One of my last minute additions to my London trip this past month was the You Me At Six benefit show for their friends in The Ghost Inside, who were involved in a horrible accident in November. You can click here to read my full review of the small, sweaty, intimate, and totally awesome show, but – spoiler alert – I’m a massive YMAS fan, so of course I loved every second of it!
First of all: MERRY CHRISTMAS (and/or Happy Holidays, if you don’t celebrate!). Whether you’re taking a break from crowding around the Christmas tree or doing something else entirely, I hope you’re cozy and warm and maybe enjoying a steaming mug of tea (or hot beverage of your choice) :)
Now on to the review:
The Name of the Star – Maureen Johnson
Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London to start a new life at boarding school just as a series of brutal murders mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper killing spree of more than a century ago has broken out across the city. The police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man believed to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him – the only one who can see him. And now Rory has become his next target…unless she can tap her previously unknown abilities to turn the tables.
I’ve heard a lot about Maureen Johnson but have never actually read any of her books. My sister actually read this one (and the sequel, The Madness Underneath), and told me I would probably enjoy them. So while we were in London, I decided to read a London-based book (all the better to imagine the setting!).
The first thing I noticed was how long it took to start. I realize that, as the first book in a trilogy, it was setting up the broader story, and I completely respect that. However, as someone who’s been criticized for taking too long to get the story started, I’ve come to expect books – especially YA books – to start a little faster.
Once stuff actually began to happen, the momentum picked up and hurtled along nicely. Of course, if you a) read the back of the book and b) have read any book ever in the history of the world, you should be able to guess who the Ripper is, even if you don’t know his motivation. Part of what dragged the beginning of the book down was waiting for Rory to clue into the same thing as you: that she can see ghosts and that that one particular dude is maybe a bit suspicious.
Otherwise, I have to give Maureen Johnson props for spinning an interesting story. There’s a healthy dose of diversity (Boo and Callum), boarding school politics, lots of details about daily life in London (which is one of my favourite cities), plus, of course, ghosts (personally, I’m hoping for more Alistair in the next books). It’s obvious that she put a lot of effort and research into making the story as true-to-life as a ghost story about a Ripper copycat can be, and that’s impressive.
My only other issue was the narrative voice. It sometimes felt stilted or lacking in enthusiasm. I can’t help but compare it to the other ghosts-in-London series I’ve read (and adored), Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co, where the writing is energetic and bursts off the page (and also has a much better ship that this one…I mean, I liked Jerome at the beginning, but he turns into quite the dullard as the story progresses). Unless it’s Johnson’s intention, at times it feels like even Rory has no belief or passion in what she’s talking about, and it’s hard to connect with a character who’s so disinterested in her own story.
I was waffling between 3 and 3.5 interrobangs on this one; given that it’s the beginning of a promising series with a great concept, I’ll round it up and give it a 3.5 (it is Christmas, after all!).
As I mentioned earlier, my sister and I managed to sneak in a couple of concerts while we were in London for a week. Our third and final show was Lower Than Atlantis at the Roundhouse.
I honestly don’t remember what the opening band, Black Foxxes, sounded like. I know the singer had just been diagnosed with laryngitis or something like that, but he didn’t sound sick (I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not).
Next was As It Is, and I’m still meh about them. I’ve now seen them three times this year, and while I don’t mind their live show, I find I can’t listen to them recorded because of Patty Walters’ rather high pitched voice. Also, I can’t take him seriously because he’s constantly sticking his tongue out which makes me think of Barty Crouch Jr (I love David Tennant as much as the next person, but BCJ is not a good role model).
The third band was Moose Blood. We saw them at Warped this year and they were totally our type of band. They’re a bit “emo”, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t good – they have an early-Taking Back Sunday vibe that my sister and I both love.
I’ve briefly mentioned Lower Than Atlantis on this blog – mostly the fact that I can never hear/read/speak the name “Emily” without breaking into song – but I haven’t listened to them extensively. I do know a couple of their songs that I was looking forward to hearing live: “Words Don’t Come So Easily”, “English Kids in America” and show-closer “Here We Go”, all of which were a lot of fun.
Like Moose Blood, they have a bit of a Taking Back Sunday thing going on, though some of their songs are perhaps a bit more upbeat (including “Here We Go”, which reminds me of Don Broco’s “Money. Power. Fame.”)
Maybe it’s because I was tired and it was our last day in London so I was sad, but I felt like LTA lacked stage presence. It’s entirely possible that that’s what they’re always like, but I expected them to be a little bit more, I don’t know, enthusiastic. Still, they put on a good show and it was enjoyable, so if you’re looking for British alternative rock, give these gents a try!
As you may (or may not) know, I was in London for a week with my sister, and we made it a point to hit up a couple of concerts. The second show of our trip was Don Broco at the O2 Brixton Academy.
Here’s what I learned: Brixton isn’t the greatest neighbourhood. We have venues in sketchy parts of town here too, but I wouldn’t recommend hanging out in that area at night (no offense if you happen to live/love Brixton).
The first band was American pop-rockers Symmetry. I really enjoyed them: they had a The Summer Set meets Man Overboard with perhaps a dash of Paradise Fears (mostly because they played a fantastic cover of Katy Perry’s “Roar” in the middle of their set).
The next two band were Arcane Roots and Coasts. I have to admit, I took a catnap during Arcane Roots because I was completely exhausted and could feel a headache coming on, but from what I heard, they sounded like a male-fronted version of Tonight Alive. I honestly can’t remember what Coasts sounded like, but I know I enjoyed them (I was a little bit more awake during their set!).
Finally, Don Broco came out, opening with one of my favourite Automatic tracks, “I Got Sick”, followed by one of my other favourite DB songs, “You Wanna Know”.
One of the best things about Don Broco is how completely ridiculous they are (I say that with affection). Few bands would take to a palm tree-decorated stage in white pants, but they did. Few bands would synchronize their dance moves, but they do. And few bands would have a female string quartet join them on stage for the last few songs, but they sure as heck did.
They were energetic and ecstatic to be on stage (it was their biggest headliner show to date and it was sold out), and were more than ready to have a good time, playing a lot of songs from Automatic, but also a good selection from their 2012 debut, Priorities, and even a throwback to their very early days with the somewhat absurd “Thug Workout” (the video is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen).
It’s okay if you listen to these songs and don’t see the appeal, I get that they’re not for everyone. But there’s something awesome about how unapologetic Don Broco is – how they pretty much do whatever they want but still manage to make audiences scream and dance along. It’s refreshing to see a band with a sense of humour, a band that is aware of how lucky they are and take their music seriously, but don’t let their (money, power) fame get to their head.
Alas, it was not meant to be.
I was determined to finish a manuscript, and I got stuck and couldn’t get unstuck. Partly because I know next-to-nothing about British law enforcement and sports, and guess what my WIP is about? BRITISH LAW ENFORCEMENT AND SPORTS. So I was constantly pausing to research, and therefore only hit 29,000 words. My other problem is that I like talking about the characters, but I sometimes ignore the plot. My bad.
Plus I wrote 13654320 other things for this blog and Mind the Gap, and spent the rest of my time job-hunting, grumbling about job-hunting, decorating for Christmas, sleeping, and, I don’t know, probably eating.
Instead of dwelling on my failure, I’m using this as a learning experience and I know that I will have to better manage my time next year. And, as a positive, I’ll be home for half of December, so I can work on my manuscript then (hopefully)!
I do think, however, that I wrote 50,000 words this month anyway (just not in my WIP!). The following is a list of posts I published in November:
ON THIS BLOG:
Library of Souls review
5 Seconds of Summer mini-review
TTT: Book to Movie Adaptations
Book Blitz: Sugar Skulls
Anne & Henry review
Blog Tour: Every Word
The Real Neat Blog Award
Andrew McMahon concert review
The Universe Versus Alex Woods review
A Thousand Nights review
ON MIND THE GAP:
WCW: Lynn Gunn
Every series review
Why We Love Neil Gaiman
Orphan Black season one review
Why We Love Andrew McMahon
NaNoWriMo (ironically, I didn’t follow my own advice!)
Why We Love Harry Potter
Community season five review
And here’s a list of upcoming posts (written but not yet published) that I’ve been working on, since I’m going to London next week and won’t be home to write them! You can click the links now, but they won’t be live until the date listed in parentheses.
ON THIS BLOG:
TTT: Top Ten Books of 2015 (Dec 15)
ON MIND THE GAP:
Victor Frankenstein review (Dec 2)
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Dec 4)
All I Want For Christmas (Dec 5)
My Favourite Christmas/Holiday Episodes (Dec 8)
London (Dec 10)
Holiday Movies (Dec 12)
All Time Low (Dec 14)
WCW: Emma Stone (Dec 16)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone/Days of Blood and Starlight review (Dec 18)
Celebrating the Holidays (Dec 19)
How I Met Your Mother season nine (Dec 22)
Best of 2015 (Dec 26)
You could also maybe sign up for the Mind the Gap newsletter (on our homepage), so that you can keep up with these posts every week (but only if you want to!).
My Christmas Letter to All Time Low/You Me At Six
Un(Covered): Christmas Time is Here
Un(Covered): Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
For anyone who participated in NaNoWriMo, how did it go? And for the rest of you: how was your November?
If I may brag/reminisce for a moment:
Two years ago – December 8, 2012 – I flew to London to see You Me At Six play a sold out Wembley Arena (the smaller neighbour to Wembley Stadium, which is the big thing they use for the Olympics and football games, etc). It was the best weekend of my life and pretty much everything I do, I compare to that night (aka the Final Night of Sin).
The trailer for the FNOS DVD. This is basically my happy place.
I never imagined I would go back for another show at Wembley.
Last Friday, I did just that.
Bring Me the Horizon (who I last saw at Riot Fest and before that in February) announced their biggest show ever at Wembley Arena back in January. It sold out within weeks (I think the floor tickets sold out in a couple of days). I was unbelievably stoked when I found out Ro had scored seats for us.
I’ve actually seen all three opening bands before, so I don’t really have anything new to say about them. Sleepwave was first – they opened for Taking Back Sunday in April. Basically it’s a bunch of long-haired screamy dudes thrashing around on stage (lead singer Spencer Chamberlain was previously in Underoath, if that makes a difference to you).
Next was Issues, who, oddly enough, I first saw open for Bring Me the Horizon (at the show in February). If I actually bothered to listen to Issues, I’d probably like them – Ro pointed out that they have an early Breathe Carolina vibe to them, which is something I can easily get behind. But when they play live, the music (drums, guitars, synths, etc) all seem to move at one pace while the vocals move at a different pace resulting in a discordant sound that confuses my brain. Maybe I have to listen to a recording?
I quite like Young Guns, who were the final opening band. I saw them open for You Me At Six in October, and, before that show, I had compared them to a cross between Mallory Knox and Deaf Havana (this is a very good thing). They continued to be enjoyable as they played to a crowd of people who haven’t seen them in about a year.
Then the lights dimmed and the screams got so loud, they were practically corporeal, and Bring Me the Horizon stormed on stage to the opening strands of “Shadow Moses”, and it was incredible. There was something so spine-tingly about hearing 12,000+ people screaming “THIS. IS. SEMPITERNAL.” together.
I lost my voice two songs in, if that’s any indication of how good the show was.
We were seated side-stage, towards the top, which gave us an excellent vantage point. I could see every band member and watched them as they played to the biggest crowd in their nearly ten year existence. I also felt safer up there: from where we were, we could see the roiling crowd, the multiple circle pits, and the massive wall of death that basically looked like that time when the Red Sea split in half and then crashed together. I mean, sure, they were just doing what Oli was telling them to do (one of my favourite things is when he starts whispering instructions, then steadily builds it up until he’s screaming “JUMP” and the crowd loses their minds. Fun to watch, but not fun to get stuck in if you’re not the moshing type).
Sidenote: did you see how I ironically used a religious comparison there? I never realized quite how anti-religion “The House of Wolves” was until the giant screen behind them showed a church on fire (I mean, the lyrics are pretty obvious now that I think about it, but sometimes I literally can’t understand what they’re saying).
Speaking of the screen: the lights/pyrotechnics/basic stage effects were amazing. The crew in charge of designing/synchronising that kind of stuff did a fantastic job. They really added another level to an already phenomenal performance.
BMTH did not hold back during this show. They were beyond energetic and threw themselves into playing the songs as perfectly as possible. Lead singer Oli Sykes careened around the stage, at one point leaning over the barrier into the crowd, and later cartwheeling (it’s possible he was singing at the same time, I just remember being impressed that someone so tall could cartwheel so elegantly). Long time BMTH fans were also treated to a mini on-stage reunion when Oli called out the original guitarist, Curtis Ward, to play “Pray for Plagues”, one of their first singles.
I talk a lot about the bass in songs, and Wembley Arena probably has the best acoustics if you’re a bass-lover like me. I don’t know the technical terms, but whatever setting the instruments are on (I like throwing the word “reverb” around, to sound like I know what I’m talking about, but that’s probably not right), you could feel them pulsing and pounding through the soles of your feet and out the top of your head. It was even better than when you can feel the bass pumping in your chest.
And, like I said before, it’s amazing to hear so many thousands of people screaming the words together, especially the songs that are chock-full of any emotion like “Antivist” (12,000+ people with their middle fingers in the air – no fucks were given that night) or – one of my personal favourites – “Can You Feel My Heart”, which was – literally – show-stopping (it being the last song of the night).
Middle fingers up, if you don’t give a fuck.
I’m scared to get close, and I hate being alone…
Of course, one of the highlights of the show was when they pulled out their latest single, “Drown” (officially released today) – it’s an awesome song in general, and hearing it live made it even better.
I took a couple of photos, but it’s hard to take pictures when you’re busy dancing/screaming/headbanging, so I don’t have anything great to show off. RockSound, however, has a cool gallery on their website that’s worth a look.
If you’re a BMTH fan and you have not yet seen them live…get on that. They’ll blow your mind.