Wednesday, 10 April 2013

24th February 2013: Classic Rock Society Awards - Montgomery Hall, Wath Upon Dearne

Look at that - we're going steadily further backwards in time. Before you know it, we'll get to the wondrous time I took a girl I was trying to impress to see Steps at Wembley Arena in 1999. (The answer's no, by the way. To any number of questions you might care to ask.)

What an absolute tragedy...

The morning of Saturday February 24th, like the day after it, starts with something of a sore head - but there's no time to feel sorry for myself as I've got a date with a bloke in Cambridge who's taking me out in his Mercedes convertible. I therefore man up, stick on my gigantic noise-cancelling headphones (I really must thank hipsters for making it acceptable to look like a Cyberman in public again), pick up a sausage butty at Kings Cross and jump aboard the prog train.

Station porn. Phwoar, eh? 

Arriving at Cambridge station, the place is crawling with police (or rather, "Evidence Gatherers" as they are mysteriously badged), and I wonder if someone's reported a middle-aged chap kerb crawling in an open-top car, but as it turns out, my good friend and default joke-target Bob (aka Bert) arrives a little bit late.

With bag safely deposited in the remaining square inch of the boot which isn't taken up by Bob's jacket, the radio is cranked to Steven Wilson FM and we bomb it on up the A1, past a surprising and depressing number of closed down Little Chefs, some of which have become Chinese restaurants, some of which have become Adult Stores (the mind boggles), and some of which have become Chinese restaurants and then closed down again. A few are still open but seem to be struggling, if the giant "WE ARE OPEN" signs are anything to go by - and a few are just utterly derelict, including the marvellous Markham Moor site with its Nike Swoosh-cum-alien spacecraft roof. Broken Britain, indeed.

Photo: Ali Lampard (from Flickr)

Actually I think that would make a great album cover - if any of Big Big Train happen to read this, feel free to borrow the previous paragraph as the premise for English Electric, Pt. 3.

It's not too long before we see the world's largest KFC which signifies that we've made it to Wath-the-feck, and soon we're checked in to the Holiday Inn and installed in the bar, where Bob produces his field recorder, sets it up on the table in front of us, and expects me to start being entertaining - which is a bit hard, since I'm still hungover, and also it's very quiet in the bar and the staff are quite clearly sniggering at the two sad cases in the corner acting like they're reporting from the Oscars.

"What's this?", says nobody, "What are you recording?" - well, dear readers, for some time I've been guesting on Bob's "Dead Nobodies" podcasts, regurgitating entries from this blog as well as reviewing a few bonus gigs which I didn't get around to typing up at the time. This however, is the start of a new chapter - what will turn out to be our first "on the spot" live gig review and podcast. Or, the first recording of me getting steadily more and more hammered to be publicly available on the internet, anyway.

Some brief pre-amble recorded (against the backdrop of pint glasses being slammed down on the table next to the recorder), we jump in a taxi and head down to the venue where we immediately leave again and end up in the pub with various members of Godsticks, Magenta and the Celebr8 organising committee (of whom more later) - but fairly soon the time comes for tonight's entertainment to start with...

Dan and Chris Fry

... who play a lovely set of acoustic guitar duets, with a huge dollop of charm and cheeky smiles all round. A couple of tracks are somewhat flamenco in style, then there's some more classical-sounding material and even a song which is "all about the dangers of too much alcohol".

I'm still trying to ponder just how an instrumental guitar duet manages to be about anything at all, when they announce they've come to the end of the set, but there's one more treat for us - a cover of King Crimson's 'Red' performed on acoustic guitars only. It's as bonkers and marvelous as it sounds.

Next up are...

Some Awards

...presented by a chap who goes by the moniker of "Whispering Bob" Harris. He tells quite a funny story about Yngwie Malmsteen, but you won't hear it on the podcast because I'm at that level of inebriation where anything mildly amusing is greeted with a guffaw, so all you can hear on the recording is me trying to make Bob Harris feel that he's doing a good job despite it being a slightly tough crowd to start with.

The awards are actually rather good - I may have mentioned the last time I came to this event and the trophies were mostly all won by the same band or mostly members thereof, however it's a nicely rounded set of results which I won't spoil here if you'd like to find out for yourself later.

Doh! Gave one away... 

When the awards are done, Bob and I grasp the mantle and, fortified by the heady aroma of prog stardom in the room, go and grab some people to chat to- including the chaps from Godsticks, Rob Reed of Magenta, "Unsung my arse" Hero Jon "Twang" Patrick, Andy Tillison of the Tangent (when Twang lets him get a word in edgeways), and Bob Harris. Bob/Bert can't really work his field recorder yet, and when I'm not giggling like a small girl, I'm mostly filling in gaps when he runs out of questions - but you know what, it works and we end up with some stuff sort of worth listening to.

We're just finishing up with the Record Whisperer himself when the lights go down and we realise it's time for...


... who are here to rock our socks off (well, not literally, it's a bit cold for that.) They prove once again why they're one of the best live bands around at the moment, with classics from their catalogue and even a sneak preview of their new album which is due for release this summer.

It's actually a fairly similar set to the last one of theirs I saw at Celebr8, which is why I'm not going to repeat myself... oh, alright. It's confession time. A couple of songs into Magenta's set, Bob and I spy Steve Hackett nipping out towards the loo and decide this is the perfect time to see if we can grab a few words with an actual bona fide member of Genesis. (As an aside, I bumped into Tony Banks in the gents at Waterloo station a couple of months previously but sadly I didn't have a recorder with me, who knows what top quotes I could have got from him about "Urinal songs urge the sailors on...", or "The Toilet Crawlers", or, well you get the idea)

We get outside to find him chatting to someone else who's waylaid him in his mission, so of course we buttt straight in- and listening back to the recording it then appears that he tells us he can't really talk just this second as he's on his way to the gents, but then proceeds to answer our questions very graciously for 20 minutes whilst Magenta play in the background and the poor man tests the limits of his bladder. Steve, if you ever read this, you're an absolute legend and it was a pleasure to talk to you about your contributions to Wind and Wuthering. I'm also sorry for being a massive hypocrite and fawning over Genesis Revisited II, having slated it in my end of year albums round-up. C'mon though, what would any of you lot have done?

Better than Steve Hackett - official?

We get back into the room just in time to hear Chris Fry tearing up 'Demons' in his usual fashion, and thoroughly enjoy the rest of Magenta's set whilst basking in the glow of having just interviewed a childhood hero, blissfully unaware that a combination of our incompetence, some other people mostly chatting quite loudly right next to us and, erm, the gig we're ignoring, make it a bit hard to listen to. Still, we did it.

Post gig-shenanigans consist of more chat outside with friends and then a march down to Wath town centre to pick up what is actually the best pizza I've eaten outside of Italy (no of course I'm not just saying that because I'm drunk/starving), which I attempt to bring back to the hotel to munch on whilst doing our post-event summation in the bar, but am not allowed by an over officious security guard. Still, this same hotel has a policy against supplying bacon with their cooked breakfast, so I suppose nothing should surprise me.

Fed, and more than watered, we slump back into our easy chairs in the bar and set up the recorder again, this time attracting bizarre looks from wedding reception attendees looking for a little night cap, but this time we care even less. If you listen to nothing else, I recommend the last 10 minutes, it's quite enlightening in terms of how much lager one can consume and still form moderately coherent sentences. I wish you could hear the unedited version though. It's mostly hilarious.

Want to hear who we think is going to win the awards, who wins them,what we think about that, what Bob Harris is listening to at the moment, what we can expect from Steve Hackett's upcoming tour, how many words Andy Tillison manages to say despite Twang's best efforts, or why Celebr8.2 is going to be the event of the year?

Well then, I'd say you need to have a click below... or go here... or go to iTunes and search for 'Dead Nobodies'. Go on, you know you want to.


  1. I live not far from Markham Moor and am happy to report that the 'butterfly' (as we called it as kids) has had a preservation order slapped on it. Before it became a Little Chef in the 80s, I can only ever recall it being derelict - it started life as a petrol station - so perhaps it was never destined to be a viable business, more something for people to point at on long car journeys, rather like the Lightning fighter next to the A1, about a mile from where I'm sitting now.
    Love the blog by the way. Have seen Wilson in Manchester this year (going to the Albert Hall gig in October too), Rush in Sheffield (great band, rotten venue) and Tubular Bells for Two, er, twice (saw them in my hometown and have just returned from Edinburgh where I saw them at the Fringe). I hope they come back for more and add bits of Hergest Ridge, more Ommadawn and Incantations to the set.

  2. Thanks very much for your kind words - it's always nice to get some feedback. The internet is a very lonely and passive place sometimes, isn't it?

    Anyway, that's really interesting about Markham Moor, I had no idea that it didn't begin life as a Little Chef. I used to get inordinately excited whenever my dad would pull into our nearest Little Chef on our way home - I used to love their Crispy Chicken and Cherry Pancakes... (those are two seprate dishes, in case you were in any doubt.)

    Do keep me informed as to what becomes of the Butterfly! No more sex shops, hopefully...