There is a bit of admin hanging over from the Durham show at the end of April. The day after, the answer to the Wordle puzzle was "forgo". In the review, I wrote "Big Man Up Front was about foregoing a family walk". Seemingly "forgo" and "forego" are interchangeable, although they appear to have distinctly different meanings. With an "e", it means "to go before", and without an "e" it means "to go without". Within the HMHB fanbase, I'm sure there is a sub-committee that will chew this over. Happy to discuss, if anyone thinks it's important enough. No, I thought not.
We went on a much-delayed visit to the site of The Battle Of Towton. Palm Sunday 1461, thousands were bludgeoned there. May Day Bank Holiday 2022, we were sitting in the nearby Crooked Billet pub. I was scoffing a Giant Yorkshire Pudding. We had a HMHB checklist, and were able to tick off many of the items in Oblong Of Dreams. Celandine, jack-by-the-hedge, orange-tip butterflies, cowslips. All were there along the battlefield trail. Persian Rug Sale At The URC refers to the carnage at Towton. No sign of that when we were there. The nearest we got to carnage was a red kite eyeing up some roadkill.
An article appeared on Chris's site in early May, being a chat in the pub with Nigel, written by Paddy Shennan. Reader, if you haven't seen this article yet, now is the time to go and find it. This looked at The Voltarol Years, going through the album song by song. Whenever I go to an art gallery, read a book, or go to see a film or play, I'm happy to interpret things in my own way. The same goes with music, HMHB's in particular. I'm not generally one for taking the songs to pieces in order to find out the different layers and meanings. Never mind the quality, feel the width. But it was interesting to see Nigel's thoughts on each track. "We have different types of songs that appeal to different people." You'll do for me, Nigel.
While I was on Chris's site, I also noticed a grand line from Phyllis Triggs. "Feeling part of a community - being surrounded by those of a mind, that's what it's all about. With HMHB, every gig is a homecoming." Amen to that.
I tuned in to Chris Hawkins' afternoon show on 6 Music, all expectant, to listen to his phone call with Steve Hill who had written an article in The Guardian featuring a variety of the fan base. Blink and you would have missed it, I'm afraid. I had expected Steve to have had a bit more airtime, with it being such a worthy topic of conversation. Perhaps a memo has been going round about excessive phone bills, and the presenters have been told to cut it short with the yatter. The whole thing was rounded off with an airing of Joy Division Oven Gloves. Bravery award for Steve, who had had a tooth out an hour before the call was recorded.
A dramatic end to the season for Bristol Rovers, whose big win in their final game saw them earn promotion from League Two. Their club anthem is Lead Belly's Goodnight Irene. You could hear that in the background as the reporter on Final Score was providing updates. Afterwards, I went searching for HMHB's cover version, recorded as part of a session for a John Peel show.
I could never claim to have a comprehensive knowledge of Cardiff pubs, but I know a good one when I visit one. On a previous HMHB night, I remember calling in at The Goat Major and consuming some splendid Brains beer. So imagine my shock when I heard the rumour that the place had closed. Untrue as it turned out. Now operating under its original name, The Blue Bell.
There was a bit more travelling than usual for this gig. Hence the early start. Bus into Wakefield and a walk through town to Westgate train station. Breakfast at Greggs was a flat white coffee accompanied by a chicken bake and a pain au chocolat. We sat watching the progress of the train times on the big screens. Soon enough we were out onto the platform for the Plymouth train. First Biscuiteer sighting of the weekend was John, who was on the same train. When we alighted at Bristol Parkway, Andrew was there. We all piled on to the Cardiff train and met with Chris who was already on board. Still waiting for the payment to come through from Chris, or I will go public with the album that we caught him listening to on his phone.
No doubt there were some Dean Friedman fans on the train, heading to his gig in the same city on the same night. As John pointed out, would it be too much to expect a repeat of the Bilston show from a few years back, when Dean joined HMHB on stage for their encore? (As it turned out, yes it was too much to expect.)
First confirmed arrival in town had been Phill who had driven in from Portsmouth, needing to be back home the following morning. Good effort there. He and Andrew went off to locate the venue. Karen and I opted for a Tesco Meal Deal and an afternoon's ligging, watching Countdown and the Giro D'Italia with Welsh commentary. "Peloton" was all I could pick up. Could have done with Nigel's expertise there. I had a quick exchange of texts with Tony, to arrange our pre-gig meet, and we were pretty much ready to go. Oh, and I've never seen anybody get nilled on Countdown before. Not an easy watch.
The paper review covers Western Mail and South Wales Echo. The latter had a feature on Martin Fry from ABC, but neither had anything about the HMHB show. It fits. That is usually the case.
We stopped in the Premier Inn on Queen Street, same as many others who were at the gig. We met Tony in the foyer and walked to Y Plas. The venue is part of the university, tucked away up a flight of concrete steps. We stood outside the door, as instructed, before being shuftied along as the staff put up some barriers. Phill and Andrew weren't long behind us. And it was grand to meet with Keith from Pontypridd, at his second ever HMHB gig. Hope there's a third one for him soon.
When the doors opened, we were straight to the front, and I was tapping my foot to Wet Leg's Chaise Longue. I had a nosey at the merch stall staffed by Miles and Mark. Nothing new available, but further down the road it sounds like there will be a vinyl version of The Voltarol Years. And there will be a yellow version of the Aerosol t-shirt in time for summer.
Nods to Howie and Postman Tony. John also dropped by, reporting one of those bizarre incidents that happens every now and then. He had had to remove his vi-his jacket in order to get into the gig. John said "They loved it the last time in Cardiff." Not so this time. Health And Safety gone mad? Door staff keen to stamp their authority? I wonder what would happen if absolutely everyone turned up with hi-vis? That's one for discussion at committee level.
JD Meatyard were the support band. Jay provided John D with a beer just as he arrived on stage. Where was mine, Jay? There was some useful advice from John, being very positive about the ability to get a breakfast for four Euros in Malaga. I'll test the theory if/when I am next there. It was the full Meatyard, with Gary drumming. Sorry, don't know the names of the guitarist or bassist. John D said that it was good to be hanging out with HMHB again.
As usual , this was all good stuff from JD Meatyard. I can't remember whether John said that a new album is coming out or is already out. Should have done some rummaging at the merch stall. Anyway, this is what they played. Thanks to Bass Player for the set list.Lorca
I had bumped into John D earlier in the evening I put in a request for Ubu At Eric's. No such luck.
There were more hellos with Martin, Steve and an exchange of waves with Mike. And a chat with another John, from The Valleys, whom we had last seen at HMHB's previous visit to Cardiff when they played The Tramshed.
HMHB made their entrance to The Official Colourbox World Cup Theme. Not heard that for a fair few years. Released on 4AD Records. God bless 'em. (Further investigation from Karen revealed that the same people were behind the chart smasher Pump Up The Volume.) The Light At The End Of The Tunnel returned to the spot at the start of the show. The recorded version of Awkward Sean has Neil whistling The Skye Boat Song at the beginning. Tonight he sang the words. Multi-talented.
From the outset there was plenty of Welsh from Nigel, spoken and in song. I couldn't even pretend to know a lot of what he was saying or singing. But as Nigel said, "I could get out of a scrap in Bala. But I could get into one as well."
Fashion report. Karl was wearing a Lancashire Hotpots t-shirt. Carl was in his Palestine football shirt. Nigel had a long-sleeved black button-up shirt. And Neil, also in black, had a Fred Perry-type t-shirt. Nigel was asked how they got to the gig. I scribbled his answer as best I could. "M53, M56, M6. But then there was a forty-five minute delay, so we went through Wolverhampton on the A449. Then got to the M5, M50, M48 and A48. Then down Senghennydd Road, and here. How did you get here?"
"Anyone here from Whitehaven?" asked Nigel. No reply. "It wouldn't have worked anyway," he reflected. "Workington's better," came a heckle. I'm sure Nigel replaced the line in When The Evening Sun Goes Down. The one about road gritters getting to work. But as ever, I couldn't make out the new lyric.
First celebrity spotting of the evening was "Roy North, ladies and gentlemen. From Hull". And Postman Tony confessed to an erroneous heckle. "What did God give us, Nigel?" Another error was the shout of "Sally James, 72 today." It was actually earlier in the week, but reminded Nigel of the time when The Phantom Flan Flinger knocked on his door. But he wasn't in.
After I'm Getting Buried In The Morning, Nigel announced "I'm knackered now." And ahead of Terminus, he said "This is about when I hear news about accidents involving British skiers on holiday. I keep hoping to hear the name Ben Shepherd." He also did a mime to the soundman. It's a secret language, but probably translated as "more bass in the monitor."
Nigel said "True story, that" after Running Order Squabble Fest. And he said something about changing the words of My Boy Lollipop to "Wolfgang Overath". There was a shout for a song, to which Nigel replied "I didn't bring my acoustic guitar. There isn't room. Neil has a perfect system where everything fits into the van." We were treated to a couple of lines from Y Mochyn Du.
The playing of Outbreak Of Vitas Gerulaitis gave me another chance to check the spelling of the late tennis player's name. Similarly with the line "Why it's Dick Krzywicki, it was you all along..." Nigel was eating crisps when on stage. He said he wasn't sure if they were ready salted or salt and vinegar. He also sang a bit of an Uncle Ben's Grain Rice advert. Immediately before Vatican Broadside, Nigel sang a few lines of Velvet Underground's Heroin. She's In Broadstairs was about when you find a badly sliced piece of cheese in the fridge, and have to put it back sliced correctly.
Carol Klein and Charlie Dimmock were in the crowd. Nigel knew they were here, because he could smell the formaldehyde. "Did you get the bin liners, Carol? You've got to make sure he's never found. Get some quicklime." Another unheard heckle met with this reply... "Yeah, we used to have one. But the wheels fell off." An approving whoop from the crowd, half way through Look Dad No Tunes, met with a "Thank you" from Nigel.
He also dragged an old joke out of the back catalogue. "I had a peanut stuck in my ear. I saw my doctor about it. He said to pour some chocolate down my ear. Half an hour later it came out a Treat." He gave a thumbs-up to a shout for In A Suffolk Ditch. Mod Diff V Diff Hard Severe was "about someone I know. He went to a car boot sale, reversed in to his space, and sold his engine by mistake."
Guitar strap logistics problems for Nigel. He did a few songs without his guitar. On one occasion, the strap had become detached, and it took a bit of time to fit it back on. He addressed Karl and Neil. "How come that never happens to you two?"
There was a snippet of Peter Gunn ahead of Reflections In A Flat, which contained a subtle change of lyric ("...Then there's the time you slashed me..."). At the end of the evening, Karl kindly handed over his set list. There was an inevitable asterisk between Reflections In A Flat and Joy Division Oven Gloves. We guessed that this denoted an immediate switch from the one song into the other. Clever stuff.
In London Calling, Joe Strummer lived by the river. Nigel Blackwell lives on The Wirral. Ta to Howie, whose video we looked at, in order to check Nigel's lyrical variation.
Hats off to the soundman, who made an appearance on the stage at one point. At the end, Tony turned to me and said "That's the best sound I've ever heard." And we noticed the band all shaking hands with said soundman. Must have been equally pleased. Traditional farewell from Nigel... "Have a great weekend. Weatherwise or otherwise.".
I noted the set as follows:The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train
Early finish tonight, so only three in the encore:Midnight Mass Murder
When considered against Karl's set list, there was only one discrepancy. When I Look At My Baby was not on the original list. Drafted off the bench at the last minute?
There were more Hellos after everything was done. I had spoken with Chris and Ian at the Shrewsbury gig. They were here again tonight. Andy told us that he had another epic journey home coming up on the Saturday morning. Bus-Train-Bus-Plane-Bus-Bus. Plane? Don't blame him after he saw his life ebbing away getting home from Frome last year. This time round, it was Howie falling victim to our transport system. A search party is on the way, Howie.
What a grand night out! Karen related a chat with Postman Tony. You have a dismal life, but then for a couple of hours every month or so, everything comes alive and sparkles. This band remains the greatest band. I'll let you know if and when that changes.
Saturday morning. Different city, different Greggs. I always find it awkward asking for a "sausage roll". That means a different thing in these shops, but it all goes to feeding my fat face. Then we walked to Cardiff Central, train to Birmingham New Street, and back to Wakefield from there. One final message came through from Andrew, pointing us towards an article in Mojo. Nige Tassell has a book coming out, Whatever Happened To The C86 Kids. He is tracking down all the bands which appeared on NME's collection and I've no doubts it will be up to his usual standard. There are quotes from Nigel in the article/book. I'll be tracking the magazine down, and, yes Karen, the book is on order for your birthday.
Back home late Saturday afternoon, it was time to slob out in front of the FA Cup final, and of course the Eurovision Song Contest later on. And after that, a gap of a whole four weeks before the much shorter journey to Leeds.