Sunday, 23 September 2012

Refreshing.

"There's a certain smell in the air this week. It smells... FRESH." - (paraphrase of) every single student's Facebook status at the beginning of this week.

On Monday night, a group of us watched Avengers Assemble. I was walking to and from my friends' place up the hill, and noticing that almost every light in every house along the road was on. One by one, the students are returning and the new'uns are arriving...

Wednesday night, I was walking up the same road in one of my nicest dresses with the lipstick on thick, texting various friends frantically; my best friend wanted to know when I'd be at his house for the party, my friend from home wanted to know what was going on in my love life (what love life?), and most unexpectedly, my ex-boyfriend wanted to know if I was going to be at the SU for BOP. I then texted another best friend saying: "he's at the SU tonight. Find him and you win gold."
   Approximately fifteen minutes later I was playing Ring Of Fire on the floor of my friends' living room, halfway to drunk and laughing a little too loudly.
"Hey Grace, did you bring your camera?"
"Of course!" I pulled my hench DSLR out of my bag and was overcome with excitement. I'm a photo fiend; I take photos of predrinks and parties and will often upload them when I get home from the night out/party. There have been many times when my friends have woken up and found photos edited, uploaded and tagged by 8am. I was running around snapping photos of everyone in all their drunken glory, and I genuinely thought "I'm back, baby."
   The night then took a turn for the surreal. I ended up picking up the infamous ex-boyfriend from the SU ("oh my gosh, he actually is here at my uni"), taking him to meet my friends (because I left their party early to pick his drunk mess up), then letting him sleep on my sofa (because I was worried about him trekking back to West Downs, my beloved student village, and disgracing himself or dying on the way). Add my best friend into the mix, who not only popped round my house after BOP, but actually met my ex-boyfriend at the urinals in the SU earlier that night (and then called to tell me all about it, subsequently making my head explode), and you have a night Dali would have considered painting but then decided against it because it was just too absurd. Oh, the boys had a whale of a time spooning on my bed swapping stories about my home, my family and my boobs. I found it hard to hear them, luckily, over the loud ticking of the time bomb in my mind.

Thursday night marked my first ever pub-crawling experience; or rather, Pub Golf. P
aired up as a Pro and an Amateur, nine pubs/bars being nine holes and a different drink at each, and having a par of how many gulps to down one's drink in. So basically, you want to down your drink in one (hole in one). The drinks included: cider, Jagerbombs, double rum & Coke, shots of Sambuca, an alcopop, wine, Guinness, and Flowerpot Ale.
   I lost track between the fifth and eighth pub/bar, but I'm pretty confident that I won. I did think to myself, somewhere between McDonalds, punching my best friend in the face, and lying in the main road next to the army barracks with the Frisbee captain asleep next to me and the coach telling me about the love of his life, and before coming home to pass out (and wake up still drunk the next morning), "I better have won."

Friday night was going to be a "maybe", but became a mandatory. Still drunk from the night before at 3pm, feeling fragile and needing an outing to the park to wake myself up, I intended to go along to predrinks at my friends' down the road and when they all stumbled off to Frisky at Bar3one in town (because we were definitely not paying £10 to see Sam and the Womp at Freshers' Flirt!), I'd sneak off to bed. A few hours later I was wearing one of my nicest dresses, buying drinks with a friend from Twitter who I'd happened to bump into on the way into town, drunk-dialling various unsuspecting friends and grinding with a gay guy while a remixed and sped-up version of 'Blow Me (One Last Kiss)' thumped through the speakers. Oops.

Saturday I spent the whole day at 
Freshers' Fayre, behind a table or wandering around outside the SU with the Ultimate Frisbee team, recruiting Freshers and spreading the word about "the most fun sport ever". I wish I'd joined a team last year; I intend to make up for my Fresher laziness by being constantly busy and engaged in all sorts this year. By the end of the day, we'd managed to get 200+ people to sign up. Clearly, the Freshers are much cooler this year. I also went a little crazy at the annual gigantic poster sale, and now my little room looks much better.

Freshers' Fortnight is in full swing. Lectures start tomorrow, and while I'm obviously excited to get back into my course, I'm going to miss the freedom I've had over the past few weeks. Being able to wake up at whatever time I fancy, wandering back and forth between my house and friends', watching Friends and Gilmore Girls all day with the housemates and the random expeditions to town to pick up stuff we need - okay, just stuff.
Anyway, it's my second year. Bring it on.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Walk Off The Earth. Enough said.

So, on Saturday 8th of September, I had the absolute privilege of going to see Walk Off The Earth live at the HMV Forum in London; and I had a free ticket courtesy of a friend, too. We got a train to Waterloo and spent a few hours wandering around London, watching magicians and street performers in Covent Garden and hopping from pub to pub, occasionally stopping and simply saying "Walk Off The Earth, ahhhh!"


"I'm going to London to see Walk Off The Earth."
"Who? What?"
"Y'know, that well cute band who sang Money Tree? And Summer Vibe? They play ukuleles and stuff?"
"Ermmm, no..."
"They
 do covers on YouTube?"
"..."
"Somebody That I Used To Know, five people one guitar?"
"OH, I LOVE THOSE GUYS!"

I'm not one of those die-hard WOTE fans who loathe those people who only know them through their YouTube covers, but after telling various friends where I was going and who I was seeing on Saturday night, it began to irritate me when I was met with blank faces until I said the words "Gotye cover"; I understand now why their fans are always so anxious to point out their original songs and albums, and get so pee'd off when people only seem to know their covers. If I were in a band who wrote some amazing original stuff but was mainly recognized for their covers of other artists' songs, I'd be pretty ticked off personally.
   So we've addressed the cover issue: Walk Off The Earth do amazingly kickass covers of pre-existing songs, putting their own arrangement and imaginative spin on them and thus distinguishing themselves from the pack of "cover people" online. They're primarily known for these covers, but as more fans emerge, their original songs are getting more attention.
I'll admit that I came across WOTE, as approximately 135million other people did, because of their covers. I'll also admit that when the friend I attended the gig with asked me to name all the band members, I panicked; I know Gianni, Sarah, Marshall and Joel, I didn't know Beard Guy's real name though... There were a few moments when I didn't feel worthy to be there with all the "true" fans who've been walking off the earth since 2006 and knew them all well before the YouTube days. However, I love their sound and listen to them constantly in my Little Boxes little box room at uni, and I had the best time at the gig. So there.


The show itself is a happy haze of pretty voices, ukulele solos, crazy bass and beatboxing, colourful bouncy balls flying around the crowd and shiny confetti (which got stuck down my dress and the coloured dye still hasn't washed off). Getting in early and with priority tickets meant we were four "rows" (clusters of people) from the front, and because the crowd consisted of such damn lovely people, not a mosher in sight, we got to comfortably watch the support bands and get psyched for the main event. The last live performances I saw were at Reading Festival, so I'd forgotten what a nice intimate gig was like; my friend read my mind and said "it feels strange being indoors and not standing on grass..."
   Yes, I said "intimate". Because although this night saw approximately 2500 people crammed into the London venue, it still felt very small and close. Having said that, I was right at the front and within fingertip-touching distance of Sarah as she climbed the barrier; I'm sure those on the balcony or at the back of the stalls would tell you a very different story. I really enjoy the intimate-feel gigs; I've seen some of my favourite artists at small London or Brighton venues and felt so happy and connected to them, while for example seeing Taylor Swift at the O2 arena last year was the most alienating (yet girlishly incredible) concert experience.

Now, for the support bands. I always make a point of watching the bands/singers that precede the headliners, because they've clearly worked hard to be where they are, they've gained the approval of the headline band, and I might find a new favourite if I watch them. It's the same reason I always download the iTunes Single Of The Week, no matter how disappointing it turns out to be, and why I look up every song/band/artist my friends recommend to me.
   So I fell a little bit in love with the first band + singer: Ezra Axelrod (the coolest name, maybe ever) and The Motel Band. The loveliest arrangement of guitar, vocals and the sweetest hint of violin made for chilled and gorgeous listening. I not only loved the songs and the genuine yet catchy lyrics, but also the interaction with the audience - some bands will stand and play, with barely any breaks between songs and no "talking time", and subsequently distance themselves from the audience and not gain much of a following. Ezra & The Motel Band, however, were friendly and approachable. Ezra chatted to the audience and explained the meaning behind his songs; he even started a tweeting competition to win one of three free CDs, which I was instantly determined to win (I am a champion tweeter). I really admired Ezra for dedicating one of his songs to his husband; you don't often see gay men singing songs explicitly for their significant others. It was rather beautiful. My friend and I also spent a while discussing how attractive accompanying singer Tim Oxbrow is, and later discovered we weren't the only ones who thought so, in fact a lot of other audience members were swooning and making comparisons between him and Robert Downey Jr... Anyway, I adored their section of the pre-show and got myself a handsome new Twitter follower (@toxbrow) and a free CD out of it. Not too shabby.


I also loved the second support band, two lads going by the name of USS. They were eccentric and eclectic to say the least - at one point one of the guys was playing his guitar above his head, then one picked the other up, then a builder and a shepherd randomly came onstage to jam with them. They had decks set up, plus guitar and vocals, and they performed their own material as well as covering 'Hey Ya', much to the delight of the crowd. I really liked how they not only went completely crazy performing their own stuff, but also got the crowd extra-excited for Walk Off The Earth. They had us chanting, clapping and singing in anticipation, and they repeatedly thanked WOTE for the opportunity to tour with them, hailing them as "the best band of the moment". I really love it when support bands do that.

Now, for the main event. Walk Off The Earth are known for being quirky and original, so it was no surprise when they all walked onstage in matching WOTE hoodies, took up dramatic stances and Gianni and Sarah started banging on drums covered in rice, beans or beads of some kind... Sarah was an undeniable presence onstage, bouncing off the walls and beaming away, her stunning face lit up with the excitement of performing and her hair totally wild. I took a moment to appreciate her choice of outfit, too; stripey tights (on her enviably tiny legs) and a yellow shirt with a drawing of a beaver saying "Dam it". Beard Guy (who I found out is really called Taylor) was calm and poker-faced as always, insanely intense and getting on with his job. Marshall was just plain beautiful, proving that when your face is that perfect, you can just wear jeans and a T-shirt and look utterly flawless, Dam it. My favourite band member, Gianni, kept his crazy hair concealed under a knitted hat at first, then head-banged spectacularly and it all came free. I'll admit, I was more than a little starstruck staring up at Gianni Luminati. He's one of those people I can watch sing forever and refer to him as though we're on a first-name basis. Oh, and I got to meet him afterwards. No biggie.
   My friend and I were dancing madly and singing along throughout; partly because the music was awesome, and partly because we wanted to win the signed red ukulele they were giving away to one lucky audience member. Sadly we didn't win, it went to a deserving girl who was apparently "rocking out" on the left hand side of the stage, but I'd already got my freebies and my friend caught Gianni's drumstick when he threw it into the crowd, so we couldn't really complain. Plus, we met the band afterwards and got photos with most of them - oh sorry, did I mention that already? Oops.
   I cannot fault the band's live performance, nor would I want to - they put everything into it and it was nothing short of epic. My feet were killing me, I was full of pizza and I had shiny confetti stuck down my bra, and I didn't care. I had so much fun. The audience was lovely and everyone standing around me was friendly and chatty; when a tall and slightly delusional guy tried to cut in front of us all at the last minute, we pointed out how unfair he was being and politely told him to get lost, and when I had to rush to the bar and back the crowd parted before me and nobody swore at me as I squeezed past, nor did they care much when I wiggled my way back to the front. It was the definition of a "nice crowd".


WOTE had two encores, one right after the 'Summer Vibe' extravaganza which saw the audience bouncing balls to one another over their heads and shouting "EYY-O, EYY-O, EYY-O, BOP-BOP AWAY-O" and another which was a simple "Walk Off The Earth! Walk Off The Earth!" chanted over and over. It was clear that WOTE loved being in London (Marshall even commented on how awesome the Camden Markets were), and had the best time performing for us.

Thanks guys, I had an unforgettable night and I now owe my friend big time for the free ticket. To be honest, I'd have paid way more than full price for that night.

Did I mention I met Gianni?

Friday, 7 September 2012

The Bookmark Bar Thing.

This post is about my feels on the bookmark bar...intrigued? Read on! 

The theory is that one can tell a lot about another person by their bookmarked pages on their browser. For instance, I've asked my housemate and she has the following pages saved: YouTube, Wikipedia, Game FAQs, Red Bull Snowboarding, Odeon Bournemouth, Empire Cinemas, a Swedish/English dictionary, and MP3raid. I feel like I know more about her life just hearing the site names. I also know for a fact that my little sister has several Taylor Swift fansites saved in her bookmarks bar, plus her school Intranet and the Taylor Swift VEVO page.

So let's take a look at my bookmarks...
  1. My best friends' Blogspot pages. I like to keep up to date on my favourite people's lives, and this is much easier to do now that I've convinced them all to start a blog and saved their URLs on my browser.
  2. myfitnesspal; a website devoted to calorie counting, exercise logging and meal planning. This might make me seem determined to lose weight and obsessive over that perfect hourglass, but in reality it was just saved on there as a result of a fling with caring about my body. Let me tell you, a week at a music festival eating just one portion of chips a day will do more wonders for your figure than six months of calorie clicks and running on the spot in your bedroom.
  3. Sainsburys job search. My daily ritual of logging into my recruitment account and desperately seeking supermarket jobs in my area is fruitless, pointless, but relentless.
  4. Tumblr. This is a rather silly thing to have bookmarked, considering I can just type 'T' into my address bar and Tumblr appears. It's an addiction, and I'm not even ashamed.
  5. SplendidFred. The online magazine I occasionally write pieces for. My latest piece is currently headlining (it's a slightly edited version of my previous blog post about Reading Festival).
  6. WeHeartIt. A site of beautiful images and gifs, where everything is lit with fairy lights and washed down with a spoonful of Nutella. I often use this page for a) pictures to accompany blog posts, b) Tumblr posts, c) something pretty to look at.
  7. I also have a folder of gifs, to be used when appropriate - often in response to an anonymous ask on Tumblr, or to cheer a friend up when they're down.
  8. Charlieissocoollike's YouTube page. I can't help it. I'm in love with this guy.
  9. Cyanide and Happiness. I do adore this comic, however I'll admit that their recent stuff just isn't up to scratch. Bring back the classics please!

I think that paints a fair picture of me as a person/internet user. After reading my friend's bookmarks, however, I have realised the only thing missing is a live feed of kittens with scientist names.
So, blogger peeps, what do you have bookmarked? Because this bookmark bar tag is totally going to become a thing.

I'm here. (Again)

(Almost) One year on from my post "I'm here", I'm here again. Back in Winchester, my second home that I now refer to as simply "home", the city that's really more like a town, about to start a new year of university. Except this time I'm sitting in the living room of a bright red house in the student estate down the road from campus, rather than in the bedroom in the student village at the top of the hill on campus, and I'm starting my second year instead of my first; I'm a Fresher no more, now I'm ancient and responsible and ready for anything. This is the year when the Real Stuff starts.

I didn't cry when my parents left, although I had a longer-than-necessary hug with my mum and stared at my family photo on my windowsill for a while after unpacking in my teeny little room. I've spent a ridiculous amount of money on food and cooked myself a few meagre meals, I'm carrying my phone iPhone charger with me everywhere as well as a bottle of Archers, I've spent our internet-less days watching Friends and several seasons of Jersey Shore with the new housemates, and painting my nails with my housegirl while gossiping. We've met our landlord, laughed at his cheeky jokes and made him a cup of coffee (black with sugar), made a list for the handyman, done all the boring bank/bills/letting agent stuff, and figured out where the recycling bin is. I've been wandering back and forth between my place and friends' places down the road, up the hill, round the corner and two doors down; I definitely miss being across the street from one another in our little village, but I'll get used to it eventually. Having no internet for a week was surprisingly easy - I barely had any withdrawal symptoms. I've been drunk and disorderly with my favourite people several times already. The bathroom is tiny and the ceiling above the shower has a dangerous slope to it, so I am crouching/leaning while I wash my hair. We've recently found out that the previous tenants of this house sold drugs, were busted by the police, broke everything there was to break, and filmed amateur porn in my housemate's downstairs bedroom (her room had previously been dubbed The Nunnery, but due to this revelation it is now The Sex Dungeon). My mum has sent me my first care parcel, containing keyrings and a fold-out brush. I spent a fortune in Ikea beautifying my room; red heart-shaped fairy lights and scented candles are essential items for a student's bedroom.
I'm currently writing three blog posts at once. It's good to be back.

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