On Merry Hell at Biddulph (with a side of Indian dinner)
Originally the plan on this adventure was to road-trip Bellowhead: four shows in four days with my friend Lesley. Then Merry Hell announced this show, on my first day in the UK–and the only gig they’d be doing while I was there. No-brainer, that. As it was Lauren’s birthday, we arranged to meet beforehand for dinner: Lauren wanted a curry, so to Roti Restaurant we went.
As a sad aside: I can’t eat rice, because of a strange sensitivity; and the last time I went to an Indian restaurant was with my ex-husband, in Whitechapel in 1989, and the results were disastrous. But it was Lauren’s birthday, and I hadn’t seen her in several years, and I figured there would be something on the menu that would work. Naan, for example. In the end I went for the Nimbo chicken, which was lightly spiced and cooked in lemon–bits of lemon slice, as I found out. It was quite nice. Lesley had a Peshwari naan, which was flavored with coconut; I found that a bit too sweet, but the plain naan was rather nice.
The town hall was just down the street. We were plenty early, but the front row was behind tables, and people in the know where there first to claim them. We ended up a bit back from the stage, and we were a fairly large contingent, with Lesley, me, other Lesley and Steve, Lauren and her boyfriend and some other friends, Anne and Paul, and David: a wild and crazy group. Wilcox:Hulse opened. They put on a great show–notably, for me since I was unfamiliar with them, the song “Upon,” about one of the six towns that make up Stoke-on-Trent. Ostensibly it was a a seated gig, but there was a bit of space off to either side of the stage, and Lesley and I didn’t sit, because that makes it hard to dance. Other people chose to dance: some couples, and over in under the balcony near the merch table, the family and friends of the Kettles and company, including, eventually, us.
out on the road on my bicycle. Hard-driving songs. The band opened with “Summer is A-Comin‘”. Lesley and I hit the floor. I was a bit hesitant at first, because I’m The Easily Frightened Person, and I didn’t want to be in anyone’s way, or maybe have anyone notice I was there–you know how that works. But by the time they launched into “Drunken Serenade,” it really didn’t matter anymore, because I’d lost it entirely. I don’t see how anyone could hold back at a Merry Hell gig.
Lesley was disappointed that they didn’t play “Crooked Man.” I have to say that I was so busy enjoying what they did include on the playlist (which they gave to me after the gig), that I didn’t notice. I was excited for “The Ghost in Our House,” a wonderful slightly creepy stomper (watch the video, seriously, just watch it). And for the encore, Andrew Kettle announced a song for friendship, dedicated to me, the song I wrote that would complete my life, should anyone ever sing it to me: “Rosanna’s Song.” Well, I guess my life is complete, then.
Then we went backstage. I got to talk about the passion of creation with Bob Kettle, who is the mandolin player, though not the one in my book. I got to have the requisite groupie pictures. Quite frankly, it was a fantastic show and experience–and only the first full day of the adventure. Virginia Kettle said she was honored we’d ditched Bellowhead for them, but going to this gig was something I just couldn’t pass up. Serendipity, I call it, that they would be doing a show when I was there.
Damian, the manager of Merry Hell, very kindly gave to me a red umbrella from the merch table–a Merry Hell inside-joke-umbrella, which you’d get if you’d seen the cover of their CD Head Full of Magic, Shoes Full of Rain. And wouldn’t you know? I forgot it in the boot of Lesley’s car at the end of our adventures together. (This is a picture of me crying, in a broken-hearted way.) I was horrified when I realized it. So this is my broken-hearted plea to Lesley: can you send it to me? I’ll pay you postage! Pleeeeeaaaaaassssse?