Newbury not bypassed..

IMG_9628Huh, see what I did there?

Newbury was going to be the point where I did bypass an opportunity for a tour date – but my willpower caved in.  Having spent a chilled out day with Simon and Ella before the latter had to go to work, we hit the road, Simon not taking much convincing that a trip to Newbury was most definitely the order of the day.

To be more accurate, the venue was the fairly remote Arlington Arts Centre nestling a mile or two out of town in the grounds of a school.  Hmm. Arts Centre.  Reminiscent of Stamford, and fears of another difficult venue or crowd.  There was a slight navigational cock up that made for a quick trip up and down the A34 near the venue but other than that it was easy to find – had I looked at the map rather than listened to the sat nav I imagine it would’ve been right first time!

Nerves around suitability didn’t subside upon arrival – a modern venue that had the look of a leisure centre in the reception area, I was expecting Gordon Brittas to come out to make a kerfuffle of giving me my ticket.  Fortunately it wasn’t like that at all, so tickets duly collected we grabbed a drink and waited – there were no food options unfortunately so we people-watched the folk already milling around, mostly they looked like theatre-goers.. it could yet all go a bit Stamford after all!

We’d noted Cere-bus outside and it wasn’t long before Bev and Tina had appeared from inside the actual venue, and a few more Ferocious Dog t-shirt wearing people arrived to offer a bit of reassurance.  John had posted a photo on Facebook earlier of the venue, again it was seated – but this time they’d retracted the lower level of seats to leave a decent sized floor area with a high bank of seats behind – the perfect venue really to leave an arena for a moshpit but a safe area of seating for those who just wanted to watch from on high.

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Freeborn Al / 26th April 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

We won’t Stam-ford this kind of rowdy behaviour!

Ella will soon be rivalling Waggy with shots like this!

Ella will soon be rivalling Waggy with shots like this!

Stamford seems to have been destined to be a comedy of errors.  As the gig drew to a close I was expecting Ken to do a speech like Marty McFly at the end of his performance at the ‘Enchantment Under the Sea‘ dance where he shreds his guitar at the end of his rendition of Johnny B. Goode leaving the 1950’s audience including his parents staring dumbstruck at him.  “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet“, he says sheepishly.  “But your kids are gonna love it!

I’d arrived in Stamford pretty early – I’d booked a room for the night (and triple-checked the dates after Plymouth-gate!) and was feeling ready to get checked in, sorted out and maybe have a few cheeky beers.  Only to find that the mortified man behind the bar had no record of my booking and had no spare rooms – there’s a lesson if you use Booking.com or similar, call the hotel/pub to confirm they’ve received it…

Luckily Simon and Snotface offered me a place to crash which still meant driving later – but at least in a more helpful direction for Newbury than going back home.  An angry tweet at Booking.com saw them quickly get in touch to try to help – as I’d already sourced accommodation they were simply very apologetic and offered me half of the price of the booking as compensation which was pretty good of them to be fair.

So I did have my one pint of beer in the delightfully quirky old Tobie Norris pub where I met Steve, who had secured somewhere to stay.  After that we wandered to the venue which was, well, unusual to say the least.  Whilst there we caught up with the band and numerous fellow gig-goers whilst drinking coffee and eating flapjacks… when the lovely lady wearing her best twinset and pearls combination checked my ticket and pointed out where my assigned seat was it was getting a little bit surreal.

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Freeborn Al / 26th April 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Photos / 2 Comments

Reflections, revelations and anticipation..

IMG_9589Last night I was having a long overdue catch up with one of my friends, Sarah.  Killing two birds with one stone I took her to Ye Olde Dolphin Inne in Derby for a bite to eat before Paige Seabridge was due to take the stage there.  It was a lovely evening and Paige was on sparkling form – she’s one of many amazingly talented acts I’ve gotten to know thanks to following Ferocious Dog.  You should definitely check her out, an amazing singer, songwriter, guitar player and generally lovely lass.

Anyway, I digress right from the start.  On the drive down the A52 we were chatting about the weekend just gone – as we’re friends on Facebook she’s familiar in photo form of what a typical weekend of Ferocious Dog gigs looks like, but hadn’t ever heard them.  “What do they sound like?” she asked, “This is them now” came the reply – I forget which track was playing, but I think it was Living on Thin Air.  “Wow, this is really tuneful – I saw the pictures and imagined it was death metal or something!”

First impressions are funny things aren’t they?  You can form them without even a fraction of the facts and they can be difficult to shift.  Sarah had filed away Ferocious Dog as something I enjoyed but she probably wouldn’t – now she’s shifted that perception and if she can’t wangle Deerstock then we’ll definitely be looking for her debut at a gig on the autumn tour some time once the dates are announced – on Monday, so keep an eye out on Facebook for that!

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Freeborn Al / 23rd April 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Thoughts / 0 Comments

The south-west? We shall exit ‘er in Exeter..

Well, now the dust has settled and I’ve grabbed a few hours of kip in my own bed it brings us to the Exeter leg of the tour.  Having surfaced and written yesterday’s blog I got the call from Dan on loading times from the venue, so I checked out and staggered that way to find John and Scott had pretty much got everything out of The Hub and we just had to wait for the bus (or ‘the buzz’ if you’re John) to load up.  It’s worth considering at this point how much stuff it takes to make a Ferocious Dog gig.  Just some of it is pictured below.

IMG_9552IMG_9553

It’s fairly obvious really – there’s six of ’em, Ellis plays about eight million instruments, there’s a drum kit – there’s amps, there’s merchandise, there’s the stage backdrop and assorted maintenance kit, there’s a few spare guitars for quick changes in case of string snappage.  Then of course there’s up to ten people in the bus too along with their travelling gear (in our case we only had six of us for most of our journeying).  It’s a logistical challenge for sure – and Waggy and Ken are masters of the game of 3D Tetris involved in getting everything in the back section of the dog bus.

When you see a band playing to a group of people going crazy, people eulogising about them on Facebook (not least me) and clamouring to get photos or just talk after gigs it’s easy to forget after that it’s the same people – admittedly with some help from venue staff or folk they might have on tour with them – who will be packing everything up and getting it either in the bus or ready to collect in the morning.  It makes Ken’s mingling with the crowd after gigs all the more charming – and it’s not an act either, he turns heads and starts conversations wherever he goes!

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Freeborn Al / 19th April 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos / 0 Comments

Ply-mouth to mouth.. resuscitation required..

The morning after the night before wasn’t too bad in Bridport – a relatively early rise, a return to the venue to meet Ken and Waggy to load up the van then a return to my hotel for and awesome breakfast before reconvening to prepare for our onward journey.  Scott and John were ready but it was a little more challenging to get Ellis upright.

The locals passing by as the van was loaded were all really friendly – a few had been to the gig, others drawn by Ken’s unusual appearance in the area.  It gave rise to some conspiracy theories on the bus that it was all a front for some kind of Hot Fuzz style hidden sinister society underpinning the place, everything just seemed so lovely and welcoming – I’m not sure that’s really true, but it made for some amusing bus banter.

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The going was good before the roads became terrifying!

The run from Bridport to Plymouth is relatively straight forward so was done and dusted reasonably quickly.  With John added to team crossword we did a bit better on this trip.  As we didn’t have a cigarette stop it’s true that Ellis did start to get a little bit agitated – the signal for this I’ve discovered is when he starts to quote from Robocop!  It does make for an entertaining end of journey though, although judging by the look on John’s face maybe it’s novelty factor from my point of view!

Moments later the RoboCop quotes were out in earnest!  "You see I got this problem..."

Moments later the RoboCop quotes were out in earnest! “You see I got this problem…”

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Freeborn Al / 18th April 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Photos, Videos / 0 Comments

Bridport down, Plymouth and Exeter to go!

Initially it was quite the intellectual journey

Initially it was quite the intellectual journey

It was slightly earlier start than initially planned as Ken kindly offered me the opportunity to skip driving to the South West for this leg of the tour and hitch a ride on Cerebus, the Ferocious Dog minibus.

I should’ve grabbed a picture or two really – I’ll try to remember tomorrow.  I got myself up to Trowell Services for the pick up and procured a massive box of doughnuts as they arrived, with Ken in the driving seat, along with Waggy, Scott and Ellis – all mostly in good spirits, Scott’s previous evening’s alcohol consumption aside.

Waggy took over driving duties and we were off to Bridport via picking up John off the M5.

Cerebus is awesome – emblazoned with Ferocious Dog graphics on the outside, and inside the middle row of seats are replaced by a table printed with an image of the band making it spacious and comfortable compared to a typical cramped minibus for someone of my height.  It certainly draws a lot of looks on the motorway from passing motorists too.  The windows at the back are blacked out too, mercifully considering later on…

The journey down was fun – we joined the M5 at the junction after the service station we were meeting John and after 16 miles or so of not seeing any services realised so doubled back to collect him.  Oops.  In the meantime Ellis and I had made a solid attempt at the crossword (ahem) and watched Scott transition from still-drunk to getting-hungover.  The new Ferocious Dog tracks were on the stereo and it was interesting to listen to them talking about little bits and pieces they were happy and less happy with.  There was even a sneak peak of prospective new album artwork passed around which looks great.

.... but once cabin fever kicked in somewhere on the M5...

…. but once cabin fever kicked in somewhere on the M5…

Once John was on board our party was complete – Dan and Leanne were travelling down separately by car and Les too was meeting us down in Bridport.  A couple of stops for toilet breaks and cigarette breaks from the increasingly agitated Ellis and Scott and eventually we were honing in on Bridport – only to encounter a series of bizarre road closures, suicidal parking and general kerfuffles – however, we did make it and ingratiate ourselves with the locals with a quiet and dignified drive through the quite well-to-do looking Dorset town.  Ahem.

Whilst much of what happens on the bus must stay on the bus, the overwhelming experience is one of a bunch of fellas who are down to earth and loving what they do – albeit well hidden in the case of a certain hungover drummer.  He did perk up as the day went on though and was in high spirits but the end of the night.  It will be interesting to see what level of inebriation he’s managed to achieve this evening when we reconvene in the morning!

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Freeborn Al / 17th April 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Preparing for a road trip!

Today’s been a good day – a nicely truncated working week finished, and anticipation of a road trip starting tomorrow heading to the South West for a triple-header of Ferocious Dog gigs in Bridport, Plymouth and finally Exeter.  Given how broken I was after just two consecutive gigs last weekend this will certainly prove an interesting experiment!

What better way to get into the mood than by enjoying some video compilations of Waggy’s awesome photos from the Cambridge and Derby gigs?  I certainly can’t think of one!  I’ve just had an exciting offer to travel down to the West Country on the Dog bus too… wow!  This could prove memorable!

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Freeborn Al / 15th April 2015 / Band, Gigs, Music, Photos / 0 Comments

From Without (from within)..

Eeee! New Ferocious Dog songs ON MY PHONE!!

Eeee! New Ferocious Dog songs ON MY PHONE!!

After a pretty full-on weekend of Ferocious Dog and a Monday morning fresh after the school holiday it was always going to be a bind to get to work this morning.  Once I’d arrived and grabbed a sneaky breakfast I was settling down to get my to do list beaten into shape when my phone rang. It was Dan which was rather unexpected so I grabbed the phone and excitedly said yes when he offered me the chance to listen to a few rough-cuts from the new album recordings.

A link to Dropbox was duly texted through and after some faffing around I fashioned a way to have a crafty listen to the tracks whilst finishing off a Powerpoint presentation.  Some were already surprisingly familiar from the live performances, some less so – one mentioned in a teaser post by Waggy on Facebook a few days ago. My remit is to review them without giving too much away – particularly the tracks that have yet to be aired on the tour as yet.

I’ve not quite decided how to tackle this so I’m free-typing on my keyboard in the hope that inspiration strikes.  I posted earlier about listening to Ferocious Dog giving you the urge to drive fast – this evening I was home from Solihull in around 42 minutes – normally I’m happy if I’m not too far north of an hour.  The new stuff, even pre-mastering, is clearly pretty heady stuff… I get the chance to hammer it to death over the next few hundred miles I drive to start to learn some of the words.  I’d best start watching out for speed cameras.

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Freeborn Al / 13th April 2015 / Band, Gigs, Music / 0 Comments

Dog dilemmas – driving and listening..

I spend quite a lot of my time driving – I have an eighty mile round trip to and from work most days (sometimes more) and live a bit in the sticks so often drive to gigs or social gatherings.  Generally in the car I listen to music, I use my phone for this (which is also sometimes acts as a sat nav) and whether I choose specific things to listen to or have it on shuffle there’s quite a lot of Ferocious Dog music on there.

So you’re always likely to encounter them on any particular trip with me in the driving seat.

Having just checked there’s 68 Ferocious Dog tracks on there.  Admittedly there’s a lot of duplication – I am sad enough to have both the UK and German versions of the album on my phone, as well as the previously released mini-album, the acoustic album and two EPs, the iTunes Hell Hounds release, a recording of Too Late being played on The Beat on the BBC and a couple of live tracks I had kicking around.  So there are many tracks that appear more than once.

In the run up to a Ferocious Dog gig I will normally just entrust Siri to control my musical selection – so I’ll summon her and say “Play music by Ferocious Dog” – normally she understands me and basically that means she’ll shuffle through any music by that artist in a random order – ideal!  But as I spent the last week to-ing and fro-ing from work it inspired a few dilemmas or pit-falls (ha, pit-falls, I had a few of those on Saturday night in the Hairy Dog!!) that can crop up when driving whilst listening to Ferocious Dog.

Maybe you can think of a few more?  Frustratingly I couldn’t come up with final one to make a top ten!

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Freeborn Al / 13th April 2015 / Band, Music, Thoughts / 0 Comments

The real derby day this weekend was in.. well.. Derby!

Scotty - proving to be a bit of a hotty with the Ferocious lady folk

Scotty – proving to be a bit of a hotty with Ferocious lady folk

Folk might’ve been getting excited about the Manchester derby this weekend, but for Hell Hounds derby day was the day before (although Dan at least I imagine enjoyed United’s 4-2 triumph over City this afternoon – nice belated birthday present!).

Derby is not far off a home town gig, really – and it shows, whilst Bodega sold out in around twenty minutes tickets for the gig at The Hairy Dog in Derby were gone in a little under an hour too I believe.  Plenty of Hell Hounds made arrangements to congregate in places prior to coming together at the venue, for me I was continuing my weekend of being an itinerant hobo and staying with Lisa and Paul (along with Rachel) so I travelled into Derby with them, but not before meeting their newly acquired ferret!

It was straight to the venue via the chippy on the corner for us with Mel, and then once at the Hairy Dog, a rock bar with the venue upstairs, catching up with the countless friends out in force for the gig.  Dave, a friend of Lisa and Ferocious Dog virgin, met us outside the bar, after sinking a few beers Dean elected it was my turn to go up on the surfboard – more on that later, a fairly unconventional and ungraceful performance on that front.

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Freeborn Al / 12th April 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments