O2 Academy, Bristol, Fri 26th February 2016 (28/02/16)

Roger Green:

Plenty of media stuff going on ahead of this show. Thanks to Daz for letting me know about a readers poll in Time Out London, where It's Cliched To Be Cynical At Christmas was voted Number One in the list of yuletide favourites. Then Karen spotted an advert in NME which bore similarity to a HMHB concept. They were advertising a "Blur art print". The design was a motorway junction road sign. Straight on to Parklife. Turn off for Country House. Sound familiar? Thanks again to Karen for spotting an article on The Guardian Online. There was an interview with the singer from Slipknot. Readers had been asked to send in questions. One had asked if the rumours were true about him going to Rome to see the Pope.

Press coverage of the gig was positively blitz-like. Metro and The Bristol Weekend Post had obviously both been sent the same release, referring to the band's formation "nearly 30 years ago". I think not. I saw them at The Leadmill in Sheffield on 2 February 1986, so a more accurate article would say that they were formed "just over" 30 years ago. And I'm not sure either about the claim that they are best known for Back In The DHSS. That's not the case in my house. Metro also included this... 'The band's approach to promoting their music is famously non-existent - a handful of UK gigs each year is normal. Blackwell himself states his biggest achievement as "creating a situation for myself whereby I can get up of a morning and decide to go and tackle Bwlch Pen Barras on the bike, rather than report to a superior to await orders".'

One or two notes about the journey to Bristol. Thanks to neighbour Sheila who was on the way to work when I came out of the house, and very kindly gave me a lift to Pontefract Bus Station. Later on, just before catching the train from Wakefield I saw Andy, who was basking in the glory of seeing his son score the winning goal for Hemsworth Miners Welfare against AFC Mansfield, to secure their place at the top of the Toolstation Northern Counties East League Division One. They are eleven points clear. Surely nothing can go wrong now. And then at Westgate Station I had a chat over a Greggs sausage baguette with another neighbour Debbie, who was off to London for the weekend. At Westgate I noticed that they were giving away free copies of The Times. Not a paper that I would normally read, but I'm not going to turn down a freebie in these circumstances. It was good to keep up with what The Duke Of Kent is up to, in the Court Circular. No mention of HMHB in the Arts Section though.

And on with the journey. All was pretty much on time. Karen got on at New Street. We saw Andrew getting off our train when we arrived at Temple Meads. Confirmation that HMHB fans were now legion. Another fellow traveller was Karen's friend Nina who had made her way from Weston Super Mare. I'm always glad to see and hear of people making it to their first HMHB show. But it does sometimes make me wonder where they have been in the past.

We met in the Bonaparte's pub at the railway station. From there, we got a taxi to the hotel. Quick lie down, and a listen to Maconie without Radcliffe on 6 Music. Then I was back out again to meet my niece Aimee straight from her job of musically educating the children of the city. A good bit of homework might have been to get them to go to the gig, but maybe that's why I'm not in charge of the National Syllabus. We had a pleasant late afternoon slugging tea and scoffing cake at The Boston Tea Party on Park Street. There was a wide range of teas and coffees available. I shall be heading there again, next time I am in Bristol.

From there it was over the road, down some steps and round the corner to the Academy. The advertised "doors" time was 6.30. They were a little behind schedule, but nothing to worry about unduly. On many occasions in the past I have been searched before a gig with various degrees of intimacy. But this is the first time I have ever had to go through one of those airport-style screening devices (apart from at an airport). Looks like this is the way to go from now on. I don't think my Human Rights were infringed, but I wonder what might be the next step. Shoes off?

As per usual, we were straight down to the front. In due course we met Jay, Tony, Andrew, King Of Hi Vis, Howie, Daz. All the usual people really. Even Geoff was there at one point, on his way to find out what time everything was starting. If he'd had a look on social media, he would have seen that it was 7.15 The Flux Capacitors, 8.00 Half Man Half Biscuit.

Great turnout, particularly bearing in mind that the band was going head to head with Showaddywaddy who were playing on the other side of town. No doubt one or two waverers would have gone there instead.

The Flux Capacitors were a new one on me. They scored points with one of them wearing a Dukla Prague shirt. I struggled to decide what to think about them. But then again I often struggle to decide which socks to wear. A bit of feedback. That was good for the ears.. Witty song titles such as My Hair Is Thinning At The Front. And they did a poem about being in the Blockheads dressing room after supporting them. And there was a lovely one. "This is about finding the right person, falling in and out of love with them, then killing them with a rock." Charming!

When HMHB walked on stage, the first thing I noticed was that they had their usual plentiful supply of bottles of water. However these bottles all had their tops in place. When you buy one of these bottles at the bar, they remove the top. So it seems to be OK for the band to throw their bottle tops at the audience, but it is not OK for the crowd to do likewise. And of course the moat was in place. I always think it's a bit like going to a ground that has a running track round the outside of the pitch. It makes you feel that bit more removed from the action. Another sign of the way things are.

Before they started playing, Nigel asked if I was still collecting school vouchers. After the first song someone shouted out that the sound was too quiet in general. "Too quiet in general?" replied Nigel. "Isn't that a good thing?" He announced that Third Track Main Camera Four Minutes was written with a laundry pen. He pointed out a member of the crowd. "I remember you from about ten years ago. I don't remember your face, but I remember your shirt." Nigel was delighted to point out that his map reading, with a journey via Westbury, got them to the gig far faster than Geoff's delay-ridden motorway journey courtesy of Satnav. They had had time to go on an unintentional John Wesley walk. I missed a question that was put to Nigel about "it". Apparently "it" is much better thanks to the use of Solpadeine Plus.

Outbreak Of Vitas Gerulaitis was written on a bench outside Ludlow Castle. Ken was the first man in Wallasey to have Balsamic Vinegar. And his tag comes off next week. There was a bit of banter in Welsh. I got the impression that the person that Nigel was talking to (from South Wales) couldn't understand him.

There was a rare outing for Paintball's Coming Home. We move with the times. The Joy Of Sex video is now a DVD. And they pay for the Johnny Cash CD at the till. Also they watch Top Gear re-runs on UK Gold and say it's not just for petrol heads. "Yeah," observes Nigel, "it's also for knobheads."

After Bob Wilson Anchorman, Nigel asked us to "hang on" while he tied his shoelace. Old Age Killed My Teenage Bride was originally done by his splinter outfit, who go by the name of Splinter Outfit. Previously known as The Detroit Knobheads. There was a curious ending to Lock Up Your Mountain Bikes. "That's when you said you were into The Manics." What goes around, comes around.

Nigel commented about The Fresh Prince Of No Hair. Floreat Inertia was "about bits and pieces, I suppose." There was a shout out for someone's 16th birthday. Tony suggested that Nigel was getting like Ed "Stewpot" Stewart. Nigel replied that Stewpot was an Everton fan, and then added that Pam Ferris was a Stranraer fan. When Ken and Neil swapped instruments for Bane Of Constance, Nigel remarked "It's like The Grumbleweeds again." This was true particularly when Ken was tuning up his guitar at the back of the stage and the smoke machine suddenly started up, blowing straight into his ear.

There wasn't a lot of chat in the second half of the show. There was a strict 10 o'clock curfew. After all, Friday night is club night. There was a comment about the £3.10 cost of the transformer in "Dukla Prague"... "There was no Bitcoin in those days." There was a verse of A Man Of Constant Sorrow ahead of National Shite Day. "Anybody here from Westbury?" asked Nigel during the encore. "Do you want a medal?" He set us all thinking when he said that we lost a big part of his youth during January. What would they play? Heroes? Ashes To Ashes? Jean Genie? Floral Dance? Well no, it was actually a dedication to actor Dan Haggerty who had played Grizzly Adams. The cover was the theme tune, Maybe, originally sung by Thom Pace. Thanks to Karen for identification.

Here is how the show went.

Westward Ho! Massive Letdown
When The Evening Sun Goes Down
Third Track Main Camera Four Minutes
Petty Sessions
Outbreak Of Vitas Gerulaitis
Running Order Squabble Fest
If I Had Possession Over Pancake Day
Left Lyrics In The Practice Room
Everything's AOR
Paintball's Coming Home
Bob Wilson Anchorman
Old Age Killed My Teenage Bride
Lock Up Your Mountain Bikes
Floreat Inertia
Tommy Walsh's Eco House
Bane Of Constance
Look Dad No Tunes
For What Is Chatteris?
Ode To Joyce
Rock 'N' Roll Is Full Of Bad Wools
Fix It So She Dreams Of Me
Vatican Broadside
Joy Division Oven Gloves
All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit
National Shite Day
We Built This Village On A Trad Arr Tune

And in the encore

Trumpton Riots
The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train

After all that, Karen, Tony and I went to the White Lion with its bold claim of being "the smallest pub in the centre of Bristol." We noted the "Try Korfball" poster. Also worthy of comment is the almost vertical spiral staircase going down to the Gents. Health And Safety was not an issue when places like this were built. We said our goodbyes, but also a Hurrah that it is only a couple of weeks to the Holmfirth gig.