To Hull And Back……………..

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.

Dusty Moonan
Dusty Moonan

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.

Colleen McCullough
Danielle McCullough

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.

Shaun Maxwell

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”.

Monkey Business with Rod
Monkey Business with Rod

Bedtime for Bongo…or the mystery of the vanishing melodica….

I don’t usually go out on a Sunday – I usually prepare radio shows and listen to a lot of the new music material that comes in…..but this particularly Sunday the musical treats on offer were just too tempting to ignore….plus it was Shaun Maxwell’s birthday party (he of the Taser Puppets and Sinister Chuckles) so it would have been churlish, nay impolite, to turn down the invite.

I have commented previously on Mr Christopher Dutton’s navigational skills and I am pleased to report that this time around they were just as fascinating as they have been in the past – more of that later.

A pleasant Sunday afternoon/evening drive up the M61 to the people’s republic of Chorley and the delightful “Railway” pub. As we arrive we spot Dusty Moonan indulging in a swift ciggie and MJ Leigh unloading his gear. Into the pub and a quick hello to Mike, Shaun, Dusty and Luis Drayton who is up from the deepest south for the weekend.

Sound checks, melodica practising and then SD, Moet and entourage arrive, having been busy watching United beat Newcastle at the Salford Arms, and finding a train to get them to Chorley.

A few pints of “Boondocker” some technical jiggery-pokery and then it’s time for a short set from the aforementioned Mr Moonan. Dusty’s self-effacing approach is charming – he is actually a lot better than he pretends to be and delivers a handful of songs including a lovely rendition of “This Ain’t London” from the new album, and finishes with a Half Man Half Biscuit cover.

By this time it is safe to say that our host has exceeded the legal limit for alcohol intake and is having jolly old time of it. The Sinister Chuckles perform a set of manic punk classics and Luis joins in on a couple of tunes. Stand outs are “Wiggy Brown” and “Mono Brow” and the impressive “Picture of Dorian Gray”. Interesting to see Shaun without a guitar taking the centre stage role with a degree of aplomb, and some great moves. They are fun, fast and rather special.

Luis is up next and delivers a scatological tirade against humanity,life and more or less everything else in his eye-line – with some degree of venom – more or less every anglo-saxon epithet I am aware of plus one or two others that are new to me make an appearance. Luis is a force of nature but I would honestly prefer to see him with a full band, rather than backing tapes, as the evidence from his two numbers with the Chuckles is that there is something quite memorable about his style and delivery.

Hot Pot Supper is dispensed and then up next the always dependable and rather marvellous Kill Pretty – I am invited to play melodica on the opening “Dark Heart” but cannot hear what I am doing so I shake a few percussion type thingies – it lasts a good ten minutes and feels pretty damn good from where I am standing between the two Duttons. Back out into the audience, and we get the usual raft of memorable KP tunes including “Rob A Bank”, “Breakdown Man” and “13 Moons” which has Dusty beaming in admiration. There is a brand new tune – which I didn’t catch the title of – which sounds very promising indeed. SD and myself provide backing vocals on “I’m A Cunt”, the crowd demands an encore, and everyone is very happy with the performance.

By this time our erstwhile host has vanished into the night…..time for bed , it’s been a long day!

More ales are quaffed as Cactus Knife set-up. I had heard a couple of tracks from the band – courtesy of Shaun – which I found to be very impressive indeed – so I was looking forward to seeing them. I was not disappointed – the excellent twin vocal line-up of Bobby and Rachel sets the band apart from the general spiky indie morass of the current north west scene – they deliver quality music floating mysteriously between psyche pop/surf music and a general late 60s/early 70s San Francisco feel plus a fair smattering of post-punk energy and delivery. What is impressive is the tightness of the band and the arrangements, and it’s clear a great deal of thought has gone into the song-writing. Definitely a band to catch live if you are in a search for something new and exciting.

And it’s all over – a few more beers and a lively debate follows on the state of the music scene around Mancunia and then we notice the melodica has disappeared – fortunately after 24 hours of extensive investigation it turns out Moet has taken it home with him. It lives to play another day. Hoorah! The car is loaded up and we are off…..

And so it’s back onto the motorway network in the general direction of Salford but due to the aforementioned navigational problems – mostly down to me nodding off and missing the turn we end up heading toward Leeds for some reason – however a few quick alterations to direction and we are homeward bound again. We drop SD off and then for some reason Chris forgets you can’t go west from Swinton on the M60 so we head east and take a quick detour around Prestwich before heading back to the general Eccles direction.

A marvellous evening’s entertainment, a great pub with great beer, and a rather tasty hot pot….and great company.

Let’s do it again sometime!