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  There’s a slight difficulty in describing exactly what it is that Frisky and Mannish do. They describe it as ‘twisted pop cabaret’ and aim to educate their audience in the history and politics of popular music. I would say their act consists more of satirising and lampooning the power ballad / boy band end of the music market (as well as spot on impersonations of Lily Allen and Florence Welch). To glorious, uproarious effect. Really all I can say is: go and see them. Now.  Do it so you can say when they have become monster, best selling DVD, booking out Wembley famous that you ‘discovered’ them and loved them way back when…

Last night’s show at St. David’s Hall saw F&M fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe performing the first date on their ‘The College Years’ Tour. The show basically consists of Frisky on vocals and Mannish on keyboard and vocals performing new arrangements / reimaginings of ’80s, ’90s and ’00s pop songs. The reason this seemingly simple idea works so brilliantly for F&M is due to the amount of warmth, wit, talent and waspish humour in the delivery. Both have blow-you-away voices and impressive vocal ranges and could walk something like the X Factor. Both are also young, sexy, dressed up to the nines and prone to break out the crazy dance moves which I’m sure helps keep the audience hooked. 

Frisky and Mannish performed in the L3 Lounge at St Davids Hall an underrated venue which suits this kind of thing perfectly.  The audience instantly warmed to them and they seemed to have their fan club in as there was quite a bit of merry heckling from one table!

 Good news! F&M are performing at the Comedy Box in Bristol 12th and 13th Nov…Go book now!

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I’d better start this review with a confession…I wimped out of Mardi Gras. I only stayed until 5ish so I missed Ianto/Gareth David Lloyd and possibly quite a few other celebs.  This wimping out had nothing to do with the quality or variety of the delights on offer at Mardi Gras but was purely due to my fragile physical/mental state induced by a bout of drinking at Chapter on Friday night followed by having to get up early to work Sat morning.  I know this is a rubbish excuse considering my fellow blogger vanillalatte_1 accompanied me at Chapter (the drinking was preceded by watching Gary Coyle’s ‘At Sea’ – see our review here) and was up super early and at Mardi Gras for 12 hours!

So, impressions of Mardi Gras:

I rolled up about 12.45 armed with McDonalds for the hard working Press Officer which the gate guards/stewards very kindly let me bring on site. I then staggered to the Co-op tent where I picked up my green backstage wristband (me so cool!). Press Officer then came to find/rescue me and escorted me backstage where I got my ‘Media’ gaydar.co.uk lanyard. I then collapsed backstage for a bit to watch the comings and goings and listen to the performers on the main stage over the roar of the gennies.

After a bit I decided to have an explore around the site. I managed to bagsy quite a few freebies from  the various stalls although I could perhaps have been a bit cheekier and got more. Best freebie was fabric bag from National Museum of Wales adorned with a pair of wellies in honour of the fact that they were exhibiting Dame Shirley Bassey’s wellies from Glasto.  I also got some nice stickers from Amnesty International and the Welsh Labour Party. Thanks to Stonewall I now know ow to say “Some people are gay. Get over it.” (best slogan ever) in Cymraeg – well I have it written down, haven’t memorised it yet!

I then met up with some mates and we went to watch the South Wales Gay Men’s Chorus (SWGMC) perform on the Cabaret Stage.  Preceeding them was a glamourpuss belting out some pop hits inc. Alexandra Burke’s version of Hallelujah which she did very well. The SWGMC completly stole her thunder by dancing and singing along behind her ‘backstage’ and one them even got up on stage tobump ‘n’ grind with her! She took it in good spirits though. When it came to SWGMC’s performance they disappointed a bit as the rhythm seemed to have deserted them and they only swayed gently whilst singing when moments before they’d been doing the can-can ‘backstage. ‘ Sadly they were also a bit drowned out by the bass pounding from the funfair rides. They still delivered a charming performance, however.

There has been some controversy about the culture/atmosphere surounding the site and  the set up of the site itself. I thought it was a good idea to fence it as it made it feel safe and secure but I think the site was too small. Even by 5pm it was too crowded to walk around the site freely and there was a feeling of being ‘penned ‘ or ‘kettled’ plus the queues to get in and crowds around the entrance were pretty bad. But the atmosphere was gentle and non-threatening (at least in the early evening). I think considering this was a free event there was lots to see and do and the organisers should be very proud of their acheivement.  A thought for ext year though: lots more loos please as there always seemed to be 30+ people queuing!

Gary Coyle: ‘At Sea’ – Chapter Arts Centre, Friday 3rd September

Gary Coyle’s solo performance ‘At Sea’, a culmination of over 10 years spent swimming in the sea every day and photographing and documenting his experiences, is a beautifully presented glimpse into the mind of an artist.

Using photos as visual pointers, Coyle talks through his experiences and motivations in the photographic project which, throughout its course, developed to include writing notes about his swims as well as collecting and bottling the sea water.

A natural public speaker, Coyle is very engaging and easy to listen to and his account includes a lot of humour as well as well-structured tales of particular journeys. His philosophy about performance art is also very insightful; he tells of how he has always hated performance art but somehow became a work of performance art over this epic mission to record his unique experience.

The photographs themselves are stunning – sometimes surprisingly ordinary images are brought to live by the stories recounted in relation; other images need no explanation, many are humorous, some completely mesmerising.

The most interesting aspect of the performance is seeing Coyle recount how absorbed he has become with the experience of daily swims recorded in this way. It’s almost as if he wants it to seem ridiculous but is feeling a deeper commitment to the art than he is prepared to let on.

This is not the sort of performance one encounters every day and is a must if you want to experience a very interesting way to combine several art forms without losing the beauty and greatness of any of them.

I love going to the hairdresser. But actually I hate it. But I love it. The feeling of someone else washing your hair, giving you a lovely massage, focusing their attention on making you look nice is brilliant but then there’s always that nagging, uncomfortable feeling. In my experience everyone else who goes to the hairdresser seems to know the etiquette – whether to ask for a cup of tea and magazines or not, what to talk about, how to describe what style they’re after – and I don’t know any of it. I am filled with panic.

The last time I went, a couple of months ago, I thought I was quite clear in saying I wanted choppy layers and a bit of volume but the stylist just cut two layers into my hair and then blow dried it. To add insult to bad hairdressing, she left the room as I was leaving instead of thanking me an saying goodbye. That, of course, meant I needed to find a new salon, with all it’s awful new-etiquette perils.

Luckily I was recommended (by my lovely co-blogger Raitapaita) a new one to try. Sweeneys Hair Design is in the Duke Street Arcade in Cardiff’s city centre. As I work in the centre of town this made it really convenient to pop over in my lunch hour for a bit of R&R and a new look!

When I arrived I was welcomed with a smile and not a disgruntled stylist trying to finish the conversation she was having with her colleague. I felt really at ease when she sat me in front of the mirror and I explained that I need something interesting doing to my hair, and then went to get my cup of tea (I declined the magazines in the end).

She listened to what I’d asked for and actually did it, efficiently and professionally, whilst making small talk about where I work and how horrible the weather was looking. In addition to improving my hair she gave me a few tips on how to maintain the style myself at home, and didn’t try to inflict the salon products on me for a ridiculous surcharge.

I left feeling revitalised and happier – what more could you ask for?!

Sweeneys Hair Design, 9-11 Duke St Arcade, CF10 1AZ. Wash, cut and blow dry £30 for new customers.

Review: 25th Birthday Prom, St David’s Hall, Cardiff 17 July 2010
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Owain Arwel Hughes

The Welsh Proms 25th Anniversary season at St David’s Hall got off to a rousing start with this round-up of music which was all performed at the first season of Welsh Proms in 1986.

Rossini’s Thieving Magpie overture opened the concert and was presented as buoyantly as one might expect in such a circumstance. The RPO’s technical excellence really shone through here and every note was crystal clear in a way not often heard in this sort of music. After that Grace Williams’ Fantasia on Welsh Nursery Tunes brought a nod to national pride, which was incredibly well received. A less well-known work than the rest of the programme, this was a highlight for me as the playful nature of the nursery tunes was perfectly captured alongside the subtleties and tone of the orchestral setting.

Having never heard Ravel’s Boléro performed live in full before, this was particularly exciting. My partner looked on wide-eyed as all sorts of new and exciting instruments arrived on stage and they really made their mark in the magnificent sound world of the work. The Boléro basically consists of one passage of music repeated and repeated, the trick of course being to make sure it doesn’t sound like that. Happily Owain and the RPO achieved just that – demonstrating the stunning orchestration and contrasts of dynamics and expression in a way which made the performance utterly mesmerising.

Getting off to a slightly faltering start, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition once in its stride maintained it boldly. A thrilling orchestral piece by anyone’s standards, this was a platform for the RPO’s technical superiority to place miles ahead of the competition. Clarity abounded, but without being boring and the varied emotions and feelings of each ‘picture’ come across brilliantly.

The RPO made a wonderful sound throughout the concert, and I genuinely can’t wait for an opportunity to hear them again. The very appreciate, though sadly not full-to-the-rafters, audience would, I’m sure, say the same.

And then there were two…

Review: The Three Peters Piano Trio, St David’s Hall, 18th May 2010

This free lunchtime concert was originally to be the Three Peters piano trio performing Beethoven and Mendelsohn. Ufortunately, due to problems on the motorway, Peter Fisher, the violinist was held up. They hoped he’d make it in time to play the second trio but it was not to be.

Instead we were treated to an impromptu programme for cello and piano including Bruch’s Kol Nidrei, Saint-Saens’ The Swan, and the inevitable dip into Bach’s suites for solo cello.

Sone of the works are really very difficult, even when planned and rehearsed, but the two remaining Peters did a fantastic job performing them at short notice. The cellist Peter Adams even added some entertaining commentary in between.

The Kol Nidrei was full of exactly the passion one wants from this piece, and the same can be said for the performance of Faure’s Elegie. In between these two was The Swan, a piece generally familiar to cellists, especially as it often features in the programmes of school and youth orchestras. Peter Adams has obviously followed the same path: the notes were well-known and technically perfect but musically this left me wanting more, as it tended toward the mechanical in places.

The Bach was at times taken a little faster than felt comfortable, and consequently some of the scalic passages lacked clarity. Having said that, the very spritely gigue movement may be the best I have heard it, with every note crystal clear and a real excitement about the performance.

Following the Bach, Peter Hewitt performed a new solo piano Fantasia on themes from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, the music for which was emailed over and printed during the concert. The tunes were familiar to the audience who bobbed and smiled along and, as piano Peter noted before beginning, its vivacious speed made a change from ‘all those Elegies’ for the cello!

The concert ended with a fiendish Hungarian Dance by David Popper. Popper, as Peter Adams explained, is a name that puts fear into the hearts of cellists everywhere – a cellist himself, he wrote showpieces to perform, as well as a vast catalogue of studies. No fear was to be found here, however, as the two Peters took this at a rip-roaring pace, taking every opportunity to showcase their excellent technique and style.

Although unplanned, this was clearly a performance they enjoyed, and that carried over to the audience who were buzzing with praise and admiration as they left.

Tea and Cake, Wellfield Road

This is a little gem, one of those places that just gives you a warm and happy feeling. I was taken there by my friend Marika who wanted to show me the Moomin products that they stock and I (with my well-documented obsession with all things Finnish) happily complied! It is quite exciting that they stock Moomin stuff as I think they are only place in Cardiff that does! Tea and Cake is divided into a pick and mix and gift shop out front and a tea and cake café at the back (complete with garden). We had a cappuccino (Marika) and a coffee frappe (me) and shared a piece of lemon and poppy seed cake. My frappe made me want to give up visiting Starbucks forever and the cake was very yummy too. The service was very friendly and the whole atmosphere is very relaxing and homely. I wish Tea and Cake much success and will certainly try and visit again soon!

A Shot in the Dark, City Road

I have to confess I walked past this place every day for a year and never went in. It was a friend’s surprise birthday party that finally made me venture inside. I always heard rave reviews of Shot…and I wasn’t disappointed. The drinks were a bit pricey (£4 for a large glass of wine) but the super-friendly (and attractive!) staff and the relaxed, cool-but-not-pretentious atmosphere made up for it! The food by contrast seems very good value. More or less the same price as Wetherspoons but made with infinitely more TLC.