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Friday, February 07, 2020

Comic Cuts - 7 February 2020



Today's column has a soundtrack, which you're welcome to play as you read.

We went out to the first gig of the year this week – a nice surprise as tickets had sold out almost the moment they were announced. We put our names on the returns list and some tickets became available late last week, which is how we came to be watching Phil Wang at the Colchester Arts Centre on Tuesday.

I can't remember where we might have first seen him. I remember him being a regular on Matt Forde's Unspun series on Dave, and appearances on Live at the Apollo, Would I Lie to You, 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown and elsewhere. I think he was forever cemented in our memories wearing a very revealing yellow tracksuit as a tribute to Bruce Lee on Taskmaster.

By co-incidence, we missed the repeat on his show on Radio 4 because we were out seeing him live. Wangsplaining was a pilot that came out about nine months ago. If you missed it, it's on the iPlayer if you want to give him a try.

This was only the second date of the tour, which means he had plenty of energy and seemed to be enjoying himself. The first half of the show was a little looser than one might expect as Wang was running in some material and being generally chatty and friendly, notably with a young lad in the front row who had a badge the size of a dinner plate announcing that it was his birthday. He's genial and self-effacing and had the audience on side from the start.

The second half was tighter, as this was the show proper – the hour from Edinburgh, so it was run in and didn't have the quite obvious jumps of the first half. That part of the set ended on a random notion that even Wang admitted he had no way to get into or out of as part of a routine. The latter half all slotted together nicely with a smart, dry wit that kept the show bubbling along.

Wang turned 30 in January, and jokes about his aches and pains don't really land when the audience is skewed old (I'm almost twice his age!) and sitting tightly packed on uncomfortable seats. I'm more on side with his talk of waking up with one inexplicably aching ball. Why? And why just one?

If you get a chance, go see Phil Wang. You might not learn the reason behind his one-sided ache but you will discover a few things about his desire for corks below the beltline.

I've become slightly obsessed with a band called Thank You Scientist. They're an American jazz-prog band that I discovered a few weeks ago. When I was doing the initial research for the Rocket index, I decided to check out some podcasts about the best prog of 2019 and Thank You Scientist's Terraformer album was mentioned on a show. I found the title track on Youtube and thought it was superb – lots of complex time changes, guitar shredding and a big band vibe at the same time. Plus, Salvatore Marrano has the most distinctive vocals since Geddy Lee. And the track features some storming fretless guitar work from Tom Monda. And there should be more electric violins in rock music – back in the 1970s we had Eddie Jobson in UK and Simon House in Hawkwind.

I was hooked enough to pick up the album, and I've now also found their previous two albums (Maps of Non-Existent Places and Stranger Heads Prevail); these three LPs have been the soundtrack to the writing of the new book.

Speaking of which, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for the writing of the Rocket index. Most of the introduction is written, the index itself is done and I've started thinking about what I need as far as illustrations. There's still some way to go, but I'm hoping to have the book out in time for Bear Alley Books' ninth anniversary in March. It'll be our 32nd book! Blimey!

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