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Blog: Back To The Bull and Gate

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Things went a bit KRAZY yesterday - just after lunch I was sat at my desk feeling a bit TIRED OUT from all the recent ACTION, but very much looking forward to seeing my friend and colleague Mr S Hewitt later on for a) beers b) a trip to LIMEHOUSE to see Billy Bragg. HOORAH!

Then my phone went BLEEP with a message from Ms P Blackham - Penny manages The Crookes, who were playing at Steve Lamacq's "Going Deaf For A Living" do at The Bull & Gate that night. Their support act had had to pull out at the last minute, she said, so would I be able to fill in as a last minute SUB?

PANIC! Yes, I very much WOULD like to do that, but could I? SHOULD i? I really wanted to see Billy Bragg, but then I would really like to do the gig too... INDECISION reigned, until I immediately saw what i SHOULD do. So i DID - i rang The Tea In My Mug to ask HER. "Do BOTH!" she replied, and formulated a CUNNING PLAN.

SPEED was of the essence so, like something out of the 1980s, i TELEPHONED people! I know! Using the POWER OF SPEECH I first checked with Steve that THE PLAN was OK with him and then, having affirmation, told Penny that I'd love to, as long as I could go on first. This TOO was confirmed, and we were GO!

Steve and I met in The Pineapple, the LOVELY pub just round the corner from The Bull & Gate, where he told me all about his recent ACTIVITIES. HELLS BELLS! I suddenly felt like a MASSIVE LIGHTWEIGHT for being A Bit Tired after a couple of outings and some travel, as Mr Hewitt had spent the last week at Karaoke, Bowlie (THREE DAYS of INTENSE Not Going To Bed), to see The Wedding Present and at Christmas DO's! I was surprised he was still STANDING, and even more so that he was able to WALK round the corner, through the snow, to The Bull & Gate.

Aaaah! The Bull & Gate! Location of SO MANY GRATE NIGHTS over the past... well, let's just say LONG TIME. Everything felt the same - the bar was still packed, you still walk through the toilets to get to the back room, the landlord is still grumpy, the beer is still horrible, the sounds is still GRATE, the "dressing room" even SMELLS the same. Best of all the sound man STILL says the immortal words "It will sound better when there's people here." AAaaah! It's been a couple of years since I was last there but it felt really NICE to be back, and we fell into various CHAT, DISCUSSION and reminiscing. It was DELIGHTFUL.

As indeed are those young lads from The Crookes - what a CREDIT to their manager they are! So polite! e.g. they lent me their guitar and then went and set up their tuner pedal for me, just in case. They are like the ANTI-DOHERTY, and that is an ENTIRELY GOOD THING in my book.

So yes, all was set up and that nice Mr Lamacq got up on stage, did me a lovely introduction, and then i SPRANG into action, THUS:

  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • I Did A Gig In New York
  • The Gay Train
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • The Advent Calendar Of FACT
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths

  • I had a WHALE of a time, and spoke AT SOME LENGTH on a diverse range of topics, not least the general EXCELLENCE of Mr Bob Dylan's Christmas album. "It's the best album he's ever made" I said, and there were AUDIBLE GASPS OF DISBELIEF. I was really enjoying myself, especially when, during My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once I realised how VERY VERY APT the final verse was. SPOOKILY SO.

    Afterwards a Nice Young Lady came up to speak to me. "I really enjoyed that", she said. I smiled happily, then she went on. "You reminded me of my Dad."

    That's not how it's supposed to go, is it? I feel I may have crossed a very important boundary since last I played The Bull & Gate!

    We HUGGED our farewells to as many people as we could find, and then SPRINTED out into the street, where we HOPPED into a Black Cab. "Limehouse!" we called, and twenty minutes later we found ourselves outside The Troxy, the venue for our SECOND gig of the night. We missed the support act, Grace Petrie, tho this didn't matter SO much as I had at least seen her before - supporting US!!! She'd played with us a couple of times at The Firebug - surely this is tantamount to QUEUE JUMPING then? If it's ANYBODY'S turn to support Billy Bragg, it should be OURS, shouldn't it?

    Anyway, in we sped, entering the auditorium PRECISELY in time, as he'd JUST finished the first verse of "St Swithins Day". EXCELLENT! There then followed TWO HOURS of BRILLIANCE, comprising roughly 45 minutes of MASS SINGALONG and the rest of Mr Bragg talking and the rest of us applauding, nodding, cheering and occasionally DISAGREEING. It was EXCITING and FANTASTIC - it felt like there was an actual DIALOGUE going on in places, with some HILARIOUS heckles. My favourite was when Billy finished an impassioned rant against CYNICISM by giving the kind of negative comments you always get on The Guardian website as an example. "Sorry!" came a lone voice.

    Other highlights included a mass CHECKING OF WATCHES when he started talking about the student protests, as if EVERYONE was involved in a sweepstake. Whoever had 14 minutes, they were the winner. There were some NEW SONGS, including an ACE one called "The Battle Of Barking" and also a CHRISTMAS SONG, and then for the encores WIGGY came on! HOORAH! Also Jack Bragg, his LAD, and together they did "A13 Trunk Road To The Sea". FANTASTIC!

    It was, all in all, BLOODY GRATE, and we STRODE out into the night with our hearts full of JOY and our heads full of inspiration. He truly is UTTERLY BRILLIANT, is Billy Bragg, and I was EXTREMELY happy that the plan had worked out so well. Well done EVERYBODY, what an ACE night!

    posted 17/12/2010 by MJ Hibbett

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