Let's start off with Errors And Omissions. Thanks to Daz for pointing out that I should have included Benny Hill in my list of celebrities with a link to Southampton (see previous review). How could I have overlooked that? And by the way, If Pink Floyd warrant a set of stamps for their 50th anniversary, can we assume that there will be a similar acknowledgement of HMHB's achievements somewhere around the mid 2030s?
I noted the HMHB entry in the Guinness Who's Who Of Indie And New Wave (published 1995). The book was loaned by my neighbour, in return for me letting him use my lawnmower. It works like that round here. He also gave me a bottle of Corona. I took that to be not part of the loan deal and slugged the lot. In the book, HMHB were described as a "five-piece scally outfit". I really thought that the keyboards had gone by the time of Some Call It Godcore, which may or may not have been before 1995. If only I could be bothered to check.
Only four weeks (near enough) since the Cardiff show. Karen and I kept ourselves busy. We saw The Nightingales play the last date of their tour, in Newcastle. A band with a few miles on the clock, but playing as well as they ever have. Sounds familiar? They were supported by a local act called Quarterlight. All interesting stuff, and we were particularly heartened during the gap between the two bands when the DJ delved into the HMHB back catalogue and stuck on You're Hard. Our sit-down dancing was as embarrassing as it was enthused. I was also pleased to note Totally Wired and Spanish Stroll on his playlist. Could be worth asking the question if you need a DJ for a funeral, wedding or such like in the Newcastle area?
The only thing wrong with that night was the clash with a show by Half Arsed Half Biscuit. Hopefully their gig in Limerick was not just a one off, and I would like to think that someone was there with a notepad. With enough notice, and perhaps somewhere on a bus route, I would fancy my chances of getting to see them sometime. I don't normally go big on tribute acts (if a "Rock Covers Band" is playing, then I generally head in the opposite direction), but there are always exceptions. Black Market Clash, The Smyths, The Sisters Of Murphy for example. And here is another one that are certainly on my radar.
There was, it must be said, a bit of a stir over Peter Ross's article in The Big Issue. The magazine came out on the Bank Holiday Monday when we were making our way back from the Nightingales show. There is usually a seller near Wakefield Cathedral. But they were nowhere to be seen. Similarly outside Marks And Spencer in Pontefract. Nothing. Fortunately Karen was successful in Nottz. Grand stuff from Peter. This was a fine piece. See, that's what you get from a proper writer. Tough luck if you missed it. And good luck to Peter. I'm sure he said he had an appointment with Nicola Sturgeon lined up. I wonder if she's ever been to a Biscuit gig. And did he ask her what her favourite HMHB song is, I wonder? The article was also raised by Nigel at the Cambridge gig. "You're a retired doctor!" he said, pointing at John. And "You're 67!" as he turned to point at Tony. "I also know your surname," he said, before adding that he would be going on Facebook to investigate the Birmingham Morris Dancing scene and maybe stalking Tony in the process.
In true life-imitating-art style, Karen and I were even able to take in a Waterstones book launch. At their Deansgate, Manchester store. Didn't see no crepes. But there was an abundance of Chomsky. He wasn't hidden in a particular genre. He just had a section all to himself.
There were one or two media spots, apart from the Big Issue thing. It appears that when guesting on the Graham Norton Show on Radio 2, Ross Noble requested an airing of Tending The Wrong Grave. And I also understand that the guys doing the Half Man Half Bike Kit tour appeared on You And Yours. Fans of HMHB support acts may also have spotted Roja appearing on BBC4's UK's Best Part-Time Band.
We all seemed to be taking different routes as we converged on Cambridge. I was on the train from Wakefield, changing at Stevenage. I spotted a monk on the train. It's quite some while since I saw one in person. I assume it was a deliberate plan of his to book in the Quiet Coach. There was a delay (broken rail near Hitchin) which led to half of the trains running from Leeds to Kings Cross being cancelled. More importantly, the delay caused me to have to run round Stevenage station at the kind of pace that I am not used to these days, in order to get on the train to Cambridge. Karen's journey took her through Ely. She described the toilets there as "the poshest/cleanest I've ever seen on the rail network". Envy of the Fens? She suggested that the floor was so clean that you could have eaten your dinner off it. Maybe that is a discussion for another day. Meanwhile, as Tony was on the train out of Birmingham, they passed St Andrews. He was asked if that was the Villa ground? Not quite, but they will both be in the Championship next year. There, the similarity ends.
On meeting, Karen and I were less than adventurous with our choice for lunch. We were staying at the Travelodge next to the venue. Across the plaza/boulevard/thing is a Nandos. We are becoming regulars. Spicy Olives starter and No Bones Shared Platter (with rice, corn, coleslaw and minted peas sides). It filled a gap. And we noticed that the ice dispenser near the drinks machine wasn't working. So we started singing the "No dry ice / No dry ice" line from Running Order Squabble Fest. Honestly, we are absolutely hilarious. Rather than going for desserts, our ice cream choice was a Magnum each from Sainsburys. The Double Peanut Butter flavour was a new one on me. Yum.
Later, keen to secure a place down at the front, we were not tardy in joining the queue at the gig entrance. Beaten to the punch as usual, we were placed four and five. Failed to get in the medals again. We were soon joined by Tony and did not have to wait long for the doors to open, as advertised, at 7 o'clock. Gomez had sent his apologies, but others joined us. Howie, struggling with a knee injury, opted for a place at the front rather than in the mosh pit. Jay introduced his wife Emma. Daz was there, having had an evidently good afternoon of beer and sun. John said Hello and we exchanged thoughts about the Big Issue article (I liked his quote about it being great to be in a gang at the age of 58.) Andrew was sorry to have missed the Southampton and Cardiff shows but was happy to be back in the fold. Lee seems to have ditched the Denis Bell / Torquay United persona. This has been replaced with a Borussia Moenchengladbach top, a Warden Hodges helmet and a wig (presumably supposed to be a mullet?) For me, you can wear what you want at these shows, but I think that last feature needs working on. And it was great to meet up with my old school pal Richard, who now lives down Cambridge way. Admittedly it was only a week since we had met in Pontefract for a Thai meal, so there wasn't that much catching up to be done.
I had a chat with Miles who was in charge of merchandise sales, in the absence of Geoff. Of course I was really just sniffing around, trying to find out if anything was likely to be filling in the forthcoming lack of fixture action. At the time of writing, there is far too long to wait to the next scheduled gig (Bilston, February 2017). Near enough eight months. Unfortunately Miles was unable to confirm anything definite to fill in that gap.
A new-look Sonnenberg were the support. There was Zinney on guitar/vocals and Saul on tablas, as usual. But this time they also featured a cellist and a backing vocalist. Zinney explained that they are the "softer" side of the (Probe Plus) label. They launched (if that is what they do) into The End Of The Rain and other songs may have been called New Morning and We Don't Want Another War. Zinney advised us to "Always stay positive, even though the world is bad." That is sound advice, but is easier said than done. And I would have been a lot more positive if they had played Sweet Life, which appears to have been dropped from their set.
In the interval, a guy came up to me and introduced himself as John Anderson. I always like to know who I am talking to, and quickly established the presence of the "h" in his first name. So, not the Yes vocalist. John Anderson, not Jon Anderson goes back a long way with HMHB but doesn't catch them as much these days. I hope he can get to one of these evenings again soon.
In theory, HMHB were going to make their stage entrance to a Tchaikowsky composition. In reality, as Nigel agreed, "It didn't happen. I would have walked on to Frankie Teardrop by Suicide."
Tony was soon punching the air, as his prediction for HMHB's opening song (Shit Arm Bad Tattoo) was played. Neil's request to turn off one of the stage lights made note-taking more difficult than it otherwise would have been. Most of the time I couldn't read what I was writing, but I suppose that is nothing new.
Karen and I had been reading The Cambridge News in the afternoon. Nigel had obviously bought the same paper, judging by some of his comments through the evening. He referred to The May Bumps rowing competition, and was very pleased with himself for being able to pronounce Caius correctly.
He also mentioned a Cambridge resident who was turning 100 as featured in the paper. Later on he came to a feature where Cambridge United were looking for applicants to be their mascot, Marvin The Moose. As well as pondering the reasons why the previous Marvin lost the job, Nigel asked if anyone in the audience would be applying. He said that Tranmere's mascot is a man dressed as a syringe. "Syringey."
The final Cambridge News reference covered the village of Hinxton whose residents are suffering the "nightmare" of having lorries being directed by GPS through the village. Nigel commented that it was a good thing that they didn't have guns at home.
There was one other thing in the paper that he might, or might not, have noticed. Tonight's gig was in the Listings section. As it didn't qualify specifically as Folk/Country, Jazz or Classical, it was lumped in with everything else in the "Other Music" section.
During a break for tuning-up, Nigel nodded towards Ken. "Collects Lladro," he said, "just like Mark Lawrenson does. I think this is cover for something else." I lost the thread of the conversation after that, but somehow it got round to Mark possibly also having a collection of small shoes.
The not-very-often-played Dickie Davies Eyes went down well, with an interesting segway into He Who Would Valium Take. You could hardly see the join. There was a shout for Vatican Broadside, to which Nigel responded that Frank Turner does it better, although it did appear in the set later on. Avram Grant was spotted in the audience. Tony asked what about Russell Grant, and suggested that they might meet at Grantfest at Grantchester. To which Nigel replied that this was getting a bit Rupert Brooke. "And is there still heroin for tea?"
There was the usual swapping of instruments with Ken playing bass and Neil playing guitar on Bane Of Constance, as well as 27 Yards Of Dental Floss ("That was for Mrs Jay"), which followed. With Neil being on my side of the stage for those two songs, I was able to take a closer look at his X Ray Spex Germ Free Adolescents t-shirt.
We were told that Bauke Mollema is 20/1 for a podium finish in the Tour De France.
After Restless Legs, Nigel was asked if he has any pets. He replied to this by recalling his own national shite day. This was Saturday 22 August 2015 when his dog died that morning. To console himself, he went to watch "The Rovers" (I think that's the first time I've heard him call them that) in the afternoon. But they lost to Boreham Wood. So he took himself off for a walk in the evening. But when he was half way round, it started raining with one of the worst rainstorms that he remembers. As a footnote, he added that he also had a pet chameleon, but that died of exhaustion after trying to get across a tartan rug. There was a lively moshpit for most of the gig, but it was particularly active during Trumpton Riots. Security moved in to have a look, but did not need to take action. However he did succeed in blocking Karen's view for a short while.
In tonight's version of "Dean Friedman", Bette Midler had a puma. Nigel was told afterwards that a puma is as dangerous as a tumour. Nigel started talking about The Surrey Puma. He suggested that his heckler should go and find it. There was a shout for "Ted Moult". Nigel played the first few notes.
When the band came back on stage for the encore, there was a shout of "I love you, Nigel" to which he replied "Straight back at you." Nigel said it was hot on stage and we should spare a thought for Carl before they played New Rose.
The list of songs wasShit Arm Bad Tattoo
And three in the encoreNew Rose
Afterwards I talked briefly with Peter. Born in Ely, he is particularly impressed when they play "Chatteris".
None of us were totally sure about pub closures in the vicinity, having previously experienced early (11 o'clock} closure at The Flying Pig. So the Travelodge bar felt like the best option for Tony, Andrew, Karen, Mariana, Ian and me. I had my first ever bottle of Stella Artois Cidre. Thanks to all of them for technical assistance with all of this. Everyone was happy with such an excellent show, but were a bit glum at the thought of having to possibly wait for so long for the next one in Bilston. Let's hope for some news over the summer. In the meantime I'm left in agreement with the guy whose quote brought Peter's article to a close. "If there's a better night to be had, tell me about it and I'll do that instead."