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Happenings In The Valley....

I made my first visit to Todmorden for 18 months last weekend to visit the latest micro pub to open in the town. Meanwhile, further down the valley, there was some great music to be heard in Halifax and Hebden Bridge....
The mean streets of Todmorden....
I had overlooked the fact that a second micro pub had opened in Todmorden during the summer, but I decided to rectify that last weekend when I was in the area to see Brix and The Extricated at the Hebden Bridge Trades Club on Saturday night.

After a quick visit to the Grayston Unity, I got the bus from Halifax to Todmorden. Unlike my last visit up the Calder Valley a few weeks ago, when severe roadworks in Mytholmroyd took the edge off my entire evening, the traffic seemed to be moving better, and it didn't seem that long before I was getting off the bus at Todmorden Bus Station. About 5 minutes walk away on the Burnley Road is the Ale House, situated in a row of shops and takeaways. It was originally a shop, and more recently, a restaurant, but when she couldn't sell it, owner Jackie decided to open a micro pub.

And what a friendly place it was! Comfortably busy, with the odd couple and dog dotted about, whilst in the middle of the single room a happy group of senior citizens occupied the bar's main table. I ordered a pint from Burnley brewers, Worsthorne, and retired to a corner overlooking the happy throng to study the football results(Town had been thrashed 4-0), and had a look around the room. A big shop-style window, white-painted walls save one with exposed brickwork, a small counter bar. 5 hand pumps on the bar, with a small notice offering bowls of home-made chilli. I finished my pint, which to be honest was a bit nondescript, and decided to get a quick half of Pale Eagle, from the local Eagle's Crag Brewery, which was much better. This is the house regular, and as I took my empty glass back to the bar, a guy sat there asked me if I had enjoyed it. It turned out that it was Dave, the brewer from Eagle's Crag. I said I had, and as we chatted I thought I recognised him from when I attended the brewery's launch night a couple of years ago in the town at the Golden Lion. I quite liked the Ale House, and whilst overall the beer choice was a little uninspiring, on this visit the place was warm, welcoming, and unpretentious.
The Ale House, Todmorden
From there it was just under 10 minutes to Tod's original micro, The Pub, which I had visited not long after it opened last year. The early evening streets were quiet as I walked back into town, but that didn't deter me from the sense that Todmorden at last seems to be a place on the up, finally emerging from the shadows cast by its neighbour, Hebden Bridge, and more recently, Halifax.

The Pub, just beside the market, is one of those glue pot places that once you get comfortable, it is hard to leave(though definitely not in the Royston Vasey sense!). It is extremely friendly, and also extremely small(although there is a further room upstairs). This means that it is hard not getting into conversation with anyone. As I ordered a pint I got talking to a friendly chap sat at the bar, and from there on in I was drawn into the events of the day in and around the Pub by our friendly customer - we'll call him Calvin - and Lea who was working behind the bar, and who must be one of the friendliest bar persons anywhere. I learnt there had been a trip from The Pub to Rawtenstall that day which unfortunately Calvin had had to miss. As the evening moved on, the steady churn of people brought more stories of characters, more vignettes of the local day-to-day life where The Pub is clearly the hub of the local community. A quick pint turned into a more leisurely two and a half, it is that sort of place. I had to leave to get the bus to Hebden for food and music, but I thoroughly enjoyed my second visit to The Pub. Don't ask me what the beer was, it was fine, but with it being such a welcoming place that's almost not the point.
The Pub: Also sells beer....
I landed in Hebden Bridge, where I called in at Vocation & Co, Calan's, and Drink?, food great at Vocation & Co, beer great at all of them. I couldn't linger in any of them, though, time had moved on, and I needed to get to the Trades Club to see Brix and the Extricated.

For those that don't know, Brix Smith Start was married to the late Mark E.Smith of The Fall, and with 3 other ex-band members in the ranks, brothers Paul and Steve Hanley, on drums/percussion and bass respectively, and Steve Trafford(guitar/vocals), there is a strong presence from one of Manchester's most significant and influential bands. And yes, they finished with a blistering version of New Big Prinz("check the record, check the guy's track record"), but this is no Fall tribute band. They have their own style, with Brix a fizz bomb of energy, dominating proceedings on vocals at the front of the stage, and the band tight as a coiled spring keeping it all going. The band played plenty of tracks from their new album Breaking State, which is well worth a listen. It was a great evening, an excellent gig, with a fantastic atmosphere at the Trades Club as usual, and an absolute pleasure to meet Brix and the band afterwards.
Brix and The Extricated
Brix and the Excruciating....

*******************
The previous evening I had seen Norwich duo, Sink Ya Teeth at the Lantern in Halifax. The duo, Gemma and Maria, are signed to 1965 Records, the label owned by music industry legend James Endeacott, and their eponymous debut album is out now. They entertained us with tracks from it, and very good they were too, quite a bit funkier than I realised from hearing them on 6 Music. It was a shame that more people weren't there to see one of the most promising new bands around, as we were treated to an excellent show, Maria on vocals, keyboard, and percussion, Gemma on guitar and keyboards. And after the gig, it was a pleasure to meet the girls and have a chat.
Sink Ya Teeth...on top form at The Lantern
So, another good weekend, with some fine music, and good beer and pubs....

And here's some Sink Ya Teeth. This is Glass....



Twitter: @realalemusic

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