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It was in DELIGHTFUL Sunshine that I arrived in STOKE yesterday tea-time, emerging from the station thinking "Now, where is the hotel? Oh, there" for LO! The North Staffs Hotel is DIRECTLY opposite the station. I checked in and got myself sorted out, NOTING that it is the sort of place where the LACK of Wedding Reception seems somehow WRONG - it feels like you're just hanging around waiting for the disco to get started, and being their midweek feels NAUGHTY.
Map in hand I set out to cross STOKE. Stoke's the sort of place which your BRANE, probably trained by Lazy Comedians, thinks is going to be rubbish, but actually it's LOVELY. Maybe it is the weather but it reminded me of the School Summer Holidays of my YOUTH, with all sorts of different people wandering around in the streets, saying hello to each other. This was ESPECIALLY so when I took a long-cut through Hanley Park, which was much like Peterborough Park, except bigger and a bit nicer. There were ponds, there were strange abandoned pagodas, there were games of football and children on swings. It was absolutely brilliant!
As i emerged I realised that I'd climbed a hill and could now see to the edge of town where there were GREEN ROLLING HILLS! I was later told that many of these were old slag heaps, but still: WELL DONE STOKE!
I arrived at The BandStand to find soundchecks ongoing, so asked for directions to a nice pub. I got DRIVEN round the corner to The Coachmakers. Among Proper Real Ale Pubs this is surely the PROPERIST - it had fantastic beer (i had one of the nicest pints of Bass i have ever had in my LIFE, and I have had MANY of them), a wobbly mixture of people, four different TINY rooms, and a folk duo tuning up in the back room. I didn't SEE an old gentleman with a dog, but I'm sure he was there somewhere.
Back to the venue for a CHAT and then at 9.20pm I went on and did THIS:
The Peterborough All-Saints' Wide Game Team (Group B)
I Did A Gig In New York
It Only Works Because You're Here
Billy Jones Is Dead
Do The Indie Kid
The Lesson Of The Smiths
Hey Hey 16K
Predictably, on this lovely day in a lovely place, it was LOVELY. I'd been a bit worried beforehand as it looked like ABSOLUTELY NOBODY was going to be there, but actually there was a good few, especially when A Smile And A Ribbon came through. It was a TINY room, so I did it Totally Acoustically, which is always more fun, especially this time when the Soundman spent the whole gig at his DESK, occasionally motioning to non-existent faders like a driver having to sit in the passenger seat.
I noted that one chap looked weirdly familiar, so when it'd finished I went over to see if it was Dougie McKinnon, long ago LEGEND of the uk-indie mailing list of a DECADE ago. It was! I was MOST pleased to see him, and we had a chat before heading back in to see Horowitz, who were dead good once again. I don't know if it's the use of Technology or just a run of decent soundchecks, but being able to hear everything really does help, especially when you hear the GUITAR bits and think "COR - that is GOOD!"
In the next break I was shown some photographs that Man With A Proper Expensive Camera had taken, which looked AMAZING. I wish I'd remembered to give him a tenner for a CD of them now! After THAT A Smile And A Ribbon were on, and were lovely again - even more fun than when I'd seen them at Indietracks, tho that MAY be partly because I WASN'T 48 hours DRUNK!
With everything done I headed home, with a brisk walk through this lovely city - or, rather, five towns. Thanks Stoke, that was ACE!
posted 8/5/2008 by MJ Hibbett
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