After a disappointing day at the nexus of cricket (a cold cold breeze, heavy rain, and painfully slow scoring) a trip up the M61 to see some “rock and roll” seemed like a damn good plan for a Friday night.
Of course I had forgotten the mysteries of the roundabouts of Chorley and their tendency to draw one Brigadoon like into strange places like abandoned lorry parks (the lorries being abandoned and not the parks) and Aldi Supermarket complexes. Despite a detailed study of Google Maps the additional extra roundabout paradigm had me driving round in circles for a good 15 minutes. However I eventually managed to find the delightfully named “Stump Lane” and then move with some trepidation onto Friday Street and thenceforth to Steeley Lane wherein nestles the excellent public house known as The Railway. I am always somewhat foxed by the pub as it’s never on the side of the street I expect it to be on. This probably says more about me than the topography of Chorley mind you.
The pub is reasonably full and nice and warm on a cold night as the last vestiges of a long winter splutter into the dark sky. There is always a welcoming atmosphere at The Railway and despite the “stage area” being on the direct line of site route between the bar and the Toilets/Smoking Zone it is always a good place to catch a live band or three.
The bill of fair tonight is wandering troubadour Dusty Moonan (Colwyn Bay), the eclectic and rather charming Monkeys In Love (Levenshulme) and local heroes Taser Puppets (Chorley). After a swift of half fizzy non-alcoholic brown stuff (don’t drink and drive kids especially when you have to negotiate phantom roundabouts) we are treated to a twenty minute set from Mr Moonan who is in an affable frame of mind – a couple of his own tunes including the delightful “This Ain’t London” and a few covers including “Trumpton Riots” and “Come Up and See Me Make Me Smile” – during the middle of which Dusty takes an impromptu lager break demonstrated the chaps ability to warm up an audience with his bonhomie and self-effacing performance style. I can’t help thinking that with a full band Mr Moonan’s rather marvellous songs would be something special indeed. Anyway he gets on well with the crowd and receives warm applause.
The first time I saw Monkeys in Love was at the Verge in Hyde last year where their backing tracks didn’t quite make it through the fog of the PA. Fortunately this time the sound was as near perfect as possible. Singer Laura is suffering with a nasty ear ailment at the moment so we were not sure whether she would be able to deliver to her best – however fears were unfounded as we got an excellent performance from the band.
With some of the stand out tracks from the album “Monkeys in Love will Pet and Cuddle You” it’s an excellent set including a marvellous performance of “The Man In The Keith Moon T- Shirt” including some rather lovely flute from Danielle McCullough. The crowd warm to the infectious, catchy and danceable tunes from this unique and impressive band. “Gin In A Can” goes down well (see what I did there) and the very moreish “Owl With Hands” has people smiling. The terrace chant of “Oh Judy” evokes the best of 70s pop whilst managing to be utterly modern.
Matters are drawn to a close with the surreal appearance of the new “costume” – a giant representation of Rod Hull – who appeared to be in need of a serious haircut. Laura is soon out amongst the crowd with a very friendly mini-Emu who tends to nibble the neck rather than grab the groin. Several punters walking into the pub at this point in time must have wondered what they had wandered into – the “Monkeys” grasp of song dynamics, excellent riffing , and instantly memorable melodies together with the theatrical performance values (think 1972 Genesis without the prog and with some punk aesthetic and you are getting close) make them a must see band.
Top of the bill are the very excellent Taser Puppets – this must be about the fifth time I’ve seen then and they continue to impress and improve. Unfortunately with an early start in the morning I have to slip away half way through the set but the part of it I caught was excellent. With bravura performances of “The Wrestler” , “Wasp”, “Man-Trap” and the stunning “Beautiful Song for The Ripper” the question has to be asked as to why this rather talented trio is not more universally regarded. Despite Shaun having to sit through the set due to his gammy leg he delivered on all levels and Jason and Terry have to be one of the best rhythm sections around at the moment.
So I slip away into the night and along the dark corridor of the M61 and back to the peoples republic having had a rather fine time with some excellent musicians delivering top quality music. As I dodged the lorries en route I reflected on the evening and concluded that the future survival of music and pubs are inextricably linked, and the longevity of both depends on their mutual co-existence. If The Railway and these three artists are anything to go by then the future is bright. Why would you pay £35 or more in a stadium to watch a distant figure through an overloud PA when you can enjoy the warmth and atmosphere of your local pub with quality artists?
Dusty Moonan has a new album out called “Our Name On The Door” which you can acquire free from Bandcamp. Monkeys in Love’s new album “Monkey in Love with Pet and Cuddle You” is available from their website. Taser Puppets have a new EP out soon called “Fuzzy Felt”.