The esoteric adventures of HMHB continued with a trip to the picturesque Oxfordshire countryside and the delights of the Cornbury Festival:- well sign-posted, friendly and helpful stewards, easy parking, top-notch cuisine, fine ales, clean toilets (no queues!), gentile family-orientated punters... this was light years away from the usual cattle market endurance test of your standard outdoor British "Summer" music event.
The boys were playing the second of 3 stages at an awkward afternoon slot, and there seemed to be some confusion over timing. Ska legends The Beat were supposed to be on at 1pm, but started fully 20 minutes early, and this continued with HMHB who were scheduled for 3pm but appeared far earlier, much to the chagrin of a few disgruntled punters we met later. Following The Beat was a daunting task, as the Brummie lads went down a storm with their repertoire of old-school hits, energetic performance and cheesy crowd baiting. The singer's lad proved a top toaster, and an uninebriated early afternoon crowd lapped it up, demanding another 20 minutes after the schedulers pulled them off prematurely.
Ex- Whistle Test's Mark Ellen had the honour of introducing our lads, and with much in the way of sunshine heading our way (the rain only really set in after 6pm) they took to the stage in front of a decent crowd, with a few old faces down the front. At only 17 songs this was inevitably a more truncated set than we're used to, but given the fact they were only allowed a one tune encore, and that the usual crowd-pleaser 24 hr Garage was missing, I can only assume the boys were expecting a longer slot. Never the less, they went down fine with the apparently pleasantly bemused locals, who laughed in all the right place, especially for Paintball and Mountain Bikes. Even when Nigel's famous caravan guitar turned out to be hopelessly out of tune for Evening of Swing there were good natured shouts about "keeping it real!" Nigel even honoured the Ting-Tings with a swift "They call me Jap Stamm, that's not my name!" There were the inevitable shouts for first album titles from some of the dads in the audience who must have thought HMHB had broken up for good after DHSS, but the applause was generous and enthusiastic. One convert was keen to ask us which record Wrong Grave was on, and clearly Geoff (who seemed to be on towel-roadie duty on stage) had infiltrated the merchandise stall, which bristled with HMHB paraphernalia (including vinyl!) next to all of the Paul Simon detritus. The set-list:-
Light at the End of the Tunnel
Running Order (very apt given the early start!)
Problem Chimp (blistering live debut)
Paintball (great new verse, wish I could remember it!)
Nothing better in life (quick sub for Evening of Swing guitar debacle)
Evening of Swing (Nigel capo's guitar, victory from jaws of defeat!)
Exiting the stage, Nigel opened up the inside cover of his RAC atlas (must have got a sat-nav!) bearing the words (approx.) "The Feeling are away", and with this typically quixotic stunt they were banished to backstage heaven. There was an inevitable tailing off in quality and enjoyment after such ribaldry (even with the aid of frozen Margueritas), though The Bangles managed not to embarrass themselves too much (but mini-skirts on the over 40s is never a clever move), Toots and the Maytalls' Radio 2 Reggae was pleasantly bland, and the new Mick Jones/Tony James combo Carbon Silicon positively relished in disposing any old time Punk pretence by rocking out like a superannuated G'n'Roses (as they probably always secretly wanted to be back in the day). But as the rain and temperature fell, the prospect of hanging around to see Paul Simon at the back of a soggy field whilst being jostled by frantic soaked 60-something middle-class hippies became a bridge too far, and so we retreated to the car parks to begin the long journey back through the waterlogged motorways of our globally-warmed land, though the cherished memories will linger whilst we await the next exciting instalment in the HMHB chronicles.