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Blog Archive: June 2015

My Boss Is On Stage (once)
I haven't been banging on about THE WRITING much just lately because there hasn't been much of interest to report. I mean, things are HAPPENING - I'm busily writing all SORTS of things and seem to have more ADMIN to do than I ever did when I had an Actual Job - but nothing as FASCINATING as all the various gigs, shows and wotnots I've had to tell you about of late.

However, something rather jolly IS happening this week - my sitcom pilot "My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once" (wherever did I come up with the title?) is through to the LIVE FINAL of the Birmingham branch of The Sitcom Trials. It's a show where they perform the first ten minutes of five sitcom scripts, the audience votes for which they like best, and then they do the last five minutes (they're short scripts!) of the top two to see which is the winner. It's all happening at The Old Joint Stock pub/theatre in Brum this Friday, and I plan to be there to see it!

The script I sent was based on one I wrote a couple of years ago on my MA course. I had to do some "research" for a MODULE so I thought I'd "research" ("watch") some sitcoms. The tutor thought maybe some ACTUAL research might be needed, so I ended up reading a book on How To Write A Sitcom In A Month to see if it would work, then ended up ALSO writing an essay anyway. The book was a bit of a disappointment, to be honest - a bit of theory at the start, some highly dubious examples, and then it said things like "Day 14: Keep Going!" to pad it out.

ANYWAY I applied their rules, wrote a script, and then forgot about it until this competition came along, at which point I dug it up, LARFED (i am a GRATE fan of my own jokes), then did a HEFTY re-write to make it a) funnier b) fit the requirements of the competition c) work on stage. I was, I must admit, quite pleased with how it turned out, and VERY happy that it got through to the finals.

It's ABOUT (spoilers) a bloke who used to be in an indie band who bumps into his old songwriting partner thanks to the interference of the people he works with and then, obviously, hilarity ensues - or so I hope. I guess I'll find out on Friday!

posted 30/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Tim At The Roundhouse
Last Wednesday night myself and The Acts On My Bill went to the Camden Roundhouse, officially to see Mogwai celebrating their 20th Anniversary, but ACTUALLY to see Mr T Pattison of this parish on a MASSIVE stage playing to THOUSANDS of people as part of the revived Prolapse.

I was expecting it all to be much the same as a few weeks ago in Dalston, with a room full of people I knew, but in fact the ONLY people I saw for the first half hour were Mr D Forbes and Ms C Pop, both of whom were also there for Prolapse. We DID see another band though, the support act who appeared to be covering Music Of The Future and being Quite Serious about it. "It's like Yoga Music" said The Sun In My Salutation.

We found our places and then the most exciting thing of the whole evening happened: Tim came out to set his drums up so we shouted "TIM!" and waved. He saw us and waved back - I don't know why but I found this entire experience AMAZING! Goodness knows I have waved to Tim on stages ENOUGH TIMES (usually adding "Do you want a drink?" afterwards) but it felt SPECIAL doing so in such a huge venue as part of a massive crowd. Look, here's a picture of him in ACTION:



Shortly after this we saw Mr and Mrs Machine wandering past looking for us, so after some more shouting and waving we were all united, and all Quite Excited about the ROCK that was about to occur. A few minutes later the ROCK very much DID occur, as Prolapse came onstage and were FRANKLY AMAZING. Here is an action shot of that happening:



I should really be working as GIG PHOTOGRAPHER shouldn't I? Come on Melody Maker, CALL ME!

In all honesty I preferred the gig at The Victoria as it was a) smaller b) longer c) louder and d) more full of old chums GRINNING, but it was still pretty KRAZY to see them playing somewhere so IMMENSE. However it WAS a bit odd to see people just wandering in and out of the room as if it was just some random support act or something. I wanted to shout "OI! Stop going to the toilet and/or bar and watch this, this is GRATE!" Linda introduced the last song as possibly "our last ever", but surely that can't be allowed to happen?

Afterwards we found Mr D Dixey for another chat, and then, I thought, it would be time to go home. However, much to my surprise, it turns out that The Repetitions Of My Beats now likes Mogwai, so we stood and watched a good old chunk of them. Personally I've never really been into them, but she really liked it - she is, after all, significantly more ROCK than me, so maybe that's the reason?

Anyway, it was a pretty darned MAGICAL night and hopefully not the last time we'll see Prolapse in action - come on, Mr Stewart Lee, book them for ATP next year!

posted 29/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Live From The Living Room
On Monday night I met Mr S Hewitt in Finsbury Park for a SECRET GIG - so secret in fact that even I didn't know where it was happening. Well, I did a bit - Ms I Adams, who had very kindly TECHED for us when we did the two-man Dinosaur Planet at Edinburgh in 2010, had asked us to come and do a show in her front room as part of a series of preview shows she's doing in the run up to this year's Fringe - but did not know the actual ADDRESS. Thus I followed Steve and Ms A Paynter (who was also going to the gig) through Finsbury Park and then into Stroud Green, an area I'd not heard of before, probably because they were keeping it quiet from the likes of me as it is Quite Posh, a bit like I always imagined Islington before I moved to London, all Organic Barbers and Free-Trade Chemists.

Steve had promised me a trip to "the crazy off-licence" which turned out to be an AMAZING cavern of BEERS called Jack's. It was FULL OF BEER and we walked the shelves unable to decide, much like (I told Steve) it is when you're Vegetarian and read the menu in a Vegetarian restaurant! We then nipped to the pub for a quick pint during which Steve and I discussed our AILMENTS - well, he IS officially in his forties now - before finally heading for the venue i.e. Isabelle's house.

The gig was occurring in the living room, as stated, and it was set up PROPERLY with the furniture loosely arranged into rows and Actual Stage Lighting. We sat and chatted as various chums turned up, including a chap in a Hey Hey 16K t-shirt, which is ALWAYS a delight to see!

Around 7:45pm we got set it up and did the SHOW, and it was GOOD! As usual we did the "it's a preview, there will be ERRORS" speech and as usual this turned out to be an accurate prediction, but we are EXTREMELY used to it and, I think, dealt with the situations as they arose. Steve did a particularly good bit of freestyle swannee whistle at one point, and also launched us into an entire section where we stepped OUT of character to explain something and then back in again to restart the show - although this was a bit confusing for me as my character IS me! The only downside really was that we couldn't properly use the hula hoop, but we DID manage to do the tap dance sequence even though we were both in our socks!

After the gig we packed up and headed home, Steve to watch The Women's Football and me to cook some TEA, but not before getting Isabelle to agree to send us NOTES - she did GRATE notes for Dinosaur Planet so this was one of the reasons for going and DOING the gig. The other reason, the main reason, tho was for the DELIGHT of going and playing a gig in a living room. They are the BEST gigs!

posted 26/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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A Kerfuffle At Beautiful
On Saturday night The Parents came down to join myself and The Actors In My Cast for a night of THEATRE! The musical tastes of myself and Mr CM Smith do not overlap MUCH (i.e. he seemed to enjoy listening to THE MOODY BLUES at HIGH VOLUME on Sundays during the 1980s when some of us were trying to sleep) but they definitely do on Carole King, so we booked ourselves tickets to see "Beautiful", the musical of her life what is on in the West End at the moment.

It was a bit of a DASH to get to the theatre but we made it JUST on time. The overture (musicals lingo) music had just started when we got to the end of our row but the lights hadn't gone down, so we prepared to inch our way past to our seats. Normally this involves everyone shuffling up and us making smiley/apologetic faces, but before we could do ANY of that the man on the end said. "GET A MOVE ON. Haven't you got watches? BLOODY RUDE." As we passed he continued to remonstrate aggressively and we each turned to smile at what we assumed was a joke, but it WASN'T. He was suddenly, inexplicably, violently angry about the fact that people sitting a few seats down from him at a West End Theatre on a Saturday night had DARED to turn up after he had.

It was all very strange and slightly upsetting, but it did not bother us for long for LO! the show was AMAZING! Obviously the Carole King songs were BRILLIANT anyway, but they did them in a FANTASTIC way, especially when they did versions by the bands who had hits with them. Man alive, I would pay GOOD MONEY to go and see a Drifters tribute act after seeing the version we saw on stage on Saturday night! There were a tonne of other songs too, many from Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann who, apparently, the show had originally supposed to have been about as much as Goffin & King, but also snippets of other songs from the era. It sounded BRILLIANT, we sat and GRINNED our way through until half-time!

During the interval the four of us gathered in the bar, agreed about how much FUN we were having, but also about how STRANGE the Angry Man had been. "We weren't even late!" we said to each other, "It was totally out of proportion!" we added, but of course with that sort of nasty sod/loonie there's not much point arguing, they are just nasty sods/loonies. Still, as soon as the BELL went for part two we hurried out, eager not to incur his WRATH again.

I went to the LOO on the way, so came back separately from my party, causing Angry Man the incredible inconvenience of having to stand up to let people in AGANE. "I'll just give him a friendly smile", I thought, "who knows? Maybe then we'll all have calmed down." That is NOT what happened - "KEEP SMILING" he said, threateningly, as I passed. "I intend to!" I said, and then he launched into his madness again as his wife sat beside him, looking GLUM. "Bloody rude!" he growled angrily (NB this time we were among the first people coming back to our seats) and "An apology would be nice!" I had had about enough of this twattery so replied "Yes, it would be" and LOOKED at him with another LARGE SMILE. I've met enough nasty little bullies like this in life to know that a) it's pointless trying to reason with them and b) all they want is to make you unhappy, so, while he reeled off more AGGRESSION I looked at his wife, gently rested a sympathetic hand on her shoulder, then turned to him and politely asked "Why don't you just go and fuck yourself?"

It was one of those things that i IMAGINE happening when I meet idiots but rarely carry through on - it was basically The International Rock Star taking over. Clearly Angry Man hadn't experienced it happening enough either, as all he could come back with was a surprised look and "piss off!" The people sat between me and them looked DELIGHTED as were The Family when I sat back down. He was a PRAT and I TOLD HIM.

Luckily we had another half of BRILLIANT show to take my mind off the whole incident, as we got into the SAD bit of Carole King's the show with EVEN MORE fantastic songs. It was wonderful, HOWEVER I did recoil a little at some of the liberties taken with the chronology e.g. surely in no way did she record a demo of "Chains" in 1967 (come on! The Beatles did a version on their first album!!). Also the structure was a bit strange - at SKOOL i was taught the Three Act Structure and how final quarter of a piece of THEATRE should see the hero face their biggest challenge, but in the final quarter of THIS the main drama was her saying "I think I'll record a solo album, but who can I get to produce?" "How about Lou Adler?" said her publisher, "He's really good." "OK!" said Carole, and then it was all fine.

All right, some other stuff DID happen and it was ACE - the whole Gerry Goffin Turning Up Again bit was BRILL and MOVING and then there was more of the songs - and there was a GRATE GAG which I think I was the only person there to get. "Oh Carole King", said her publisher, "What will you do when you move to The California?" "I'm thinking of getting a house," she replied, "They have wonderful big ceilings there. And window seats. And I might get a cat." I chortled but no-one else did - come on guys! That's the cover to "Tapestry"! That's a GOOD GAG!

It was basically lovely, and we emerged with big GRINS on our faces, not even spoiled this time by needing to pass Angry Man again - I'd noticed when the rest of us were stood up singing along at the end he was the only person still sitting down, with a face like TOILETS, and he'd clearly left as soon as the show had finished, probably to avoid more of my WITTY REJOINDERS.

We wondered round to The Ship for a pint and some agreeing how ACE it'd been, and also for The Parents to launch into tales of The 1960s In Peterborough And Stamford. There were tales I'd never heard before, it was amazing, and a MAGIC end to a WONDERFUL show. Go and see it, it's GRATE (but don't sit at the end of a row!).

posted 24/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Take That at The O2
Last Friday, for my BIRFDAY, The Days In My Diary and I set out to right an historic wrong. Several years ago we'd booked to go and see Take That at Earls Court - as regular, or indeed irregular, readers may know i BLOODY LOVE Take That for personal reasons and also just because they are ACE, so I was very excited to see them. We'd spent ages working out where we wanted to sit and spent CA$H MONEY to get exactly what we wanted. All was well until a few weeks before the show when we got an email saying that we'd been MOVED to "equivalent" seats which were miles away and also behind a PILLAR - we were distinctly UNAMUSED and so put the tickets on eBay! We made a MILD profit on them, but still, it was disappointing!

SO when we saw that The That were not only playing on my actual birthday this year but also at our local, favourite* big London venue (*i.e. the only non-horrible one) we thought it would be rude NOT to go, so once again worked out where we wanted to sit (pretty much the same place as we did for Macca and Mozzer) and the aforementioned Numbers On My Ticket got us BOOKED as my birthday present. HOORAH!

Come the day itself I was EXCITED. As we headed to the Jubilee line a part of my BRANE kept saying "Crikey, this train is going to be PACKED with teenage Take That fans, singing and crying and shouting!" The rest of my BRANE kept pointing out that this was unlikely, but it wasn't until we got on board that the truth was proved: there were indeed quite a lot of Take That fans in the carriage, but they were NOT teenagers!

When we arrived at the O2 the makeup of the audience was made clear. There WERE some people in their thirties but it was mostly people our age who'd loved Take That the first time around, some of whom had brought their kids. There were also a surprising amount of BLOKES there - though nowhere near as many women, definitely not any GROUPS of them, and mostly escorting PARTNERS. Thinking about it, weren't Take That supposed to have a gay following? If so, they were not much in evidence! It was like being in a room with a MASSIVE hen do, but a hen do that was going to have a drink and some fun but was going to be SENSIBLE. Mostly.

We saw a bit of Ella Henderson (it was OK, she can sing LOUD), waited twenty minutes or so, had a beer, and then the SHOW began! Well, it had sort of begun already, and then it took quite a while to PROPERLY begin, for LO! you know when you read a review of a huge pop band doing a gig and the review says "It was more like a Broadway show than a gig!"? This was one of THOSE, although to be more accurate I would say it was more like an OPENING CEREMONY than a gig, as there seemed to be TONNES going on all over the place, all the time. There was a normal STAGE at the front, with another raised stage above it, but also a circular stage in the middle of the room with great long stairways leading to it, and EVERYTHING was used. The opening was something about a small man dashing around lots of people doing complicated things with bicycles and umbrellas, running in a wheel to get a floating city to come to life and make everything turn to colour - you know the sort of thing: Opening Ceremonies. I was pretty darned cynical about it to start with, but by the time it had PEAKED with LOADS of people dancing around and running about and Take That THEMSELVES came on I was WHOOPING along with the best of them.

The first song (it was one of the new ones but I can't remember which) was HUGE and CAMP and set the tone for the rest of the night. There was to be very little in the way of Quiet Acoustic Moments as everything was LARGE - part Broadway but also very PONTINS with shiny smiles, a grinning band and lots of DAFTNESS. It was EXTREMELY English with lots of silly remarks and "oh stop mucking about" sections. My favourite was probably near the start when they introduced themselves as "We're what's left of Take That." That combination of glamorous pop, northern english daftness and cheesy trying-a-bit-too-hard (Gary) is, i reckon, one of the reasons people who love Take That really do love them.

Aside from the SHOW of it all, the songs were AMAZING. They haven't HALF had some hits, and it was amazing how many of them were post-restart. All right, I could have done without 3 or 4 of the album tracks that popped up, but there aren't many bands who've been going over 25 years who can casually finish their first set (introduced with "this is our last song... but we do have a couple more exhaustively rehearsed ones if you clap enough") with a NUMBER ONE hit from last year and then another from a few years before (i.e. "These Days" and "Rule The World"). It was very noticeable that a lot of the new stuff was BUILT for huge stadium gigs - it was NOISY! - but also how pleased everyone was to hear old stuff. Oddly "Patience", the comeback single, felt like an OLDIE now, but the biggest cheers came when they did songs like "Could It Be Magic" and "Pray". They even did one of their old DANCE routines to (i think) "Pray" which featured a LOT of going own on one knee, then both knees, then back up again. You could feel the entire audience WINCE as the three of them did this, and then applaud the fact they could still manage it when they got up again! Well done boys!

It was a bit of a STRANGE gig for those of us unused to this sort of thing though. Every half hour or so there was a sort of INTERVAL when the band went off and there was an Opening Ceremony THEATRICAL bit or, once, a FILM projected onto massive closed curtains. Everyone else seemed used to it and took the opportunity for a sit down, but we felt mildly confused - we'd just got going and now we were having a break? The other ODD bit was when Howard and Mark did an INTERPRETIVE DANCE PIECE! Gary sat and played a song and then the other two DANCED AROUND like BALLET or something. It was very sweet, but not what I'm used to!

Another odd thing was the fact that they had about 50 people at the back of the stage who were sometimes an orchestra, sometimes a choir, and then sometimes just leading the audience in a Mexican wave - people as set dressing!

For all the oddness it was totally BRILLIANT all round - other exciting features included ACTUAL FLAMES in the middle of the auditorium for "Relight My Fire" (I thought they'd get Ella Henderson back on for The Lulu Bits but they sang it themselves), Gary's big happy face that the new ones were going down so well (OBVS a part of me wanted to shout "Pay Yr Tax Gary!" but clearly he had spent it on FIREWORKS), and OF COURSE them doing "Back For Good". Before the song began the three of them spent AGES introducing the musicians in the band, and it was LOVELY as it turned out it WAS an actual band, most of whom had been with them for DECADES. Then Mark introduced the song itself by saying they were going to do it sitting on stools ("we started that") just like they had the first time they ever performed it live at The Brits in 1995, thus proving that The Lesson Of The Smiths is FACTUALLY ACCURATE. He then undercut his own announcement in the same PONTINS way as ever by saying "So, this is the first time we've done this since... yesterday". It was LOVELY.

That would have been enough for me, I was SATED, but then they did the encore with "Shine" and then BUT OF COURSE "Never Forget" which was AMAZING. I'm not saying it's as good a song as "Hey Jude" or anything, but I did have a similar feeling as I had a few weeks ago watching 20,000 people singing along to it when we went to see Macca. EVERYONE in the building sang, did the handclaps, and whooshed up a HUGENESS of shared emotion, partly about Take That and what they meant to everyone, but mostly about ourselves and where we'd been in our lives and... I'm sorry, one of those bits of ticker tape what fell from the ceiling must have got into my eye.

It was, basically, BRILLIANT - a wonderful introduction, for us, to a very English kind of Stadium Pop. I don't think I'm going to ever want to swap it for the tiny indie gigs that I love the most, but it was an INCREDIBLE way to spend an evening and an historical wrong VERY MUCH righted!

posted 23/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Roy Wood At Christmas
One of the things discussed during the Validators' weekend in Congleton the other week was our CHRISTMAS SINGLE. As longterm chums will know we try to add a song onto our Christmas Selection Box album every year, and this time around I have been planning ahead. Indeed, on Boxing Day 2014 I wrote myself a NOTE to write the song on June 19th (my BIRFDAY) to make sure I didn't forget. With this in mind I mentioned it at our Band Meeting, in the hope of getting some IDEAS in advance.

And LO! an idea did come, from Mr F A Machine. He launched into an anecdote about Roy Wood sitting at the bar of the Blue Note in Derby and how, every night, someone would get drunk and go up to him and ask "Hey Roy! Do you wish it was Christmas today?" As soon as the story began i THRUST my phone into Frankie's face and demanded he DICTATE it into the recording App. Here was the song!

As stated, I was scheduled to sit down and write the song on the 19th but the TUNE appeared unto me a day early, on the 18th, and I spent a very pleasant few hours going about my business, humming it and working out the words. I knew exactly how it would be structured and how it would end, and it was HUGELY enjoyable working my way through it. I've written various bits and bobs of songs lately but it felt like AGES since I sat down and wrote a "proper" one, it was GRATE!

The song is now DONE and a demo has been taped and sent Vlads-wards, but I fear you will have to wait a few months to hear it. Hopefully it'll be worth the wait!

posted 22/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Free Dinosaurs
I sometimes think that maybe I'm NOT the world's greatest social media optimisation expert. The other day The Pics At My Flicks and I were talking about going to the cinema to see a FLIM, and I was suggesting we could go to see "Jurassic World". We watched a trailer for it and she said "You know, this could be a good way to give Dinosaur Planet a plug!"

I was immediately struck by what a GRATE idea this was - of course! A modern day story of Dinosaurs rampaging about? It's a perfect fit! I mean, obviously S Spielberg and Star-Lord don't have giant robots and ROCK SONGS, but still, they can only do so much. "I could make the album Pay What You Want for a week!" I said! "Excellent," my other half replied. "So when does the film come out?"

Ah. It is, of course, already out and breaking Opening Weekend records. If only I'd thought of this a WEEK ago I could have said it was to celebrate the RELEASE of the film and it would have been a brilliant bit of cross-platform promotion.

Still, it's a nice thought and if it means some other people hear the album then it's ALL GOOD and SO: I am pleased to announce the unleashment of the Pay What You Like version of th album on BANDCAMP!.



It'll be that way for another week or so, so if you've not got the album yet this is your Ideal Opportunity and if you HAVE, well, why not tell somebody else? Thanks!

posted 19/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Laundry In Kroatia
A couple of weeks ago I got an email from Ms Angelika Schwarz asking if she could use one of my songs in a VIDEO. She writes a travel blog and had lots of pictures of LAUNDRY in Kroatia, and wondered if she could use Another Man's Laundry Hanging On Your Line as background music.

Clearly this had come about through a bit of GOOGLING and I did at first wonder if this might be a very weird bit of SPAMMING - the day will surely come when Artificial Intelligence can pinpoint human vanity so PRECISELY that we will be unable to resist their calls (SIDEBAR: when the inevitable rise of the machines finally happens it will be caused not by military-industrial complexes but by people trying to sell you viagra) - but after having a look at her site it all looked perfectly delightful, so I said "But of course!"

A few days ago I received another email from her, with the rather lovely results contained below:



Nice isn't it? I do worry a bit about The B Word appearing in the lyrics (I certainly wouldn't do that if I was writing the song nowadays) but that's Young Me's fault more than anything else. Apart from that I think it's lovely, and the blog that goes with it is rather MEDITATIVE... especially when you don't listen to me BELLOWING about washing lines over the top of it!

posted 18/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Going Up The Country
Saturday lunchtime found me at Leicester station, where I was to met Mr T "The Tiger" McClure, hop in THE TIGERMOBILE, and travel North to Congleton, where we would be joining the rest of The Validators for the Going Up The Country Festival.

All went to plan and we even got there without getting lost, thanks mostly to Christina sitting in the front and saying things like "I think that says 'right' Tom, not 'carry straight on'." She was much better than Tom's usual gig navigator, who was otherwise engaged in the back seat swapping texts with Mr T Pattison (working out that he and Mrs E Pattison were about 5 minutes behind us on the A50) and Mr FA Machine (who reckoned that a SPOOKY GHOST had switched off his TV while he was in the shower - oooo!)

We got to the hotel and found the aforesaid Frankie sat in the bar and the also aforesaid Pattisons coming in just after us. Five minutes later, me, Tom, Christina and Frankie were sat in the bar not having a drink. When I asked why not I was told that we were waiting for Tim and Emma to come back so we could go to the nice looking brew bar over the way. "Why don't we go now and text them to tell them where we are?" "THIS is why you are our LEADER!" said Frankie, correctly: going to the pub sooner rather than later is the key skill in ALL great leaders throughout history.

Tim and Emma joined us over the road shortly after and we had a LOVELY hour or so swapping stories and LARFING, as well as having Nice Beer (it was The Barley Hop, it was good!). Tim told tales of his recent experiences as de facto manager of Prolapse, which we all enjoyed with a lot of "WOT?" and "You were right!" It was such fun that we had to DRAG ourselves out to get to our next port of call: the festival!

We got to The Church House Inn (i.e. the venue) to find all SORTS going on. After parking near some friendly caravanners we strode round to find a BRILLIANT small stage with a large open-sided tent opposite so that everyone could still watch the bands if it rained. There were more small tents with stalls inside, so it really felt like a proper actual festival. We wandered into the pub saying hello to the many many friendly faces we found within. This, I thought,is going to be LOVELY!

Spoilers: it totally was.

After an hour or so it felt like time for tea, so we combined this with a BAND MEETING. Action Points to be taken away were: a) we're going to try and finish recording the album before I go to Edinburgh b) we're probably ALL going to be doing the mixing this time c) we'll do a VIDEO single in November and d) hopefully have the whole album out early 2016. It was a GOOD meeting!

We went back to BEERZ and enjoyed the other bands IMMENSELY, most of whom seemed to be filled with CHUMS, and soon it was our turn to hit the stage. Here's what we did:
  • Billy Jones Is Dead
  • Can We Be Friends?
  • That Guy
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Easily Impressed

  • This was the democratically selected setlist that I was on about the other day, and it worked out really well! It was the full-band LIVE DEBUT of Can We Be Friends? and That Guy, both of which seemed to go down well, even though it was also the first time that all five of us had ever even PLAYED Can We Be Friends? together! To our great delight the new songs appeared to go down just as well as the old ones, and those went down GOOD. It was a lovely audience and a GRATE sound - the chap doing it was BRILLIANT and it makes a HUGE difference for us when you can hear all the words! We had a totally ACE time, and as we came off ALL said "We really should do more gigs!"

    It's funny - I used to prefer doing solo gigs, as band gigs tended to be too Crash Bang Wallop with the words going missing and us flailing about in a racket, but lately I've come to think that the band set-up is the BEST way to hear these songs. Maybe it's because we've had quite a lot of good soundmen over the past couple of years but for me, standing up with my CHUMS, sounding GOOD and trying to make them LARF is the best fun ever!

    We spent the next couple of hours BOOZING and then DARNCING and also arguing about RECORDS, it was BRILLO. Emma had booked us 2 taxis for a quarter past midnight, so we hugged as many people as we could and went out to wait. The first arrived bang on time, but the other was nowhere to be seen. It wasn't far to go so the original chap came back for the second half of us - the mystery of what happened to the second taxi was solved just after noon next day, when the Pattisons received a text at 12:15pm to say it had just arrived to pick us up!

    Next morning it was a slightly quieter Validators who met for breakfast. It was an EXCELLENT, PLENTIFUL breakfast, just what we needed after our ROCK night. As we checked out the owner of the hotel (it was The Lion And Swan) regaled us with tales of its HAUNTING, then we gave the receptionist, also his daughter, a copy of WE VALIDATE! (she'd asked if we were all the same band, we didn't force it on her!). "I'll have a listen then I'll know the songs for when you come next time" she said, and I thought, "Next time? That would be GRATE!" for LO! it would be - we had a lovely lovely time, thanks for having us Kevin And Linda Who Organised It, it was FAB!

    posted 17/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Hey Hey 16 June
    Today we are delighted to UNLEASH upon an unsuspecting world the excitingly modern VIDEO TRAILER for Hey Hey 16K, THUS:



    I think I speak for both Steve and myself when I say that I hope you find it both informative and INTRIGUING. As I said the other day, we'd set out to make the video because I'd had 2 (two) emails asking for such a thing, but now I'm thinking of sending it round other places, for LO! festival season is very nearly upon us. We're playing at the (deep breath) Reading, Buxton, Balham, Croydon and Camden Fringes and also of course Edinburgh - it was very much a conscious decision to do it like that this time around, rather than doing individual gigs, as a) hopefully random people will come and see us and b) if we DO do a proper tour we can do it after Edinburgh when (theoretically) we've learn it properly!

    That's the current plan - open to change of course if we transfer to Broadway, so if you CAN catch us at one of those there festivals it's probably safest if you DO!

    posted 16/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Sound Of The Future
    When I rise from my slumbers I usually stumble round the flat opening curtains and windows, looking out upon the exciting vista of The Actual Olympic Village which is where I live (I probably haven't mentioned it, I don't like to go on). There's usually something new going on and on Thursday morning last week this was very much the case, as a FILM CREW had set up outside the new Pizza Restaurant over the way from us. I had a bit of a nosey but DARLING when one lives in That London one sees that sort of thing all the time so I casually glanced at it for a mere ten minutes, decided it probably wasn't Doctor Who, and went about my day.

    A little while later I was sat typing at the kitchen table when I heard someone shout "ACTION!" A few seconds later an almighty BUZZING started up - there's a lot of this round our way, there's always someone cutting a hedge or washing down a newly laid pavement (they're pavement laying MAD in E20, they're forever taking up slabs and putting down new ones, i think it's an excuse to indulge their other MANIA i.e. Using Temporary Fencing) so I thought little of it. A few minutes later the buzzing stopped, as it does, and a few more minutes along someone shouted "ACTION!" and the buzzing began AGANE. "Poor Mr Director," I thought, "That must be RIGHT getting on his wick."

    When it happened for a THIRD time I went to look out of the window to see what was going on and was AGHAST at what I saw - there was a DRONE hovering above the shop! It was carrying a pizza box and, as I STARED, I noticed that there was another, much bigger, drone hovering near THAT, with a big film camera attached. AHA! THAT was what was making the noise - DRONES!

    I watched them hover around each other for a bit, then had some breakfast. The noise stopped, but then ten minutes later it began again so The Technology In My Machinery went to have a look for herself, having missed them the first time. She couldn't see any drones to start with, then looked up and saw they were hovering around the TWELFTH FLOOR of the building opposite! It was an amazing glimpse into a future world where people in flats could do away with the ARDUOUS 30 second trip in a lift to collect their pizza, instead having it delivered direct to their BALCONY!

    It was all very exciting, but CRIKEY it didn't half make a racket, and I realised that this is a sound we're all going to have to get used to, if delivery companies follow through with their schemes to start using drone deliveries all the time. My top tip for the future: invest in companies that make ear plugs!

    posted 15/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Rehearsal Room Of The Stars
    Wednesday evening found me back at Theatre Delicatessen rehearsal rooms (aka The Old Guardian Building) in leafy Farringdon, this time to have a practice and bit of filming with Mr S Hewitt.

    We'd arranged the practice a few weeks ago in order to maintain our MOMENTUM for Hey Hey 16K, which is a fancy way of saying "it's a desperate attempt to try and remember the lines before the next show". Usually we book a two hour rehearsal slot and leave just after an hour, as that's how long it takes to say "hello" and then go through the show, but this time we had another job to do. For LO! we had had TWO (2) emails from people asking us to upload a trailer video for the show to their website and, as Steve pointed out, there are several other places we could send such a thing once complete, so took the opportunity to actually USE our booked time!

    We started off with a run-through of the show itself, which was not without incident. As usual we had a couple of self-inflicted stoppages, when we halted and tried different ways of doing History's Re-Written and Programming Is A Poetry For Our Time (both of which, we think, are sorted), but the biggest stoppage was from an outside source.

    We were halfway through We Did It Anyway when Steve was distracted by events in the corridor outside. This had happened a couple of times before - there were several IMPROV groups doing their ghastly thing in other rooms, and also people cycling in the corridor for some reason - but THIS time there was a woman gesticulating to Steve through the window beside the door. She persisted, so we stopped and Steve waved her in, and she asked to borrow chairs. "Of course!" said the ever ebullient Mr Hewitt, expecting her to pick up a couple and go, but she then strode in and waved a long line of people in to collect pretty much ALL the chairs! The others did look very shamefaced about it, and as they shuffled in and out I noticed that one of them was Dan Starkey i.e. STRAX from out of Doctor Who! "I'm a big fan!" I said as he went past me, and he smiled nervously and said thanks. It was VERY exciting, especially after I'd seen Nick Wilton only the day before!

    They went, shut the door, we carried on with the song... and then the woman BARGED in and got some more chairs! This, i felt, was A BIT RUDE. She'd seen (and also heard) we was SINGING and hadn't waited for us to stop the first time, which was IMPOLITE i thought, but to just come MARCHING in a second time without even knocking was, I feel, NOT GOOD MANNERS.

    Anyway, we recovered, finished the run-through, and then moved onto the FILMING section of the session. I'd written a script (based on our press release) and we sat and did it like two newsreaders, THUS:



    ITN News! We are available for work! We also filmed a bunch of inserts and wotnot, it was JOLLY good fun, and we STILL managed to wrap up with ten minutes time left to us. I wish rehearsal studios gave CHANGE, we'd've had several free goes by now, but I guess when you go to a place that provides sightings of a beloved children's TV comedian one day and an actual SONTARAN the next you can't complain too much!

    posted 12/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    An Experiment In Democracy
    On Saturday The Validators are playing our first full Validators set of the year, at Going Up The Countryin Congleton. This of course means only one thing: a big ROW about the setlist!

    What usually happens in these situations (i.e. before every gig) is that I suggest a perfectly sensible list of songs which combine old favourites which people can sing along to with some choice selections from the new material, and then Tim counters with a load of KRAZY ideas made up of new songs I don't ... sorry, I mean, WE don't remember the lyrics to, some old songs nobody likes and City Centres 15 times*. We then discuss it at length for about a month, finally decide on a list and then one or more of Rob, Emma and Tom say "Oh i can't play that it will hurt my hand / involve foul language / be rubbish" and then we start all over again. And then of course on the day of the gig itself someone says "But what about I Can See Clearly Now The Rain Has Gone eh?" Is it any WONDER I have to have a drink before gigs?

    (* this is totally the way it goes, verified by ME)

    SO this time I thought we'd try something different: DEMOCRACY! A couple of weeks ago I entered the Sitcom Trials, a competition for short sitcoms which had a longlisting process where all the entrants read each other's scripts and then voted for their favourites. You did this by giving each one a "YES", "NO" or "MAYBE". These votes were graded with a 2, -1 or 1 respectively and totted up - I thought this was REALLY clever as it meant a) if somebody didn't read or vote for a script then their "null" vote wasn't regraded as a "NO" (as it probably would if you coded "no" as zero) and b) it biased the results slightly towards positivity. My enjoyment of this system was also increased by the fact that I came out of it quite well - have a look at the results and see if you can guess which script was mine!

    So anyway, I proposed this plan to The Validators with a LIST of all possible songs, and voting commenced. Everyone was very speedy in doing so - after all, not only are we a well oiled ADMIN MACHINE, but we do all like a decent spreadsheet - and yesterday morning I woke to find the final vote had been cast. I am not at liberty to share the final results here, but i can reveal that it turned out very DEMOCRATICALLY. There was only ONE song that we ALL said "YES" to, none that NOBODY wanted, and in the final result (four new songs, five old ones) we've ended up with a nice selection. Everybody's got songs they felt strongly about either way that DID get in and/or DIDN'T (including me!) but it looks like it'll be a fun bunch of songs to do!

    Tune in next week to find out whether our democractic principles held, and how it all went with the audience!

    posted 11/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Meeting Mr Wilton
    I was back in leafy Farringdon yesterday, meeting Mr John Dredge for some FILMING. It's AGES since we last put out a video - we did start filming a whole webseries a few weeks ago (as mentioned here) but doing filming outside with MOVEMENT and SOUND proved a bit beyond my cameraman capabilities, so we put that to one side and decided to have a go at something a bit simpler.

    In the end we did THREE things - a short monologue by John and two sketches starring us both as CHARACTERS. I always find this sort of thing difficult as it involves ACTING which I've never quite got the hang of. At various points I thought "I seem to have annoyed John somehow" then realised that it was ACTING! I then had to stop myself from saying "Good acting there!" as that would probably have been ACTUALLY annoying. I tell you what, it is the hardest job in the world. Look at us here, WORKING.



    There was quite a LOT of chuckling, also GUFFAWS and even a few ROFLs, which is always a good sign, and we packed up happy with our work. On the way out John suddenly said "Nick Wilton!" and turned to speak to a very nice chap who turned out to be the aforesaid Nick Wilton. The name rang lots of bells and he did look very familiar, but it wasn't until I looked him up when I got home that I let out an almighty "Oh HIM!!" Go on, look for yourself!.

    It turned out that John had written some material for a sketch show he'd been in years ago, and then also turned out that Mr Wilton followed John on twitter. It was all rather exciting and as we left I pointed out that this was surely an OMEN - an omen of GOOD TIMES to come!

    posted 10/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Hills Of Bristol
    Saturday afternoon found me boarding a train for BRISTOL. I'd prebooked my tickets so was in First Class, but this was a First Class unlike any other, for it was the new version of GWR where everything was either GREY or DARK GREY and with ominous sockets lit by STRANGE blue lights. It was basically like going on a train designed by the people who made THE DEATH STAR. In Sith Class!

    Once I got to Bristol it was SUCH a lovely day I thought I'd try and walk to my B&B. Every other time i've been I've always got a taxi, as I have it imprinted in my mind that Bristol Temple Meads station is MILES from Bristol Actual, but when me and my Dad when a few weeks ago it turned out to not be SO far. Thus I waked to the city centre in about fifteen minutes, and had high hopes of getting to Clifton on the other side of town just as easily. What I had not realised is that Bristol is basically A RUDDY GREAT MOUNTAIN with Clifton perched on the very summit! CRIKEY! I nearly DIED walking up that flipping hill, it's ridiculous! Once again I found myself wondering why people insist on building cities on VAST INCLINES when there is a whole Fenland area which is nice and flat with plenty of space for houses. Come ON, urban developers!

    I checked in, got my breath back, then rolled back downhill to meet Mr R Kirkham in the PUB. I was able to use my newfound local knowledge to get there as it was one of the pub's I'd been in with my Dad - turns out it wasn't just a pub crawl, it had been a FACT FINDING MISSION! Ray and I enjoyed a pint then walked to another bit of town where The Stag & Hounds was hosting the birthday party of Ms V Longley, featuring myself and Mr G Osborn doing GIGS. When Verity had emailed me about TIMES she'd said that the pub had suggested that sets happen at 9.30pm and 10.30pm to avoid overlapping with the band downstairs. This sounded a bit odd to me, but all became clear once we were in as an Instrumental Noise Band were soundchecking in the bar area on ground floor, making an ENORMOUS instrumental noise!

    Upstairs we found the birthday girl and a huge number of delightful people, including Gav and Mr R Rosehip. Rocker was DJing and doing so at HIGH VOLUME - i wondered why until there was a gap in the tunes and the band downstairs came BOOMING THROUGH. It was, alas, a battle of the sound systems in which my hearing was the first casualty, so a bunch of us went and sat on the VERANDA for a right old natter. It was delightful!

    The delight continued at just after 9.30pm when Gav took to the stage (I say "stage" i mean "the 30% of floor space outlined by the PA system") and ROCKED the house. We have been listening to his new album "Share Your Toys" (available right here) a LOT in our house, so I sang along with pretty much ALL of it. Have I mentioned before how GRATE Gav is at this sort of thing? I'm pretty sure I have, but just in case: he is GRATE at this sort of thing!

    After Gav had left the entire room GRINNING we had a short break and then I went on and did THIS:
  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • That Guy
  • Can We Be Friends?
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Boom Shake The Room

  • Easily Impressed
  • Why yes, since you ask, that gap before Easily Impressed DOES indicate that it was an encore, for LO! it all went very well, despite certain "issues" to do with the performer not remembering the words to his own songs. To be fair I HAD warned people that this might happen (I hadn't had my tea, that's the only reason why, honest!) but luckily when I DID forget it turned out that approx 40% of the audience were singing along anyway, so I just joined in with them. PHEW!

    With that all done various people with responsibilities zoomed off and I had another pint, during which I reminded myself about the whole "not having had my tea" thing so HUGGED everyone I could get my hands on and headed off into the night. I had a very nice pizza which I bought at the bottom of the hill into Clifton and then LUGGED all the way to the top. By heck, when I finally sat down to eat it I felt like i DESERVED it!!

    posted 9/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Particularly Classy Evening
    A classy evening got off to a classy start last Thursday, as The Passengers In My Vehicle and I got a BLACK CAB to The King & Queen, where Totally Acoustic was due to occur. To be fair to us, we weren't doing it JUST to be dead swanky (although it WAS all rather auspicious), we had GEAR as well. A couple of weeks before Ms E Kupa had got in touch to ask if I could find an acoustical bass for her band to use for the evening and Mr K Top Of The Pops had leapt in to lend me one, so we had TWO guitars with us. So yes, we were basically being swanky.

    We got in, got set up, and welcomed our guests along with JUST the right number of people to make the upstairs room LOVELY. Suddenly it felt like a rather delightful summer's evening, with windows open and late sunshine beaming through. The idyllic scene was, however, quickly spoilt by ME getting on stage and forcing everyone into a rousing version of the theme song, before doing the following:
  • I Am A Hipster
  • Can We Be Friends?
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • This was the DEBUT for I Am A Hipster, a song I wrote for London Calling, the new show from my WRITING GROUP. I told you it was a classy evening! I followed up with a couple of songs from the new album (as I've been listening to the mixes this week) and it all seemed to go OK.

    I then stepped aside and introduced Mr Ben Moor to the stage. GOLLY but he is a class apart, just listening to him makes you feel as if you're having Vitamin C for your BRANE. All of his stuff is incredibly rich in thought and words and wordplay and makes you nervous to LARF too often in case you miss something clever wrapped up in the next couple of syllables. He did some (GRATE) new stuff and then finished with a section of 'Each Of Us', his most recent show which we'd seen at Edinburgh in 2013. It felt like I remembered every word, and enjoyed it all over again. Summary: He was amazing!

    And then, after a beer break, things kept on in a very similar, yet also very different way i.e. it stayed AMAZING but this time it was due to Emma Kupa and her big band. As well as her guitar and the acoustic bass mentioned earlier she had banjo, shaker and DRUMZ all going. It sounded BEAUTIFUL. I'm always happy to bang on about the fact that acoustic instruments are DESIGNED to be the correct volume when they're played together, but maybe next time I feel the need to rant about it I'll just play the tape of this gig instead. The best bit was when everyone started singing at the same time, it sounded GORGEOUS. Also the songs were ACE - everyone says how she's got a unique voice but she's also got a unique way of using it, singing complete sentences like she's talking but also like some strange folk music from terrifying places. AND WITH TUNES. Summary: Also amazing!

    As you can probably tell, I rather enjoyed it, and was extremely PROUD to be presenting such delights at my gig. I celebrated the brilliance of the whole event by drinking a pile of BEER before hopping into another black cab and then getting the train home, where I was delighted/RELIEVED to find that this time it had all been recorded properly too. HOORAH! Also, PHEW!

    posted 8/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    York New Musicals Festival
    Saturday morning found me a little "tired" after the late night of extreme ROCK spent at the Prolapse gig the night before, so when I met Mr S Hewitt at Kings Cross Station at 1.45pm I was ready for a nice sit down. Happily we'd got pre-booked on the first class carriage, so had a very pleasant nearly 2 hour trip to YORK, where we were due to perform Hey Hey 16K at the York New Musicals Festival.

    When we got to York we strolled through town, confidently following the route to the venue that we'd used two years ago. It started well but I felt less and less confident the further we went, as my BRANE struggled to remember a route which we had only taken ONCE, 24 months ago. It was actually an interesting MENTAL SENSATION, as to start with I knew exactly where I needed to go at least five minutes ahead, but this gradually reduced until near the end I only knew where my next few steps needed to go, with my BRANE struggling to keep up, like Wile E Coyote laying down tracks in front of a speeding train.

    Anyway, we DID find the venue OK, but everybody was upstairs watching the show before ours, so we BRAVELY went to the pub down the road for a much needed (ESPECIALLY in my case) bit of Hair Of The Dog. By heck it was needed a LOT!

    Back at the venue we were met by Mr Jim Welsman, organiser and LOVELY man, then headed up to the performance space. It's a dead nice venue with all kinds of proper facilities which we weren't really going to use - our tech requirements are basically just to have a table and the lights turned on before we start, although, once the audience came in, we did make use of the wings. Well, what actually happened was we hid on either side of the stage, alternately giggling and then thinking "Hang on, how do we know when it's time to start?"

    After a bit of this Steve did a countdown with his fingers and we LEAPT out to discover we had a thoroughly respectable audience of about 35-40 people. Many of these were from other shows, but there were definitely some paying punters including a few that I *didn't* recognise from other gigs!

    Before we started we did the usual introduction about it being a "preview" show, and so any mistakes being part of the fun. This was a very sensible thing to do as Steve and I committed quite a LOT of fun! Something about playing in a Proper Theatre where you can't SEE the audience (as opposed to our more usual top rooms of pubs where you CAN) always makes me a bit nervous, and the fact that we still haven't properly worked out the new arrangement to History's Re-written meant we got off to a bit of a shaky start, but hey, we are MORE than used to this and had a right jolly old time, especially when we had to deal with the fact that we weren't in a pub by MIMING beer. It was lovely, and even more so when we reached the last third of the show, the "downhill" section where it is ALL HITS!

    It IS strange doing a gig like this though, where the darkness of the audience means you don't really know how it's going, so it was a HUGE relief when the lights went up and we saw everybody GRINNING. Lots of nice people came over to say how much they'd enjoyed it, one chap even said that We Did It Anyway was the best song he'd ever heard!

    We gave Jim one last HUG and then set off in triumph to the pub with Mr A Ewing for a couple of beers before getting back on the train home. I hope future shows are a bit less shaky with regards to Knowing What We're Doing, but if they go down half as well as this one did I'll be very happy!

    posted 2/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Prolapse!
    Friday night found me in London's fashionable DALSTON area of London, where I was due to see the reformed PROLAPSE, back together after 16 years. It was all very exciting - I'd heard from Tim and seen online that the previous night's gig in Manchester had gone well, and was looking forward to seeing a) them b) a whole heap of other people who I guessed might be going too.

    My guess was a GOOD one. As Mr S Hewitt and I rounded the corner we saw a metric TONNE of old faces, all looking very pleased to see each other. The Victoria was RAMMED with people going "OOOH! I haven't seen you for YEARS!" to each other, and everybody was very much in the mood for a good time - so much so that the bar had run out of GAS to power their beer taps. Undeterred we all switched to bottles - a room full of people in their 40s on a night off were not going to be denied BEER!

    I missed the support band due to standing around outside NATTERING (I don't think I've ever said "No, I don't have any kids, do you?" QUITE so many times to QUITE so many drunken people) and going "Oh blimey look who ELSE has just turned up!" It was lovely, like being at a WEDDING, except with loud music, loads of drunk people who'd not seen each other for ages and... well, like being at a wedding.

    And then there was the gig actual. It was AMAZING! Prolapse were always a brilliant live band, and they had lost precisely NONE of their ability to be GRATE in the 16 years since they last toured. Scottish Mick was hilarious, Linda was brilliant, and between them Tim was thrashing away like a LOON - a loon who, I could not help but notice, was like a HUMAN METRONOME! How did that happen? Pat, Geordie Mick, Donald and Dave round the edges rolled out the INCREDIBLE riffs - every single song they did started with an instantly recognisable riff that made approx 80% of the audience (NB including me) go "HOORAY!" as soon as they heard it.

    For LO! it was a set of HIT after HIT after HIT - pretty much every song you could wish for got done, including, to my IMMENSE delight, "Psychotic Now" and the GRAND FINALE "Tina This Is Matthew Stone". It was AMAZING! All right, I do understand that, to the small number of people who didn't spend a large part of their twenties at Prolapse gigs, it may have been a bit of an old racket, but for those of us who DID it was... well, it was still a bit of an old racket, but a GLORIOUS one!

    Seeing them all thrashing away I was struck by how few bands there are who could ever match them for MACH SHAU - the hour ZOOMED by in a very very sweaty room full of very very happy people. Afterwards I lurked around with Mr M Jones, who I'd not seen for YEARS, and LO! there was a whole HEAP of smiling faces, hugging, loads more beer and GOOD TIMES. Tim seemed, to say the least, pleased with how it all went, and I left knowing he had at least one more night of proper ROCK before he returns to his day job with us in a couple of weeks!

    In conclusion then: well done one and all, let's hope this tour isn't the last!

    posted 1/6/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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