The Spitfires 22.7.21 The Holroyd Arms, Guildford
Making hay while the sun shines – not literally unfortunately – with my second gig in two days. Don’t know where we are going Covid-wise so just getting out there. In hindsight, this update being a week after the event, two gigs with a trip up to Guildford thrown in might have been ambitious given I had a cellulitis infection in one leg from insect bites. A gig propped on one leg and limping about took it’s toll this week. Groan.
On The Stranglers trail to Guildford
We had the day off and for ages I’ve been meaning to visit some of the old haunts of The Stranglers, once The Guildford Stranglers. We headed for Chiddingfold.
South of Guildford, the picturesque village of Chiddingfold was a place The Stranglers lived and rehearsed for a while. The Crown Inn, just by the large village green and over the main road from a lily pond is a very historic – 14th Century origins – beauty of a pub. A watering hole frequented by the band while at their pad – a house rented by drummer Jet Black up Coxcombe Lane – a few hundred yards away. We took a wander to have a look – all very up market these days.
Apparently one of the early suggestions thrown around for The Stranglers band name was The Chiddingfold Stranglers.
This was enough for me, as a life-long Stranglers fan, to arrange a very pleasant lunch stop around this unassuming village. Pretty smart place these days with some good beer, including a Sierra Nevada California IPA – I was being driven by wife Sally due to my leg ailment.
The pub clearly don’t value their rock history in quite the way I do, preferring to focus on royal visitors from 600 years beforehand. There is an old Sudan Chair in the lobby but no Jet Black drum stick or Hugh Cornwell guitar.
Genesis were another band that frequented the pub when they were using The Farm studio they had built nearby in the early 1980s. Also it’s said to be the place where they agreed Phil Collins would take a break from the band…which lasted quite a while. Guitarist Mike Rutherford even recorded a video for Mike and The Mechanics 1995 single ‘Over My Shoulder‘ on and around the village green.
My plan was to seek out some more Stranglers haunts such as The Star Inn in Guildford where they played in their very early days. This will have to wait. Today was not the day due to rain and leg pain. I have some tickets for Guildford next year on what will be the last and Covid delayed full tour by The Stranglers, alas now without the lost and loved Dave Greenfield on keyboards.
Return to The Holroyd Arms
The night’s gig was a return to this gigcentric pub on the edge of Guildford: The Holroyd Arms aka The Sound of the Suburbs. My first visit to this place was for The Spitfires Covid dodging seated and spaced gig in a tent in the garden last Summer. My blog details this last one along with background on The Spitfires, one of my favourite bands of recent years.
We arrived for a drink in the garden, once wristbands had been applied. The garden was a sea of familar names: Ben Sherman, Lambretta, Fred Perry and Gabicci and some half familar faces from the last gig, including a guy whose top intrigued me last time and led me to some Modfather on-line lockdown shopping….not that this is a fashion show.
Yes plenty of grey haired gig goers here this evening. Looking around, despite the recent addition of Gabby Kenny on keyboards, this is predominantly ‘boys noise’ territory.
Inside, unlike the previous tented gig here, is a small low ceiling stage area – so low there is padding on the main beam across the stage to prevent band head injuries.
Beyond the stage area is a more conventional pub space with the addition of tv screens for an alternative sound and visual experience, and you can watch while queueing for the bar. I’m happy – Beavertown Neck Oil and London Pride on draught. I guess the whole place must hold about 200 people max.
First Up: Samuel Rodgers
Sammy Rodgers from Kinghurst, Birmingham was the support. Him, his guitar and a bassist for company. I enjoyed his modster sound – bit of a Weller and Liam Gallagher thing going on. A short insight but enough to raise interest. Had a chat afterwards, always inquisitive about a Brummie on tour, and sounds like your more likely to catch him around the West Midlands. generally. (He managed to nudge half my pint down my Fred Perry but a good lad 🙄)
This was the last but one gig for drummer Matt Johnson. With the relatively new addition of a keyboard player Gabby Kenny to the band, that’s a fair bit of change. The brass players are out on tour again and on certain songs this adds massively to the raw guitars and drums, even with the added keyboards.
The first few songs are from the 2020 Lockdown release ‘Life Worth Living’. It must be so frustrating releasing and album and not touring it properly. The album makes up about a third of the set, ‘Tear this place right down’ being a favourite of mine later on.
Some crackers from the ‘Year Zero’ album: the title track, ‘Remains the Same’ and the brilliant ‘New Age’.
This was good old fashioned dark ‘n’ dirty gig in a great little pub venue. Pretty hopeless to take photos but hey ho. Perfect punk band venue these days by the look of it, and the posters, and in this case some punchy mod style rock. It did really feel like post-Covid normality. Not a mask to be seen and everyone was enjoying it….around the main bar and stage area. I’d love to live down the road from a venue like this, maybe not next door to it mind.
Billy Sullivan is whirling around giving his guitars a hammering with that brash, early Jam, Weller style and managing to dodge ceiling head injuries, between upright and steady bassist Sam Long keeping the rhythm to his left and Gabby up front on keyboards to his right, while the soon to depart drummer sets the pace at the back – he just said ‘his contract was up’ on social media. I wasn’t hearing the keyboards that clearly – a larger venue may bring them to life more.
As a break near the end of the set Billy Sullivan did a solo of ‘4am’ from the 2015 first album ‘Response’.
Three more to finish, including ‘Over and Over Again’ (have listen to the official version on YouTube), after the solo piece and the return to small gig normality is done.
Another thoroughly enjoyable Spitfires gig. See you again soon …with a new drummer. I wonder if someone has been lined up 🤔