As promised, dear reader, here is the second instalment of the diary.
Hebden Bridge (A love story)
Sunlight streams through the windows of the van, refracting off the slightly purple tinted lenses of my fake Ray Bans and bathing my brain in tiny little rainbows. Outside everything goes from brick and stone to green and sparkle. Hills arch up out of the flatness as if somehow alive and suddenly stretch up lazily, yearning for the sky. Trees like giant broccoli sprout atop them. My lungs ache for the freshness so clearly abundant outside. A little canal appears, whisperingly at first, to my right, house boats and ducks and an Englishness lost to urban sprawl, seemingly relegated to the pages of old books you only find in charity shops for fifty pence a throw. Sandstone buildings, postcard houses, comely cottages, bridges over seemingly never troubled water, conker-clacking, cobbled and tweeded to within an inch of it’s life, we start to question whether or not we are dreaming.
Did we all pass through the pearly gates somewhere on the journey? Has some ghastly accident befallen us?
Have we died and gone to Hebden?
As we emerge, blinking in the sunlight like startled voles, from our little tour van we take a quick look at the really rather lovely venue. It’s an old social club, all wood paneling and halves of bitter and mild. We can’t load in until 4, so the search for lunch begins in earnest having foregone breakfast with the promise of something special.
Earlier I had tweeted, “Where’s good for lunch in Hebden Bridge?” and the world famous Marie Du Santiago off of Kenickie had almost immediately tweeted me back with a succinct “Everywhere…” Can’t say fairer than that. However, after a while of wandering around essentially looking at everything and sighing contentedly, it is decided that what we really want is a pub lunch with a view of the canal. Almost as soon as this is decided we find ourselves in the courtyard of The White Horse Inn. We find a table outside, in the sun, with a view and peruse the menu rather like we’ve not eaten for a month.
Stuffy and I order the pork pie served with piccalilli and mash. When it arrives a single tear leaks lovingly from my left eye. “It’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen”. This is no ordinary pork pie. This is a Hebden Bridge pork pie. It is bigger than I had even half imagined and twice as porky. In fact, fuck it, here’s a photo of the beast…
Oh, I forgot the mushy peas. There were mushy peas too. And they were glorious. Jesus CHRIST, I’m hungry…
Anyway, look, lunch was great. The beef roasts were amazing too, although I couldn’t concentrate on anything other than what was going on in my mouth. It is with great sadness that I have to report that I couldn’t quite finish all of the pie. It may well end up being one of my greatest regrets. My only other regret is not having gone down to breakfast in a posh hotel in Köln during the last Coxon tour but that’s another story. Just as my pastry coma is about to take hold we head back to the venue.
Our dressing room… sorry, the place where we are to receive our gifts… is housed in the little theatre next door to the actual venue. It’s very well appointed. There is a selection of books you can buy via a “trust jar” on the shelf. Fifty pence a throw, no less. I chuck in a quid and pick up the sequel to The Ghost Of Flight 401 and the exact, wait, the EXACT same edition of an illustrated children’s version of The Last Of The Mohicans that I had loved as a child and lost in a terrible explosion. That last bit’s not entirely true. I think it went in a box and lived under the conservatory until it was eaten by spiders some years later.
Are you sure we’re not dead?
The gifts are over-generous to say the least. Fresh meats and cheeses, wine, beer, all the crisps you could scrunch in the bag and then offer a playground pal. There are a series of post-it-notes lined up on the counter baring the sentence, one word per post-it, “ATTENTION ART BRUT THERE IS MORE BEER IN THE FRIDGE”
We all stop weeping uncontrollably after about ten minutes and it’s time for sound check. Wait, no it’s not. It’s time for Ian and I to have a wander through the local park, along the edge of the canal to marvel at the little houseboats so peaceful and inviting. We wonder if this isn’t the way of life perhaps we should all eventually adopt. Ian’s no stranger to the workings of a canal-boat, let me tell you and as the sun gently slides down behind the hills he tells me of trips spent as a youth, having to slow one’s body clock to match the flow of the river. It’s an almost startling and endearingly soft side of Ian Catskilkin that Hebden Bridge encourages and we saunter back to the venue like two boys returning from Cub-camp.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember much about the actual gig, such was my and, indeed, all of our sudden and overwhelming infatuation with it’s setting. I can only assume it was as spinningly lovely as the rest of the day had been and all that I can remember is two young men barging into “the place we receive our gifts” to get us to sign things, take photos and have a quick chat being met, welcomingly, with open arms. I have, in previous incarnations and in no uncertain terms, suggested that uninvited people kindly “Get the fuck out of my dressing room” and yet tonight there is no need for such unfriendliness. It must be the surroundings.
Are you sure we’re not dead?..
Having opted to spend much of the next day in our new favourite place, we set about perusing a flea market, lunching at a café for dogs, indulging ourselves with sweet potato soup and crusty rolls. We stroll around the charity shops, in one of which I manage to get Stuffy to try on a pair of leather trousers that are sadly a touch shy of the right size. We treat ourselves to an ice cream and as we sit scoffing, watching the selection of “strong looks” go by, Eddie suggests, “I bet Razorlight weren’t allowed ice creams”. Beastly old Johnny Borrell had been playing at the venue the night before us, I should add. Before long, however, the inevitable is upon us and sent crashing back down to earth we are faced with tonight’s gig in…
Hull is a stark contrast to Hebden Bridge and the famous Adelphi is as stark a reminder of that contrast as I have ever come across. Punk rock for the last 25 years, the Adelphi has seen virtually every rock band worth it’s salt pass through it’s doors and into it’s filthy little backstage area. A case of Carling awaits us there and whilst not wishing to seem ungrateful (“These gifts are UNACCEPTABLE! HAVE THEM RETURNED IMMEDIATELY!”), we opt to call the van our dressing room and attempt to order something for dinner in the Weatherspoons across the road. I say “attempt” because they don’t have any food left. Ian has a bowl of chips. I have a hot dog. The beer is unnervingly cheap, however.
We watch the awesome support acts and limber up for our performance. It’s really, really good fun. Sweaty and cathartic and unhinged and all that good stuff. Punk as fuck, mate.
We do a quick photo-shoot in the gents lavatory (yup) and before we know it our little home on wheels is careering out of the car park and “getting the fuck out of Dodge”. We’re Nottingham bound to one of our other favourite venues. Hooray for us!
The Rescue Rooms is a venue frequented by Art Brut and virtually every other band I’ve been in. It’s great. Nice big stage, pleasant back-stage and what is known as a “Flat load-in”. This means that rather than contend with iron fire escapes or stairs, you stick everything not on wheels on stuff that is on wheels and roll it all smoothly into the venue, where inevitably it all comes crashing down because you’re shit at stacking stuff safely.
Normally we’d head next door for some of their world famous fried chicken but I have done quite enough eating for a few days, frankly, so it’s coffee and wine until load-out time for Tobes.
Once again we are joined by the mighty Keith Top Of The Pops tonight and his revolving door policy on band members sees some new faces turn up. New to me, anyway. The rest of the Bruts know them all intimately.
Again, in contrast to the previous night’s punk rock ethic, tonight feels, by comparison, like a BIG RAWK SHOW ™ and it’s one I embrace thoroughly. I lurch about the stage, as it my wont. Freddie’s bass strap busts and as she darts across the stage to get her spare bass, momentarily looking rather like she’s running off stage altogether, Eddie is moved to say, “Oh, thank God, for a minute I thought I’d lost another one”. No, Siree. Tonight is a galvanizing and triumphant show, one befitting a band that has been together for longer than this short run and it bodes very well for the next chunk of gigs in November. Yes, yes, I know they’ve been a band for ten years but not with Sticks N’ Thumbs aka “The Rhythm Guys”. We are, for all intents and purposes, a new band and, by gum, it feels like a good’un.
Much slapping of backs is enjoyed. Stuffy’s old drum teacher even comes and tells him he’s done good. We jubilantly cheer ourselves into oblivion all the way back to London, which we get to at approximately Shit O’Clock in the morning. Total blast. Here’s to the next one.
We’re here, we’re Art Brut, get used to it.
Oh, I dunno, sunnink like that…