London: pale ale and haddockpop

You know people who look amazing the minute they get out of bed? That’s Bristol, that is. The morning after the Lazy Dog gig was precisely the damp slough of grey that makes most cities look and feel like the last place on Earth. But Bristol still managed to be beautiful.

After a thus-far gruelling tour schedule of one gig in one night, it was time for a break. Saturday was my rest day. I was bound for London on a train ticket I booked in advance for £12.50. It was cheap because it was stopping everywhere and thus taking ages to get to London, and most people would deem this a terrible inconvenience as they hurtle manically through their days.

Obviously, most people are wrong. I would gladly pay a surcharge for a train that stops everywhere and takes ages. In this instance, granted, I had a bit of time to kill before the gig. About 32 hours, I seem to remember. Still, other people’s wrongness is my win-win train station situation.

Rolling sleepily into Waterloo, I started to psych myself up for the second night of the tour, and then remembered it was my rest day, and the second night of the tour didn’t actually involve a gig. So I went to the Catford Tavern with Marianthi instead and got drunk on some of the finest India pale ales known to humanity. It was ace.

The gig was on Sunday night at the King & Queen, a nice little pub somewhere in that mostly agreeable web of streets and squares between Euston Road and Oxford Street (‘Fitzrovia’ is more concise, but nobody ever calls it that, do they?). I’d played there once before, 18 months or so previous, for MJ Hibbett’s Totally Acoustic. It has a great little upstairs room, perfect for events of this ilk. Also they do an excellent pint of Tribute.

First up, again, was David Leach, who was just as good as he was in Bristol. All the funny bits in his songs made me laugh again, even though it was only two days since I’d heard them. That’s got to be a good thing, right?

Then came two bands who had never previously played in the proper acoustic format. This is a bit special, because the proper acoustic format can surprise the unwary with how awesome it is. And both Night Flowers and The Understudies seemed taken aback by their own brilliance.

My awareness of the former is due primarily to having met Sam Night Flower for a drink before we watched Grimsby Town’s FA Trophy final at Wembley back in March. Alright, for several drinks. Most of my friends I have either football or music in common with: seldom both. It was an excellent thing, then, to make a new friend who is not only in an amazing band but also supports the Mariners. Haddockpop ’til we drop, as someone once said.

The Understudies became twice the band when Thom Gresham Flyer and Ian Pocketbook joined a year or so back: a fuller sound and convincing on stage, with pop and punch. ‘Jackie’ was on my mental jukebox for weeks on end back in the summer, and ‘Signals Passed at Danger’ is already in the running for my favourite tune of 2014.

And then I played, and it seemed to go well again. We dispersed into Sunday night, and I was already steeling myself for the next gig. This would present perhaps the biggest challenge of the tour: going to Birmingham and not getting dead stressed…

Listen to
The Understudies
Night Flowers
David Leach

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