Thursday, 21 February 2013

Leeds Arena

by John-Paul Craven
2013 will finally see the opening of The Leeds Arena. The building of the arena had been on and off more times than I care to remember. I did think it was going to be yet another mythical Leeds entity, like the Leeds Supertram or even the Blue Lady at Temple Newsam, but here were are, it’s here and it’s here to stay. It looks quite impressive as you drive past, and I can’t say I miss the Brunswick Building it replaced either.
The Merrion Centre nearby has undergone a lot of redevelopment in the last couple of years with the Arena in mind, after many years of neglect. The Merrion Centre Supermarket there is no more, currently being ripped out and developed, presumably into faceless identikit fast food units serving tasteless identikit foodstuffs to gig goers. This makes me sad in a way, as it was a bit of Leeds that was untouched and was how I remembered it from being a child in the 1980s.
The arena’s effect on the nearby transport infrastructure will no doubt be keeping the letters page of the Yorkshire Evening Post busy from the off. The times I have been to Sheffield Arena, which relatively speaking is located out of the city centre, it has been nothing short of a total nightmare to get to/from if you go by car. Now our Arena is located near one of the busiest areas for commuters in normal rush hour traffic, so heaven knows what it’s going to be like in the lead up to an event. Total Chaos it’s fair to say. I can’t see that the nearby car parks will be able to cope.
One of the main criticisms of arenas is the soulless atmosphere they create, in part due to the way the seats are set out, meaning that not everybody can see clearly. We are told that Leeds Arena’s seats have been constructed in a ‘super theatre fan shaped format’, so everyone should be able to see perfectly. Another common arena gripe is having to pay £4.20 for a pint of watered down Tuborg. It would be nice if some of Leeds’ independent food/drink providers were involved in what is sold inside the arena. As well as this, I hope that long-standing servants of musical excellence to the people of Leeds, Crash and Jumbo Records, are given decent ticket allocations for events and not just a token amount or for gigs that aren’t selling well. These shops are fundamental in stocking releases by artists early on, some of which will end up playing the arena.
But it’s the programming of the venue that will attract the most interest. The first act to be announced, JLS, saw a collective gasp of outrage all over the city. In fact, the day it was, my Facebook news feed lit up with statuses of outright contempt and ‘how dare they’ statuses, but what do you really expect? Who did you think they were going to book, Whitehouse or Throbbing Gristle?
A far more popular choice has been that of local lads done good Kaiser Chiefs, and I’m sure as time goes on the odd decent show will appear in between ‘Cbeebies characters in oversized costumes-on ice’ and Olly Murs. Elton John as the opening act was also better received, although I wish it was him appearing via time travel from 1973 after seeing his recent appearance at the Queen’s Jubilee Concert.
Anyway, surely the whole point of “The Leeds Arena” is for it to put things on to appeal to different kinds of people. (Well, I’m sure the main reason is for
SEG/event promoters to make money but you get my drift.) Different strokes for different folks as Sly & The Family Stone once sung. A glance over your Facebook/Twitter feed on a weekend when X-Factor is on will let you know that a hell of a lot of people you know like to be entertained by rubbish entertainment. Thus they probably would pay money go see such rubbish entertainment in a large venue. This isn’t a surprise to me, nor should it be to you really.
Lets face it; there aren’t many credible acts that will be able to fill a venue that size. But for the ones that can, a lot of the decent bars up there will do very handsomely out of it. I’d say an act like The Black Keys playing the arena would be the equivalent of the Mad Friday before Christmas trade-wise for bars in Leeds’ Northern Quarter such as Mojo, Sandinista and Wax. Plus with some of these shows happening during the week, a lot of those bars will get a much needed midweek boost, with the way things are at the moment it could be just the shot in the arm the independent bar scene needs. Even the nearby Hobby Horse pub might do well, if it’s still open that is.
But finally, let’s just hope they find a decent sponsor to name it. The Mike’s Carpets Arena anyone?

Monday, 11 February 2013

Valentine's Day

by Kyle James-Patrick
As I approached the worn counter and asked for two tickets, the old Korean man, sat on a seat made of non-descript packing boxes, slowly lifted his head, revealing his weathered face and salted eyes, he stared me up and down before, in an explosion of gradients, laughed in my face.
"Don't talk to strangers" does not apply in the virtual world. While approaching someone in a public space to offer conversation is frowned upon, it is quite acceptable to stalk their digital profiles and personal information like some kind of cold war commie-hating Carter-enthusiast; frothing at the mouth trying to find evidence of loose morals or at least an inclining towards 'rope games'. I was told that this behaviour is “what everyone does" so I donned my Columbo coat and started my own personal search for my next ex-girlfriend.
Quickly I found this process of displaying all that you are interested in and wrapping it in a photo vetoed by your own insecurities to be completely absurd. Where an honest idea was birthed, it soon grew up to being a lying little shit who convinced a load of heavy set women to "shoot from above" to hide the most obvious feature of their physical form; plump is only beautiful when it isn't a surprise. My tales of internet dating would take up this entire journal so place trust in me, dear reader, that I have experienced all the shocks the social network can launch at me.
Now when meeting someone from a digital representation the first thing you will note is their flaws. This isn't because I am a monger of self righteousness or a shining example of the what man can be if he tries; trust me, I am so flawed that it's an illusion of colour and distracted gags - the 3D magic eye personality that won't stop moving and allow you to see what's in the picture - it's not a sail boat. Online everyone has the opportunity to display their plus points, the editorial cuts out anything that would turn a person off. When you meet the person you will notice immediate physical attributes like height, teeth, voice tone and mannerisms like a lack eye contact when speaking, which will feel like meeting rejected pets at a rescue centre.
After some oddball text messaging with my next venture we decided to meet on the day of all days for dating. From a brief awkwardness in the station we moved to a bar that offered a choice of olives and fine ales, draped in solace and atmosphere. We expanded our internet bios and drank until we could make fun of ourselves. Due to the nature of the evening, everywhere that was popular was packed with couples and couple potential, a giant speed-dating event set over 24 hours where condom machines would rejoice.
Our options were limited so I suggested an art-house theatre in a notorious part of town. As we approached the area I pointed up to a triple X sign that was glowing in the rain. She laughed and suggested it would be funny if we went here instead. I had a bottle of Argentinian Melbec in my bag and a couple of pure Americana red cups I have become obsessed with. The venue had a sign outside that proclaimed "4 movies for 1 ticket". We stepped through the double doors and understood exactly what the man at the counter was laughing about; two mid twenties kids on a date in a porn theatre designed by the mind of Hunter S. Thompson.
There were approximately 40 rows of seats, with 12 seats either side and a large walkway in the middle. There were around a dozen patrons already in the room, all men, all over 40, and seated at least three rows and ten clear seats away from each other - now most people complain at how awkward it is picking a theatre seat when you walk in late, well try it in a porn theatre. We sniggered as we picked our seats, the alcohol adding to the self-awareness, the sound system is not quite loud enough to drown out any comments. When I cracked the wine open the pouring sounded like a pregnant woman’s water breaking across the grime-ridden floor.
The screen was displaying some kind of early 2000's adult film - pre gonzo - which translates into porn with dissolve cuts and tracking shots. The participants in the film were a near jaundice yellow and a flashing message in the corner indicated the source; "Please Replace Bulb" rhythmically reminded the audience that a colour was missing from the feature. Not that it disturbed the narrative.
Enjoying a wine whilst trying not to think about the cleanliness of your seat as a phallus does what nature intended thirty feet high in a dark room is an experience I recommend to all wine critics. If the sound of old men jerking off wasn't enough to disturb your senses, at the front of the theatre a woman of questionable gender danced awkwardly to the soundtrack, facing forward trying to catch the eye of the patrons. We soon realised that this was a prostitute who found a niche market to exploit: Interactive Adult Entertainment Experience. Shame that she had an appearance that looked like a failed attempt to clone Mickey Rourke.
As we laughed about the floor show a somewhat younger man had entered the theatre and had sat down in the row in front of us, a couple of seats over. This invasion of space was unnerving, especially when I looked around and noticed that all the men in the theatre had shifted positions and were sitting in the vicinity of me and my date. There are not many moments in my life where my mind has asked "are we going to be gang raped?" and I’ve been to Thailand. We decided that it would be a good idea to finish the wine and haul ourselves out of the theatre. The film had changed to something even more 90s as a young Jenna Jameson was polishing a pole that was never going to sparkle, despite her keenness.
As we stood up the full extent of the scenario was unveiled to me; we were surrounded by men who were all furiously, unashamedly, masturbating in the glow of the screen. To make this more of a scar on my conscious, one of the men noticed my shocked expression and smiled at me, to what aim I don't know - was he pleased with himself? Did he want me to feel at ease? Was he just being courteous? I did not stick around to find the results and we burst out of the back doors, instantly looking at each other with one of the loudest laughs we could muster. They say people laugh in horror movies because they are nervous and vulnerable, try being surrounded by the fap sounds of strangers.
I ended up dating this girl for a few months until she fantastically broke up with me via facebook because she discovered I still had my online dating profile and assumed I was cheating on her. I wasn't, I simply didn't think to delete it. I could have protested it and put the relationship back together, but that was a warning shot from the battleship of fully mental female that I could not ignore. What I did learn is that creating a memorable experience can do a lot more for a relationship than sitting in a bar waiting for one to ask the other back to their place. When Valentines Day rolls around, do something different. Go to a porn theatre. Bring wet wipes.