L.O.B. vs Jacklington Stanley – Keep Playin’

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The latest third-person account of my weekly attempt to play eight-a-side football – we wear grey… Keep playin’

Top of the league. According to the whispers going round Coram’s Field before kick-off, anyway. It’s new territory for the Greys, who have made a great start to the season and are undefeated in seven so far. Tonight they face old rivals Jacklington Stanley, who start the game a man down – and seem to have a few new faces in their ranks. “Let’s have it,” says the ref.

Jacklington Stanley play in black and yellow, but for some reason one of their strikers is wearing white. Under the floodlights, at first – and, perhaps even second, third or fourth – glance, his shirt looks grey. But when the Greys complain a Jacklington Stanley midfielder replies, “Calm down pal, this ain’t the Champions League.” Classic.

Five minutes later Greys forward Ollie’s winding up for his first long-throw of the game. Not knowing what to expect, the yellow and black shirts watch in slow motion as the ball sails over their heads, coming back up to real-speed as Greys striker Alex, back for the first time in over 10 weeks, sticks the ball in the back of the net. 1-0 Greys.

The Yellow and Blacks kick-off but it doesn’t take long for the Greys to win the ball back. Martin finds Adam just outside the box and his business-ended shot fizzes right past Jacklington Stanley’s grey-shirted keeper. 2-0. The Greys are all over the place.

Playing his last game before his big move back to France, midfield playmaker Manu rolls the ball to Martin from the right corner flag. And Martin’s shot is just as convincing as Adam’s. The keeper doesn’t stand a chance. 3-0. The Greys are in dreamland.

Confidently, our heroes slow things down, passing the ball around well and looking for another opening – like any top of the league team worth their open top bus parade should (too soon?). Suddenly, left back Paolo breaks down his side. He looks up, spots Ollie and knocks a perfect ball into the box. Ollie volleys his shot straight at the keeper but reacts well to head in the rebound, effectively assisting himself. 4-0.

Perhaps shocked by their early lead the Greys back off and give Jacklington Stanley more time on the ball. A cross is fired in, but it’s straight at Greys keeper Yusuf. Eventually, the Yellow and Blacks win a corner. The cross is whipped in. The ball squeezes its way through the pack, to a yellow and black shirt inside the box. And the striker hits the ball through the crowd, straight into the right hand side of the Greys’ net. 4-1.

Just before the half Adam plays Martin in down the right hand side. Martin doesn’t waste any time pulling the trigger, and his shot is way too hot for Jacklington Stanley’s keeper to handle. 5-1.

To be fair, despite the heavy score line, Jacklington Stanley’s keeper is actually having a good game. If not for him, the Greys could have seven or eight by now. Early in the second half he screams like medieval Sean Bean, trying to rally his flagging troops. But the Greys aren’t feeling sympathetic.

Manu knocks a long pass into the box from just inside Jacklington Stanley’s half. Martin reads the flight of the ball perfectly and hits a tidy volley past Ned Stark to put the Greys 6-1 up.

Jacklington Stanley kick-off again but Martin closes down a weak back-pass from the centre. Somehow, he squeezes the ball across the box to Alex, who’s in the right place at the right time to put the Greys 7-1 up and complete his comeback hat-trick.

Beaming with pride the Greys slip up again. A wave of yellow and black shirts surges forward on the counter and the ball breaks for the same forward who scored Jacklington Stanley’s first goal. Forced to commit, Yusuf guesses right but the striker goes left. 7-2.

It’s back and forth for a while, until Ollie tosses a throw-in to Yusuf. Feeling confident he attempts a Cruyff turn but ends up looking more like Artur Boruc against Arsenal. He gets away with it, though, and Theo and Koyes clear the danger.

Wrapping things up, Adam runs past two yellow and black shirts on the right wing and drives a low cross into the box. Martin reacts first and the ball’s in the back of the net before the keeper even knows what day of the week it is. 8-2. And a hat-trick for Martin as well. All in all, a good day’s work for the Greys. Keep playin…

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Beavertown – Stingy Jack Spiced Pumpkin Ale

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Imagine my excitement when I found some Beavertown Stingy Jack Spiced Pumpkin Ale at Voodoo Ray’s, Dalston. “It’s 7.2% alcohol,” the guy behind the counter warns me, with a sullen look on his face. “Is that all?” I respond. I came in for the pizza, but Goddamn it, I stayed for the pumpkin.

It’s incredible. I’ve tried a bunch of weird beers lately, and often, the flavour’s too much and you end up swilling this fruity – or… chilli?? – glass of booze that only vaguely resembles a beer. No thanks.

Beavertown, on the other hand, don’t fuck around. Just like their Peacherman Peach Cobbler, that strong signature Beavertown malty taste remains intact. But this time, backed by citrusy Columbus hops, it’s drenched in spicy, nutmeg and maple-syrup-glazed roasted pumpkin, like a strong, mouthwateringly decadent mulled beer perfect for this time of year.

Style: Spiced Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 7.2%
Malt: Pale, Crystal, Munich, Caragold, Amber, Oats
Hops: Columbus

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Johnny Foreigner & Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam – Weird On Purpose

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I first fell in love, or at least… deep-like, with arty Birmingham noise-pop gang Johnny Foreigner when they toured South Africa in 2010 – impressively, they returned in 2014. And more recently, JoFo wrapped another whirlwind tour of Japan, followed by another all-in jaunt across the U.K. It’s like lead singer Alexei Berrow sings on “Undevestator;” “I have walked into every ocean going.” Quite something, really…

When I heard the Johnny Foreigner tour was pulling into Birthdays, Dalston, right around the corner – and walking distance from Stokey Bears – I knew exactly what I was doing on Saturday, October 22. I downloaded the Dice app and bought my ticket, sans booking fee, administration fee, or any other kind of online piracy add-on charge, and saved it in my new digital ticket wallet.

We get to the door, whip out our phones and flash our tickets. It all feels so futuristic and novel, until the girl on the door draws JFs on our hands with a Sharpie, breaking the new-age spell.

We arrive too late for Oxford two-piece Cassels. Apparently, there’s a club night after, so things are running ahead of schedule. Or at least, uncharacteristically urgently. Birmingham “psychedelic punks” Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam are up next.

The drummer’s shirt says it all, really; “Weird on purpose.” The band alternates from heart-on-sleeve punk rock with feeling to high, falsetto-type vocal harmonies and weird astro jams, driven home on long instrumental highways with insanely intricate rhythms and mind-boggling guitar riffs. I notice that SFL don’t have a bassist, just three guitarists. One of them seems to be coming through the bass amp, though, and there’s definitely nothing missing in terms of bottom end.

I’m into it at first, and they’re all insane guitarists, especially lead-singer Pete Dixon – the shit he plays while singing is ludicrous. But some of the more elaborate high vocal harmonies are often uncomfortably out of tune, and the songs seem to follow the same kind of formula, despite their deliciously off-centre feel.

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The first time I saw Johnny Foreigner, I took Berrow’s long moppy fringe and loud high-top sneakers for a fad. I was wrong. From “God bless the NHS” scrawled on his guitar to his witty, meaningful stage banter, heart-filled poetry and missing tooth(?), Alexei’s the real deal. In fact, the whole band’s an assortment of wonderfully weird creative types, true art school rebel characters never even considered for mass production.

This time they’re joined by radical South African fifth member Ben Rausch on keytar-triggered video. “Everyone, this is Ben,” says Alexei. “Ben, this is everyone in London who gives a shit.” The room’s just over half full.

One of the most striking things about Johnny Foreigner is how much being in a band clearly means to them. It’s in their blood and they’re incredible at it. Berrow is such an amazingly unique guitarist. At one point, he rocks an insane one-handed finger tapping solo with his other arm wrapped around himself, his eyes closed, deeply lost in the moment.

Well-named drummer Junior Elvis Washington Laidley’s ultra-creative beats and electronic contributions provide the perfect backdrop and bassist Kelly Parker’s voice alternates from all-out noise to beautifully lovable and endearing. The band is completed by second guitarist and illustration king Lewes Herriot.

Ben’s video display, a collection of hand-drawn creatures, DIY stop-motion displays, groovy images, cool toy collages and lots of ghosts really adds to the performance-piece nature of the gig. My favourite moment is when he cheekily focuses on a Jon Bon Jovi toy busting out a full-blown “Lay you down in a bed of roses” pose while Alexei sings the epic vocal intro to “With Who, Who and What I’ve Got.”

The place goes crazy when “Salt, Pepper and Spinderella” turns on the real drums, and Johnny Foreigner really show off how accomplished they’ve become with a decade of music in their well-travelled shoes. Their performance even includes a really heartfelt moment where Alexei and Kelly down their instruments and sing in the crowd, passing around a bottle of booze as fans join in and Laidley plays keyboards. But sadly, there’s a club night beckoning and it’s time for JoFo to make tracks to Canterbury.

L.O.B. vs Copa ’90 – Keep Playin’

Keep Playin'
The latest third-person account of my weekly attempt to play eight-a-side football – we wear grey… Keep playin’

Usually, our heroes in grey start out strong and tail off, as injuries, work commitments, Friday nights and an eventual sobering mid-table finish kick in. But so far, they’re still undefeated, six games into the new season – with a healthy five-goal-a-game average. And really, a top-of-the-league dogfight is unfamiliar territory. But that’s exactly what the Greys faced tonight, against second-placed – with a game in hand – Copa ’90.

Playing in matching orange Netherlands kits, with a big man at the back wearing an actual captain’s armband, Copa ’90 kick-off. They look fit, physical and intimidating. Buoyed by their recent form, however, the Greys stand toe-to-toe, passing the ball around and spreading the play patiently.

Early in the game, Greys winger Karim is brought down just outside the box. He takes the free-kick himself and fires a stinging shot at the bottom left corner of the Orange goal, but the big keeper gets down surprisingly quickly to keep it out.

Next, Karim fires a corner at Greys forward Martin, whose low, hard shot hurtles towards the middle of Copa ’90’s goal. But again, the keeper reacts well, showing surprising agility to readjust from his position on the near post and keep the score level.

Then a long throw from Ollie, his first of the match, finds Adam at the back post. Unfortunately, Copa ’90’s defenders scramble his header out for a corner, but it’s a good start for the Greys. Then Copa ’90 start to flex their muscles…

Their big centre-forward throws his weight around like Diego Costa, jumping into players rather than for the ball. He’s good, but he’s sneaky. Finally, a long punt from Copa ’90’s keeper ends up in that dreaded no-man’s land between Greys last-defender Julien and keeper Yusuf. The hulking forward reads the situation well and throws himself between them like Andy Carroll flattening David De Gea. He gets a head on it but Julien stands up holding his face. It looks like a foul but the ref disagrees. One nil Orange.

The Greys fight back but they’re up against it. Martin and Karim can’t find the same kind of space to dance past players like they usually do. It seems crowded in the Orange box. Their defenders are ice-cool on the ball, often taking the John Stones approach and sending Greys forwards the wrong way with a few neat step-overs rather than booting it out of play.

A long throw from Greys right-back Koyes finds Martin on the edge of the box. He scoops the ball over the keeper and into the back of the net, but the ref blows for a foul on Copa ’90’s last defender.

Then a torpedo throw from Ollie sails right into the top corner of Copa ’90’s goal. The Greys claim the keeper got a touch, but again, the ref disagrees. Goal kick.

The second half is just as tight. Physical. Intense. And end-to-end. But the play is stop-and-start, as Copa ’90 make a number of cynical fouls. On top of the tight defending, their keeper catches everything in his box, thwarting the Greys’ long throws, crosses and corners and breaking up play even further.

Then the Greys win a pretty non-threatening-looking free-kick just inside Copa ’90’s half. Karim whips a long ball into the box and Greys defender Paolo jumps to meet it. Incredibly, he dives backwards and glances the ball off the side of his head perfectly, looping it over the sprawling keeper, into the top right corner. 1-1.

Meanwhile, the Orange forwards clatter into Yusuf every time he jumps for the ball. At one point, a gung-ho defender smashes into him, elbow out, and bundles him over the line. No free-kick. With minutes to go, Copa ’90 win another corner. The ball’s whipped in and the Oranges’ Costa jumps straight into Yusuf, this time sneakily holding his arm down as he jumps. The ball ends up in the back of the net and it looks like the ref’s given the goal. The Greys are incensed, until they realise he did spot the foul and the goal doesn’t count. I’m sure this ref’s just bored and goes out of his way to irritate people and wind them up by being as ambiguous and pedantic as possible.

Towards the end, Copa ’90 are relentless, and the Greys can’t seem to get the ball out of their own box. But thankfully, that’s how it ends. 1-1. Exhale. The Greys walk off like they’ve been in a fight. A battle. And to be fair, the draw is a fair result.

Green Room (2015)

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Green Room is not a horror movie. In fact, it reminds me exactly why I’m semi-retired from the horror game. Really, it’s a gruesome (just for the sake of it), blood-splatter-by-numbers torture thriller with weak characters, a predictable plot and a disturbingly unsatisfying resolution. There’s absolutely nothing to it, really. Director Jeremy Saulnier has just swapped stoner teenagers for a punk rock band, hillbillies for Nazis and surgically removed all traces of artistic film-making. And By the end, you don’t even care who lives or dies.

It all started about a week ago. I was talking to a friend, who I’d just discovered is a massive horror movie fan. The way she talked about the films she’d seen recently made me feel nostalgic. It had been ages since I’d watched a good horror. I missed it.

The last one I sat through was The Babadook, which typifies recent horror flicks. It’s just so predictable, uninspiring and… meh… More a collection of forced-seeming and overly familiar scenes than a movie you actually connect to. There’s no craft. No suspense. No tension. Yet it’s got INSANELY good reviews on Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. People love it. I guess I’m just looking for something a little different. More engaging. More sensory. Less shlock. Less cliches and cheap thrills, and blood just for the hell of it. There’s got to be something you can hook it all to.

So anyway, this friend started telling me about Green Room, and how it’s about this punk band called the Ain’t Rights. I checked it out, and it, too, is universally acclaimed, with a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 79% rating on Metacritic. “What the hell, must be good,” I thought.

Things start off well. The Ain’t Rights are literally running on empty, scraping their way through the Pacific Northwest on fumes. They’re wearing all the right t-shirts, they’ve got all the right stickers and they’re dropping all the right band names; Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, Misfits, Poison Idea, Slayer, The Distillers… And I’m sucked in. So far so good.

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spoiler alert
Down on their luck, and desperate for cash, the Ain’t Rights take a gig at a Nazi skinhead bar deep in the woods. First they piss off the crowd by opening with the Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” Then they see something they weren’t supposed to see backstage, in the green room. Dun dun dun…

One of the Nazi locals, Werm (Brent Werzner) has stabbed a woman in the head and her body’s lying, nonchalantly, in the middle of the room. The girl’s friend, Amber (Imogen Poots), asks Ain’t Rights bassist Pat (Anton Yelchin) to call the cops. But the Nazis grab his phone and lock the band in the green room with the dead girl, Amber and a massive Nazi dude called Big Justin (Eric Edelstein).

And that’s all there is to it, really – minus a trivial lovers spat. From there, it’s all about them trying to escape the room. Being systematically killed, ripped to shreds and even getting their throats torn out by killer pit bulls. Then, of course, the two surviving members, Pat and Amber, extract some kind of revenge and things end.

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The biggest surprise is Patrick Stewart’s role as Nazi club owner, leader and drug kingpin Darcy. What was his agent thinking. And more importantly, why do people like these kind of movies? There’s no suspense. No creativity. No originality. No character depth. Nothing. Just a bunch of teenagers. A bunch of Nazis. And buckets of blood. It’s not even scary. Do people even feel anything watching these films? I just felt annoyed.

I don’t get it. I’m not even sure what I’m looking for. Something more like Drag Me to Hell, Event Horizon, Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, Chucky… Not all this two-dimensional, imitative and soulless crap like Paranormal Activity, The Conjuring, The Purge, Hostel… and Green Room. I know, I feel like an old man trying to listen to tween wave. But surely there are good horror movies out there. Classic horror movies. Movies you actually care about. Movies that actually terrify you and make you feel alive. Or just feel anything, really.