Bloody Satnav!! Sending us down the wrong streets and not knowing where the car parks are! Mind you, it didn't help when Tony kept asking passers-by for directions to Western Isle Street, when we were actually looking for West Nile Street. But it was a magnificent driving performance from him, and at least we didn't have the problems faced by Geoff and (presumably) the band, who were given directions to the wrong ABC, out on the other side of the river. Still, all's well that ends well.
We had a fairly standard drive from Yorkshire. A1, A66 and M6 with a Rough Trade 2003 compilation to see us through. Not sure what Lord Kitchener's London Is The Place For Me was doing on there, but I don't put these things together. We saw a police chase near Richmond just to keep it interesting.
During the journey I explained how I have been troubled by my inability to work out the exact number of times I have been to these shows. Consultation with Gez's website, and with my mate Mark, who is better than me at keeping records of this kind of thing, made me think I was on 108 before we set out. It's a long time since The Leadmill in Sheffield in February 1986. I explained to Tony that in those days the only band that made me clock up the miles was The Fall. And it's only since about 2001 that I started doing serious travelling for HMHB. That is what happens when you have nothing else going on in your life.
In recent times a lot of those gigs have been supported by Roja. They got the job again tonight. I still expect them to break out with the theme from The Good The Bad And The Ugly. In a moment of extreme extravagence, I bought their CD at the end of the night, not realising that they were standing next to me at the time. So it was handshakes all round, and even a photo with the band. Bit of a shame that Roja did not have a more attentive audience for their set. There was that hum of conversation throughout. It's a pity that people can't hang around outside until they have finished everything they have to say. But it's a free world. I was at a Jeffrey Lewis show the week before, and he was fighting the same battle.
There was one of those curfews in operation, where everybody gets shovelled out at a particular time. HMHB were scheduled to be on at 8.30, so there were a few nervous looks at watches as it nudged towards 8.45. Short set coming up? As it turned out, they played a total of 25 songs, as opposed to 27 at Matlock Bath and 28 at Bilston, so things were slightly curtailed. No Tchaikovsky tonight. During the first song, I noticed Nigel glance at what was the largest mirror ball in the world. Later he noted, "The night's are drawing in in a couple of weeks' time". The line at the end of Lock Up Your Mountain Bikes was "That's when I was saying, Countryfile is dying on its arse." He said "There's a story behind this one," ahead of San Antonio Foam Party, before pointedly not explaining the story. There was a security guy at the front who seemed to be made of waxwork. No expression, no movement. He was replaced by another one, who had some ear protectors. Or maybe he was listening to something on headphones. Any Questions? Super League? Radio 3 Concert? Nigel made light of his presence, pointing out that this may need explaining to a psychiatrist in 20 years time. The band had stopped at Tebay Services on the way through. Nigel had stopped in the van. He mentioned that he had taken his uncle to one of those places where fish nibble at your feet. "It was £35. Cheaper than paying for a funeral." At times the sound was mediocre, and at one point the drum mike seemed to go off. Nigel, Neil and Carl were all playing the show in shorts. Nigel spoke to Ken about how his jeans would be soaked afterwards, being a roasting day and all that. Nigel would be rinsing his shorts out and leaving them to dry for the morning. Ever the professional. And a useful holiday tip. My failing hearing was no doubt playing tricks on me, but I'm sure that during National Shite Day when he mentions Stringy Bob answering the ad for a keyboard player, Nigel referred to "Doors, Floyd, Hendrix". Hendrix? If nothing else, it gives me the opportunity to mention a band I saw advertised in the local paper. The Jimmy Shandrix Experience. A Must See. We had a burst of Black Night by Deep Purple. "Here's one we wrote in the dressing room," said Nigel before Petty Sessions. And then there was some cycling talk. Nigel's feeling is that Le Tour is between Chris Froome and (I think he said) Contador. But he has also got £80 on a young French guy. Keep the faith, Nigel. Did I hear "Northwich" substituted for "Nantwich" during Look Dad No Tunes? There were cheers when Nigel asked for his guitar to be turned up (nearer the end of the gig than the beginning). Nice to be in the front row when he said it looked like the methodone counter at Boots. And Nigel said that Sebastian Coe is turning into one of those lizards who is ruling the world. Oh, and there was a nice touch from Carl at the end when he handed over his sticks to a young kid who had been standing at the front next to Tony.
All in all, everything felt a bit restrained. Perhaps because of the sound, or maybe they were just saving a bit for the Stockton gig. I haven't got a clue really. Here's how it went during the evening.When The Evening Sun Goes Down
And the encoreFix It So She Thinks Of Me
Good to catch up with Paul afterwards before he took the late train home. We had a couple of beers in the Pot Still, after which I had caught up with the latest on the Edinburgh Tram system, and the demise of Dunfermline FC. From there it was back to the Premier Inn. When you get chance, ask Tony to show you the picture he took from his room on the 18th floor.