Robert Ford takes to the stage…….over and over again

The toilets smell of damp mops. The building is Tardis like. The beer is in plastic glasses……..

Sunday afternoon in Hull had proved entertaining, a psycho-geographical ramble around the old town with it’s beautiful pubs, and abandoned venues where Pink Floyd etc etc played. A maze of a journey takes us from one pub to another. The early days of October are blessed with no rain and warm sunlight, things feel good. But still there are reminders of the grim impact of Tory rule, even in the European city of culture there are rough sleepers. Not as many as Manchester but numbers aren’t the issue, the fact there are people on the streets damns, once again,  the current administration.

The rock and roll moment is when we leave the Travelodge and are making our way to Hull old town when we spot Clare and Georgio behind Debenhams taking in the afternoon air. A brief conversation and see you later…….

Roll back two days. Dave, Clare and Georgio have been in Europe, with Patrizia occasional playing bass. I wonder how Levenshulme will feel to them after Spain/France. My journey from Eccles is aided by the new Ron S. Peno album which Cam Butler had sent earlier in the week, it’s not Died Pretty, but it’s pretty damn good. Add to that the new one from Go Go Sapien which makes me happy and brings a broad grin to my face with its quirky pop moves.  Somehow Aussie music feels much more legitimate than what we get fed by the so-called mainstream in the old country.

Fred’s Ale House is an excellent venue for this type of thing. A few days earlier SD and I had seen three excellent sets from Vocal Harum, CP Lee, and Barry “The Fish” Melton”.   I arrive early and wait for the bands to a load-in.  SD is at a wedding in Stoke so Victoria is helping out on the door. Dave, Clare, Malcolm and Georgio arrive and we catch up with a chat about cricket, Aussie music, and the aforementioned Mr Melton.  As the drum kit is assembled Dave strums a few chords on his acoustic,  I guess it’s “Mind Full Of Leather” from “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye”, but it turns out it’s one of Malcolm’s songs. They have had two days rehearsals in Edinburgh and the soundcheck sounds tight. Time for a pizza before the proceedings commence.

An almost sold out crowd is treated to the raw enthusiasm of Uke Punk, the rebirth of Poppycock with a new line-up, and Graney & Moore’s pop-up band featuring Malcolm Ross on guitar and lap steel and Georgio Valentino on bass.  Bob is up from Northampton, Brad is down from the foothills of Ben Nevis, and for once I am running a gig which is nearly sold out. As it is with these things a combination of running the door and people wanting to “chat” to me means I don’t really get to see the bands properly but it sounds good to me when I do get a chance to listen.

Dave and Clare treat us to mixture of old and new with a good selection of songs from “Let’s Get Tight” and a respectable and well chosen series of classics from the back catalogue. Stand outs are a remarkable coupling of “Twilight of the Villain” and “Heroic Blues” which is Dave at his best, unwrapping his career before our eyes. The absolute highlight is a remarkable version of “Robert Ford” which is blessed by Clare’s sublime drumming and deft lap steel from Malcolm.  Even the usually hard to please Mr Moss is impressed.  An impromptu tongue in cheek couple of verses of “Show-business” is an added bonus in a busy set. We get another bonus of two of Malcolm’s songs – “Happy Boy” from the album of the same name, and “My Avenger” which I know from the “Wrong Place, Wrong Time” compilation. Both are excellent. Things conclude with a great version of  “Rock and Roll is where I hide” and punters amble out of the room with big smiles. The other Bob treats me to pint after the gig.

Saturday is mostly spent in the Marble Arch catching up with Bob and Sheila. Arrangements are made for the trip over to Hull and some fine ales are quaffed. Sunday sees a lunch time rendezvous in the Port Street Ale House which has some excellent beer on draft and is a loosener for the two hour journey. On a crowded train we decamp to first class and pay the extra as standing all the way to Hull is not recommended. A good bulk of the journey is taken up with a conversation about Alan Moore’s “Jerusalem” which Bob forensically dissects and of which I make a mental note to purchase once I return home.

The Travelodge on Pryme Street in Hull is modern and well appointed and excellent value for money. I contact Dave Hammond and we agree to meet in The George but as luck would have it we run into him and a couple of friends en route. The aforementioned tour of the city is both entertaining and informative.

Eventually we arrive at O’Rileys, the beer is basic so we opt for Guinness.  As mentioned at the start what appears to a detached house on the Beverley Road, from the outside, turns out to be much bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. The venue has a more “rock and roll” feel to it that Freds, not as big a crowd as Friday  but a very enthusiastic one. Great sound and impressive stage lighting is countered by a distressed floor and a peculiar odour in the toilets. The back of the venue is a gym with a boxing ring and a series of punch bags.

Loudhailer Electric Company kick off proceedings with their enthusiastic brand of rock into folk with Lou-Duffy Howard commanding the stage with her boundless energy and every-present smile.  They play some new songs and take an interesting sideways step into Talking Heads ’77 territory with a funky number. Stand-outs are a strident “Gypsey Race” and an epic closer with “Night Heron” with some excellent violin/guitar interplay.  Lou gives me a copy of the “Cursus” album.

 

I’m still getting to grips with the Canon Ixus I acquired for gigs like this but I manage to capture a few reasonable shots and a healthy handful of videos which I will eventually load up to You Tube. It’s no SLR but it’s better than lugging a bigger camera around when out and about.

I settle stage right, and aim to absorb uninterrupted what I missed on Friday. It’s exceptional.  The two Dr Alimantado references in the Graney/Moore canon make their way into the set. Twilight of a Villain and Heroic Blues are stunning, as they were on Friday.  Wolverine is a signature tune and I never tire of hearing it.  Malcolm plays “As Good As It Gets from the “Low Miffs” album which fits perfectly in with the Graney vibe and also has that unmistakable Edinburgh/Edwyn feel in its’ DNA.  The Godfrey Brothers are feted as Dave introduces a remarkable “A Boy Called Epic”. The set runs for nearly 90 minutes (Grateful Dead length Dave jokes at one point). The crowd loves it. Star Trek is mentioned by Lou in the LEC set (Voyager) and Dave in their set (TOS).  All of this is so effortless, so enjoyable, people in the crowd say “why haven’t we heard of this music before?”.

Monday is a taken up with a tour of some of the tourist bits of Hull, a strange vegetarian breakfast in the station cafe (olives and cucumbers mixed with beans, hash browns and and mushrooms oddly) and then a more comfortable ride back to Manchester. Bob will see it all again in London on Wednesday and Thursday, I am too busy with record label business unfortunately.

Over the two days the music played

Clinging To The Coast
Everything Was Legendary With Robert
A Boy Named Epic
Twilight Of a Villain
Heroic Blues
Happy Boy (Malcolm Ross)
You Need A Kleek Klook
All Our Friends Were Stars
Robert Ford On The Stage
My Avenger (Malcolm Ross)
We Need A Champion
Night Of The Wolverine
How Long Does The Raunch?
I Been Trendy
How Do You Get Out Of London
As Good As It Gets (Malcolm Ross)
Rock `n` Roll Is Where I Hide

As with 2016 Dave and Clare have in all likely-hood nabbed gig of the year…… hopefully they will be back again.

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