I’ve been to Huddersfield once before during my tour of the UK at the end of 2010. I played at a venue called ‘The Parish’ with my band: bassist Pete Randall, and drummer Andy Chapman. I have two very clear memories of that gig: firstly, it was very very cold (it was October). I remember seriously considering attempting to wear gloves whilst playing, which probably wouldn’t have worked, so it’s a good job I didn’t try. Secondly, towards the end of our set and in a gap between songs, a bloke called out, ‘Is that a guitar?’, obviously referring to my 8-string guitar. A slight unusual question, but I told him that yes, it was a guitar… I just put it down as a bizarre sort of heckle.
Anyway, I’ll come back to that in a minute, but for now I was on my way back to Huddersfield! I stopped off at the train station to pick up my company for the evening and backing vocalist, Lauren Carter, who was coming from Manchester, and off we popped to see Andy Kimmings, or Stripey Andy (he told me that the nickname comes from a penchant to wearing stripey jumpers), who would be the host for that evening’s living room gig. The venue was inside a huge old country house that had been split up into 8 or so flats and the whole building had been re-christened as the Punk Palace by its residents – now, you may think that playing in a Punk Palace might have been a bit of an odd location for me to play in, considering that my music tends to lean more in the folk/pop direction, but this potential clash of genre didn’t seem to bother my audience in the slightest. In fact, I’d say they were probably one of my most enthusiastic audiences on this tour! Next stop: Death Metal Mansion.
The living room was probably the most colourfully decorated that I’ve played in so far; each wall and surface seemed to be a different colour and on the front door was a brilliant hand-drawn poster made by one of Andy’s friends (left), which Andy kindly gave me a framed copy of before I left. We managed to get 20 or so people into the room and some people even got to recline on a bed for the evening, since there was one in the corner, so once everyone was comfortably seated (or lying down), Lauren and I got cracking. I should point out here that Lauren and I never actually got rehearse together any of the songs she was singing on, due to her living in Manchester and my living in London. As it was, I’d simply sent her the tracks with the instructions to ‘learn a harmony on these!’ and that was it, so for her to have actually learned the tracks and still agreed to come along without any sense of preparation was testimony to the fact that she was a) a very good harmoniser, and b) brave.
At the beginning of the evening I had told Andy the story above of the guitar question at the Parish and he looked at me for a moment and then said, ‘That was my mate Kips!’ Turns out that he and some friends had been at that gig and the culprit for that question was going to be there that evening! So when the gig began, I managed to locate Kips in the audience and regaled the tale to the audience, who thought it was a great story and poor Kips was immediately ribbed for not knowing what a guitar looked like, except that, he managed to explain, he’d meant to ask if it was an eight string guitar, but had been a bit drunk, so a few of the words got left out. Brilliant. I hope he doesn’t mind me re-telling it again here!
Here’s the scores of the ‘Go’ sing-a-long:
BUT I’m giving them a bonus point for some impressive vocal improv that came about once all three parts had been learned, which bumps up their score to 25/30!
All in all they were an excellent group to play to and it was great to have a chat with some of them afterwards as well, even though I pretty much managed to fall asleep in the chair I was sat on after the gig (it had been a travel-heavy week). Thanks very much to everyone there for being so friendly and welcoming, Kips for the amazing vat of curry he provided for everyone and Paul for the home made cake (who I at first thought was called ‘Erpol’, due to a misunderstanding when he introduced himself to me as ‘Er… Paul’). Huge thanks to the lovely Lauren for her backing vocals and coping extremely well with the informal and ‘fresh’ method of rehearsal (as in, no rehearsal), and finally massive thanks to Andy for hosting, putting me up for the night and making me a bacon sandwich in the morning!
Stripey Andy (host): I can’t thank you both enough for coming to play! It was an honour to be part of of Living Room Tour! Everybody I’ve spoken to since Saturday has had nothing but good things to say about the evening!