Scrooges, Blackpool, December 15th 2013
Dr. Steg was saying that it is only during the ‘off season’ that Blackpool’s surreal side becomes fully apparent. In the middle of December with the rain lashing down and the wind blowing a gale I couldn’t have timed it better then. The lousy weather appeared as soon as I turned on to the M55. Then I realised that I hadn’t been to Blackpool with my tourist cum day tripper hat on for many, many years. Would the pubs still be as shit? Would the pubs still be manned by psychotic drug fueled bouncers looking for any excuse to test out their knuckles on drunk punters? Would the bogs be running with piss? Would I still see nightclubs with names like Hush, Rumours, Sinatra’s, Ma Kellys [‘7 acts a day + Karaoke!’], Would the beer still be as undrinkable. Would there be gangs of sparkly clad transvestites with feather boas and pink Stetsons wobbling up and down Talbot Street in their size eleven court shoes? I saw some of the above but I think I’ll have to come back in August to see the rest.
Scrooges didn’t disappoint in the surreal stakes. A Dickens themed first floor drinking den full of tiny rooms at the top of some steep wet steps that lies off a street full of massage parlors and saunas with names like Thai Paradise. Two inglenook like rooms lay off the bigger room with the words like Hum-Bugs [sic] painted in swirly script above them. Football plays out on numerous screens which nobody watches. This turns to darts which I hope is still going to be playing when the Sleaford Mods take the stage, I mean pub floor.
Dr. Steg is busy applying stickers to the walls, furniture, himself and anybody passing. After a few beers he seems to be wildly inebriated. There’s a drunk in a Crombie. He could be a drunk Scot. In every pub in Blackpool there is a drunk Scot. There must be some arcane local bylaw that says you have to have a drunk Scot in your pub. On the north side seafront huge cavernous pubs are thinly populated. Others are shut and loom ominously. Karaoke leaks out of the few back street pubs that ares still trying to catch the last of the out of season holiday makers. The fish and chip shop does haggis and chips. Asian shopkeepers sit quietly in all night newsagents wrapped up against the wind. A drunk with a 2 liter bottle of cider in one hand carries a wire shoe rack with his other, looking at it like he hasn't got a clue what its for or what he’s going to do with it.
The gig has been moved from the Cedar Tavern because someones turning it into flats. So its Dickensian Scrooge’s which has a ‘no drums’ policy. Not because they’re too loud for the venue but because there’s no room for them. So there’s no Ceramic Hobs. In their place lies a Hobs offshoot called Father Stone. A three piece with synth drums who play a kind of music I know not what to call. Heavy bass riffs and squally guitar with one song being about Solomon Grundy. Riff-age and twang-age with platted goatee beards and top hats with playing cards in them.
By now there’s about 25 people in the place. The Sleaford Mods soundcheck is so short that if you went to get your feet wet in the bogs you missed it. They kick off with Mr Jolly Fucker before snorting their way through all the best bits of Austerity Dogs. The drunk could-be-Scot comes back from the bar and hands the band two bottles of beer. Then he takes lots of photos of them on his smart phone which he drops and struggles to pick up. Dr Steg has become enlivened and starts dancing with the drunken could-be-Scot to his left and Phil ‘He Sometimes Has A Beard’ Smith on the right. He’s doing some kind of hop on one foot and pat the head of one person and then hop on to the other foot and pat the head of the other person. Beer is getting spilt as the songs come thick and fast, Williamson’s face a series of gurns, Fearny all smiles as the beers keep coming. Williamson’s knees bend as he delivers his lines like he’s trying to project them to the local lags in the tiny room at the back, hand on mic stand for balance, its an impressive sight.
They play a new song which I haven’t heard before then rip in to the new single Job Seeker which gets the nodding heads nodding even more. When its finished the drunk could-be-Scot slurs ‘Best fucking song since Anarchy in the U.K.’ People smile. Everybody smiles.
I wave goodbye to Dr. Steg but he doesn't see me, even though I’m waving my hand in front of his face. He’s got his Dictaphone out and is shouting ‘CUNTS’ into it at the top of his voice encouraging others to do the same. His face is a gleeful, idiotic rictus grin. The Sleaford Mods have a strange effect on people. Or maybe its Blackpool.
When I find the M55 it stops raining.