A minor technicality to start with. This show was not, as on the tickets, at the O2 Academy. Instead, things were shifted round the corner to the Queens Hall. This provided (presumably) a more compact venue and (I'm afraid) bottles of water at £2.40 each. The place was situated in the middle of Studentland, a healthy walk away from the city centre. On our way there, Karen and I spotted a statue of Thomas Cook (surely one day Leicester will pay a similar tribute to Showaddywaddy). And one of the many eateries had some clever marketing in its window. "Leicester Mercury Restaurant Of The Year" it said in bold letters, with the word "Finalist" in much smaller letters underneath.
This was a wristband gig, although staff seemed to have a very liberal approach to checking them. We met up at the front with Phil from Portsmouth, and Tony. There was much chat about the appearance of Urge For Offal at number 35 in the midweek album chart. Would it still be there at the weekend? Or had the initial surge of orders on release cause it to peak already?
We discussed what to expect from the support band, Black Snow Rodeo. They advertise themselves as "gothic country", which implies a mix somewhere between Dolly Parton and Sisters Of Mercy. That, in itself, would be worth seeing. What we got was perhaps not quite at those two extremes. They are from Liverpool (part of the Probe Plus empire?), and bits of their set reminded me of Helen And The Horns from years ago. Tony, with his wider musical lexicon, was reminded of the guitarists Chet Atkins and James Burton. It was all very listenable stuff, and I would give them another go.
HMHB were on stage just before 9.00. It did not strike me as a relatively large crowd for these things, but I could not back that up with statistics. And there was not much of a mosh pit to start with, although things livened up in the second half of the show. HMHB had wanted to play Korngold's The Sea Hawk as the walk-on music, but the venue was unable to supply the gear to play the bloody thing. Perhaps there is a lesson there for the band. Nigel picked me out and told me that they had again made use of the M6 Toll Road "because he (gestures towards Ken) wanted to stop for a piss." Need to know. There was a conversation about margarine (or "spreads" as Nigel corrected himself). Nigel explained that you can fed up of these, resulting in a wish to go back to butter. This appears to cause great difficulties at the Blackwells home, particularly with the supposedly spreadable format. If you leave them in the fridge too long, Nigel's observation is that "they are not spreadable at all", causing the bread to break up. Whereas if you take it out of the fridge, it turns to liquid. The key to success is to keep the foil on top, instead of throwing the foil away. It's not a problem I can say that I have ever encountered. But I'll bear it in mind. The final line in Lock Up Your Mountain Bikes was "That's when I was saying that a re-make of The Wicker Man won't work", followed by mutterings of words like "futile" and "shite". It would be good to hear Nigel's thoughts on the re-working of Dads Army sometime soon. Nigel asked Tony where he was stopping. "Travelodge" was the reply, which led to Nigel's appraisal of these hotel chains. "You get a better night's sleep at a Premier," he said. "I know I'm starting to sound like Lenny Henry. But he's right. He's not funny. But he's right." 99% Of Gargoyles was written by The Tygers Of Pang Tang (that is the correct spelling, isn't it?). Tony spotted a new amp on stage. The band seems to have invested in a Vox, replacing the previous Marshall that was situated in the middle, behind Nigel. There was a bit of chat about the guy at the Bilston gig a fortnight previously, who had heckled Nigel for not playing 27 Yards Of Dental Floss. "I was going to play it tonight, because I knew he wouldn't be here," Nigel said. And he was reminded about the guy at the Ashill/Ilminster gig who had pressed him to play National Shite Day. "He was a character", noted Nigel. "Not if you were stood next to him," replied Tony. There was also something about the bloke at Ashill wearing a Ramones t-shirt, but not being able to name his favourite song by the band. Nigel shared with us the story of the beginnings of 99% Of Gargoyles. Nigel used to live next door to a fellow guitarist. This guy started to play a guitar riff which sounded a bit like what we now know as the opening to "Gargoyles". But the way this chap played it, it sounded more like Northern Lights by Renaissance. So, inevitably, we had a follow-up question. "Who was the singer with Renaissance?" Two points to the guy half way back who shouted out "Annie Haslam". Nigel raised a glass (well, a plastic bottle) to Alvin Stardust (aka Shane Fenton aka Bernard Dewery) who had gone to the great Top Of The Pops studio in the sky earlier in the day. At one point, Nigel put his capo on his guitar and said "You've changed" before telling me that this had gone right over my head. He was right. Joke time followed a shout from a crowd of "Specsavers". Nigel said that Specsavers was "a bit ITV" and told us that he uses Boots Opticians instead. He was in there the other day. A Polish chap was in front of him in the queue. The optician asked the Pole if he could read the bottom line on the chart. "Read it? I know him!" Nigel broke a string on his guitar, at which point Ken handed over the replacement guitar. "I'm the most important guitarist in the band, so I get the spare," he said, before treating us to an impromptu version of Paintball's Coming Home while Ken replaced the string in a timely and efficient manner. Nigel appeared to have forgotten some of the words, but was sharp enough to refer to the Joy Of Sex DVD rather than video. Later he handed over one of his bottles of Strathmore water, obviously in sympathy at the venue's pricing structure. He said that tap water is better for you, something to do with the plastic of the bottle affecting it. This turned into a conversation about milk. I lost the thread of this, but thanks to others was told that this was about "semi skilled" milk giving you brittle bones. So therefore full fat milk is better. There was a useful pointer from a guy in the crowd about putting full milk on your corn flakes but skimmed milk in your tea. It could have gone on for hours like that. There was a shout of "Are you knackered, man?" where Nigel replied by saying that they had only ever played it once. He demonstrated the folk singer skill of playing chords while introducing a song, "this is about a girl from the Fens", before they played Chatteris. We just got the first few seconds of Theme Tune For Something Or Other before they gave it up as a bad job, but I included it in my list nevertheless. There were a couple of false starts to The Light At The End Of The Tunnel. You would have thought they would know how that one goes by now. Ken was the winner of a competition where he won a jar of Marmite, which is apparently a lifetime's supply. And Nigel was wearing a "cima coppi" t-shirt. Is that "cima" as in Chartered Institute Of Management Accountants, I wonder? He left us guessing.
The set was:San Antonio Foam Party
And there were three in the encoreWestward Ho! - Massive Letdown
And then we were back out into the night. My notetaking skills, attention span and hearing are not what they were, so thanks to Karen, Tony, Phil, Howie and Graham for putting me right on various bits. I'll almost certainly be looking for the same help at Manchester.