As those who follow my posts on the mailing list will have twigged by now, I am something of an embarrassing fan, with a tendency to rush at things.
So I was excited to be visiting the peak district for two reasons; primarily, of course, my second HMHB gig, but also my first visit to the legendary Holmfirth, home not only of the world's first film industry and a postcard museum but real life set for The Last of The Summer Wine. How impatiently I would be waiting for Sunday to come round during this Methuselah of a television programme's early years. I adored it's sly blend of life observation and BBC wonky slapstick. Compo was my hero.
So after a long drive in the golden late summer sunshine and a romp over the peak district in our gigging boots, punctuated by a meal of partridge in a baking hot pub garden, we arrived at the town. I made a tit of myself going Ooo a lot and squealing with delight at discovering all the familiar places: Compo's house complete with ferret cage, Sid's café with it's green gingham curtains, and the clear river that meanders around the town . I stood on Norah Batty's steps and shooed away some more tourists with an imaginary broom. I was in my element.
The evening was perfect; lolling outside The Bridge nursing a pint or three while the sun went down over the hills, spotting various fans wandering the streets in their assorted finery. Parked in front of us was the Birkenhead Van and Car Hire van and we exchanged smiles as the band unloaded. Shortly after we were treated to the sound check, sitting as we were at the side of the venue. I wrote down Sign on You Crazy Diamond. It was my first and last attempt at documenting the set list. I shall leave that to our more punctilious reviewers.
The venue is very small and it has to be said more run down than it should be. It is a treasure of a small old cinema with it's faded rococo décor, stripped bare in parts to accommodate a bar and a extremely sticky standing area at the front.
The support band, Sisters of Murphy were really good. They had what I consider to be the correct approach to the smoke machine; more is better. So for most of their set we just saw the outline of the band with the lights streaming around them. Very Tim Burton.
Just in the nick of time Nigel the mosh king arrived, complete with asparagus for presenting to Nigel with a request that they do "Asparagus Next Left" We agreed it would be a fine addition to the set. He had also tracked down a book by Bob Wilson on football terminology. Great stuff. Must get a copy, although I have already been educated in the meaning of "nutmeg"
And so it began. It rocked hard and it was very hot in the small hall. Tempers frayed a little in the mosh pit towards the end. I think the big guy was trying to twist the little guy's head off. The rest of the crowd was as good natured as I have come to expect and we shared banter amongst ourselves and with Nigel on stage. No oven gloves appeared for Joy Division Oven Gloves this time and the crowd repeatedly asked for Country Practice. It was my first experience of Dave the Postman; a testament to the value of persistence. Years of annoyance have turned to affection. He is now an institution.
It was a great shame that the sound was so bad that much of the banter was hard to make out. The vocals were outright distorted. Nigel was struggling with it, especially towards the end. The monitor engineer looked stressed.
Still we had a cracking time and a real treat as a new song has it's debut; "Blue Badge Offenders" That had the crowd hanging on his every word and I suspect will be added to as time goes by.
The encore cover was Status Quo's Caroline. Did they know that Simon was coming? My photo snapping other half is a fan; so he was having a ball, as were the front rows. Rock on!
The moshers wilted blissfully in the heat, the asparagus went down well, our Nigel got a ping pong ball as a present from the band, and joy of joys; we got the caravan shaped guitar. Simon, who knows such things, assures me it's not any old caravan but an Airstream, the classic 1950's American streamline design.
It was a long drive home to Oxford through the night and my Achtung Bono T shirt will never be the same again but it was worth every mile. Carlisle really will be a trip too far, although Edinburgh Paul shamed me by telling me he was down for the day....
Can't wait for Christmas and Shepherd's Bush.