Monday, 4 November 2013

Bonkers 'On Tour' again - The Scent of The Underground II

Readers may recall that back in April 2012, I went 'on tour' in Germany with my favourite - and recently reformed - band, The Monochrome Set.  I had the job of singlehandedly selling the merchandise (including their newly released album, Platinum Coils) in German, and in the sepulchral gloom of the various eclectic and grungy venues on our circuit: an old hospital, an Art Nouveau villa, a Lost & Found bureau under a railway arch - you get the picture. This year saw a UK tour to mark the launch of The Monochrome Set's latest album, Super Plastic City, and I decided to catch as many gigs as was practical in the week I shoehorned in between the end of one work project and the start of the next.  For as I always say: 'No fan went to their grave regretting that they had been to too many Monochrome Set gigs'.  In fact I wasn't sure if ANY fan had gone to their grave yet, as all of us who have grown up with the band since they emerged from the 'ridiculously nutritious ooze of the post-punk milieu' are still in our mid-50s like them.

In the end, I made it to a borderline embarrassing seven(!) gigs - an itinerary of some 1050 miles - and managed to combine the concerts with seeing another of my top bands, The Would-Be-Goods, and meeting fellow fans from as far away as Ireland and Denmark, several of whom came to multiple gigs.  I also visited four(!) sets of cousins on Teesside and caught up with a fumehead friend, Anna from Edinburgh.

I wasn't involved with the merchandise this time, as a husband and wife team of equally diehard fans was doing the honours.  They did sometimes press me into service at the end of the night as a 'part-time Blu-tack removal operative', helping out with the very important task of taking down posters and collecting the Blu-tack and White-tack - it was by no means straightforward! - and squidging it all back into two large blobs. For the record, the wife was wearing Lush Gorilla Flower's Barrow for much of the tour, an oddly herbal, fruity scent with geranium and a cosy, powdery, almost Playdoh aspect.

On the perfume front, I took a little pouch of vials with me, carefully selecting my scent of the day/evening with the deliberate aim of imprinting the good times that lay ahead with perfume memories, each relating to a different town or city.  This is the reverse of the more random - and retrospectively - associative way in which scent memories are often formed, ie where you happen to be wearing Perfume A on a day which turns out to be enjoyable. Here I was making a conscious or 'concerted' effort if you will, to stick with our musical theme ;-), to elevate a perfume I already liked to an even higher status by wearing it on an occasion I knew in advance would be memorable.  I suppose that is true of holiday perfumes in general, however the changing locations on this trip arguably made the associations for each perfume more distinctive than they might have been on a beachy holiday spent in the same spot, say.

So, without further ado I will endeavour to combine a 'mini-scentalogue' with an abbreviated travelogue, featuring some of the more noteworthy and amusing events of the week, including a surprisingly varied assortment of ailments and mishaps on my part, which really do deserve their own sub-headings.

Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh


Ailments: Headache, then later cut my finger on the spoke of my umbrella and sought first aid in a nearby pizza restaurant.

Mishaps: Forgot my styling mousse, necessitating a breathtakingly brazen bit of parking in George Street and a lightning dash into a Tony & Guy salon moments before closing time. Hotel bed sloped at a funny angle, leading to a sleepless night.

Scent of the evening: Shalimar Parfum Initial.  When this first came out, I found the patchouli loud and overpowering, but have gradually bonded with it after many wearings, culminating the other day in the purchase of a boxed set for just £25 in my local mall.  A friendly more than foxy rose-patchouli-vanilla number.  I think of it as a poor woman's JHAG Lady Vengeance, now that my sample of that is drained.

Highlights: The Voodoo Rooms was the nightspot where I spotted the towering Taueralike last year, but he was not in evidence this time, and goodness knows you wouldn't have missed his lofty physique if he had been there.  A high point of the night (apart from the gig, obviously) was sniffing two friends who were wearing FM Carnal Flower and Lolita Lempicka (both supplied by me ;-) ).  Another highlight was the shortbread in the hotel room, a welcome touch that adds value well in excess of the nominal cost involved.

What Mr Bonkers used to refer to generically as 'Peruvian fishing cats' (with or without rod)

The next morning I met up with Anna from Edinburgh, resisting the urge to say 'Cheerio' until the end of our meeting. We had tea in a Fairtrade cafe just off Princes Street, after browsing in the adjacent shop while waiting for them to open up.  We did the usual 'tipping stuff up on the table' trick - Anna had brought some Lush / Gorilla scents with her with which I was not familiar, while I had the contents of my travel bag to proffer, plus the gift of a bar of soap.  ('No one ever went to their grave regretting that they had accumulated too much soap', I also say, with possibly less justification.) Unfortunately, this turned out to be a bit of a thoughtless present, as Anna's neighbourhood had just had its water cut off due to a burst main, with no indication of when supplies would be resumed.


Ailments: Headache, involuntary consumption of raw onion, nocturnal hunger pangs so bad it felt like dozens of tiny men with forks gouging the tines against my stomach wall.  I should just have got up and braved the driving rain to retrieve a cereal bar from the boot of my car.

Mishaps: Persistent distrust of the satnav added some 10-15 miles to the journey, compounded by gridlock in Gateshead and ongoing lashing rain.  On arrival in Stockton the satnav was completely foxed by the one way system to the point of emitting staccato gibberish for minutes at a time.  Later stopped by the police for driving without lights in an area reserved for taxis.  (They were nice about it, mind!)

Scent of the evening: En Voyage Perfumes Zelda.  A tender magnolia centre in a crisp shell of galbanum. Felt a bit blowsy and Southern Belle-ish, which was somewhat at odds with my conspicuous lack of flouncy underskirts. Or any skirts indeed.  Could still smell it on my sheets the next morning.  Was tempted to take them with me, but Housekeeping might have noticed.

Highlights: The fact that there were as many as 50 people there on a wet, windy Sunday night in Stockton, including a woman in tight humbug-striped jeggings in a shiny fabric.  My first thought was: 'That's not Natalie either.'  Owing to exceptional logistical issues I shan't trouble you with, another highlight was playing that well known game of 'How many musicians can you cram into a Mini?'  I managed 3 out of 4, though the drummer's head was entangled with my in-car hanging wardrobe, while the bass player was obliged to hold the satnav box, a bag of rhubarb and custard sweets and my tatty old driving cardigan.  The lead singer sat up front and teased me about my oversized rev counter (which in fairness had been fitted by the previous owner) and the fact that I had named my car Maurice.

A family interlude in the Stockton area ensues...

Bass player looking suitably monochrome and perfectly bissected by the mike stand 


Ailments: Headache, chronic indecision at the salad counter of Marks & Spencer.

Mishaps: Flies accidentally came undone at an unknown point in the evening.

Scent of the evening: Diptyque Volutes edt (Sample courtesy of Tamsin) A cosy, sensual, snuffed out kind of scent with honey, iris, tobacco and incense.  A bit like Dior's Bois d'Argent, but with more powder and less vanilla.

Highlights: Afternoon walk with The Would-Be-Goods around the architectural gems of Preston.  We spotted a former Turkish Baths!  I told them about Preston's Harris museum being home to Britain's largest collection of perfume bottles...  (No takers, though in fairness it was coming up to closing time, and you do need a good couple of hours to take them all in...;-) ) The other highlight was the double bill featuring The Would-Be-Goods and The Monochrome Set - the bass player (who is in both bands) thoughtfully changed his shirt in between.

Here is Too old - possibly my favourite track of The Would-Be-Goods and another contender for the 'beautiful' UK music category in Lavanya's interview on Purple Paper Planes.  I am not sure why there is a man holding a broken guitar in this video, but I hope the curious visual doesn't impair your listening pleasure.


Ailments: Blisters from walking too far on aggregate in inappropriate party shoes.

Mishaps: Putting my dress on backwards - I think I got away with it! - these places are always on the dark side.

Scent of the evening: Ormonde Jayne Ta'if - haunting, dusty, desert rose.

Highlights: Finding a large selection of Annick Goutal in T K Maxx that afternoon, albeit mostly priced between £50-£60, so no bargains to be had.  Fondled and replaced Musc Nomade several times.  Venue was bang next door to the Cavern Club!


Ailments: See mishaps.

Mishaps: Slipped on the way out and fell hard, spraining my hand which I used to break my fall.  Waiting for the results of some X-rays to see if I have fractured anything.  Many simple tasks have been proving challenging since, from changing gear to tucking in bedding to squeezing ketchup and doing up buttons.  You just wouldn't credit how useful a thumb can be till it's limp and useless.

Scent of the evening: Puredistance Black - review here.

Highlights: My friend Gillie came along! She enjoyed the set much more than I expected, even saying she'd go another time.  Bit of banter with the band at the end, involving thinking of British place names that are also breakfast items. Bass player won hands down with 'Towcester' (pronounced 'toaster').


Ailments: Ongoing sore hand - conventional clapping eluded me, so had to hit the inside of my arm instead, which attracted one or two odd looks.

Mishaps: Ordered a very, very dry piece of chicken at a motorway services and failed to gauge the correct amount of school dinner gravy to go with it.  Later made the grave error of trying to recce the venue in daylight at the height of Oxford's rush hour.  Satnav was totally thrown by the 'dreaming spires', and sent me into a pedestrian zone where I nearly came a cropper against some bollards outside the iconic Blackwell's bookshop. It took all my concentration not to mow down several dozen cyclists during the tricky process of extricating myself from the town centre.

Scent of the evening: Dior Ambre Nuit - softly spicy, ambery rose scent - mini-review here.

Highlights: The Would-Be-Goods were in the audience this time!, leading to bonus chat.  Fry up breakfast of the finest calibre at my B & B.  You know you are in Oxford when there is both ground black pepper AND ground sea salt at the table - the height of sophistication in condiment terms.

The ne plus ultra of full fry ups


Ailments: Ongoing sore hand, insufficient dinner of cashew nuts and shortbread (snaffled from the Edinburgh hotel).

Mishaps: Cheery bloke from Essex kicked over my glass of cranberry and soda before I had time to drink it. It was admittedly in a silly spot on the floor by my feet.  He was good enough to buy me another, while I promised to use the bar or other serviceable ledge next time.

Scent of the evening: L'Arte di Gucci - bombastic dark rose chypre with a retro twist.

Highlights: Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries in my hotel room, plus an unexpected chaise longue in grey corduroy!  Without batting an eyelid, the lead singer forged the drummer's signature on my copy of the album. The breakfast item word game had by now segued into one about renaming models of Fender guitars - the bass player set the bar high with 'Fender Doncaster'.  I decided to branch out into basses and came up with the 'Fender Derision' (to reflect the backlash in some quarters about the brand's overexposure / ubiquity).

So, to reprise my opening theme, I would be interested to know whether you also do this deliberate imprinting of a particular perfume with anticipated happy memories?  

NB Since my last post, in which I mentioned that Susanna Pellinen - aka Tigrushka on Basenotes - is also a fan of the band, I have discovered that Valerie Sperrer of Australianperfumejunkies - aka Cookie Queen - is one too!  If any more of you come to light, it may be worth drawing a Venn diagram of perfumistas, Monochrome Set fans and 'The Intersecting Set'. ;-)

PS I just realised that Bonkers turned FOUR on 29th October, but as I have already celebrated my 3.6th anniversary back in the summer, I don't feel it warrants too much of a 'song and dance' so soon afterwards. Maybe I'll mark my 5th anniversary in more style, if Bonkers is still going then!


Lucy said...

Dear Bonkers, love this post, and the musical interludes. But please, eat dinner at least once and awhile! Glad you are having a good and fragrant time all over the place.

Vanessa said...

Hi Lucy,

It is true that I seemed to live mostly off M & S salads for the duration, except for the hearty dishes at my cousins' house and that slap up breakfast in the B & B - so good, I photographed it, as you can see!

Sarah Waite said...

Bloomin eck! I was born in Preston and frequent the town at least once a year. I had absolutely no idea about the perfume bottle collection. This is a must see.. Thanks for the tip. I used to love their badly stuffed taxidermy as a kid though. Sounds like a wonderful adventure!

Natalie said...

It was not me. :) My goodness, that is a lot of injuries and mishaps. While you handled them all with your customary aplomb, I am sitting here cringing and worrying. How are you *now*?

Vanessa said...

Hi Sarah,

Well, well, you have a treat in store then! I used to go out with a chap from Garstang, so I know the area quite well, plus I have been to Preston three times for gigs - The Continental is noted for its mean cuisine and quality music scene!

It was a fine adventure, thanks - my mate Gillie reckons that it was probably adrenaline that saw me through and enabled me to tune out to my ailments. ;-)

Vanessa said...

Hi Natalie,

My hand is giving me a lot of gip still, and I can't wait to find out what's up with it, which I should learn tomorrow.

I have you to thank for introducing me to Zelda, of course. I am now on my second sample, with a full (small!) bottle on the way, courtesy of a friend of Undina's.

D'you know, I think I may be destined to think of you every time I see someone in a particularly flamboyant pair of jeggings. In a non-associative way, I mean. :-)

Undina said...

I have so many comments!!!

First of all - congratulations on the forth blog anniversary! And I don't want even hear that "if" next to the "5th anniversary"!

Now - please take care of your hand: it looks scary on your FB pictures. Hands are very useful for so many things, you need to keep them ... handy.

It's a beautiful, sad and very "grown-up" song - thank you for sharing.

It's almost official: I like Volutes EdT more than EdP.

There was something else I wanted to comment on by I forgot :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Thanks for the good wishes on the occasion of my blogoversary - I consider myself duly told, and will keep posting away!

Hands are very handy as you say!, and as I now know to my cost. With every day that goes by I discover more and more things I can't do with my left hand, of which only four fingertips are any use to me at the moment.

Isn't that a soulful song? Jessica has a lovely, almost other worldly tone to her voice. In person she is like someone from another era - the 20s, perhaps. The Louise Brooks bob may have a lot to do with it.

Volutes is my latest lemming - I haven't tried the EdP but am smitten with the EdT. The acceptable face of honey, you could say, which is a note I struggle with as a rule, eg in Hedonist. ;-)

If you think of your other comment, do come back and tell us!

Tara said...

This was a great read, V. Your travelogues are always fantastic.

How nice to be friends with the bands as well as a fan. I must say you choice of scent for each gig was wonderful. I really must try Volutes. I guess they do it at Space NK.

Getting queer looks for clapping your hand on your inner arm did make me laugh but I also hope it's healed now and no longer a hinderance.

Your mishaps only make me smile because I'm so prone to them myself.

Good on you for going to so many dates. YOLO as the kids say.

Tara said...

Oh and forgot to say happy 4th birthday to Bonkers!

Here's to many more.

Vanessa said...

Thanks, Tara! Your encouragement is much appreciated. ;-)

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

Hey, thanks for saying so - am glad you liked the post and that it is not just me that is prone to mishaps. No trip of mine - whether for work or pleasure - seems to go without a hitch, but there is often a funny side at least.

Oh yes, do check out Volutes - it should be readily available there I imagine. Knowing how much you and I both like Bois d'Argent (oops - will correct 'd'Armenie' above!), I am confident you will like this.

And you know I am going to have to look up YOLO now, haha...!

Anonymous said...

To celebrate your fourth Bonkers Birthday, and to admire your status as professional groupie to an awesome band, I have made an effort to overcome my technical handicap so that I can post this on your actual comments bit. I guess if you can see this, it worked. Hugs of course. xxxx

Anonymous said...

Hu - bloody - ray!!! I am not a robot. I always wondered .......

Vanessa said...

Hi Valerie,

Well done for persisting with the vagaries of Blogger comment software to leave this message. Thanks for your congrats on my blog birthday! I look forward to going to a gig with you some day. Meanwhile, I cannot recommend the new album - or its predecessor, Platinum Coils - highly enough. And I am not even on commission. :-) xxx

Vanessa said...

Robots are nowhere near as amusing!

Anonymous said...

Just ordering it ........

Vanessa said...

Yay! You will love it, I bet. They also have an amusing Facebook page - the one with the album cover cover photo - accept no imitations, hehe.

Sara said...

I love the idea of fragrance imprinting. Most of my happy experiences have been too unexpected to plan in this way, but I may have to try harder in future :) I know that some perfumes are now unwearable for me as they are associated with upsetting/anxious memories - so they almost smell like they have an emotion chemical in them, like Secretions Magnifiques is supposed to have 'adrenaline accord'. When I've tried to wear them I've felt on edge all day.

Vanessa said...

Hi Sara,

'Fragrance imprinting' - yes, let's formally give it that name. Worth having a go anytime you are hopeful of happy times ahead - am only sorry you have some bad scent associations from the past.

And I didn't know Secretions Magnifiques had an 'adrenaline accord' in it. If I had worn any perfume with adrenaline in it while I was away that might have tipped me right over the edge!