Hazzard County – The White Swan, 18/07/08

Have you noticed the increasing use, in TV shows, of starting by showing the viewers what is happening “now” and then showing what led up to now, before showing the resolution?

It’s about 01:30 on Saturday morning and I’m sheltering outside a hairdressers shop just at the edge of York’s city centre. It’s raining so hard that the rain is bouncing back up off the roads and pavements. Lightning lights up the sky at frequent intervals, always followed by ominous rumbles of thunder. To paraphrase Del Amitri, pretty much every car I see is a cab. I’m about four miles from home. I have my bike with me and I’m dressed in jeans, with just a baseball cap to keep the rain off my head…

About thirty-six hours earlier I had felt the usual slight tingle of excitement as Roj’s weekly “what’s on” email dropped into my in-box. A quick scan brought the first disappointment – with Roj otherwise engaged on Saturday, it was unlikely that anybody would be going to the Roman Bath to see Freeway. Oh well, what’s happening on Friday? Hmmm, most of the usual haunts had covers bands on. I’d been out two weeks running so maybe I’d give this week a miss.

A couple of hours later, a check of The Duchess’s website reveals that the independent tribunal had ruled in their favour over Barfly’s objections to them opening, so all systems are now GO for York’s newest venue. Well done, Tim and Michelle. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really change anything as nothing was booked for Friday evening. Still looks as though I’m stopping in this week. Anyway, I send an email round the gang advising them of the result.

Arriving at work on Friday morning I find replies to said email from Roj and our seldom-seen Strensall contingent, asking who is interested in a few upcoming gigs at The Duchess. I plump for three – it looks as though I’ll be seeing the new venue soon, even if I’m not venturing out this weekend.

Lunchtime and a quick chat with another gig-going colleague reveals that a) he wasn’t aware of The Duchess’s news (I feel a bit important, having to relay it once again) and b) there is a rumour that Hazzard County are playing the Old White Swan this evening. Hang on, I quite like them (or, at least, versions of them). This could be an opportunity to see another band live after seeing their farewell “tour”. The first was Status Quo, in case you are interested. I send another email and the group’s plan changes from “Head to Roman Bath to see how good the covers band is” to “Head to Old White Swan to see if the Hazzards are playing, if not head to Roman Bath.” You get the picture.

Wanting to take away some of the uncertainty, I decide to ring the White Swan to see if they can tell me who is playing there tonight. They can and do and it is confirmed that the Hazzards are back (despite other listings stating that one of their number is playing a different venue on the same night…) My mind is made up – given that the plan is to see the Hazzards, I’ll turn up. After all, I definitely won’t be out next week. Probably…

Nine o’clock and I’m the first to arrive at the Swan. The weather didn’t look threatening, so I’ve cycled in. After all, the bus fare is the price of a pint. Speaking of which, the Swan now has a larger choice of real ales. I decide to try a pint of Hazey Days, a pale-coloured, summery, wheat beer. It’s very drinkable and I stay with it all night. (The drink not the same pint…)

The Hazzards now play in a different, smaller bar and the crowd was a bit smaller than when they used to play the pub before. It was quite a warm night, so the doors were open, meaning that people wandered in to see what was going on, but they didn’t seem to generate the same sized core audience. We were joined by Elena, a Russian (who was a frequent Hazzard-goer in the old location), and her Norwegian friend (over here on holiday with his family). What an international bunch we are.

As to the gig, I’d like to say that it was like finding a favourite old jumper at the bottom of a drawer just as the cold weather starts. I expected to be wrapped in the “comfort” of a band who always played well and were always enjoyable. Unfortunately, that jumper has gone slightly baggy over time and doesn’t quite fit anymore. It’s not that they were bad. If they were we would have moved on. It’s just that this cut-down version (Simon, John and Dave switching between lead guitar, rhythm guitar and (singular) drum and the bass-player (I didn’t catch his name) standing in the background), played without some of the toe-tapping, foot-stomping gusto that I was used to. They were good, just not as good as they had been. The set was mostly new stuff to me – rock/country hybrids mainly, with a bit of bluegrass – and it was nice to hear unfamiliar songs. Hopefully, the previous high standards will be back soon.

Anyway, we stayed to the end. Longer, in fact, as we chatted long after the band had finished. As we left the pub, I realised that the non-threatening weather had been a con, lulling me into a false sense of security and that my fare-saving, fitness-inducing bike-ride into town may have been a mistake. I said goodbye to the rest of the group and headed for where I had left my bike…

Now. The rains seems to be easing up a bit. Common sense tells me that waiting for it to stop completely is a waste of time. I decide to take the plunge (almost literally). So I start the twenty-minute journey home. It’s still pouring down and very soon my jeans are wet and heavy, my baseball cap and socks are soaked through and my jacket is threatening to start leaking. I arrive home just before two o’clock and shed various bits of wet clothing in the kitchen, leaving them in the sink and on the draining board. Making my way to bed, I wonder whether I’ll wake up with the ‘flu. If I do, it will be the Hazzard’s fault. If they weren’t playing I would have stopped at home.

Epilogue – it’s seven-thirty on Saturday morning. I have been in bed just five and a half hours when Debbie wakes me up to ask why there is a wet pair of socks and a towel on the bathroom floor…


About Ian

Regular gig-goer in York, both to see local and touring bands. Huge music fan, with more CDs than my wife thinks any one person should own. I also collect American comics, read a lot of SF and fantasy and am a season-ticket holder at Leeds United.
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