Next Thursday (2nd Feb) M.J. Hibbett will be playing his 1000th gig. It’s at The King And Queen pub in London & it’s also being livestreamed so there’s no excuses for missing it.
I happen to know there’s a blue plaque on the former home of another great English wordsmith Samuel Taylor Coleridge just down the road from that pub so be sure to check that out if you’re going to the gig.
We took the opportunity to grill Mark and his bandmates for some recollections from the previous 999 gigs.
It should be pointed out that Mark has been in several gigging bands over the years, notably Voon, The Council, The Durham Ox Singers and The Validators. The Validators are Frankie, Tom, Tim and Emma and they’ll be referred to throughout, as will Mark’s musical theatre partner Mr Steve Hewitt.
3 February 1988, Deacon’s School Hall
My very first band, The Masters Of Nothing, played a song at a Comic Relief gig that I organised in sixth form. It was called “A Minus Work” and was about one of our teachers getting drunk. “Do you want any more?” I shouted at the end. “NO!” shouted the audience.
19 January 2001, Upstairs at The Garage, London
It was freezing cold and everyone had to keep their coats on. Afterwards a very attractive woman came up to me and said “It’s so cold! Feel my hands!” and put them on my face. Six months later we started going out, 22 years after that we still are!
26 July 2009, a train carriage, Indietracks
The carriage was so full of people who actually wanted to see me that I had to fight to get in myself, and then we set off down the tracks for half an hour on the hottest day of the year. I reckon I lost about three stone.
Drunkest gig (onstage)
10 August 1996, Abbey Park Festival, Leicester
A hotly debated category, but I think this is probably the drunkest gig I ever did. The Council were headlining (or “going on last” depending on how you look at it) on a stage sponsored by Bass Brewery and we’d been backstage making our way through the ten foot high tower of free beer since lunchtime. Tim was also in The Council and he was heartily sick by the side of the stage, and then I completely forgot how guitars worked. Emma was there too, on her second date with Tim, and she still married him!
Drunkest gig (audience)
4 March 2006, Carpe Diem, Leeds
Everyone always seemed to be drunk every time we played Leeds. I distinctly remember getting off the train one time and nearly being knocked down by a fire engine with a hen do hanging out of the windows, and on this occasion I had to grab somebody by the throat to stop them getting onstage with me.
11 December 2008, Green Dragon Yard, Middlesbrough
I have played many many gigs where you could count the audience members on the fingers of one hand, or indeed on the fingers of one finger, but on this occassion the audience was a security guard. When he went to the loo at one point I was left playing to nobody at all. It was all a bit Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead – was it really a gig without an audience? Afterwards a pal turned up, and we sat in a pub watching two pensioners have a fist fight.
17 July 2006, Radio One
The Validators played a live session on Steve Lamacq’s Evening Session, which had an audience of over a million people. It was terrifying, and also ridiculous, especially when he read out a question from a listener who turned out to be my mum!
29 July 2017, Indietracks
Indietracks gigs were always the best gigs with the loveliest people, and this was the last one we did. Pretty much everyone who liked us turned up, and it felt like we were in U2 or something. This would also qualify as “Gig with the most hugs.” [Rebel Rikkit & I were at this gig and we actually mentioned the hugging in our podcast review of that festival.]
Most hostile gig
16 May 2009, Moulsecoomb Forest Garden and Wildlife Project, Brighton
Me and Steve went down to Brighton for a performance of “My Exciting Life In ROCK” in a small forest to an audience of young offenders who threw sticks at us. I gave them a RIGHT telling off, and they were good as gold after that.
19 October 2022, The Pipeline, Brighton
A massive slap-up feed in a Vegan Pub. When I first started doing gigs vegetarian food was mostly big pots of “Veggie Chilli”, but now it’s amazing!
30 April 2022, Bescot Stadium, Walsall
I’ve done several gigs at Retro Computing events where I just turn up and play “Hey Hey 16K”. They’re always great but this one was especially fab because I got to meet Sandy White, the writer of “3D Ant Attack”, who turned out to be a really lovely bloke.
9 August 1995, Town Hall Square, Leicester
I organised a one-off performance where pretty much everybody I knew in bands in Leicester got mixed up into different groups and then had to write songs about a specific period of life on Earth. We performed it all in front of the town hall one sunny afternoon to some very bemused passers by and were paid £100 by the council (the actual council, not The Council). This was spent on a massive round of beer for everybody in The Durham Ox round the corner. The show was called “The History Of Life”, and I’m sure it felt about that long for people watching!
Favourite people you’ve shared a bill with
Doing gigs is a brilliant wanker-filter – plenty of tosspots want to be rock stars, but after about nine months or so they’ve given up, leaving a rich soup of excellent people to carry on. That means there’s too many to choose from really, but I will say that that (apart from people I’ve been in bands with) I’ve chosen to do the most gigs with Winston Echo, Tim Eveleigh, Charlie Flowers, Pete Green, Jenny Lockyer, Gavin Osborn, Grace Petrie, Chris T-T and Matt Tiller. They are all ace!
Most consecutive gigs played
3-14 August 2013, Edinburgh Fringe
This was the year Steve and I did our show “Total Hero Team” at the Fringe – 22 gigs in 12 days, it was knackering!
Most Northerly gig
30 July 2009, Southside Cavern, Stockholm
An indie festival in a pub and then a park. The gig was great but the weekend around it was amazing, Stockholm is brilliant!
Most Easterly gig location
(apart from the above) 13 November 2009, Ostpol, Dresden
This would also be a contender for drunkest and friendliest gig – me, Frankie and Tim were plied with booze and food then went onstage just before midnight for a hugely enthusiastic audience of lovely Germans. We went to bed at 5am in the “artists’ flat”, which was some sofa foam above a rehearsal room and were woken up four hours later by somebody drumming beneath us. It was wonderful, and it was pretty much the same when we went back again a year later.
Most Southerly gig location
10 December 2005, Avaganda, Whakatane
My brother’s wedding reception in New Zealand – we stopped off in several places on the way, including…
Most Westerly gig location
23 November 2005, The Cake Shop, New York
It was coming up for Thanksgiving so the only gig I could find was at an open mic with some poets and interpretive dance strippers. There were no guitars so I had to sing acapella, but I did get a song out of it called, unsurprisingly, “I Did A Gig In New York”. [CG: and what a fine song it is too!]
Most people onstage
14 August 1999, Abbey Park Festival, Leicester
A very early Validators gig, with the five-piece Validators, various Guest Artistes, and The Durham Ox Singers on backing vocals. I think there were about 14 of us at one point, although I’d been on-site since 7am helping to set up the stage so it looked like about 28 to me.
Favourite gig flyers / posters
The comics artist John Allison did the posters for our “Total Hero Team” show – we sent him lots of pictures of me and Steve wearing various hats and he used them to create an amazing poster of us as superheroes. Another favourite was a poster for The Council which Neil did featuring entirely made-up quotes. “The Council are the best band ever, and if you’re in a band you might as well give up because you’ll be rubbish compared to them” – NME
Gigs you wish had been recorded for posterity
Most recordings are a bit rubbish compared to the gig itself, especially for someone like me whose appeal can be slightly tarnished by sobriety. What I’d really like to see would be videos of some of the audiences and venues – you can see bands any time, but you’ll never see the upstairs room at The Magazine Hotel ever again!
As yet unfulfilled ambitions for the next 1000 gigs? Personally I always wanted to play a gig on the back of a flatbed truck.
I’ve played on a fair few trucks, and they’re always slightly disappointing. I think it’s because I’ve always imagined them driving round in a parade or something. What I’d really like to do would be to write something for somebody else, like a musical or a show, and then go and see them do it instead of me. That way I could have as much to drink as I liked without worrying about forgetting the words!
Any other business?
I’ve just realised that there aren’t any gigs by Voon or The Durham Ox Singers here. If you’d asked for “Gig most likely to explode the venue”, “Gig where you pretended the keyboard player was in prison”, or “Gig where you terrified a Punk Legend” they would have been, but maybe we’ll save that for Gig 2000!
- The M.J. Hibbett website is a treasure troves of blog posts, song lyrics, videos and all manner of facts. Very soon there’s going to be some kind of searchable database of all the gigs he’s played so start preparing your SQL statements.
- You can and should buy his music from his Bandcamp page.
- Have a listen to the podcast interview we did with Mark in 2016
- Live Review: Going Up The Country 2015 @ The Church House, Congleton
- Live review podcast: Indietracks Festival, Derbyshire (28th – 30th July 2017)