Town Hall, Llangollen, Wed 12th July 2023 (13/07/23)

Roger Green:

Tony texted me with a question. Would this be the smallest town/village to host a HMHB gig? Using population, rather than dimensions as the criterion, we set about investigating. According to Wikipedia the readings are as follows. Llangollen 3658, Matlock Bath 753, Brampton 4627, Castleton 642, Holmfirth 5173, Roadwater 1672*, Ashill 529. The inevitable asterisk. *1672 in the parish of Old Cleeve, which consists of Roadwater and a number of other settlements. Karen contacted the clerk of the Parish Council to see if they could isolate the figure for Roadwater. A change of personnel meant that this was not possible.... " I regret to say that we have been unable to locate a figure for the population of Roadwater village alone." Maybe next time we are anywhere near the place we'll carry out a door-to-door census.

We saw an interesting post from Brian, who was in Warrington at the time. Paul Heaton was playing in the locality, and had put money behind the bar at various pubs to buy drinks for one and all, on the occasion of his 60th birthday. Brian took advantage of this kind offer not once but twice. However, he got rumbled on the third attempt. Nice try. Wonder if Nigel will be doing something similar when he hits that landmark?

I went to a gig. Of sorts. After an evening of racing at Pontefract, they put on a show by Kim Wilde. I thought she had packed it in to become gardening correspondent for The Guardian, or something similar. I didn't hang around long enough for Kids In America, but saw her having a good go at If I Can't Have You. Sorry to have missed the recent shows by Sparks. Ron and Russell can both see 80 years old coming down the line, but according to the video evidence, they are still putting on a fine show. Their twenty-sixth album is in the shops.

Wakefield's Long Division Festival has now been and gone. After about twelve years of putting on bands over a summer weekend, they have knocked it on the head. At the final one in June, there were fine performances by Nervous Twitch, The Membranes and Mik Artistik. Over the years, HMHB never appeared on the bill of course, these all-day festivals don't seem to have been the band's thing.

Another gig... We caught up with Indignation Meeting, who were supporting Blyth Power at the excellent Wharf Chambers venue, in the middle of Leeds. It set me wondering, how long is it since Blyth Power supported HMHB at The Boardwalk in Sheffield. Following investigation, I find that it was October 2000. It's about time they were on the same bill again. Indignation Meeting's gig in Settle was a bridge too far for us. They sent us a video of their show, which included a magnificent rendition of Arthur's Farm.

Micky Bates forwarded us the latest copy of his Leicester City fanzine, Bentleys Roof. This issue features a picture of Brendan Rodgers ("The Demolition Man") on the front cover, with a general lament about their recent relegation and loss of star man, Youri Tielemans. I hope they keep the zine going next season. I'm sure dropping a division won't take away the resolve of the editorial team.

Issue 102 of Vive Le Rock became available in my vicinity towards the end of May. There was a feature looking at "A New Merseybeat", considering Liverpool's association with punk rock. This had a particular focus on Eric's. The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Ramones and The Stranglers all played there. Hocky, now of HMHB support band Bite Back, is mentioned, as is his band at the time, Instant Agony. Also, Mandy, Karl's bandmate from his other projects. And Attempted Moustache, an essential part of the HMHB family tree. Geoff Davies is in there too, with reference to Probe Records and the Probe Plus label.

HMHB fan Peter Ross wrote an article in The Big Issue a few years back, covering The Biscuiteers. I try and keep up with his work. His most recent book was released earlier in the year. Steeple Chasing covers his journeys here and there, looking at churches, their structure and history. It's a very tenuous Biscuit link, but Joseph Of Arimathea gets a namecheck. That in turn sent me to the CD rack to seek out This Leaden Pall, for a quick spin of Doreen.

My only other reading was thanks to my optician. Apart from the obvious, E, K, W, H etc, she thought it would be a good idea for me to read a leaflet about cataracts. "The risk of developing cataracts increases if you drink a lot of alcohol or are overweight." OK, thanks for that. That's one out of two for me. Happy reading if you are pointed in the direction of this leaflet.

I opted to be behind the wheel for the journey to Llangollen. We broke it up, staying in Wrexham the night before the gig, and Chester the night after. We would usually opt for the train, but that would have taken up a fair chunk of time with a number of changes. In Wrexham, I took the customary stroll round the football ground. There was plenty of work going on, to make it spick and span and ready for their return to League Two. I would imagine the Hollywood money will be expecting a swift rise from there.

Maybe the Wrexham papers don't reach Llangollen, which would explain the lack of any mention of the HMHB show. But Tuesday's Wrexham Leader did refer to Grandmaster Flash coming to town. Should be a lively night. The back page of Wednesday's edition covered the goalkeeping situation at the town's football team. Manager Phil Parkinson seems well served in that position, but nevertheless has expressed an interest in signing someone younger.

The gig did not qualify for the Local Events section in the Denbighshire Free Press either, although there was a feature about an event in Prestatyn on the weekend of 22 and 23 July. Apparently, it is fifty years since Holiday On The Buses was shot there. Surviving cast members will be there, but no names were given. It would be nice to hear how that goes.

Having parked up in Llangollen, we went out to locate the venue. First Biscuiteer spotted was Andy, who was on his way to catch a ride on the Llangollen And Corwen Heritage Railway alongside the River Dee. Some Jehovahs Witnesses were maintaining a presence outside the venue entrance. We wondered if they might be trying to blag the support slot at the gig. We would find out later if they were successful.

Andy went on his way to the Railway, and we went on our way to the Llangollen Oggie Shop. Lamb and mint for us. Later on Postman Tony saw me as I walked past The Bull where he was taking ale. He dashed out and we had the usual chat about this, that and the other. Like Andy, he was spending a couple of days in town. We also said Hello to Peter who was stopping in the same digs as us, being The Hand Hotel.

We were conveniently close to the venue, only a couple of hundred yards. On our way there we saw Tony, Andrew and Phill, who were troughing at the bistro across the road. Gomez, Howie and Steve H were at large, seemingly between pubs. Brian was also hovering, getting an outdoor coffee where he could keep an eye on the possible development of a queue at the venue door. I paid a visit to the Sweet Daisy ice cream shop. Quality goods on offer there. I had a double cone containing a scoop of honeycomb, and one of chocolate cookie. That's me one step nearer to a cataract.

When the doors opened, we exchanged our email booking for a wristband each, and we were inside the place. As well as folk that we had seen earlier, we spoke with Alison and I also talked with Drew. Steve A was there with the t-shirt of the evening, Nero Fiddles While Gordon Burns. John came a close second with his Hank & Ray & Bill number, although I would need to look up all those names again. Andy gets an honourable mention with his Reservoir Bod top. Andrew looked up the translation of what was written on the wristband. "Amser parti gyda Llangollen Fringe." It translates as "Party time with Llangollen Fringe." I'll second that.

Chris Ingram was the support act. Stand-up poetry works in certain settings but I struggled with it tonight. There was the constant hum of conversation from the crowd, and he was accompanied by a guy (by the name of Roger) on guitar for much of his set So the words were often lost on me. He needs to be heard at something a bit more poetry specific, rather than a music gig. But who am I to say? I particularly appreciated the premise of his poem All Day Breakfast In A Can.

In the gap between the turns, I caught up with Lou, Graham and Sarah. Nigel/Exxo was in the midst. And there was Niall and Marcella, over from Ireland. I exchanged waves with Mike as oft before. Graham Le Taxi told me that he now has a second job. But I don't think I could ever call him Graham Le School Bus.

My knowledge of Welsh culture is weak at best. So it was yet another Thanks to Andrew for identifying Yma O Hyd over the PA. "We are ready." Sung by Dafydd Iwan. I didn't need any help with HMHB's walk-on music. It was Nice One Cyril by The Cockerel Chorus. Exxo asked the question. "What connects Cyril Knowles and Beyonce?" "They've both got the same surname," replied Nigel. He continued, "It's a bit like the sports question. Who played football for Scotland and cricket for England?... Kenny Dalglish and Chris Tavare."

Karl was in a Mojo Nixon t-shirt. That was a new name to us. We listened to Mojo's Elvis Is Everywhere. Nigel was in a Trek-Segafredo cycle racing team t-shirt. You would expect him to be a bit more up to date. There is a new sponsor for that team and they are now known as Lidl-Trek.

Sorry, I missed lots of conversation from the stage, although I picked up Neil's request for more of Karl's guitar in his monitor. And I heard Nigel spotting Richard Harrington in the crowd. In reply to a shout of "Huw Edwards", Nigel joked "I think it's just a smokescreen for Tomasz Schafernaker." Not sure who Nigel was addressing when he asked "Are you OK for bags?"

Renfield's Afoot is "a true story". It was roasting hot in the hall. I'm not sure why Nigel took to the stage in a waterproof jacket. Eventually he took it off. He also had to deal with the lead coming out of his guitar. Such problems

Nigel talked about the poem Myfanwy, and was possibly gossiping in Welsh about the other band members. He replied to a shout for Descent Of The Stiperstones with the standard "Yeah, that's one of ours." They were from Montgomeryshire. After a lot of this banter, someone shouted "Do a song!" "A song? Yeah, a good idea," said Nigel, and they went into I'm Getting Buried In The Morning.

I didn't recognise Neil's solo slot at the start of Awkward Sean. Something about a square peg in a round hole. There was talk about local walks, possibly to Plas Newydd. And Nigel asked if anyone had been watching the tennis. "It's not as good as it used to be." He said it was far better in Lottie Dod's day. She was from Bebington on The Wirral. "Her old house is now a care home."

Monmore Hare's Running was about going to the bookies and coming away disappointed. Pam Ferris was spotted. "Did you get the quicklime? He won't bury himself." The jokes kept on coming. At one point he thought Carl was knocking back the booze. "I'm on a whisky diet. I've lost three days already." And "I bought a mattress in the spring sale." Hardly a breath after Ninety-Nine Per Cent Of Gargoyles, and they were straight into Yipps.

How sad to hear of the death of Paul Wright, the original drummer with HMHB. If you didn't see the band in the early years, it's possible that you may have seen the clips of the band from Whistle Test playing Trumpton Riots and Dukla Prague. That's him in the Fall t-shirt. He left the band at around the same time as other original members David Lloyd and Simon Blackwell. Happy memories. RIP Paul. Nigel raised a metaphorical glass to him after Dickie Davies Eyes.

There was a query about bus times. Seemingly, the Number 5 goes to Barmouth, in case you need to know. Nigel said that When I Look At My Baby is a true story. There was a bit of a Joy Division spotlight, starting from a request from the floor for Transmission. The band improvised this, and then did the same with Disorder. Just imagine a whole evening of HMHB playing Joy Division covers... I could handle that. Can't wait.

We saw another familiar move from Nigel: the plectrum on the forehead during the "bins" line in Lark Descending. Having pondered some cycling routes from the past, Nigel wondered what was Llangollen's rival village. Maybe Bala? He decided to go with Chirk. "I've never been to Chirk," he confessed. "They have a so-called castle, but it's really just a big house." He also said he likes Corwen.

Another old favourite got an outing. "How do you turn a duck into a soul singer? You put it in the microwave until its bill withers." Nigel considered the bottled water available at the venue. Expressing disappointment? It was Castle Springs based in Cumbria. Perhaps they could have had something more local, he mused.

"Hats off to Wrexham," said Nigel, referring to their promotion. This was met with a load of booing. I wonder who the locals support instead? Ahead of the Magazine cover, he then said "This next song could be about us, next season. Getting shot by both sides." I'm not exactly sure who he would have been referring to, when he said "both sides". Wrexham and...? Crewe?

There was a hearty "Cheers for coming out... and on a Wednesday too" from Nigel. In the encore, there was an interesting development, with Karl taking the lead vocal on Swords Of A Thousand Men. In all these years, that's the first time I can remember anyone apart from Nigel doing that.

The set went like this:

She's In Broadstairs
Bob Wilson Anchor Man
Renfield's Afoot
I'm Getting Buried In The Morning
Bottleneck At Capel Curig
Awkward Sean
Outbreak Of Vitas Gerulaitis
Monmore, Hare's Running
Ninety-Nine Per Cent Of Gargoyles Look Like Bob Todd / Yipps (My Baby Got The)
Running Order Squabble Fest
Dickie Davies Eyes
The Light At The End Of The Tunnel (Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train)
When I Look At My Baby
Rock And Roll Is Full Of Bad Wools
Lark Descending
We Built This Village On A Trad Arr Tune
National Shite Day
For What Is Chatteris
The Trumpton Riots
Vatican Broadside
Oblong Of Dreams
All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit
Shot By Both Sides
Every Time A Bell Rings
Joy Division Oven Gloves

And in the encore there was:

Midnight Mass Murder
Swords Of A Thousand Men
Everything's AOR

Maybe the Joy Division covers should be in brackets, being improvised segments, but they sounded good enough to me. Apart from those, all was as per Karl's set list, which he kindly passed to me at the end of the evening.

As the place cleared, I had a chat with Miles on the merch stall. No new products available. Nothing new in the diary beyond Bristol, Wolverhampton, Holmfirth and Newcastle. That's just four. Surely somewhere else will be added before long?