The Castle Builder creators Kid Carpet and Vic Llewellyn performed a ‘secret’ warm-up gig in a Hull city centre pub a mere hour after checking in to their hotel. Dave Windass dropped by for a pint.
The Old English Gentleman is no stranger to theatre. The walls of this place are decorated with 10x8s of the illustrious acts that have performed over the years at the neighbouring Hull New Theatre. Ronnie Hilton rubs shoulders with Bernie Clifton. Ian McShane with the anachronistic Black & White Minstrels. And, since landlord Michael took over a couple of years ago, there’s a growing, and inexplicable, number of photographs of Robert Redford who hasn’t, as yet, got round to appearing in a panto at the New.
The OEG, as we call it, is a great pub, and it’s been wonderful to see it returning to its busy best as audiences roll-up for pre- and post-show drinks. Over the years, many performers have slept in the rooms above the pub, cast and chorus members still pop in, as do the New’s crew. It’s also a popular place with the literary set – writers, organisers and audiences of Humber Mouth, the Hull literature festival, and its offshoot Head in a Book treat this place as a hub for their deep, meaningful, wordy and worthy conversations and late-night drinking of the kind that Charles Bukowski would approve.
Some nights have been rather wild in the OEG. Yet I’m not certain the place has ever seen, nor heard, anything like Kid Carpet doing his thing. He’s a little difficult to explain without doing him a disservice. Think John Shuttleworth doing a rave in an old man’s pub and you’d only be halfway there. Think Shane MacGowan, colliding with Shaun Ryder and Bez after a lost weekend round at Pete Doherty’s who’d invited William Burroughs, Timothy Leary and John Cooper Clarke along for the ride and you’d get a taste for it. Think a load of children’s keyboards, a slide whistle, Ableton and lots of controllers, a midi keyboard, a tangle of cables and some lyrics written in a notebook and a man leaping off chairs and you might have a sense of what we saw in the corner of the room. Think a fella dropping his trousers halfway through a song, shouting into a megaphone and you’ll see where Vic Llewellyn fits in on a night like this.
On the phone, as they were travelling up to Hull in a car, I explained that the pub has a piano and they could use that if they wanted to avoid an over-complicated set up. “Kid Carpet doesn’t really play the piano,” said Vic, turning the in-house musical equipment down, “but we’ll be ok.”
Kid Carpet played solo for a while. Then Vic joined him. It was all brilliantly bonkers. We all laughed out loud at Jesus Is A Hedgehog, a Bristolian take on Starship’s We Built This City, an equally daft twist of Van Halen’s Jump, songs from The Castle Builder – Special, The Architect, Fire Breathing Dragon, Visionary, God Song and others. And we waved our mobile phones around as if we were in a stadium when they did Tiny Light. But you had to be there, really.
You could head to YouTube, have a listen to some of the songs and watch some very funny videos, or check out the material they shared from The Castle Builder on bandcamp. Or you could book tickets to The Castle Builder. Which won’t be the same at all. That will be special in a different way. Just as everyone says they were at The Sex Pistols gig at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall in ’76, when the history of Heads Up is written they’ll all claim they were at the OEG on this night. Thousands of us, there were, thousands.
Special thanks to Michael and his staff at the OEG for accommodating us. They let themselves in for far more than they bargained for, and at short notice too. I especially liked it when Kid Carpet knocked the licensing certificate off the wall and we all drank safe in the knowledge that this was a legit night out. Go to the pub if you can. I can heartily recommend the Scotch Eggs and the pics of Robert Redford.