The first gig of the year – nay, of the decade – was a bit of a late call… I’d been on to Marr’s Bar to see if I could get Logan into this rare “full band” outing from Nick Parker, one of his favourite folk/ punk/ pop travelling troubadours (particularly so, given that this gig was due to be recorded for a future “live” album), but the 14+ only stipulation was sadly immovable. Thereafter I’d just let it slip my mind, intending to take my little man to the pics instead to see “1917”, only to find on the day that this was a 15 certificate! D’oh! However, Facebook came to my rescue, as comments from both my friend Rich and his mate Terry confirmed their attendance, so I got a late ticket and invite from the boys to tag along!
An early pick-up for a late departure at 7.30 saw us hammer up the M5, double-quick time, and park up in a muddy car park just around the corner from the venue, after a couple of laps around the town centre. My first time at this one – indeed, my first ever gig in Worcester! – and this small, scuzzy venue was already well-attended by the Parker faithful. Nick was at the merch stand, gleefully shaking hands with all and sundry, announcing, “this is great – I know pretty much everyone here!” Indeed, it seemed as though the whole Parker massive had come out of hibernation for this one, as I ran into both fellow Swindonians Grant and his wife Lisa, and also Claire, who I’d ran into whilst chatting to Nick at Wickham Festival!
Anyway, first on were Abdoujaparov. My previous exposure to former Jamie Wednesday guitarist and Carter USM wingman Les “Fruitbat” Carter’s current musical project, at Shiiine On 2018 (gig 1,112), was less than impressive, so hopes weren’t high as a jovial Fruitbat led his charges through some early doors old school punk rock with unsurprising Carter USM-esque song structures and flippant, punnish wordplay. Indeed, an early number recalled “Heads Down No Nonsense Mindless Boogie” by obscure 70’s comedy punkers Alberto Y Los Trios Paranoias, and another had a “Dark Entries”-esque thrashy descending riff! I actually warmed to this set as Fruitbat seemed to be throwing the kitchen sink at it – a Ukranian-style jig-fest here, a Coral-esque sea shanty there, and a flippant but fun terrace chant about umbrellas being my set favourite. It felt a little overlong, but infinitely better than that Shiiine On debacle, a point I also made to Les himself at the end of the gig, also recalling those Jamie Wednesday days!
I took a wander down the front as Nick and The False Alarms – all 7 of them! – squeezed onto the cramped and busy stage, before kicking off a little early at 10 to 10 with the rousing Irish jig of “Never Been To Dublin” Straightaway this engendered a mass singalong from the Parker devotees, a state of affairs which pretty much continued all night, the gig feeling similar in atmosphere and general bonhomie to Gaz Brookfield’s “AGM of lovely people,” last time out. Nick himself sported a cheesy grin throughout, often remarking, “this is fun! Can we do this again next year?”, and threw himself into the performance, often laudably red-faced and sweating buckets for the cause, and looking after his congregation too, inquiring, “this is all good-natured, right?” every time an often violent mosh broke out.
“Make Yourself At Home” was a soaring, roof-raising early delight, “Down With The Yoof” a joyous ragged reel with some exemplary fiddle from the ubiquitous Ben Wain, and “Could We At Least Try” saw Nick and multi-instrumentalist Tom split the audience to fill out the harmony parts of song characters “Larissa” and “Sebastian”. However an amazing cover of Sugar’s classic popcore number “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” was a startling mid-set highlight, seeing me rock out like those 90’s Lev’s days to this irresistibly catchy number, which Nick and the boys did full justice to. Nick’s daughter Flo then joined him onstage to duet on a stark “Guess I’ll Never Know”, delivering a beautiful world-weary vocal well beyond her years. A couple of real contrasting numbers, but both stunning.
A couple of moshs broke out to later numbers, as I ran into a hairy specimen in the mosh wearing the same “B-Sydes” t-shirt as me (right down to the same purple colour!), grabbing ahold of him and shouting, “fuck me, it’s like looking in a mirror!” Les Carter then joined the False Alarms onstage (making that stage even more cramped!) for a run through of Carter USM’s “Only Living Boy In New Cross”, splendidly authentic right down to the pulsing beat and gabbling denouement. “Song For Suzy” finally rounded off a splendidly ragged-arsed, frantic yet totally fun singalong set, a damn fine way to kick off gigging year 2020!
After the aforementioned chat with Les and a quick word with a sweaty and elated Nick about Sugar, I located the boys and we headed off for an equally breakneck journey home. Shame Logan couldn’t join us for that, but actually that mosh might’ve been a bit much for him. So, glad I went – this may have been a late call, but t’was a great call!