Just a few scribbles of stuff that I noted since the last gig. It's 30+ years since my interest in The Fall peaked and started to dwindle. However, I still drop in to see them every now and again. Karen and I caught them in York the day after the HMHB show in Newcastle. I am pleased to report that they remain as inaccessible as ever. I was a completist until about 1987, so only know bits of their output since then. As such, I couldn't tell a word that was coming from MES's microphone, didn't know any of the songs, could not remember how any of them went, but nevertheless it was all grand stuff, mainly because of Smith's stage wandering. Dabbling with the keyboards here, turning the guitar down there, and bashing away at the cymbals. Marvellous all round. They/(he) remain(s) in the See Again file.
Another performer of a certain pedigree is John Otway. We saw him in Howden (as close as anywhere gets to a twin with Trumpton. They even have their own fire station.). He is keen to point out that he has had two hit singles and jolly well plays them both. We also have him in the See Again file. And the venue (Shire Hall) may also be in the Visit Again file. The kind of place that would suit the smaller-scale HMHB show. We'll see.
You see some sights around and about. I gave a knowing smile to myself, when one of the IT guys at work turned up in a Slipknot t-shirt. I put out a message to hastily assemble a choir to sing him a little song. Not enough notice, no one could get there in time, and I'm afraid the moment was lost. Did anyone else catch the appearance of Brian Eno on BBC News Channel's Hard Talk? He was asked about producing David Bowie's music. "I didn't actually produce his music, but I did collaborate with him," was the reply. I chuckled. Just me? I thought so.
Someone else to see again is Fuzzbox. I've only seen them live once before, on the Vindaloo tour in the late eighties with The Nightingales and Ted Chippington, prior to their assault on the charts. Two of the original four are giving it another go. We caught them in Sheffield, at the bottom of a three-band bill. They have a new single out, and we will keep an eye on developments. Less likely to do so with the other two bands who were playing: Bentley Rhythm Ace (I'm afraid we were simply not mad for it) and The Wonder Stuff (typed out set lists).
I only live about twenty miles from Leeds, but feel more and more like a tourist whenever I go there. Passing on the offer of £98 for a pair of shades, I took a ride on the Leeds Eye. That gave a splendid view of the rooftops of the city centre, and provides the closest view I will ever have of the town hall clock. Karen was well impressed by the tiled walls of the library, and I was glad to see Jumbo Records still doing brisk trade (although not from us). However, they need to check their spelling on their gigs board. "Half Man Half Buiscuit"? We were also spectators at a game of giant chess outside the library. Ironic, considering HMHB's opening song later on.
Plenty of afternoon drinking casualties in evidence as we made our way to the University. I don't think everyone was going to make it to the clubbing stage. My first ever gig at the University was in February 1984 (The Smiths/The Red Guitars - thanks to Mark from Pontefract for confirmation), but the many different routes into the place mean that I never fail to get lost whenever I go. True to form, Tony, Karen and I went backwards and forwards a couple of times before finding the Students Union entrance. Happy memories as we passed the Riley Smith Hall (HMHB played there once just after they re-formed).
We joined the appropriate queue (there was one for e-tickets and one for "proper" tickets) and met Jordan and Sally, Andrew, Nigel and Jo. When the doors opened we sped to our usual places. I grabbed a few words with Geoff and Zinny on the stall ("please can Sonnenberg play Sweet Life next time they play?") and copped a Stony Ground t-shirt for Karen. A few other folk turned up. Ed and Jay were around. John was handing out bubblewrap for us all to hold up, being a suggestion to the band for the encore. I think the suggestion, er, fell on stony ground on this occasion, but it's an idea to work on. Maybe another time, we can follow the same principle and try smuggling Ivan Mauger in. I was also able to compare notes with John on forthcoming John Shuttleworth and Danny Baker shows (so it's not just me that likes both of them.). Thanks also to Nigel/Exford for filling in a fair few of the gaps in my knowledge of Dukla Prague football club. These army teams, eh.
You're not allowed to be served a bottle of water with the top on. "Health and safety," was the explanation I was given. Surely I am more likely to spill water on the electronic equipment at the front of the stage if I do not have a top on my bottle. But I'm sure the venue has done full assessments. Do they perhaps expect attendees to throw bottle tops at the band? You would need a catapult to inflict much damage. I would have thought any risks involved were minimal compared with beer being thrown (as occurred) and some of the 'tired and emotional' behaviour that prevailed during the playing of All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit.
HMHB's label chums Roja were the support act. Britain's only mariachi band, according to Tony. They have changed their corporate clothing policy. Previously they always wore white shirts and trousers. Tonight they had a more wintry black. Their album Promises I Should Have Kept provided most of the set, but there was "a new single" in there. I hope to hear more from them soon. I managed to obtain a set list which read The End This Old Flame Company Don't Leave Me Snake Oil Yeah I... The Evil Stands High
I had a quick chat with Thorsten who had flown in from Germany for this show. Mark from Leeds said Hello. Howie and Daz also showed up. Daz had suffered a nine-hour coach journey caused by motorway closures. Howie had forged ahead with an epic pub crawl, not all of which I would have thought were en route to the venue. Grove, Hop, Tapped, North Bar, Templar, Foleys, Victoria, Veritas, Fenton. I'm really not sure I could have taken in a gig after all that. Not these days.
HMHB walked on stage to an Ennio Morricone tune, sung by Joan Baez. The most noticeable thing was Carl's t-shirt. "3743 BMTS" obviously means something. Googling exercise pointed towards Basic Military Training Squadrons and Baptist Missionary Training School. We weren't able to establish anything deeper than that. Maybe we'll have to leave it hanging there for the time being.
Nigel's first comment was "Eddie Howe has never yawned." I have known better sound at these shows. There wasn't as much interaction as normal, and even then I couldn't pick up much of what Nigel was saying. Nor could he hear me. I asked a couple of times if he was going to Sincil Bank the following day, to see Lincoln v Tranmere in the National League crunch match. But he heard Tony tell him that it was Beethoven's 246th birthday. Nigel said that they had some music in the van on the way to the gig. It just said "5th Symphony" on the label, and they didn't know who it was by.
Nigel wondered about how many times you have to watch It's A Wonderful Life before you start to take sides with Mr Potter, the bank guy. He also pondered over inappropriate gifts at Christmas. He bought Stations Of The Crass for an elderly aunt. Then he talked about glove puppets. He once got her a crude, hand-crafted Roy North glove puppet. Previously he had got her one of Roy Kinnear in his character as Gerry the janitor in George And Mildred.
I spotted some good miming of the gears by Nigel/Exford during A Lilac Harry Quinn. And there was a great deal of optimism from the guy behind me, who kept shouting for Sisters Of Mercy songs.
It was nice to hear Twenty-Four Hour Garage People get an outing. The crisps were £2.69 and the guy at the counter didn't say "please". The crisps were tossed into the metal tray device which separates them, "in more ways than one." The queue behind Nigel included a sponsored conga, and members of the Happy To Stand And Wait Society, every one of whom wanted a muffin. Lost Oliver was also in the queue, the man who can tell you his precise co-ordinates at any given moment. Oliver was there for some pre-sliced malt loaf, a street map of Bedford, and a bag of salad, washed and prepared to serve, "unlike you". The I-pad goes down. The employee has been watching Time Commanders, and has to pause The Battle Of Stamford Bridge. He knocks over his mug from Knebworth '78.
Jordan passed Nigel one of his loafers that he had bought recently. "They're surprisingly warm," said Nigel. "There's an interesting story behind this one, but I've forgotten it," he said immediately before For What Is Chatteris. More sound problems meant I didn't hear the whole of the line about Neil being the first man in Birkenhead to do something or other. To get in the festive mood, Nigel sang a bit of Sandy Gall's Coming To Town. Neil and Ken swapped instruments, as usual, for Bane Of Constance.
Great to say Hello to Driver Tony who was pushed in our direction by the mosh pit during Shit Arm Bad Tattoo. It took some time coming, but eventually there was a shout of "What Did God Give Us, Neil?" Neil gave us a bit of the opening bass line of Transmission.
Nigel said Dukla Prague Away Kit was about ringing up a late night radio phone-in and saying "Fuck off to anyone who knows me." I'm Throwing Rice At The Girl I Love preceded Vatican Broadside. There was also a few chords from Deep Purple's Black Night.
HMHB played the following:Bad Losers On Yahoo Chess
And three in the encore:Baguette Dilemma For The Booker Prize Guy
Afterwards as we were all shuffling out, we also had a chat with Katharine and Karl, Ian, and Graham and Sarah. I do feel a sense of community at these gatherings. I hope that continues in 2017. Having just discussed with Karen, we think Holmfirth saw the best show of 2016, but we're open to persuasion. They are all great nights out, and the four arranged for next year are in the diary. I had had a stinking cold all week and was not up to stopping out. I was still suffering when we saw Driver Tony at Leeds station on the Saturday morning. He gave his apologies for the Coventry show, but said he would be at Bilston. We intend to be at both.