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Friday, 16 December 2011

Sundays? Are they gay? Killers, flies and breeze blocks ...

I’m not gay.  No, really I’m not.  I just want to point this out in case you caught me humming, yes HUMMING, along to Electric Six last week and 2003 hit Gay Bar. And before you start an online protest or march on Stonebow House with burning torches I’m OK with gays, OK?

Glancing around that night I caught sight of lots of other blokes, men’s men, bawling “Let’s start a war, a nuclear war, at the gay bar gay bar GAY BAR!!”  It’s a fair bet that none of us had moisturised or flossed that morning, some not even daubing the armpits I thought, but it reminded me when, back in the day, Tom Robinson played Fibbs and we all grinned and hollered “SING if you’re glad to be gay, sing if you’re happy this way!”. 

Tom had arrived early to set up the stage, shuffling various aspidistra and cheese plants around in a valiant attempt to make the Fibbs stage, a quagmire of gaffa tape and peeling posters, in to a rough approximation of a Bali paradise sans dusky maidens, gently-lapping waves and coconuts.  Michelle, however, true to form, had earlier tried to lob our flower-arranging 2-4-6-8 icon off the stage, “Oi, what are you doing up there? Tom who? No idea! Never heard of you! Get off!”

The small black hole of Calcutta that we called a dressing room in those days had, still has, a huge gas main poking through the wall.  Crack it open, set it alight and it’s a fair bet that Fibbers would go up like the world's biggest firework, a Hadron Collider of bar towels, drip trays and drum techs. No 'God particle' there, then ...

I put a notice on the offending live music venue version of the Trans Alaska along the lines of, “**** with this and you'll be jamming with Hendrix” which Tom duly photographed and it was on his web site for a long time. Probably still is.  Tom’s show was great and I still recommend his album of the time Love Over Rage.  But I can’t tell my story about our chef being a fan …

However, I digress from Electric Six whose frontman Dick Valentine aka Tyler Spencer is returning for another solo show in May 2012 on a Sunday night.  Which got me thinking about Sundays, and with the Blueflies doing support duties with Mick Ralphs recently, that quite naturally got me thinking about Sunday lunchtimes at Fibbers.  Stream of consciousness or what.

The Blueflies tipped up once a month and if you weren’t in the building by quarter past twelve you weren’t getting a seat.  By one o’clock the kitchen was flat out and every table was piled with food, beer, cigarettes, parents and squeaking children.  At two o’clock we brought out free trays of Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and onion gravy which only made folks drink harder.  Excellent.  There were generally six, yes six, of us behind the bar for those manic three hours and we didn’t get a breath never mind a fag at the end of the bar (ahhh … those were the days) as the Theakstons Old Peculier, Becks and Mad Dog 20/20 flowed.   

On stage, The ‘Flies jumbled James Brown with Free, Stephen Stills with their own originals.  Miles Gilderdale, also of stadium-bothering Acoustic Alchemy, brilliantly eschews the blues guitarist’s standard ‘ner NER ner-ner’ licks and squeezes a furiously skewed Larry Carlton-ish take on Freddie King in to hours of loud music and wry laughter, like Ryedale’s own Richard Pryor given a Gibson and told to get gobby.  Long-suffering and eloquently-talented drummer Trevor King (“Is it a bird, is it a plane, no it’s sad old man on drums called Fatha”) bears the brunt of the jokes. And those lunchtimes were among the most enjoyable times I ever had at Fibbers.

In those days, licensed hours were noon until 3pm and I still think that time restriction forced people in to making the most of a short period – and it was fantastic, but of course while everybody else headed off for Sunday lunch and a snooze we were busy getting ready for the next bands.  Of which more later …

And it was one of those Sundays that, having let myself in mid-morning, unshaven and togged in scruffs, to clean the lines, that I managed somehow to lock myself out.  Fibbers was very secure and the only way back in was going to be through one the small front windows facing the bus stops.  The toughened front windows.  In front of the bus stops …

I gathered a brick from the garage and, in front of a bus queue open-mouthed in disbelief, proceeded to hammer away at a window pane like a madman, swearing loudly. It wasn’t even cracking so I returned two minutes later having retrieved a breeze block.  That should do it.  The bus queue held it’s breath and sense of belief (and some missed the Coastliner to Malton) as a bloke looking for all the world like some deranged tramp took several paces back and prepared to make an assault … Pensioners gathered their shopping, parents their children. I charged. And bounced off.

Happy to say that after several more attempts, cursing and swinging a large lump of cement and coal ash, the window finally surrendered and yours truly, now a very bad and very obvious burgler, somehow tumbled head first inside as the alarm, which had reset itself, howled in protest. To this day, I’m amazed nobody called the police.

And when you have a venue in a small city you generally pick up the crappy dates that places like Leeds and Manchester don’t want ie Sundays.  But they have been some of our best triumphs.

Killers played on the last Sunday in May 2004 costing £500, and duly sold out. As per usual, with the headliners packed up and gone the staff and crew were all sat at the bar post-gig. When out of the dressing room wandered Ronnie Vannucci the drummer, “Where’s my band?”.

Ronnie had been dozing and the rest of the band went partying, but nobody knew where. I got him a drink and we chatted, mentioning in passing that I had a sore back whereupon the drummer for The Killers proceeded to show me an amazing back and neck massage that still serves me well.  But not in a gay way, OK?

And it was only two weeks later, on another Sunday, that Mel C aka Sporty Spice brought her band and new material to Fibbers on a £14 ticket.  I arrived very early that day around 8am and already quite a few female fans, dungareed-up, were pressed up against the letter box.  As usual, and not really clocking the situation, I left the front and back doors open to air the place and before long the venue was being circled and several ladies made what I can only describe as reccy missions inside.  I remember thinking it was bit like being in ‘Birds’.

Mel C was lovely despite finding herself in a 200 capacity York venue only a couple of years after selling out Madison Square Garden.  She had gathered a significant gay following and the female bar staff received many and varied offers during the evening.

So Sundays, yeah.  A gay day.

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