What role can a few cheap televisions and a motorcycle have in establishing of one of the most successful restaurant chains in the world? A pretty big one, actually – when setting up YO! Sushi with almost no financial backing or investment, Simon Woodroffe was able to negotiate extended payment terms with a supplier based on the fact that he had the support of Honda, Sony and All Nippon Airways. Years later he remarked that, actually, these brands had only provided him with some very limited sponsorship. To the tune of the items mentioned above, in fact.
Despite these humble beginnings, the chain is now sixteen years old and I can’t imagine that any of you haven’t been to one…which makes my task – reviewing the original YO! Sushi restaurant – a difficult one. So what’s the angle, I hear you ask? I was attempting to convert a sushi hater. In many respects, my girlfriend and I are a perfect match – we both love Americana, we both act as if we’re about sixty years old and we’re both total foodies. Except for sushi. Despite my efforts to get her enthused about sushi, she remains completely ambivalent about it. So, my mission was to show her that there’s more to YO! than just some cold fish.
The original Soho YO! is a little different to the average department store incarnation of the chain. While these tend to be open and airy, the original is darker and feels more tucked away – you definitely get more of a sense of Orientalism and ‘otherness’. I can’t think of a better example than this than the fact that you have to wave a fan to attract the attention of servers, rather than just pressing a big red button as in most YO!s.
I rolled out some of my longtime favourites, like Salt and Pepper Squid (‘Ok, I like this one.’) and a Katsu Selection (‘That bit tasted like a Chicken McNugget, but the rest is amazing.’). We also tried a couple of newer dishes like a Beef & Garlic Teriyaki dish that was out this world and Ramen, which is to Miso soup what Sheldon Cooper is to Ryan Gosling. The former did cause some trouble with chopsticks (‘You better not post that picture.’)…
but ultimately resulted in smiles all round.
We came away very content and very full – clearly, people who complain about being hungry ten minutes after eating sushi aren’t doin it rite. Either that, or they’re not dining on the dollar of the almighty YO!bot. Thanks very much to the team for inviting me down – I’m pretty sure we’ve managed to convert the little woman which means we’re now, if anything, TOO compatible. If you haven’t been down to the Soho YO!, I thoroughly recommend it – it is the original, after all, and original is always best.
Last week I turned 25. I didn’t take it well – I spent much of the week muttering about how I’m less than halfway to death, but more than a third. But then the Universe threw me a bone. In a case of perfect timing, I was invited to a VIP (don’t ask me when I became a VIP, I don’t even know when I became an IP) party hosted by Jack Daniel’s. ON MY BIRTHDAY. I don’t know about the rest of you, but Jack Daniel’s was my go-to drink of choice when I was 15 (or 18 if my mum is reading this). As I got older, the grandiose notion came into my head that I should branch out and become a whiskey connoisseur. Another of my grandiose notions was learning to spell the word connoisseur.
So, I started working my way through the whiskey selections at local bars and supermarkets – Canadian Club, Jim Beam, Seagram’s, Jameson’s, Maker’s Mark, Knob Creek (prompting massive lolz when I was still a teenager…) to name a few. But I was never able to settle on ‘the whiskey’. That is, until a few years ago. I’d nonchalantly asked for a whiskey and Coke while, no doubt, trying to charm some girl. What the bartender handed me can only be described as ambrosia…or maybe that was the girl’s name. I asked him what whiskey I was drinking. His answer? Jack Daniel’s. I felt like one of those movie characters who chases after some snotty girl for years, only to realise that his next door neighbour (probably played by Anne Hathaway) was the love of his life all along.
Anyway, back to the party. After the Christmas tree made of Jack Daniel’s barrels, pictured above, was erected for the first time outside of Lynchburg, Tennessee it was time to drink. And drink we did. But as well as drinking, I also spoke to Randy ‘Goose’ Baxter, Phil ‘Weejie’ Whitaker and Mark Lonardo about the cult of Jack Daniel’s.
You might think that the use of the word ‘cult’ above is an exaggeration. Trust me, it’s not. Fans, many of them decked head to toe in Jack Daniel’s merchandise and some even proudly bearing JD tattoos, had come from all over to meet the Lynchburg three. Most of them also asked for photos with the guys and to have their bottles autographed by them. I asked Goose if any of this came as a surprise to them. ‘I have to say…not really,’ he replied coolly. ‘Lynchburg is a town of 361 people that receives 280,000 visitors every year. We’ve come to realise that a lot of people think we’re a pretty big deal.’ Weejie, who spends much of his time tasting batches of Jack Daniel’s, modestly added the following – ‘We realise we’ve got something pretty good here. Now we have just have to make sure we don’t mess it up…’ Unfortunately, he wasn’t all that interested in doing a job swap with me.
I also asked about how JD deal with transitioning between being a brand favoured by people like Frank Sinatra and hard rock legends to Ke$ha, Rita Ora and One Direction. The answer was that they…well, don’t. Although they’re aware that a huge range of different artists, writers and drinkers are JD fans, they never let it affect their overall image or their ethos. It’s perhaps worth pointing out that JD have used the same agency since they started advertising, and rarely change their messaging. Over the years, countless brands have claimed that they are more than just a product and that they’re ‘a lifestyle’. I get the impression that Jack Daniel’s are too humble to ever make such a claim, yet they’re probably most deserving of it.
It’s not often that five girls concurrently ask me to betheir boyfriend. Of course, it’s worth pointing out that they’re offering to act as a beard to sneak me into a bar near Bond Street that’s hosting a Next event they’ve convinced me to gatecrash. Yep, I pretty much have the best blogger friends around.
Getting past the bouncer is the easy part, the saloon door moment (you know, the moment when a stranger walks into a saloon in a cowboy movie and everyone falls silent) comes when I walk into a bar FULL of girls. Already slightly buzzed on Babycham, I lean into Amy of Wolf Whistle and whisper ‘everyone’s smiling at me and I don’t know if it’s because they all know me or if some weird collective flirting thing is going on.’ ‘Well of course, everyone knows you, Stu,’ she replies. I’m not sure if she’s being sarcastic. Babycham buzz fading fast, I manage to acquire two free drinks pretty much immediately (the Gatecrashers’ Manifesto is pretty much ‘gatecrash hard, drink fast’) and am dubbed ‘Two Drink Stu’ by Becca of Fashion Train, who I instantly love.
Despite admitting to not having been invited, Next give me a VIP pass and invite me along to the lock-in anyway. They even gave me the same amount of store credit to spend as everyone else. I have to say, this is pretty stellar of them – even just letting me crash was nice of them, but gifting me products too was above and beyond the call of duty. WELL DONE, NEXT. There’s probably a moral in there somewhere – maybe it’s confidence can get you places, maybe it’s brands fear repercussions of turning people away, maybe it’s just that Babycham makes me absolutely irresistible…
The shopping experience itself was sublime. Admittedly I spent almost no time in the menswear department, instead lurking with Law, Maria and Hayley in the womenswear bit…doing nothing for my hetero rating, as per usual. I’ve always seen Next as something of a ‘safe’ choice, hence me spending my store credit on navy desert boots (pictured at the top of this post) and some wintery cable knit socks…
but the lock-in proved me wrong. The womenswear department in particular had some really quirky numbers. I fell in love (not in a creepy way though ~) with a pink lace blazer, which I ended up picking up for a special someone but haven’t yet managed to get a picture of them wearing. Whatever Tanya tells you, don’t listen to her; it WASN’T for me…
Massive points also go to the DJ, who not only looked the part but played some massive tunes. It’s not often that I have to fight the urge to get down with my bad self when I’m in Next. Credit to the photographer who snapped the following pic – I tend to forget to take ANY pictures as soon as a drop of alcohol passes my lips.
So yes, thanks for a great night, Next! And well done for proving that you ‘get’ social media and blogging – it would have been very easy just to turn me away from the whole thing, but you made me feel more welcome than I could have hoped for. And I didn’t even have to pretend to be anyone’s boyfriend.
I was recently invited to a black tie event for work and, when I realised that I’m much too old for a crumpled M&S suit and black Converse to look cute, it quickly became apparent that I had nothing to wear. And not in that ‘omg I have NOTHING to wear’, wardrobe tossed all over the bed kinda way, more like the ‘Christ, do I only have one pair of formal shoes in London?!’ kinda way. ‘How can you not have ANY formal clothes? I thought you were supposed to be a fashion blogger?’ asked a colleague. ‘You’re not helping,’ I seethed.
So, I did what any thrifty blogger (read: cheap bastard) would do; I turned to Twitter and put out a tweet that read ‘HELP ME PRs, OR ELSE I’M GOING TO HAVE TO GO TO THIS EVENT NAKED.’ Or something like that. Sure enough, the beautiful people at Hackett were kind enough (not to mentioned, ‘socially aware’ enough and all that) to hook me up with a loaner for the night. To complete the ensemble I liberally spritzed myself with the 007 fragrance, which Talk PR kindly sent me ages ago! But I still felt more like Kermit the Frog than 007. James Pond, as it were.
I’ve long suspected that it was actually a woman who invented the tuxedo to ensure that, by making every man look the same, they’re constantly the centre of attention. Wikipedia, however, assures me it was one of the dudes above – Pierre Lorillard IV or Edward VII.
Still, it’s a good job that someone came up with the tuxedo. Brosnan doesn’t quite make the same impression without it. As tuxes go, it was clear that I’d gotten my hands on a good one. Despite being ‘sample size’ (when I first read that I was a bit worried I was going to have to become anorexic to fit into a size zero tux) and straight off the rack, it fit very nicely. In fact, it was almost…dare I say it? Comfortable. The fabric was very breathable and, as the rest of room started getting visibly sweaty, I stayed cool and collected. Which is arguably even more important than looking good when you’re in a room packed to the brim with excitable (read: drunk) accounting software executives.
If you’re interested, my company won the award we were up for (yay!), and I managed to hook up with this totally hot girl named Cindy. But she wouldn’t stop going on about her ex, “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince Charming”. Weird.
No, this isn’t going to be ANOTHER downer post, because my first LFW was actually pretty good…if a bit weird.
To say I was woefully unprepared for London Fashion Week would be the understatement of the century. I had thought I was going to be away with work last weekend, so I didn’t pre-register, I didn’t apply to go to any shows, I didn’t even shmooze any PRs in that oh so obvious ‘yeah, yeah, I so agree. You’re always so on the money. Oh by the way it’s London Fashion Week next week and can you get me tickets to all of the shows please and thanks?’ kinda way. When you combine this with the fact that I’ve only really been writing about fashion for around 8 or 9 months, you can pretty much consider this LFW 101.
The first thing I wanted to do was get myself accredited. I had heard that out of nearly 1,000 bloggers who pre-registered around 80% were turned down, but I’d also heard through the grapevine that registering on the day wasn’t too hard as long as you had a business card and get over 5,000 page views a month. I filled in a form, the guy behind the counter flirted with me a bit (either that or he just tells everyone he ‘likes their blogs’) and even scored me a Mulberry tote. So far, so good. While this was all well and good for me, it’s kind of a shame for people like Unlimited by JK, a friend of mine who runs a blog that gets thousands of hits a month alongside a full-time university course but didn’t hear back when he tried to pre-register. AND he’s the only male finalist in the Cosmo Blog Awards…
Truthfully, even if I’d known I was going to be around for LFW I probably wouldn’t have applied for any shows anyway. In my eyes, catwalk shows are most relevant for photographers – by having a subject that’s already ‘art’, a good photographer should not only take catwalk shots that make you feel as if you were there, but also impart something more with their photos. I don’t consider myself a photographer, nor do I consider people who try to cover up how horrifically blurry their pics are by using Instagram photographers…But more on this by a friend here.
While seeing who’s on the frow is a curiosity for me, I don’t particularly have any desire to rub elbows with Andy Murray (who recently bagged a seven figure sum from Rado for a watch sponsorship…because who hasn’t bought a watch and thought ‘gee, I wonder what brand fashion guru Andy Murray wears?’) or one of the Kardashians. Although, to be fair, Kim was ok when I ran into her on South Bank. While I fully respect that people who are desperate to check out a show would do it, hitting up PRs for show tickets just isn’t my thing, because it feels like asking to come to a party that you weren’t invited to. If a brand actually wanted me there (and a couple did invite me to stuff) because they want to know what I think? That’s a very different story.
Most of the shows I was invited to (I think I scored about 5 or 6 invites in total) actually came not through PRs, but through friends and fellow bloggers. This is why, and I can’t stress the importance of this enough, I truly believe that the greatest strength of the blogosphere (vom that I just used that word) lies in the fact that most of us do genuinely want to foster a community. If Vogue had a spare ticket to a show, would they give it to Cosmo? Probably not. But when Debs had a spare ticket to Clements Ribeiro, who was the first person she called? Well…probably not me, but I was close enough to the top of the list to get a call anyway. Yes, I’m occasionally pretty snarky on my blog, but in person I always try to be charming, kind and generous. Well, most of the time…
The thing that scared me most about London Fashion Week? How earnest I started getting about it. In my post on Fashion’s Night Out I wrote that the fashion world is a bubble, and I definitely got sucked into it this weekend. After getting a manicure on Thursday night, I started wondering whether I should repaint my nails when I went in for the day on Saturday. I found myself wondering about just how outrageous I could make my outfit before I’d be too scared to get the bus to Somerset House (to be fair, my bus does go through some rough bits in Newington). Of course, I still wanted to tweet sarcastic things like ‘BREAKING: No-one’s cured cancer yet, it is still just clothes and that. #LFW’, but another party of me started taking everything weirdly seriously. Which is so not like me.
So, why the slightly more conservative approach? Well, firstly, I’ve realised that fashion is probably THE thing that I most enjoy writing about. And there’s a very fine line between being the guy who’s hard to please and the guy you KNOW you’re not going to please. And I don’t want to cross that line. Secondly, although a lot of people are just there to make a scene and be there ‘for the sake of it’, you can tell that some are genuinely excited about creating things. Yes, most of them may have the same look in their eyes as naive wannabe starlets who go out to Hollywood because they think they’re going to ‘make it’, but the success stories of underdogs and outcasts like JW Anderson, Mary Katrantzou and Alexander McQueen gives them hope. The dominant feeling in the air throughout LFW was that sense of hope, excitement and ambition, and you can’t be too critical of that.
So, I’ll be back to LFW next year. If they’ll have me, that is…
I never used to ‘get’ quotes about the difference between fashion and style. You know the ones I mean – about how one can be bought and the other is innate, that sort of thing. I always thought it was just the sort of inane fluff that bloggers put in their Twitter bio because they can’t come up with anything coherent to say about themselves. Last night I discovered that I was wrong.
The title of this blog is probably misleading, as it implies that I didn’t have a good time at FNO. I did. I hung out with Sian, founder of Domestic Sluttery and one of my new favourite people ever, saw lots of cool stuff and drank free alcohol. Too much alcohol, given it was a school night. But there’s no point in me just writing another ‘I did this and I met blah and it was fun’ Fashion’s Night Out review, because (God knows) there’ll be enough of them around by Saturday night. Yes, FNO was unlike any shopping experience I’ve had before, but there was a very dark side to it all. That’s what I want to talk about.
My experience can be neatly summarised by the following statement – on my way to the event, it felt like everyone was looking at my outfit (which wasn’t even that extravagant) out of the corner of their eye. Once I got arrived, I didn’t get a second glance. Or, in most cases, even a first. Girls in neon bodysuits and dudes with haircuts like 17th century monks were suddenly not only present, but commonplace. I realised something about the extent to which Fashion is a bubble, enforced by the fact that Old Bond Street and the surrounding area was literally cordoned off, and I began to feel like I had stumbled into an aviary full of exotic birds.
Much of the enjoyment I derived from the night came from the fact that items were laid out as if they were pieces of art – types of fabric, patterns and elegant designs transcended the status of mere clothes, bags, accessories, and become something much more. I described my experience on the night as being more like a trip to a museum or a sociological study than going shopping, and I stand by that. But ultimately, I came to be so overwhelmed by the (presumably subconscious) focus on dehumanisation that the whole evening felt a lot like holidaying in the Uncanny Valley – I came across people pretending to be mannequins, designs that the world has seen imitated at market stalls so many times that even the real article no longer seems genuine, shoes that mimic the appearance of the feet of Gypsy Cobs horses, puppies that I can only presume have been genetically modified to be tinier than nature ever intended. Though, to be fair, Tinkerbell was pretty cute.
The atmosphere was startlingly similar to that of a zombie film. Clutching freebies, Champagne flutes and minuscule gift bags, people shuffled from flagship to flagship, seemingly no longer aware that £430 is not an acceptable price for a t-shirt. As for the staff, they seemed to fall into one of two camps – the first demonstrated palpable anxiety, presumably terrified that they were going to mess up one of the biggest nights of the year. The second was made up of those who have been infected by the arrogance and superiority of their bosses to the extent that have forgotten, or have learnt to repress the fact, that at the end of each day they have to return the clothes on their backs to the shelves and make their way back to a bedsit in Clapham.
This was par for the course for the rest of the night; a lot of things felt falsified or obscured. Everyone seemed determined to project the mask of self confidence and bluster that they’ve been practicing for so many years, but insecurities were only ever a second glance away. Many of the participants were evidently so desperate to cling to their collective youth that they had botoxed and liposuctioned themselves to the point of deformity.
The best managed to walk the line of simulacrum convincingly enough that they seemed to possess an ageless, Dorian Gray-esque quality. The worst had clearly become content to descend into the grotesque long ago. I watched a grey haired man making his way into an exclusive club, clinging onto a zimmerframe as zealously as the platinum blondes holding onto each of his skeletal arms. I saw a woman with Gucci sunglasses not oversized enough to cover the pallid skin of her face, which had been surgically lifted almost to breaking point. I saw greed and bitterness everywhere, individuals stricken with a desperation to be ‘happy’ that the best part of them had given up finding long ago.
What I saw on Thursday evening was Fashion, not style. It was beautiful, and deceptive, elegant, and elitist, enticing, and rotten. And it had nothing to do with who I am or what I want to be.
Last night I somehow found myself at the VIP opening of the Christian Louboutin exhibition at the Design Museum, rubbing elbows with Bip Ling, Alexa Chung (kidding, they had people to stop the likes of my elbows getting anywhere near Alexa’s) and err…Christian himself. It took about six seconds for me to start feeling underdressed.
There are people who would protest shoes being in an art exhibition. I am not one of these people. The English actor Peter Ustinov once said that “if Botticelli were alive today he’d be working for Vogue.” If you want to go a little more lowbrow (and I always do), The Devil Wears Prada‘s Nigel states in a monologue that “fashion is greater than art because you live your life in it.” (Side note: A good 60% of the men in attendance looked a lot like Stanley Tucci.)
One of the highlights of the exhibit is a 3D burlesque show (like Tupac at Coachella but…more boobs) featuring Dita Von Teese. I tried to take a video, but I have an iPhone 3GS so it looked absolutely terrible. Sorry. For Louboutin, sex and shoes are inextricably tied – ‘What’s sexual in a high heel is the arch of the foot, because it is exactly the position of a woman’s foot when she orgasms…so by putting your foot in a heel, you are putting yourself in a possibly orgasmic situation.’ Whether or not you buy into that philosophy, the fetish section of the exhibition definitely pushes the borders of fashion and, indeed, art.
Something strange happens when you’re around the work of Christian Louboutin. You start to get this feeling that everything you know is wrong – how else can a man who spent his youth sneaking into movie theatres and watching showgirls have created one of the most iconic symbols of recent history (both in fashion and popular culture)? How else can old Guinness cans and fish tails inform design in such a way that it makes women want to part with thousands of pounds? It is, for want of a better word, magical.
Is it a coincidence that Andy Warhol also began his illustrious career in the art world sketching women’s shoes? Maybe. Or is there something inherently artistic about the curve of a shoes? Louboutin himself thinks so – “When I do a shoe, I want a woman to look at how beautiful it looks, not how comfortable it looks.’ The fact that most of us will never be able to be afford a pair of Louboutins makes their appreciation as art even more grimly appropriate. But standing in a room with hundreds of them, it’s difficult to be too sad. A lot of themes appear in that big room – theatre, entertainment, sex; they’re the obvious ones. But there’s much more going on than that – an exposition of the creative process, history, industry, beauty, love. It’s all there – you just have to look for it. For of those of you who are interested in shoes – go and look at the shoes. For those of you who are interested in art – go and look at the art.
I’ll just start by saying that today was one of the best days I’ve ever had. If that doesn’t set the tone for a preview, I don’t know what does. Yes, I’ve been excited to check out The Making of Harry Potter at Warner Bros Studios for months, but I was also expecting all of the problems that typically come on opening days – bad parking, inadequate tour bus shuttles, stressed out staff, big crowds etc etc. I got NONE of them. The staff were not only incredibly helpful and pleasant, but also genuinely know their stuff – from cracking jokes about Fawkes (those jokes that are lame, but the teller knows they’re lame so it’s fine) and discussing the intricacies of models to pointing out areas that you could easily miss.
That same care and attention has clearly gone into reassembling the sets – it’s a bit of a cliche, given that it’s obviously the desired effect, but it does feel like you’re stepping into one of the movies. It also feels smaller than it does in the movies…another cliche, sorry. Well, except for the clock tower (picture below); that was MASSIVE.
The tour is incredibly well structured in that you take in all the sets, costumes and props before moving on to check out the creature workshop, animatronics and model section. I know, I know, this sounds as if it could be really dull but I promise it’s not. From the creepy Voldemort foetus and Luna’s lion mask to a replica of Hagrid’s head and a terrifyingly realistic Buckbeak that moves around, there’s no shortage of things to see.
One of the final rooms in the tour (yes, I know I’m skating over things, but that’s only because photos and a few words really can’t do the tour justice) holds an enormous scale model of Hogwarts Castle that is simply stunning. Unfortunately, it’s probably the closest most of us will ever come to arriving at the castle for the first time. Wow, could I be any more of a geek…?
I was also lucky enough to meet some of the cast, who were attending for a special red carpet event that I’d been invited to, and get my childhood copy of Philosopher’s Stone signed by Tom Felton, Rupert Grint, Evanna Lynch (who kissed me on the cheek, thus making my life complete), Warwick Davis, David Thewlis and Bonnie Wright. The cast were all incredibly charming, each one signing enough autographs to give them a bout of RSI and chatting with the crowd. I made Tom Felton laugh and everything.
We also talked about shoes – apparently this was the only part of his outfit he had assembled himself, so he was happy that I complimented them. I’m not sure why I complimented them – apparently being around celebrities makes me so nervous that I start complimenting their shoes.
If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, film or art, I can’t recommend checking out the studio tour enough. At around £25 it’s not a cheap day out, especially given you have to leave through the gift shop, but it’s a magical (wow, almost got through this post without making a lame magic pun) way to spend a day. It occurs to me that this whole reads like a sponsored post, but it’s actually not; it’s actually that much fun. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to eat my chocolate frog.
It was only after booking a ticket to The Only Way Is Blogging that I discovered the event is primarily aimed at fashion and beauty bloggers. And that tends to mean girls, and lots of ‘em. A sea of oestrogen! However much I love Legally Blonde (and I really do), it’s no secret that I’m not exactly TOWIB’s target market. Still, never one to shy away from something a bit different I decided to attend anyway. And this is what happened…
Blogger Bonding Session I totally get what they were trying to do here; the mention of prizes was all about appealing to people’s competitive nature. People who are a little shy are more likely to gather URLs with that goal in place, and people who are very shy will be approached by people looking to bump up their numbers. Is the system perfect? No, it resulted in frantic, fleeting conversations. But so does speed dating. The point of both is not to have drawn out conversations, but to make potential connections that you may or may not strengthen after the event.
PR Panel I appreciate that this may not have been relevant to some people, but for those occasionally approached by PR agencies and magazines it’s interesting to know where they might have been found and why they are considered noteworthy. Incidentally, I set up a Bloglovin’ as a result of discussion that emerged from the panel (ahem, it’s on the right if you’re keen) and also added myself to the UK bloggers map. I also found the members of the panel incredibly receptive to questions and comments, which really impressed me.
Ebuzzing I’m fully aware that this is a contentious issue; the idea of using a blog to make money is one that some people aren’t happy with, and that’s just who they are. However, with services like Ad.ly already in place for celebrities, generating an (extra) income from one’s personal brand is becoming increasingly common; Zooey Deschanel frequently promotes her Hello Giggles blog, Ashton Kutcher managed to plug startups he has invested in on Two and a Half Men etc etc. I know there was some discussion (read: argument) about whether or not it was immoral to place a completely positive post disguised as your opinion. HOWEVER, and this is something I think is key, it’s worth remembering that the subject was sponsored posts, not being sent sample products.
In the past, I have been sent samples (mostly books) with the understanding that I should be completely honest about them. If, however, I was paid to promote a product it would have to be something I was either already intending to purchase or suspect that I would enjoy using. As soon as money changes hands, this has become a business transaction; to put it another way, a job. If someone who worked at McDonald’s spent all day telling the customers how awful they think the food is they wouldn’t last five minutes.
SEO For those who didn’t find the first part of the Ebuzzing talk relevant, whether it due to the fact that they didn’t want to do sponsored posts or the fact that their blog doesn’t get enough traffic, surely everyone got some useful tips from the second part of the talk? Yes, the speakers were a little clumsy (likely due to the fact that a member of their team due to give parts of the talk was absent), but I came away with notes to do things like rename my images to keywords, be more objective, write with authority, tailor the writing that accompanies my URL in search results and avoid puns. And I’m already noticing more traffic based on the changes I’ve made thus far. Nothing mind-blowing, but every little helps, right?
Other The networking aspect of the day shone for me; it’s always interesting to get that many people interesting in the same things in a room. I appreciate that I’m something of a unique case, but as well as finding a couple of people who I’m planning to meet up with again, I also got a couple of leads on doing some freelance work and a huge amount of new blogs/tweeters to check out. Very disappointing that some people have criticised Hayley for chiming in during talks and being ‘too involved’ – TOWIB is her baby after all, and it’s obvious that this stemmed from anxiety that people wouldn’t have a good time or understand the topics of discussion.
No, this is not a sponsored post (lol). Yes, I was very hungry, but we did only pay a fiver. No, I didn’t think the event was perfect. Yes, some girls clearly thought I was just there to get into their pants (I wasn’t). Overall, though, my first experience of TOWIB is that it was a pleasant way to pass an afternoon. Mind you, I left before they brought the wigs out. Electric blue is so not my colour.
‘Are you gay?’ is the first question a girl in a flowery dress at the bar asks me only a couple of minutes after I get into G-A-Y at Heaven. ‘What do you think?’ I reply. She pauses and looks around at the throngs of sweaty (some already shirtless) men before answering ‘You don’t look very gay.’ I tell her that I’m not, and she says ‘So what are you doing here?’ And it’s a good question. This is my second time at G-A-Y, having come down to see Janet Devlin just a couple of weeks ago. Last time I came down with an old friend, but this time I’ve ended up here on my own. And it’s totally surreal.
The cheering is deafening when the band finally come on stage, though a few do people leave the dancefloor muttering about how they’re ‘like so cringe’. Something that didn’t always come across on the live shows is just how much energy the band has – they bounce around like a bunch of five year olds who’ve just been told they’re going to Disneyworld. Being in the same room really does intensify their qualities; Perrie’s huge voice seems even stronger, Jesy and Leigh-Anne seem even sassier and Jade is even more utterly adorable.
Even more amazing is how smooth the band seems already – they open with the sublime Don’t Let Go, already their signature song, which feels like it could have been written for them. They then break straight into club anthems Don’t Stop the Music and Super Bass, the latter of which Jade introduces – ‘apparently it’s funny when you say it in a Geordie accent, so next we’re goin’ to play Soopa Bass.’ The group already move completely in sync, and their vocal harmonies are only getting more polished. This is nowhere more evident than in their final song, which is (of course) their first number one single, Cannonball.
One of the most striking things about the evening is the cross section of the fanbase it reveals – as well as the gay twentysomething guys and straight teenage girls dancing and cheering, I also spot thirty something drag queens, mothers out with their daughters and the odd straight guy who has been totally swept up by the experience (though I bet a lot of them will still insist that they hated it and their girlfriends dragged them along). I could make a lame pun about there being a great ‘little mix’ of people right now…am I better than that? Clearly not.
‘God, this place is going downhill,’ slurs a bleached blonde skinny guy at the bar. ‘What do you mean?’ I ask him. “They used to play Patrick Wolf and Robyn, now it’s just X Factor and whatever other over produced commercial shit they can find.” I cautiously tell him that I only came down to see Little Mix and the expression on his face mirrors the groups of guys who retreated to the bar as soon as Little Mix came onstage. “Well, each to their own, I guess. But they’re far too kitsch for me.” And with the revelation that my new favourite band is too camp for a gay guy wearing a Madonna t-shirt ringing in my ears, I order a bottle of water and jump in a taxi home.