what happened. Breaks all the rules, shatters the remit totally, not at all HDIF...but, you know, fuck it, it was on a CD I made up for Offline and I just decided to play it. Worth it for the look on BSE's face alone - "What are you doing?!?"
* Everything Flows by Teenage Fanclub - Last song of the night. Refreshed HDIF-ers doing "oop, oop" acid noises during it - which is obviously what the Fannies were thinking of when they wrote it. A great ending.
And so we bid farewell to the Canterbury Arms. Not that we're moving - we'll be back there next month as usual. But the Canterbury Arms as we know it will be gone. Goodbye green flock wallpaper. Farewell football shirts in frames. Adios giant football stickers (in fact they'd gone already). I'm looking forward to seeing the refit and I'm sure it will look lovely, but I can't help have a tinge of sadness at the passing of a Brixton institution.”

As it turned out, the refit was a huge success, adding a fresh lick of paint while retaining the Canterbury’s unique charm. Phew!

March 11th: Our first HDIF at the Jericho Tavern in Oxford. I was aware that I’d been neglecting the weblog at this point, so I did my best to put more into my messageboard posts. Or at least I thought I had. This is what I had to say…!

“It was a great night - a great atmosphere, a brilliant turn out, and lots of dancing. I was especially pleased to be able to fulfill a request for Sugar Pie DeSanto and Etta James! And ‘Feelgood By Numbers’ went down a treat! Hurrah for Oxford...!”

I really should have written more, as it was a superb night. One HDIF regular, Badgermeinhoff, who traveled up from London summed it up best, though:

I know Ian always has his highlights, but I'll list mine too.
- "To reach me". I was thinking just the other day that it'd be nice to have some other Go-Betweens songs played. I was thinking "In the core of a flame", but I'd forgotten just how great "To reach me" is, it sounded fantastic.
- The first couple of hours, just looking at other people singing along to songs, happy-faced (especially when there were loads of us doing it to "To reach me", which is a great song just in case I haven't said so enough).
- Just the general auld skool, "Thursday" vibe. All the old favourites (I seem to remember "Love is like a heatwave" and "Tainted Love" both getting an airing, and "Pristine Christine"), being quite empty and then filling up, that private party atmosphere.

March 17th: Our first night at our new north London venue, Nambucca. Nerve-wracking stuff – we had one night to prove ourselves or we’d have been homeless all over again. Thankfully the HDIF faithful turned out in force – thank you thank you thank you for that! – and we were sold out by midnight. Not bad for a 300 capacity venue!

April 7th: What is it about HDIF at the Canterbury Arms? It’s just a perfect fit for me. Be warned – I get very gushy in this over-emotional account, posted on the night itself if I remember rightly.

“The best HDIF for months? The best HDIF so far this year? I’m tingling, that so good. A nice amount of people, not too packed, room to dance, a fabulous set from Amelia, and everyone just up for anything and everything. Thank you everyone. I had a great time.
Highlights...in my vaguely euphoric state

* You’re No Rock'N'Roll Fun - been warming up to this for ages, just fantastic
* What’s So Funny About Peace Love And Understanding - a total mistake, I meant to play something else, but it was just bolt from the blue magnificent!
* Just Like Christmas - would have been worth it just for the confused looks, but what a song! What a band! Really I’m beginning to discover that Low are in the all-time top five.
* I Second That Emotion - haven't played this for ages and ages, my favourite trumpet solo of all time, glorious
* I Am A Rock - just...words fail me. Amazing response to this.
* And loads of other things too...

Thank you everyone! Oxford here we come...!

Oh and...how could I forget....the whistling set..
.Mellow Doubt
Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay
Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft
The last one of these was meant to be trumpets and violins but I went to play it and the CD was missing from its sleeve...!! Damnation! But watching everyone bounce around to the Wedding Present more than made up for it.

OK, enough...enough...”

April 8th: The second night in Oxford, and another stormer. After the high of the night before, I was prepared for a quieter, gentler night, but this was fantastic. People dancing on the stage, a really friendly atmosphere once again, and lots of kind words at the end. Thank you one and all! Again, the Badger summed it up best:
“It is really nice to see how it's caught on so quickly. Not just caught on, but appreciated. I think that's the main reason it reminds me of the Buffalo Bar in the early days. Just a proper mix of people loving it. And it's a great adventure going up from London. Only £8 on the tube, back in time to get a night bus with the dregs of humanity, and a lie in until 11. Magic.”

April 21st: Our second night at Nambucca and our 4th birthday party. Pat Nevin was the guest DJ, and the Actionettes put in a fine dance set. Here’s what I had to say:
“Cake! Room to dance! A storming 'Queen Is Dead', and fantastic singalong to 'Higher And Higher'! Plus the Actionettes! We are four. Hurrah! Thanks for coming along everyone. Nice to see the club settling into Nambucca, becoming HDIF. Looking forward to the next one there.”

Well, that’s it for now. I still have three HDIF Presents and a HDIF in Valencia to tackle, but I’ll see if I can do those tomorrow.

January 10th: Well, what a year! A bumper year for indiepop - tons of amazing gigs, heaps of great records, some cool new bands to cherish, and the emergence of a certain all-conquering troupe from Canada. Oh we like to think that the HDIF Poll is an alternative to the other end-of-year round-ups out there, but on a certain subject we have to fall in line with the consensus.

I first referred to the Arcade Fire in the March 3rd entry of the weblog, saying "Just thought I'd mention this week's musical discovery - The Arcade Fire. From Montreal. Sound a bit like Mercury Rev on first go, but subsequent listens reveal much much more." I played a song at the Canterbury Arms a few days later, to little response. One indiepop diehard opined: "I don't like it." When I next chanced one of their songs a few months later - by accident "Rebellion (Lies)", I'd been searching for "Power Out" but couldn't find it and ran out of time, so just plumped for a song which sounded like it had a danceable intro at least - the response was amazing. People cheering, rushing onto the dancefloor. Towards the end of the year, the Arcade Fire's manager happened to come to the club. He couldn't believe the Canterbury Arms was so full - but then 2005 was that kind of year."When we play Brixton Academy, we'll have the aftershow here..." he told me. Looking forward to it!

So, onto the results of the HDIF 2005 POLL


Arcade Fire "Rebellion (Lies)"
Envelopes "Sister In Love"
Sambassadeur "Between The Lines"

Amerie "1 Thing:"
Pipettes "Dirty Mind"

Runners up

Stars "Ageless Beauty"
Rilo Kiley "Portion For Foxes"
The Dears "The Death Of All The Romance"
Tender Trap "Talking Backwards"
Guillemots "Made Up Love Song #43"


Arcade Fire "Funeral"
Broadcast "Tender Buttons"
Architecture In Helsinki "In Case We Die"
Envelopes "Demon"
Kaiser Chiefs "Employment"

Runners Up

Teenage Fanclub "Man-Made"
Acid House Kings "Sing Along With"
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Shortwave Set "The Debt Collection"
Orange Juiice "The Glasgow School"


Belle & Sebastian play "Sinister" at the Barbican
Brian Wilson at Glastonbury
The Decemberists at ULU
Arcade Fire at the Astoria
Saturday Looks Good To Me at The Windmill

Runners up

Sufjan Stevens at Shepherds Bush Empire
The Breeders in Blackheath
Architecture In Helsinki at The Purple Turtle
Pixies at Ally Pally
Teenage Fanclub at the Astoria

And honourable mentions for gigs by these newer bands:

The Bridge Gang
My Latest Novel
The Sequins
Last Harbour (voted for by one of Last Harbour, mind...! - but they are excellent)


Norman Blake

Runners up
Chris and Gill (Offbeat)
Plus Stephen Street got a couple of votes, even though he last DJed in 2004!


Chris Geddes - by a country mile. Loads of votes for Chris.

Runners up
Bob Stanley - "soul to spare and plenny of cutie indie pop too"
Edwyn Collins - "when he's back to full health"
Kevin Rowland
Jens Lekman
James Kirk

So that's it. 2005 was the year we started doing our HDIF Presents nights at The Windmill, and we had some storming bills that I'm very proud of. Here's to loads more in 2006!

2005's weblog is right here

2004's weblog is right here

2003's weblog is right here

2002's weblog is right here

take me home