Days 3, 4 and 5: Leeds, Bradford airport – Gorton – Heckmondwike

Moogieman at the Brunswick, Manchester.Lewis at the Brunswick, Manchester.

We start day 3 at Leeds, Bradford airport. This isn’t the launch point of the international leg of the tour, it’s just because we’d originally intended to play in Leeds the previous night and the Travelodge here is only £15.

There isn’t much to see or do around here so we look forward to having a bit of a lie in. We’re woken in the early hours by the sound of jet engines starting up. The noise abates then returns at regular intervals.

We head to Manchester. Tonight we’re playing at the B-Lounge, formerly the Brunswick, where the open mic is run by local ska-folk band Naymedici.

We pass through a seemingly endless strip mall landscape without any actual malls. Attempting to find a more picturesque spot for lunch by the Audenshaw reservoir we come off the M60 near Ashton-under-Lyne. The reservoir is enclosed by an impenetrable ring of red brick houses and corrugated iron buildings so we end up stopping at a café in Denton which does large all-day breakfasts for £3.35. And they’re damn large, although ‘all-day’ is a little misleading as the place shuts at 2pm and they stop taking orders at 1.45. Still, no complaints here.

We continue to Gorton on the outskirts of Manchester, a district used as the filming location for a number of episodes of Shameless. Other notable points about Gorton are that it’s the birthplace of Myra Hindley and that recently it had the highest proportion of uninsured drivers in the country – though the Wikipedia entry points out the figures have been disputed.

Gorton doesn’t really seem like a place for wearing espadrilles, a cream blazer and a pencil tie and I get a few odd looks. Still there’s no bother as we walk to Rusholme, home of the famous curry mile.

We’re persuaded by the proprietor of the the Al Newaz to enter his establishment with the promise of free popadums and a 15% discount. He argues that his restaurant is one of the few to employ a genuine Indian chef who is fully aware of the subtleties and requirements of a diverse range of Indian dishes. We’re in no position to make a comparison with any of the other restaurants in Rusholme but otherwise we can’t fault his claims. The lamb tikka and karahi are heavily spiced but not overpowering, with an interesting combination of flavours. The pilau rice is delicately cooked and not in the slightest bit oily.

Feeling rather full we proceed to the city centre and arrive at the B-Lounge just in time for the open mic kick-off at 10pm. After signing up we head to the bar, eagerly anticipating cheap northern prices but its more expensive than Oxford. I suppose the place does open late.

Lewis Newcombe, working on some material.Naymedici host of the Brunswick open mic.

The open mic is a lively affair. There’s a decent sound system that cuts through the high level of chatter from the bar. People are generally watching though, and applauding the performers enthusiastically.

There’s a good range of acts including a girl with a beautiful voice who announces herself as FolkinEl and a performer who plays complex rhythmic and harmonic combinations by hammering with his fingers on the neck of his guitar, which lies flat on his lap.

Unfortunately my phone suffered a malfunction while writing this entry and the file I’d been working on became inaccessible. As well as losing pretty much everything I’d written up to this point, I also lost all the names of the performers I’d noted down. I suppose I may be able to locate them on the internet but with this phone that would be a sisyphean task. For the moment I’ll have to make do with what I remember (if you’re reading this blog and can list some of the regular performers at the B-Lounge I’d be grateful if you could add their names and website details to the comments section).

Lewis and I play towards the end of the solo acts section. We both get a good reception and I make my first CD sale of the tour. We chat to the other performers and the hosts. Everyone is friendly and interested in the tour. We’re also able to give them some info on Oxford open mics. Hopefully we’ll see some of them down there before long.

The band section of the open mic lasts till a bit after 2am. In addition to Naymedici, who play an engaging, lively brand of punk-folk, with a touch of Dead Kennedys about it, there are two other bands, whose names are currently inaccessible, which is a shame as they both rocked. One lot played a fine song called Don’t Take Any Shit From A Little Prick that not only has an appealing 60s pop melody but expresses a sentiment I can entirely agree with. The other lot, which is a stripped down version of the full band, includes one of the finest bass, drum & vocal numbers I’ve ever heard.

Eventually we’re kicked out of the B-Lounge and we head back to Gorton for a few post-performance drinks.

On Friday, day 4,we’re scheduled to play in Heckmodwike, a small town in West Yorkshire situated between Halifax and Batley. It was once famous for being the home of the Goliath footwear company which supplied football boots to Sir Stanley Matthews, who used to regularly visit the factory on Brunswick Street.

That’s not why we’re going there. Nor is Heckmondwike a known centre for music. It does, however, have an open mic night on a Friday, which is universally rare.

Or at least it’s supposed to be on Friday. We drive through some scenic parts of the Pennines, stopping at an independent brewery shop and art gallery in the charmingly named Todmorden (perhaps in old norse, death-murder?). It’s painted shocking pink inside and out, and has a curious policy of allowing tastings where you have to buy a bottle which is decanted into a small jug, which is probably a way of getting round having a licence.

An hour or so later we arrive at the New Charnwood, Heckmondwike to be told that the open mic isn’t on tonight but there’s an all day music festival tomorrow which will have an open part we may be able to play at. I phone the promoter the next day and he explains that there isn’t an open mic as such but if the weather is good we could play in the garden. The weather is indeed good, completely out of keeping with the last few days, so we decide to head back to ‘Heckie’. It’s a bit of a long shot really but it feels like we’re losing momentum so it’s worth the risk of a wasted journey if there’s a chance we can get to play.

We don’t. Well, playing in the garden is still an option but there’s nothing organised and not much in the way of an audience in the garden, which is also right next to the main road and therefore pretty noisy. We speak to the promoter, who is friendly enough, but understandably can’t just fit us in at short notice. We stay to watch for a bit but five days of travelling is starting to take its toll so we call it a day after a couple of pints. At least the beer is cheap here. I will probably check out the Friday open mic when I’m next in these parts.


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