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Mark's 40th – Phoenix City Chinese Restaurant, Stalybridge

AFTER an interesting journey round the M60 playing a game of "guess how much it would cost to build THAT building" we arrived in the place known as "Stalyvegas" for what would be yet another Fraudsters First….. a gig in a Chinese restaurant. We had absolutely no idea what to expect for this one. We imagined ourselves playing while squeezed between tables containing trays of noodles, rice and meat dishes. We needn't have worried. When we arrived at "Phoenix City" it had a large upstairs function room with a decent sized stage with proper sound and lighting systems. One of the best private party set ups we've had for a while. If there was one complaint to be had, it was about the in-house smoke machine – it gave out the weakest cloud of smoke you've ever seen inside a venue since the smoking ban was introduced.

Sorry, there was another complaint – we had to handball all our heavy gear up a very long flight of stairs. Well, some of us did. Some members of our band are better at asking the party organizers where they got the inflatable guitars from, or chatting with the restaurant staff about what's the highest they've ever stacked their chairs, than they are at roady-ing…… anyway, nothing to see here. Move along please folks!

The soundcheck was not perfect – despite the great set up, the acoustics were proving difficult to control. Our drummer / sound man / backbone Bunky was not 100% happy, but the band consensus was that this was because he'd been arguing with Dr. Metz over who's turn it was to drive the van. Nothing to see here folks. On with the show!

And what a show it was. Our singer Rico looked like death ("Rico Mortis" anyone?) due to illness relating to his 5-a-day diet (5 MacDonalds-a-day) but despite having a frontman who looked like he'd just been exhumed, we were as lively as always and rocked the City.

There were a lot of specific requests from birthday boy Mark for the setlist. We had to resurrect several songs we haven't played for ages plus learn a new one "Sympathy for the Devil". This meant many extra hours of rehearsing plus another novelty – playing along to a backing track, in this case the rhythmical bongo's and shakermakers of the Rolling Stones' sambabeat classic. Me and Metz also had to learn to sing the "woo-woooh" backing vocals falsetto style whilst playing the funky bassline / jagged guitar solo respectively. Needless to say we achieved all this and more.

The first half set was as follows: Laid; Teenage Kicks; Ever Fallen in Love; She Bangs The Drums; Glamorous Indie Rock & Roll; This Charming Man; Mardy Bum; Made of Stone; Learn to Fly; Look Good on The Dancefloor; Brown Sugar; Sweet Child of Mine….

After which we were able to get stuck into a marvellous Chinese buffet consisting of sandwiches, pork pies, sausage rolls, quiche, chips and… hang on, where's all the Chinese food?? Eventually Squire found some spring rolls at the far end of the table, so he was happy with his two plates of spring rolls and a slice of ham.

The second set went thus: Heart of Glass; You Got The Love; Town Called Malice; Suspicious Minds; Mr Brightside… we then got away with playing Sex on Fire despite Mark specifically asking for NO Kings of Leon (it was as if his sister had arranged it!) …. Dakota; The Only One I Know; Last Nite; Sally Cinnamon; Disco 2000; Cigs & Alcohol; Parklife and encores Highway to Hell and Sympathy for The Devil.

It was only right and fitting that a BIG version of the Elvis tune "Suspicious Minds" was played, this being Vegas and all that, uh-huh. And we found someone who, for once, was quite good at singing the chorus to "Parklife" which made it a better version than Blur's at The Brits. After the encores we DJ'd some classic Madchester and rave tunes to keep the dancefloor filled.

Breakdown time came about quarter to one, and we had to handball our gear back down those stairs – it's easier going downhill of course, but not as clever when one or two of you have had a few pints. The journey home was uneventful really. Prof.Metz the driver refused to stop at The Vegas kebab house (it's Lent, and we've all given up the Babs) and no one wanted a lift off us, so we were back at Fraudsters HQ at 2am. Viva Staly Vegas (urrr thank you verry much)

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