Gig review: Sex Pistols Experience

“The security are there to protect you from us,” snarled singer Johnny Rotter.

Ed finishes the night in his own mercurial style.

Yes 1977 made a welcome return to the Starlite Rooms on Friday night.

Paul Stevens and Steve Niblettt, better known as Nitelite Promotions, punked up Estadio Edgar pairing legendary Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle actor Ed Tudor-Pole with the Sex Pistols Experience. Some of the 180 punters on the sidelines looked nervous as old-fangled punk pumped into JLS and 1D’d eardrums. The band took disbelief in their stride, mounting a continuous sonic assault spliced with copious expletives.

Expecting a mellowed performance from Ed Tudor-Pole and his battered guitar (in keeping with the passing of Pete Seeger) I was astounded that he attacked the £ashtonbury Festival for refusing to book him because he was ‘too punk’, while others turn him down for not being punk enough.

How you can criticise a hard working family as they struggle to bale-up bank statements after £ashtonbury sells out each year, I do not know!

New century Ed has more in common with Iggy Pop than the fresh-faced actor of the early seventies. His song about murdering a girl and stuffing her in a car boot may have baffled the audience but I’m sure it had deep meaning, somewhere. Lambasting the crowd mid-set, he left the stage to take on audience members, then began an impromptu sing-along before hurtling off-stage after more numbers, taking out an expensive microphone on the way. All-in-all the brilliance factor was intermittent, spoilt by a haphazard delivery and a less than scintillating guitar technique.

All was forgiven with the arrival of the Sex Pistols Experience, who quickly spurred on mosh pit mayhem, ensuring that beer sales rocketed as pints flew all over shirts, floor and ceiling. Even those oddballs seen near a Pakistani flag on the Meadow End the next day (before it disappeared amid a cloud of acrid smoke) danced frenetically to ‘Anarchy’. The few mere onlookers wilted under Mr Rotter’s sarcastic tongue: “Why doncha slip into sumfink more comfortable – like a COMA?”

A storming set ended with Ed coming back on to sing his ‘Swords of a Thousand Men’ hit. This combination of hard rocking young cover band and an aging punk figurehead needs fine tuning (and possibly a mite less solo R&R in the green room) but no one was in any doubt that we’d like them back at Estadio Edgar soon.


A night out in…the Spread Eagle Cider Festival

The Spread Eagle has changed hands a few times since we were regulars, and it’s fair to say that it gets a far from positive rap these days. We had a few “why you going down there” comments when we decided to check out the Cider Festival.

To be fair to the current owners they’ve been putting on a few events recently in the hope of bringing in the punters. In particular the iOccupy all day tech fests have been a massive success. And it was clear to us that the set up used for those parties was still in place. The outside area was covered with marquees ensuring that rain or shine the Spread was prepared for their debut cider festival.

We arrived rather later than planned on the Saturday missing most of the daytime entertainment. But 9 O’clock isn’t all that late. We caught the end of a set from a band who we couldn’t name or give feedback on as we were engrossed with the cider list.

They had 24 ciders and perry’s on the list. At first glance it was clear that Westons had provided a box of everything they do. This seemed a shame as many of Westons brews are already available in local pubs. Other cider makers represented were Gwatkins, Butfords, LyneDown and Marches Cyder. There was a good mix with plenty of sweet, mediums and drys so everyone was catered for. Having the ciders for sale in 1/3 pint glasses for a quid was a winner. It meant that we spent two fun filled hours trying almost all on the list.

While the ciders and perrys got a big thumbs up, the music was not such a hit. This is of course just our opinion. The covers band were clearly enjoyed by many other people, we weren’t so impressed.

So between 9 and 11 O’clock we had a great time, even had a bit of a work out with the long trek to the bogs and back. Unfortunately at 11 O’clock we were hit with a bomb shell. The outdoor licence only lasts till then, so we all had to go indoors. This doesn’t seem to bad until you find out the only cider available in doors is Stowfords! Needless to say we kicked off a little, just a little humour to put across our displeasure. Thankfully the gaffer who seemed a nice bloke listened to us and agrees to take six boxes inside.

After speed drinking for two hours and then being told it was all over, we didn’t stick around for the rest of the musical entertainment. We sloped off for a pint of rough before bed.

So all in all it was a short but enjoyable Cider Fest. It would have been great to know they were closing early, but we’ll know for next year.

Nice one Spread.


A night out in … the Queen’s

Usually one of those city centre boozers you’d walk straight past on your way to the Imperial from the Spread (or else generally avoid), the Queen’s is a pub on the corner of East and Broad streets with an interesting history.

Once three separate premises, it consisted of a greengrocers on the right (later a newsagent), the original Queen’s Arms on the left and another separate pub at the back on the East Street side, known as the Punch Bowl (the Punch and Queen’s were later amalgamated in 1901). And that’s its remarkable bit, because there’s not a lot else that makes this place interesting and plus points are hard to find: the drinks are poor, its outside space is lacking and the atmosphere … well, there’s not usually much of one! But its ‘rustic charm’ is part of the appeal and on a Friday and Saturday night it draws quite a crowd. And despite its no frills character it comes alive in a way that a lot of modern pubs don’t.

With the place packed out looking like the party of the year, we pushed through to the bar, bought our VK Blues (just to fit in like, and frankly, it’s probably the best drink they do) and belted out Someone Like You on the karaoke with the rest of the pub. Karaoke seems to be the one thing that draws the punters in time and again here, and after a few bottles there’s not many who can resist it (despite the ‘X Factor audition’ abilities of most of the singers!).

But never mind the karaoke! This is obviously the place where Hereford’s middle-aged crew go to get lucky. Everyone’s giving everyone else the eye: women you thought were out with their husbands now have their hands on some other bloke’s arse. And the guys are doing much the same. There’s clearly a lot of suburban front rooms round Hereford that become ‘swap shops’ on a Saturday night and this is where is it all must start. Who said middle age was dull!

What can we say, this isn’t really a bad pub but there’s certainly nothing special about it either: if it wasn’t in town you wouldn’t make the effort to go. But if you are on your way up to the Imperial from the Spread, and you’re too pissed to make it out of Broad Street, make your hangover even worse and have a sing-song in the Queen’s.

A night out in … the Grapes

The Grapes was once a pub that was a bit rough round the edges, always somewhere you went to because you couldn’t be bothered to walk as far as the Barrels. The locals were a bit on the unsavoury side and the drinks weren’t up to much (although they did serve the now-classic GL). That was then.

Nowadays this not-long refurbished city centre pub is a bit more of a sophisticated place to be (that’s ‘sophisticated’ in local terms, where the ‘highest class’ of place is that bar on St. Owen Street, full of the cast from The Only Way is Hereford); it’s all upholstered seats and fancy food in vein of many of today’s refits. But it does it one better.

The food isn’t just yer usual microwaved Wetherspoon fare, the menu is actually pretty good. It prides itself on its local produce and locally influenced cuisine; there’s not a lot of pubs doing much like this (although their vegetarian selection leaves A LOT to be desired!).

And the drinks just get better: if like us you’re big cider fans then behind (dare we say it) Wetherspoon itself, this is probably the place to go. There’s your usual Stowford Press on tap, but there’s usually another couple of local ciders too. We’ve sampled a very good selection including Robinson’s, from just over the border in Tenbury; Gwatkin’s, from down in the Golden Valley; and the Orgasmic Cider Company from Eardisley. Plus the occasional rough perry too.

One of the downsides of the refurbishment seems to have been the loss of the locals. It always seems to be the way that when a pub tidies itself up many of the long-time regulars feel that the place becomes too posh for them and go elsewhere, which is a shame. The atmosphere can be a bit on the solemn side, which is alright for a quiet Tuesday drink but when Saturday nights don’t get much busier you feel like you’re missing out on the party somewhere. It could do with a bit of the liveliness back (whatever happened to the days when you were in constant fear of being caught by a misaimed pool ball?!). The prices could also do with a bit of a cut; you don’t get many pints for a tenner.

But if you’ve not been to the Grapes for a while try it out. Your laziness for not walking to the Barrels will be well rewarded.

A night out in … the Nell Gwynne

If you’re looking for a pub that hasn’t changed in years (and frankly can’t be bothered to) then the Nell Gwynne is the place for you.
There’s holes in the walls, the decor’s still smoke-stained and if you want a cider, well, it’s Strongbow or, err, some other synthetic Bulmers brand.

The Saturday night we paid it a visit it was moreorless dead: a group of kids played pool and Oasis on the jukebox, and some miserable looking local sat at the bar by himself. The usual crowd, we’re guessing.

Add to that the grumpy bar staff, grotty toilets and the household appliances left hanging around the tables and it’s not exactly the place you’d take the Queen to (although the car park was big enough for a firing squad so maybe).

But we’re not slagging it off: the grimness of the place is exactly its selling point.

It’s refreshing to have a drink somewhere where everything isn’t the same: you know, the same slightly mismatched, faux-posh, upholstered chairs; the same smell of cleaning products; the same crap-trying-to-be-nice-microwaved food… No thanks, let’s have a bit of life back in the pubs!

Don’t get us wrong, it could do with a little smartening up, and a rough cider on tap wouldn’t go a miss either. But this place is a gem. Soon enough all we’re going to get is soulless refits along the lines of the Booth, Wye Inn, Rose & Crown etc; all dull as dishwater.

But the Nell Gwynne (and its ilk) is your old-fashioned boozer; a quiet place where you’d go for a beer and a chat with your mates instead of the high-octane music in places like the Litten Tree, encouraging you to drink yourself into a coma.
We’d rate it for an interesting night out. And the more people that go, the longer authentic British pubs like these will stay open.

If you’re up Commercial Road trying to get drunk enough to go to Play or Fusion, go and have a pint in the Nell Gwynne.