Used to come here quite a lot when it was the Socialist Republic Of South Yorkshire. That was the mid 1980s. My mate Mark and I caught The Fall, The Housemartins, The Men They Couldn't Hang and much, much more. The much, much more included my first two HMHB gigs. That first one, when they walked on stage, took up their instruments and played Busy Little Market Town... Life-changing? Yes, I reckon so. Mark is much better than me at record-keeping. I must get details of the "much, much more" off him.
We saw an advert for The Great Songwriters on Sky Arts. Not sure when Blackwell/Crossley et al are due to appear, but we'll be looking out for them. In the same break, there was an ad for Carex hand sanitiser. The jingle was to the tune of He's Got The Whole World In His Hands. Just like Paintball's Coming Home. But not a patch, of course.
A teaser for The Voltarol Years came to light when Rogation Sunday's Here Again! was released into the public domain. A warning to us all about those posters you see round and about concerning missing pets. Gideon Coe played that song on his 6 Music show, along with Awkward Sean in the week running up to this gig. So the CD was clearly out there somewhere. Marc Riley's chats with Gideon at the end of the former's shows seemed tinged with jealousy. Marc's copy of the CD was still in transit. "They don't exactly bend over backwards to do publicity," Marc noted. Nigel subsequently dropped him an email to say that he was nipping round to Home Bargains for a jiffy bag and would be sending Marc another copy, as it looked like it was lost in the post.
Bit of a downer when we heard that Daz would not be at this show, but hoped that he would be back in action in Nottingham for the next one. Likewise, John and Elizabeth, testing positive for the virus. Doing the right thing checking though, and they showed boundless generosity in giving their tickets away. Get negative soon.
Gig day saw us on the bus to Wakefield. It's the time of year for council budgets to be spent up, so there were plenty of roadworks going on and pot-holes being filled in. In Wakefield we lunched at the excellent Smokehouse. The Fully Loaded Fries are a favourite dish there. Recommended, if you are ever in town.
From there we moved on to Sheffield. The paper review didn't turn much up. Not a peep in Metro or Yorkshire Post, which devoted space to reviews of new work from Alt-J and Sea Power. The Voltarol Years clearly hadn't reached them yet. Another trip to Home Bargains coming up for Nigel? There was also silence in the Sheffield Telegraph and the Sheffield Star, making it a clean sweep. No publicity at all for the gig.
Doors opened at 7.30. As oft before, we were queuing well beforehand. Sorry I didn't get the name of the couple who had beaten us there. He had done a lot of work with Sham 69 and showed me some live footage of them doing Borstal Breakout. Now there is a HMHB cover waiting to be done. Also joining us in the queue were Brian, Tony and Andrew. And there was Phil, with yet another admirable trek from the south coast. Carl and Neil came out of the venue, heading for the local curry house. Having spoken with them, we were left to watch the security guys as they put out barriers for containing the hordes heading to this gig and the club night taking place afterwards.
Once inside, we saw Graham and Sarah, and Postman Tony. There wasn't long to wait before the support act started. Just one bloke on his own, with bass guitar and drum machine. This was Danny Lowe, previously the bass player with Babybird and now seems to be trading as Heads Off. That was all good stuff. "Quirky and enjoyable" was Karen's considered opinion. We agreed that we wouldn't have a problem seeing him again. I didn't get a set list, so don't know the proper titles, but I would hazard a guess at this.Psychopath
"I wrote this in lockdown about my dislike of celebrities," he said of Celebrity Bores. Before Pussycat, Danny said that prostitutes and cats are the two most popular things on the internet. I couldn't possibly comment. Postman Tony reckoned that that song must be about Kurt Zouma, the West Ham footballer who had been in bother the week before after an incident involving his cat.
A few more folk showed up in the interval. Katherine and Karl with news from my locality, and Nigel and Jo from Goole. On the way to the gig, Jo reported they had heard Steve Lamacq play Bad Losers On Yahoo Chess. He had also promised to play some tracks from The Voltarol Years over the following week. And big thanks to Nigel/Exford for the donation of the Westmead Kennels And Cattery pen. It has been added to reviewing stock. Not used on this occasion - I already had a Betfred number in situ. I noticed Andy was a few places along at the front barrier, filming the evening's events. Looking forward to seeing the results.
I also exchanged nods with George in his Barnstoneworth shirt. And good to see Lee back at these shows, complete with the Torquay / Dennis Bell shirt. Postman Tony told us that he is now the proud owner of a Premier Inn bed. It had been left on the balcony of his new flat for months before he got round to assembling it.
I didn't quite recognise the HMHB walk-on music. It sounded a bit footbally, but I couldn't quite place it. Nigel pointed out someone and asked "Need a hand with your packing?" He also spotted Mary Beard, and there was the first shout of "What did God give us, Neil?" - not necessarily from Mary. Nigel asked her if she had managed to get her wheelie bin jet-cleaned. The first song was She's In Broadstairs. Straight after that came the second "What did God give us, Neil?"
Nigel introduced Irk The Purists. Apparently, it is about the 1320 Declaration Of Arbroath. I would never have guessed that. There was a shout for I Hate Nerys Hughes. "That's one of ours," replied Nigel. I spotted that Karl was wearing a Dry Retch t-shirt. Ta to Carl for the detail about his own t-shirt. "It was Be A Refugee by Van Der Graaf Generator from The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other."
The line in Reflections In A Flat was turned round again. "Then there's the time you slashed me / And I had to go hospital." Nigel also needed help remembering the line about being gone forever. And he mentioned that I'm Getting Buried In The Morning is already in the list of "Death Row favourites". Then came the third "What did God give us, Neil?" I stopped counting after that.
The guy standing next to me peered over my shoulder and said "I always wondered how you did the set lists." Now he knows. Pen and notepad. There was a shout for "Anything from Godcore." It doesn't seem to be a big favourite among the fanbase, but I would always welcome the likes of Fear My Wraith and Sensitive Outsider. In Renfield's Afoot, once again Nigel remarked that torches "but NOT police torches" were recommended. Later, I'm not sure what prompted this, but Nigel replied with "He's fat / He's round / He thinks he's Ezra Pound." Another observation was at Birch Services where the band had stopped on the way to the gig... "Sarah Lancashire was there. No it wasn't her. It was Bob Latchford."
At the end of 1966 And All That, Postman Tony shouted the usual "Stanley Mortensen!" Elsewhere there was a shout for "Lisa Riley!" and one for "Hattie Jacques!" Nigel was trying to process it all. "It's just a series of names," he said. "That's how we started."
Ahead of Ode To Joyce, Nigel asked "Is there anyone in from Market Drayton? This is about a lady from there. We buried her in 1988." There was a bit of the Parfitt/Rossi routine from Nigel and Karl during the song. Both Nigel and Neil were struggling with the sound, both asking for monitors to be turned up.
We were introduced to Craig, the soundman, who had to make a couple of appearances on stage. "He's like a Bez-type character. It's like he's joined the band." And there was talk about Chester Zoo. "What do the elephants get for lunch? Half an hour, like everybody else."
Pam Ferris was spotted in the crowd. "Did you get the Novichok? He won't sort himself out." And Nigel added "You don't get this with Sufjan Stevens. He's got the skeleton of Cyril Washbrook in his house." Nigel commented about having a good pedal. He didn't want to press it, so that he could hear himself. We were told that We Built This Village is a true story. On the line about moshing and jogging, Nigel pointed into the mosh pit, which was at full throttle.
Nigel played the opening chords of The Fall's Fiery Jack. It fizzled out, and I shouted to keep going. Maybe another time. Then came Twenty-Four Hour Garage People. Plenty to go at here, and no doubt I've missed some bits. "Sour cream and onion," said Nigel, "I know there's no chives." The spite for Nigel increases because the crisps are in the far corner of the shop. The keys for the door are under the guy's Jim Davidson autobiography. He comes back with the crisps and chucks them into the metal bucket. It's called a Mignolet after the mum of the Belgian goalkeeper of that name. She invented the device. Nigel then took off his guitar and started tying his shoelace. "I can't concentrate with my shoelace undone," he said.
The price of the crisps was a stern "£1.45" without the niceties. Of course, as usual, Nigel was amused rather than annoyed by this, because he's got loads of other things to buy and all night to do so. And he's got loads of mates behind him in the queue. "Could even be a pre-arranged thing." None of them were wanting petrol. Lost Oliver was at the back. He should have been in the Top Trumps town character pack. "Menace and Violence, he would have been low scoring, but he would have scored 10 out of 10 for Quirkiness," added Nigel. Lost Oliver is a misnomer because he actually knows where he is at any given time. His shopping list is a tin of Nitromors, a pre-buttered malt loaf and a street atlas of Peterhead.
The sandwich requirement is rich and varied, including Roasted Vegetable And Pesto Wraps.
Nigel refers to the employee as "Mate. Pal. Ace. Captain. Chief. Rabbi. Lionel. Blue." The word search is slammed down on the counter. Wordle won't arrive in his world for another ten years. "Girlfriend. Relationships. Inflatable. Kawasaki. Hayabusa. Not. In. Your. Fucking. Wildest. Dreams." He has also been having a spat on the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal Facebook Page. And Alexa is ignoring him, refusing to play Tygers Of Pan Tang. Meanwhile Nigel is urging Alexa to play some Andrew Gold.
The employee is now redder than his Shell v-neck jumper. There was a new version of the ending of the song. "He went to play golf on a Friday night... His body was found on the driving range and his head has never been found."
A new one was then given an airing. "We literally played this in the dressing room. Join in with the chorus if it becomes evident." The song being Awkward Sean.
There was a tiny bit of crowd surfing, but the chap seemed to pull back once he reached the barrier at the front. Nigel had intended to play his caravan guitar for the encore but it was well out of tune. "I'll put it back," he said. The dream sequence in Take The Skinheads Bowling involved Nigel eating a gigantic marshmallow, and then in the morning, his pillow was gone.
As always this was all good stuff, with many saying it was the best show since the band started playing again in Autumn 2021. There were even some new t-shirts on sale. Miles explained the motif, Molon Labe, to me. But Tony was prepared to commit to writing. "Before the Battle Of Thermopylae, Xerxes demanded the Spartans lay down their arms, to which Leonidas, King Of Sparta, replied Molon Labe - translating as Come And Get Them".
Here's how it went...She's In Broadstairs
And in the encore...The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train
"Fred Titmus" was not written on the original list from Karl, so must have been a spontaneous addition. And Awkward Sean had arrows pointing from it, as though added in as an afterthought.
I had wondered if both Howie and Graham Le Taxi had missed this show, but both said Hello right at the very end. Also saw Mike, who was one of the last to leave the venue. Tony was delayed on his way out, going back to his schoolteacher days, having to break up a fight near the merch stall. And with that, the night was over, and we said our Goodbyes until the Nottingham gig in March. Some went to The Rutland, some went to The Howard. We went to The Land Of Nod.
But that wasn't the end of the weekend. Saturday afternoon, after a fine lunch at Cavells, saw an appearance at Shakespeare's by the excellent Half Mandolin Half Biscuit, in the persons of Ian, Katie, Ed (wearing a Burberry fez), Teg, Trevor and Will. At various points I had chats with Katie, Ed and Trevor, agreeing that the songs showed their strength by being able to stand up to a "folkie" treatment. There was a raffle where they ran out of tickets, so you had to make up your own HMHB-related year as your ticket number. All to a good cause. The Declaration Of Arbroath got us second place, meaning we came home with some Nightjar brewery product, Half Can Half Biscuit. Good to see Steve and Phil there, and I met Nick who is/was one half of Half Man Half Bikekit. Tony (Birmingham City v Luton Town) and Andrew (Lincoln City v Wycombe Wanderers) were otherwise detained. We left for our train home, not realising that the band still had one more set to go. So thanks to Phil for completing the list by text. It would be good to see this lot more often, but we'll make do with every time in Sheffield for now. After Ed's opening line, "You're all in the right place, aren't you?", it went like this...Twenty-Seven Yards Of Dental Floss
The second set wasGubba Lookalikes
And the third setRestless Legs
Nice to see them sticking a new one in there. Looking forward to seeing HMand.HB again soon. Ta again to Phil, our man on the spot, for filling in the gaps. Also to Andrew and Tony, for technical advice at The Leadmill. And, of course to Karen, for not smashing my laptop over my head at various points over the weekend while I was typing up these notes.