The Picturedrome, Holmfirth, Thu 21st Spetember 2006 (27/09/06)

John Marshall:

I was sitting in a bar in Magaluf on a lad's weekend away when I received a text from my mum reading "Phone Home Urgently". Fearing something serious had happened back home I made a fairly expensive call to my elderly mother, only to have her tell me "Half Man Half Biscuit are playing Holmfirth, do you want me to get you a ticket ?"

Luckily I already had a ticket, courtesy of my mate Martyn who had sent me a similar text some months earlier, and who had never seen the Biccies before, but had heard me raving about them so much he wanted to se what the fuss was about.

The fact that the band were playing Holmfirth, which is the next village to where I live, was a rare treat, and meant that for a change I would not have to utilise a series of iffy public transport, and get home two or three hours after the last song.

With the added luxury of a lift off Martyn I arrived in Holmfirth at a quarter to eight and saw the familiar sight of the t-shirted faithful milling around outside, although I only spotted a couple of Dukla-Prague's.

Martyn and I popped into the Bridge pub for a swift pre gig pint, and I bored him senseless with tales about what I had seen at previous gigs, then we wandered over to the Picturedrome.

The venue itself is an old Victorian picture house, in which my Grandma apparently plied her trade as an usherette sometime between the wars. Although I had passed by on countless occasions I had never been inside, so it was with some surprise that upon entering I realised that it was smaller than I expected, and also had seats !

I don't know what else I was expecting in a cinema, but it is certainly the first time I have seen seats at a biccie's gig.

The venue is probably the second smallest venue I have seen the band at, only Fibbers at York was smaller.

I had high hopes that the intimacy would make for a great gig, the stage was raised, but not too high, and there was a more than adequate space between the stage and the beginning of the seats.

The support band were playing when we arrived, I kid you not "The Sisters Of Murphy", they were actually okay, but they were a lookalikey as well as soundalikey tribute band, unfortunately the guitarist looked like a cross between "Cousin It" from the Addams Family and Joey Ramone, and the singer put me in mind of Sylvester McCoy as Dr Who. The Bassist ironically enough looked very much like Andrew Eldritch, but was pushed to the back. The female singer was the biggest disappointment, she was very attractive, but bear in mind she was singing in a Goth tribute band, she was wearing a smart trouser suit and almost no make up !, come on you're supposed to be a Goth chick, how hard is it to put on a PVC skirt and fishnets, and would it have killed her to backcomb and slap on a bit of eyeliner !

Although she probably didn't see much point in getting dressed up, as the smoke machine was set to "Wembley Stadium" output, and most of the time she was invisible behind a cloud of dry ice in what was almost a "Spinal Tap" scenario.

Anyway despite this they were actually very good, and I found myself tapping my feet to "This Corrosion" and a few other ditties I had forgotten existed.

Once they had vacated the stage I made my way to the front to take up my position for the main event, out of respect to Martyn I did not venture into the area that had defined itself as what would be the moshpit. Instead I stood one row back from the stage, in front of Ken's guitar.

Whilst watching Ken and Neil tune up etc. I was approached by a chap who reminded me of a slightly chubbier, hairier Jim Dale ( of Carry On fame - but you knew that ), he slapped me on the back and said "It's gonna be great, where have you come from?"

I told him just up the road, and he replied he had come from Rotherham, he introduced himself as "Dave the Postman", and told me that he was the chap who shouts out "What Did God Give Us ?" at gigs. Had he told me this a few gigs earlier I would have punched his lights out, but recently I had come to accept him as part of the fixtures and fittings, so I shook his hand and told him it was nice to meet him. Having discussed mutual favourite gigs we parted as friends, and he wandered off in search of more beer ( something he did most of the night - bless him )

Then the Biccies came onstage to rapturous applause, and that's when it all went downhill...

The sound quality was shite.

The sound on Nigel's mike was far too loud, and basically everything was far too loud throughout the gig, the words were distorted and the guitars drowned each other out on the "pacier" numbers.

This was picked up on very early on by Nigel, but despite constant twiddling from the mixing desk was never resolved.

I am no expert, but I cannot think of any other gig where the mixing desk was on stage and behind the band ?, I appreciate that this may have been due to space limitations or fire regs, but it didn't seem to help at all.

It was more irksome that the Sisters of Murphy sounded fine by comparison.

I am no wilting wallflower either, I am normally right up the front, as indeed I was at Sheffield in May, but at Holmfirth the sound actually hurt my ears.

Grumbles about the sound aside, the band were fantastic, and my earlier hopes about the intimacy of the venue proved right, there was loads of banter between Nigel and the audience, sadly most of unintelligible due to the sound quality, but nevertheless Nigel, Ken and Neil all had one on one chats with the audience between songs, crouching down and chatting individually to people. This is something I haven't seen in ages, and presumably demonstrated how relaxed they were.

There was also Asparagus thrown on stage, which Nigel found very amusing, and of course "Dave the Postman" was in fine voice, his cries eliciting a number of verbal responses from Nigel and Neil, again sadly unintelligible.

Song wise the set was pretty much standard fare and similar to the Wolverhampton setlist, all the usual gig faves, but due to a jam packed two hour set I struggle to remember exactly which, although "Joy Division Oven Gloves, and "Tending The Wrong Grave" were particular faves, "Capel Curig" was much missed though.

The standout song of the night had to be "Twenty Four Hour Garage People", this has always been the highlight of any live gig, but has recently become something of a set piece. This was taken one step further by Nigel producing a stereo on which the tunes of the attendants I-Pod Shuffle are played to the audience, they were ( from memory ) "Holdin out for a hero", "More than a feelin", "Love isn't always on time", "Cold as Ice" and "Gimme all your lovin".

This went down fantastically well, and I was almost in tears of laughter as Nigel rocked-out with his guitar in the manner of "Slash" from Guns and Roses.

The usual encore over, the fans slowly made their way out, Dave the "What Did God Give Us" Postman returned fresh from crippling people in the moshpit with his drunken pogoing and put his hands on my shoulders "FUCKING QUALITY MAN, FUCKING QUALITY"

I had to agree with him, but felt that if the sound had been okay I would have just seen the best gig ever.

The Biccies need to come back to Holmfirth, my mate was certainly impressed, "they should be bigger, they are funnier than Peter Kay" he said.

As I left the exit I saw the bouncer look at his mate and shake his head, "They just keep coming, fuck knows how many there are"

Great news for the Biccies, perhaps not so great news for the Fire Marshalls.