Sunday Seven, 14/05/17

Things I’ve loved and learned in the last few weeks…

Body To Ground EP, Hollie Rogers

Hollie EP

God damn, this woman can sing. And write. I’m sort of biased because Drummer Boy, erm, drums for her, so I’ve been to a fair few of her gigs now, and she’s rehearsed in our studio (we say studio, you might say “glorified shed” if you saw it). But she has a rich, gutsy voice and does a nice line in dark, sexy lyrics, so she ticks all of my musical preference boxes. The new EP is gorgeous and will, in all likelihood, put you in the mood for red wine, candlelight and ill-advised liaisons. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
John Mayer at the O2

What I love about John Mayer is that if you raid his body of work, you can get your musical 5-a-day. He does blues, pop, rock, country, and that soulful acoustic singer/songwriter thing – while managing to retain that totally unmistakable John Mayer sound. The languid vocals, the right-in-the-tear-ducts songwriting, and of course, the fact that he’s one of the best guitarists of his generation.

Tickets for his May 12th gig at London’s O2 sold out before I even knew they’d gone on sale. But angels were on my side when he added a second date, so on Thursday, I was able to fulfill a long-held dream of being in the same room as John Mayer and his guitar. When he opened with the stunning, shimmering ‘Heartbreak Warfare’, I promptly burst into tears. “John Mayer Syndrome,” said Drummer Boy’s friend when DB relayed this to him. “Happens to a lot of ladies.”

The concept of the show was striking – divided into chapters, he swapped between playing with a full band, just an acoustic guitar and the John Mayer Trio (bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Steve Jordan. I think DB was only there for Jordan, to be honest). I feel that while Mayer is pretty huge in the US, over here, he’s more known for his love life – the Brits I know that love him all tend to be proper music nerds.

The screen behind the band hosted some spectacular visuals – some of which made sense, some of which didn’t, but all were truly beautiful. Personal highlights were ‘In Your Atmosphere’, ‘Vultures’, ‘Helpless’, and ‘Free Fallin”. If you don’t believe in magic, you need to be in an arena while John Mayer is elevating Tom Petty’s 3-chord anthem to something other-worldly. He closed with ‘You’re Gonna Live Forever In Me’, alone on the stage, accompanying himself on the piano. It was a spine-tingling end to a gorgeous evening.

The Longform Podcast, ep. 239, with S-Town’s Brian Reed

For fans of S-Town, this podcast is a must-listen. (Please only listen to it if you’ve finished S-Town though, as it contains spoilers.) It’s an interview with Brian Reed, the presenter and executive producer of S-Town, and he discusses the process of making what he calls “an audio non-fiction novel”. The way he talks about the story-gathering and writing process is fascinating – writers will nerd-gasm over it, hard; I know I did. Podcasts like Serial and S-Town seem to be ushering in of a new form of story-telling, which is hugely exciting, and it makes me want to take on my own S-Town-style project. Though in Hove, there’s slim pickings for mystery and intrigue, it must be said.

Dear White People, Netflix

The amount of praise I’d seen for Dear White People would usually be enough to put me off – at least until the fuss had died down. But it really is that good. Set at a prestigious college, it centres around a group of students of colour, and in particular, the painfully funny radio show that gives the series its title. I don’t want to give too much away – and also I’m only three episodes in so can’t fully comment on the story arc – but the writing is exquisite. It’s intelligent, funny, absurd at times, and doesn’t do that thing of making characters who belong to under-represented groups saintly and beyond reproach. Get on it, if you haven’t already.

Chocolate orange loaf cake
Chocolate orange loaft cake
If a cake gets made but isn’t Instagrammed, has that cake really been made?

The last Bank Holiday we had was a miserable one, if I remember correctly, and the only failsafe remedy for a drizzly day off is to spend the afternoon in the kitchen, melting dark chocolate, zesting oranges and whisking cake mix. I can’t get enough of chocolate-orange flavoured things, and this loaf cake is delicious. I did tweak the method slightly – who honestly can be arsed to grate 125g of chocolate? I melted it instead, left it to cool slightly and stirred it into the standard sugar-butter-egg cake mixture. Then added the flour, baking powder, and cocoa paste, and finally, the orange zest. It lasts about 5-6 days in an airtight box or on a cling-filmed plate if you’re lazy like me – if you can restrain yourself, that is.

NYX Wonder Stick

I’m not really one for “contouring”. Much as I have reservations about my rather round face, the trend for orangey-brown stripes dirtying the cheeks of every woman in the 15-29 age bracket is getting very boring indeed. And who honestly has the time or the inclination to try and restructure their actual face in the mornings? Having said that, I’m a sucker for a man with pronounced cheekbones – I can spot a set of handsome, whippet-like features at 20 paces, it’s a rubbish super-power. There’s a guy that occasionally gets on my bus with such a face, and it certainly makes my commute a little more bearable. So while I want almost nothing more than to join the bony-faced brigade. But I also want to continue eating olive bread like it’s going out of fashion. Ditto cheese. And chorizo. And cake.

Enter the NYX Wonder Stick. One end is a muted browny-taupe, the other is a totally matte pale cream colour. You scribble a bit of the dark stick where you want the shadow to fall, and dab the pale end where the light hits your face. Blend in really, really well with your fingers, or a fat, dense, stubby make-up brush, and enjoy subtly defined features. There’s no orange or shimmer here, so it looks pleasingly natural. As long as you work it in properly, and don’t go overboard. No-one wants a muddy face.

Cheekbone goals. Never going to happen, mind. At least not without a 3-week bout of food poisoning.
And, finally, here’s how not to take antidepressants…

To cut short a long, tedious story about a failure of life admin, I found myself in an unplanned state of semi-withdrawal from sertraline at the beginning of this week. I didn’t give my doctor enough notice to sign a new prescription, so ended up taking half my usual dose on two days and none on the third day. Clever girl. SSRI-takers, consider this your cautionary tale.

Whether what I went through was a kind of placebo effect or not, it was hideous. I spent all of Tuesday incandescent with unnameable rage. Things I got mad about included but are not limited to: two men talking behind me on the bus, Drummer Boy not telling me he wouldn’t need dinner, a meeting with my manager, Drummer Boy getting home slightly later than he said he would. Proper irrational stuff. I was reunited with my meds in a joyful moment reminiscent of the “Daddy, my Daddy!” scene in The Railway Children – if it had been set at the pharmacy counter in Brighton’s North St branch of Boots. Moral of the story: request your script in good time. You’ll spare yourself – and your long-suffering partner and colleagues – a world of pain. Just trust me on that one.

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