“Getting beaten up, getting beaten up, it’s part of growing up” sang The Piranhas when I was growing up, and very accurate it was too. So why am I contemplating ‘getting beaten up’ … again … at the age of 51, surely I’m grown up already!
For two consecutive nights we left our caravan at Burrs Country Park and ventured out for ‘Live’ music.
Night one started so well, supporting act is none other than Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, watching an artist who was there in the very earliest days of popular music is simply amazing, we are in the presence of a Music ‘Great’. Martha is now well into her seventies and controls the band and audience with consummate ease. You can tell this is no longer the voice of a youngster but the power was immense, with the top notes sung at a distance from the microphone probably to protect both our eardrums and the delicate sound equipment, this lady can sing. ‘Heatwave’ started the show but highlights were definitely ‘Nowhere to Run’, ‘Jimmy Mack’ and ‘Dancing in the Street’. I couldn’t help but look around the audience, people were actually browsing their phones while twenty feet in front of them Martha Reeves is singing ‘Dancing in the Street’ live … Good grief.
Main act, Ocean Colour Scene, are about to hit the stage. Now, as our favourite band, we have seen them live on numerous occasions. For some reason they attract a distinctly boozey ‘laddish’ crowd that sure helps the atmosphere, but equally, can quickly ruin your night as their ‘fun’ spills out into everyone else’s space. Booker T and the MGs ‘Green Onions’ blasts through the speakers, they are coming on. This song is the bugle call to all Ocean Colour Scene fans drinking in the bar, the ‘unreserved’ front row balcony seats we have occupied with slowly filling bladders for the last two hours are now being hassled by drink fuelled louts looking for a better view. First song already being ruined by “Ere Mate, can I go where you are”, politely declined, half a minute respite. “Alright Mate”, said lout has annoyed my left side neighbour enough to get the seat next to me. Trouble is, Mr ‘Lout’ is now lonely without his five fellow ‘Louts’, his mind starts ticking, I could actually hear the ticks. New tactic, re-join the others and start to hassle Deb for a better view. Deb is having none of their ‘verbals’ and all bar one of the ‘Louts’ seemed to respect her plucky replies. Then it all changed slightly.
Mr ‘Lout’ clearly knows which nerves to press, he now positions his face about one inch behind Deb’s head. I really had no intention to await his next move. I indicated that if he touched my Wife he would have to watch the rest of the show from the ground floor area, or did I say I would throw him off the balcony … Hmm, maybe. Bad idea, a game of chest pushing and some choice language followed, I could also now see the whites of this guys eyes and he really didn’t seem the reasonable type. After our ‘handbags’ moment his five mates dragged him to one side and left me in a bit of a pickle. I’m now trying to look forwards and enjoy the show from my perfect viewpoint while six boozed up blokes, at least fifteen years my juniors, stand six inches behind me looking at the back of my head. Not an ideal ‘gig’ enjoyment scenario.
I was ‘sort of’ regretting my comment, but ‘sort of’ wondering what my alternative was. Only conceding our seats and spending the rest of the show with a restricted view was an option. This is our favourite band, we turn up hours early to get a spot, why should we give it up. It was a lose-lose situation. The show was good, with the added tension of a band member storming off mid song due to a malfunctioning guitar, and I wonder why the audience are louts!!! I really couldn’t enjoy it, always wondering when the punch to the back of my head would be delivered or perhaps a beer glass of bodily fluids. The gig finally ended and a stark realisation dawned on me, we had to get out.
The six ‘boozers’ lingered, I expected this, the fact they didn’t rush to the bar told me they had other plans. We had to go first. As we turned the first corner I grabbed Deb and we doubled back ‘heads down’ into the thick crowd coming from the other side of the balcony, assuming we could go down an alternate exit staircase … wrong … there was only one exit and we had to use it, only now, we didn’t know if they were ahead or behind us. As fresh air hit our faces and the street came into view my friends could be seen looking back towards the departing crowd. Mr ‘Lout’ was now looking even more unreasonable and I heard the words “I’m waiting for a fight”, once more, Deb is grabbed by the elbow as we deviate sharply under scaffolding work on the venue hoping enough bodies would follow to shield our path, it seemed to work and we followed the least likely route away from the area. As we speed-walked away everyone looked like ‘him’, Deb only complained a little about the 200yds route to the car park now becoming a mile long, I responded by saying I would find the way back to the caravan better if I was living.
Night two and I am under orders to behave, good job we are only in the presence of a few hundred Dr Marten boot wearing Skinheads then!! Tonight’s supporting act is Max Splodge, once of Splodgenessabounds fame, if you can call one hit ‘Two pints of Lager and a packet of crisps please’ fame. Actually, not bad at all, Mr Splodge treated us to some old ‘Punk’ sing-a-longs (Sing-a-longa Punk, now there’s an album title). ‘Hurry Up Harry’, ‘Nelly the Elephant’, ‘Swords of a thousand men’ plus the previously mentioned ‘Two Pints…’ to name a few.
Due to Debs vertical challenges we have again positioned ourselves early, I’m too tight to buy drinks at the bar and they would only make us need the loo and lose our great viewpoint. We are in a small club and find ourselves on a raised floor area against a rail. As tonight’s main act, Bad Manners, are about to hit the stage, I start to eye up every potential Skinhead ‘Cuckoo’ hoping to oust us out of our viewing nest. Nothing, No-one, we are left alone with a perfect view for the whole set. Deb delights in telling me my bald head has finally become fashionable as we look out over a sea of two hundred shiny bald heads.
Never a real favourite of ours, Bad Manners were often identified as a novelty band due to the comic antics of lead singer Buster Bloodvessel. However, their ‘Hits’ catalogue is surprisingly large and ‘Ska’ music at all times can only induce good feeling. In short, they were bloody fantastic, just ask the two hundred fifty year old Skinheads who ‘Moonstomped’ for a full ninety minutes, luckily without need of medical help. Nice touch from the ‘Bouncers’ on he way out, a handshake for everyone and a “Have a nice evening Sweetheart” for Deb, oh how I could have done with them the previous night, respect Manchester.
What’s a Moonstomp you ask, enjoy the video (16 seconds) below, this guy danced non-stop all night.