The Komedia, Bath, Thu 14th September 2017 (16/09/17)

Roger Green:

Considerable consternation concerning this gig. It was announced as part of Gig Frenzy Week at the end of March, when it came to the public's attention along with the ones in Glasgow and Clitheroe. However the original schedule was Wednesday 13th, according to the venue's website. I checked with the Box Office. The lady who answered didn't know but I heard her talking with someone else who said they had been emailed the wrong information. Aye, that's how to do it. Blame someone else. But all came good in the end.

Some errors and omissions from the last gig at Sheffield. During Sonnenberg's set, Zinny said "Geoff Davies says Hello." I should also have mentioned Zoe and David, who had staffed the merchandise stall. And my scribbled notes say that I exchanged nods with Graham and Sarah on the way out.

During that gig, Tony had speculated on the presence of a new drum kit for Carl. Tony later updated this in a text. "Confirmed by the man himself: Carl had a new kit - bought it from a bloke in Rotherham who delivered it to the venue."

A potential future smash hit for HMHB deals with the subject of overly organised bat walks. Big thanks to Karen for providing a copy of Nottinghamshire County Council's County Life brochure (2017 edition). Page 17 advertises just such a thing at Sherwood Forest Country Park. £5 per person! (My exclamation mark, not theirs.) "Please bring a low-powered torch and insect repellent. Booking essential." It took place on a Monday in August, so you'll have to wait until next year if interested.

Karen and I were stunned to discover that HMHB are not the only goth band operating out of the Wirral peninsula. On a night out in Leeds, we saw The Webb performing. They are a duo, Marc and Becki, who make a good noise, do some excellent dance moves, and we had a natter afterwards. Marc sometimes sees Nigel at Tranmere games, and had been watching them on TV downstairs earlier in the evening. A 1-0 defeat against Dover. Not a great start to the season. The Webb are on the See Them Again list. (On the subject, Nigel said he thinks he is in the minority, but he quite likes non-league football. Nothing wrong with it from my point of view, Nigel. Get well soon, Ash Emmett.)

We also picked up on Nigel's comment at Sheffield about Iceland selling peach Majestics at four for £1. Couldn't find any in either the Pontefract or Hemsworth branches (they only had Belgian chocolate, white chocolate, or mint.) Karen provided hope when she spotted a feature on the Food Review UK website where a guy was talking enthusiastically about them, but the search continued. The investigation took us to their store on The Moor in Sheffield. The freezer compartment had a promo photo of all the flavours. But the freezer itself contained all the flavours except peach. I asked one of the assistants. She suggested that it might have been withdrawn because of sales figures, before rushing back to the conversation she had been having with two of her colleagues. Helpful, but not getting us anywhere.

Media Watch involved a feature on Chris Hawkins' show on 6 Music. He asked people to contact him with suggestions for song titles by HMHB. I didn't totally understand a lot of the suggested titles. The best I could come up with was Chris Hawkins Is Great At What He Does (But Why Doesn't He Remember That The Title Of The Radio Station Is 6 Music And Therefore Play More Songs By The Band Instead Of Talking About Them?).

The gig was not overly publicised. As we have come to expect. No mention that we saw in the Western Daily Press. Both they and the Bath Chronicle took up space with the Bath City manager moving on to Torquay United. The Chronicle's Bath Weekend colour supplement had a small piece about the show. "Post-punk icons Half Man Half Biscuit are blessed with a magical capacity to make the most jaded of listeners fall back in love with music again. Witty and dry, melodically infectious yet edgy, these four lads who shook the Wirral are perhaps still to some extent an undiscovered national treasure." And they had a picture of Nigel.

Browsing in a shop in Wakefield selling second-hand CDs, I came across an errant "s". Hits Of The Sixties UK features Those Were The Days by Mary Hopkins. Careless but inevitable, I suppose.

It was grand to hear from the famous writer Peter Ross. Eighteen months on from his HMHB article in The Big Issue, he has now incorporated it into a book. The Passion Of Harry Bingo is a collection of his work and is in the shops NOW. Karen has promised to have a word with Santa about it. Peter said he would be at the Glasgow gig in October. Ask him nicely and I'm sure he'll do signings.

Karen and I speculated on the possible presence of a couple of songs in the set. I Hate Nerys Hughes has its obvious "Bath In Avon" reference. Less clear is Blue Badge Abuser with the line "A walk in hell for a walk-in bath." Or should it be "A walk in hell for a walk in Bath"? Perhaps we were being too clever by half, but to my mind, any conversation about HMHB is a good conversation. And, as it turned out, neither song was included. That's how good we are at predictions.

I've seen better organised queues. We were asked to line up going along the front of the building but then when the doors were opened, the first people allowed in were those in the middle of the queue. It was politely pointed out to us on the running order sheet that doors were due to open at 7.30, but this did not happen until 7.36. A strange carry-on, but that's rock and roll. While outside, we met Tony, Matt, Jay, John, Graham, Jordan, Emily and Pete. John had also come along with Elizabeth and his daughter Frances. And when inside, we were able to get to the front as usual. Howie arrived just in time for HMHB's appearance and Sally also said Hello. There were a few regulars missing tonight, including Andrew whose late cancellation was caused by a radiator fault at home. Postman Tony was also absent. We're all looking forward to seeing him back on form at Holmfirth.

Support band was John MOuse (note the capital "O" in "MOuse"). They had previously played at a HMHB show in Cardiff in August 2011. Brief consultation of my notes told me that they had an ironing board on stage, used as a stand for their keyboard. That was no longer in place, but there was a sweeping brush which the singer grabbed and started using when he jumped off stage. He also borrowed John's hi vis tabard for one song. As usual I struggled to pick up the on-stage chatter, but he mentioned something about the two blokes from Abba, as well as This Morning with Richard not Judy. Opinions on the band varied greatly ("They are starting to sound like The Fall", "They are definitely not Sonnenberg", "Biggest pile of shit ever", "It grew on me"). Thank you everyone for letting me know what you thought. I would see this band again. But it's hard to see where their assault on the charts is going to come from - perhaps I Was A Goalkeeper will see them right. John seemed to be applying for the vacancy of their Bez for when that happens. They also introduced some democracy to the evening. Towards the end of their set, there was a vote of hands. The vocalist asked if everyone wanted (a) a fast song, a slow song, then finish, (b) a slow song, a fast one, then finish, or (c) "Get off the stage, we want Half Man Half Biscuit!" The slow/fast/finish option won.

There was an activated sick note from the band tonight. Ken was under the weather and did not make the journey. The last time this happened was a double-header when they played Frome and Cardiff in 2007. For those gigs the band was able to call Karl from the sub's bench. But tonight they opted to perform as a threesome. You would really have to dig into the archives to find the last time that happened. I remember that being the case once at The Duchess in Leeds, in between the departure of Simon, Paul and David, and the arrival of Carl and Ken. Circa 1995. While it was great to see Geoff again, we also look forward to seeing Ken back in action soon.

So tonight it was just three lads who shook The Wirral. "Ken's doing the Three Peaks," explained Nigel. "Zippo's Circus is here on 28th September. You lucky people," he said before the trio opened the set with Venus In Flares. During that song a heat pad had somehow got stuck to the sole of Nigel's shoe. "That doesn't happen with Newton Faulkener," he commented.

Nigel asked me what route we had taken to get to the gig. I explained that we had taken the train, to which he replied that they had gone via the M5 and A46 ("No problems. Dead easy.") before talking through the journey through Bath street by street to Komedia.

There was a technical issue on stage. Nigel had accidentally switched off his amp switch. Neil sorted it out for him, but it was clear who would normally get that job. "Where's Ken when you need him?" There was also an announcement from the stage. "Happy birthday, Frank. Seventy today."

"We were going to do a Question And Answer session. Or maybe come up with some anecdotes," said Nigel. "but we don't know the answers to any questions and we don't have any anecdotes." Following which he came out with one such. He said to me that he wished I had asked what the band had done on the way to Bath. He said they had called at Sheldon Manor. But it was closed. Nigel had stopped in the van, listening to Crass, while the others had argued with a guy in a blazer (who coincidentally looked like the security bloke at the side of the stage) about the exact starting point of Autumn. There is the Autumnal Equinox but there is also ecological Autumn. Don't ask me. Usual excuse. The sound wasn't great, and I was struggling to keep up regardless of any factual points of discussion.

We then moved on to Tony's question about how many South Poles there are. There was talk of Scott of the Antarctic. Nigel confessed to being "a Shackleton man, myself". Nevertheless he referred to Scott's quote on seeing The South Pole. "Great God! This is an awful place!" Nigel also quoted Scott's final diary entry. "These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale." He said that he has made a similar note about rough demos, which he is leaving in the band's van, just in case something bad happens on the way home.

In the course of the discussion I also learned that Peary was the first man to reach the North Pole (although Google research tells us that fans of Frederick Cook might dispute this). There is less dispute about the first woman to climb Everest. That is Junko Tabei. Nigel also questioned Hillary and Tensing's claim to be the very first to conquer Everest. He thought it was someone in the 1800s. Tony put in a claim for Mallory and Irvine in 1924 in their tweed jackets. There was also talk about Greenland. "They don't have a football team," shouted someone from the crowd. "Yeah, you wouldn't want to meet up with their mob," replied Nigel. He added that the country was so called in order to make it sound more appealing to settlers. So really it turned into quite a lengthy Q And A session, punctuated by a shout of "Get on with it!"

There was a shout for Our Tune ("yeah, that's one of ours") and Nigel was invited to "tell us about Gwatkin". The band then played an interesting medley, combining The Unfortunate Gwatkin with Quality Janitor. That was the highlight of the evening for me. There was also a combo of I Saw Her Standing There and Where Is My Mind? A new direction for the band? We also had some work in progress, with an airing of A Man Of Constant Sorrow (rhyming Sorrow with Zorro).

Nigel apologised to Neil for going too fast during Paintball's Coming Home. During a break Nigel said "You'll never guess who I saw in Betfred... Loads of blokes placing bets on horses." Ahead of the encore, Jordan handed Nigel some bubble wrap, and there was a suggestion that the band should do the appropriate song. Nigel noted that most of it had been popped. "I would need some help with that song. I might also need some help with this one," he added, before playing Fred Titmus.

I wasn't in the front line by any means, but the mosh pit didn't seem any rougher than usual. Nevertheless a member of security saw fit to stand in the middle of it, and at one point I saw him asking people to "move back". Everybody went home happy so I suppose it was a job well done.

Thanks to Carl for handing me his set list at the end. As so often there were several amendments between what was on the list and what was actually played. There were several changes to the order in which songs were played. It looks like neither Dukla Prague nor Fred Titmus were originally planned. Conversely, "Turned Up", "27 Yards", "Fix It" and "Bane Of C" are on the list but were not played. This is how it actually went.

Venus In Flares
Petty Sessions
The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train
Bob Wilson Anchorman
Reflections In A Flat
Running Order Squabble Fest
Look Dad No Tunes
When The Evening Sun Goes Down
Paintball's Coming Home
On Reaching The Wensum
Restless Legs
Quality Janitor / The Unfortunate Gwatkin
For What Is Chatteris?
National Shite Day
We Built This Village On A Trad Arr Tune
Time Flies By (When You're A Driver Of A Train)
Dead Men Don't Need Season Tickets
Rock 'n' Roll Is Full Of Bad Wools
I Saw Her Standing There / Where Is My Mind?
Tommy Walsh's Eco House
A Man Of Constant Sorrow
The Trumpton Riots
All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit
Everything's AOR

And then in the encore

Fuckin' 'Ell It's Fred Titmus
Rhinestone Cowboy
Joy Division Oven Gloves

Afterwards, I headed to the Wetherspoons pub The King Of Wessex along with Karen, Tony and Matt. Tony's wife Karen also joined us there. Thanks to all for helping out with the editing here. Only a few days to the next show, in Holmfirth.