Sick! Adventures In Music Promotion


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Music promotion? Is it worth the stress? You book the venue, try and get the right mix of bands, design the flyers and posters, arrange time scales with printers, sort out the PR, work out logistics and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!!! Stumbling blocks are of course, an inevitability, bands drop out, want different time slots and you of course want to keep them all happy because your ethos has been that you will only book acts that you actually like. You’ve heard about shitty promoters and you certainly don’t want to be associated with that type of charlatan, so you put your heart and soul into the event. Yet despite your idealism you will always come up against that age old compromise, bums on seats vs artistic integrity and there’s the rub, because as sure as Arsene Wenger is a complete cockhead you WILL have to comprise your vision to some degree, that’s just ‘the way it works.’ The night eventually seems to take over your life and at one point your family start to ask who the strange bearded man in the front room on the PC actually is? ‘Do we know each other?’ On other occasions you feel like you’re wrestling with jelly and wonder if it’s worth the stress. Let’s face it putting on 12 bands in one night over two floors is fairly ambitious, some would say slightly unhinged but maybe it would be even more ambitious and insane to review all the bands we had on the bill for our “Sick!” night at the Zanzibar Club in Liverpool. With that in mind I’ll concentrate on some of the edited highlights which is of course no slight on the other bands on the bill who were all superb.

This Devastated Fan kicked off proceedings downstairs with a powerful set replete with killer guitar riffs and singer and guitarist Robbie Cavanagh’s emotive, impassioned vocals.

With the sort of timing that would make a Swiss watchmaker blush a system was  in place that ensured that when a band finished downstairs, a set began upstairs – so in theory it was possible to see all 12 bands on the bill without needing to bend the fabric of time  And so as This Devastated fan completed their set  upstairs was getting ready for a more chilled vibe in the form of  “The Folk Upstairs” featuring fabulous  acoustic sets from Carrie Hayden Maxi Dunn (who was launching her latest album “Welcome To Soonville”) plus  Sensorites and The Big Iam

The Mono Lps

Things really started buzzing downstairs with a blistering set from the Mono Lps a band who manage to combine just the right amount of endearing cheek with streetwise tales from the urban prairie. Their guitar/cello (yes cello!) driven brand of rock really had the crowd bouncing like spacehoppers and proved why they are such a hit on the local scene. Highlight of the set was a new song they hadn’t played before ‘Watch The Games That You Play’ which had the ladies in the audience screaming with delight even before they noticed singer Ste’s flies were inadvertently parked at  half mast.!

And so to the headliners …

Polly Mackey, Live @ Sick, Zanzibar, Liverpool

Watching a band as good as Polly Mackey And The Pleasure Principle made all those sleepless nights worthwhile, because this is what we wanted the night to be all about, putting on upcoming bands in an intimate venue which has a fantastic PA system and hopefully reminding the audience just how great live music can be. After watching Polly MacKey’s sound check it was apparent to me that she must have the word “talent” written through her like a stick of rock, the sheer quality of her song writing and her amazing voice are the first thing that strike you about this girl. It must drive her to distraction when people constantly reference her age because when you hear somebody who has the ability to write insightful, literate, intelligent music that is both moving andPolly Mackey set list inspiring it shouldn’t matter whether that person is 18 or 80. However, I have to admit if this is the sort of quality song writing she is able to produce at 18, it’s frightening to think just how good she may become. At tonight’s gig Polly and her band the Pleasure Principle played with the assurance of seasoned veterans producing a set shot through with brilliance which not only demonstrated her wonderful voice but also what fine musicians her band are. Songs like ‘The Way It Works,’ ‘The Wall,’ ‘Seriously’ and the three fantastic new numbers the band performed ‘Control,’ ‘Higher,’ and ‘Silent Film’ all served notice that here is a major talent who is worth a hundred of the dreadful, karaoke, fame seeking wannabes with whom a brainwashed Joe Public seems to be in the thrall of via the medium of prime time TV. Yet it’s singer songwriters like Polly with whom the future of music rests, it’s people with this sort of natural talent that can lead the fight back against soulless corporate mass produced pop and it fills you with hope that a brighter musical future maybe about to dawn.

Nobody can dispute the fact that ‘Britain’s got talent,’ but you won’t find it on Saturday night TV overseen by two gurning, sniggering Geordie dwarves. Nope, you’ll find it here in venues like this one were people play music for the love of the act not just for the rewards it may bring. Of course the music industry is littered with broken dreams and unfulfilled promise and talent alone is never a guarantee of success, a glance at the latest chart confirms that fact, but Polly seems to have the right people around her and tonight the band were quite superb, totally justifying my faith in getting them booked.

Polly Mackey And The Pleasure Principle

I suppose if I were to have a stab at objectivity I might say maybe Polly’s stage craft might be something that could be improved in terms of interaction, banter and general demeanour. She may give off a slightly aloof vibe, (but maybe that’s because she’s uber cool) and maybe that is one thing that will come with more experience, but to be honest when the music’s so good, who really cares? She’s here to sing and not perform stand up comedy or acrobatics and when her voice takes over, quite frankly that’s all the interaction you need. She’ll be on Jool’s Holland within three years if there’s any justice.

Next up were Manchester’s finest, Run Toto Run, a band I’d always enjoyed and had yet to see live, so booking them for tonight’s show was a bit of a treat. When I first came across the band the term “twee electro folk” was oft bandied about and I suppose there was some justification in using this description. But this evening’s performance took the band to another level and made me discard the twee tag forever. Their layered synths, samples and beats plus Rachael Kitcheside’s mellifluous vocals conjured up the welcome spectre of bands such as Dubstar and St. Etienne more so than earnest folk singers with great big beards and rough sweaters hewn from nettles and brambles (and that’s just the ladies!) Their sound has expanded almost beyond recognition; Rachael’s voice has always been imbued with a rich, melodic loveliness but possibly was a little too cute and fey for some folk, but now it seems so much stronger and full of real emotive power. Their new songs can no longer be classed as whimsical for they show a real depth and range and are underpinned by a pulsating electronic pop sensibility. It’s the sound of a band that has found their feet and is now blossoming into all that they want to be. When Rachael sings it can stop you in your tracks and to be honest it really does take something special to stop me mid-pint!!

Run Toto Run

They have retained their playful, magical sense of wonder but are now producing a far more expansive and rewarding sound than even I thought possible! This set proved that the band have made their way out of the gingerbread forest and are ready to kick some serious ass! And it looked like at one point as if Rachael was ready to do just that in relation to at least one chap in the assembled throng tonight. Initially she appeared somewhat concerned regarding a poor fellow at the front of the stage who appeared to be experiencing some kind of apoplectic fit, an aberration of the mind if you will. However on closer inspection it became apparent that the strange spectacle unfolding before our eyes was in fact a bizarre and singularly inept attempt at expressing emotion via the medium of dance!! This strange fellow bore an uncanny resemblance to the ‘The Haitian’ from the TV show ‘Heroes’ and although he jerked about enthusiastically and with great energy it soon became apparent his superpower arsenal did not include the ability to dance in a coherent and co-ordinated fashion. Still this was a minor hiccup and after the hapless chump was ejected Run Toto Run produced a set that was pretty much flawless, highlights included ‘Plastic Gold,’ ‘Welcoming Committee,’ upcoming single ‘Catch My Breath’ and the live debut of a new song ‘Girl On The Escalator.’ After the gig Rachael did admit that the dancing miscreant was a little off putting, which you can understand, I mean how do you keep a straight face when somebody’s convulsing in front of you in a fashion that can best be described as Mr Bean on some seriously bad acid!

Run Toto Run proved that anybody who dismisses them as mere twee, electro folksters simply haven’t been listening to how the band have developed, they still have their quirkiness but have allied that to some killer pop tunes which are mature and evocative and so much more than mere flights of fancy …..listen and learn…..

Here’s their version of Bombay Bicycle Clubs “Always Like This”

The final band of the night were tripped out  electro folksters Bagheera who are tipped by everyone from “BBC Introducing” to Steve Lamacq for big things  and despite it being after midnight the lads gave a fabulous performance. It’s difficult to pigeon hold their sound but hey ho, lets try 😉  . If you imagine an electro shoegaze version of Fleet Foxes and replace the slightly twee rustic acoustic sound with guitar pedals, electro bleeps, synths and tribal drumming this may roughly point in a direction that begets a greater understanding of were Bagheera are coming from.

Bagheera, Live @ Sick, The Zanzibar, Liverpool

So, music promotion? Is it worth the hassle? Well, you ain’t gonna get rich quick that’s for sure, you might age ten years in a month, and if there’s a couple of you involved accept the fact that you won’t always see eye to eye on every detail. But if you really love music and are passionate about helping provide a platform for bands you love to perform upon, if you are a UN Peace keeping force made flesh and willing to accept some compromises for the greater good, then yeah it’s undoubtedly well worth it and very fulfilling. Because at the end of the day, it’s really is all about the music!

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I wrote this review for  An edited version  can be viewed here


Marina And The Diamonds Live, Liverpool Masque, 13/12/2009

Marina And The Diamonds Live
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I generally get a little nervous before gigs. Excitement, anticipation and of course freshly laundered underpants all play a part in the pre gig ritual but prior to tonight’s gig I was extra jittery. I’ve been in the thrall of Marina and the Diamonds for the last 18 months or so and now finally I had the chance to catch her live, at a free gig as part of Liverpool music week. The anxiety I felt could probably be equated to the emotions a football fan must experience prior to a big game whereby you hope that your team puts in the performance you know they are capable thus affirming the faith you have in their talent. In retrospect there was absolutely no need to worry. Simply put, Marina produced the sort of life affirming set that merely served to confirm the buzz about this girl is 100% correct. I’ll say it again but if she doesn’t make it big in 2010 then I will eat my proverbial hat, dress up as Lady Ga-Ga and question the nation’s sanity.

Reviewing gigs can sometimes be a solitary affair, especially when half the city seemed to have transported itself over to the other side of town to Morrissey’s favourite venue, the Liverpool Arena in order to pay homage to popular George Formby tribute act, the Arctic Monkeys. I actually had a ticket but as soon as I heard Marina and the Diamonds were playing on the Set Listsame night it was a case of “forget the arena; I’m going to see Marina.” Funnily enough I met a couple of other fans who were at the gig solo, rendered friendless for the night by Mr Turner and his band of ragamuffins, but once you’re a “Diamond” (the term Marina uses for her fans and isn’t actually the name of her band) you’re not really alone as there is a very real shared bond and a sense of camaraderie amongst her fans. There’s a definite vibe amongst hard core “Diamonds” that you are all in this musical adventure together, that this is your girl on stage, the one you’ve seen blossom from myspace bedroom demo singer to fully fledged pop goddess … (or maybe that was the pre-gig double Jack Daniels kicking in?) Marina has often said how much her fans mean to her and some may be inclined to dismiss this as PR bullshit, full of the kind of empty sound bites we often hear from countless pop singers. However maybe the doubters would be given pause for thought had they witnessed Marina begging bouncers to allow one of her biggest fans into tonight’s venue over concerns about his age, she eventually secured his entrance by convincing said doormen with a major whopper that the young lad in question was her long lost Scouse cousin called Onslow! (His real name is Jack) Now, how many singers would go that far for one of their fans? You do get the feeling that Marina is very much the real deal.Marina And The Diamonds Live

Without wishing to cast myself in the role of Benny Hill it must be said that Marina is stunningly beautiful in the flesh and as she prowled the stage wearing killer heels and a figure hugging leather outfit the sound of young men’s knees buckling was almost palpable, whilst gentlemen of a certain vintage seemed to experience the onset of a full-on mid-life crisis!! Marina and her band had just played a sell out 1,000 capacity show in Dublin the night before so if playing a free gig in Liverpool on a wet and windy Friday night was a bit of a comedown it certainly didn’t show in terms of the effort and energy expended. Liverpool can be a strange city when it comes to gigs, it’s almost impossible to gauge which bands will draw a crowd and what sort of reception a performer will get. Tonight’s assembled crowd greeted Marina with the kind of cautious enthusiasm that says “well you’re not a Beatles tribute band so we’ll just have to just see how we get along, won’t we?” However by the time the acid tongued bouncing brilliance of the opening song “Girls” (think a literate version of a punked up Britney whose drink’s been spiked with vitriol) had finished she’d thawed even the frostiest of hearts and proceeded to produce one of the most entertaining, engaging and compelling performances I’ve seen for quite some time. Marina’s charisma, easy charm and ability to completely connect with the audience seemed so effortless and natural that you really did feel part of the show; it’s hard to believe that at one time she was petrified of performing in public.

Tonight’s set included a tune strongly rumoured to be the next single, ‘Hollywood Infected Your Brain,’ a stellar pop tune which could be the song that enables Marina to break through into the mainstream, whilst somewhat ironically it appears to be a critique of the very culture of celebrity she is on the cusp of. In many ways it encapsulates the paradox that is “Marina.” She may well tweet with the likes of salacious Hollywood rumour monger extraordinaire, Perez Hilton, on twitter, she is undoubtedly “obsessed with the mess that’s America” but “Hollywood” shows she’s also aware of the dark side of fame. She’s conscious of the fact that the limelight is also the firing line and you get a sense that should she achieve a certain level of prominence that she is acutely aware of it’s ugly destructive flip-side. Like many of us she seems fascinated and appalled by it in equal measure. But unlike many of us she has the ability to write a killer pop song on the subject!

An obvious highlight of Marina’s set is her tale of dysfunctional relationships and post-coital angst, the quite wonderful ‘Obsessions’ is a song designed to make ones heart simultaneously burst with both joy and sadness, such is the raw emotion, honesty and bitter-tinged sense of regret contained within. Further spine tingling moments included a slowed down keyboard only version of her current single ‘Mowgli’s Road,’ turning a tumultuous slice of “cuckoo-pop” into a rather sad yet beautiful lament whilst showcasing the uniqueness of her vocal style. When firm fan favourite and one of the songs of 2009, ‘I am Not A Robot’ is performed with such passion you can’t help but agree with the fan who said “this woman deserves to succeed,” because she really does. She has something new and innovative and dynamic to offer the pop world, something that she exudes herself and, unlike many pop wannabes she isn’t just going through the motions to attain success for its own sake.

“My true dream is to become successful for what I do naturally proving to people that you do not have to replicate other people’s popular qualities in order to become popular”

The set finishes with a triumphant second version of ‘Mowgli’s Road,’ this one the full on version ….and then….. she’s gone. A ten song set which was over way too quickly, but she proved beyond a doubt she was born to do this, is a unique talent and next year will surely see her make the breakthrough she richly deserves. She gave a staggering performance, as did I, as I weaved my home into the wet Liverpudlian night, quite intoxicated in every possible sense of the word! Balls out brilliant!

Marina on stage

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I wrote this review for . The original article can be viewed here

Music For Pleasure -Polly Mackey And The Pleasure Principle Interview

“The Way It Works” By Polly MacKey And The Pleasure Principle

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Polly MacKey’s first public performance came when she was just shy of her sixteenth birthday, at a family party. As chance would have it a local promoter was amongst the guests and he was so impressed with her performance he signed her up for a number of local gigs. Polly’s acoustic shows were extremely received but she felt that she needed to expand her sound. She reasoned that her songs would benefit from being performed by a full band and that such a move would also enable her to remain true to her musical influences. To that end she hand-picked some of the finest local musicians and Polly Mackey & The Pleasure Principle was born in 2008. The addition of a full band immediately added the extra sonic dimension to Polly’s work that she’d been looking for and before long the band soon attracted interest from producer Paul Grady. Paul had previously worked with bands such as Howling Bells and a number of sessions were recorded at the renowned Real World Studios which served to demonstrate  the phenomenal potential this band have

The industry buzz surrounding Polly and the boys continued apace, aided in no small part by playing at the SXSW music festival in Texas which received rave reviews. They also secured a slot at the Benicassim music festival, beating off competition from 1,700 other bands to take their place on stage  alongside the likes of Oasis, The Kings Of Leon and Franz Ferdinand.  It certainly looks  like now’s the time catch the band at an intimate venue before they take the music world by storm and 2010 should see them continue to win plaudits from fans and industry insiders alike. There’s no doubt that Polly has exactly what it takes to become a major star, her literate thought provoking songs are brought to life by her incredible voice which has that rare quality in that it can effortlessly convey joy and despair, light and shade, without seeming to skip a beat, and of course The Pleasure Principle produce a sound that could be described as  tighter than Dawn French’s trousers after a midnight feast.

Comparisons are bound to be made, the style and attitude of a young Chrissie Hynde, the cool edginess of PJ Harvey and the pop sensibility of Blondie,  all underpinned with the sort of quality song writing that can’t be manufactured or bought, it’s a natural gift and one that should ensure the band are destined for even bigger things over the next year or so. Keep your ears peeled….we spoke to Polly about what she’d been up to over the last years or so.

VP:  You’ve been described as a “precocious talent”, when did you first take up the guitar and start song writing?

POLLY: I first took up the guitar when I was about 10, I had a little set of drums for my birthday so for Christmas I got a bright red Stratocaster from Argos. I played on and off for a while but really got my passion for music and playing when I was about 14 or 15.

VP: Can you remember the first song you ever wrote?

POLLY: I was 15, the song was called ’18 Hours’.

VP: You’ve won song writing awards and played SXSW, what have been your highlights since becoming involved in music?

POLLY: Yeah SXSW was an experience to say the least! We had 9 gigs in 5 days so it was one big blur. The FIB Heineken Festival we played at this summer was great, though forest fires and high winds started an hour after we played and Kings Of Leon pulled out and the place was shut down for the night, so we were pretty lucky we got to play!

VP: Where and when can people get your music, is a debut album in the pipeline?

POLLY: This is something we’re being asked all the time. I’ve been writing new material all year and we’ve spent the summer rehearsing and refining it. We are gigging extensively for the next few months to see how it comes across live; that will then determine the tracks that we go into the studio and record.

VP:  Which musicians do you most admire and why?

POLLY: I love bands like Radiohead, Arcade Fire, The Kills, PJHarvey – they just seem so completely in control of everything surrounding their music and artistic direction.

VP: What made you came up with the name for your band “The Pleasure Principle” are you  a fan of Sigmund Freud , Janet Jackson, Gary Numan or René Magritte? Which is it ? 😉

POLLY: I’ve always liked band names with abit of relevance to the people in it. I was due to study a degree in Philosophy and English but decided to make something out of my music instead, so thats the Sigmund Freud link. I also have Gary Numan’s album and always thought it would be a good band name – plus alliteration goes a long way.

VP: What’s it like being the only female with an all male band. Does the battle of the sexes rear its head on tour ….

POLLY: I never think about it much. I was a tom-boy when I was little and most of my friends throughout life have been male so it’s no big deal. There is a noticeable difference in cleanliness and smell though, once you spend a while in a hotel room!

VP: What do you make of the trend over the last few years for band “reunions” , do you think this appetite for nostalgia can move the focus away from younger, upcoming bands?

POLLY: I think some of the reunions are great, as it gives people of my generation the chance to go and see bands that they thought they’d only ever be able to hear on CD. Though I think most of the more commercial pop reunions are slightly wearing.

VP:  What part of being a musician do you enjoy best, recording, touring song writing?

POLLY: It’s always enjoyable to write a song when it sounds good, but I always find myself getting excited to see how it’ll sound in a live environment – that’s where the real reward is.

VP:   Five songs you wish you had of written are?

POLLY: Monkey 23 – The Kills

All My Friends – LCD Soundsystem

Dying On The Vine – John Cale

Ashes To Ashes – David Bowie

Sound of The Underground – Girls Aloud.






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“The Wall” Live By Polly MacKey & The Pleasure Principle

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Marina And The Diamonds-Mowgli’s Road

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Russ Chimes Remix

We’ve got obsessions / All you ever think about are sick ideas involving me, involving you’ sang Marina and the Diamonds, and ironically in doing so, kick started my own mini obsession with her music! Not, you understand, in the scary ‘I’m going to kidnap you and keep you in my room until you write me a song,’ Kathy Bates/James Caan type sense. No, no, more of a ‘by god, this is everything pop music should be’ kind of reaction, an aesthetic appreciation, if you will, for the fabulous music Marina has been producing and an admiration for her refreshing honesty about, well, …everything really. So if like me, you’re becoming rather jaded by the dreary over-hyped production line procession of insipid, anodyne pop princesses, then I’d advise you to look no further than the rather wonderful Marina and The Diamonds. Unlike Blondie, Marina isn’t actually a band as such but a solo artist, she explains the choice of name thus “I like fantasy and I hate loneliness so the idea of Marina & the Diamonds instantly felt cute and warming and not as egocentric as Marina Diamond.” Her brilliant debut Obsessions’ was issued as a limited release by those hip and happening dudes over at Neon Gold and was lauded with justified praise from every quarter. The follow up the equally stunning ‘Crown Jewels EP’ cemented Marina’s reputation as one of the brightest talent’s resident within these here shores.

Now at last her first official single hits the shelves on 16th November which will hopefully establish her as the nations sweetheart and see statues erected in her honour the length and breath of the country. (Ok I’ll admit that’s my best case scenario, but you get my drift) The song is actually a re-recording of ‘Mowgli’s Road’ which first appeared alongside ‘Obsessions’ earlier in the year and is a track which quickly established itself as a firm fan favourite and crowd pleaser at this year’s summer festivals. Of course there’s always a concern when a much loved song gets a make-over, but thankfully ‘Mowgli’s Road’ retains the driving, relentless energy and purity of the original with the addition of some rather nice keyboard flourishes which aren’t over done and serve to further polish this already glittering musical diamond. ‘Mowgli’s Road,’ all pounding beats and “cuckoo” shrieks, is the perfect introduction to Marina’s kaleidoscopic pop world which has been described as part Kate Bush and part Lene Lovich. It positively throbs with energy and life and is unlike anything else being produced in the pop sphere at the moment. It’s catchy enough for the chart kids to get hooked but it also has a wild, dangerous, and let’s face it, slightly demented edge that will appeal to the indie crowd too.

Off stage Marina shoots from the lip and takes no prisoners, for example when she was lazily compared to Kate Nash she retorted “I’m sooo like Kate Nash because OOPS! I have a vagina and a keyboard.” Marina’s songs should be judged on their own merits, they are distinctive, unique, intelligent, literate, powerful and at times rather moving. To dismiss Marina as merely “kooky” or “quirky” would be doing her a huge disservice as she produces music that is as diverse as it is wonderful and unique. She certainly is a ‘one off’ as regular readers of her blogs and twitter updates will doubtless testify, whether she is tweeting from a train warning that if the drunken bloke opposite her kicks her leg one more time she will rip his f**king head off, to ruminating on the pros and cons of life in Sweden “Everyone is beautiful and tanned, so self-esteem may suffer / could end up contributing to high suicide rate in Scandinavia” she comes across as far more real than the likes of Lily Allen ever could.

‘Mowgli’s Road’ deserves to set Marina on the road to stardom, she’s just the sort of talented, vivacious character the pop arena is crying out for at the moment. Full of life, bursting with ideas and striving to make music of value on her own terms. She manages to appear esoteric, yet honest and open, fiesty, yet vulnerable. And it is these kind of contradictions that make her such a compelling individual…. I make no apologies for the unrelenting enthusiastic tone of this review (you should have seen the first draft) but I haven’t been this excited about a new artist for quite some time.

Acquaint yourself with Marina and make her a star! This Diamond is a rare and precious gem.



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Originally written for here a review which caused a little bit of controversy too , which was nice !



It’s that time of year again when voting commences for the “Record of the Day Awards for Music Journalism and PR,” which this year takes place at the Gibson Rooms, Rathbone Street, London on November 26.


We (ie me),  are up for  Best Blog prize!  Not bad eh? For what is essentially a one man blog.  All awards are voted for by the public  but hopefully not  the same public who watch the X-Factor.  So if you fancy voting for the ‘little guy’ and help him mix with the great and  the good and  maybe even get on that GMTV sofa of inanity, or hang out with those crazy gals on “Loose Women” then  go to the website  HERE and vote in the best blog category for The Von Pip Musical Express….because every time you vote for another blog, a kitten dies….probably…x

Thanks everyone!