Broken Biscuits No.11.

Before I bang on about the night, let it be said that Yellow Arch Studios is a stunning venue right in the heart of Sheffield and it’s the bee’s bum; for performers and audience alike. Thanks to Ali Heath Cook for letting us do our thing and for the superb photos; to Sam, who made it all sound just so; to Nick and Spencer for helping us way beyond the call of duty and to all the staff: you made it a joy.

A little while back, Kate Tym suggested that my compering skills were, how shall we say, somewhat below par. She was totally wrong: they were shocking. Since then, we’ve had in a plethora of artists who really know how to work the house – Kate herself, Callum Hughes, Tim Suturist and this time around, the mighty Maynard Flip Flap. Blending street theatre flair with effortless authority, we knew we were in safe hands throughout. And if anyone thinks that being an MC is just a fill-in, then there’s the door: it’s a skill beyond language.

Billy Button is a multi-layered beast. His failed showman act is a hoot at one level, but then the pathos kicks in and we’re left with the kind of high usually reserved for Class A’s or extreme sports. It was hard choosing the right excerpt from his set, but Somebody kinda does the trick. Watch it a few times and I defy anyone to not melt. Billy, you are a hero.

Jenny Lockyer totally nailed it. She must have been at the front of the queue when they doled out talent: that voice, that guitar and boy, is she funny. Enjoy the moment she stops in her tracks when the audience fails to pick up the refrain; too good. And you could be forgiven for believing Bacharach and David wrote Magic Moments for her and her alone. Wonderful stuff.

Jenny Vegas managed to get her noggin into two Sheffield newspapers and bag a BBC radio interview for this one. She is fast becoming a force of nature, spurred on by unswerving self-belief, Lambrini spritzers and the bedrock of her manager Dougie; who runs a tight ship from his portakabin near Wombwell. God knows what we’ll do if her trajectory of fame continues – you should have seen her bloody rider!

Dan Laidler‘s Windy’s Farm made a welcome return to the North. No matter how many times we run it, people can’t help falling for him. And he’s a windmill, FFS! If only I’d known this in my twenties. Idle Eye managed to squeeze out a urine-themed set with the help of a couple of bewildered guests. Perhaps he thinks sixth form humour is clever and post-modern, but we’ve heard it all before and then we grew up. Good luck to him, though: you can’t kick a man when he’s down, can you?

Next up it’s Brighton Fringe! Three nights at The Bee’s Mouth (11-13 May) to try out material and showcase a few new friends, and then the big bertha finale at The Warren‘s Main House on 31st May. There’ll be event pages, posters, flyers and all sorts coming soon, but for now put these in your diaries. Thank you x

Broken Biscuits No.11.

Right, I’m going to post this today and terminate the faffery once and for all. Because it’s tomorrow, see? These endless half-arsed drafts are getting on me tits, and I’ve got more important things to sort out; like the barnet. So then, it’s going to be another top drawer show at Sheffield’s stunning Yellow Arch Studios with a proper quality line-up:

Somehow, that Jenny Vegas has wormed her way up to the top of the bill and managed to get her mugshot into the newspapers. Seriously, there is no end of front to the woman (her manager Dougie spotted this as well, I gather).

Once again, the absolutely brilliant Jenny Lockyer will be with us, if she can brave the M1 on a day like today. Always a joy to watch, with trademark acoustic guitar, a pitch-perfect voice and the gentlest yet most off-kilter sense of humour evah!

Then there’s Billy Button: although perhaps his halcyon days are now a distant memory, he still can astonish an audience with that gold lamé jacket and a toupee to die for. This is one consummate showman who ain’t lying down in a hurry!

Our compere, Maynard Flip Flap, will have a thing or two up his sleeve. Quite literally, perhaps. A stalwart of Sheffield’s legendary Cabaret Boom Boom, Maynard is blessed with the gift of the gab, street theatre nous and will, without doubt, rudder our kooky ship safely to shore.

Dan Laidler‘s Windy’s Farm is back, obvs. Whoever would have thought that a black and white windmill could spread so much joy throughout the land? And that bloody Idle Eye mosquito will be pitching in with something, I’d imagine. Please desist with this oxygen of publicity thing, it only encourages him.

And that’s about it. It’s going to be fun, this one. I know I always say this, but TBH I can’t think of anything else right now & it’s sunny out. Next up will be Fringe Brighton in May, more on that another time. Adios amigos x

Broken Biscuits No.10.

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We love Antenna. Clearly, as we’ve done four (count ’em) shows there now and there’s plenty more to come. As we had but an hour to transform the room, things were a little (lot) hectic but we got there somehow and it was packed to the rafters. Seriously, it was. Thanks to everyone who pitched in, bought merch, turned up on another vile weather day, and drank the bar dry. Palace, you did us proud!

Our magnificent compere Tim Suturist was drier than a manzanilla sherry in the desert; in direct contrast to the elements outside. And Jenny Vegas treated everyone to their own personal Valentine Lovescope; in direct contrast to her own car crash of a love life. How she got conned into giving a Boyzone tribute act one is anyone’s guess. Except hers. The lady protests too much, methinks.

Awanyu were nothing short of extraordinary. As if gossamer vocals that soared, swooped and almost shattered over a beautifully subtle acoustic wash weren’t enough, our man certainly knew how to make an entrance. The lamé cape and feathered headdress, removed to a live Eric Satie intro, will not be forgotten in a hurry. Think a male Kate Bush, or Antony & the Johnsons gatecrashing Bowie’s theatre period and you’ll still be miles off.

How to describe the sublimely batty Vivienne Westnorwood? Perhaps, in keeping with the headdress theme, that she rocked up in one fashioned COMPLETELY FROM JAMMY DODGERS!!! Or that she’s so livid about getting on a bit, she managed to punk up the proverbial menopause with a banjo that begged to hold a note. Or that… it really doesn’t matter: this is one kooky lady that had the audience in stitches and is probably still bewildered by the whole thing. Vivienne, we salute you!

As is customary, a mention should be given to Idle Eye. Bless him, he did try to keep up, and some new material was aired. But the real stars of his pitifully short set were his guests – Callum Hughes and Jenny Vegas – who breathed a little life into the twitching carcass of his world view. There is a crowdfunder doing the rounds to send him on a holiday: let’s make it a long one.

There’s going to be a little breather until BB11 in April; to write, to do admin and maybe even go away for a few days. Cabin fever and burnout are the deciding factors, coupled with an ennui that will not heel: I don’t make the rules. Finally, a word out to Mr Donald Ross Skinner. Sadly, he couldn’t be with us for personal reasons and he was sorely missed. Don, hang in there buddy – we miss you, we love you and our thoughts are with you right now xx

Broken Biscuits No.10.

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Yes, it’s hot on the heels of Komedia Brighton but you need to know pronto. This very Saturday, BB10 returns to Antenna Studios at Palace, because that’s where it was spawned. And for this show, it’s super local (with the allowable exception of Jenny Vegas, who’s only there for the free crisps) and super cool. We’ve got Vivienne Westnorwood for starters, and she doesn’t travel through postcodes unless there’s a very good reason. And then there’s Peyo Santalla, who so happens to have my flatmate in his band, and will dazzle the collective Palace crowd with some stuff he will have already badgered you into coming down for. I am merely the conduit, the weaver if you will, for some serious SE19 action. Do not judge us: we are on a higher plain.

If you’re in any doubt whatsoever, we’ve also got the magnificently bleak Tim Suturist as compere, after he’s finished flogging you quality veg at the market. It really doesn’t get any better than this (even though you think it might). And Idle Eye will try out some new material. Because it’s about time. I thank you x

Broken Biscuits No.9.

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Another great night. And despite my phone bricking as we were setting up (meaning no one could get hold of me at all for soundcheck info et al), it just added to the wonderful jumble of mayhem that seems to characterise these shows. Almost predictably, Southern Rail robbed us of Joanna Neary (although she has kindly agreed to join us at the Brighton Fringe, more on that another time), and compere Kate Tym was stricken with a virus and held at bay in St Leonards. But we got through it! Here’s how:

With the mighty Mr B, of course! The voice (and banjolele) of reason in a sea of madness, his immaculate set, attire and bonhomie were a joy to behold, as we all knew they would be. And he played The Crack Song, which I will be grateful for until my dying day. We Need To Talk About Kanye was another killer: seek it out and love him forever. This is a gentleman of substance you cannot afford to miss.

With Lorraine Bowen. Her Casiotone-fuelled, endearingly confused mix of pop, fashion and laughter had the house eating out of her hand the minute she stepped on stage. The Crumble Lady herself gave us tunes to die for, moves to watch and learn, and low fidelity acumen to shame the new kids on the block. Seriously, we had a party like it was 1969 and we didn’t want it to stop. Now that’s showbiz!

With Jenny Vegas. Once again, she delivered a blazing set with less than 24 hours notice, this time treating us to a reading from her new book 39 Shades of Brown. Which is as fabulous as it sounds. And she crushed the rumour that she and I are…well, you know…with the most damning words her vocabulary could muster. In front of a live audience. Don’t mess with this lady, she tells it like it is.

With Idle Eye and guests. This time he put a bloody jacket on and looked halfway respectable, let down somewhat by three pairs of reading glasses worn simultaneously. If he learns his lines and comes up with some decent between post banter, it might be worth coming to see his offerings at some point in the future. You heard it here first.

With Joss Perring and Nick Hollywood. Who once again transformed the Komedia Studio into a magical den of light, vintage film and great music. It’s always special to watch this father/son combo at work, particularly when they’re made up to the nines and sporting attractive hats. And Callum Hughes, who stepped in as compere with minutes to spare and masterfully ruddered our kooky ship through the entire evening. And Dan Laidler‘s Windy, who is fast becoming the unsung hero of Broken Biscuits. Hola Windy!

Thank you, Komedia Brighton, that was fab. BB10 is back at Antenna Studios in Crystal Palace on Saturday 11th February. Yes, that soon! Info post comin’ atcha after this. And sleep and red wine. Over and out x

Idle Eye 191 : The Showgirl

It’s time to scotch a rumour, now that we’re safely ensconced inside a new year and you’re vaguely listening again. And, unlike the usual ephemera that does the rounds on the social (only to rapidly disappear up its own euphemism), this one concerns yours truly and the highly improbable premise that things have taken a turn for the better in my private life. Worse still, that it may involve a certain Jenny Vegas, who has been in my employ for a few months now and, to be perfectly honest, really not my type. This kind of hearsay is not only unhelpful, but also deeply unprofessional; to the point where I had to make an awkward call to Miss Vegas in person and make an complete tit of myself:

Me:  Jenny, can you talk?

Vegas:  That you, Dougie?

Me:  Er…no. It’s Idle Eye. From the Broken Biscuits shows.

Vegas:  Aw, hiya! Did ya have a fab Chrimbo?

Me:  Yes, thank you. It was most pleasant.

Vegas:  What you doing calling mi in’t middle of t’night?

Me:  It’s 10.15, Jenny…AM. And there’s something urgent I need to run past you.

Vegas:  Is it Hollyoaks?

Me:  No, not exactly. It’s a bit more delicate than that.

Vegas:  Gi us a clue then. An don’t tek all day.

Me:  I’ll come straight to the point. There are certain, how shall we say, insinuations flying about at the moment about you and me. Have you heard anything?

Vegas:  In…sin…yer wha?

Me:  Insinuations. People are talking.

Vegas:  Eh?

Me:  Look, this isn’t easy for me. But the word on the street is that we’re somehow…entwined.

Vegas:  I only ‘ad a few Lambrinis…an’ a whiskey chaser. I were holdin’ back!

Me:  We’re not talking alcohol, Jenny. This is the hard stuff.

Vegas: I don’t do that neither. Not since rehab.

Me:  Ok, I’ll spell it out. They’re saying you and I are a couple. Romantically. As in going out together. And you have my full…

Vegas:  Whose seyin’ that?

Me:  No one in particular. But you know how the rumour mill works.

Vegas:  Yew…an mesen?

Me:  That’s about the sum of it.

Vegas:  Are yer fookin ‘avin a laff?

Me:  Deadly serious, I’m afraid.

Vegas:  Well, Mr Eye! Altho’ I am a woman of great bewtay, talent an intelligence, not to mention a consummated professional, I don’ av time for owt like tha. An even if I did, I do have mi reputat…repit…image to think abaht, yer naw.

Me:  If it’s any conciliation, it was nothing to do with me.

Vegas:  That’s right, never is wi you blorks. Nah piss off, I’m busy…

And that was that. Whilst I’m no stranger to the odd rebuke, this was one of the oddest yet; particularly as I shall be working with Miss Vegas for the foreseeable future. But if you ask me, the lady protests too much. They usually do, the little minxes…

Broken Biscuits No.8.

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BB8 was the usual heady cocktail of madness, hilarity and confusion, only this time we had an angry poltergeist along for the party as well. Not that anyone heard or saw anything, mind, but she was definitely there. And it is a she; we checked.

David Farnan stepped in for James Cook (who sadly couldn’t be with us) at the eleventh hour, and knocked out a repertoire of effortless, self-penned acoustic swagger: with a vocal rasp that would have Liam Gallagher running for the hills. Lovely stuff!

Now here’s a challenge: I defy anyone to listen to the attached Jenny Lockyer song and not well up at the end. She has that rare ability to fuse humour and pathos in equal amounts, all mixed in with a touch of the surreal and a voice to die for. And I’m delighted to announce that she’ll be joining us yet again for a big show in April next year. More on that another time…

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a seasonal address from our very own Jenny Vegas. Unlike the politicians, she cuts through the crap and tells it like it is, all dressed up as a sexy Santa. This is how you get the word out, Theresa: think on it! Actually don’t (can you imagine?) In the meantime, we wish Cabernet Vegas all the very best in rehab, and let’s pull a collective cracker for little Chardonnay, whose tag gets removed in January. Huzzah!

As promised, Idle Eye also had a pop at something seasonal. No hats though, just a rather sad, out-of-character cameo as a Pizza Flyer Delivery Boy in the style of Alan Sillitoe. No jokes, neither. Because who wants them, FFS? There was some other stuff, but unless you were there (and let’s face it, you weren’t) there’s not a lot of point banging on about it. Wasn’t too bad, though.

Well, that’s it for 2016. It’s been a curious journey – from blog to book to the live shows – but I wouldn’t have it otherwise. I’ll write up one of those End of Year thingies after the Big One, but not until: I’ve got a £10 Majestic wine voucher that runs out today & I know where my priorities lie x