Why is that some venues are perceived to be somehow "better" than other places? There is certainly something about The Robin that presses all the buttons. Of course, the Dean Friedman episode from a couple of years ago is going to take some forgetting. But is it the room itself? Or the sound quality? Or the fact that you can rest your notebook on the stage while you are writing? There is certainly something. Perhaps it's the quality of the bands coming up. Having read in the local paper about a covers band called Fred Zeppelin, it was inevitable that there would be an all-female band covering the same band called, you guessed it, Lez Zeppelin. The UK Subs are also due in town.
I've mentioned a lot of the other local stuff in other reviews in the past. The Major fish restaurant. The pedestrian precinct, a little bit of home. And I still gawp at Wolverhampton's space age bus station. Perhaps New Street station, with its ongoing refurbishment is aiming for something as bold. It was impossible to stay out of the Wolves Superstore. Has Dean Saunders now been airbrushed from history? Possibly so. But I noticed that they sell Wolves Yorkshire Mixture. Was that Mick McCarthy's idea?
I noted a couple of landmarks on the bus journey to Bilston. The Fighting Cocks Supermarket, for instance. Must call in sometime, if only to see what happens when there is a dispute over the last carton of milk. And I also saw an office block called Progress House. It made me think. Wouldn't it be fantastic to work at a place called Lack Of Progress House?
Yet again I was wholly underwhelmed by the lack of publicity for the gig. Express And Star, Brum Notes, The Midlands Ticket Shop, even the venue itself. Not a whisper. Nothing new there then.
Good to catch up with folk before the gig. Geoff was still offering morsels of information about possibilities for the second half of the year, without being too specific. Some nice tunes being played before everything got under way. Strange Town. Do Anything You Wanna Do. And I noticed the stage backdrop, saying "The Robin - R And B Venue". Is that the modern definition of R and B, or the more traditional use of the term?
I'm sure The Humdrum Express would be delighted to be described as either. "Welcome to Bilston," he announced. "The only place where I am posh." I picked up a handful of his song titles, Throwaway Pop, Message Bar Hooligan, Botox Lunch Break and Roll Out The Red Carpet ("this is another three minutes of bitterness and resentment"). He also threw in a couple of poems, dealing with tennis and going to the gym. The Humdrum Express is floating around somewhere on the internet. I'm sure he said he has a new CD out very soon. That could be worth a listen.
The weather for the end of May had not been as warm as we might expect, but it was still a surprise to see Nigel wearing a jumper when HMHB arrived on stage. Nantucket Sleighride by Mountain (the theme to Weekend World, for TV fans) was playing at the time, so we were given the opportunity to listen to that ahead of a traditionally messy start to the gig. Guitars not plugged in. The jumper lasted two songs. A dispute between Nigel and Ken was settled by consultation with the crowd. Who sang Tiger Feet? Mud or The Sweet? Mud, of course! Nigel had been watching Homes Under The Hammer and had noticed how the presenter seems to have his hands stuck together, as though he has a magnet in one hand and a piece of metal in the other. There was a "guess the bassline" spot. Unless I wasn't paying attention, I don't think we were told the answer. Ken, it seems, was the first man in Wallasey to own a frisbee. At the Matlock Bath gig, at the end of Lock Up Your Mountain Bikes, Nigel sang "That's when I first said we'd finish 12th" referring to Tranmere's performance in League One. This time round, in mid-chat with a punter, he mentioned once again that they had finished 12th. I must correct him again. They were actually 11th. There was a joke from the late 70s when inch-wide ties were in fashion. A guy (I think he said this was Neil) turned up at a night club without a tie, so the bouncer wouldn't let him in. So he went back to his car, and wrapped his jump lead round his collar to make it look like a tie. This time, the bouncer said "OK, I'll let you in but don't be starting anything." Nigel said that on their way to Bilston, the band had called at the ruins of Halesowen Abbey. There was a complicated story in Tending The Wrong Grave about being in a Dorothy Perkins. When asked "Can I help you, sir?", he replies "Only if you can tell me something that rhymes with Orange." Nigel pointed out Ken's haircut. Gomez shouted out that Ken, with his beard and all, was actually turning into Geoff. Ken and Neil swapped instruments for a fine performance of Footprints. Someone shouted out "When did you last play that?" After consultation with the web site, it seems to have been Shrewsbury in March 2010. Could be wrong. There was a dispute over the pronunciation of "scones". A shout for "Albert Hammond" led to a brief sample of the opening bass line, and a couple of lines of the vocals. Maybe next time we will get a fuller version. The playing of Chatteris led to a request for the band to write a song about Bakewell. Unusually there were two encores. Can't remember them doing that before, but maybe that is something else to look up. Ta to Tony for the lift, and for the title of the Mountain track.
Here is the set:Asparagus Next Left
The first encore was:Fix It So She Thinks Of Me
Then they came back again for:All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit
Not much else to report, apart from vomit on the dancefloor. Just like 1977.