Isn't there something about London buses? You wait half a year for one, and then two come along in the space of a week. At least that's how it goes with HMHB gigs. But I don't particularly have a problem with that. I took the unusual option of the afternoon drive to Bury St Edmunds, rather than the train. It made more logistical sense, A1 and A14, that kind of thing, picking Karen up on the way.
Neither of us are regular frequenters of this part of the country. We took the opportunity to call in at Chatteris. No particular reason, yeah right. Pleasantries were exchanged with a local who very kindly took a picture of us in Jubilee Gardens. We took tea and cake at The Old Bakery Tea Room And Restaurant. All very civilised. Not totally what we might have expected, having had our path blocked by some aggressive driving when trying to reverse into a space in the town. But you can't have everything. There may also be an education issue that needs dealing with. Karen managed to sneak a photo at a shop where they were selling "stationary" with an "a". We were pleased to see that Chatteris is the Anglia In Bloom Gold Award winner. They are having a Midsummer Festival later in June. Presumably HMHB have put themselves forward to appear. We were slightly concerned to be missing Pie Night at the Cross Keys. We wondered what they might play. And on the way out of town we noticed the presence of Vermuyden's Drain, named after a Dutchman who came over to England many centuries ago, to sort out the flooding problem and, in his spare time, you would like to think that he introduced korfball to the locals. When we arrived in Bury St Edmunds, Karen went off on a reconnaissance mission, locating The Nutshell ("Britain's smallest pub") and the venue. While at The Apex, HMHB were doing the soundcheck. She heard three songs coming from inside:A Lilac Harry Quinn
There was also a snippet of 1966 And All That.
Meanwhile I was undertaking a review of the previews. The brochure "Summer At The Apex", while reminding us that we had missed An Audience With Douglas Hurd, featured a Cut And Paste note about HMHB, from a press release or something similar that must be doing the rounds. "Witty and dry, sardonic yet never cynical. Grab your Joy Division oven gloves and don your Dukla Prague away kit as The Biscuit are coming to town." The Eastern Daily Press were very similar with their wording. "Witty and dry, sardonic yet never cynical, melodically infectious yet edgy singalong songs."
So we made our way. We spotted the blue plaque outside The Angel, claiming that Charles Dickens had stopped there , back in the day. I bet it was nothing to do with his literary efforts. More likely he was on his way to a weekender with his mates in Yarmouth. Apparently the town also lays claim to Bob Hoskins. We walked past The Nutshell (it was full, as I would imagine it always is) and headed straight for the crush barrier at The Apex, pausing only for an update from Geoff at the merch stall. There's nothing definite for the diary, apart from gigs that are already in the public domain. Good to catch up with Tony, Howie, Daz, The King Of Hi Vis, Denis Bell and Jay. There was much discussion about the knighthood for Lenny Henry ("for services to charity and comedy" apparently). Sadly, You're Hard was not performed tonight.
JD Meatyard were supporting. John the singer commented on the state of The Apex, "Great venue. You must have a good local council. Tories?" JDM have a new album Taking The Asylum and featured a few songs from there. I recognised the one about New York as well as Love Songs And Rage. And I suppose stuff like Standing On The Shoulders now qualify as oldies. Northern Song definitely does. "God bless John Peel" announced John before singing that one. And there was a cheer for John's appreciation of Probe Plus - "the one truly independent record label." There was similar agreement for his thoughts on bailiffs, graphic designers and Rupert Murdoch. "I'm such a populist," announced John. I will continue to look out for when JD Meatyard are headlining here,there or anywhere. But West Yorkshire would be good.
HMHB's walk-on music had us all scratching our heads again. Except for Daz who recognised it as being from The Wicker Man. Planned, you would guess, because of Christoper Lee's death a couple of days previously.
Nigel warned of a biblical downpour after the gig. He knew this because he had seen the long term weather forecast on Countryfile. "It was on earlier than usual, because of the Canadian Grand Prix." The band had had a picnic on Cavenham Heath prior to the gig, after Nigel's refusal to go to the East Of England Tank Museum for complicated reasons, which were too complex for me to note.
"Anyone here from Fishguard? Anyone here from Kilmarnock?" asked Nigel, before turning to Ken and saying "I told you that one wouldn't work." Nigel told us all that he had bought a Book Of Garden Birds from the Cathedral shop. He then tested out the book in the garden at the back of the Cathedral. But he only saw pigeons and squirrels, so he went for his money back. He also said he does bird impressions. He took a swig of water. "Swallow," he announced. On the subject of birds, he also referred to some choughs that he had seen on the cliffs on Anglesey.
Neil and Ken swapped instruments for The Bane Of Constance. Nigel talked a bit about Ron Moody, an "under the radar death", because of his departure on the same day as Christopher Lee. Tony pointed out in the same way that Prokofiev died on the same day as Stalin. "Of course," replied Nigel "some people would say that Stalin never died," while pointing in Ken's direction.
As you might expect, a couple of song lines were amended during the evening. The "suburban Nick Drake" was mentioned in Evil Gazebo, and "all the requirements" were in place in Dukla Prague Away Kit. And "own van" was an additional must for the people advertising for a keyboard player in National Shite Day.
Nigel said that the dressing room had a TV screen where you could watch what was going on on stage. He asked them to put the kettle on in there. And he said there were lightbulbs round the mirror, just like in the old days. This prompted him to tell an old favourite. "How many A and R men does it take to change a lightbulb? Can I come back to you on that one?"
After Turned Up Clocked On Laid Off, Nigel said to me "That will be you after the gig. Walking through a storm and getting wet. You look like the kind of person who doesn't leave a coat in the cloakroom." He's right. Nigel said he had never done that either. He moved on to a tale about going to see The Dead Kennedys in Liverpool. It was so cold that he wore two jumpers. "I took a lot of stick for that, until we all got off the night bus."
Nigel had some posh crisps. "Great packaging. Shit eat." He was so unimpressed that he handed them to a guy in the crowd. Ken was the first man in Wallasey to have a whirly washing line. Ken did the Clash foot on monitor thing during Left Lyrics. Neil apologised for the loud noise when he plugged in his guitar for Adam Boyle. The King Of Hi Vis fired a line from The Wicker Man at Nigel, to which he responded "Broad beans in their natural state are not usually turquoise." He also gave us a line from How Green Is My Valley. Walter Pidgeon to Maureen O'Hara. "You shall be Queen wherever you walk."
The conversation inevitably moved on to luminous Frisbees. Possibly invented for Goths so that they could play with them in the dark. Nigel talked about having a fifty per cent share in a Frisbee with a mate from Northwich. When they lost touch with each other, it became clear to Nigel that the other guy still had possession of it. It clearly rankles, as Nigel came back to the issue later in the gig.
There was a shout for Louie Louie half way through the gig. And also one for Give My Love To Kevin. "I know eight Kevins," replied Nigel.
Yet again, as always, this is great stuff. The sound must have been a bit better tonight, as I could hear more of what Nigel was saying. Here is what they played:Stuck Up A Hornbeam
And there was a slightly crowded encore, including a cover of a Joy Division songPetty Sessions
We had to wait a few hours for the biblical downpour. That came on the Saturday morning. Karen and I were tucking into breakfast baguettes in the poshest Greggs I have ever seen (featuring leather seating). They had even had to do away with their usual blue shop front, presumably to blend in with the heritage of the town. Anyway, the rain started to pour through the ceiling tiles. Bit of a mopping up job in progress. And it was dangerously close to the lights and their fridges. You may have to refer to the Eastern Daily Press for an update. We were back in the car and up the A1 for the Long Division Festival in Wakefield. The Lovely Eggs were on tremendous form. Tuff Love and Kleine Schweine were OK too. After all, something has to fill in the gap before we head to The Leadmill.
A bit of a footnote. During the course of the gig, Nigel handed Tony a couple of spoof set lists. It didn't fool me. I made a note though. The first one comprised the following:Jump / Big Hands / Hello Muddah Hello Faddah / Non-Alignment Pact/ Yellow / I Trog / Louisiana 1927 / Playground Twist / Walter Walter Lead Me To The Altar / King Ink / Tam Lin / You Set The Scene / Cinnamon Stick / Crisp (new one about Crisp the brave horse) / Good Grief Christiana / Use It Up Wear It Out / Let's Go Gas Board, Punch Official / One Day At A Time / A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers / Bad Man / Idumea / Sweet Leaf / David Of The White Rock / 122 Hours Of Fear / You're Gonna Miss Me / Walking On Sunshine / The Bed / The Kids.
And the second one was as follows:Intro: Pommer (Pennies, Pennies) / Another Coke / Sunday Girl / Another Coke / Atomic / Sunday Girl / Good Grief Christina / Melody Lee / If It Wasn't For The 'Ouses In Between / Choc Stock / Multitude / Theme From Sale Of The Century (crossed out and replaced by How Soon Is Now) / Wanted/ John Barleycorn/ Shake Some Action / Margaret Freeman / Cold As Ice / The Only Way Is Up / Ben (Neil vocal, him better than I) / Crepescule For Nellie / Oops Upside Your Head / Heaven Is A Place On Earth / Burmese Land / Officer Krupsky / Nag Nag Nag / Maybe (Theme From Grizzly Adams) / Girls Girls Girls / Caucasion Guilt / He's Dead But He Won't Lie Down.
Or perhaps they are actual set lists for shows in the future. If so, I want to be there.