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Showing posts from 2019

Incidental Music: The Best of 2019

It's been a great year for music! Some absolute crackers have come along, in terms of gigs, albums, and tunes. I have managed to sift through what have I heard and seen, and these are my highlights....

2018 wasn't a particular vintage year for music, and I was struggling to come up with my top album - although it was pretty excellent(BC Camplight, btw) - and trying to find volunteers for my top 12 albums! This year, there was no such problem, it was more a case of what to leave out. It was a year of immense variety, a year where you had artists like the incredibly creative Black Midi, disco-funk funsters Warmduscher, Irish post-punk-poet-indie maestros Fontaines DC alongside spiritual jazz from The Comet Is Coming, grime from the likes of Dave, power ballads from Angel Olsen, and plenty more beside. There were constant delights popping up in different genres, and of course, it was totally impossible to listen to everything there was, even via streaming services! That said, vin…

Barbary's: New Bar With Echoes of The Past....

A new bar has just opened in the Upper Calder Valley village of Mytholmroyd, its name recalling an infamous inn in a dubious period in the area's history.... Last Saturday, Northern Rail was all over the place again, so my visit to Mytholmroyd was undertaken by bus via Halifax rather than my initial preference of train from Brighouse. I had primarily come to visit Barbary's, a new bar opened up in the spot previously occupied by Libertine, a bar which had opened and shut several times over the years. I decided to check out the village's two other pubs, the Shoulder of Mutton and the Dusty Miller whilst I was in the area. I hadn't visited either since the Boxing Day floods of 2015, since when there has been a series of flood defence works undertaken, the latest of which have led to many months of temporary traffic lights and frustration. Ironically, the Calder Valley is at one of its widest points at Mytholmroyd, but it is the site of the confluence of the lively Elphin…

A River to Skate Away On....

"It's coming on Christmas, they're pulling down trees, they're putting up reindeer, they're singing songs of joy and peace."
So sang Joni Mitchell in the opening lines from The River, from her classic 1971 album, Blue.

A song about escape, getting away from an unbearable truth, the reality of day-to-day life. Which in many ways, for so many people, is what Christmas has become these days. "Oh I wish I had a river to skate away on" is the next line in the song.

We're in December now, so fair enough, but it seemed this year everything kicked off earlier than ever. I encountered my first Christmas beer as November 16th in the Half Moon in Darlington, and whilst I haven't seen many since, I am sure there will be plenty lurking around the corner, waiting to be unleashed on a fair proportion of the nation's bars. I wrote about my aversion to Christmas-themed beersa few years ago, and my view has not changed one bit. The shops seemed to get sta…

A Week of Gigs and Slocken....

I saw two of the best gigs of the year recently, in two different cities, and enjoyed some great beer and pubs along the way. Here's a summary....


I had been waiting for this week for some time. Two gigs from two different artists who have released some of the best music of 2019. So I had Fontaines DC, the indie wunder-bards from Dublin, in Manchester on Tuesday, and genial Geordie genius, Richard Dawson, in Leeds on Friday.

On Friday teatime, I am getting off the train at Leeds. Despite delays and cancelled trains, I still had enough time for a couple of pints before the gig. I called in at the Brewery Tap, on the station approach, back in the Good Beer Guide. It was quite busy with the Friday teatime crowd but despite that I managed to get served pretty quickly. The half of Leeds Pale from the brewery in question was pleasant enough and the atmosphere was that TGI the weekend vibe that you only get at this time of the week.
I finished my drink, and decided to pop in round the co…

A Salvo from Darlo....

Until last weekend I had never been to Darlington in my life, so I decided to get the train there and go for a look around. Here's what I found....
Fifty-six minutes after the train had left Leeds, it pulled into Darlington's classic Victorian brick station. I followed the throng heading towards the Way Out signs. I emerged from a subway into a cobbled car park, from which, not noticing any signs, I headed in the most promising-looking direction towards the town centre. Down a street of tanning shops and takeaways, towards a busy roundabout. A Hungry Horse and a Premier Inn lay in wait.

Darlington is an old railway town, its place in history secured by being at one end of the Stockton and Darlington railway line which, with the journey of Stephenson's Rocket in 1825, paved the way for the first steam-powered regular railway line established to carry both passengers and freight. The town became a major centre for engineering both for the railways and industry in general. Mu…

A Halifax Beer Trail....

A meet-up with friends from out of town last weekend made me think that there has been no recent actual suggested tour around the pubs and bars of Halifax town centre. Here's the route we walked for starters....
It had taken ages to come up with a date that worked for all of us, but we had finally settled on last Saturday. Which is why, just after 1pm, I was sat on a barstool in the Three Pigeons awaiting the arrival of whom I call Alex but known to the online community simply as Quosh and Chris, who had last appeared in this blog when we visited the currently-closed Donkeystones Brewery Tapwith the legendary Simon Everitt, aka BRAPA. Their train from Huddersfield was running slightly late, but I hadn't been in that long when the lads arrived. Handshakes were exchanged, and Chris even came bearing gifts: Having read my recent blog about visiting Bromley, he had dug out a book he had at home called The Bromley Boys, which chronicles a season following Bromley FC in the days whe…

Those Halloween Nights....

A return to Leeds, and a most enjoyable evening in and around Kirkstall Road....
The heavily-bandaged, bloodstained guy and the dodgy-looking bloke with the black cloak and dubious teeth were deep in conversation as I squeezed past them on my way to the bar. There was a strange, reddish glow as evil-looking orange heads with no eyes and crazy mouths stared out from all corners of the room. Cobwebs hung down  from the ceiling, spun by huge, black spiders, as a couple of zombies looked on.

I was in the West End House in Kirkstall, Leeds, where the Halloween festivities were in full flow.

It was my first-ever visit to the pub which was, years ago when I lived up the road in Headingley, a bastion of Whitbread and therefore not a place to expect any real ale. So, even though I had noticed it had been in the Good Beer Guide a few times in recent years, it wasn't a place that I had ever visited before. But as I was going to a gig at the Brudenell and I needed some food somewhere, I decid…