Live in Manchester..I think I'm coming home.

I wake up nervous on Saturday morning-tonight I play my (unbelievably) first northern gig-a mere 25 miles from my birthplace-my twin brother will be there.People are travelling there and staying in hotels-I want it to be good.I'd planned to try out some of the new tunes from the as yet unrecorded next album, but both guitars I need have developed faults days before-still, every cloud has a silver lining-it forces me to pad out the set with some extra storytelling-a gamble which I think pays off on the night.It adds a more entertaining dimension to my set.

                            Confidence returns as I drive up the M6.I pop into me dads for a quick cup of tea before setting off for the venue.I arrive at The Cheshire Ring pub-an unassuming building you might happily drive past without so much as a second,or even first, glance.Ah but outward appearances are, well, just that.

          Mark C greets me and takes me in to the pubs bar-its a proper pub,not a wine bar,theme pub,fake oak beam and horsebrass pub- its a pub like they used to be.Its real.This pub did not have its heart ripped out in the eighties and now it sits, like a grand old man, comfortable in its own skin.I have no idea as yet that tonight I will experience a spiritual homecoming,that I will be reminded of who I really am,and that I could move as far south as Australia, but would still remain forever Northern.I am surrounded by people who speak with accents like mine,they are warm,blunt without being rude,straight,we share a common culture.I guess all this sounds pretentious but its not and I'm gonna tell it like it is,so there! I'm sitting here writing this on the south coast and for the first time in decades I feel a foreigner..that I have indeed lost something, that there is an unseen cultural umbilical cord that will never break no matter where I go.

           Mark looks after me as promoters do, curry,drinks,complimentary goodies,including a rather large high quality gig poster..

He has assured me that everyone who plays here loves it-let me tell you he wasn't lying.As soon as you walk into the room you feel it.The sound is incredible-soundcheck is absurdly straightforward and free of the usual problems that haunt 90% of shows.There is nothing like a great soundcheck to boost a performers' confidence-and a poor one vice versa.

              The support band are a charm,and whilst Great Britain watches soul destroying Saturday night tv, we are treated to politically aware tunes whose NWO bashing content reinforces the fact that I am indeed amongst my own.As I walk towards the stage to play the nerves are gone and I suggest to the audience that they should be at home watching X factor and some celebrities in the jungle.I warn them that their brains are not yet smooth enough and that cops will soon arrive to casually pepper spray them until they are forced back to their homes to sit in front of their 52 inch televisions to watch vacuous shite.This venue is great-the room is above the pub-there is no reason to come up here unless you are a music fan-it is its own little world,devoid of pretention,subtle,gently,ever so slightly subversive-a real ale, real music pub-against the grain of consumer bollocks without ever shouting about it.As I play the audience have smiles so wide it looks like they have invisible hooks pulling their mouths up at each corner.They never stop smiling the whole set! Some mouth along the words to the all falls together,and I play what is probably my fave ever show.I know I'll be back here for sure.

(photo credit-Dan Wilcox)

         Mark buys me a pint and as there is no Guinness they suggest a pint of Mild (Christ I've been down South so damn long I'd forgot about Mild) -and on my first sip about 4 different flavours dance across my tongue.Hell, do we realise what we are losing by all consuming the same mass produced commercial stuff? 

         So there we have it-The Verge at The Cheshire Ring pub in Hyde, Manchester.Treat yourself one day,go there and rediscover something you might not even be aware you have lost.



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Comment by HOLLOWBELLY on December 13, 2011 at 3:30pm

yup-misery I can do! ;0)

Comment by JP Swenson on December 12, 2011 at 8:12pm

OK then....I bet there'll be a miserable song coming!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  

Hey!  I recorded a song recently....just a quick try with a new toy, Garage Band on my iPad.  It's just me playing one of my three strings and singing Lost Highway.  It's on my Nation'd mean a lot to me if you'd give it a listen and a comment or two.  Hopefully it won't hurt your ears too much. Constructive criticisms welcomed!  I am trying to improve.

PS,  Have I mentioned that I'm a fan of your music!

Comment by HOLLOWBELLY on December 12, 2011 at 10:52am

not really JP-there aint no nice HB songs-I deal strictly in misery    ;0)

Comment by JP Swenson on December 11, 2011 at 5:47pm

Nice write-up HB, sounds like it worked out for everyone.  You can go back home after all.

I bet there'll be a nice HB song coming out of this experience..........

Comment by rob maidens on December 7, 2011 at 3:25pm

mild me and my ol man supping a few in grimsby forgot about that x peace x

Comment by HOLLOWBELLY on November 30, 2011 at 12:37pm

Hey thanks for taking the time to read and comment-as I wrote it I did think about our American cousins and wondered if it would translate across the Atlantic, but it appears it wasnt a problem

cheers :0)

Comment by Sharecropper on November 30, 2011 at 11:58am

 Nicely written blog .  No chords and the truth !?!   Glad to hear you had a great experience going back up north .  Okay.......okay , I will plagiarize you no further .    It is amazing what a connection we can have to a place and that where we grew up is still always , somehow , "home".

Comment by Gadsden Guitars on November 30, 2011 at 10:56am

I'm actually a "Northerner" too man, and since '99 i've been a guest in this area. Time to get back...

Sounds like a great night HB, too bad about the Guinness, but it sounds like it worked out nicely.

Comment by Mark C on November 30, 2011 at 8:32am

Wow HB, we knew you'd enjoyed yourself, but at the time had no real idea of how this was all resonating inside you.  And a fantastic set you did too.

A bit more about the support: They were led by Phil Busby and got together just to do the gig.  What an interesting collabotation: Phil (6 sting acoustic, 3 string cbg) normally plays solo, blues standards and his own creations inc. the political flavourings HB referes to, and also great reinterpretations of others' songs ('Everyday People' by Sly Stone and the 'Mattie Groves' ancient folk song were performed on the night).  Keith Derbyshire (cigar box bass), was/is bass player for Crispy Ambulance for those of you who know your Factory Records stuff.  He's currently in two other bands, roomthirteen and The Mighty Neslon.  Debbie Busby (darbuka hand drum, a.k.a. dumbek or tabla), is Phil's sister.  She performs and teaches middle eastern dance. She's travelled extensively across Turkey and the Middle East researching both music and dance and is closely involved with the Bedouin Arabs of the Wadi Rum desert in Southern Jordan (where Laurence of Arabia fought in the Second World War).  Their set followed Phil's format of a mixture of blues, Phil's own compositions and arrangements of others songs as mentioned, but with each band member bring their stuff into the mix.  It was brilliant, and suffused with a kind of calmness and presence. I really hope they do more together.

Btw, I myself am not a promoter.  I just help out at the Verge and thought it would be good to invite Hollowbellly to play, that's all.  We are a small team of volunteers that run the place, 'by musicians for musicians' is our sort-of motto.  We are pretty much non-profit making, money goes to paying artisits, maintaining the place and replacing or improving the gear we have.  Our mainstay is Big Graham. He's a member Biggles Wartime Band; some of you will likely have seen them at Glastonbury, where they have been regulars for thousands of years.  Just to give them a plug, do check out their website, it'll bring a smile to your face:

I've gone on a bit more than I intended.  If you're still with me, thanks!  Just wanted to give flesh things out a bit more for them wot's interested.

Comment by smojo on November 30, 2011 at 4:12am

A very accurate descriptive mate. I felt pretty much the same about the pub and people. I come from a small dormitory town in Yorkshire that used to be mostly ordinary working class folk with the odd rich bugger. It's now a dormitory town for Leeds Bradford and full of wealthy "oft-comers" from the south, "yummy mummies" driving around in their Chelsea tractors and hardly a northern accent to be heard. So even though I still live in the north, it was refreshing to be in the Cheshire ring - as you say a proper old fashioned pub and proper down to earth folk. Loved it - and right up our CBG street.

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