There haven’t been a right lot of opportunities to stay out for the summer in my adopted Lancashire of late, but it all clicked right last Friday evening.
It was as if Hollow Horse Events’ Carl Barrow had specially laid on the balmy evening vibe, with his stellar guests and their star-struck audience in mind.
Having arrived unfashionably early at this picturesque Ribble Valley spot, there was time while the main band ran through a soundcheck to take to the riverbank and enjoy the luscious Ribbleside scenery, the light just perfect.
And what a setting, however unlikely this ‘posh Lancashire’ (as the band put it) location appeared to be for a band playing the main stage at Glastonbury not so long ago.
It all seemed a little polite at first, David John Jaggs, lead singer of the Ragamuffins, taking to the stage with his acoustic guitar while a few of us not chatting away at the bar sat self-consciously down the sides of the hall.
But this talented front-man with a soulful voice and a Donovan-style cap proved to be just the ticket, bringing to mind The Blow Monkeys’ Dr Robert in places, and over a nine-song set treated us to a wealth of quality material, all new to this punter.
Those songs were usually performed with a full band, but tonight he delivered them in a more intimate fashion.
Yes, intimate. That was clearly going to be my word of the night, with more of that to follow later.
On the weekend the Preston area came to terms with an outbreak of cryptosporidium, it seemed rather chilling that the support act started one song with the line, ‘There’s something in the water’. But it wasn’t just that proving infectious on the night.
Actually, it was my 15-year-old daughter who picked up on that first. In fact, this was her first proper concert (I won’t count her previous Big Gig experience with the Guides). And what an introduction it proved to the alternative world of rock’n’roll.
Whether he was singing about Mossley Hill, hangovers (Glue), mushy peas or Chris Moyles (Taped off the Radio), Dodgy’s guest went down a treat.
And he saved the best for last, a tale about a couple of Wigan lasses talking on a train and their unfortunate description of a friend having inspired the wonderful Kirsti with an STI (actual title, Stories From The Backseat).
Pretty soon, we were rubbing shoulders with the chief Ragamuffin, while a black and white cat spotted by the riverbank earlier on roamed the hall, clearly seeing what all that row was about. Yes, it was that kind of evening.
As for Dodgy, it was the band’s third FanGig of the summer, following similar intimate dates (sorry – that word again) in Shropshire and Devon, in what was ostensibly a warm-up for the following day’s appearance at Glasgow’s Mugstock festival.
It proved to be a cracking set too, including a fair few hits and album favourites, an early airing for some quality new material, and a couple of unexpected, inspired covers.
As someone who saw the albums Homegrown and Free Peace Sweet as a veritable soundtrack for his mid-’90s, I was in my element as they launched into Melodies Haunt You and In A Room, and while the acoustics of the room better suited Mathew Priest’s drums more than the guitars, it worked well all the same.
Talking of Mathew, there was a decidedly un-rock’n’roll moment as he nipped off to grab his set-list. For a man who told me recently that part of the reason for the band’s original split was the sheer number of hangers-on and staff who got in the way, it made sense that he was struggling to organise himself these days.
Next up was an early airing of a track from new album Hold up to the Light, front-man Nigel Clark asking us what the title should be. For what it’s worth, I’m voting for The One.
Then came Staying out for the Summer, the dancefloor busy now, followed by the more reflective Shadows from stunning comeback album, Stand Upright in a Cool Place.
The harmonies were just right, all four pitching in at times, original trio Nigel, Mathew and guitarist Andy Miller joined by more recent addition Stu Thoy on bass and harmonica.
So Let Me Go Far took us back in time again, while Drugs (at least that’s what it said on the set-list) proved to be another promising new track.
When they returned after a short break, Nigel struggled with a connection to his acoustic guitar, leading to a memorable line as he jettisoned part of his equipment, ‘Anyone fancy a Dodgy lead?’
From there the sound improved, 1996’s Ain’t No Longer Asking followed by further new song Mended Heart, partly echoing Simon and Garfunkel in places for me.
If You’re Thinking of Me came next, then the last album’s Waiting for the Sun and new track Where Shall I Begin, before a triumphant Making the Most Of.
That may have been my highlight had it ended there, but I really hadn’t expected a cover of Sex Pistols head-turner Pretty Vacant next, Dodgy’s version enough to wake the sleeping in the churchyard next door.
The joint was fair rocking by the time they slipped into the ever-evocative Good Enough, with miles of smiles out on the floor.
After a brief break they returned with a medley like no other, sending us home on a high. And while the opening chords suggested Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, there wasn’t time for disappointment, the band instead launching into Frank Wilson’s Do I Love You (Indeed I Do).
So where do you go from there? Well, how about The Velvet Underground’s Waiting For My Man and Run Run Run? There was a little Moon-esque drumming from Math too, before they moved on to Jonathan Richman’s Roadrunner and finally returned to that first Northern Soul favourite.
As I said, unexpected … inspired … and intimate. A Dodgy affair that will live long in the memory. It was good to see you, lads, and I for one can’t wait for that new album.
For the recent writewyattuk interview/feature with Dodgy’s Mathew Priest, head here.