30 Aug 2012

Fancy Dress Costume Review! (Warning: rambles)

Product Placement Alert!  It finally happened, folks - I sold out to The Man.  I made a deal with The Devil. 

Actually, what's happened is the lovely folks at Jokers' Masquerade have asked me to review one of their costumes on the site.  And here at Falconer Towers, we're complete fancy dress nuts, so of course I was up for it! Yes, I know this is a music blog, but fuck it - it's my blog and I can write about whatever I want. Hmpf!

They asked me to choose a costume from their website, which was perfectly straightforward to navigate.  Each costume page also suggested extra accessories to purchase and make the costume complete.  My choice of costume for review was this delightful Sherlock Holmes costume, complete with magnifying glass and pipe set. 

Ironing: it's elementary

Very dandy I'm sure you'll agree!  It's a good quality cape, doesn't feel like it's going to fall apart in two minutes like a lot of shop-bought gear you get.  The dearstalker is suitably ridiculous.  Meanwhile, the pipe and magnifying glass are nicely put together - the pipe's not functional, but the magnifying glass works a treat!  I was investigating the shit out of the garden with it, I can tell you!  Everything fit marvellously, and due to the nature of the cape it probably would have fit a larger or smaller person no problem, though unfortunately I didn't have one to hand to try this out. 

I put it to you, sir...

As you can see, while the gear arrived properly packaged, there was a bit of folding and scrunching involved (the cape came in a flimsy but functional suit bag, but the hanger had snapped so it had all fallen to the bottom), which of course I didn't bother ironing out before these photos were taken.  I'm sure Sherlock himself wouldn't have bothered with such a thing.  My own Mrs Hudson, however, when asked if she would perform the necessary sartorial sprucing, suggested in no uncertain terms I "Fuck off and do it yourself."  One simply can't get the staff these days...

But all in all, very pleased with the costume.  If I turned up to a party wearing it, everyone would say, "Good Lord - you've come as Sherlock Holmes!" Which, of course, would be the goal.  Quickly dispatched, well packaged, everything in the size ordered, no bits falling off... grand.  And I'm pretty  confident I could wear this thing to a dozen parties and it would still be in good nick. Good job, Jokers' Masquerade!

So of course the big question is: Home-made costumes or Shop-bought?  Well if you buy a costume ready made, to be honest there's always that whiff of cheating about it.  I mean, yeah that penguin costume you've bought looks great, but what about the guy who spent hours perfecting his pervy uncle costume? (I've got a photo of this very thing somewhere, but I'm buggered if I can find it. Gutted!)

My personal favourite costume I ever came up with was for an 80s-themed festival, which I attended as a Bullseye contestant:
Shirt £12; Jeans £4; Trainers £6. Thank you Tesco
Complete with this SERIOUS hair cut with real hair extensions:

That is real hair.  Fitted using a glue gun.

Part of the fun of it all is trawling the charity shops, finding the perfect bad shirt or whatever.  Buying from a website is just too easy in some ways...

... but then again, isn't the fun of it just that people look good?  Who cares if it's been bought or made?  Just so long as people get dressed up in the spirit of things - and God knows not everybody can be arsed to wander around charity shops like a crazed rag & bone man.  And not everybody is handy with a needle and thread - that Spiderman costume you envisaged doesn't look quite as good as the real thing, does it?  Washing some pyjamas on hot so they shrink, popping on a balaclava and stapling a print out of the Spidey logo to your chest?  Not great.  You'd have been better off going to Jokers' Masquerade and buying one!

So yeah, if you want a good costume in a hurry, or need help with a more sophisticated outfit, I'd definitely recommend buying or hiring one.  Let's be honest, you're not going to attempt to make a gorilla costume yourself, are you?  Or indeed your Bernie Clifton jobs (I'd fucking LOVE one of these!)

Personally, I do like creating my own monstrosities as well.  The thrill of the hunt, trying to work out just what sort of trousers a 1970s geography teacher would have worn (pretty obscure party theme there, but that's fine!) 

Come on, then - send me your best fancy dress photos.  I'm on twitter at @falconermusic which is probably the best place to send me a pic, or feel free to comment and leave a link!  I'll post the best ones on here.  

1 Aug 2012

Voice Of Drums!

We need to talk about drumming.

Basically, I've dabbled with drums for a fairly long time, but I've never really pushed myself.  And being self-taught, I've found I've tended to work around my shortcomings rather than try and fix them.  So lately I've decided to take the drums a little more seriously, and this led me to my latest musical adventure!

At the beginning of this week I attended the three day Voice of Drums summer school, run by acclaimed drummer and percussionist Terl Bryant (John Paul Jones; Iona; Sadie And The Hotheads).

The purpose of the school was not just to help people with their technique, or to learn dozens and dozens of new patterns, but to think differently about how to express meaning through drumming.  In other words, not just keeping a beat - though that of course is vitally important!

So on the first day we went through various warm up techniques and rudiments, followed by a session with another excellent drummer Stu Roberts, who introduced us to various Latin rhythms and co-ordination exercises.

Stu Roberts, teaching like nobody's business.

At the end of each day was a recording session, where each student would learn a little more about mic choice and placement, playing to a click track, and how to create a drum part that would fit in with a track appropriately.

The second day started again with warm ups and rudiments, before moving onto the kit to start exploring how to express different emotions and concepts with the drums.  The idea behind this is that in any great recording, whatever meaning the song has should be reflected in every instrument - not just the vocals.  That may sound like the most obvious thing in the world, but there are so many producers who treat the drums like a glorified metronome, when they could be so much more.  Similarly, there are too many drummers (we've all worked with them) who don't think so much about the meaning of the song as they do about getting the next really cool fill they've learnt in there somewhere, whether it works or not.

Terl in the driving seat

The third and final day featured amongst other things a workshop with Hungarian drumming superstar Gabor Dornyei.  Gabor is primarily a jazz fusion drummer, and he taught us a great mix of musicality, playing technique and practice methods that gave us yet more things to think about at the end of three days of fantastic teaching.

Oh, you're going to play all those? Ok...

So what did I get out of it?  Well first, it was a great opportunity to work up close with some top working drummers - all three have staggering lists of credits on stage shows, live acts and studio albums.  Not only were there plenty of new techniques, and ideas on how to practise, as well as what to practise (which I found particularly helpful), but also that constant reminder that the drums should be treated as an integral part of the music, not just a timekeeper. 

Not only that, but there was a draw at the end of the course, which I won! And here I am with my prize - a Hardcase snare case!

Grinning like a fucking idiot. I never win raffles!

Voice Of Drums runs every year down in West Sussex - you should check it out if you're in the area (though some students travelled down from as far afield as Darby).  Whether it's drumming, dancing or juggling, I always think any kind of immersion camp like this is great for people wanting to get themselves kickstarted, intermediates wanting to really get going with the things they've already learnt, and more advanced learners who have plateaued a bit and want to shake things up.  So yeah, check it right out!

Thanks again to Terl for organising the whole thing - it was a great success as far as I was concerned, and I know the other students had a blast too.  Got a great deal out of it, and I'll definitely be back next year!


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