By Mark Lear, Rock At Night Manchester
Live Review: The Milkmen-Barnoldswick Music and Arts Centre, Barnoldswick, UK – November 11, 2022
Now there are some venues that shout loud and proud what they are, and more importantly, where they are – but I haven’t a clue where Barnoldswick Music and Arts Centre fits in to this – not least because the town itself is in the back of beyond and the venue is hidden underneath an Irish Bar with little signage to tell you as such. Floor to ceiling is about 7’ (in between the beams), the seating is theatre style and was actually purchased from an old theatre in London, and they still use the seat numbers to seat you as advanced booking in compulsory. There’s a ‘balcony’ which is no more than 6” higher than the stalls and the capacity is capped at 60. Absolutely bizarre. Quintessentially English… and I like it.
There’s no messing about here. Once everyone has been ticked off the list (they know you’re coming !), the ‘turn’ is on, and they’ll be doing 3 x half hours. This is classic working men’s club rules in full flow and if someone turns up with pie and peas in between each set, I’ll know that I’ll have transgressed back to my childhood.
I’d like say that the band stormed on stage with a big tune to say ‘we’re here’ but the truth is more like they shuffled through the crowd, taking care that they didn’t knock over any drinks on the floor – they don’t have tables here as there isn’t enough room. The introduction goes up “welcome the smartest band to ever play this venue” …but it falls flat as the lead singer is actually at the bar ordering the bands drinks for the set and the lager takes a while to pull, so we wait and repeat. This time we’re off with ‘I can tell’ and then a couple of tunes from the bands second album ‘Gold Top’, ‘Shoot the Lights’ and ‘Rag and Bone Lady’. We have a couple of covers thrown in for good measure, ZZ Tops ‘Cheap Sunglasses’ for which the band have come prepared with such and don them with aplomb – except the bass player as ‘his are in the car’ – shameful (!) and then ‘The Score’, by Robert Cray.
Before we know it, we’re eight songs in and it’s time for a break and it becomes evident why we’re on 3 x half hours – you can’t move when the band’s on and if you haven’t stocked up on beer beforehand, you’ve had it and counting the tunes ! !
So, with the good people of Barnoldswick stocked up for the next half hour, we’re ready for Set Two which opens with ‘Driving It’, a tune from the bands latest album ‘Spin the Bottle’ and then ‘When the Blues Keeps Calling’ and ‘Little Miss Attention’ both from the third album ‘Deliverance’ and both with some meaty guitar riffs, just for good measure. We finish with a blistering version of ‘Bad Case of Loving You’ to keep us going whilst we head for the bar for the last time tonight.
Set Three begins with ‘Make Mine a Double’, from the bands first album ‘Full Phat’ and then we get a brace of really powerful covers in ‘Pinball Wizard’ and ‘Tie Your Mother Down’, with the bass players homage to the Ramones ‘Gabba Gabba Hey’ nestled in between.
There’s no ‘pretend we’re done’ by going off and coming back on again for an encore, this venue just doesn’t cater for it, so it’s ‘faked’ on stage by removing guitars and alighting the drum throne, waiting for the cries for ‘more’ – which do come and are quite demanding for such a small crowd – and then we’re back in business with a cheeky, little showbiz medley of ‘Johnny B Good’ mixed with a couple of Quo tunes, ‘Caroline’ and ‘Rocking All Over the World’. Job done.
Now, all’s I have to do is navigate my way down the dark country lanes to the M6 and home, having had a very pleasant evening in one of the quirkiest venues I’ve ever been to …and I like it, I like it, I la, la, la like it.
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