Saturday, August 28, 2010

Beirut Live in Eastbourne

One of my favourite bands, Beirut, played to a sell out crowd at Eastbourne's Winter Gardens last night, and it was a very special gig. Being best known for its blue rinses and tea dances, it's rare that Eastbourne attracts such hip artists, unless they have a connection to the town. I've no idea why Melting Vinyl chose the Winter Gardens, perhaps it was cheaper than the Corn Exchange in Brighton (which is probably the equivalent in terms of capacity), or maybe the band fancied doing something a bit different. Either way, they managed to pull it off, drawing fans from all over the country for Beirut's only English gig on this tour.

I've wanted to see Beirut live ever since I was introduced to them back in 2007. They rarely play the UK and I missed their last London gig because I was poorly, so when I read that they were coming to my home town, I was doubly chuffed. I have a strong personal connection to the Winter Gardens - my first ever am-dram show was in the Gold Room, I have sung in many music festivals there and even worked backstage during my time on the Eastbourne Theatres' crew. I was stunned to see a queue snaking around the corner when we arrived last night and even more taken aback when we got inside and it was bursting at the seams with hipsters.

Beirut were on good form, complimenting the 'classy venue' (perhaps they were being sarcastic?) and generally crowd-pleasing with their energetic klezmeriachi (I just made that up). I was plagued with annoying shouty people on all sides, but managed to wangle my way down into a less garrulous section of the audience for the last few songs, even finding enough room for a little waltz with Ant. Afterwards the streets outside were teeming and confused looking drivers struggled to navigate their way past the skinny-jeaned swarm; I'm pretty sure Compton Street has never seen anything like it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sussex Gastro Pub Series: The Ginger Dog in Kemp Town, Brighton

On those rare Saturdays when we haven't got anything much on, Ant and I will usually find ourselves a-wandering down the hill to Kemp Town for a mooch - perhaps picking up a paper and grabbing a coffee in Spinelli's, indulging in a haircut and some people-watching at Barber Blacksheep, browsing the shelves of the Kemp Town Bookshop or picking up indulgent foodie supplies from Bona Foodie or Kemp Town Deli. More often than not, we'll end up still knocking about at lunch time and grabbing a meal at one of the many pubs or cafes in the village. 

On our last one of these perambulations a week or so ago, we discovered a new addition to the Kemp Town gastronomical circuit, which has popped up where the not-so-glamorous Wellington pub once was. The latest addition to the 'Gingerman' local restaurant chain (which includes the original Gingerman restaurant, The Ginger Pig and The Ginger Fox), The Ginger Dog is tucked away on College Place, sat between The Golden Cannon and (our favourite local) The Barley Mow on the Kemp Town pub trail. Having heard good things about the other Gingerman restaurants, we were chuffed to find one practically on our doorstep and decided to give it a try.

With its muted buff walls, rustic mis-matched chairs and funky artwork, the newly decorated interior certainly looked the part of a trendy gastro pub and the friendly staff were a vast improvement on the pub's previous incarnation. Not wanting to spoil our afternoon by being over-stuffed, and still having a big hill up which to scamper, we both decided on sticking to starters, along with an extra portion of chips (just in case). I had a goats cheese and baby onion gratin, which came with a slab of griddled bread (ciabatta I think) and a salad garnish, Ant went for the salmon tartare - something he'd never sampled before. Both of us were happy with our choices, which were nicely presented and beautifully cooked. The chips were the icing on the cake, perhaps the most perfect pub chips I've had - lightly crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, not too greasy - and a vast improvement on the awful ones we'd been served at the Open House the week before.

All in all it was a delightful, if rather indulgent, Saturday lunch and I'm looking forward to going back for the full three-course experience one evening before too long.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Morris Dancing, Moonlit Swimming & Getting Away from it All

Lately I've been working my butt off (hence the lack of blog posts) and though most of the time it's fun, every now and then I need a break from the constant demands and responsibilities that my job now entails. So when a business meeting down in Devon found its way into my diary, I seized the opportunity to combine it with a picobreak, staying with the lovely Harriet (who I miss terribly) in Slapton. It so happened that she had arranged a shindig that night at the local pub with her Morris dancing side, Beltane Border. And yes, they are those scary looking blacked-up variety - though it's not a racist thing I'm told.

As I arrived at Harry's, the sun was shining and I was feeling blissfully detached from the office, being so many miles away from Brighton on the beautiful South Devon coast. As Harry and Linda donned their costumery and prepared for the dancing, I sat soaking up the sunset and drinking cider, my brow swiftly un-furrowing as I watched the world go by. The pub was buzzing with tourists and locals, all intrigued by the gathering swarm of imposing black-clad figures. The sound of a lone fiddle and accompanying Celtic drums signalled the start of the show and everyone nodded and bobbed along as the various energetic dances unfolded, each introduced with an anecdote, myth or theme to add a splash of colour.

Fuelled with cider and pagan magic, I helped Harry get a fire on the beach started and kicked back with her fellow dancers and other assembled groupies for a classic evening of bonfire bantering, ale swigging and moonlit swimming. I hadn't felt so relaxed since our holiday in France and was sad when the night came to a natural conclusion just before dawn and it was time to say goodbye to new found friends and start thinking about the long drive back in the morning. A final swig of chai and a quick didgeridoo jam in the back of a campervan (thanks Amy, Jon & Lee), followed by toast and marmite back at Harriet's and it was time to place my happy head on the pillow and dream of future adventures.


This little video has some highlights of Beltane's dances (plus a bonus feature at the end) and you can see some of our beach antics via this Flickr set of mine. Fellow camera geek (and excellent chap) Jon, who I met on the night, also has this brilliant set of pics on Facebook which is well worth a look.