Much confusion about the venue for this one. For a start, could we be sure that "tram" and "shed" combine to form one word? Well, yes, we could. But it needed checking. All was well, tickets were booked for The Tramshed. Then with about a week to go, Karen picked up ripples on the Internet to say that the show had been moved to the place where the band played the last time they were in Cardiff, at Solus at the University. Remembering from last time that it was a bit of a trek from the city centre, we checked out trains. Cathays station is nearly next door to the Uni, with trains running every twenty minutes or so. So we were sorted, with the last one coming back at 23.31, therefore even accommodating a lengthy encore. But wait. The next message was As You Were. The gig was now back at The Tramshed. Glad that got sorted out. All such needless confusion, but exactly the kind of thing that you come across every now and then when you follow this band around. Would I want it any other way?
On arriving in Cardiff, it was obvious that the place is popular with stag and hen parties. The whole populace seemed to be getting tanked up at three in the afternoon. All well and good, particularly as our hotel room did not face out onto the main drag.
The venue was not too far out of the city centre. Over the bridge near the Millennium Stadium, scene of one of Doncaster Rovers' admittedly few glory days. They won the Football League Trophy in 2007 (can't remember if it was sponsored by Johnstones Paint at that time). Turn left after the bridge, next right then carry on to the end of the road. And it was on your right. Simple, really.
For some reason, I'm always slightly apprehensive of city gigs. One or two less than pleasant experiences in the past. But this was a lot different. We had a chat with a couple of very sociable bouncers (although I dare say, in these correct days, they are known as Customer Experience Executives). Our experience was enhanced appropriately.
Inside, a guy came up to me to say that he had been standing next to me the last time HMHB played in Cardiff. Sorry, I didn't catch your name, but it was good to speak again.
This seemed to be a very wide venue, in relation to the length of the place. Of course that is just my opinion of the dimensions. It doesn't really matter one jot. Maybe one day these reviews will include precise measurements. Maybe also throw in insurance details, rateable values etc. The executives were expecting about 800 punters, in contrast to the 1000 capacity.
As noted by one of our fellow attendees, we were missing the Eurovision Song Contest for this one, so it needed to be good. Pressure on both turns. JD Meatyard were first on. John the singer gave us the names of the rest of the band. Gary was the drummer, and has been so for a while now. I saw him without his beanie hat on the train on the way home on the Sunday and barely recognised him. In fact, it might not even have been him at all. Hazel and Michael are the two guitarists signed from The Flux Capacitors. Based on the noise that they make, I would hope that this is a permanent arrangement rather than just a loan deal. I suppose I should start noting down their set list as well now that I feel I know a lot of their songs. St Peter Won't Let Me In and Casper's Ballroom were in there. There was a version of Jesse James which was even more fired up than usual. And Dylan Thomas got a mention in Standing On The Shoulders, this being Dylan Day.
In the interval, I was approached by Tony (a different Tony, not the usual one). He said he was always keen to see the set lists, so that he could then put together compilations to play while he goes out driving. Good luck with Sosban Fach, Tony. If you've got any mates who are fans of Llanelli rugby union team, then they might be able to help you out.
HMHB's walk-on music was more recognisable than at Southampton. Even I got Men Of Harlech. Carl's "No Frills" t-shirt was particularly apt for the opener, The Light At The End Of The Tunnel. A few of Nigel's utterances were in Welsh, so hopefully other correspondents will help us out with what was said there.
Nigel referred back to the Southampton gig. I had stopped at the Premier Inn. He had seen me talking to Lenny Henry and had to let me know that it was only a cardboard cut-out. I would never have known.
The band stuck to the script with the final line of Lock Up Your Mountain Bikes. "That's when I first got into The Manics."
Nigel told a tale from The Cotswolds. The band had visited Bourton-On-The-Water and Ken had declared their toilets the cleanest in Britain. Praise indeed. Nigel described the route taken from Southampton. "A34, left at Newbury, onto the A4, through Hungerford, Marlborough and Avebury, onto the A48 and A4119." (Check your atlas, I might have scribbled some of that down wrong.) They drove past the stones at Avebury. He said it was really busy and that "it will be nice when it is finished." He reminded us that he doesn't need satnav when he's got maps. "Ken was in the back reading Philip K Dick." By the way, Ken has been done for stealing calendars. "He got twelve months."
Paintball's Coming Home included the line about buying soup in cartons, not in tins. And there was a slightly clumsy line about buying Johnny Cash CDs at the cash desk. After Running Order Squabble Fest, Nigel said "upon the same theme..." before going into Look Dad No Tunes.
Ken and Neil did the usual swapping of instruments for Bane Of Constance (and Footprints). Neil took the opportunity to give us the opening chords to Alternative Ulster. Nigel applied some nasal spray, although he didn't let on about the brand. He mentioned the phone box in Orchestral Manoeuvres' Red Frame White Light,released in about 1980. Apparently this is quite near to where he lives, and is still there apparently.
In National Shite Day, he got the line about mullets and mallets mixed up. This was rescued by saying "meanwhile down the road..." and then getting it right. A true professional at work. The caravan guitar came out for We Built This Village. "I keep it parked up during the winter."
Some particularly vigourous work from Carl led to one of the cymbals flying off its stand after Everything's AOR, but he was able to put it back in place for the encore.
The whole set went as follows...The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train
And four in the encore:Fix It So She Thinks Of Me
Splendid as always. You don't get these double headers all that often. It was, of course, impossible to apply any sort of preference to either, although it was good to hear Thy Damnation Slumbereth Not again. Having failed dismally to find The City Arms to liaise with others, Karen, Tony and I discussed the whys and wherefores at The Queens Vaults afterwards. A few hours later and we were continuing our analysis over breakfast at Servini's in Wyndham Arcade. Nice fried bread! After Tony went for his train, we were successful in our search for Spillers Records (est 1894) which claims to be Britain's oldest record shop. Not even The Fall were around in those days. It was in one of the other arcades, and sadly the opening hours only cover Monday to Saturday. Reminded me of Jumbo in Leeds when it used to be in the Merrion Centre. Happy days. From there to the train station and back homewards, with less than a month to the Cambridge show.