Posted by: martinworster | October 15, 2016

Catatonia (Cerys Matthews) – Reading Festival (Live Review)

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With a female lead as charismatic as Cerys Matthews it’s hard to go wrong. It also helps to have a tasty repertoire of tracks which never fail to cast their magic over a captive crowd. For their second UK gig this summer after Margam Park in South Wales, Catatonia were onto a surefire winner.

Cerys, looking every inch the vixen in a see-through white sequined dress, sailed through a set that was pitched perfectly between gentle ballads and Catatonia’s patented pop-rock. Swigging from a bottle of wine, breathing out the low notes and wrenching her gut on the highs, Cerys oozes personality.

‘I’m spending more time in London. I’m getting used to it.’ Cerys whispers. Cue ‘Londinium’ from their chart topping album ‘Equally Cursed and Blessed’. The fact that Reading is 40 miles west of London goes over Cerys‘ head. Never mind.

‘International Velvet’
also gets an air with its chorus of ‘Every day I wake up I thank the Lord I’m Welsh’- a few people join in and there’s a handful of fluttering Welsh flags. Then it’s a customised version of ‘Dead From The Waist Down’, everyone singing along to ‘Road Rage’, ‘She’s A Millionaire’ and the infectious ‘Mulder and Scully’.

Fortunately, Catatonia were not afraid to move away from just bashing out what you’d hear on their albums. Guitarist Mark Roberts joined in for some of the vocals, new keyboard sounds were added and Cerys ad-libbed more than a few times. The experimentation was welcomed – Catatonia were blistering.

(Originally published on dotmusic)

Posted by: martinworster | September 12, 2016

The Mezzanine Oxford Mayday Ball (Live review)

 

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Brandon Block. Oi Oi!

Ten thousand people, four arenas and enough DJs – etc – to start a small army. Now, where do we start?

 

Walking from the main arena to the Shake It Up tent the 2 step sounds of urban Britain merge into syncopated synth riffs coming from Paul Van Dyk. UK garage wonderboy Jason Kaye is smashing it up with his blend of boggle beats and sub-bass oscillations. Coupled with the MC’s calls for re-winds on tunes like Tuff Jam’s mix of Sisquo’s ‘Why?’ makes for an interactive vibe.

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Paul Van Dyk

Re-entering the Main Arena – light sticks and glowing dummies handed back on the door – it’s clear that PVD is the headline (Oakenfold cancelled due to US commitments) the cyber punks want. He starts of with a selection from his Deviant back-catalogue moving into faves such as ‘For An Angel’. Then, shock horror and mid-drum roll, the sound cuts. For a long five minutes three thousand ravers look around perplexed they can hear themselves think. The engineers find the glitch and the sound returns to a huge cheer. PVD moves into future music and the brief hiatus is forgotten instantly.

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Over in the DJ Arena Goldie follows Boy George – now that should be interesting. Glitter ball house mixed into dirty drum and bass, hhmm. Looking around it looks like Goldie’s another no-show. Then we remember that the Cannes Film Festival is on and possibly – random guess here – Goldie may have other celebrity commitments. Instead Norman Jay takes the helm. No disappointment there. His good time grooves lift the atmosphere as he moves into old skool drum and bass including Origin Unkown’s darkcore classic ‘Valley Of The Shadows’, possibly as a knod to Goldie’s absence.

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Sir Norman Jay in the area

Elsewhere there’s all sorts of mischievousness occurring. Brandon Block gurns to the Smirnoff Arena, Kelvin Andrews gets deep in the Red Room and Dreem Teem’s Mikee B bigs up to the nation via Radio One.

There’s a load of festivals this summer and the Mezzanine crew kick start the season with this packed event. Judging from this night it looks like summer’s going to be long, hopefully hot and probably very expensive for a lot of people. Better start saving.

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Posted by: martinworster | August 15, 2016

Embrace (Interview)

‘Don’t be a fool again/We’re just a bunch of hooligans’ – ‘Hooligan’

Take a cursory look at the current state of the music scene and what do you come away with? You don’t have to be Beethoven to appreciate that ninety per cent of current chart action is pre-packaged pap (read pop) with next to no shelf-life. That’s why, when uprush met up with Embrace’s lead singer Danny McNamara, it was refreshing to come away with the feeling that there are still bands out there for whom musical integrity and connecting with the listeners where it counts are still important.


“I think it’s (the music scene) in a pretty dire state,” Danny told uprush. “I mean you watch MTV for more than an hour and you feel brainwashed. It’s all like girl bands, boy bands, girl-boy bands. It’s hard to see the good stuff in that. Occasionally a transcendent piece of pop comes along but on the whole it’s so formulaic.”

It was with these values that Danny, along with brother Richard and Embrace members Steven, Mike and Mickey, set about the task of following up their half a million selling debut album the ‘The Good Will Out’. The guys locked themselves away for the best part of 1999 along with producer Youth at a country house in Gloucestershire to get down to some serious creative toil. The result is ‘Drawn From Memory’.

“We’ve got more creatively confident,” explains Danny. “This albums more Embrace that the last one. Hopefully people will listen to this album and go back to the first one without all the hype and context clouding the music.”

Around the time of the release of ‘The Good Will Out’, Embrace suffered comparisons to Oasis. This could be seen on a musical level; the Embrace sound was characterised by lazy journalists as being dominated by epic ballads and large string sections, not to mention Embrace’s penchant for direct lyrics. Danny sees the old Oasis comparison as more down to the fact that both bands are fronted by brothers (Danny’s brother Richard also sings and plays the guitar). “I think if we were sisters we would get compared to the Nolans,” Danny quips. “The Oasis comparisons didn’t really annoy or surprise me.”


This is why Danny believes the Embrace sound has moved on. “It doesn’t conform to the box that other people put us in at the time which was big epic strings, ballads – lighters in the air stuff,” he comments. “I mean if somebody lights a lighter at one of our concerts it’s to light a cigarette.”

Fans got a taste of the new material when ‘Hooligan’ came out towards the end of 1999 and crashed into the top ten. ‘Hooligan’ – quirky, shuffling hip hop beats and that distinctive kazoo solo halfway through the track – surprised many with it’s offbeat sound and was an early wake-up call of what to expect from the new album.

Second single to be lifted from  ‘Drawn From Memory’ is ‘You’re Not Alone’ which received heavy airplay and entered the charts at number 14. This was a return to ballad land and underlined Embrace’s status as a band for the people. “We want to be the soundtrack to people’s lives and we want everyone to hear our music. We’re not an elitist band.”

Part of why Embrace work on this populist level is their use of direct lyrics. Although from the critics perspective this lyrical openess can be a double edged sword. “I do listen to the critics,” Danny explained. “But then some of them will hate us for having such direct and honest lyrics and for another person that’s the best thing.”

It’s with this lyrical technique that Embrace can connect with their listeners on such a raw, emotional level. When asked what effect he would like Embrace’s music to have on their fans, Danny replied: “I think of a 24 year old kid who’s split up from his girlfriend and he’s listening to ‘I Had A Time’ in his bedroom and it’s making him cry his eyes out because it’s making him feel a certain way. But then I also think of 7-8 year olds skipping in the park with ‘Hooligan’ on a ghetto blaster.”

Like all good music, the effects on the listener are varied. But it does have an effect. “All we hope for with each album is that we get to make the next one,” Danny told uprush. “So selling half a million copies with ‘The Good Will Out’ meant that we had all this time to do this album. Hopefully this one will do as well so we don’t feel pressurised to do an album in a short amount of time.” Judging from ‘Drawn From Memory’ it looks like Embrace should be getting just the right amount of time for their third album. And that’s something to we can only look forward to.

Posted by: martinworster | August 7, 2016

Brian Transeau (BT) Interview

It was back in 1994 that American Brian Transeau (BT) first developed his taste for all things British – especially the music. He recalls the night when he first saw his friend and musical collaborator Sasha wow the house at a Babealicious club night in a dusty barn in the middle of nowhere. The night also rates as the best DJ set BT has seen Sasha play – ever. ” I’ll never forget that night,” BT explains. “There were thousands of sweating, screaming kids, and he played ‘Embracing The Future’. I watched people go ape shit to a track that I cared so much about and had made in my little bedroom at home in Maryland. The music was unbelievable – he played ‘Grace’ as the last tune and I was like: ‘I’m moving here!”

 

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‘Embracing The Future’, taken from BT’s debut album ‘Ima’, formed the prototype for the progressive trance sound which is so prevalent at the moment. It was through this shared musical taste that BT and Sasha first forged their long friendship and the start of various collaborations. BT still rates the music that Sasha plays, but believes a lot of the current progressive music has lamed out: “The music was called progressive house music but to me now it’s regressive house. The tempo has speeded up and with the all the random noises it can sound like gabba.”

 

 

With that in mind, BT’s latest album ‘Movement In Still Life’ has a dominant breakbeat feel to it with collaborations from the likes of Hybrid, Adam Freeland, Beber, Sasha, Paul Van Dyk and DJ Rap. The album displays BT’s famously honed production skills – he’s a classically trained musician – alongside his knack for tapping into the dance zeitgeist. “Hearing stuff from the new-skool breaks scene through going out to nights like Bedrock was the first time I’ve been inspired by something new since early drum & bass,” explains BT.

Although it takes it’s main cue from the breakbeat scene, the musical styles are varied enough to make it one of the best dance albums of the year. BT’s talent for textured, intricate music with tight arrangements makes for a lush, engaging aural experience. The album also has Brian’s debut vocal outing on ‘Satellite’, and a collaboration with trance maestro Paul Van Dyk on ‘Namistai’, proving BT is still in touch with the quality end of the trance scene.

BT’s latest collaboration with Sasha is a chill out album which they’ve just finished work on at Peter Gabriel’s studio in Bath. Fans will probably be surprised at this change of direction for a Sasha/BT album, but Brian reckons it was a natural step: “For our own records, we do dance music, but if we did it all the time you’d get really bored of it. It’s an natural extension being interested in music to branch out and try other stuff.”

The as yet untitled album is out in spring on the Reel World label and even features one track with Peter Gabriel singing. “It’s totally a listening album,” says BT. “Total chill – if anything it has a dub influence, with a couple of slow breakbeat tracks and lots of ethnic percussion. There’s African and Moroccan sounds and amazing singers including Hookwave form Tanzania.”

It was through Peter Gabriel that BT was recommended for soundtrack work for the new Morgan Freeman/Gene Hackman film ‘Under Suspicion’. Having already done the soundtrack to the follow up to ‘Swingers’, Doug Liman’s US club film ‘Go’, BT was approached by British director Steven Hopkins. “Doing soundtracks is completely different to making dance music,” explains BT. “Your whole job is to emotionally counterpoint what is happening visually. It’s difficult and challenging.”

Thankfully BT is not fully turning his back on dance music. He still gets a buzz from playing live at events in LA and has some dates penciled in for Cream and Gatecrasher with Sasha early next year. He also revealed that Sasha is writing for Madonna on her new album :”She is making an entire progressive house album right now – Madonna’s great as in America she’s really created an awareness to dance music.”

So there you go. A classically trained musician with his fingers in various musical pies. Chill out albums with Sasha, movie soundtracks for Gene Hackman and his current boundary bending breakbeat album. Six years ago BT’s vision foresaw the contemporary fixation for all things trancey. ‘Movement In Still Life’ may well have the same prophetic outlook for the new skool breakbeat scene.

Posted by: martinworster | July 11, 2016

Cannes Festival / Uprush Party

Chateau De La Napoule

 

Party settings don’t come more magical than this. Take a beautiful seventeenth century chateau – Chateau De La Napoule – hugging the Cote D’Azure just outside Cannes.  Throw in a splattering of celebs, movie producers, models, pop stars, actors, writers, directors, a few customary liggers and the odd wannabe. Add to the mix flowing champagne, two rooms of pumping music, a dash of vodka and a warm, balmy evening for the climatic backdrop, and there you have it. The perfect ingredients for the uprush party on the opening weekend of the 53rd Cannes Film Festival.

 

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Skin from Skunk Anansie

 

The chateau provided a fairytale setting. You could have a natter on the terrace as you looked out onto the Mediterranean. Amble round the ornate gardens, replete with piped bird noises for the full multi-medieval experience. Clamber up to the turret complete with childhood Rapunzel fantasies intact. Or -and this seemed to be the most popular option for the night – lose yourself on the dancefloor to the sounds of mullet hairstyled DJ Jeremy Scott.

 

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Fashion designer Jeremy Scott

 

Wandering round within the chateau it was entertaining to indulge in a game of spot the celebrity. Spotted on the night were, in no particular order, Bjork, Andy Macdowell, Skin from Skunk Anansie, Danish film director Lars Von Trier, DJ Jeremy Healey, Nick Moran, Mariella Frostrup, De La Soul and enough long limbed models to fill this month’s Vogue cover to cover.

 

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Bjork violently happy on the dancefloor

 

Fresh from recording her new single with Prodigy member Maxine, Skin told uprush she was here purely for one reason: fun. Bjork on the other hand had work to do with the premier of her acting debut in ‘Dance In The Dark’ to promote. Although this didn’t seem to stop Iceland’s favourite export from giving it some on the dancefloor and knocking back the UK’s favourite import, Moet & Chandon. Ditto for ‘Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels’ star Nick Moran, who’s new film ‘Another Life’ was causing a buzz amongst the Cannes glitterati. This didn’t stop him from waltzing the circuit and doing his best to help deplete the champagne reserves.

In Cannes the cult of celebrity has taken such extreme measures that even dogs have agents. This came to light at the party after meeting Mutley. The French poodle schmoozed and panted his way around the courtyard in an effort to tout for more work. He’s already starred in a few movies and has his own website. Watch this space. Mutley’s a star.

Thankfully the fact that Cannes annual sex movie fest – The Porn D’Ore – was taking place just along the coast didn’t distract the guests. Although it has to be said, that as dawn light appeared some of the messier guests (no names here, we’re not into that) were seen sauntering off in that direction with a wild look in their eyes….

Posted by: martinworster | June 18, 2016

San Gorgonio Mountain (11,503 feet)

Elevation Gain: 5840 ft
Distance: 18.5 miles

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This is only the second overnight (wilderness camping) ascent I’ve tried, so there’s always a slight sense of trepidation beforehand. Also, as San Gorgonio is the highest peak in Southern California and our route was an 18.5 miles return I was quite daunted. I’m taking my son into the high mountains. There’s no mobile coverage. There are wild animals. He’s my ultimate responsibilty. Cue lots of good father son bonding opportunity and Man Vs Wild moments. For me this was the sixth and final peak in the So Cal Six Pack. For my son, Tristan, it was his fifth as he’s yet to complete Mount Baldy (watch this space).

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I decided to do it as an overnight camp as I was worried the nipper – a mere ten years old – might find the 18 miles return too much in one day. Or maybe I was worried about myself being able to do it. Oooh, me knees. We arrived at the trailhead around 2.30 PM which I thought would give us enough time to hike the 3.5 miles in to the Halfway Camp to break the back of the hike and set up camp in the light. I must have had 50 pounds on my back as I was taking equipment (tent, two sleeping bags, clothes, hiking poles etc) and provisions (water, dinner, breakfast, lunch, snacks) for two. I’d read about how the first mile on this hike (via Vivian Creek) was very steep with a 1000 feet in elevation gain. It was tough, but as it’s the start you have fresh legs so you power on. As we ascended the air thinned and it got cooler. Then the topography evened out and we slowly ascended through manzanita fields to Vivian Creek where the water made it cool and the scenery very green – I bet this place gets busy with animals drinking during dusk.

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We carried on the last mile to Halfway Camp and made it in very good time before sunset. Thankfully there was a group of three very friendly young US Marines at the campground which made me feel quite safe and protected from the threat of any encroaching bears, mountain lions or meth heads. The temperatures stayed quite mild even though we were high up and were definitely not as cold as our Mount San Bernadino hike where it reached minus 2. We hung up our food from a high branch (to keep it from the bears) and then hunkered down for the night.

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We were on the trail the next morning – achey and stiff after not the best nights sleep – for 8am ready to conquer the peak. The scenery was breathaking. Apart from the chirp of birds and the odd gust of wind in the trees there was total silence. My tinnitus rang through the thin mountain air. Looking back you could see the clouds – of So Cal’s June gloom – swamping the valleys below leading to the Pacific. The twin peaks of Orange County’s two highest mountains – Modjeska and Santiago Peak – poked through the cloud cover like a pair of shark fins. On the other side you could see Mount Jacinto (the big peak that over looks Palm Springs) and I really started to get a sense of the scale and beauty of the mountains Southern California has to offer.

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As is always the case with mountain hikes you’re always calculating. How long to the top? How many miles left? How long till the next rest? Not helped by Tristan asking these questions and externalising my inner thoughts. As we got higher the air really started to thin and as you pass through the 10,000 feet mark it got quite tough going – you feel exhausted, your limbs like lead weights, every next step an effort and ordeal. If you stop you really start to feel the altitude so it’s best to keep moving whilst trying to maintain a positive mental attitude. I can do this! Keep going! Who’s ******* idea was this??

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As we passed through the tree line the scenery took a lunar turn as things got more barren. There was less vegetation and more rocky. Things were getting very tough. When’s this going to end? You see what you think must be the peak in the distance and it slowly gets closer. Then you realise it wasn’t the peak and there’s another one off in the distance behind it. This must be it? Now there were intermittant patches of snow. Looking around for markers you thing, this must be it, there’s nothing in the vicinity higher than this? Getting closer we could see people taking photos. We’d made it!

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At the top you got a 360 perspective of a large swathe of Soutern California – behind us lay desert and eventually Arizona. In front were the coastal valleys (with smaller intermittant mountains) and finally the Pacific Ocean. This place has it all. We took our obligatory photos next to the sign and had a spot of lunch. I’ve climbed the six highest mountains in So Cal. What next? Well I suppose the first thing is to get down off this mountain.

Often the way down get’s really tought as it starts to play on your knees (which in my case are slightly arthritic). But at least you are going down, always easier than up, plus losing elevation means more oxygen. Tristan’s endurance and positive mental attitude really impressed me – no moaning or complaining. Just soldiering on with steadfast confiction and energy. I am one proud dad. I look forward to completing Mount Baldy with him and then he’s also bagged the Six Peaks. Then we move on to the High Sierras. One step at a time.

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Posted by: martinworster | May 28, 2016

San Bernadino Peak (10649)

Distance:  15.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 5860 feet

 

Mount San Berandino

Mount San Berandino

San Bernadino Peak always filled me with a slight trepidation as it involved an overnight camp. At almost 17 miles return I thought it might be too much in one day for ten year old Tristan (and possibly me). Plus I wanted the experience of wilderness camping and taking everything you needed up with you strapped to your back. We were meant to ascend Bernadino last year but it got closed due to forest fires. Hence our mission of doing the So Cal Six Peak in height order was thrown slightly out of sequence. We did Mt San Jacinto last year which is the second highest. Tristan has yet to compete Mount Baldy which is the fourth highest (although I’ve already done it twice).

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San Gorgonio Wilderness

The drive up to the trail head takes you through inland Orange County, River Side County then San Berandino county up into the foothills by the small town of Mentone on the 38 which is a back route to Big Bear ski resort. The hike starts near the small town of Angelus Oaks. I was a bit worried as the camp site was five miles into the hike – a steep climb up  a mountain with enough water, food, tent, sleeping bags etc for two people as I couldn’t expect Tristan to hike up with all this. I also fretted over whether we had all the right gear. Don’t forget your tooth brush.

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May 22 – still lots of snow

We parked up and started on the trail at around 1.30 pm. I made sure we had our permits for the hike. They love a permit in the US. Feels like any small activity requires a permit which I find a bit ironic in the Land of the Free. My backpack was heavy. It was an old skool ruck sack I’d had for years, more suited to Inter Railing than steep mountain ascents. The first mile was a steep climb as we entered the San Gorgonio wilderness – a couple of miles of switchbacks. It was pretty tough going but as it was the beginning your legs are still fairly fresh. The scenery was breathtaking, helped by the agreeable weather, sunny but not too hot – although I was still sweating like a glass blowers behind.

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Into the wild we go…

As a worrier a lot of thoughts were racing through my mind. Thoughts like ‘who’s idea was this? Will we get to camp in time before it’s dark? Was that snapped twig sound to my left a mountain lion tracking us? Will Tristan be able to make it all the way? More importantly will I?’ Most of the thoughts illogical so you steam through them and keep going onwards and upwards, what what…

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Backpacks at the ready

Thankfully, after the first steep mile or so things evened out as we headed through Manzanita Flats, a high meadow packed with the hardy and native Manzanita plant with it’s distinctive dark and spindly branches. This section went on for a couple of miles. Tristan was keeping up like a trooper. I wanted to go faster to guarantee not setting up camp in the dark. Temperatures were really dropping and clouds had started to roll in, although thankfully as we keep getting higher we managed to stay in the sunlight which kept the temperatures up.

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Artsy wood grain close up

Then the last couple of miles to Limber Pine camp really started to drag on, not helped by the increased steepness and a bit of wind on more exposed stretches. Finally we reached camp around 7pm. It was freezing. We hadn’t bought gloves which was a school boy error. We found some shelter behind a tree and set up our budget (and hence heavy tent). I actually really started to feel the altitude and had to take a break from setting up due to dizziness. We had started out the day at sea level and the camp was at 9320 feet. Once set up there was nothing to do but sit in it. It was too cold to be outside – it actually got to minus 4 in the night. I didn’t sleep a wink. I’d failed to bring extra socks so our feet were freezing. Another school boy error. I kept hearing what I thought might have been a large mammal (bear or cat?) sniffing around inches from my head, then realised it might be my paranoia and it was actually the wind rubbing against tent material.

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It feels good to be above the clouds…

The ground was cold and hard. I needed to go for a wee but the thought of venturing outside was too much. I hardly slept at all. I don’t think Tristan did either, not helped by being in a Thomas the Tank Engine sleeping bag he’d had since a toddler, and hence wholly inappropriate for a high altitude mountain camping expedition.

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Quite an in-tents experience

We probably ventured out around 6am as the sun started to warm things up. I have to say the camp site was perhaps the most beautiful one I’d ever been to. Clouds rolled down beneath us, untrammeled wilderness, alpine meadows and mountains on one side, a hazy Riverside and Orange counties spread out below us. Mount Baldy grinned at us from across the valley. We had a quick brekkie and then set of for the peak around 9am.

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Are we there yet?

If felt like we’d done all the hard work as we’d already done 5 miles with backpacks and the peak was a mere 2.5 from the campsite. We stopped of at the mountain spring near the camp and splashed our faces with ice cold snow melt. There was a lot of snow now, patches of the trail were covered in it. The switchbacks continued taking us higher and we turned a bend at the top to show insane views over San Gorgonio (the highest mountain in Southern California and our final peak to bag). The last half a mile snaked up the spine of the mountain and we finally hit the peak. We did it! The views were gorgeous. It was nice to have the whole day to enjoy the scenery and not be rushed as we’d camped up the mountain.

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Peak time rush

As always the return journey dragged on, particularly the last two miles as my knee started to jar, not helped by the weight of the backpack. Tristan was a trooper, no complaints or grumbles. I couldn’t have done such a hike at his age. I’m very proud of him. Two more mountains to go and he’s done the So Cal Six Pack, a major achievement.

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Top O The World To Ya.

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San Gorgonio in the distance – our next challenge

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Cloud 9.. and 10, 11, 14, 24 etc etc

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Twisted trunk atop lonely knoll

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Manzanita meadow

Posted by: martinworster | May 20, 2016

Fuel The Fear: Weird Gun Logic

The only way to stop a bad guy with a bad idea is by a good guy with a good idea

Living in a country where guns are so predominant it’s equally fascinating and scary to observe. What’s particularly interesting is the illogical thinking you often come across that’s used to justify and preserve their existence and use. From what I can see a prevailing gun culture promotes a society based on fear. Everyone else has a gun. In that case – I also need one myself to protect myself from everyone else who also has a gun. The fear spreads and perpetuates. A nice little side bonus is the massively profitable industry this creates. Let’s sell guns to everyone who’s scared. I’ve even felt myself – through a process fearful osmosis that seeps into your being when you’ve lived in this country for over a decade – that I might need a gun myself to protect myself and my family. I only thought that – I would never actually go out and act on that fear. So I use the higher, non-fear driven, part of the brain to reason and work out that having a gun probably won’t make me safer. Or would it? When I go hiking or mountain biking in the wilderness I will take knife through a legitimate fear of being attacked by a mountain lion – hikers and bikers have indeed been killed by them here. Not many I admit. So it’s a genuine fear that leads my to weaponize to protect myself from animals. By logical extension, should I not also own a gun to protect myself from other people?

Probably not as owning this gun frequently leads to death through misadventure, a child finding it, accidental firing, suicide or drunken disputes that turn deadly. The fear of other people having guns and then getting one yourself can quickly backfire. Overall I try to not get into gun debates with people over here as I find the different arguments are polar opposite epistemological mountain tops you end up shouting across to the opposing view. I don’t like getting into shouty, circular back and forths that don’t resolve.

America’s whole history of gun culture and how their use is protected by a the Second Amendment – hence they’re viewed as a basic right – is totally at odds with a Europeans view on guns. We feel they are not needed. That society is safer and better off without them. And statistics back this up. It’s important to add, many people I know here don’t own guns and want tougher gun laws. Not everyone here’s an angry gun nut. But the one’s who are here are very vocal and aggressive about their perceived rights. I see some of the States that have ‘open carry’ laws like Arizona and Texas and hence some gun owners like to flaunt this and proudly carry their AK47 slung over their shoulder whilst shopping in Target or at the grocery store. I find that move very aggressive, hostile and intimidating, particularly to children. What sort of message is that sending out? ‘This is what I think my right is and I will flaunt’, they think, even though externally that move promotes the threat of violence.

Whilst mentioning Arizona, it reminded me of a contractor (builder) who came to my house to do some tile work. He was a nice guy and we used to chat about this and that. He always held up Arizona as kind of utopia, mainly down to it’s lax gun laws including open carry. One day he’d got in a minor road rage incident in California where the other driver had ‘flipped him off’ ie gave him the middle finger. He told me that would have never happened in Arizona due to the higher penetration of guns. Ie the fear of getting shot would have prevented the guy from raising his fingers. I thought that was a strange notion that some form of societal order and balance was imposed through the fear of getting shot and that this was a good thing. I guess it would work. But is it a good standard through which to regulate society? Thinking about it, it does even affect how I behave as if I feel a touch of road rage coming on I think twice about confrontations, or shouting or pulling up beside someone to have a rant as I think to myself, ‘hang on, they might have a gun’. I don’t really want to be one of those pointless deaths from a road rage incident. A page 6 News In Brief in the LA Times – ‘Man Shot On 405 Off Ramp’ – a sad and meaningless way to go.

Posted by: martinworster | April 19, 2016

Jarvis Cocker / Glastonbury 2001

On assignment for dotmusic, I bumped into Pulp frontman and now national icon, Jarvis Cocker. I think at that time Pulp had split up after pretty much defining the Brit Pop sound in the 90s. Jarvis was very friendly. Happy days in the backstage area. Lots more photos to follow.

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Jarvis Cocker. Sorted For E’s and Whizz..and nicotine inhalers

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Posted by: martinworster | June 30, 2015

Mount San Jacinto (10,834 feet)

…second highest mountain in Southern California..lets, er, do this…

Distance: 11.4 miles
Elevation: 10,834 feet
Vertical gain: 4,689 feet

Mount San Jacinto

Mount San Jacinto – are we there yet? Early morning trail start…

Originally our plan had been to keep in order of mountain height on the Six Peak Challenge and climb Mount San Bernadino. Sadly – due to wildfires – this mountain was closed so next up on the list was Mount San Jacinto. I was a little intimated by this one as I’d heard and read how tough a hike it was – not helped by it’s proximity to Palm Springs which of course also means it’s very hot. In fact if you have ever driven to Palm Springs from LA you will see it on the right as you cruise down the 10 freeway into Palm Springs. You can even take a cable car from Palm Springs to near the summit.

Mount San Jacinto

Are you having a giraffe? (Are you having a laugh?)

Our way in was via the Marion Mountain trail which is just outside of Idylwild, the main town in the San Jancinto mountain range. We camped the night before pretty much on the the trail head so as to ensure an early (and cool) start. My alarm went off at 4.45 am and we had started by 6am. This hike is steep. Luckily the first 3 miles were in shade as the sun was still rising – looking ahead you could ominously see the sun and where we would have to eventually break out of the shade. At times a lot of trail included scrambling up over steep boulders as we continued to gain elevation.

Mount San Jacinto - apparently a fungus?

Mount San Jacinto – apparently a fungus?

Sometimes when I hike I think to myself – ‘do I actually enjoy this?’. I mean I love being outside in nature and the fact that my mobile phone doesn’t work. But many of these hikes are very tough and challenging and it becomes quite a mental test. I kept thinking I would be better off by the pool on a hot day like this. We were in a heatwave. I was tired starting the hike but you have to find the will to soldier through it and keep a good mental attitude. And Tristan didn’t fail to really impress me on this hike with his strength and positive mental attitude. We carried on up the valley admiring the hazy views and wildlife.

Did we peak too early...? Well no..

Did we peak too early…? Well no..

Even though it’s only 5.3 miles to the top it’s pretty unrelenting and hence it feels like it’s a lot longer. After 2.5 miles we completed the Marion Trail and hit the basic campground and the only flat (but short) section of Round Valley. Then we continued to climb now in full sunlight. It was hot and dusty. There is no drinkable water on the trail so I was carrying 3.5 Litres plus enough food and sweets to start a corner shop. I had to really focus to get through the last through couple of miles. Asking any hikers who were descending from the summit ‘how long left?’, the adult version of ‘are we there yet?’. The answers varied and were inconsistent – perhaps with a view to keeping your spirits up.

Looking East to the hazy desert...

Looking East to the hazy desert…a band of smoke and pollution.

Finally we got to the last section with 0.3 miles left which was basically scrambling over boulders on steep mountain. There was a hut / refuge in which you could sign the book and at the very top a geographical marker. The views were awesome. A 360 panoramic on the whole of southern California. Looking East Mount Gorgonio was visible across the pass – although with clouds of smoke making all of it except the summit visible. At best of times – with the heat and pollution – the views are hazy. Looking over the steep escarpment Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley lay below us, a seemingly infinite sand and desert scape with no visible horizon. Looking West we could see Orange County and it’s highest mountain Santiago Peak. It was truly an awesome, top-of-the world view.

Ice cool stream for some much needed toe dipping..

Ice cool stream for some much needed toe dipping..

Tristan was very happy and proud of himself. I was even prouder of him. This climb is no easy feat for anyone, but for a nine year old it’s a major accomplishment. Once you reach the top it’s a major psychological relief as the rest is – mainly – all down hill. The return did drag on. We had a nice little respite by paddling in stream we passed. Bizzarely, despite the desert heat, the water was icy cold. I didn’t see how there could be any snow or ice left to chill the spring water to this cold a temparature? There must be a deep mountain spring full of icy water from the snow melt. Incidentally, there are various ski descents of this mountain in water, although strictly for the intrepid / slightly mad.

Mount Jacinto..looking up the creek..without a paddle

Mount Jacinto..looking up the creek..without a paddle

As we carried on with the descent I could sense Tristan’s furstration for the last two miles as it never seemed to end. I was also getting annoyed by it – it becomes a good test of character. We’d left at just before 6am and arrived back at base camp at just after 5 so it was a good 11 hour trek in hot and slightly hostile conditions.  Tristan passed with flying colours. We have two mountains left to climb on this challenge but they are both closed by the large fire (17, 000 acres at time of writing) so this might scupper our plans to get this finished before our trip to England. Nevertheless it’s still a case of onwards and upwards…

Nice frond...

Nice frond…

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