It was a weekend of ups and downs, mostly caused by booze.
I shall start at the very beginning.
On Friday the 17th February, Dodgy gave a command performance at The Box, here in Crewe. It was to be the first gig of the tour to support their new album ‘Stand Upright In A Cool Place‘. A warm-up gig, if you like, before they hit the bright lights of the big cities. The band arrived on the Thursday and used the venue as a rehearsal room, to polish up a few rarely heard songs from the first album before adding them to the setlist.
In my new and shiny position at Redshift Radio, it was my absolute pleasure to get one of the band into the Redshift studios to discuss life, music, and other less important stuff. So on Friday afternoon I collected Mathew Priest from the rehearsal venue and deposited him into to studio for a half hour grilling by the lovely Liz Southall. The fairly hilarious results can be heard here.
Straight afterwards I met up with Elliot and Eleanor Howells, some more of the Dodgy family and we went for a slap-up carvery lunch together. The conversation very quickly found its level when Elliot sniffed the passenger car seat, after I told him that two minutes previously I had dropped Math off after the radio interview. I had been in their company for about thirty seconds at this point. I knew I was going to love them dearly from there on in. They were clearly very weird people.
Later on at the venue it was lovely to see so many familiar faces. Local friends who had come to see what all fuss I was making was about, as well as friends from further afield, such as London and Newbury! Blimey. A couple of liveners were had in the Corner Bar and then off to The Box to hear Smoke Feathers‘ set.
I’d never heard them play before, although I’ve heard some of their recorded output. I was blown away. I really rate them, and wholeheartedly encourage you to have a listen to them for yourselves. Their album’s out, and well worth a few quid of your hard-earned wedge.
Then Dodgy. We’d all built this gig up so much that I’m fairly certain that Dodgy could have walked on stage lowered their jeans, farted and walked off again, and we’d all have applauded and retired happily to the bar. Good though that they didn’t. They played songs from their first album that I have never heard live before, a great big chunk of their latest album which is wonderful both in a live setting and recorded, and then a selection of Dodgy favourites.
A drunk woman in the toilets said, “I wish they’d hurry up and play Good Enough, that’s the only one I know!” and with every fibre of my being, I fought the desire to punch her repeatedly in the face. Sometimes pacifism sucks, man.
The gig was utterly fantastic, and after a bit of a boogie at the indie disco afterwards, we all said big drunken huggy goodbyes and went our separate ways. Drunk, tired and very happy indeed.
The next day I woke up with a moderate to raging hangover, and collected Julia from Crewe station. She had travelled up from Harrow to spend the remainder of the weekend with me. For those of you who don’t know, Julia is the woman who was foolish enough to make me ‘Guardian Aunt’ of her firstborn daughter. That’s a bit like Godmother, but without the involvement of religion. Stu Thoy of Smoke Feathers summed it up for himself with, “So, right, if they die in a car crash, you’ve gotta like look after the kid? Wow. So what’s in it for you?”. There is a distinct possibility that he may have taken strong drink that night.
Julia came back to my place to meet Che the cat and to begin the weekend’s proceedings with a nice mug of coffee and a healthy splosh of Tia Maria in it. It was only 11:45am, but we figured it was Saturday, so what the hell. After I had gathered my thoughts and thrown some stuff into an overnight bag, we headed for the train station to catch the next train to Liverpool. Dodgy were to continue their new album tour at Eric’s, the famous venue on Mathew Street, and so Julia and I had treated ourselves to a posh room at the Hard Day’s Night Hotel.
Once at the hotel we reasoned that since it was lashing down with rain outdoors, there was no sense in going sight-seeing in Liverpool. As beautiful as my beloved spiritual home is, it’s true to say that it’s just as grim as any other collection of streets and buildings, when you’re huddled up to avoid a soaking. So we took advantage of our plush and palatial hotel boudoir. I fired up the coffee machine, Julia drew a deep, bubbly bath for a soak, and we chatted and nattered about all the things we needed to catch up on since last time we spent quality time together. It was bliss.
Heading towards gig time, we dressed, threw on some war paint and headed downstairs for expensive cocktails. Very swish indeed. However we realised quickly that we needed food before we embarked on any serious drinking and so we headed out into the direction of Pizza Express. “Have you got a booking? Ah well, you’ll have to wait 45 minutes then”. Oh bugger. So we left and wandered along looking for an alternative.
A sign about the size of a postage stamp said, “Metro Bar & Grill” and so we followed it underground into a mainly empty, but properly lovely little place. It was tarted up kebab food, but beautifully done and jolly reasonable. We ordered halloumi and chicken, and a load of rice and chips and salad and you name it arrived too. Far too much for us, but we soldiered on, until we were at Mr Creosote bursting point. Once we’d left, we had a little walk along North John Street to ease our full tummies.
At Eric’s we laid heavily into G&Ts in plastic glasses. Smoke Feathers were playing, and so we caught most of their set again. Great stuff. One by one we said hello to all the people we expected to see there, and then joy of joys, we spotted Angela and John Devine! We hadn’t known they would be there, so it was great to see them. We took up our audience positions near to them.
There were a few weirdos in the crowd (a man called Mark who tried it on with every attractive female in the crowd – not me, a drunk woman with yellow hair who did a proper bump and grind to even the most sensitive songs on the set list, and two men who stood millimetres away from the 12″ high stage, so that pretty much no-one but them could see Nigel), but then that’s Liverpool for you.
The gig was monumental. One of the best ever. Julia was absolutely made up, I was beside myself with happiness, and the band themselves seemed rightfully pleased with the way it all went. John, Angela, Julia and I danced and sang and cheered and clapped, and gave each other knowing nods and smiles throughout the set. Just as it should be. Music, friends, love and happiness.
We saw lots of other friends there too: Prowsey & Bernadette, Olivia, Cath & Andy, Chris, Paul and others who the fug of drink has caused me to forget. Do forgive me.
We left the gig and Stu from Smoke Feathers was standing in the corridor brandishing a bottle of white wine. We chatted for a while, he offered us a swig from his bottle, and said the magic words: “There’s loads more booze backstage”. Music to my ears, as if more music were needed. So we toddled off, availed ourselves of a couple of very friendly vodka and oranges and got comfy as Prowsey and Math entertained the crowd with rock and roll anecdotes. Booze was being passed around and Julia and I drank well. At one point I turned around to see her swig neat tequila from a bottle, which is something I never thought I’d see Julia do. But then I never thought I’d ever hear her say ‘cunt’ either…
Time to leave and wander back to the hotel. We tumbled upstairs (or was it down? I’ve gone a bit fuzzy on that bit) and found a fantastic soul band playing to a packed floor of movers and groovers. We stayed for a while, threw a shape or two, but then conceded that it was bedtime for Chappers & Jules. Quite a merry gang spilled out onto Mathew Street and lots of boozy goodnights and goodbyes were said by everyone. I seem to recall leaning against a statue of John Lennon to smoke a cigarette, but where I got the cigarette from, I have no recollection.
Back at the room, we performed our ablutions, got into jimjams and as I turned out the lights, Julia said, “G’night Mary Ellen..”. Obviously, I replied, “G’night John Boy..”, at which point she sat up and exclaimed, “BUT I WANNA BE JIM BOB!”, and fell back down onto her pillow. To sleep; perchance to dream.
We woke at about 9am. Julia was satisfied that this was sufficiently late to count as a lie-in, in her capacity as a mother of two titchy people. So we lazed around a bit longer (because we could) and then checked out. I remembered from a previous visit with Lis Lambertsen that there was a branch of Patisserie Valerie round the corner, so I suggested eggs benedict and hot chocolates for breakfast. Nom and indeed nom.
Having further put the world to rights (the UN ain’t got nowt on us), we set out towards the Albert Dock, to go and pay homage to the mighty Mersey, and to visit one of my favourite places in the world – the new Museum of Liverpool. I especially wanted Julia to see it, because I knew she would ‘get’ it, and understand why I feel about Liverpool the way that I do. The exhibits in there say everything there is to say about the city and I insist that if you go to Liverpool, you MUST visit this museum. Julia hit the nail on the head when she said, “Seems to me, London is a city of business and buildings and things and activity. Liverpool is all that too, but it really is all about the people”.
As usual there are things in that place that make me weep. Four times I’ve been there, and every time I’ve sat down and shed tears, looking out of that huge pillar box window, the Three Graces to my right, the Mersey to my left, and the Irish Sea before me.
My mate Ann (Liverpool born and bred) says you don’t have to be from Liverpool to be a Scouser. It’s a state of mind, a way of life and kind of soul. I count myself lucky to be one of those people; not born in Liverpool, but as Scouse as I can be despite it.