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Gig review: Beans on Toast @ The Junction 2

Christmas is a time for giving. A time for raising a few glasses, dancing like an idiot ​and letting your hair down. Beans on Toast arrived back in Cambridge last week, and kicked off the festive season with generous lashings of all of those elements, and then some. In fact, a Beans on Toast gig…

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Gig review: Bellowhead @ Cambridge Corn Exchange

Review for Slate the Disco Photograph courtesy of Richard Etteridge Photography As musical relationships go, then the one between Bellowhead and the city of Cambridge is a pretty well established one. With several appearances among the highlights of recent Folk Festivals, a dependable annual date on their nationwide tours, and more than a few local…

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Gig review: James @ Cambridge Corn Exchange

Thirty years is a long time in music. There’s not many that make it that far, and of those that do, it’s even less likely they’ll still have the ability to keep things fresh. This is actually year thirty two now for Manchester outfit James, and from a quick glance at the bill for the…

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A Tumble in the Jungle

I probably couldn’t have picked a worse place to break my leg. We were deep into the Bolivian Amazon basin for starters, a three hour boat ride from civilisation. Not only that, it was 11pm and we were half a kilometre from our river side camp, amidst thick jungle on a walk upon which we…

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Life on the Lake

There’s a lot to be said for living on a floating island in the middle of a lake. For starters, you’ve got unrivalled lake views, as well as your very own swimming pool just metres from your front door. A plentiful supply of food and water is readily available all year round and most importantly…

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Into the Deep

Of all the pleasures in life, there’s not many that come close to a nice, long walk. It could be over the barrenly beautiful hills of England’s Peak District, hugging the idyllic shorelines of New Zealand’s Abel Tasman coastal track, hiking across Andean Plains or clawing our way through steamy Asian jungles, but the chances…

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Thrills, Meals and Bellyaches

“You have to be kidding me, right?” Glancing nervously from the toy sized six seater aeroplane in front of me to the pilot, jovially taking photographs of our fellow passengers, I tried to block out everything I’d read online as we’d tried to research our flight over the Nazca Lines. Multiple crashes over the last…

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From darkest Peru

“I came all the way in a lifeboat, and ate marmalade. Bears like marmalade.” [Paddington Bear, 13 October 1958] This wasn’t marmalade. Far from it. In front of us was stretched the baked crispy skin of a Guinea Pig, known locally as Cuy and all my childhood perceived opinions of Peruvian food had been thrown out…

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The Gringo Fail

Of all the things I expect to happen when I ask for a bus ticket, the ticket attendant collapsing in a mock suicide is not one of them. While I stood there utterly bewildered, nervously glancing from side to side while trying to work our what the hell is going on, the previously stricken girl…

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Viva la Evolution

I’m sitting here cleaning animal muck off my walking boots, and try as I might I can’t stop smiling. This isn’t any old stinking animal muck you see, the origin of the faeces is the Galápagos Sea Lion, and in its current pungently fresh state, it’s as good a reminder as any of the ten…

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Head in the Clouds

There was definitely a lake there a minute ago. Definitely. In fact a minute ago we were rapidly shedding clothes in the late afternoon sun, and now here we were in the depths of thick, grey cloud, with freezing rain spitting sharply against our bare skin. For the view we had currently we could’ve been…

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Imports and Exports

“We’ve been in Colombia one month now, and we still haven’t tried the country’s most famous export.” “What, you mean Co…?” – I cut her off there. “Yep. Surely we can’t come all this way and not even try any, can we? Colombia is kind of world famous for it after all…” So off we…

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Privates, Pirates and Paisas

What were we expecting from Colombia’s Caribbean coast? Sunshine, obviously. Calm, clear waters? Hopefully. Maybe a bit of wildlife – tropical fish, turtles, a bit of bird life – and perhaps even a hammock and some typically local fruits, you know, a few coconuts and bananas. But no, we were not expecting this. All of…

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Lost and found – a journey to Ciudad Perdida

Ciudad Perdida – The Lost City. Straight away your ears prick up. A lost city in the depth of the Colombian jungle, a city built, lived in and left behind by an ancient civilisation vanished to time. What more do you need to hear? Occasionally you come across these places where the sense of intrigue…

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Embracing El Pais

One of the great pleasures of traveling is experiencing news things, it’s pretty much unavoidable. Whether it be sampling strange local delicacies, immersing yourself in a culture foreign to your own, or simply learning some swear words in a new language, it’s inevitable that discovering new places and new countries will expand the mind. While…

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Cidade Maravilhosa

The instruction was to just run. Don’t run and jump, don’t run too fast or slow, and whatever you do, do NOT run and then stop. My immediate concern at this point, and in my view a very legitimate one at that, was that the platform we were supposed to be running on ended after…

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Dancing in the Streets – Rio Carnaval 2014

“Welcome my friends! Welcome to Riiiiiiio, and welcome most of all, welcome to CARNAVAL!”. Meet Max. Max is a portly, cross dressing carioca barman with a smile as wide as his outstretched arms. Before him is the main square of Lapa which right now is a seething mass of noise and movement, all overlooked by the…

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Brazilling out

It was a piano player from Rio de Janeiro who surprised us by saying it, while clutching a frosted glass of Antarctica in a ramshackle canvas bar close to the old town of Paraty. “I love my country” he sighed, “and I know how lucky we are. We have no wars and no extremist political…

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Knowing Me, Knowing Iguazu

It doesn’t take long for the novelty of a South American overnight bus to wear off. For us, it was right about the time that while sat on a broken down bus on the side of a motorway in 36°C heat, a group of teenage Swedish backpackers cracked open some champagne and started singing ABBA songs.…

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Viva la Argentina

I’ve never really been too fond of Argentina to be honest. Be it the hangover in the British press from the Falklands war, an uncanny ability for their national team to knock us out of World Cups, or the fact that they’ve always seemed a bit rugged alongside their glamorous Brazilian neighbours, it’s just a…

Houston, we have a problem

Of all the places that might be on the Gringo Trail – that much famed backpacker route around South America – the Best Value Motel a few miles from Houston international airport is not one of them. We were supposed to be touching down in Buenos Aires around now, but instead I found myself smuggling…

Gig review: Beans on Toast @ The Portland Arms

It’s not often you’ll see the mobile phone of an audience member drowned on stage at a gig, and nor is it often you’ll see a performer abandoning songs half way through, asking to be reminded of his lyrics by the crowd, or even less likely asking them not clap along as he’s really bad…

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Interview: Beans on Toast

It’s best I warn you about this first before we go any further. By the time Beans on Toast reaches us in Cambridge on Oct 29th, he might not be standing. This summer he has played 15 festivals and 28 shows – probably mostly while fuelling himself with god knows what – and the Portland…

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Gig review: Frank Hamilton @ The Junction

It has been said that ‘the greatest ideas are the simplest’, which generally speaking is a rule that tends to work. There is however a fine line between a great idea and a daft one, and it was along this very line that Frank Hamilton trod at the start of last year when he embarked…

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Cambridge Folk Festival (Day 4)

Images courtesy of Rich Etteridge One of the wonderful things about festivals, any festival, is the chance to find new music. Cambridge Folk Festival is no different, as despite an obvious inclination to revive and regurgitate songs that go back decades, if not centuries, there is an awful lot of original material to see here…

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Cambridge Folk Festival (Day 3)

Images courtesy of Rich Etteridge For all the oddities and variety on show at Cambridge Folk Festival, traditional folk culture is still very much at its forefront. Whether it be of a cultural influence, indigenous or oral tradition, there’s generally always something going on somewhere on site that is more upstanding of folk in its…

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Cambridge Folk Festival (Day 2)

Images courtesy of Rich Etteridge Friday started with jigs and fiddles. A fiddling workshop to be exact – which is not I hasten to add, quite as dodgy as it sounds. It was quite a heart-warming sight in fact, to see a tent full of people, old and young, learning the ropes (or should I…

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Cambridge Folk Festival review (Day 1)

Images courtesy of Rich Etteridge   Ah, Folk Music. Pot-bellied beardy types on instruments whittled out of wood and played with one finger stuck in their ear, isn’t it? Well no, not entirely. The 49th Annual Cambridge Folk Festival was, as always, a welcome reminder that while folk in perhaps its most traditional form still…