Well, it makes a change, not having to wait at various bus-stops and railway station platforms. I took the road option to this gig. A638, A61, A636, A635. That old favourite route. It took about forty minutes from home. A lot quicker than I would have done by public transport. But a lot more air pollution as well, admittedly. There was much bustling for parking spaces outside The Bridge, including a minor altercation with the HMHB minibus. Seemingly they were able to park in the No Parking spot. How does that work? The band had in fact turned up too early and couldn't get in to the venue. That must be a first. While waiting, I was able to instigate one of my in-depth interviews with Nigel while they were parked by the stage door ("All right?" / "Yeah"). They were listening to the football on Five Live, with Nigel having a little grumble about the lack of digital radio in new vehicles. Quite right too. I have often been driving and in the need of some 6 Music, but I have had to make do with Magic or Tragic or whatever is available. I wasn't able to pass on the contents of a text from Tony that morning (he had seen a preview in that morning's Guardian, where HMHB were described as "mordant dolecore"), as Geoff had turned up, banged on the stage door (so that's what you are supposed to do?) and gained access. Time for the band to get to work, and time for me to go browsing through a rack of old Rugby League programmes at the charity shop across the road. Back at The Bridge I heard two songs as part of the tuning up set list. A Lilac Harry Quinn and Outbreak Of Vitas Geralitis. Happy to have additions to the list, if anyone heard anything else.
Soon enough, it was time to meet up with Tony for some pre-gig nutrition at Hollowgate Fisheries. The sit-down restaurant part had closed, so we went alfresco, discussing the World Cup, Charlie Parr and dementia. In that order. And then, how simply charming to meet the two ladies who hollered that one of them wanted to sniff Tony's beard. Sniff? I think my attention had started to wander off in the other direction when she started asking about how he washed the beard. They headed for the Elephant And Castle. Tony and I headed towards the Picturedrome.
There was more evidence of a rotation policy with the support bands. Tonight it was Sonnenberg. I'm fairly sure this was their first go since Matlock Bath about twelve months previously. And they had made obvious use of the transfer window. Stephen, the guitarist from JD Meatyard, was playing for them tonight. It was unclear whether this was a permanent move, or just a loan deal. We will find out in the fullness of time. Either way, it was a seamless move. He knows his stuff. My two favourite tracks from their album were in the set - the title track The End Of The Rain, and Sweet Life. I keep meaning to try and see some of the Probe Plus acts playing their own gigs. Not much success to report so far, having missed Roja in Leeds just after they played with HMHB at Leamington the other week.
I had always thought that the bands' room at this venue was up on the top floor, so was caught by surprise when HMHB walked on from the side of the stage. They came on to some (obviously) film music that no one recognised. Nigel informed all that it was by Morricone, from A Fistful Of Dynamite. One of Geoff's ideas, apparently. Not one that I know. Starring Clint Eastwood, I would guess. "In theplay-offs, are we?" asked Nigel rather optimistically, in answer to some Tranmere talk. And when asked about the recent sacking of their manager for betting "irregularities", Nigel answered "Stupidly, he wasn't betting on Tranmere to lose." Nigel repeated his thought that Grayson Perry would be their next manager. Katie Perry, and Bill Perry "the forgotten man of the Matthews cup final" (even though he scored the winning goal) also got a mention. The final line in Lock Up Your Mountain Bikes was "that's when I first said that Arthur Strong on telly just won't work." Frank Worthington was spotted in the crowd. Apparently the band called in at Birch Services, and we were teased with the question "Who did I see at 1.30 there? Someone who is my age and really funny. You'll never guess." Despite many attempts, Nigel was right. No one did guess the name. It was Duncan Bruce, who was at school with him. Nigel hadn't seen him for years. Someone had texted Nigel to say that he looked like he was going to a funeral, black shirt and all. So cue funeral joke. He went to a service for a local traffic-warden. As they were lowering the coffin, there was a banging from inside, and a voice shouting "I'm not dead yet!" To which the vicar replied "I'm sorry but all the paperwork has been completed." There was an extract from the Pointless theme. There were a couple of new lines to Paintball... "Elbow, Coldplay, Snow Patrol" (ad infinitum) and "They'll be football experts all through June" (followed by something about Pete Briquette). I've included "You're So Beige" in the set list. Nigel often plays bits from new songs. As once before, this was quite a big bit. And I'm still guessing at the title of the song. Rhyming "Beige" with "Standard Liege" is a work of genius. Nigel responded to a shout of "Giz a crisp!" by literally handing over a crisp. "I need them for medicinal purposes." The jokes were flying thick and fast. There was the one about settling the argument about who had a hit with Tiger Feet. Mud or Sweet? You say it was Mud? That's right, that's right, that's right, that's right. And also we had the one about the cinema manager dying. His funeral is next Tuesday at 2.30, 5.00 and 7.30. Nigel noted that there was a guy from Wallasey playing Neil Robertson in the World Snooker championship. And when the band came back for the encore, Nigel had changed into a Radio Birdman t-shirt. They also played the original "dance, dance, dance" Joy Division song. Hallelujah.
Here is how it all went.Bob Wilson Anchorman
And in the encoreTommy Walsh's Eco House
Tremendous to meet my friends Karl and Katherine, who was at her first HMHB gig since many years ago when they used to play at Fibbers in York. Also good luck to Karen who said that she can now start getting to more of these shows not that she is divorced. And I'm sorry I didn't catch the name of the guy with the No Regrets 12" single, who we bumped into near the door at The Bridge. He was a bit wide-eyed after finally getting to speak with Nigel. Here's hoping that some or all of you can get to the Blackburn gig. And congratulations to whoever decided to stock Golden Pippin at the pub. An inspired choice.