First of all there is some unfinished business from April's gig in Holmfirth. HMHB had revisited Paintball's Coming Home, which on this occasion included the line "Elbow, Coldplay, Snow Patrol" (four times). When we were on a train to Hull (calling at Selby and Brough, also at South Milford on the way back), I mentioned this to my mate Mark, who often acts as a research consultant for these reviews. He surprised me with his response: "Snow Patrol once supported HMHB, didn't they?" Memory like a sieve, I didn't have a clue. Surely not true? Mark keeps a written record of every gig he has ever attended, and later he checked his files and confirmed the details. It was Monday 20 March 2000 at The Duchess in Leeds. The Duchess was one of the finest venues there has ever been in Leeds. Nirvana and Oasis played there in their respective early days, and it was a regular stop-off for HMHB through the 1990s. But these things inevitably come to an end. A Monday in itself is an unusual night for HMHB to play, but it was part of the final week's programme, which (again, subject to appalling memory) included Status Quo. The place is a Hugo Boss shop now. Yeah, great.
Onto the here and now. The train timetable suggested a bit of a trek, so I went for Option B and drove for the second gig on the trot. M62, M66 and M65. All delightful stuff in the Bank Holiday downpour. I met up with Tony at the designated hour at the "central" Premier Inn, and he very kindly drove us into town. It was a trawl round, looking for a car park, but we eventually found one near the Barbara Castle Health Centre. (I went to the same junior school as Barbara Castle, don't you know. Not at the same time, I hasten to add.) Food outlets seemed equally difficult to locate, until The Chippery appeared before us. In we went, and found ourselves at the next table to Carl, Ken and Geoff. The pre-gig tension was, well, I'm sure it was there somewhere, if not particularly on the surface. Carl took a picture of me and Tony. Isn't it supposed to be fans who take pictures of the band rather than the other way round? Or am I getting that wrong?
To the venue. To my mind, King George's Hall should have an apostrophe. It appears on some of their documents, but not on others. Somebody, somewhere will have written to the local paper on the subject. It's all very civilised there. Toilet attendants and all that. At the end of the night, one of them was worried about the likelihood of flooding, as the automatic flushing of one of the urinals was not switching off properly. You need to know about these things.
I believe they use the word "suite" to describe this kind of space at town halls. The sort of room where you can imagine the Mayor of Trumpton addressing the great and the good concerning the maintenance of the bandstand. The wide stage and the plentiful open space maybe explains the relatively sedate mosh pit. There was a retro disco in the next room. I noted The Jam's A Bomb In Wardour Street and Prefab Sprout's King Of Rock And Roll. And Karen won the Tshirt of the evening award with her Let Them Eat Bogshed number. I made a mental note to stick that disc on the turntable. Maybe when I've finished this...
JD Meatyard were supporting tonight. Stephen the guitarist was back in the fold, following his appearance with Sonnenberg at Holmfirth. But it was not the usual drummer. Transport problems from Holland? So a replacement was drafted in. It's all loan deals these days, isn't it? As usual, their set mainly featured songs from the excellent CD Northern Songs, but the equally excellent Lies Lies And Government was also in there. John the singer said he had planned to namecheck Nigel Blackwell in Standing On The Shoulders, "but he would have just laughed at me". John also had to deal with a bizarre heckle. This guy went to the front with his hand in the air and said "Excuse me, I bought a ticket for a man who was funnier than you, and with a better beard." I'm not quite sure what point he was trying to make, but he was escorted away soon enough. John, the old stalwart, soldiered on regardless, telling us how back in the day, he saw David Bowie in this very same room. And he was very pleased at the end of the set to hear that Atletico were beating Real in the Champions League final. However I can only guess how he felt about how the rest of the match went.
HMHB strolled on stage. Nigel came up to me with a CD in his hand. A free gift? Well, actually it was a recording of Magic Trumpet by Herb Alpert. Nigel had wanted this to be the "walk on" music, but the people in charge couldn't play it. Couldn't or wouldn't? The usual caveat on these notes. It wasn't always easy to hear what Nigel was saying from where I was standing. Early on there was something about hair cuts for example. Couldn't pick up any details. Bad Losers was introduced as a true story (with a sly point in the direction of Neil). Someone shouted "Super White Army" (a Tranmere reference). Nigel replied that there was one word too many. They need to drop the "Super". But he also mentioned a younger bloke who goes to the matches. They managed to persuade him that the chant was actually "Super White Barmcakes." 1966 And All That was said to be about when stab victims get to meet the person who has stabbed them, and have coffee with them. But the coffee is shit. During this song, I noticed that he sang "green anorak", whereas I'm sure that on the record the anorak is brown. Ken was the first man in Wallasey to own a toposcope. And there was talk of the guy from Homes Under The Hammer looking like he holds a magnet in his hands, meaning that they look like they are stuck together. Nigel spotted a bloke that he knew. "Still jet-washing wheely bins?" he asked. We were all made aware that toilets flush in E Minor. Someone shouted from the crowd that they had been to the same school as Nigel, starting in 1998. "1998? A sobering thought," he replied.
One of the songs was about finding a picture of Lord Gordon (or was it Gorton?) in his underpants in your wardrobe. Someone will have to explain that one to me. After Bob Wilson Anchorman, Nigel said "Get well soon." Nice touch. If I could write faster I could have noted more of the lyrics for the new song possibly called You're So Beige. I was impressed enough with "Outrageous rumour is my sport". There was a helpful shout from the crowd as Nigel took a swig. "Buy your water in twelve packs! It's cheaper!" Another potential lyric from him: "He's fat, he's round, he thinks he's Ezra Pound." One punter had to leave early, presumably getting the bus or train home. He came to the front of the stage and shook hands with Nigel as he said Goodbye. I wonder if you get that kind of thing when Snow Patrol play? Fix It So She Thinks Of Me is based on Ibsen's Hedda Gabler. A pair of Joy Division oven gloves were shown to Nigel. "Do you use them, though?" he asked. And there was a follow-up question. "How long do you need to pre-heat an oven for?" Nigel was constantly battling with amp problems. The lead didn't seem to be plugging in properly. In Twenty-Four Hour Garage People, the crisps were sour cream and onion. "There's no such flavour as sour cream and chives." They were priced at a disgusting £2.71. "Are you collecting school vouchers?" is a question from the employee that I can't remember being asked at other performances of this song. A minibus full of members of the Ramblers Association pulls up to join the queue. This includes Lost Oliver, the town eccentric. So eccentric that he would be the best card to have in a Top Trumps eccentrics set. When the employee starts to get annoyed, we were told "Down goes the Mine Craft" along with the headphones where you can hear Tygers Of Pang Tang. He has the kind of face that munched a thousand chips. And there is a song that can be heard: "Once upon a time I knew girls by their names. Now I know the weight of McCoys."
When the band came back for the encore, we were given Nigel's tip for the World Cup. It's Japan each way at 200/1. I'm not sure what qualifies as each way. Getting to the final? Getting to the semi-final? That may need investigation. At the beginning of The Light At The End Of TheTunnel we nearly got the opening to Twenty Four Hour Garage People again. The King Of Hi Vis sneaked onto stage to grab a set list. Hopefully it read something like this.Fuckin' 'Ell It's Fred Titmus
And the encore wasHolidays In Cambodia
That looks like it for the summer. Looks like we all meet again in Bilston. Unless I find a better band in the meantime. We'll see.