Junction, Cambridge, Fri 6th Sept 2019 (7/9/19)

Roger Green:

These strange things happen every now and then. Karen and I were ligging around, catching a video that a fellow punter had shot at the Castleton gig. The band were playing Joy Division Oven Gloves, featuring Nigel's wicket-keeping pose, and the "Dance! Dance! Dance! Dance!" line. After that, we switched 6 Music on. Tom Robinson was playing Joy Division's Transmission, with the original "Dance! Dance! Dance! Dance!" line. Inconsequential of course, but as Peelie would have said, "Some greater force is at work." On the subject, Happy Belated Birthday to the greatest DJ, who would have been 80 the week before this show.

Word went round my locality that a cat had gone missing. It happens all the time, I suppose, but I paid particular attention when Karen told me that this one goes by the name of Nigel. And life did its old trick of imitating art when we were asked to "Check your sheds."

When browsing the TV channels on the Sunday afternoon of the Bank Holiday weekend, we came across an old (very old) episode of Bullseye on the Challenge channel. Ted Moult was the guest thrower for charity. His was a very sad exit for a man immortalised by HMHB. We did some enquiries about him, and found a second link to a song by the band. He was, after all, credited with the concept of Pick Your Own Strawberries.

I noticed a match in the Europa League between two cities mentioned by HMHB. FC Quite Disappointing Statue saw off the venue for the Heavy Drinking Rugby Pals. 3-2 on aggregate.

We often struggle for fillers between Biscuit gigs. We took a chance on The Wurzels when they played at The Brudenell in Leeds. The sceptical me was expecting something akin to an episode to the BBC's Summertime Special. Not a bit of it. These guys, in their late seventies and early eighties, put on an evening of wholesome entertainment to put smiles on faces. I Am A Cider Drinker, Combine Harvester and Drink Up Thy Zider were all in their set. As was a fine version of The Kaiser Chiefs' Ruby. We were encouraged to raise a glass to the band's founder, Adge Cutler ("now on the great cider cart in the sky"). This prompted me to dig out HMHB's Footprints, where Adge gets a mention. John Morgan, the band's drummer is worth a mention. A fine performer, but also I'll have to go a long way to see a closer lookalike of Barney Mcgrew, driver of the Trumpton fire engine and, aptly, cymbal player in the brigade band.

Same city, same venue. We were back at The Brudenell to see Edwyn Collins. No particular HMHB references, but Edwyn is always worth a plug. His cameo appearance on Springwatch was the kind of quality television that doesn't happen too often. His show was a mix of old Orange Juice songs and ones from his new album. A highlight was the grand version of Simply Thrilled Honey. This was the night before HMHB hit Cambridge. So, in a fashion, this was not a bad support band to have.

A flick through the morning papers, and their total silence on the HMHB show, would not have surprised many. With The Yorkshire Post, well yes it was slightly out of their area. And they were busy with Boris Johnson's visit to the county. But, considering the departure of his brother from his role in the government, at the very least we might have expected a Compare And Contrast article with the time when Simon Blackwell left HMHB. I could have a go at that myself, but ought to leave it for those who are/were closer to the action in both instances.

We also drew a blank with other papers. Metro (both the Yorkshire and Cambridge versions) and "i" were also drawn to other news, mainly Steve Smith's double century in the cricket for Australia against England. We held out hope for The Cambridge News, but that, too, was silent.

Our journey took us from Leeds to Stevenage, where we changed trains and got a connection to Cambridge. The display on board the second part gave updates on the running of the London Underground. A Good Service was reported on all lines except for the Metropolitan where travellers had to put up with "service delays". However, things were a lot worse on the return journey on the Saturday morning. There were part closures on the District, Hammersmith, Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines.

Like one or two other attendees, we were staying at the Travelodge in the same leisure park as The Junction. Close as that is, we reckon it still only gets third place in the Accommodation Proximity To Venue stakes. The silver medal goes to The Old Bridge at Holmfirth which involves going out of the front door, turning a corner and walking down a ginnel. Even that is beaten by The Robin 2 at Bilston, whose location is merely at the bottom of a set of stairs.

The Cambridge Travelodge is also convenient for a late lunch at Nando's. Not everyone likes the chain restaurants, but this always does for us. The new spinach side dish was impressive, and will be given another go some other time. We also thought we would try Frankie And Benny's for breakfast before they start hacking through their list of restaurants.

As you do, we pondered the implications of Robert Mugabe's demise on the lyrics of National Shite Day. And also, would the recent changes in the Association Football rules have any effect on the H for Handball section of The Referee's Alphabet? Not that that is a big favourite in the band's live performances, but Nigel may need to address this if/when the song ever appears in front of an audience.

Our afternoon also involved an episode of Countdown. Well, you've got to. A nice cup of tea, a bit of kip and we were ready to go in the evening.

No excuses for not being at the front of the queue. We did a bit of people-watching, in particular looking out for fellow fans. It wasn't long before Tony joined us. We also got talking to Mo, who was at her first ever HMHB show. Jay and Andy also passed by, on their way for pre-show food. Jay had missed a few, so it was good to see him back in the fold. Brian also said Hello. As did Mike, who was in work garb (I noticed he had later changed into the more familiar Ipswich Town shirt). Normally we would have expected to see Andrew there. But he had passed on his apologies earlier. Had to work. Eek!

The first thing I wrote in my notebook when we were inside the venue was "Big New Prinz". This being The Fall song played over the PA. It was around this time when Matt, Phil from Portsmouth, and Postman Tony appeared. Postman Tony had also picked up on the Mugabe news. Great as always to see international traveller Thorsten who had called in from a corporate training session in London.

Model Village were tonight's support. You don't see too many bands with an electric ukulele. They were good enough to clarify where they come from. "We're from Cambridge, England." It could, of course, have been Cambridge, New Zealand. I can't claim to remember much about the last time they appeared with HMHB at this same place (makes note to refer to previous review), but this was high standard stuff. Having heard Big New Prinz a few minutes earlier, I was impressed by their song dedicated to Mark E Smith. "You are appreciated" went the chorus." One of their others dealt with the perils of on-line dating. And they did "a song about bands from the nineties re-forming, and why they shouldn't do it." A polite set of folk, Model Village thanked HMHB for the use of the drum kit. Maybe it had not been properly re-calibrated, as Carl seemed to be having problems during the early part of HMHB's set, including scrambling around on the floor. "It's like watching The Grumbleweeds," said Nigel at the time.

I caught up with a few more folk during the interval. John reminded me that we had not had chance to speak at Castleton as we had been on different decks in the "auditorium". Graham was doing his usual there-and-back in one night routine, as he was scheduled to be back out in the taxi the following day. He had an interesting tale from a few weeks earlier when driving home from the Castleton show. At the limit of his headlight beam he said he saw a large animal with a tail jumping over a wall. Too big to be a cat or dog, and it wouldn't have been a deer or a horse. Back to Cambridge, I said Hello to Ian and Mariana, exchanged waves with Chris, and noted the usual timely arrival of Howie and Daz.

There is often a very brief lull when the lights go down immediately before a band goes on stage. Tonight the lull was extended to the point where people were left wondering if there had been a power cut. Any worries were put to rest when the lights came back on, and HMHB entered to the sound of Portsmouth Sinfonia's Also Sprach Zarathustra. It felt apt.

Nigel asked someone at the back of the hall, "Are you all right for bags? Are you collecting the Disney cards?" Then he spotted Dion Dublin. "Good to see you've settled in now. You were shite at first. But now you're better than Martin."

First song was Bob Wilson Anchorman, at the end of which there was a high kick from Nigel in the direction of Neil. A statement of intent? Like clattering the opposition winger in the first minute? After Renfield's Afoot, Nigel said "We can all do that." Bollocko? 2am? Oh, all right then.

John tapped me on the shoulder, wondering if this was the first time all four members of the band had appeared, all wearing black t-shirts. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, let's just say Yes It Was. Nigel was a walking Adidas advert. Karl's was a Krankschaft number. It reminded me of the time when we were due to see Krankschaft in Wakefield. But the venue went bust a couple of weeks beforehand.

Nigel was going to take a swig of water. Plastic bottles are on the way out. Nigel said the vessel looked like a milk carton. Someone shouted out "It could be soup!" Nigel had a drink and said "Yes, minestrone." The name of the product was One Less Bottle. This was challenged from the crowd. "Shouldn't it be One Fewer Bottle?" That's a grammatical argument for another day. Nigel observed though that it said on the carton "still mountain water". "But it never says which mountain," he added. Later on he was asked if there was a serving suggestion. "Just pour and enjoy," Nigel replied.

Nigel told Tony that he had seen a story about a guy being found in a park near where Tony lives, covered in ice cream, sauce, sprinkles and a Flake. It seems he had tried to top himself.

Nigel repeated what he had heard someone say in the crowd. "Got you a beer, Terry." And then he said to Neil "This one is for you," before they began Lark Descending. Good to see that Nigel still sticks his plectrum to his forehead for the bit about working on the bins. And there was a fair cheer when he removed it.

Sorry but I totally lost the trail when Nigel was talking about the band's route to Cambridge. He mentioned calling at the Subway shop across the Plaza that was marginally worse than the one on Hills Road. They asked if there was a veggie option. The woman behind the counter wouldn't change her plastic gloves, so they walked out. The only thing I could be certain about, from the band's journey, is that "we have fucked the A14 off".

Tony spotted a bit of a Tom Waits song which formed a segway into Vatican Broadside. And Tony was addressed by Nigel before Look Dad No Tunes. "It's a myth that you can see the Great Wall Of China from Outer Space. Otherwise, you'd also be able to see other things, like the Pyramids. They'll be OK when they're finished." Another comment came ahead of Fix It So She Dreams Of Me. "You can tell I've been reading too much Philip K Dick."

Carl's dad had been offered the post of the Mayor. That's because he lives at Number 72, whereas the post should have gone to the Mayor at Number 75. Nigel noted that The Checkatrade is now known as The Leasing.Com. He accepts that he needs to do a bit of work on making the words scan in the song.

There was another celebrity spot. "Pam Ferris, ladies and gentlemen! Did you get your wheelie bin jet washed?" Nigel did a fitness test for the gig (a bit late in the day) by jumping off the drum riser during Joy Division Oven Gloves. I didn't keep a tally, but his rate of songs with and without his guitar was very roughly half and half.

Nigel noted that a light to the right of the stage, which had been off all evening, had suddenly switched on. There was a similar light to the left, which had stayed off. "Good job," he remarked, "because it would shine off Neil's head and blind people." There was a fairly clear introduction to the song in question when he said "This is a song about having Restless Leg Syndrome."

More poor note-taking here. Floreat Inertia was introduced as a song written by Alan. Unfortunately I didn't catch Alan's surname. Maybe some connection with Cambridge United, or Cambridge University. Or both. Alan Biley? Likewise, I forgot to listen carefully during The Trumpton Riots. Quite often at this venue, Nigel will sing "There's going to be a riot down in Trumpington tonight."

The mosh pit got more and more lively as things went on, reaching a peak I would say around the point where The Light At The End Of The Tunnel and Everything's AOR were played. As Tony observed, "It's like The Last Night Of The Proms." This was about when Ian was shoved in between the two of us into the rail at the front.

The punchline at the end of Lock Up Your Mountain Bikes was "That's when I got into Richard Dawson". At the end of All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit, Nigel stepped off the stage and held a microphone for a guy in the middle of the front row to provide the final "Errrrrr". Possibly he didn't know the words, so Nigel moved along to Karen who heartily rescued the situation.

There was a shout for Old Tige. "We've had an injunction," said Nigel. "We can't do that one. We can say the words (which he subsequently did) but we can't play the music."

Interesting to hear a Pink Floyd cover version. I didn't know that they had such a connection with the city. I understand that Syd Barrett lived just down the road.

The show went like this:

Bob Wilson Anchorman
Renfield's Afoot
When The Evening Sun Goes Down
Ode To Joyce
Lark Descending
What Made Colombia Famous
Left Lyrics In Practice Room
Rock 'N' Roll Is Full Of Bad Wools
Vatican Broadside
Harsh Times In Umberstone Covert
Look Dad No Tunes
Swerving The Checkatrade
Fix It So She Dreams Of Me
Joy Division Oven Gloves
Restless Legs
Floreat Inertia
The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is The Light Of An Incoming Train
Everything's AOR
National Shite Day
Lock Up Your Mountain Bikes
We Built This Village On A Trad Arr Tune
All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit
Fuckin' 'Ell It's Fred Titmus
The Trumpton Riots

And the encore was

For What Is Chatteris
Time Flies By When You're A Driver Of A Train
Every Time A Bell Rings

Karl very kindly handed over his set list. From looking at that, it can be said that What Made Colombia Famous and Lark Descending swapped places. Fred Titmus and Lock Up Your Mountain Bikes were unplanned additions. And Time Flies By was also not on Karl's list. Light/Tunnel seems to have been written in as an afterthought, after the rest of the list had been completed.

After the gig, we mingled, and said our farewells. Tony was having to make an early exit on the Saturday morning. And Mo was heading for the late train home, having loaded up with vinyl at the merch stall. It was tempting to join Ian and Mariana in the hotel bar (there was also a gathering at the Earl Of Derby), but an early night (everything is relative) was in order. On Saturday we headed back north, again going via Stevenage. Thumbs up to Puccino's on Platform 3 at the station. Excellent Mocha and plenty of space for gig reviewers to sit and type.