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Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Peng Sound – Bringing a better vibe to Bristol

The city of Bristol is famous for producing some of the best sounds of the past twenty years, often being the centre for some of the most forward thinking artists – Tricky, Massive Attack, Roni Size to name but a few. Fast forward to 2010 and, instead of the usual names burning the ears of eager club goers, it’s the underground bass scene that’s been causing a stir on the streets of this city. Basement 45, The Black Swan, Timbuk2 all showcasing the best of Bristol; with artists such as Appleblim, Forsaken, Pinch, Peverelist and Jakes playing every weekend to likeminded people all ready to consume and digest bites of Bristol beats.

It was with this in mind and drawing on his own passion for the underground scene that Daniel Davies, also known as Ossia, decided to set up Peng Sound – a once monthly night, set to the backdrop of Stokes Croft in the small, but special, Take Five CafĂ©. Whilst not wanting to compete with the array of successful nights already taking place, he aimed to produce something slightly different for the vast number of music lovers desperate for unconventional venues and a house party vibe. It’s a night that knows no bounds, boasting an array of forward thinking and reminiscent bass and roots music – music that Dan feels is often looked upon as unconventional for the dance floor.

The name Peng Sound comes from the sound made in Jamaican dancehalls as a salute to big tunes; a perfect label for a night making big waves in the Bristol scene. With decorations of endless balloons, UV lights, lasers and a very reasonable entry price of £3, Peng Sound is the answer Stokes Croft has been crying out for. Its debut took place on October 10th, with the likes of Positive Vibration and Dubba taking to the decks; the second instalment came on November 20th; sets coming from Dub Boy, Julio Bashmore and Neek. However, it’s not just the decks securing a crowd on the dance floor; Dan also wanted to bring a live aspect to the table, adding positive vibe MC’s called Intalek to keep the crowd’s spirits flying high. This was taken care of by Dubkasm, the headliners of Peng Sound’s third and most successful night to date. The guys brought with them live sax, melodica and the infamous dub sirens to keep the crowds hungry for more; support came from Ossia, Silly Tang and Oli B.

What makes Peng Sound so special is the atmosphere – every one there is out to have a great night for the right reasons; for drink, dance and dub. Think of it as your own personal party, with lashings of great music and great people. Leigh Dennis, a.k.a. Leewok praises the laid back crowd, preferring to play his set at Peng Sound rather than at any other bass night. Regular attendee Jacob Martin, a.k.a. Hodge, explains it as ‘a night unlike any other; it’s like the ultimate house party, showcasing Bristol’s bass culture where it’s all about having a good time'. And it’s not just the bass lovers that are catered for. Peng Sound is a night that knows no musical bounds where you can expect to hear as many rhythms and tempos as your musical taste buds can handle.

The next Peng Sound will be taking place in March, with its date, line-up and location being kept well under wraps; be sure to check out Gloucester Road and Stokes Croft for flyers – you really won’t want to miss it. As local underground talent and established artists come together to mash up the dance, you’ll be welcomed with open arms, sultry beats and bass lovers galore.

By Sammy Maine

Ship Shape

The rich cultural history of Bristol Harbour has made it one of the key epicentres of the city, with an annual Harbourside festival attended by hundreds of thousands of visitors every summer, that is a recent addition to the Bristol Festival showcasing hundreds of artists, performers and musicians each September. Then, of course, there are the numerous art galleries, bars and clubs that surround the water, as well as water taxis, ferries and the majestic SS Great Britain that keep Bristol’s waterways in use all year round.

While boating was once only a pastime of the rich, many people are turning to narrow boats as a cheap way to get on the property ladder, or as a floating holiday home for the summer months.

I’ve always fancied myself as something of a sailor, trapped in a pedestrian’s body. The idea of living on a narrow boat conjures up images of a quaint, Rosie & Jim lifestyle and I’m quite confident I can pull off the nautical look with ease. It is for these reasons, then, that I find myself battling the elements on a bleak Wednesday morning, snow blowing into my face as I approach the harbour.

After negotiating the snow covered steps down to the pontoon and treading gingerly onto a beautiful cream and red narrow boat, I’m relieved to be greeted with a cup of tea and a small but warm gas fire by Diana and her two dogs.

Diana has lived on her narrow boat, Penhale, with her partner Richard for six years, since the couple bought the shell and kitted it out from scratch. With backgrounds in cooking, neither of the couple had ever undertaken such a large DIY project, but took on everything from plumbing to woodwork to create the home of their dreams.

From May to November the couple, who are semi-retired, travel around the waterways of England and Wales in Penhale, returning to Bristol Harbour each winter to work. They chose the boating lifestyle after spending Bank Holidays renting narrow boats and decided to take the plunge and buy their own boat to live on.

Penhale is 57ft long with a bedroom, bathroom and large kitchen and an open plan living area just big enough for Diana, Richard and their two dogs. Despite its narrow width, the distinguishing feature of a narrow boat being its 7ft or less width, Penhale feels warm and inviting, with all the creature comforts of a well loved living room.

Out on the partly frozen harbour, the snow covered boats attract an air of intrigue and sympathy but Diana says these boats are built to withstand the elements and the only real problem boaters face is the threat of damp. “As long as we keep the fire going and the air circulating, then damp isn’t really a problem. People from work used to feel sorry for me coming back to in the winter but we have the fire going all day so the place is always nice and warm.”

The waterways around Bristol are particularly popular with young professionals because of local career opportunities and a cheaper way of living. A fully kitted out narrow boat can cost as little as £60,000 – a fraction of the price of most property and, with the option of a mortgage, narrow boats are the first rung of the property ladder.

After an annual mooring fee and licence, outgoings are minimal as appliances are run from the engine or generator. Gas cylinders are used for heat and cooking, as is coal, depending on the kind of heating on the boat, while a 12 volt generator can power everything from a TV to a vacuum cleaner when a boat is on the move.

Mark Dahill is a 32 year old medical student who lives on nearby Bess, a 58ft semi-traditional narrow boat. Bess is his second boat and he has previously moored in London and Bath, enjoying “the flexibility of living in different places but coming home to the same home”. Mark decided that investing in a narrow boat was an “interesting and cheap way to get on the property ladder”.

Mark and his partner are expecting their first child in April and are reluctantly selling Bess, but will miss the sense of community on the pontoon. “Boating has a far better sense of community than living in a house. We frequently cook for each other and help each other out with all sorts of stuff. It's a really friendly lifestyle where you see/speak to/help your neighbours almost on a daily basis."

Diana agrees that the boating community around the harbour is laid back and friendly. “We all come back at the same time each year and I think is a lot friendlier than if you were to live in a house in Bristol. Everyone wants to help each other; someone is always there. If somebody is in trouble then everyone rallies round.”

Bristol definitely seems to attract friendly, sociable boaters who want the benefits of both city life and the freedom of regular travel. Mark is reluctant to give up Bess and sums up the boating scene in Bristol perfectly: “It’s flexible and friendly and we'll miss it.”

For more information on Bristol Docks and moorings visit the Bristol City Council website at www.bristol.gov.uk

By Sarah Pusey

A Call to Arms

I have heard it stated by many an ex-student that the key skills gained and so desperately needed throughout the course of their degree are the multi-tasking abilities of the entrepreneur. These skills are most notably put to use in the aftermath of their degrees, as they clutch at every straw that glances in their direction, and the lessons learnt encourage them to apply themselves to a myriad of projects. Such projects are frequently self-funded ones that require more hours than people know they have, but they keep the outcome in sight, because they will hopefully one day reap what they now sow.

...But none of this would ever work without (and please forgive me the use of a cheesy term) “teamwork”.

One such self-funded project that lies close to my own heart is the beginning of a small festival that has grown out of our adolescent tendencies. The concept of this festival began many years before its potential was even recognised by one of the key organisers, who started it purely for the reason 'of making something happen'. Hindsight, being the sweet music that it is, reminds us that such causes are possibly what we spent our teenage years preparing for: a copious mix of music and high enthusiasm. Unfortunately, that is not all that is needed to make a festival happen.

The first year of the festival was a largely makeshift affair that greatly exceeded even our wildest expectations, demonstrating what can be achieved when we put our minds to something. The sheer enthusiastic effort that emerged from those involved demonstrated the scale of a multi-skilled collective, willing and able to work towards producing a great event. However, a great deal of growing up and acknowledgement of how little we previously knew has occurred in recent years. Initiative and enthusiasm, being such virtuous traits, caused us to kick-start such programmes into action, but they are also required by all those involved in maintaining momentum within the group. These traits are even more fervently needed when disappointment or failure arrives on our doorstep. Therefore, we have to remind ourselves of what is so frequently stated by our superiors, that we must learn from our mistakes. Which we do. We stand up again, remember why this is so important, and remind ourselves that we can achieve anything if we are determined enough.

Some would say this is bloody-mindedness but, if that is what works, then so be it. ??

This year finds the festival propelling itself towards its third year, initiating even more interest by word of mouth and evoking more ideas that slowly expand upon the original festival. But, essentially, it maintains its core intention of 'making something happen', while simultaneously encouraging interest in little-known music. However, as with many annual events, the proof of the pudding may be in the eating and the outcome of 2010's event may tell us whether it's time to start taking ourselves more seriously and to develop future events further. Do we up the stakes thus pushing events beyond the realms of word of mouth...?

Festivals such as these create good opportunities for unknown bands that, although possessing great musical talent, are provided with little opportunity to prove their worth. One very positive aspect that duly epitomises opportunities given to young people by such projects was when an unplanned appearance of one local band attending the festival, later featured on a prime-time Radio One slot, thus spreading word of the event. This impromptu occurence created new opportunities through association, demonstrating that, on occasions such as these, no one ever quite knows what might develop from them. One lesson that has certainly been learnt is that, although no one can ever quite prepare enough, that is most definitely where part of the magic lies.

By Bex Case

Winter/Spring 2010 Arts Guide by Vickie Fear.

Happy New Year. How about a resolution to see a bit more art and get to know Bristol’s galleries and art spaces a bit better? Well, I have a couple of suggestions to get you started and, if you already know them pretty well, then here’s a top up with some vital dates.

Firstly, I have a couple of favourites to recommend. Spike Island is back on form this season with Sanity Assassin; a show resulting from Amanda Beech’s residency at the gallery last summer. The show opens on the evening of 22nd January and runs through until 11th April; expect exciting video works and chainsaws (!). Opening on the same night is the new exhibition, 10 Seconds or Greater at Picture This on Mardyke Ferry Road. 10 Seconds or Greater is the work of London based Rachel Reupke and the artist will be in conversation with writer Marina Vishmidt on the 11th February. Contact the gallery for further information. Behind Spike Island Richard Wilson’s exhibition of preparatory drawings, models and documentation, Force Quit continues at Works/Projects until the 31st January. Following this show, Edwina Ashton exhibits sculptures and drawings of “limbless creatures...dandified insects” and solar powered motor cars from 19th February-28th March at Works/Projects. Don’t forget that all of these galleries and the numerous private artists’ studios will open their doors for the annual Spike Open Event throughout the first May Bank Holiday weekend.

Craftivism at the Arnolfini continues until the 14th February, so head down there and make the most of the interactive pieces waiting to be built, sewn and sat on. Janek Simon’s exhibition overlaps from the 30th January and is open until the 5th April. The main highlight at the Arnolfini this coming season, however, has to be Augusto Corrieri’s performance on the 13th February. As we speak, ten volunteers from Bristol are learning a dance piece via YouTube and will meet for the first time on stage that night, so anything could happen.

The RWA on Queen’s Road have a couple of big exhibitions this year, not least the tasty pair of Celebrating Paper and Urban Evolution running parallel from the 17th January- 21st February. Celebrating Paper is an exhibition of sculpture, origami, artists’ books and wall-hung pieces which could alter the way we see and use the everyday material, whilst Urban Evolution showcases the printmaking skills of Anne Desmet RE RWA.

Bedminster’s BV Studios is nearly complete and, in the gallery space, Motorcade/ Flash Parade on Phillip Street, sculptor Fraser Cook exhibits his first solo show Bally and Barnstorming from the 22nd January until the 7th February. Keep an eye on the Motorcade/Flash Parade website for updates of their following shows.

Finally, a couple of other treats to hunt out: Micro Pages, a touring exhibition of artists’ books on microfilm is at the Bristol Reference Library until the 31st January before moving on to Glasgow. Don’t miss it. Monthly exhibition and live graffiti event A-OK returns to The Junction in 2010. Have a look at their blog for up-to-date information, as February’s date was unavailable when we went to press. Last but not least, Bristol favourite, the Cube Cinema continues its series of exhibitions alongside its film and live music events. In February, Felix Wilkinson and Yurim Gough exhibit their snow delayed show. Following that, I take up the gauntlet with Inside My White Cube; a selection of photographs accompanying a live performance in the bar area. Pop down and whisper me a hello whilst I sit in my knitted cube or leave me a comment on the Issue One blog.


It was an unsettling sight to behold. Highlighted cruelly by the sharp winter sun, there it stood alone. Empty.

For anyone who has struggled through its thronging masses on a peak Saturday afternoon, the sight of a soulless Queen’s Road and Park Street would probably fill you with immediate terror- cowering down before the arrival of the undead invasion soon to start pouring from alleyways and rooftops.

In fairness, this was to be seen at early morning on New Year’s Day. Still, even blighted by the traditional hungover stumble to work, it was a sobering sight to behold. Where were the hordes of shoppers so often prevalent on these pavements?

By midday, any fears or hopes for a cultural abstinence from retail activities were soon extinguished. At Sainsbury’s, where I am grateful to be employed, customers appeared in droves, filling our tills until we closed six hours later.

Of course, a grocery store like ours is a necessity in most people’s lives; our dependence on food marginally more important than our need to aimlessly shop. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we are soon undone. On the next step in our evolutionary progress, we will soon be able to derive all nutritional needs from a 5-a-day of H+M, Jack Wills and Primark.

Before this is dismissed, quite fairly, as the ramblings of a disgruntled shop assistant, take heed from the department of National Statistics. Year on year, ‘the volume of retail sales in November was 3.1 per cent higher than in November 2008’. Indeed food sales were on the increase too, albeit by a considerably smaller 1.7 per cent increase.

If a national, nay global, recession doesn’t curb our consumer habits, surely it is something that we should be concerned about. Given the abundance of health warnings and finger-waggings doled out concerning smoking and drinking, I am surprised by the lack of cutting Government TV adverts trying to wean us off our mindless spending. Except, of course, the government’s need at present is to have us pour money back into the economy, at any cost. Never mind how the proceeds are then being spent by the Government - be it to fund an ongoing war overseas, or to help feed its own people - the support we give by shopping will never be curtailed, nor will we know how the taxes from this are spent.

All of which means, sadly, that we will never switch on to the advert break to see a homebound shopping addict trying to ring up their selection of mugs on an imaginary kitchen till.

To be honest, if I’m going to waste my money on the government, I’d rather ply myself with alcohol and cigarettes than try to derive equal pleasure from a cashmere sweater.

The Zen Hussies Aboard The Matthew

On a cold, dark December night all is quiet and still. Then, from a corner of Bristol harbour, a fever of foot stomping, gypsy-jazz-jiving, swing-ska comes rocking from aboard The Matthew… The culprits? The Zen Hussies!

With an infectious sound and energy, combining 40’s swing with a double helping of Dixieland, ska and gypsy-jazz, the band draws on a variety of musical genres. Combined with a jaunty showmanship, they succeed in creating a unique and exciting musical atmosphere. The band possess a similar sound, life and humour to The Squirrel Nut Zippers, but their Bristolian roots shine through.

'The Matthew', John Cabot’s replica ship, was moored outside the Arnolfini during a recent series of fundraising events to help keep the historic boat afloat. Just before Christmas, decorated with lights and flags, and with a small bar serving drinks and mulled wine, there was a subtle magic in the air. The Zen Hussies hauled in a large crowd, filling the top deck; all dressed in hats, gloves and scarves (including the band!) But the boat was soon warmed up with hot music and raucous rhythms - a perfect evening to dance away those winter blues!

If you missed The Matthew gig, fear not - with a passion for boats it seems, another evening of swashbuckling swing is guaranteed at their next Bristolian gig aboard The Thekla on the 22nd of January.

Also, on 14th of February, The Zen Hussies are creating some romance, hosting their very own Valentines Ball along with the equally infectious band - Top Shelf Jazz (‘fine purveyors of filthy swing’). The evening is being held at Metropolis, Cheltenham Road.

So if the Zen Hussies tickle your fancy, keep an eye out for them around Bristol and the UK. But be warned, one gig and you could be hooked!

HYPERLINK "http://www.myspace.com/thezenhussies" www.myspace.com/thezenhussies
HYPERLINK "http://www.myspace.com/topshelfjazz" www.myspace.com/topshelfjazz

By Paula Bowles