2016 – The Rollercoaster Year

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Sat with a half eaten box of Celebrations to my left (leaving behind Mars and MilkyWay, of course) and a sharing bag of ‘Cool Original’ Doritos to my right, I thought it would be the perfect time to reflect on the past year. Everyone take a deep breath.

2016, what a year it’s been. We’ve lost our some of the world’s greatest legends; Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Victoria Wood, and as sadly revealed on Christmas Day, George Michael. Just when we thought it could get any worse, Trump managed to worm his way into The White House and Britain chose Brexit. Gordon Bennett, let’s hope next year perks up a bit. Big news aside, I have had my fair share of ups and downs this year. In fact, it’s been an absolute rollercoaster year. Think Alton Tower’s Oblivion. You think everything is going fine and then all of a sudden.. BAM… a drop appears out of nowhere.

So, here’s a few of the highlights and low-lights of 2016.

Swings and Roundabouts.

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I landed myself the job I’d been waiting a long time for. I’d found a team of people I loved working with (Even you Carps) and was finally doing something I loved, writing. But, eight months and three consecutive front pages down the line, things took a nasty turn. News broke. Yet, this time it was a story I hoped I would never have to write about. Dreaded redundancy. Absolute devastation. After the odd tear (Ok slight exaggeration), I brushed myself off and tried to see it as an opportunity. An opportunity to grab with both hands. Despite a few wrong turns, I received a number of job offers – it was a nice feeling. After following my heart instead of my head, I decided to snap up the job I knew I’d love going to every single day. In fact, I actually CAN’T WAIT to start. I have a good feeling about it. I have the feeling I’m doing something right – and that rarely happens. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is opportunities crop up for a reason

Hamburg

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Visiting the most beautiful city in the world is definitely a highlight of the year. Every single city should take a leaf out of Hamburg’s book. It receives top marks in every single area. I have never been so in love with a city in all my life; its culture, fashion and stunning buildings. I’d nearly go as far as saying it’s the prettiest city I’ve laid my eyes on – and I’ve seen a fair few. You’ll never step foot in a British-spin-off-german-market ever again i once you’ve experienced the real thing – believe me. You all know I’m a bit of a fashion freak (Ok, a slight understatement), so seeing stumbling across Neuer Wall was an absolute dream come true. Miles of designer shops, stunning shoes and beautiful bags – Gahhhhhh. There’s something a bit ‘jaffa-cake-like’ about Hamburg. Hang on, let me explain. It’s the place you could never get bored of and you always want to go back for more.

Dot2Dot festival

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Bloody hell what an event that was. Me and cider fell out after that night. But Dot2Dot festival is by far one the best music festivals I have ever been to – and it was only 12 quid. We all know I know a bargain when I see one. Drinking tinnies while stumbling across Manchester’s beautiful streets and watching unsigned bands in grungy underground venues – there’s very little not to love.

Bonobo Live.

Seeing Bonobo live in Shoreditch is definitely also a highlight of the year. The warehouse venue, the atmosphere and the company – everything about it was on the money. Stealing the spotlight with a lengthy set, the electronic DJ was everything I imagined (.. and more). Listening to Cirrus on Spotify is pretty special, but believe me hearing it ‘live’ was on a completely different level. Seeing him again is definitely on my tick list… but perhaps I’ll reconsider my shoe choice next time.

Anyways, here’s to 2017 – the year I hope will be full of good health and happiness.

The Mad Grad 

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Travel blaggers.

 

Nomadic Matt

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A degree, a dead end job and trip which fed the insatiable desire to travel – we’ve got a lot in common.

Born and bred Boston lad, Matthew Kepnes had never set foot outside of the United States, up until his early twenties. Stuck in a rut and itching to explore, he planned a trip to Thailand- a trip that unbeknown to him would change his life forever. Proving that he has bigger balls than most of us, he uprooted his life in America, palmed off his cubicle job and became a homeless traveller. Ten years later, the nomad has covered over 80 countries, learned different languages and figured out the world’s best kept secret – you don’t have to be rich to travel.

Budget travel expert – who has literally been there and got the t-shirt- Nomadic Matt offers realistic tips to travel for longer and cheaper. You could say he’s the Martin Lewis of the travel world. From ‘How to’ guides to the best food places around the world, Nomadic Matt doesn’t leave any stone unturned. Guaranteed to wet your appetite and quench your travel thirst, Nomadic Matt’s blog gives you every reason to drop everything and explore.

You’d be mad not to take the nomad on your next adventure.

 

JacksGap

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Two lads, a YouTube channel and a hell of a gap year – not your typical ‘gap yah’. There isn’t a pair of ethnic print pants, selfish selfies with sedated tigers or an elephant ride in sight. There’s all the culture without the commercial crap. Saying that, I’m not entirely sure you can call it a gap year considering it went well over the 12 month mark.

It’s mad to think that Jack’s spontaneous decision to document their gap year turned them into such an internet sensation – jammy buggers. Check this out, they make epic, seasonal playlists which they post on their blog too – no wonder they’ve taken the internet by storm.

Passionate about positive change,  Jack and Finn Harries work with organisations all over the globe to raise awareness and funds for charities close to their heart. Merging their lust for travel and yearning to make a difference, the lads use their blog and video channels to project the amazing work they do, the fascinating people they meet and the stunning places they visit – fair play!

From documenting the effects of Global Warming in Greenland to simply racing down India’s unpaved roads in Rickshaw’s, the duo have certainly scoured every corner of the globe and (unlike most travellers) have actually made a difference along the way.

Whether you’re interested in volunteering overseas and looking for some inspiration, or are just in need of a decent playlist, JacksGap is the blog for you!

 

 

The Expert Vagabond

mattkarstenOr, as I like to call him –  the bald blogger. Part-photographer-traveller-blogger, Matthew Karsten knows a thing or two about travelling. Living up to his name, the nomad leads a totally unsettled and carefree life – what a way to be.

After breaking up with his girlfriend, the travel blogger has been on the road for the past 5 years and has seen more than just the bright lights of New York. Eager to embark on adventures with a bit of a bite, the vagabond is the pro of taking on new and death-defying experiences. Only he would camp on an erupting volcano in Guatemala!

There’s no adventure too big or too small for the Expert Vagabond. Armed with a make-shift pair of sandals (literally a piece of string and rubber base) ,he hiked along Caminito Del Rey- Spain’s most dangerous, hairline path . What a fella!

Always up for a nail biting adventure, I read the Expert Vagabond’s blog for encouragement and plan to do something unheard of. This time? A zip wire down Mt. Snowdon – why the hell not.

 

The Mad Grad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Just for the shits ‘n gigs.

 

Frequent gig go-er, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Oh yeah, I mean the music not the band.

Here’s a few of the sickest bands I’ve seen live:

 

  1. Arctic Monkeys, Finsbury Park

arctic monkeysSheffield lads, Arctic Monkeys, brought the heart of the soul of the north to the country’s capital. Oh, and it’s weather too. Playing to over 45,000 people, Alex Turner was in his element and was able to be his normal smug self. Given a helping hand by Royal Blood, self-obsessed Miles Kane and Tame Impala, the Yorkshire lads didn’t have to worry about crowd pleasers.

Testosterone levels went sky high when Miles Kane and his Daz white pants took to the stage. When the crowd got a sniff of Don’t forget who you are, every lad locked their arms round one another and belted out the words. As for the girls?  they were either silent or utterly gob-smacked. Either way, Miles Kane is still a wolly.

50 year old dads, sixteen year old girls and ‘proper’ lads paid their respects for Arctic Monkeys and Finsbury Park was transformed into a hub of energy. As a reward for arriving nearly six hours early, we managed to grab a decent spot in the ‘pit’ and refused to move even an inch. Literally. Well, until Alex Turner graced the stage like God. Pfft, he likes to think he is.

Stumbling onto the stage half-cut, Alex Turner grunted a few words and the crowd went mental. Suddenly, everything stepped up a notch. It went from civilised to complete pandemonium in a matter of seconds. Drenched by flying cups of piss, consumed by lethal mosh pits and lads off their nuts on pills offering their shoulders. I’m still haunted by the 100kg giant who came flying towards me. Totally k’od.

Ignoring Alex Turner and his boastful and brash ways, Arctic Monkeys put on a hell of a show. Plunging into the past, the lads went back to their roots and revisited their most-loved and couldn’t-give-a-fuck album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.

Nostalgic tunes, Fake Tales of San Francisco and Dancing Shoes transported the crowd back to their youthful days. The days when this album was your jam for the bus ride home from school. Spoilt by their old tunes, the indie boys didn’t play Mardy Bum – screwing. A conscious effort no doubt.

As a promotional stunt, the band used the sell-out event to showcase their new album, AM, which had just been released. A new take on their previous albums, the lads veered away from their black skinny’s, mop-head and battered vans days but kept their couldn’t-give-a-shit etiquette.

R U Mine, which exploits love, sex and and its fuckery was well executed and received well by the crowd. Well, not like anyone was sober enough to appreciate the lyrics at this point in the night.

Long after the show finished, self-confessed Arctic Monkey fans decorated the streets and never-ending queues for the tube, belting out the bangers.

Although drenched in piss and whatever other substances lined the cups, the memories of that gig will last forever.

 

 

2. Bombay Bicycle Club, Manchester Academy2

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Like a bombay mix, you’ve never exactly know what you’re going to get with Bombay Bicycle Club. You just know it’ll be good stuff. Moreish – you’ll always want to keep coming back for more – sad thing is their tours are few and far between.

After the long-awaited album, So Long, See You Tomorrow ripped the seams, Bombay announced their tour and the internet was in turmoil. The quirky quartet were now back on the scene with a completely different, fresh and far eastern sound, inspired by front man, Jack Steadman’s travels around India.

Visually, Bombay’s set was second to none. Forget strobe lighting, a static overhead projection and budget smoke machines – that’s too amateur for Bombay. Think, industrial confetti canons, astrological graphics and psychedelic lighting.  You’d be finding remnants of the gig for weeks later in the shower.

Eagerly anticipated by an eclectic crowd, the Crouch End lads took to the stage and Manchester Academy’s roof went off. As always, the indie lads kept their cards close to their chest and opened their set with the progressive track Overdone to cement the tone. Safe to say, they did more than that.

The album’s experimental tracks and kaleidoscopic visual effects coupled with Jack Steadman’s mesmerising voice, it felt like you were trippin’ the whole time. It was so weird.

As expected, the best was saved till last. Luna, Bombay’s catchiest, indie-dance fused and flavoursome tune which is overlaid with a mis-match of sounds. Everyone’s possessions were flung to one side and the whole room turned into a colossal mosh pit. It was sick.

Boys, as always, you smashed it.

 

3. Nick Mulvey, Albert Hall.

nick-mulveyNick Mulvey – an almost religious experience. Snug in an ornate chapel, surrounded by stain glass windows,  colossal pipe organs and intricately decorated ceilings. An intimate gig – a different kind of intimacy. Not the type of gig where having some sweaty sixteen year old girls hair in your mouth or feeling as though you are third-wheeling with the couple in front.

Indie- Folk singer, Nick Mulvey, from Cambridge is an unpretentious singer whose gigs are very rarely described as a show. Mesmerised by his unique voice and his exceptional skills on the guitar, Mulvey always manages to keep you hooked for the entirety of the set. Everyone in the crowd seemed to be there for the same things and no-one had any expectations.

Out of nowhere, Mulvey pulled out an acoustic cover of Gillian Welch’s Look at Miss Ohio, a song which has been stuck in my head ever since. A truly stunning song which Mulvey executed beautifully.

We’ve all heard Arctic Monkey’s rendition of Drake’s Hold on, We’re Going Home, which don’t get me wrong is a first-class cover, but I must admit nothing on Mulvey’s. Whether it was his spontaneous decision to dip into a completely different genre or the way he accentuated every single word in the song – it was something quite remarkable.

Bringing the set to a close with an absolute belter – Mulvey’s ‘Nitrous’ X Olive’s ‘You’re Not Alone’. A 90’s delight.

The Mad Grad.

 

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