Pub visits this week 7
Locations Sheffield, Rotherham, Nottingham
This week I have been playing gigs, watching gigs, and here and there avoiding beer so as to give my poorly tummy a bit of a break.
What kind of music do I like? I like the kind of music whereby you’re one of 36 people at a beautiful popshow at the Red House on a rainy Tuesday night in Sheffield, and one of the bands is a defiantly frazzled and blisteringly loud duo from Stoke-on-Trent and Nottingham, and another of the bands is playing their first gig in 20 months because one of them moved to New Zealand and he’s come back over for a visit and was severely jetlagged throughout the one solitary practice they’ve had for this gig, and all of those people are already your friends, and your lovely Greek friend has come up from London for the gig so you’re drinking in the Sheffield Tap in the afternoon and the third band come in and they’re four brilliant girls from Sweden and someone charming from Portugal has also come up for the gig from London and you meet them for the first time when most of the bands and half the audience go for a curry together at the end of the night. That’s what kind of music I like.
I’m sitting directly opposite a painting of a topless sexy girl. She’s wearing an old-fashioned headscarf and enjoying the close attentions of two very large bears. Which makes me feel slightly queasy all afternoon. I know, I’m sorry – my stomach just refuses to appreciate irony. Yep, I’m in Bungalows & Bears, the coolest bar in town. There are some pictures of bungalows on the wall as well, which presumably brings some kind of fulfilment to young people with a strangely literal mind or a half-finished sense of humour.
So while Tuesday night’s popshow was all about passion and sincerity, Wednesday afternoon’s drinking venue is the opposite. In fairness, though, ‘Bummers’, as it is sometimes called around these parts, is not without its merits. The food is superb. The beer is decent. The beer is also served in an old-fashioned dimpled jug-type glass – ha, those KERRAZY kids!!! And I’ve got a poorly tummy so I’m on the wagon today. “Love without sex is still the most efficient form of hell known to man,” wrote the late Peter Porter. It’s also very like spending an entire afternoon in a pub with some of your favourite people and not drinking any beer.
On the bus to the Rutland Arms I read an interesting Tweet. It’s from the Rutland Arms. They’ve got something called 90 Minute IPA on. It’s 6%. It tastes great. Like a smack in the chops. But great. Andy the manager brings out a glass of the next IPA they’re having on, so we can have a cheeky preview. It’s not quite ready yet, but it should be excellent when it is. I do like a good, robust IPA. And you could build a house on these two.
It’s probably a good job we’re only here for a quick couple before catching the train to Rotherham. In Rotherham we’re playing a gig at the Bridge Inn. This has already been described to me as “the only decent pub in Rotherham”, which can’t be true because the nearby Kingfisher is very fine and homely. But the Bridge is just great. It was reinvented as a faux Irish pub a few years ago, when being Irish was so cool that the whole world seemed to claim nationality by dint of imaginary ancestors from County Wexford. Then it was changed back, of course. They’ve restored a handsome old coaching inn with great care; it feels breezy and modern without compromising the character of the building. The toilet is horrible, mind. It’s the brewery tap for Old Mill, who also hold the Rutland Arms in Grimsby; nice to discover what these beers are actually supposed to taste like.
We’re supporting an excellent band called Searching For Sylvia, who happen to feature Dan’s dad Andy on bass. We’re also in Dan and Andy’s hometown, so it becomes a proper family occasion, and I enjoy a stirring exchange on matters political with Uncle Clive, a 68-year-old lifelong socialist. “So much for a quiet retirement – we’ve got to fight the bastards all over again now!”
It’s another beautiful popshow, this time at the marvellous Chameleon in Nottingham. To the Dragon first, though, for an aperitif. Never been here before. A tall and narrow stick of a building, it somehow offers wide rolling spaces in the pub to stretch and spread out the Sunday papers in. If the décor were more effortless and convincingly shabby, you could almost be somewhere good in London.