Bilston, Thu 26th January 2012 (28/05/12)

Mike Cresswell:

I find myself in the unusual position of it being a Saturday and finding a completely unsullied 24 hours in my diary. Not a jotting, nor a meeting. No requirements for lifts, football training, games to attend, golf matches or reminders that a particular sporting event needs my close attention. So; a nice day to laze around in the garden. This, of course, means avoiding doing any manual gardening-related activity, because I have spent years perpetuating the myth that doing any kind of gardening the day before a golf competition puts all my muscles out of line and ruins my swing plane. Whether Mrs. C. believes this or not, she seems to have accepted that it is now pointless even asking. So I thought that with a Biscuit gig on the horizon, I would get myself in the mood by exhuming my scribbled post-gig notes from Bilston and reminding myself (and some kind souls that might bother ingesting this random musing) of the fun had by all.

I have to say that Bilston is an excellent venue. Geographically, it is well-placed for us Southern dwellers, yet a reasonable trip for the Northern contingent. The sound is top notch, the beer decent and parking is no problem. I persuaded young Nicholas to accompany me, following the prisoner exchange with the United States of America and his return to this Sceptred Isle. I'm not sure what we gave them in return, but it is of no real consequence. Two gigs on the bounce for Nick; is he going to complete his hat-trick this week at Oxford? It was relatively amusing that he is too young to have been a contemporary of the original Kate Bush rendition of "Army Dreamers", so the joyous effort by the support outfit (Shifty Chicken Shed) was a bit lost on him, unless he remembered to get on to that YouTube when he got home.

Nigel was as random as ever during the opening exchanges. He was wearing a jumper that, it was suggested by a member of the congregation, might have been a Christmas present? Maybe, but Nigel appeared to have only just realized that he was wearing it and one thing for sure was that he was absolutely certain that he would be too hot within 5 minutes. The moshing community got quite warm eventually, too. It was a very slow start and didn't look like it was going to blossom into anything noteworthy, but as the set moved on and the temperature rose, the moshers got more and more enthusiastic. A very good effort and you should all offer applause to each other now.

"Mountain Bikes" as it often does, yielded an amusing closing line and some witty narrative from the Blackwell-Meister. It closed with; ".... That's when I was saying, that the FA Cup on ITV is all wrong." Fair comment, but backed up with further recital (possibly classified as a rant) on TV coverage of football. "Although the BBC have got it about right with Match of the Day, it is not so with the Football League Show. You've got to watch it because you need to watch the goals and all that. Manish up on the gantry introduces Claridge and at that moment, the look on Claridge's face is like; 'I've left the grill on, haven't I?' Chapeau to the side parting and he was a good player. Contrast him to Mark Bright, sitting there with a gormless smile, as if to say; 'I've farted and he doesn't know about it on the gantry yet'."

There was a nod to a number of local celebrities, including Derek Statham and in response to exhortations from the throng ("Play one the drummer knows"), Carl Henry. A nod to my fellow (and more punctual) scribe Roger Green; "It's like Stalin's Russia with Roger here writing notes; on 28 minutes 15 seconds he said this." Apparently, Roger is a doppelganger for Eileen's sister's bloke in Coronation Street. Sadly, this is as much an anathema to me as it is appears to be to Roger himself, though I'm sure he's checked it out. The institution that is...

At one point, someone mentioned Pringle's and Nigel confirmed that he has moved on to Kettle Crisps. This led to a stark admission; Nigel is a wood snob. He had noted early on in the evening that he had been quite distracted during the week cleaning out the baffle plate on his wood burner. Sounds a bit technical, but important to maximize the heat-producing potential of the appliance; I am sure. Anyway, this led to a bit more information about his wood purchasing habits. "You see these signs for seasoned logs, but you've gotta season them for 18 months; half of them are still damp, it's rubbish. You have to go to the website 'logs to you' (sadly, I checked; it exists). Kiln dried, that is the key. My life has never been the same. I never grew up with central heating and still haven't got central heating. Last winter was unbelievably cold and like Scott of the South Pole, in his notes he wrote; 'God this is an awful place.' He was probably talking about Birkenhead. I thought he wrote 'fookin' Amundsen.' Anyway; kiln-dried logs."

A few other snippets are thrown into the ring for our delectation. They'd nearly had an accident on the way to the venue, which had reminded him about the Bob Marley Accident Compensation Company, motto "No win, no fee". "We get there in the end, don't we?" Ken had said in the dressing room; "Home-made Battenberg, I can't be a4$ed." It was still sitting in Nigel's head when he came on stage and he had to demonize it. He also gave us a 'local' gag about a local dignitary; "The Mayor of Dudley went to the doctor and admitted that he can't sire any children. Perhaps you're impotent, says the Quack? Of course I'm impotent; I'm the Mayor of Dudley!" You'll get it if you test out your own version of the Black Country accent and it works; quite nicely.

As usual, a few snide asides at his colleagues. Well, thinly-veiled compliments. Neil was applauded for bringing a different bass for Floreat Inertia. "He can't get the right notes on the other one. Professionalism, that. In a way." Ken was lauded from the assembly for being worth his weight on gold. "He's worth his weight in, well; I won't say gold." A bit of a moan about the guitar lead, which was faulty; "I paid £20 for that. Most I've paid for anything. I hope it's the amp. It's not my amp, of course." There was a long discourse about punk, including quite a distracted thread about The Angelic Upstarts. I think it centred on Nigel's erroneous belief that 'We Gotta Get Out Of This Place' was originally by the Upstarts and later discovery that The Animals had got there first. Anyway, he apparently didn't really get into punk first time around because he was too busy listening to 'Out Of The Blue'.

Upsetting my trend of thought to get back to the point, i.e. the musical content, the set-list was summarized in my notebook (yes, I've got one now, because of the onset of early Alzheimer's) as follows: -

Leeuwarden, Capel Curig, Evening Sun, Turned Up, Left Lyrics, Harry Q, Ex Rita, Mountain Bikes, Improv Workshop, DPAK, L'Enfer, NSD, Best Things refrain, Trad Arr, 1966, Irk, Floreat, Slipknot, Bad Wools, 24 Hour, Tommy W, Light Tunnel, JDOG, Chatteris. Encores; Petty, Jim Reeves, Fix It, Bob Todd.

I'm not really sure that I am even remotely qualified to comment upon the musical content and the quality of the fretwork. I'd probably best stick to what I do best, which is to furnish anyone that gets this far with an account of proceedings, which hopefully amuses and in some small way, makes up for the fact that you couldn't be there. A poor substitute to the sterling work of the technological age, which allows snippets and songs to be published on the airwaves within a matter of hours; whilst I strut and fret about a keyboard. However, it keeps me mildly amused and stops me annoying the dog or succumbing to the temptation to do some work.

Which leaves me with the ever-evolving live show-within-a-show that is "24 Hour Garage People"? A particular favourite of mine and one which constantly amuses. The tube of Pringle's was not only a nut-crunching £2.96 - "How much?", but was 'sour cream and onion'. According to our Bard; "There is no such thing as sour cream and chive. I didn't know that. I found out about two weeks after I'd written it. I thought, don't tell me this; give it time. It didn't actually happen and it embarrasses me greatly." Anyway, if they really are £2.96 it is no wonder that the Bank of England is secretly showing concern about inflation. Forget your ever decreasing prices of white goods made in Far Eastern sweat-shops and iPods with more bytes and lower price tags. It is petrol, fags and Pringle's that could lead to an untimely rise in interest rates at this rate.

I digress, as ever. Leadbelly is doing the surly bus driver thing. A nice image, which I recall as I visit many a retail outlet. "You're holding up the line, Sir." "It's not a line, it's a queue." Oh, and guess what they'll be asking for? And, oh! Look! It's local celebrity Ziggy Sawdust. One can only think of what delights he's going to be asking for. I didn't catch them all, but it included unleaded soup and a tin of alphabet spaghetti with the vowels taken out. He's Polish you know. He went to the optician and he said can you read the bottom line; read it, I know him! Ziggy is also likely to be asking for a Yorkie, a Toffee Crisp and a copy of Razzle; "but only if Pam Ferris is in it." My personal favourite on his hypothetical shopping list is an Airwick Freshener; with the smell of cordite. I actually wouldn't mind one of those myself. The iPod featured the usual random selection of classics that you would hear on a radio station that none of us would listen to, but as noted by our hero; "at least if he's gonna deck me, I've got a soundtrack to it."

All in all, another fine evening. It is human nature to feel comfortable with familiar surroundings and the Biscuit formula is tried, tested and seems to work without fuss. Perhaps that's why whether it is Bilston, Manchester, Leeds, Carlisle or Oxford (just about London as well), it feels like an evening that you know you will enjoy. We found a top notch chippy in Bilston on a recommendation from a mate of a mate. Ten minutes stroll, but a testament to the multi-cultural modern Britain, with the brothers Patel knocking out delicious fish suppers and kebabs.

However; roll on the dreaming spires, the Isis and the Thames, if you are fortunate enough to have time to kill; a wander around the Pitt Rivers (well worth it if you are early and don't want to get to the Bird and Baby too promptly) and those term-time bicycle saddles - as a distinguished lawyer once remarked to me about the pleasant ad hoc return to his alma mater. Each to their own. Might even see you there?