Johnny Flynn @ The Flowerpot, Kentish Rd

I nearly saw Johnny Flynn twice, in that he has played in the past at two festivals where I was present, but on both occasions I ended up doing something else, in the case of Latitude festival – watching Blondie.

But tonight Johnny Flynn, for me, went from being an old iTunes song of the week to being somebody in my life, as I went to see his live gig on Kentish Town Rd.

The Flowerpot was packed-out with lovely baby-faced public school types and budding singer-songwriters, but where Johnny’s idealised audience might have held pints of Sussex cider, there instead squatted nude Mulberry handbags perched across sunburnt shoulders as more and more posh female groupies crowded in, cameras poised.

Now Johnny is certainly attractive. Blond, rosy-cheeked and with self-constructed shyness, even if he is much shorter than a Google image search suggests. He didn’t have to do much to please the crowd either, aside from ruffle his hair every minute or so and blush more and more. After his first song a girl yells, “take your top off Johnny”, and it is apparent to all, Johnny included, why people are here to see him, not that many people could see him, partly due to a box venue.

It’s easy for me to disapprove of folk music, since I find it so moss-like and weak as a musical genre - there’s practically no money behind it and the media smarts just aren’t interested. R'n'B, electro, pop - I'm there. Trumpets? November 11 only please. But I do actually like a bit of folk, like Paul Giovanni, the composer of the 1973 Wicker Man soundtrack. I like Jethro Tull too, kind of.
(Is Goldfrapp's 4th album folk?)

But today, twenty years or so after Giovanni died of AIDS, folk is very different. In a music scene where the eco ethic is voiced by bands like MGMT, padded out with synths, loop pedals and drum machines. Where does folk stand? Or anti-folk is it called? Or electro-folk? Who knows. But it's not Johnny...

He is awkwardly between the past and the present, and so I'm uncertain whether he has a future. There were no anecdotes between tracks or dialogue with the audience, making it hard to connect with him if you were neither a folk boff or an old school pal. He simply stood and moved through a quite hum-drum set. Not that the crowd weren't appreciative. One girl looked on the brink of an Elvis-fan-
style expiry.

Musically the band are strong, there is no arguing with the capabilities of Johnny’s instrumentalists The Sussex Wit, and some choruses are even quite camp and catchy. Still, he’s better suited to being an outdoor performer and my conclusion to tonight’s oddness was that his act grinds somewhat against the ways of Camden nightlife. His audience need room to dance, room to drink, room to smile and to enjoy themselves.

Give me an orchard at night time in Suffolk, a keg of cider and some fairy lights… I’ll happily throw all my clothes off, paint my face, and dance to Johnny all night.

But in the Flowerpot on Kentish Town Rd? No thanks. The audience were more interested in their Jacko death updates. Only one girl really let herself go. In fact, I began to question if he was even that entertaining and so my friends and I began to watch people in the audience. Doesn't every year sprout a few thousand blond pretty boys? They're really nothing special, and without charisma, very perishable.

The Jack of Hearts is written by Jack Cullen

Sophie Ellis Boring

Does anybody else think Sophie Ellis Bextor is a bit too perfect to be true?
I’ve always been a bit of a fan. Her posh voice, her nonchalance, her height. Where most pop stars have an indestructible narcissistic stroke and career drive, it seems Sophie just stands up and sings because she wanted to stretch her legs for a bit, she conjures a sort of apathy-chic that is just irresistible.

Of course her new single Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer) is absolutely everywhere at the moment. I even met her fleetingly in Heaven last Friday and later stole myself a poster from the evening since the cloakroom mincer with his Fisher Price headphone set wouldn't let me have one, despite Sophie's approval! I love pop stars who make appearances in clubs to promote new singles, it always creates a fun buzz.

What’s funny about the song title is its acknowledgment of Sophie’s one major flaw – she can’t dance. She just sort of bends her legs and poses like the love child of Narnia’s ice queen and an ironing board.

Having just read Company’s cover story / interview with Sophie, it baffles me just how perfect she seems. The kids, the politeness, the rock star hubby, the affection and friendliness. I wish there was something a bit bad about Sophie. Not a drugs scandal or adultery, nothing evil-spirited, but just something a bit darker. Sophie has such a sultry glamorous command and her face is so alien… I just think she’d be better with more mystery.

Perhaps she’s just a manufactured ready-meal popstar, someone who turns up, says the right things, sings a little song, and goes. I hope not though. I want Sophie to mature, take a leaf out of Roisin’s book, Alison’s book or even Grace’s book… and become something more. She’s managed to build a huge magazine fanfare over her new single, and without any scandal or media-hook. Just think what she could do with a little more imagination.

Paul Foot Interview

Recently I interviewed the comedian Paul Foot. In fact, I spent the whole day with him, interviewing him at his bedside, then sharing a jug of Pimms in the afternoon, and finally reviewing his gig that night in Leeds. (Oct 2010: To read my feature follow this link - The interview used to be hosted on the Leeds Student website, but it all went wrong at some point and I've since graduated and embarked upon my life!)

Below is a photo of one of the beautiful parks in Leeds, where we are enjoying our last few days up north! The weather has been perfect. I'm standing in the middle in my little blue Bjorn Borg beach shorts. Standing right beside me are my soon to be ex-housemates Ben and Leo. We've lived together for three years now and become great friends. Aw, check me being all nostagic, The Jack of Hearts is rarely so personal!

Jack of Hearts is written by Jack Cullen