As usual, this jaunt began at Fitzwilliam station, sharing the platform with the rats who live in the undergrowth. Things generally got better from there, although there was a someone on the train who had Sweet Child Of Mine as their ringtone. And a special hello to the folks who were doing the Stalybridge/Dewsbury/Huddersfield railway station pub crawl. A very sociable bunch, one of whom had actually heard of HMHB! And they gave me a chocolate as well. Most civilized.
Just time for a quick march round the city. Good to see that that second hand book/record store near the station remains exactly as it was last time. Almost exactly the same stock as far as I could tell. Managed to pick up a book of Beryl Cook pictures for a couple of quid. Another pressie ticked off the list.
The Ritz was just round the corner from where I was staying. Just a short wait in the icy blast of the north, getting leafleted by every club in the district, before the doors opened and Tony, Joel and I were able to take up positions at the front. Support was from Lovecraft. Here's a turn that provides a problem for those who like to put their bands into boxes. Odd. Not odd enough to cause undue worry. But odd enough for you to take notice. Tony reckoned the singer looked like Michael Crick when he walked on stage. Michael Crick?!? One of their songs mentioned Deborah Kerr, but I didn't get the gist of that one. Everything Keeps Sticking To Me and I'm Not Scared Of You were fine as well. I must make the effort to get the album.
Everything was running earlier than usual tonight. Curfew at 10. Get the clubbers in. So HMHB came on at around 8.10. There was usual faffing around at the start. Time-wasting tactic? They never rush into their opening song. There was the usual "sightings" of local celebs. We had a generous use of the Ritz smoke machine throughout. In "Evening Sun", Nigel replaced the road gritters line with the question about "Why does Mr Universe always come from earth?". Nigel pointed out Ken's gig haircut. We also learned that Ken was the first man in Wallasey to kill Bowser in the Super Mario game. Excavating Rita was introduced as a song about putting the fun back into funerals - "I'm Getting Buried In The Morning and Get Me To The Morgue On Time, that kind of thing." Yo and respect to the security guy who ducked down when he walked in front of the stage. So many of them are quite happy to block your view. Nigel said he had noticed that It's A Wonderful Life was on at the Cornerhouse cinema. This led to a bit of banter about Christmas. "I like pointless presents," he said. "I'm getting a mynah bird called Competition for my mother in law, and I'm getting a Gary Numan poster for my great uncle." Ken has obviously been watching some old Clash stuff - the foot was up on the monitor during Lost Lyrics. We had another Nigel tradition - the plectrum on the forehead during Lark Descending. We had an adaptation of an old Christmas favourite - "You'd better watch out / You'd better take care / Ex-newsreaders are everywhere / Sandy Gall's coming to town." We even had a Santa appearing in the mosh pit. And was this a first for Nigel? Normally he just goes for water on stage, but he also had what looked like a cola based liquid. I don't want to get involved in product placement issues, but that will have to be watched in the future. A few of the guitar/bass samples tonight included The Birthday Party, Black Sabbath (wasn't it?) and old chestnuts Joy Division. The crisps at the garage were £1.94. There was a quibble over whether you call it a "line" of people, or a "queue". There was another broad range of requirements - sardines in brine, mackerel in tomato sauce, a DVD of Jethro the Cornish comedian, coal, mackerels in sardines, the debut album by Suicide, a sachet of optimism and a Solero. The guy at the counter took off his jumper to reveal a t-shirt saying My Mum And Dad Went To The Congo. The Word Search that he was doing included Knebworth, Donnington, Scorpions, Happiness and Bitterness. And there were some classics on his iPod. Paradise By The Dashboard Light, Bad Medicine and Eye Of The Tiger. Later on in the set there was an onstage debate over some keys that Nigel had found. It seemed that they were his own. We were treated to a comedy moment when Nigel had not tied up his guitar strap properly, and the guitar fell to the floor. My, how we laughed. Nigel mused over the possibility of being a Saints tribute act. I think we were all surprised by the cover version. Previous Manchester gigs have included covers of originals by bands from the city - The Fall, The Hollies. So the connection continued with, er, The Bee Gees. According to Joel they used to live on Keppel Road in Chorlton. There's local knowledge for you. Another surprise was the absence of "Cynical At Christmas" but you learn to live with these things. I don't decide the set list, I just write it down.
The Light At The End Of The Tunnel
When The Evening Sun Goes Down
Joy In Leeuwarden
Running Order Squabble Fest
Shit Arm Bad Tattoo
Bob Wilson Anchor Man
For What Is Chatteris
Left Lyrics In Practice Room
All I Want For Xmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit
Tommy Walsh's Eco House
Look Dad No Tunes
We Built This Village
National Shite Day
L'Enfer C'Est Les Autres
Turned Up Clocked On Laid Off
24 Hour Garage People
Rock 'N' Roll Is Full Of Bad Wools
Joy Division Oven Gloves
99% Of Gargoyles Look Like Bob Todd
The Best Things In Life
And the encore was
Fix It So She Dreams Of Me
And from there it was on to The Salisbury. Six deep at the bar, so instead we were off to The Circus. A miniature pub, but one of the best you could find. Table service as well! We discussed a variety of topics. Jerry Sadowitz. The excrutiating Newcastle-Swansea game on TV. Daz's chance of getting into a club wearing shorts. Shorts in this weather! (Drop me a text, Daz, to let me know how you got on.) And of course we ran over the current state of play with HMHB, reviewing another year's activities. Yes, they're not bad. We'll all give them another go in 2012.