Saturday 5 March 2011

HI-ON PLYMOUTH - 25 & 26 February 2011

Back at The Junction! Ever so slightly less than a year since our last visit, we return to our favourite venue in Plymouth. The journey began far too early for my liking. Train travel these days is becoming more and more extortionate, and in an effort to reduce costs (thereby ensuring everyone else gets that little bit more of a cut after expenses) I opted for the cheapest train. Which arrived in Plymouth about three hours earlier than necessary, and had me out of bed at 8:30am on a day off with one thought on my mind – "Who’s fucking idea was this?"

I met Nicko 'I, er, uh, um, errr' McBrain Jnr at Paddington just as the screens directed us to platform 8. My ticket said "Coach B, seat 82A". The seats in coach B ended at number 80. Well then. Junior quickly located two empty seats in the quiet coach and we parked our behinds. In all it was a slightly surreal journey. The sky slowly turned from bright clear azure to dismal grey as the rain started pelting down around us. The announcement that the coffee shop was open was accompanied by an over-zealous canine passenger, intent on broadcasting his thoughts on the matter to the rest of the train. I managed to reduce the residents of the quiet coach to fits of laughter by advising that they not eat the burgers. In hindsight, a quip about hot dogs would have been better. I believe the relevant internet term is 'lol'.

Normally, when en-route to a gig or just before I leave, I invariably receive a call from Adrian 'no glass, I’m from ‘Ull me' Swift. These calls nearly always start "Er, 'ave you left yet?" which is followed, nine times out of ten, by details of something that’s been left behind or news of some disaster that has befallen another member of the band. Examples of this are littered throughout the gig diaries – anything from a lack of spare guitar strings to Speed 'my entire life was in that car!' Harris' spectacular troubles getting to Plymouth last time. So I was not surprised to get a call when Junior and I were about an hour out of Paddington. He was just winding me up though – everything was a-OK and the lads had stopped for a wee while in Tamworth.

Pulling into Plymouth at 2:30pm, Junior and I immediately went in search of lunch. The lad needed to find a towel for those wet moments onstage, and I was looking out for a suitable grey shirt to match the clobber of my Maiden namesake. Nothing doing, unfortunately – the slightly-too-light granddad shirt would have to do for another gig or two. If anyone reading this has any leads on where Mr Murray gets his gear, give me a shout! Deciding to cut our losses, Nicko whipped out his iPhone and tried to find a route to the venue. After trying (and failing) to get our bearings, we jumped in the nearest cab! Unfortunately there was nobody in at the Junction. I suggested a pint (surprised?). Nicko spotted a friendly looking pub in the distance, so it was into The Fortescue for a pint of SA. This turned out to be the only pint I paid for all weekend!

We headed back to The Junction to find Chris, the proprietor, had arrived. After taking us through the various changes the venue had gone through in recent times, he sorted us both a drink (very kindly!) and we waited for the rest of the band to appear. We weren’t waiting long. While ensconced in my laptop and the quest for a shirt, I heard the dulcet tones of Bruce 'thunderknickers' Dugginson. The Selectadrive van of choice for the weekend had delivered the remaining members, so it was time to load in and make some noise.

The Junction, in my memory, had the smallest stage of 2010 for us. Ever so nice, then, to arrive at the venue and find that the stage has moved to the other side of the venue and become ever-so-slightly larger. I was delighted to discover that this meant that stage right puts me right by the bar.

C---chug-a-chug---D---chug-a-chug---E---chug-a-chug – "GUINNESS PLEASE!".

A very easy soundcheck followed, facilitated by Nathan the Sound Man’s handy mantra of "plug in, turn up, leave the front of house to me!". Chris had told me of some recent woes the venue had encountered with the P.A. system, which had been mitigated for this weekend by hiring certain bits of gear in. Everything sounded fantastic, both onstage and off, and so we ran through a few songs to check that everything from the rehearsals the weekend before had sunk in. We must say a big thank you to Darryl and Pat for once again coming down to take some video footage of our sound check. This proves to be a valuable aid to critiquing our sound and performance, and tweaking anything we feel is not up to scratch.

Video courtesy of Darryl 'Ross Halfinch' Stubbs

We ran off to the Travelodge to book in, and returned just in time for The Journeymen to take the stage. Swifty was on acoustic duty on Friday, leaving Saturday night up to me. The boys went down a storm – it was nice to watch this bit of the show and gauge crowd reaction, which was superlative.

Then in no time at all it was wig o’clock. Therein lay a problem – it seems that Hurry’s syrup had taken something of a waspy! My trusty blond locks now featured a (rather appropriate) bald spot on top! Time to buy a new wig I think. After a few un-PC 'Hurry on chemo' jokes, the intro tape was rolling. This is the first time for us using 'Satellite 15…' as an intro, and as a result none of us knew precisely when to start making our way to the stage. We ended up stood there like lemons for a good minute before having to come in on that first chord. Never mind!

We were bloody good. This was Steve 'don’t open the fridge!' Haggis’ first chance to show us what he’s got onstage, and he didn’t disappoint. Despite a couple of unable to hear the vocals difficulties due to the wobbly monitor system, we played a blinder. The 'Somewhere in Time' album part of the show went down a storm, and I remember particularly enjoying the harmony sections of 'The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner' and 'Déjà Vu'. The atmosphere from both the venue staff and the crowd had put us squarely in our comfort zones, and Eddie 'the new album is great!' the 'Ead put in a fine appearance much to the delight of the audience. Again, thanks go to Kelsey Fox, an up and coming Plymouth-based film-maker, for bringing along her camera to film the entire first night. It was also nice see our good friend Amy George in the front row, camera in hand, belting out the lyrics along with the fine Mr Dugginson!

Post-gig there was a good deal of merry-making and chatter with the punters. A good number of friendly faces from previous gigs here and throughout Devon and Cornwall had returned, and a splendid young chap by the name of Claude had come all the way from Luxembourg for this weekend – what a star! We piled in the van and headed back to the digs for some well deserved kip.


Saturday morning (well, afternoon) came around in no time at all. Bruce 'crash test' Dugginson and Nicko 'every fist I can find' McBrain Jnr had opted to get their own room as the rest of us snore too loudly, disturbing them from their beauty sleep. Divas. Fully rested (and still a bit wired from the excellent night before) we took a wander into the town centre in search of some grub. A functional Wether-lunch was taken, and with Spook from the forums in tow we continued our exploration of the town. Steve 'Ann Summers? Now you’re talking!' Haggis took a tour of the charity shops looking for a replacement buckle for his guitar strap, but all I wanted was a cup of coffee. After a fair bit of wandering about we finally sat down for a coffee and a tasty treat. Then it was back to Mutley Plain in search of a pint. The kind proprietor of the Dog & Duck (over the road from The Junction) gave us a round on the house in praise of our performance the night before – very kind, thank you sir!

Adrian 'smells a bit like crab-paste...and Pedigree Chum' Swift took Junior and Duggers off to collect the van while 'Aggy, Spook and I wandered back to The Junction. A few more casual beverages were consumed and a few songs run through before retiring upstairs to get ready. It was my turn to wield the acoustic, and true to form Duggers and I pleased the crowd with our takes on Still Life, Blood Brothers et al (including, once again, our tribute to the late, great Ronnie James Dio).

We hit the stage just after 10:00pm with the classic 'Live After Death' opening four, and a couple of new ones before performing 'The Number of the Beast' album in it's entirety. This album is chock full of classics we play at near enough every gig, but the inclusion of 'Invaders' and 'Gangland' (as well as 'Total Eclipse', removed from the album at the last minute to the regret of the band) kept things fresh. Eddie 'tag team shit!' the 'Ead had dusted off his prong (ooh err!) and put in a spectacular performance during both The Number of the Beast and Iron Maiden. Again, the punters and the venue were absolutely fantastic. The atmosphere was positively electric – it's so easy to underestimate how much an audience brings to a performance, and far too easy to forget that it's an intrinsically symbiotic relationship. The gig flew by, and I think we all could have quite happily gone on much longer. Still, we must always leave them wanting more!

Video courtesy of Jess 'more cloudy cider please' Tilley

Leisurely packing the gear down with a few drinks after the show, we almost didn't want to leave. Duggers and I managed to get ourselves into a rather advanced state of refreshment, while 'Aggy and Junior (as well as the driving Mister Swift) stayed rather more sensible! After several hours of party and chatter we said our goodbyes and managed to kip down at around about 4:00 A.M.!

In the morning, with 'Aggy complaining that he felt hungover despite having barely touched a drop (old age, mate!) we came to life slowly, divvying up the readies and making our way to the van. Junior and I were dropped off at the train station (about an hour and a half before hour train!) and the rest of them started out on the long journey north. Four and ¾ hours of train later, we pulled into London and went our separate ways. I got home at about 6:00pm, still on an absolute high.

This crowd and this venue reminded us all of how much we love doing this. Thank you The Junction, and thank you to the fans!

Dave 'egg in the nest' Hurry.

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