The Assembly, Leamington Spa, Thu 15th September 2011 (19/09/11)

Mike Cresswell:

I was provoked into writing a review by 'Arry Redknapp. I was minded to compose my periodic prose, but it was confirmed by Old Twitchy talking 'ow the game changed when Charlie Adams was sent off. There's no... well, you know the rest.

I like the Assembly Rooms. In part, because it ticks the proximity box for me. Just an hour's drive home; which is always nice. Plus, I can put a proper shift in at the office before clocking out. It is roomy, they serve a decent range of beers and lagers, the acoustics are not at all bad and there is ample room for the moshers to do their thing. Which is a good thing; because Beardy Man might have upset some of the congregation if space happened to be a bit tighter?

Nigel alluded to some of the finer points of the venue. The backstage area is cavernous (under the stage) and houses Tammy Wynette's touring caravan, a dodgem car and a life-size Dalek - amongst other things. It is very rock 'n' roll. As Nigel informed us, the caravan has a TV and it is very posh, like; watching it. The Dalek got behind the sofa when "The One Show" came on. The first of a number of quips from NB57.

As ever, it seems appropriate to confirm the tunes strummed for us. The set-list? Here you go: -

Shit Arm, PRS, Squabblefest, Dickie Davies Eyes, L'Enfer C'est Les Autres, Vitas G, Bob Wilson, CAMRA, Wrong Grave Bad Losers, Evening Sun, NSD, Chatteris, Tommy Walsh, Doreen, Look Dad, 24 Hour GP, JDOG, Slipknot, Lilac HQ, Restless, Left Lyrics, DPAK, Light Tunnel.

Encs: Fred T, Evening of Swing, A Song From Under The Floorboards, Trumpton, Trad Arr Tune.

As with other recent outings, it was a solid two-hour set, with a sprinkling of hits from across the piste. A couple of rare outings, including "Doreen" and "Dickie Davies Eyes", which was nice. As you might expect no huge scale promotion of the new LP, not from the stage at least. Geoff was attracting a more than average-sized crowd at the merchandise emporium; I'll say no more. As noted, Nigel was in a very chatty mode and there was plenty of the now customary repartee between Nigel and Ken; albeit mainly one-way traffic.

We learned on the evening once again that Ken, the quiet man of Rock, has some fascinating factoids tucked into the history of his extended family. This week, we learned that Ken's brother remains the only man to have streaked through the Lost Gardens of Heligan. His saving grace however is that he did invent the shower sleeve.

Nigel was very much enjoying Chesterton Windmill, where he saw the erstwhile Coventry right-back Mick Coop. Leastways, he said he was. It certainly wasn't Ernie Hunt. Anyway, why would he lie about being Mick Coop? Especially at Chesterton Windmill.

Carrying on the banter, Nigel let Ken know that the next song (L'Enfer) was probably known to him as the Johnny Cash song. Nigel also played 'Word Association' with the audience, which seemed to be a wagering game with Ken. He went through a few, which I mainly couldn't hear, especially the rejoinders from the floor. However, I think that Nigel threw out Carole King, Al Stewart, Dubbing Mixer (??) and Freddie Slade. The last two may have been connected. The only response I caught was "The Year of the Cat". That lead us into a song which was also about Ken's brother; CAMRA Man. Nice to hear that one again, with Graeme Garden's autobiography slipped in. Six Nations, too; which I guess is now the norm.

There was quite a lot of fuss about Nigel's microphone stand. Endless twiddling and a muttered "right to tighten, left to loosen" and very little satisfaction; led to Ken marching over and instantaneously fixing the problem. Cue much derisive applause and cheering from the assembled punters. More spluttering from our leader and a sign-off of; "Again, we morph into the frickin' Grumbleweeds."

The verbal intercourse with the crowd was unrelenting. There was a contemporaneous 'chapeau' to Lancashire County Cricket Club in the form of; "Unfortunately, a bit of a day for Warwickshire". This found a few hardcore Lancastrians and stimulated a quick chorus of "La, la, la; Lancashire". Nigel quickly adopted a Swiss-stance and declared that; "I'm a Minor Counties man, I'm staying out of it". Tending the Wrong Grave is apparently based on a true story about a lady from Ruislip. Ken's guitar-string screeches were greeted with today's twist of; "I didn't expect someone torturing seagulls nearby". A refrain of "Harpies roasting on an open fire", instead of chestnuts.

Another articulation swiftly followed, regarding the Plaza Cinema in Birkenhead. It was the first time that Nigel had seen "Zulu", as part of Tommy Jenkins' birthday party. Sitting on the wall in Mersey Park, eating fish and chips. Who played the Priest? Jack Hawkins. More discourse. Anyway, after much debate, Nigel remembered that the point was that the ex-manager of the Plaza died on Monday. The funeral is tomorrow at half-past two, twenty-past four and quarter to eight. "We get there in the end, don't we?"

A further panegyric covered hectic breakfast scenes in TV soap operas and situation comedies. It seems that Nigel has never been involved in such an event. "Ridiculous; they don't happen. It's just script writers with crazy imaginations." How so. The subject of breakfast was to be revisited.

That leaves me with 24 Hour Garage People. Although, digressing slightly, it occurs to me that as usual, my review (as one could loosely call it) is merely an observational piece for the delectation of those that were there and a few out-of-context morsels to try and give those not able to attend a flavour of the fun. I can't honestly comment on the quality of the chords and all that stuff. Tone deaf and can't tell an A sharp from a minim. What you can't beat at a Biscuit gig is the feeling of being part of a family, all there in mutual admiration and singing along with gay abandon (yes, Kids; I know, but it has an historic meaning too), even to the 'new' songs. You can't top it for a night out.

Back to my regurgitation. I do have an unending fondness for 24HGP. I hope that someone caught this for the FaceTube thing, because it was a gem. Texas BBQ Pringles, eh? And, at the extremely outrageous price of £2.23. Instead of the grumbling, Leadbelly could have said; "That'll be £2.23 please, Sir. I realise that they are only £2 in Sainsbury's, but I don't set the prices. But, do come again and don't hesitate to ask if there's anything else that you want". But he doesn't do that.

He enquires about the queue. "That's fifteen of my pre-arranged friends. We call it an art instillation. It's called 'The Worm Turns'. They want various things including briquettes, toilet duck and Jimmy wants chocolate-coated rivets. Made it up in his head, 'Paynes Chocolate-Coated Rivets'." Maybe Nigel had subconsciously flicked into the mental filing cabinet of Monty Python (I know he enjoys a bit of Python) and picked out the Crunchy Frog sketch. Superintendent Parrot ate one of those. Also, a tub of 'I Can't Believe It's Not Open'.

Back to the breakfast theme. There is a strange chap at the back of the queue who wants Oatibix. He insists they are the cereal of choice. Nigel simply can't agree with this. He is a cereal man and there is probably no cereal that he doesn't like, until last week when he tried Oatibix. They are a disgrace. He'll eat any cereal under the sun, even the kids stuff is alright, let's face it; we all have a bowl of Frosties for old time's sake. Weetabix should be ashamed of Oatibix, they have no redeeming features. They use a whole bowl of milk. You can't put raisins or grapes on them, they are absolutely disgraceful. It sounds like he is doing a riff at The Fringe.

What sandwiches have you got Chief, Pal, Mate or even Gaffer? Off he goes again; The Gaffer on Crossroads was played by Ed Lawton. That's when Benny came into Crossroads. I can't even remember if I knew that in the first place to have forgotten it. Anyway, he's getting irate now, is our Leadbelly. There are five lights gleaming on his gloom board, he slams down Barry Sheene's life story and his mug with "The Funky Gibbon" on goes all over the place. He even puts his portable TV off, which means that Nigel knows that he means business.

He's had it on all week, as Nigel knows, because he's been there every night. Programmes viewed include; "The Stuarts; a warning from history". I presume it is the Stuarts and not the Stewarts? "Garage Attendants do the funniest things", "Dickheads in Quicksand" and of course, "Time Team". It should be better, Time Team. It's not as good as it should be. Too many affected hats and jumpers going on. It doesn't do the West Country any favours. As for the trendy use of the phrase, 'Geo-Fizz'...

This leads us on to Adam Henson and "Countryfile". He's got too much to be happy about. "Here we are on my rare breeds' farm". They're only rare because he keeps killing them. But, "Countryfile" is essential viewing for Nigel. He can get the forecast for the week ahead. It is his one concession to optimism. So, we finally get to the sandwiches and they do, of course, include Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato, All-Day Breakfast and Adam Henson's Rare Breeds.

Once again, the curtain falls on another fine evening of dodging the paperwork and doing something more mentally rewarding. We depart satiated and in some cases, clutching a prize. The final game of the season seems a distant number of weeks away. Still, time seems to fly at the pace of Usain Bolt these days.