"An ever-intriguing writer."
"A genuine talent."



Colour Him Lucky

If you laid all out the plastic
Evel Kneivel Stuntcycle toys
sold during X-Mas 1976 end-to-end,
they'd stretch clear across Idaho’s Snake River Canyon.
Clear across that Magic Valley and back again.
Dressed in his clean white leathers,
his shoulder-cape and his star-spangled crash-helmet,
Robert Craig “Evel” Kneivel Jr. always looked to me like
some kind of a real-life honest-to-goodness American superhero.
A kind of Elvis meets Liberace meets
Gary Cooper meets Superman. On a Harley Davidson.
As a child, I watched in awe as he jumped
a succession of cars, cargo vans, mountain lions,
Mack trucks, London routemasters and Greyhound buses.
All fuelled by true-grit chutzpah and Wild Turkey 101.
As a child I watched him fracture
his jaw and his skull
and his sternum and his pelvis.
And both his arms. And both his ankles.
And both of his clavicles too.
I watched him break his lower and his upper back.
I watched him break his knees and his shins
and his hips and his femurs
and his nose and his toes and,
at one time or another, all 24 of his crazy cockamamie ribs.
For Evel’s was a life of casts, comas and blood-transfusions.
His battered body rattled with pins and plates.
In my time, I’ve never so much as suffered a dislocated finger.
But then, I never tried strapping rocket engines
to the side of my Raleigh Tomahawk Mark 2 neither.
And that’s why Robert Craig Kneivel
will always be the Daredevil’s Daredevil,
and why I’m destined to be just
another hairdresser’s son from North Oxfordshire.


Zachary & His High-Flying Club

Behold the fresh-faced chansonnier
from the rose-coloured desert.
Zach Condon first picked-up a trumpet at the age of 15.
A year later, he dropped out of high-school
and hitchhiked around Europe. There, his head was swayed
by the brass of Boban Marković and Goran Bregović
and the award-winning imagery of Emir Kusturica.
There he developed an addictive taste for
Romany riffs, Gitanos grooves and Balkan beats.
Luckily, I’ve come prepared. My stomach is lined with
tender beef goulash, potato pancakes and smetana,
all washed down with a swift shot of 40% Wódka.
The Boy Wonder cradles his golden flügelhorn
to his skinny white shoulder like a Conch Shell,
as he warbles away in his hypnotic bittersweet baritone.
The thrift-store Greenpoint Orkestrar strike up a melody.
It’s raucous, glorious, brash, melodramatic and full of feeling.
This is the sound of a travelling Francylvannian Mariachi circus.
This is the restless rat-a-tat spirit of a wandering wunderkind.
This is New Mexican gypsy folk pop at its best.
Zach Condon has never been to the Lebanon,
but he understands that the Mediterranean
seaport of Beirut is nothing if not an urban palimpsest.
The kind of place with many layers.
The kind of place where things come together.
The kind of place where cultures can collide.
So sure, Gogol Bordello may have the “authenticity”,
but Zach Condon has the heart
and the soul
and god bless him,
the enchanting tunesmithery to go with it.
Long may he masquerade. Ba-da-bing! Ba-da-boing!

Zach performs 'Nantes' on the streets of Gay Paris

Beirut: Soirée De Poche (La Blogotheque)