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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 songs..it all falls together,and I play what is probably my fave ever show.I know I'll be back here for sure.
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.