Evaporating the goodwill.

As a Lib Dem, the past few months have been a living nightmare. And nothing comes any worse than the tumult over tuition fees. I may not be a student any more (those days are long gone) but I understand the dismay that they feel, knowing that in the future, the burden of paying for university will be placed on those that attend, rather than the taxpayer.

I also supported the protests when they were announced. We talk a good game in this country, but when it comes to direct action, we’re not always the best at walking the walk. However, it’s been astounding the size and amount of demonstrations, both in London and around the country. The sour taste that sits in the mouth though, and that will continue to do so, is the violent element to these protests.

Now trying to unpick the propaganda is easier said than done. It wasn’t hard to see there was a hardline element willing to cause as much damage as possible when they broke away to Millbank, and some of these were aiming for damage not just to the buildings, but the police, or bystanders. And once the police’s underwhelming response was noted, the stage was then set for ugly repercussions. We’ve seen it all before. In the G20 demonstrations, where the Met Police stated that trouble was ‘inevitable’ beforehand, thus giving them the perfect excuse to kick off. We all know what happened that day.

And so it came to pass again on the day of the vote. While many students were aiming for peaceful protest, the minority, just like the police’s pre-justified actions, will know that, since violence is ‘inevitable’, then they have the perfect excuse to disrupt and grab all the headlines from those trying to uphold the tradition of peaceful protest. Watching the scenes on tv it was pretty appalling. The police stated the protest strayed from an ‘agreed route’, thus justifying their first overreaction. With the violent few then pushing at the barriers, the first baton charge was their pre-prepared reaction, and after that, the rest of the events were almost pre-ordained.

Sights of a wheelchair user being dragged from their chair were disgraceful, as were those of a policeman being knocked off their horse, and the barricades being flung at riot police. Seeing Winston Churchill’s statue defaced, and idiots swinging on the remembrance day’s flags on the Cenotaph were flashpoints that will go just as far (especially with older generations) to evaporating any sympathy that students may have garnered over the last months.

There are no winners here.

The students, protesting in a battle they surely knew they’d lose (and did, just). Their futures and those of students that will see the first hit of the new fees in 2012, pitched into a system that puts the epmhasis on mere higher education attendance rather than excellence and focus on academia.

The police, who, while they are often in a no-win situation in scenarios such as this, were brutal, heavy-handed, untruthful, and have shown themselves to have learnt little since the G20 other than to make sure their ID numbers now show as they bring the batons down on the skulls. Mounted police charging a kettled crowd (students, rather than rioters) was shameful, and the myth that protesters (some young kids or old) were allowed out when this wasn’t possible is one that should be exposed. Kettling the last group until midnight on Westminster Bridge was a story that seemed to get scant coverage. It deserved more.

The press, who covered in an often hysterical and biased way, reporting on the police hurt and never the students, until much later in the day. What happened to impartiality?

And lastly, the politicians, who through their thinking got us into this ghastly mess in the first place.

This may be the death knell of the Lib Dems. Personally I hope (and think) this isn’t the case, but like the case for Iraq for Labour, this may haunt them for years to come.

And with the dire economic future showing little sign of improving, this may be the start of a very long, violent winter of discontent.

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Live music still has a heartbeat….

The run-up to Christmas is always brilliant for gigs, and we’ve been busy on that front, seeing 3 of Dropout’s favourite bands in the space of a few weeks. Heading to Alexandra Palace on 11th November we got a double-header of two of the best bands around at the moment: LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip.

Having seen both this year already (in fact Hot Chip are my most-seen band now, clocking up 6 gigs since Lovebox in 2006) at Sonar, it was great to see them together, and while the venue’s organisation left a bit of be desired, the sound and vision from the two groups were, as ever, brilliant. Hot Chip may not click live for some people, but I love them as a real work-in-progress style of performance: there’s so much going on, so many instruments involved, and they look like they’re having the time of their lives (as much as uber-electro-geeks can do anyway). Hearing a lot of their new album One Life Stand was great. Brothers and One Life Stand always get to me.

 LCD Soundsystem Alexandra Palace

But it was even more poignant seeing LCD Soundsystem, as it is probably the last time (certainly for a long time, possibly for ever) that they’ll play in London. Having started up as a one-album experiment by James Murphy and Pat Mahoney – with Nancy Whang joining them as well as a roll-call of concert and album collaborators (including, aptly, Hot Chip’s Al Doyle) – they’ve been possibly one of the bands that’s dominated the decade’s music since their eponymous album in 2005.

It’s hard to think it’s only been 5 years since I first heard Daft Punk Is Playing In My House. I was captivated, and wanted to know who this band was, that played rough and scuzzy pop that sounded alternatively like house music, garage rock and lo-fi electronic wistfulness. Since then, they’ve been the soundtrack to mine and many others’ lives, each album being able to pinpoint various events, be it trips to Ibiza, Sonar, roasting London Summers or grey wet winters. It’s obviously sad they’re going their seperate ways, but you can’t blame James Murphy. He’s so full of ideas that it’s almost criminal to keep him on one thing, and he passed up producing Arcade Fire’s last album (Neon Bible) when he was caught up on Sound Of Silver.

They leave a legacy of amazing records, and resounding memories, and as a live band they’re up there with the best. Sadly for the gig, James’ voice was suffering, but he still made it a night to remember, one which is – as is now ever more popular – now also available on CD. It’s a way for bands to get extra income against the illegal downloads that hit their record sales, and to the music fan it’s an official modern-day version of the concert bootleg that becomes a perfect memory of a night that may have been hazy in the coming weeks. So, goodbye to LCD, I’m sure we’ve not heard the last of them. Even more incredible was 1st December, and finally seeing Arcade Fire after 7 years of failed attempts. Words don’t really do the band or gig justice, but suffice to say they took a venue that I hate – the o2 – and turned it into a majestic backdrop for one of the top 5 gigs of my reasonable life.

 Arcade Fire live at the o2.

Many times you’ll build up the event that you’ve been waiting so long to see until it’s at a level of anticipation that it can’t possibly top, but in this case, it sailed past that and way beyond. Having loved all three albums with reverence, I knew it would be impossible to include every song I’d want to hear, but they almost achieved it.

Adding a raw energy to the studio sound, especially rocking the walls down to Month Of May (they’re not violin-wielding folksters when they don’t want to be) and closing with a fantatsic encore of We Used To Wait and Wake Up (the cherry on the proverbial cake) I shuffled into the cold floating on air. It’s at times like this that you realise live music is really without challenger for an emotional, physical and aural experience.

Let’s hope we’re still saying this in 2020.