One of the most bizarre gigs that I ever have been to, and I've been to a fair few in my 31 years. The Floral Hall is literally a few feet from the sea and it has the appearance of the sort of place that Gene Vincent might have played (apparently Brian Rix made his stage debut there?). It looked like I was in for a good night, because it is a great little venue ; nice bonus - as I made the 200 mile round trip alone. Hmmm, I began to wonder why there were so few people there, but settled for a lager and a bout of anticipation. The first of two supports were clearly a local bunch, they only did covers and even then it was stuff like Brown sugar, Radar love and an incredibly bad rendition of the Manic's "You stole the sun from my heart". The boys went down far too well with the locals for my liking though, and I began to get the impression that the audience was mostly the support's mates and wasn't entirely made up of HMHB fans. Eventually, the painfully bad Cuzit Justiz finished and I have to say that it was a relief.
Second support was The Underpant Explode, easily summed up as a rubbish version of the Shirehorses. They even had the cheek to sing "You're Horrendous" (to the tune of "You're gorgeous") as if to confirm the fact. Unfortunately they were also a bit crap and it began to be clear that the biscuits were going to have a tough time of it to 'fit in'. By the time HMHB made it onto stage there could only have been about 100 people in there (top estimate) and I would imagine that maybe only 5% of those weren't locals who didn't really know much about tonight's "star turn".
My fears were confirmed when the start of the night's 'main event' did little to make the Floral Hall atmosphere change. That guy with the hat who bounces around a lot at all the gigs (you all know the one) ran to the front to claim 'pole position', but he needn't have bothered because only about 4 or 5 others joined him, mostly Cher look-a-likes doing a handbag shuffle. I really like to have a bit of an old dance at gigs, but it took 5 or 6 songs for me to summon up the courage to dance on such an open floor on my own without the anonymity of a crowd.
The HMHB boys were clearly bemused by the turn out, but it definitely was a gig for the "old school" because they threw in plenty of oldies, opening with "Fred Titmus" to try to get a connection with the few locals that did know any of their stuff. Each song's end was greeted by what can be best described as a "ripple" of applause best saved for cricket matches, and at times it felt like seeing a new band at their first gig.
As usual, the biscuits didn't disappoint musically and turned in a sterling performance, although I'd love to have heard the backstage chats ; "You said that there'd be a few here", "No-one knows who we are" and "Maybe we should do 'Ain't seen nothing yet' ??". To their credit, the set was great and some of the new stuff sounds good, I especially liked the 'Feedback' one and 'Gubba-look-a-likes'. After the first few songs, Nigel began to feel the need to introduce each one with a brief summary of what it was about, further evidence that things were a bit uncomfortable.
At times during the night I was at my own personal Half man half biscuit concert, being the only one on the dance floor. Even Mr.Bouncy-hat-guy couldn't stand the self-conscious feeling that was brought on by dancing for all of the set, and disappeared a few times for "a drink" . I guess that, when we are all pushing and shoving for a better view at these gigs we don't realise that if no-one was there then we wouldn't be so keen to be up the front.
The best way to describe the atmosphere is this, try to imagine that you are at your distant cousin's wedding and someone has mistakenly booked HMHB as the live entertainment. Your distant cousin and his band do their set and immediately after it's Half man half biscuit's turn to wow your grannies. That's the weird kind of "X-Files meets Deliverance" night that it was. Well, when was the last gig that you were at when you were the only person dancing at the start of "Dukla Prague Away Kit" ???