Friday, 13 June 2014

Chromeo, Ghost Stories and Legoland - A Weekend in Review

You know sometimes when you just have that one weekend where everything happens at once and ends up being totally awesome? Well last weekend was one of those.

Here is a rundown of three cool things that I got up to over the course of three days. 

 Chromeo @ The Roundhouse

      I managed to snag tickets to see Chromeo in their only (non-festival) UK date of their tour a few months ago, so on Friday evening we made our way down to the wonderful venue that is The Roundhouse (trivia: it used to be train turntable back in the day), in the heart of fashionable Camden. The venue was beautiful and the crowd diverse, although I got the impression that the place is distinctly geared more towards theatre than gigs – long queues for the few toilets on each floor and the deathtrap that is hundreds of people attempting to simultaneously descend the plastic cup and bottle-littered stairs to get out after the gig are indicative of this.
       Still, the sound system and acoustics were great (the opening boom of the bass at the start of Chromeo’s set was enough to make your bones vibrate) and if you have the chance to watch a show there you should definately do so.

       As for Chromeo’s set itself – it was great. They played a mixture of tracks from their latest album White Women, as well as old favourites from their back catalogue such as Night by Night, Funky Footwork and Tenderoni, and even reaching as far back as Needy Girl and You’re So Gangsta. Definitely a crowd-pleasing performance.
       What really impressed me was that just the two members (Dave 1 and P-Thugg) managed to rock the whole show themselves without the use of any other session musicians or backing performers. Sure, a portion of the music was pre-recorded, but they helped keep things interesting by the live instruments, singing and P-Thugg gamely stepping in for the guest vocalist sections of certain tracks. It’s testament to how insanely catchy their music is – with every track getting the crowd grooving.
       Another (also quite literal) highlight was Dave 1’s Chrome guitar reflecting a spotlight and scanning it across the crowd whilst sustaining a long note. It looked incredible!

You can check out a Track of the Week article I wrote about a Chromeo song HERE.
You can also listen to a Chromeo mixtape of mine HERE.

Ghost Stories @ The Arts Theatre

      Before we arrived at the venue on a warm Saturday evening, we took a brief diversion to the tourist magnet that is M&M World (just off Leicester Square)! Plus point: it’s M&M’s! Minus point: er… it’s M&M’s…?
       Featuring an almost scary amount of aggressive branding, you can buy anything from mugs to underwear adorned with the characters and logo. There were also paintings on the walls, costumed mascots and a Svarowski studded leather jacket going for an astonishing £2267!

       The smell of sickly sweet chocolate pervaded the air, which actually put me off from buying any chocolate, but it's hard not to get caught up in the verve of shoppers going mad in there. It’s kind of terrifying…

       …Almost as terrifying as the awesome theatre show that it Ghost Stories. Created by Jeremy Dyson (League of Gentlemen) and Andy Nyman (actor, writer, magician and producer of many of Derren Brown’s stage shows), it’s an 80min stage show (with no interval), that promises to scare the bejeesus out of you.
       Reminiscent of Hitchcock’s advertising for Psycho, if you arrive late or decide to leave the theatre at any point there is no re-admittance, and soon after the performance ends you are reminded not to spoil the contents of the show by telling anybody else about it. Even all the advertising and marketing campaigns for Ghost Stories consist only of pictures and videos of terrified audience members and their reactions.
       It’s great being able to watch a show not knowing what to expect at all, and if you are a fan of scary films, ghost stories or just like being thrilled, this show is highly recommended. Like I said, I wont go into specifics of why this show is excellent so as not to spoil anything, but I will say this: it’s well acted, brilliantly staged with excellent use of lighting, sound, dynamic sets, and with a great use of pacing (and humour) that ramp up the tension just before a scare. Andy Nyman’s pedigree as a magician can be seen through some classic moments of misdirection and fourth wall breaking – but above all it’s the writing that makes this show so good. Dyson and Nyman’s love for telling a good ghost story is apparent in this show, and it all ties together beautifully come the climax.

       It’s a shame I can’t talk about it more without spoiling it – just go see it! The show’s current run, at the aptly small and dingy Arts Theatre near Leicester Square, runs until the 17th August - so catch it whilst you can!

For more info on the show click HERE.

I can't say more about this show but something similar would be the stage production of 'The Woman in Black' which I wrote about HERE

Legoland Resort Windsor

       The final treat of the weekend was a surprise early birthday present from my other half – tickets to UK’s Legoland in Windsor on Sunday.
       Now since getting back into LEGO bigtime as an adult (which can be witnessed in my series that starts HERE), I have always considered a revisit to Legoland, as I only have extremely vague memories of going there when I was a small child. Would it still appeal to me as an AFOL? Or is it aimed squarely for a kids day out?

       The answer is a bit of both. On one hand, it is interesting to go there again and appreciate all the fantastic models made out of LEGO bricks that are scattered all around the park. Miniland especially was a highlight and I took the opportunity to take some photos incorporating minifigures we had brought with us on the day especially. You can see some pics of me setting up shots below, but for the actual results of some of my photography, check out my Instagram account or wait until they are all collected in a future post.

       On the other hand however, I felt a little disappointed at how decidedly old school everything was there. The majority of outdoor models had faded in colour over time (quite a few also sported cobwebs!), and the current branding of LEGO (which is very minifigure-centric) didn't feel reflected in the majority of the park’s appearance. The only exception to this was the newly refurbished hotel building and the new Star Wars Miniland attraction – both of which were recent constructions (2012).

       This may be due to the fact that The Lego Group almost went bankrupt in the earlier 2000s and is only now becoming super successful again (currently the second biggest toy manufacturer in the world), or the fact that during their low period they sold off the ownership of the theme park to Merlin Entertainments.
       Whatever the reasons, in my opinion, the park is in need of an update, both in the way of a general spruce up, but also to bring it in line with the more modern branding and image of LEGO. Whilst you are at it: clean/replace the models, replace chipped and peeling signage and cut back some of the overgrown trees that block off what would have been fantastic views across the whole park (the entrance is situated on top of a hill looking down over the majority of Legoland).
       One more gripe that I had (based on personal preference) was that all nearly all the models in Miniland and Star Wars Miniland were built to midi scale rather than mini-scale (as I am a huge fan of LEGO minifigures), but that was a minor point really, and was already kind of addressed in the branding issue I outlined above.
       Whether or not they will update things soon remains to be seen – the huge success of the LEGO brand in recent years means they should have money to do so (unless it’s an issue with Merlin holding the ownership) so who knows.

       Not that the kids were really complaining though. The park was absolutely jam-packed with families (we got the occasional strange looks as we were one of the few people there without children in tow) and the day was blazing hot, making getting soaked on the water rides (often in a rather gratuitous fashion) a minor inconvenience.
       All the staff were friendly and polite and there was a great selection of shops dotted around the park (as well as exclusive items on sale) and a great ‘buy now and collect later’ feature that was really useful. All in all, a great day out.

For more info on Legoland Resort Windsor, check out their official site HERE.
You can also read some of my LEGO related articles HERE.

In Conclusion...

      A great weekend with great company and great weather. That’s a whole lotta ‘great’! Of all the things mentioned above, I would recommend Ghost Stories the most, and I’m definitely going to try and catch that again sometime whilst it's still on. Soon after watching the show I tweeted Andy Nyman, congratulating him for the brilliant show and I got a nice reply. How cool is that!

       So in conclusion – a pretty darn good weekend! I wonder if I can top that triple bill anytime soon. If I do, I’m sure you will hear about it!

12th June 2014


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