Liquid Room, Edinburgh, Wed 1st October (12/10/08)

Mark Boyle:

The police delayed the emptying of the venue at the gig's close because it was believed an escapee from custody was hiding in the crowd - the supplementary rumour being they were on the run from Carstairs (Scotland's major institution for the criminally insane outside of an Old Firm derby). If true, one can only guess what was done to their mental state after being trapped in a room for 90 minutes with a thousand people bellowing out about sticking their heads in a bucketful of porridge and cheering to the news that a man with a mullet was going mad with a mallet in Millets.

Bad enough that it would have appeared they'd stumbled into the secret gig of one of those ad hoc bands self-important celebrities create when Scientology no longer does it for them. Let's face it, the name Half Man Biscuit's a dead giveaway. But when the celebs in question appear to be Lord Voldermort, Neville Longbottom, Charles Haughrey, and Joss Ackland, even someone whose idea of reality is Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds might start to think a room in rubber wallpaper has something going for it.

Amid problems with the set lists not staying at peace, the lads kicked off briskly with 'Joy Division Oven Gloves', 'Problem Chimp' and 'Restless Legs', but the crowd was noticeably most passive than last time - surely Biccies fans aren't getting that old and decrepit yet?

That said, you could rely on 'Blue Badge Abuser', 'Evil Gazebo' & the long overstayed its roster listing 'Look Dad No Tunes' to puncture things - the obsessives favourites, but no one else's. Comparing the muted response they got to the massive cheers the opening notes of 'Bad Losers On Yahoo Chess' 'We Built This Village' and 'National Shite Day' got, and it's hard to resist the notion that certain tracks are meant for gigs more than others.

The gig was subject to two happy events. Firstly, Geoff had some new T-Shirts stocked to cause fresh chaos, as people invariably collide into one another from double-checking the wording on them for too long as you pass them by. Merely traversing the concourse of Glasgow Central train station in an Achtung Bono T-shirt can swiftly result in a multiple passenger pile up between those returning from the HBOS call centre, Office Angels and Craigholme private school - which since I work for a Mutual, was state educated, and regard employment agencies as mercenary wankers, I consider an act worthy of Guevara saying, "Bugger me, wish I'd thought of that one first!".

The second was the depleted ranks of the gig twats. There's a general rule of thumb at HMHB gigs that if you see anyone that's fat with a ponytail and beard, they are invariably a Platinum Member of the HMHB Gig Twats Society (discounts available for members of the Campaign For Real Ale), and you should ensure you are as far away from them for your gigging enjoyment. There's an irony that having lampooned band over-obsessives all their lives, HMHB should themselves have a self-appointed 'hardcore' utterly beyond parody. Lord knows Nigel's tried.

As inevitable as the playing of 'The Trumpton Riots' is the twats going over-the-top to anything from the first album - regardless of tempo - in order to demonstate their 'fannishness', as if they'd washed their Dukla Prague home kits in new bio-formula Rabies ('foams & suds your clothes and mouth all in one') - in-between Nigel wearily saying "Yes, that's one of ours" ad infinitum ad nauseum in sarcastic but polite response to them calling out for obscure HMHB tracks all night.

There's a very good reason why these tracks are obscure. The Biccies hardly need the deftness of Desmond Morris in non-verbal communication to have deduced from experience when certain songs cause little starlight twinkles in the audience (from everyone looking at their watches) before they give the song's conclusion that most devastating of put-downs - polite applause - to know the song's a complete Dyson.

So the requests go unfulfilled except by withering sarcasm, as the twats inevitably know will happen. It's like watching some exhibitionist Dom-Sub roleplay, or one of those Christian Union public performance pieces on a Uni campus...hang on, that's the same thing... Either way, it's embarrassing to watch grown men doing.

Sorry not to see 'San Antonio Foam Party' appear - indeed a complete absence of anything from 'Cammell Laird Social Club' already - but overall an enjoyable night at a good pace. The one worrying aspect was the incredibly long time it took to clear the hall, 10 minutes. Police presence aside, when you've been reading about the infamous Cocoanut Grove fire the day before, you do start to worry as to whether The Liquid Room is really such a good place to be holding gigs in at all...