HI-ON YORKSHIRE 2009
Well well well boys and girls. This one is a bit of a tale!
Manic's weekend began with a three-day business trip to Liverpool, which conveniently located me in the right half of the country to travel across the Pennines and find myself in Yorkshire. Wednesday afternoon saw me in the splendid Dolphin Music store just around the corner from Liverpool Lime Street station. I went in for strings. I came out with a new acoustic guitar! Still, you can't win them all. And it's lovely! A three-hour train journey from there to Hull via Manchester followed, and I was duly met at the other end by Mr Adrian "Zippy McBride!" Swift. A trip to Asda was necessary to pick up a bit of dinner, a bit of Jäger and a bottle of unmentionable elixir for Swifty's vanity purposes. I'm sworn not to disclose the exact nature of this potion.
This was to have been a three gig weekend. Upon my arrival in Liverpool I began exchanging emails with Mr Swift to be told that Knaresborough, where we were due to perform on Saturday evening, had been cancelled. Another stroke of the bad luck which has plagued Hi-on this year. This weighed a little heavily on me, but I was still looking forward to the two that remained in the book. My anticipation was revived somewhat when Swifty and I pulled into Withernsea and had a listen to the almost-final mixes of our forthcoming 'Live at the Wharf' CD, recorded at Tavistock in the earlier part of this year. After some dinner and a bottle of the good stuff, we kipped down for the night.
Sooty nicks the Jägermeister!
Next morning we ventured out to pick up the 'Van of Not Quite So Much Terror' from Selectadrive in Hull. This particular LDV is the one van in the fleet not clobbered up in Selectadrive branding, as they've been trying to shift it on. Thankfully that means we get it at a reduced price, which came in quite handy in the end. Once we got the van back to Swift Heights I gave him a hand loading the van. This is a new experience for our Swifty, as he normally has to do this on his tod the day of a gig and drive a long long way. This weekend however, everything was that bit more local. Soon after humping all the gear, a rather unsettling phone call came from the promoter who had organised the gig in Wakefield. "There's no power at the venue", he said. Twenty minutes later a generator had been found and the gig was back on. "Phew", thought I. Hah.
While this was going on, Swifty got hold of Bruce "the finisher" Dugginson to get the number for the chap providing the P.A. for Wakefield. Somehow, Duggers managed to give Swifty the phone number for one Nicko "the lips" McBrain Jnr instead, who's real name is shared with the P.A. chap. "Hello, is that Joe?" said Swifty, The answer being yes, Swifty begins to describe the situation at the venue and says to arrive at 5:00pm. A completely innocuous conversation from our young drummer's end, yet Swifty didn't quite clock that he was talking to a member of his own band! "That sounded rather a lot like our Joe", he proclaimed upon putting the phone back in it's cradle. Numpty!
We set off for Wakey about an hour after we meant to, due to Swifty spending Dugginson-like hours in the shower. Close to the venue, my mobile begins parsnipping like there's no tomorrow - the call sign from Mr McBrain Jnr. Nicko filled us in on the look of the venue. No power. No lights. Not a soul in sight.
Swifty and I arrived shortly after and did find someone home. The power had been cut off that morning and Joe' the P.A. man, had advised that the generator was barely sufficient for the lights, let alone a full Maiden tribute band, P.A. system and the pub. Despite the best efforts of the promoter to find another venue, the gig was pulled there and then. For Speed "you idiot!" Harris, who had driven the 300-odd miles up from south Wales and already had a stressful few weeks, it looked to be almost the final straw. The evening was rescued somewhat by Duggers gee-ing us up and taking us to a charming little pub round the corner where we were met by my local pals Eddie's Mum & Dad. A good time was had by all, even if we were drowning our sorrows - we even happened upon a bingo-style pub quiz! Bread and dripping was served, which looked like more calories than our drummer had consumed in his life! After a skinful four of us drove back to Swifty's for another skinful, while Dugginson retired to his homestead. Good times!
More Jägermeister. We like it you know!
The next morning brought with it a trip into Hull town centre for bass strings, plasters and grub. Wandering through the shopping centre towards a panini which tasted like it had been essentially soaked in lard, we shucked off the despondency and looked forward to a gig that would almost definitely maybe sort of might just go ahead. I wouldn't have minded being at home - it was, after all, my parents 28th wedding anniversary - but we made the most of it. Swifty gave us his history of Hull, including the city hall where Maiden played the first gig of the Piece of Mind tour, ostensibly Nicko McBrain's first gig with the band. That nugget of history dealt with, we dived into Bad Dog Music where I contemplated the second guitar of the weekend, but ultimately decided that it was a bit excessive. Time to go back to Withernsea and generally loaf about until it was time to leave.
Then it was time to leave. Mr Swift's mother was piled in the Speed-mobile with the rabble while Swifty and I commandeered the van. En route, I was enlightened with more of Swifty's local knowledge - apparently folk from West Yorkshire who holiday in sunny Withernsea are known by the locals as "diggers", given their proclivity for building sandcastles. Who knew? Wikipedia does. However, Wiki tells me that "digger" is an affectionate term. This is not the impression I received! Rolling up outside the Springhead, memories of old came upon me. Thursday 4th March 2004 was the first (and last) time I was here, playing my very first gig with Hi-on as a 5 piece. A number of three-guitar gigs had gone before, but this was the first where I was flying solo as Manic without Adrian Swift. As I began to set up my gear on the other side of the stage I reflected on the five-and-a-half years that have elapsed since then. A lot has happened since then. I remember getting a frosty reception into the band from everyone except the lovely Dave Hurry II and Speed. It was a hell of a band to join, largely as they'd been together with that line-up for such a long time. Things got better but I never felt the warmth in that version of the band that I do in this one. After the gig, Duggers said to me "Something magic happens when this line-up gets onstage", and it's an utter delight. Well, it is when the gigs happen!
Pre-show brandy to warm up the vocal folds
Doctor, Doctor please...
This one, however, went off without a hitch. The Springhead has had a hard time of late, but a positive change in ownership and a bit of a spruce-up seem to have turned the corner slightly with everyone who works there much more optimistic about the future. Not a huge crowd, but a bloody loud one. Bruce commented that bigger crowds sometimes don't make as much of a racket. My over-riding memory of my time on stage that night is Swifty waltzing over to inform me the next number was to be "Wratchchild". Just as Bruce announced "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner"!! Splendid. Two different setlists onstage. Makes for a bit of a minefield! Thankfully the two didn't wildly vary. I had a few issues with the lights, as for some reason they seemed to be cancelling out my fretboard markings sending me into a Hurry Flurry of Brown Notes. Despite this, a good night was had by all. After packing down, Mr Harris sped off back home while the rest of us piled back to the coast.
Hi-on Maiden make a new friend
The next morning started with me completely failing to wake up in time to help Swifty unload the van in order to get it back to the lovely people of Selectadrive by 10:00am. Oops. Sorry pal. By the time I did emerge from the bony bed in the back bedroom he had already returned and the coffee was a-brewing. I began to revel in the delights of my new acoustic guitar while Swifty took the other two in the back room to show off one of his new toys. I ventured forth to find Mr Swift at the helm of his flight simulator, attempting to fly from Leeds to Manchester. This was all quite impressive until he attempted to land. Hitting the runway a little bit late and 'forgetting' to brake, he ended by pulling back up into the air and apparently shearing through a plate glass building. Top! It'll be some time before Swifty takes on Bruce's flying schedule, I fear.
We drove back into Hull and dropped young Nicko off for his train home. My train was a couple of hours after, so this trinity of pretend rock meandered into the city centre for a pint or two. Once firmly seated in Ye Olde Black Boy (a rather nice pub to the memory of William Wilberforce, the Hull native who led the movement to abolish the slave trade and who lived just up the road from this establishment), we all got rather too comfortable. I ended up missing my train (what a shame) and the three of us stayed in the boozer (what a shame). After a couple of Hobgoblins Swifty took us on a tour of Hull pubs, of which there are many. Duggers was adamant that we would find a curry house - easier said than done, apparently! After asking half a dozen locals and wandering about for what seemed like a lifetime I took the initiative to ask the internet where to go. We ended up in a restaurant a stone's throw from the train station chowing down on quite a nice curry. Opting not to get the bus we cabbed it back to Withernsea and took up seats in the Alex. All in all, it made for a night out that none of us could really afford after the abortive weekend, but it was a great laugh and a chance to get some quality drinking and socialising done without worrying about gigging or driving.
The next day Swifty drove Duggers and I back into Hull to pick up the car and say our goodbyes. Mr Dugginson kindly dropped me off at Leeds station, knocking about £40 off me train travel, and I was on me way.
We certainly made the best of a crap weekend. Cheers to all who came to The Springhead, sorry to all who came to The Strafford Arms, and a big thanks to Swifty for putting us up for the weekend.
Until next time,
Dave "cabbage crates over the briney!" Hurry.