As a Tranmere supporter, brought up on the Holmlands Estate, Birkenhead (about two minutes walk from Prestbury Ave) , who went to the same primary and secondary schools as Nigel Blackwell, it was impossible not to become a fan of Half Man Half Biscuit.
I’d followed them around the country, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Hull…… but when I spotted a gig in a cave I just had to get a ticket.
I bought the ticket in February for Devil’s Arse cave in Castleton. A month later I’d booked a spot at a campsite a few miles down the road.
The concert was in mid August.
Pitch up at midday, walk to nearby Ladybower reservoir, cook dinner then a nice evening stroll to the venue….
…..well, that was the plan!
There had been a rain warning in place for a few days.
I left my house at 10am for what should be about a 90 minute journey. I hit the first tailback on the M56, then another. Even on the clear bits of motorway it was not advisable to go too fast. The rain was heavy and the surface extremely damp.
It took around three hours to reach Swallowholme Campsite in Bamford. I was shown to my allocated spot on a patch of grass reserved for only for tents. I put on my waterproofs and set up ‘home’
I haven’t been too impressed with my Scarpa approach shoes, I’ve little confidence in the grip and, despite getting re-waterproofed recently, my feet were already soaked by the time I’d pitched my tent.
I sat in the doorway and made myself a coffee. I felt I’d earned it!
With my right foot squelching every time I took I step, I did not fancying too much of a walk so I took a look around Bamford. There wasn’t much to see to be honest. I went on to Hathersage.
I’m not a fan of shopping but there are a couple of good outdoor shops in the village and it got me out of the continuing monsoon.
Back at the tent, I sat in the porch area and heated up my meatballs and pasta and downed a very nice can of Thornbridge beer I’d purchased at Hathersage Spar.
At around 6pm, I headed back out in to the torrential rain for the 80 minute walk to Devil’s Arse cave. I did ask myself why I didn’t take the car.
Devil’s Arse has to be one of the most impressive concert venues I’ve been to as well as being the best named!
I’d arrived in good time so I bought a drink at a stall near the entrance.
As I drunk my coffee, I said ‘hello’ to bassist Neil who was sporting a nice Appleton cricket shirt (there’s a story behind that!).
The audience area was split in to three tiers.
I took my place on a raised area to the right of the stage, leaning on the safety barrier between my level and the lower level on the left.
The support was JD Meatyard.
Not really my thing but a number of the audience seemed to enjoy his set.
At around 8pm, Half Man Half Biscuit came on stage and started their show with “She’s in Broadstairs”
I seem to remember the other songs were as follows:
- Restless Legs
- Renfield’s Afoot. A woman standing near me had danced her way through the previous two songs and continued through this one. A strange dance reminiscent of the of “Tales of the Unexpected” opening credits.
- Lilac Harry Quinn
- Harsh times in Umberstone Covert
- Look Dad No Tunes (the theremin part really warmed the crowd up)
- Ode To Joyce
- What Made Colombia Famous
- Paintball’s Coming Home With the extra verses which get added at every gig – “They say It Is What It Is and Gin O’Clock” “You OK, hun?” “They’ve got an ice cream maker and a George Foreman grill”
- Left Lyrics in the Practice Room
- God Gave Us Life (“God gave us tailbacks on the M56, and God gave us tailbacks on the M60”. Nigel must have taken the same route I did)
- Terminus (I think my favourite song at the moment)
- Joy Division Oven Gloves
- Running Order Squabble Fest
- Dukla Prague Away Kit
- Worried Man Blues
- We Built This Village with the variation of “cavers out moshing”
- David Wainwright’s Feet (a song originally on a kids album which is ridiculously catchy)
- Born To Lose (a cover and totally lost on me)
- The Unfortunate Gwatkin
- Trumpton Riots
- National Sh**e Day
- Light at the End of the Tunnel
- Time Flies By
Then the encores
- Fred Titmus
- Everything’s AOR Quite possibly my favourite live song
- Sounds of the Suburbs (another cover)
- Every Time a Bell Rings. The crowd had been shouting for this all night.
A fantastic gig. The band sounded great.
Nigel played guitar on a few songs but for most of the time he looked like a slightly less frantic Bruce Dickinson, up on the monitors and climbing the safety rails.
As usual, he spent time chatting with the crowd but his attempt at jokes are probably not worth repeating! We did, however, learn that the river running through the cave was the Noe.
The show finished at around 10pm. The rain was still falling but was now less heavy. This was the first time I’d ever taken a head torch to a concert but was very glad of it as I walked the dark roads back to the campsite.
Back at the tent, everything was wet. I was glad to get tucked in to my sleeping bag, warm and dry. Unfortunately, the wind had got up, gusting around 35mph. I had positioned my tent in to the wind and had no doubt it was capable of withstanding wind a lot stronger. It was my pegging out I worried out about!
I woke at 6am after a reasonable sleep, all pegs still in place!
I set the Jetboil up on a picnic table, made a coffee and porridge.
I finished just as the rain started again. Being wet and a little muddy, the tent really didn’t want to go back in to it’s stuff sack. As I was in the car, I flung it and the rest of my muddy kit in the boot then headed to Castleton.
Just outside the village, I parked on the side of the road. Two of the pay and display machines were covered over, the third wouldn’t take my money. Bonus – free parking!
My feet squelshed as I put my Scarpas back on. I headed towards the concert venue and followed the signs to Pervil Castle.
I spotted a tent near the entrance to the cave. I suspect someone may have been doing some wild camping after the concert!
I followed the Cave Dale path up. I say path, there was now a river flowing down the rocky route.
I continued along the Limestone Way before taking a right and following the path back to the car.
This was only around three and a half miles in length and I had planned two loops, the second taking me up Mam Tor. As I finished the first loop, the clouds got darker. It was time to bale out and perhaps plan another camping trip in the future when it wasn’t so damn wet!
As I pulled off in the car, the rain became torrential yet again but, despite the weather, a fantastic weekend and one of the best concerts I’ve been to in a long time…..now to see when the next gig is…..
Take a look at the Half Man Half Biscuit Lyric Project for a lot more info, reviews and photos for this concert (and others!)