Hull is now established on the HMHB approved list. Having gone so many years without playing here at all, this is now three times in five-and-a-half years (previously November 2017 and January 2020). It's a sign of the times that the gig was originally scheduled for the much larger Tower Ballroom in December 2022. That idea was doomed to failure, so we all headed back to the tried and trusted Welly.
This month was one of those rare occasions where we had three gigs in a calendar month having recently experienced Stowmarket on the 14th and Cambridge on the 15th. There have been some close calls, but I reckon the last time there were three in a month was July 2005 when they played Penzance and Exeter one night after the other, and then Leeds three weeks later.
Thanks to Phill for putting together a CD of odds and sods from the band's repertoire. A variety of jingles for Dandelion Radio, and a magnificent cover version of Mandy, recorded for local radio. Also on the radio, Karen picked up on a feature on Gideon Coe's programme. The theme was "Ooh La La", where he invited requests with one of those contents in the lyric. He played HMHB's Venus In Flares. That was rare airtime for the band.
Karen is a regular listener to a podcast called Sombrero Fallout presented by a chap called Ian Forth. Highly recommended. This particular episode was concentrating on music from Liverpool and Merseyside. In amongst Echo And The Bunnymen, Jane Weaver and Pete Wylie, up popped For What Is Chatteris.
As the crow flies, the most direct train route for us would have taken us via Doncaster, but it was far cheaper to go Pontefract to Leeds and from there to Hull. Worth knowing. The quickest route is not always the cheapest. By some margin. We spent bits of the journey looking at the webcam from Wakefield Cathedral where a couple of peregrine falcons are starting a family. And we noted Nigel and Jo from Goole would be celebrating their thirty-third wedding anniversary tonight by attending their thirty-third HMHB gig. That's a nice bit of symmetry.
Arriving in Hull, our first job was to fill our faces, with Nandos being the venue of choice. After that, we were across the road to check in at the Travelodge. There was ever such a teeny-weeny bit of confusion over the door times for the show. The venue's website was saying 7.30pm. The tickets clearly stated 7.00pm. But somewhere, John had seen it advertised at 6.30pm. And Andrew had seen that there was a 10.00pm curfew, which would have suggested everything running relatively early. Not exactly military precision with these announcements. Having arrived in Hull early afternoon, I toddled up to The Welly to investigate. There were a couple of guys there, one of whom suggested that doors would open at 7.30, with the support band at 8.00. Surprisingly, he didn't know when HMHB were scheduled, but with those kind of timings, it would have been fair to assume 9.00. The best plan seemed to be just turn up and find out.
The papers review was just one paper review. The Hull Daily Mail was silent about this show. There was an interview with Donny Osmond though. "There's a loyalty from the UK fans that just hasn't waned," he says. Could that also apply to HMHB? Do people go away from these nights thinking "Hmm, not going to bother with that lot again"?
With the uncertainty of the opening time, Karen and I broke ourselves away from the Mark Selby - Mark Allen snooker semi-final and were outside the venue along with Andrew and Tony about an hour before the doors opened. We were not alone though. By 7.00 the pavement was blocked a fair way down the street. The sensible ones, of course were in the pub next door.
We witnessed a drive-by shouting while standing there. "Nathan!" Unfortunately, it wasn't clear who this was aimed at. No one owned up to being Nathan. Maybe just a generic term. Al Pacino's pizza takeaway is still located across the road from The Welly. The man must be down on this luck if he is now depending on that for his source of income.
We talked about the all-you-can-eat crisp buffet in town. Shame it hadn't been earlier in the afternoon. I wouldn't have minded making one in. Graham Le Taxi said Hello, on his way for a pre-gig warmer in the pub. I don't think he was going to the buffet.
Inside the venue at 7.30, as usual I was straight to the merch stall for a chat with Miles. Imagine my surprise when I saw a new t-shirt on sale. Seemingly Neil knows someone from work who was able to write out "Half Man Half Biscuit" in Egyptian hieroglyphic symbols. This was then transposed on to the shirt design. I made the purchase accordingly. Of course, it could all be a hoax. It might actually read "you are a bastard" or "The Pointer Sisters" for all I know.
There were a few more Hellos. Katherine, Karl, Steve. Brian and a couple of chaps in European football shirts, Postman Tony (Honved) and George (Ferencvaros).
And then The Whistleblowers arrived on stage. It was all very pleasant stuff. To my untrained ear there were elements of vaguely folky balladeering with a standard guitar-bass-drums structure. I should have checked with Miles for CDs by them. Thanks to the guitarist for the set list, which read like this...Not The Only One
A few more Hellos before HMHB turned up. Michael, Sally, Peter, John, Lou, Exxo, Andy, Nigel and Jo. (At the end of the evening it was very kind of Carl to hand over his drumsticks to Peter from Indignation Meeting, who might be able to teach Carl a thing or two about drumming and playing the trumpet at the same time). I recognised Like An Angel by The Mighty Lemon Drops, a favourite in our house, on the PA between sets, but couldn't hear much of the other music played. That may have been a portent for the problems that HMHB had with hearing each other while they were playing ("Can I have more sound in my monitor? And can Neil as well? Can you turn down my guitar, for everyone's sake? Can I have some soup?").
HMHB's walk-on music was Sumer Is Icumen In from The Wicker Man soundtrack. There seem to be variations of the spelling. We'll go with that one. Tony had given a book to Nigel, via Miles - How Shostakovich Changed My Mind by Stephen Johnson. Nigel came over to thank Tony, before moving over to the microphone and saying "Good evening. This is our first song, as you already know." The first song being She's In Broadstairs. There was a nice bit of miming in there from Nigel, for the line where he gets the A To Z out. He would do well in that round on Never Mind The Buzzcocks.
They were all in plain coloured tops tonight, with the exception of Karl, in a Status Quo t-shirt. There is often confusion over who starts each song. Nothing like that with Bob Wilson Anchor Man. "Are we all in together?" asked Nigel, before everyone started the song. At the end of it, Nigel started peering over the edge of the stage. He was looking for his plectrum which had flown out of his hand and may have dropped in the moat between band and audience. Could have gone anywhere though. Tony shouted, helpfully "Robert Johnson never used a plectrum." Nigel carried on, having been given what he described as "Karl's spare plectrum".
In amongst all the issues with sound on the stage, Nigel's guitar was giving him problems. "I did tune it backstage, but then I knocked it on the door," he said, "so it went out of tune." He seemed to be following the principle of "Plug it in. Plug it out. Then plug it in again."
"This is a true story," said Nigel, ahead of Bad Losers On Yahoo Chess. In Renfield's Afoot, "Booking Essential" was in block capital letters again. Please don't take a police torch, and be there for a 7.30 start. Prompt. "This is for anyone from Lossiemouth... Could be here on holiday or could be work-related..." announced Nigel, ahead of I'm Getting Buried In The Morning. He also noted that Titanic: The Musical was on at the New Theatre, with its songs including, "Going Down, Going Down, Going Down".
Neil's song at the beginning of Awkward Sean was an excerpt from Song For Thirza, by Lal Waterson. During the line about York, Nigel pointed in the direction of that city. Later on, in Joy Division Oven Gloves, he pointed straight ahead on the line about The Quantocks. Louise Lear was spotted in the crowd. "I told you you wouldn't like it."
Nigel wondered if anyone had had Kellogg's Frosted Wheats. He talked about all their different flavours, "Christ, they're nice." He reckons he has now been to every eatery in St Stephen's Centre, "Wok 'n' Go. Wok 'n' Went." Tony said that folk go to St Stephens Centre to get stoned. Nigel got the joke. "Give that man a pint." Ironically, it is closed on Boxing Day.
Nigel said "This is a sad song" ahead of Terminus. He asked if anyone was in from Trowbridge. Boothferry Park was mentioned. He told a tale from the Liverpool Sunday League in the 1970s where a bloke was walking across the pitch. The ball landed at his feet. He hoofed into the net and shouted "Wagstaff!" in homage to the Hull City hero. Nigel also mentioned other Tigers legends, Roger De Vries and Geoff Hennerman. He also said that when making up football games at home, the amber counters would be used to represent Hull City.
There was a snippet of Lonnie Donegan's Rock-A My Soul ahead of Vatican Broadside. We were diverted by a series of dots that kept appearing on the screen at the back of the stage. There were about half a dozen green dots. They would disappear, and be replaced by some red dots. Then back to the green dots. Then the red, and so on and so on. Like a game of Pong. Intriguing.
Nigel swapped guitars with Karl, while the latter did some tuning up. Nigel said that he had seen a fox going into the St Stephens Centre. "Unlike the fox I saw the other week..." He rattled off the story about finding a fox with her cubs in a suitcase. He rang the RSPCA, who asked if they were moving. "I don't know. But that would explain the suitcase."
"This is another happy, fun song" was the introduction to Stuck Up A Hornbeam. Someone made a comment about the band's stagecraft, to which Nigel responded "H.P. Stagecraft". There was a brief rendition of Hal-An-Tow. In answer to a shout from the crowd for Nerys Hughes, Nigel answered "My Mum used to clean her Mum's house."
Apparently, Len Ganley's brother, Derek, lives in Lisburn and owns the skeleton of Frank Randle. Karl had to carry out urgent repairs on his guitar and leads during National Shite Day and ended up just grabbing a replacement. At about the same time there was a frantic discussion between two of the security guys. Bother in the crowd? "This one's about the church next door but one," announced Nigel before they played Midnight Mass Murder. And he finished that song with "Thank you. Hallelujah." There was more equipment trouble during Trumpton Riots, when the strap totally came off Nigel's guitar and he ended up looking like a banjo player with it tucked into his elbow. Formbyesque.
"It's chilly outside for April. But it's been warm in here," Nigel pointed out, ahead of Joy Division Oven Gloves. When they came back for the encore, he said "Very nice, very nice. Much appreciated." I also heard him say "Sister Ray. Yeah." Don't know if someone had shouted for that. Tony has tattoos high on both arms, and was keen to show these during Shit Arm Bad Tattoo. Ferry Cross The Humber would have been a nice cover version, but I have not seen many wilder mosh pits at a HMHB show than for the rendition of Holiday In Cambodia.
All good, as usual, notwithstanding those technical blips. I'm sure it's not like that for the chaps on stage, but it's almost like the sound problems are becoming part of the show. Bring back Gareth. I reckon the show went like this...She's In Broadstairs
As usual, there were three in the encore:Shit Arm Bad Tattoo
Karl had possibly been undertaking some ancient ritual, where he doused his set list with water before tearing it in two. Nevertheless, I could make out what it said, and everything matched up perfectly against what the band actually played.
There were a couple of farewells on the way out. Mike was on his way back to the car. And it was great to see Pete from Worksop. Doesn't get down to the front so much these days, but glad he can still make it along to the gigs.
Checking out of the Travelodge on the Saturday morning, we met a couple of fans who were equally impressed with the show. And then we spotted Andy, and walked back to the station with him. He was expecting to be back in Dumfries mid-afternoon, a relatively early get-home by his usual standards. A hen party was in our carriage, one of whom was actually called Sonia. I was listening out for Gail as well. No such luck.
Somebody said something about an overtime ban on the trains on the weekend of the Edinburgh gig. Need to keep an eye out for that. If that's the case, it could be a tricky one to get to and from.