Another gig, another trip to Manchester, an even smaller venue than the last time I was in this city. The benefits of going with somebody who really wasn’t bothered were paying immediate dividends, as we were caught in a traffic jam thanks to a late start. Playing pot luck with the parking garages proved fruitful for saving money, but then of course it wasn’t me paying for the ticket. We arrived at the Night And Day Café to find tables and chairs out with a wide, busy bar. The toilet facilities behind the stage were nice and grimy, and you’d get the impression that this establishment was essentially a music venue that was trying to make a few bob during daylight hours. I had a coke (driver’s privilege), and sat down.
As we were late, the first support act, The Fractions, was doing a sound check by this point. Usually, I’d want to stand and check out support acts, and just stand a bit further back if it wasn’t my thing, but Mr Excitable wanted to sit down and drink his ginger beer. I’m usually fairly defiant, but when I heard the horn section doing the sound check, I decided that sitting down and enjoying my coke wasn’t such a bad idea after all. From what I heard, The Fractions had a pretty decent rhythm section, but brass has no place in rock music, and we ended up having mid-pace ska blasted at us for half an hour. I just plain hate ska.
The usual break between sets, no more coke, and a bad back from sitting down for too long left me feeling somewhat restless, but Grumpfeatures was in a mindset to sit down for the entire gig. If you’re into opera I could understand that attitude, or if you’re too old to stand up for significant periods of time, but otherwise, I don’t really get it. You pay your money to see the bands, and then sit down while everyone else stands in front so you’re getting nothing but sound bouncing off the walls. Even at £8 a ticket, that’s not much of a deal. Nevertheless, we sat down behind the crowd again, much thicker this time, through the set that The Great St Louis was going through. It was a shame, they had a couple of good tunes in there, although it wasn’t mind blowing or anything. Having done a little research after, the “Leatherface meets Social Distortion” label that everyone seemed to have slapped onto the outfit wasn’t entirely unwarranted, but I think it makes more sense to describe them as “a slightly more restrained Milloy”. Certainly not groundbreaking, but solid.
Enough was enough. I got out of my chair, marched forth through the small crowd, and parked myself on the front row, Cheery O shuffling along in tow. No barrier in this 400-capacity room, just a bunch of speakers, which made for great armrests. I picked up a pick that someone from The Great St Louis had presumably dropped onto one of the speakers, and parked myself on it. A broken mic stand saw bassist Graeme Phillskirk donate his to drummer Stefan Musch (I was wondering if he was still in the band, with the Viva La Arthouse live release crediting a Steve Owen on drums), and without much chatter, the main act launched into their set.
And it came thick and fast. “My World’s End” kicked off proceedings with an energetic start, much as it had injected life into The Stormy Petrel (albeit in the second slot there), from which four of the first six songs were taken. Mush staple “I Want The Moon” kept the energy at a pretty high level, before Leatherface slowed down the set with some more paced songs. Recent album opener “God Is Dead” was followed by the far superior “Watching You Sleep” from Horsebox, and the new album’s focus track “Never Say Goodbye”, with the excellent “Diego Garcia” rounding off the new album promotion section, albeit with minimal backing vocals. It was fairly apparent that Frankie Stubbs wasn’t in a particularly chatty mood, as the band were going from song to song at a surprising pace. Despite the speed, Frankie seemed to do quite a bit of interesting dancing (think drunken uncle at wedding), and Dickie Hammond managed to look half asleep, his eyes shut whenever I looked over, but the hands kept working.
As much of a blur that the set was, it was always going to be easy to recall highlights, as the rest of the songs were mostly a collection of well known songs and fan favourites, with just about all full-length releases checked off. A couple of other songs from the new album crept in, including the brilliant “Broken”, but the show was inevitably stolen by staples “Peasant In Paradise” and the closing “Dead Industrial Atmosphere”, as well as the welcome surprise “Colorado Joe/Leningrad Vlad”.
A solitary stage diver went around the side and dove in maybe eight to ten times. Were it not for the fact that he was obviously a regular and with a fairly large group of people who seemed to enjoy it, he’d’ve been walking home without shoes. Unlike the company I was with, I won’t rant on about it for an hour. It’s just sad, especially if you’re going to do it during “Broken” or “Pale Moonlight” of all songs. The encore consisted of Mush classic “Not A Day Goes By” and singalong cover “Hops And Barley, but all I can really remember is the vibration of the speakers on my knees, a flailing elbow smacking me just below the left temple, and finding another pick about two inches from my hand, I assume Frankie dropped it. With no competition at all, I stretched forth and took a copy of the setlist, left the building, found the car, got the hell out of Manchester, and got constantly bombarded with “can we stop at McDonald’s?”
I actually thought the gig was pretty good. The crowd as a whole was pretty orderly without coming off as disinterested, one of the support bands was decent, and the main act, an aging band, surpassed expectations slightly. If I learned anything, it’s that going solo is probably worth the extra expense, or maybe my friends are too old for this, because while I was on the verge of throwing the towel in this year, I’ve realised that I’ve got a few shows left in me yet. I just need to experience them on my terms, and I’d encourage anyone to question to themselves why they’re trying to talk other people into going with them.
01 – My World’s End (The Stormy Petrel)
02 – I Want The Moon (Mush)
03 – God Is Dead (The Stormy Petrel)
04 – Watching You Sleep (Horsebox)
05 – Never Say Goodbye (The Stormy Petrel)
06 – Diego Garcia (The Stormy Petrel)
07 – Little White God (The Last)
08 – Peasant In Paradise (Fill Your Boots)
09 – Hoodlum (Dog Disco)
10 – Sour Grapes (Horsebox)
11 – Disgrace (The Stormy Petrel)
12 – Broken (The Stormy Petrel)
13 – Colorado Joe/Leningrad Vlad (Cherry Knowle)
14 – Not Superstitious (Mush)
15 – Pale Moonlight (Minx)
16 – Dead Industrial Atmosphere (Mush)
17 – Not A Day Goes By (Mush)
18 – Hops And Barley (split with Wat Tyler)