The Sprinkled Pepper Diaries Archived
Wednesday, April 18, 2007 These are the things which make these days worth living through (, , )

[You might want to go and read Alistair’s and Martijn’s reviews of this first, if you haven’t already.]

What you have to understand is that I feel responsible for this gig.

I asked Joe (who is half of the Pines and also of the Foxgloves) to come down to play because I’ve secretly been truly in love with his songs since I first heard them. He asked Tim to come down to play with him for reasons that weren’t clear to me until this afternoon, when Tim got off the train full of stories about supporting Talulah Gosh in this very venue and rushing to catch the last bus too many times to count. It was only then that I realised that the Visitors were actually from Sidmouth, the town a few miles east of Budleigh Salterton. They lived here: they wrote their songs and performed them and went to gigs and got drunk and were hangover on Sunday mornings, all right here in Devon. The very idea seems difficult to grasp, somehow. What do you mean the Razorcuts played in the Arts Centre too? I know they probably only played to a dozen or so people, but that doesn’t make it sound any less impressive. Quite the opposite. It gives me hope that the First Division will one day be legendary too.

For the moment things aren’t looking all that promising. Alistair’s C is right when she says that the whole thing has a refectory feel about it. Joe and Tim play to a row of mostly empty tables while all around people walk, talk and drink, casting only the occasional glance our way. The occasional puzzled glance, I have to add. Why are these nervous-looking people playing a gig at the corner of the bar? And why is this small bunch of happy-looking not-quite-kids-anymore looking at them so intensely? What’s the big deal? And so I feel a little bad.

To me, of course, every little bit is perfect, has been from the start: Joe saying that ‘this is a song about roads, the roads between us and the people we’ve left behind, the people we’re yet to meet, the people we love’ at the beginning of ‘Second hand’, for example, or Tim’s smile when he bravely launches into the first song (the Visitors’ ‘Bliss’). But I’m starting to wonder if I’ve only put this on for myself, to hear these songs that I love to bits played live and get yet another chance to sing along to them, and whether I should have put everyone else through the trouble just for this. Surely not. How selfish of me.

And then, wouldn’t you know it, they launch on another Visitors’ song, and as Tim sings ‘all the old songs that I’ve known and loved for years / playing quietly from someone else’s radio’ something stirs inside me, and as he goes on pictures of Devon in the summer unfold effortlessly in my head, and everything starts to fall into place. The song builds up beautifully and the performance is faultless too, even if it is only me thinking that and I’ve never really paid attention to it before, so what would I know? But it does, to me anyway, and as it draws to a close (‘leaning from my window shouting into the dark I don’t love you, I don’t love you, I don’t love you!’) I find I’m leaning forward from my chair, nearly falling over. And suddenly it’s alright. Even if no one else cares, it’s alright.

But of course they do. People seem drawn into the strong imagery of ‘Oil Fires’ that follows and they laugh at the bittersweet wryness of ‘Do you have to stop writing to start living?’ — because, how could they not? It’s wonderful! And I smile. My heart is lifted by the sight of others appreciating the wonder that are these songs, songs that have been major hits in my front room, songs that I keep so close to my heart, the songs that have brought us all here tonight.

And when Tim announces ‘Goldmining’ (‘this song was last performed twenty years ago, in this very venue’) somebody who was actually there twenty years ago cheers and I know for a fact that I’m not the only one who cares. They finish off with ‘We’ll never be cool’ –a song with major indiepop-hit potential– and I sing along like I did those nights in Dorking, back where it all started, convinced of the same old thing. We’re really the coolest of them all.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 2:23 pm [someone said this]
Tuesday, April 17, 2007 There’s always a song playing in the background #2 (, )

Do you know how specific songs seem to have been locked together in your heart with specific moments and always seem to remind you of them? I particularly love the small, random ones. Like Glo-worm’s cover of ‘Friday I’m in love’ seems to instantly take me back to a certain sunny evening in my tiny yard in Athens, because I was listening to it while handing my laundry. It brings back the exact feeling of what it was like to stand there surrounded by wet colourful pieces of cloth and the early summer breeze.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 7:20 pm [say something]
Thursday, April 12, 2007 Cause the little words say everything that I need but there’s still a thing or two (, , )

As you probably don’t know but perhaps do I have developed an interest in drawing trees this spring. There is a sweet, heart-warming story behind how this happened but telling it is not what I intend to do tonight. Tonight I want to talk about the bus ride from Exmouth to Exeter, or rather about the trees contained within.

The bus ride from Exmouth to Exeter takes a long time: forty, perhaps forty-five minutes to the train’s twenty-five to thirty. The fare is more expensive, too (£4.50 to the train’s £3, which can be reduced to £2 with a student railcard). Still, I take the bus sometimes. Partly because I just like buses, especially double-decked ones (and, even more especially, needlessly doubled-decked ones) and partly because it gives a slightly different picture of the south-east Devon countryside, and it is one that I love.

Another thing to take into consideration is spring, and how fast it has arrived here in south-east Devon; it’s funny; I always wait for it all winter long, and when it does come, it’s always unexpectedly. So, even though there had only been a couple of weeks between the last bus ride and this, the changes were impressive to say the least. Brown trees had turned pink, sometimes even fuchsia — a plum colour, nearly. Green fields had turned yellow — ‘a dash of yellow’ someone said next to me. The flowers in the flowerbeds had changed colours too, hyacinths replaced by tulips perhaps, like in the one I walk by every day on the way home.

All this to try and explain this: there is an imaginary line of trees that I would like to draw, joining Exmouth and Exeter through Lympstone, and Topsham. (It is the line that is imaginary, not the trees; the trees are what I would like to draw.) Sitting on a bus as it zips by past them, even at the not-quite-zipping speed in which it does it, I feel a pang of regret — a longing — and every tree I will never get round to drawing reminds me of a friend I never got round to having.

All those colourful could-be’s but were-nots.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:19 pm [say something]
Saturday, April 7, 2007 But it is (, )

I never knew that happiness could be lying on the kitchen floor on top of a pile of dirty laundry, watching the bubbles that form and burst on the surface of a jam tart as it is being baked.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 11:05 pm [someone said this]
Wednesday, April 4, 2007 Who would have thought (, )

The day has come when I will, almost voluntarily, link to a myspace site — and one that doesn’t allow you to download the songs at that too! The reasons behind that are called the Sunny Street and to be honest I know nothing about them other than a few pop kids with immaculate taste have been listening to them. And that they sound like a cross between Galaxie 500 and Friday Bridge. And that this is oddly touching.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:53 am [someone said this]
Sunday, April 1, 2007 April dreams England (, )

(You can start with the numbers.)

Two friends. One idea. Twenty songs, and thirty days to write them in. (One month: April). Another month, or two, to record them in — in a flat or two. Twenty songs that make up one album, and which were, thereafter, set out to wander the world in the form on a handful of cassettes. A handful of cassettes which were destined to circulate among a number of people only slightly larger than a circle of friends for years. Years that, if you add them up, make seven. Seven years in which those twenty songs amounted to little more than someplace-or-other’s best kept secret, until they resurfaced one misty April night in Exeter. But I am jumping ahead of myself here.

(And you can go on with the adjectives.)

It is criminal, really. In a fairer world ‘April dreams England’ would be Matinee Recordings’ long lost masterpiece, and I would be happy. Because ‘April dreams England’ contains some of the most evocative, delicate, exquisitely-crafted songs I have ever happened to come across. Because the First Division are masters of pop and poetry. Their songs capture the essence of a moment with an intensity that can take you by surprise. They portray the loves, longings and regrets of those who are half-outsiders, and half enchanted by the world; those who are sour and sweet, torn between books and life, and, all the while, nostalgic for the present.

(Or you can put it differently.)

The First Division consist of members of the Pines and the Visitors playing poetic pop songs about ‘life in England, outside London’ in a way that will have you believe they are the long lost link between Lloyd Cole and C86. They are going to present those to the world for the very first time at the bar of the Exeter Phoenix, on Friday, April 13th, at 8:00 pm.

It’s going to be great — and it’s going to be free, too.

More colourful version:

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 4:00 pm [someone said this]