Let's get a few logistical observations out of the way. Things were a bit suspect from the outset. The 485 had only taken me a few miles from home when it broke down outside Crofton High School. Maybe the bus is still there. The driver tried the usual trick - revving really hard, but we were clearly going nowhere. I was impressed by his description of the vehicle as "a bag of bollocks", but was even more impressed by his ability to get us onto the 194 which was following on behind, and got everyone safely into Wakefield. From there it was the train to Derby (stopping at Sheffield and Chesterfield), changing there for the one to Matlock Bath (calling at Duffield, Belper, Ambergate, Whatstandwell and Cromford). Matlock Bath station has a quaint appearance, where you expect Bernard Cribbins to scamper out of the manager's office to collect the post delivery. Or perhaps you might see John Betjeman meandering down the platform, composing a poem. Sadly there is no such luck in this post-Beeching age. There is merely total silence, and the ghosts of time gone by.
A further logistical observation concerns the tickets for these shows. A feature of our modern enlightened age is the prevalence of the e-ticket. It is now too much to expect a "proper" ticket when you make a purchase. Instead you receive what appears to be known as a Booking Reference. The theory (presumably) is that you whisper this reference number into the ear of the security personnel, and this gets you into the venue. But it doesn't quite work like that. You end up in a queue for a proceedure which reminds me of going to vote. They check off your name on a list. Instead of getting a voting slip you are given a wristband. And away you go. I would never have a pop at anyone who promotes a HMHB gig, but it never fails to surprise me when I get charged a Booking Fee and I get expected to do a lot of the work. What's wrong with a ticket handwritten by the town clerk, countersigned by the mayor and featuring the official town stamp, instead of all this hi tech gubbins? Just a minor gripe. But I'm sure that the guys who were in the queue in front of me would agree. They had received their Booking Reference by text on their mobile. But their names did not appear on the list at the desk. They didn't appear to have done much wrong, and presumably they had also been charged a Booking Fee. But there was still a problem. Maybe we should all laugh these things off as a Twenty Four Hour Garage People moment.
I made a few notes about Matlock Bath itself. I can not confirm or deny the existence of Mrs Gibson's jam, but I did not see any hard and fast evidence. The line in The Light At The End Of The Tunnel may be based on the Mrs Bridges brand. Much of this was available at the Mining Museum (curds, chutney, marmalade etc). Another feature for the tourist is the cable car to The Heights Of Abraham. This did not provide for the cheapest afternoon I have ever had, but there was a fine view from the top of Prospect Tower. Back in the town I bumped into Geoff and listened to tales of yore. Seeing The Beatles supporting Kenny Ball And The Jazzmen must have been a fine night out. I also attempted to glean info on future plans for HMHB. I had best not put anything in writing until we have official confirmation, but it certainly looks like there will be life after the Cambridge gig in July. And there will be another CD somewhere in the dim and distant.
The Grand Pavillion lies directly across the road from The Fishpond, scene of past HMHB heroics. The art deco outer is impressive on the eye, but the inside has obviously been neglected. Thanks to the time and efforts of a number of locals, it looks like things are going to change. So good luck to them. As Nigel pointed out from the stage, the decoration seemed to show the Relief Of Mafeking, which is probably when it was last given a lick of paint. Let's hope for another visit some time.
After a musical build-up on the PA, featuring Donna Summer and Diana Ross, Sonnenberg appeared on stage. They have supported HMHB many times before. I've always seen them as an ambient, folky type of band, with their collection of mandolin, tabla and e-bow. But as their show went on, they morphed into something a bit heavier, adopting a more traditional guitar, bass, drums line-up. Judas? Very interesting as always, and they were good enough to lead a chorus of Happy Birthday to Geoff.
A blast of Tchaikovsky accompanied HMHB onto stage. "It's all downhill after Tchaikovsky," announced Nigel ahead of the first song. He was keen to draw my attention to the band's route to the gig. A50 round Derby, and A6 via Belper and Duffield apparently. Fair enough, but that seems a long way round from Birkenhead. Petty Sessions was announced as being about dying inwardly when someone introduces you to their quietly spoken friends. Nigel asked if anyone had been to see Pere Ubu. He was impressed with their CD. And he said he had got hold of their set list before the gig, and had a schadenfreude feeling about a guy constantly shouting out for a particular song, while Nigel knew full well that they were not going to play it. Slight nod towards Bonnie Tyler as she seeks out Eurovision glory. "Once upon a time I was living inland, now I've got a flat on the coast." There was a balls-up of the line about Mary Had A Little Lamb in 99% of Gargoyles. You would think he would get it right after all these years. When asked about Tony Gubba, Nigel said it was unexpected. "Although of course it might not have been unexpected if I had known him." Nigel was asked if they still play Secret Gig. "Now and again, but not tonight." The line at the end of Lock Up Your Mountain Bikes was "Before the Gods were born, that's when I first said we'd finish 12th." Tranmere's demise, of course. Actually, didn't they actually end up 11th? The football theme continued with some chat about Martin Jol. "He ought to do an album of Crooning Classics. He has a superb voice for it." Judging from heckles, it sounds like "Play one the drummer knows" is close to overtaking "What did God give us, Neil?". The Rotherham Postie needs to get to more gigs to even things up. Nigel pondered out loud the latest odds for the Tour De France. No mention of Chris Froome, though. Everything's AOR was "in B". And the evening's cover version threw me. Fortunately Neil, on post-gig stage clearance duties, was able to help me out. The Velvet Underground has never been my strong point. The show went as follows...San Antonio Foam Party
And in the encoreFemme Fatale
And that was it. Back to the excellent Ashdale Guest House. But it was a bit disappointing that all the chip shops had closed.