In your Liverpool slums..

.. a decidedly contentious title, and not strictly accurate from this weekend’s shenanigans, so read on.

We start with Nottingham City Transport, and the joys of the ‘city rider’ ticket. For a mere £2.70, Rich and I boarded a bus into town from Mapperley, and then onto a tram to Phoenix Park. Quite bargainous we thought. From there we hooked up with The Fakers and numerous other friends of theirs, and got onto a coach to Liverpool, where they were playing a gig in The Cavern.

Now it’s true that upon driving into Liverpool itself, you do pass streets of boarded up houses and, shall we say, less than desirable areas – but my natural Nottinghamian disdain for Liverpool couldn’t cover up the fact that, even in the rain, Liverpool is actually blessed with a pretty impressive city centre – for all the problems the surrounding areas may have.

Arriving in ‘pool at around 5pmish gave us time, after lugging the band’s equipment down into The Cavern, to have a wander – a Subway and then a few beers with Rich‘s Liverpool-based mates Fi and Joe, before heading back to the venue in time to catch a couple of bands before our boys were on. To say they weren’t really very good was an understatement, one was just a bit dull, the next band had the temerity to cover a Beatles song and forget half the words! (As well as a song which was basically Coldplay’s “Yellow” with different words).

The Fakers, however, were tremendous. They were also the epitome of balls-out nerve… you see, whilst it is in the dim and distant past, there is a lot of mutual bad blood between Nottingham and Liverpool, largely borne out of the 70’s and 80’s rivalry between Forest and Liverpool. Of course, that rivalry is just a memory, but the feelings remain. Liverpool fans even still sing “we hate Nottingham Forest…” despite the gulf in status the two clubs now have…

So to set up the stage of the Cavern – the epitome of Liverpoolness when it comes to music – with a Forest flag draped over the speaker, and introduce yourselves by announcing “Liverpool! Nottingham is in the area!” is, on the face of it, a pretty stupid thing to do – but well, if you were there then it was also fooking genius as well – Dave the singer was cunning enough to implicate us on the invasion too, which I suppose at least illustrated there were quite a lot of us if anyone fancied any trouble. Fortunately they didn’t.

The gig was excellent from the Nottingham boys – they are, for those of you who’ve not seen them (and if not, why not? Get down Juncktion 7 on 31st January in Nottingham), a four-piece band a comprise of Dan Bennett, a suitably bonkers chap who transforms into some kind of drumming octopus when he takes the stage, Howard White – a guy who could probably run through a brick wall – on bass, Phil Swift is the calm presence on guitar and backing vocals, and finally Dave Marmion, an energy-filled and non-too-uncharismatic front man.

They make up a tight unit, and to say they showed up the other bands on offer is an understatement – I was watching one of the other band look progressively more and more green about the gills as the set went on. The climax of the show was a mass stage-invasion from the Nottingham contingent for the last song, which certainly means that for those stoic and surly looking kids who were in The Cavern that night, The Fakers will live long in their memories if only as “that band that had the mass stage invasion at the end”.

So definitely a case of Nottingham 1, Liverpool 0 – which is not the kind of boast we can often have over the reigning European City of Culture (one wag remarked this meant that now you’re likely to find your car propped up on books instead of bricks).

After the boys had finished, despite being slightly intrigued by a three-piece band that comprised of two blokes who looked like Egon Spengler, we decided not to stick around and have a mooch around Liverpool for an hour before the bus picked us up. So a kebab and a portion of chips later, that’s what we did – wandering around the area of The Cavern to the Albert Dock area, and back again – taking in such sights as the hotel Formula One, where John Barnes allegedly took prostitutes (it’s pretty much an unstaffed hotel, you book online and get a ‘code’ to get into your room, you see), to the fantastic dock-side area.

As when I visited Manchester in October, it did make me a bit jealous, and realise what a forward-thinking council can achieve if it puts its mind to it. Walking the streets wasn’t in any way threatening, it was full of people having a good laugh – which is often not the case in my dear home town. Their new dockside arena looks absolutely ace from the outside, now compare that to our fairly drab ice arena – which architecturally lacks any kind of appeal whatsoever, despite being a decent venue.

We got back to the bus, and awaited some of our more wasted travellers to find us – thus enjoyed a spot of people watching, there were transvestites, a terrifying array of Liverpudlian womenfolk who were apparently impervious to the cold, and a brick-shithouse bloke rather amusingly wearing dungarees… to name but a few. Eventually we were finally underway, there was a brief singalong with an acoustic guitar, and lots of banter, before Rich and I were finally back on the streets of Nottingham, and faced with the police calming down a bunch of youths, and further sirens heard in the distance.

Which brings me back to our ‘city rider’ tickets – we got back just in time for the last nightbus vaguely homeward, and the tickets were only valid for that too, so whilst it took longer than a cab, and I ended up with a 15 minute walk home from the nearest bus stop, it was a pretty bargainous way to get home which was a rather nice end to an entertaining afternoon and evening. I’m definitely up for further Liverpool shenanigans in future, and whilst I will always have issues about the place, it’s best to remember that a fair proportion of the locals are Everton fans – which ain’t so bad…

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