I’m not going to lie. I’m not the most organised person in the world. But even I feel awful that the reason that this following piece showcasing the dubious and multifarious delights of the northern English town of Wigan was that I simply plain forgot about it. Awful, awful, awful.
Still, Mike has written a snigger-worthy and idiosyncratic view of his hometown of Wigan – a place that has a number of unusual spots in the annals of pop history.
Mention Wigan to anyone, and if their first reaction isn’t “Where?”, it will inevitably include reference to one of two things, Pies, or Rugby League. As awesome as those two things are, suffice to say that the town hasn’t exactly been a musical talent production line.
Dig a little deeper however, and you realise that Wigan has helped to shape or change the musical world (or at least its UK outpost) on more than one occasion. We’re responsible for Comedy Banjo player (Banjoer? Banjolier? Never mind) and lamp-post based peeping tom George Formby, 1978’s best disco in the World (2nd place: Studio 54) Wigan Casino (now a shopping centre. Ahh, sweet progress), Pete Shelley of The Buzzcocks, The Verve and, errrrrrr, Kym Marsh (sorry about that).
But that was then. Nowadays everything seems to be in a bit of a holding pattern. All the usual sects have their own hangouts, the Goths and metalheads go to The Tudor House and headbang/do whatever weird stuff Goths do. Emos go to Club Nirvana and alternate between dancing insanely and crying about how unfair life is, painting their fingernails, that sort of thing.
And idiots go to Pada Lounge on the 1st Saturday of every month to experience the curious Northwest UK house phenomenon known simply as Donk, showcased brilliantly by the so-delightfully-terrible-it’s-almost-genius Blackout Crew. For everyone else, there’s the town’s small live venue The Tavern or the spectacularly poorly named Indiependence, your standard “we play loads of Oasis and Stone Roses so we can call ourselves an indie” club.
Or there is the wonder of King Street. A road so dangerous that during the Christmas period it is only accessible via a police-manned metal detector. How’s that for hard? Visit King Street looking for anything (other than, well, a fight to be honest, but let’s get off that topic) new or exciting and you’ll be sorely disappointed, consisting as it does of a variety of identikit theme bars playing the same mix of commercial pop and misogynist-tastic R’n’B (picture Akon stamping on a woman’s ass, over and over), kebab shops and, bizarrely, a solicitor’s office.
The new bands’ scene in the area is pretty much concerned with making a huge grinding racket, or the kind of jangly indie that even Arctic Monkeys are bored of. But one band are standing out. The Maladies of Bellafontaine are making happy folk ditties that sound straight outta Scandinavia, which is no bad thing whatsoever. In fact, it’s a very very very good thing.
The main problem Wigan has is its location. It’s mid-way between the giants of Manchester and Liverpool. Too close to either to be a separate entity, too far away to be included in their scene. And everyone seems to just be waiting for something to happen. But history says that when it does, everyone will know about it.