We spent a fantastic few days visiting Liverpool for the first time at the end of November. Mersyside has the honour of being the European City of Culture this year so there was plenty of things to take in.
We started things off in epic fashion on Thursday night with local lads Echo & the Bunnymen returning and playing Ocean Rain with the accompaniment of a full symphony orchestra. The Bunnymen played a straight up set first off, which was difficult to get into as we were up in the rafters of the totally anonymous (but appropriately named) Echo Arena. Once the orchestra came on the atmosphere was electric, closely matching the magic of their set at Connect last year for personal impact.
On Friday we tootled about the wonderfully intricate ropewalks areas hunting down abandoned brick warehouses and back lane bars. We also checked out a few of the art Biennial installations (including Ai Wei Weiâ€™s spider and the immaculately detailed extension to the Bluecoat gallery) wandered pasted the modernist catholic metropolitan cathedral (Above) and down the road to its equally grandiose Anglican sibling (top). After a late lunch and a few bottles of wine too many at crazy Keith’s in suburban Lark Lane, Claire joined us off the Glasgow train and we met a friend of a friend for some illegal noodles at the intriguing Static Gallery with the friendly staff from ShedKM, which lead to a small tour of some of Liverpoolâ€™s finer drinking establishments as evidenced by the cheery faces below!
After a long sleep in on Saturday we wandered through the eerie mist that had descended on the city to view the somewhat unfocused Le Corbusier exhibition in the crypt of the Metropolitan Cathedral. On the way we chalked up visits to a couple more interesting Art Biennial installations including Atelier Bow Wowâ€™s Rockslide performance space.
That evening we attended to unofficial closing party for the Independent Biennial a wacky space themed poetry cum electro performance with great sets from wave if your really there and we have band who are both worth looking out for if you fancy a boogie.
Sunday morning we squeezed in a quick visit to the fantastic FACT which included a curiously disturbing noise art installation, as well as an installation of Yoko Onoâ€™s ladders in the evocative bombed out ruins of St Lukeâ€™s church, before we hopped back on the train totally knackered but thoroughly entertained.
A very brief summary of some of the music we have been to see over the last few months:
Our friends Jamie & Ryan played a series of Liquid Ship gigs, including some with Jamie’s brother Andy. Jamie also played a ‘proper’ gig at the atmospheric City Halls (with another one to come in January I just noticed) as he started promoting his (as yet unreleased) album ‘Cold But Bright’
We saw Jenny Lewis, of Rilo Kiley fame, in a very country set at the Queen Margaret Union.
Then band du jour – Fleet Foxes, played at ABC 1 – they were fantastic, with ethereal harmonies and fantastic shambolic cardigans although they did take a little time to get into the swing of things.
Finally in a last minute boss had a spare ticket moment we caught the very loud and straight up and down Kiwi rockers The Datsuns playing a packed gig at the tiny King Tuts, we hadn’t heard of them since they were big on triple J in 2004 & I didn’t even realise they were still playing.
We made up for a distinct lack of invites to scottish dances in our two years in the country by organising our own outing to the very entertaining regular Friday night Ceilidh in the ballroom of local institution Sloan’s.
We enjoyed ourselves so much that we stepped things up a gear the following weekend and headed to Fife for a Charity Dance with the pro’s. Although a little outclassed, we had a great time staying with our friend Lynn’s family near St Andrew’s, and managed a quick visit to the home of Golf on the Sunday morning after the dance. Although we didn’t spot any royals wandering about (or manage any golf for that matter) Chhay did manage to fly her kite on the beach (cue Chariots of Fire music) and we had a good potter about the delightful town and harbour.
At the end of October we combined work, travel and family with a quick little jaunt down to Hadrian’s Wall in the north of England.
In particular we visited Housesteads Roman Fort, the new visitor experience for which should be keeping me occupied for the forseable future. We met my cousin Celia escaping from her purgatory in Leeds for the day, and despite the less than appealing weather managed to get up the hill to the fort itself.
The fort was a little underwhelming (definitely in need of its new facilities), apart from the uk’s best preserved roman loos (top) but we had a great lunch from a local pub, with an amazing selection of pies on the menu, and the whin sill scenery (above) was stunning if a little less dramatic than the Scottish highlands.
A mad Saturday catching Robert Forster of the Go Betweens fame , in an epic (and early) performance at local venue Oran Mor. His new albumn is excellent and for some reason we had been listening to the back catalogue in the last few months and the live set didn’t let us down.
Emerging just after 10 pm a feeling a little bored we popped into town for the opening of the Tryptich replacing Tennant Mutual ‘concept’ at the ever interesting CCA. Findo Gask were the highlight with their exuberant electro-rock.
My new office kindly took us all to Venice for a weekend to witness the opening of the 11th Venice Architectural Biennale, in particular the opening party for the GHA designed Scottish Pavilion. I had nothing to do with it as it had all happened before I joined the practice but was kindly taken along for the ride, and Chhay joined us along with a solid contingent of WaG’s (and not forgetting the HaB’s too!)
I was excited to visit Venice for the first time despite the tourist mecca that it is renowned to be. The combination of lots of boats, windy lanes and Italian architecture is too close to my heart to ignore. Our explorations of the maze of alleyways was limited by torrential rain on the Saturday, which we spent tucked in another of my ideal urban ingredients – a tiny corner bar open to the street and plastic bag clad masses.
Sunday proved to be a little drier so we packed an architectural meg day, starting in the national pavilions in the Giardini before a hyperspeed tour of the architectural (or sculptural really) delights of the Arsenale, where the starchitects had come out to play – with swoopy, eye candy from the likes of Zaha and Frank.
Highlights were the Belgian pavilion filled only with tonnes of confetti in an exploration of emptiness, the indescribably beautiful pencil drawings on the walls of the Japanese pavilions and the mind numbing, literally disorientating saturation of ideas bursting out of the Italian pavilion.
Naturally a weekend was not even close to enough time to explore it all, and the next biennale may provide the perfect excuse to return in a few years time!