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Bear’s Den: The Cluny, Newcastle 12th February 2015

Tucked away on the outskirts of Newcastle is one of the city’s best bars with space upstairs as a music venue. The Cluny offers an intimate room for performers with a basic square stage and narrow audience standing area. Only last month (15th February) did I have the pleasure to hear live music from Bear’s Den. This review is a little ‘better later than never’, as the band deserve recognition for their ear pleasing melodies coupled with catchy lyrics.

Bear's Den, The Cluny

This is the fourth time I have seen them live and they always have the crowd hypnotised with their sound. I remember seeing them last year at Somersault festival and they managed to instantly win over and capture the audience’s attention despite a 45-minute long sound check. This shows both their professionalism as well as natural stage presence. The thing I like about the lead, Andrew Davie, is his humour and audience conversation is not in any way forced.

Bear's Den live gig at The Cluny, Newcastle

Year on year they have grown as a band and I can definitely say they offer a tight-knit set with little hesitation. Similar bands such as Iron and Wine and Mumford and Sons started just like this; raw sound, energy and emotion and I hope Bear’s Den follow in their (paw)prints and go on to gain further fans and opportunities. Though obviously keeping ticket prices reasonable for all those loyal fans, right?

Their hour and a quarter long set (approx) did not disappoint and they performed some, if not all, of their carefully crafted songs that provoke such emotion and energy. ‘When You Break, ‘Elysium’, ‘Agape’ and ‘Sophie’ were the most memorable of the night.

The beauty of their music is that it is raw and does not rely on being heavily produced or manipulated. It is very simply, a handful of guys and instruments with little production, married with the distinctive vocals from lead, Andrew Davie.

I have noticed recently they’ve been updating their songs ever so slightly. For instance, early fans may recognise that their latest YouTube video of the powerful hit Agape, has been sped up and features different harmonies. It is
filmed in the beautiful beach setting of the South West, Devon (where I consider my second home).

I for one prefer the original but can see the benefit in the recently-produced, smoother version. However the cutting edge, raw sound is forever embedded in the first recording of this song.

The Bear’s Den epidemic will reach a venue near you, in the not too distant future hopefully…

Bear’s Den can be found here, they’re also on Facebook and tweet over at @bearsdenmusic. If you haven’t come across this band yet, be sure to lend them your ear to Spotify one evening this week!

How I failed last year and how I want to fail again

I am all for New Year resolutions. I think this “idea” provides a safety blanket, a bravado, a ‘fake motivation’ that somehow spurs us to really fulfil our year like no other. Cliché as they may seem, paper filled with endless lists and top tens, how useful are they to us?

I for one like the belief and drive they instil in some people (myself included), and though some may mock people’s unachievable goals I think it is important to remember that having aims in life, or for the foreseeable months is never a bad thing.

Last year I over ambitiously set out to read 52 books in 52 weeks. I may have failed to read that number (due to some books being 700 pages) yet I still left 2014 with a sense of real accomplishment. It was not tainted by one of my friends continuously emphasising how I had totally failed this goal of mine.

However that should not have mattered to them and nor to me as I did succeed: I attempted my goal and reshaped it as I went through 2014 realising my page heavy books would slow me down and mean missing my ’52 target’.

This feeling of self-accomplishment isn’t necessarily one found at work or shared with others; it is an emotion felt at a very personal level.

A similar thinking blog caught my eye the other day as the author mentioned how she is focusing on one word to take her through 2015. This isn’t a new idea by any stretch of the imagination but it is another way to concentrate on your mental attitude. A way to feel ‘refreshed’ in your body, mind and attitude.

It can also be very therapeutic to list your dreams or aims no matter how farfetched and in turn, you can then plan how to meet these. I think the biggest obstacle in making changes, whether that is changing your diet or exercising more, is rewiring your mental state. Blocking out negative hurdles before the race starts.

Stop and think – how do you really feel about this goal? Is it one you really want to do – is your heart, mind and way of thinking in this one hundred per cent? It goes hand in hand with the saying, if you think it you can do it. It is without a doubt, our biggest strength and power is our mind. It goes further than even we know and is always two steps.

Do you have your own resolutions? How do you find they help you?

Book review: The Bees, Laline Paull

The Bees by Laline Paull

The Bees is centred around Flora, an ordinary sanitation worker in the hive. Her role is one of little hope with her ‘kind’ looked down upon and treated as the lowest of the low. However, she is unlike other workers, going against the grain and speaking out – showing her courage and resistance to conformity, whilst the others remain mute.

The reader is taken on a thrilling journey through her eyes, understanding what it means to be in a hierarchy, the beliefs of the holy hive (including devout worshipping to the Queen Bee and priestesses) and what happens when you break away from the rules.

There is a slight ‘1984 feel to the story with the ever-present fear of torn about by the fertility police and constant reinforcement of hive values. At times you really do sympathise with Flora and as the plot thickens so does the terror and scenarios she faces. The book brings together an array of ideas and history well, for example; the dangers facing bee populations (pesticides and weather), the foragers compared to WW1 pilots and different ranks.

Hope is restored as she is allowed to forage as a reward for her brave acts. We see her develop a fiercer attitude though this comes with conflict with her heart, conscience and loyalty. The real turn comes when she breaks the most sacred law of all – challenging the Queen’s fertility, falling pregnant. As you find out, this is not the first time either. Does she survive?

There are some horrific and memorable scenes of slaughter and gender bias which inevitably leave you to contemplate the lives of these poor bees.

This is a very well-written narrative that thrusts you into an imaginative insect world that soon becomes very real. Drama, tension and conflict, this book has it all.

Thanks 4th Estate for sending me this to review. I have added it to my 52 books in 52 weeks challenge!

There is a real buzz around this book and for good reason too!

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