Reflections, revelations and anticipation..
Last 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!
It made me ponder my own follies in this area – whilst having doubts on going to my first gig, only having eyes for Mark Chadwick when buying the tickets, I was subsequently blown away by the EP that Dan had given me. I remember that first gig, thinking Ken resembled one of my cousins a bit – now he just resembles Ken. Criminally in the four odd years I’ve been watching them I’d never really gotten to know the elusive Ellis until this weekend.
I’m always cautious about such things – nobody wants to be that person who desperately wants to know the band. You know the type of person I mean – but well, going to lots of gigs, being the friendly bunch they are and having had the behind the scenes opportunity I had last weekend it means it just happens. I wrote before about not appreciating the tremendous amount of work that goes on behind the scenes – the stuff to carry, getting there, waking Ellis up, setting up.
That doesn’t even begin to cover learning to play in the first place, practising, writing songs, producing artwork, booking gigs and juggling diaries, maybe finding substitutes when dates don’t work for some members… the list must be endless. On that note, whilst Les joining the band has been completely amazing I do have a pang of nostalgic excitement for Stamford tomorrow where Kyle will be returning to the fold to cover for him whilst he plays with Abdoujaparov (try saying that with a mouthful of marbles) at Gayle’s Solar Stage launch party.
Without going overboard it’s been lovely to have had the chance to see them ‘off duty’ a bit. Ken’s post-gig mingle-mode is basically him. His appearance is always likely to draw attention and then perhaps for the less enlightened his geniality is a surprise – in Bridport in particular hanging around outside the venue after packing the bus up there was barely a passer by he didn’t have a conversation with, whether they’d been to the gig or not. He also does a pretty amazing ‘robot moves’ routine.
Having said that, there was a moment I thought I was in trouble in Bridport. “I’ve got a bone to pick with you, Al” Ken said, that faux-serious look on his face almost immediately betrayed by a warm grin. Back on the new album preview I did I’d talked about Ruby Bridges being Dan’s creation – Ken had considerable blanks to fill in on the lyrics, backed up by research. Oops. It’s a lovely song though about such an inspiring and courageous little girl and can see why both Ken and Dan are proud of it.
Ellis has no concept of time. At all. As someone who is actually early for everything and gets genuinely distressed at the thought of being late that should be an absolute nightmare for me but he’s so blissfully unaware of any tardiness and quick to bring a smile to the group that it’s impossible to get bothered by it. Maybe it is after more than three days of it, but the general tone seemed to be acceptance. I found that a bit surprising from somebody with so much meticulous skill.
However, he’s a Forest fan and always full of laughter and banter (you have to be to be a Forest fan) – it’s nigh on impossible to get wound up as he ambles over, probably with a bag of stuff and a newspaper. Plus there’s the bonus of detailed impressions of Clarence Boddicker from Robocop that get reeled out with increasing loudness if he spends too long on the bus without a cigarette break. Maybe that would be a bit annoying after multiple bus trips.
John and Scott held less surprises as I’ve gotten to know them in the context of knowing the band already – of course John’s tattoo coverage raises eyebrows as much as Ken’s distinctive mohawk, sleeves and jacket. His accent isn’t as indecipherable as Facebook banter might suggest – until he gets talking to Addie of course, then there’s no hope for any of us. Having said that, being on a bus with Scott, Ellis, Ken and Waggy certainly made me a lot more Notts than I normally sound!
Most of all though there’s no real ego there, the discussions post-gigs were all on slips, intricacies or potential improvements to songs, appreciation for the crowd or the normal kind of nonsense a group of blokes who’d had a few drinks might discuss. I can’t be sure that having a crowd go crazy at me and lots of praise wouldn’t make me a bit of an arse after a sustained period. Of course the post-gig analysis eventually descended into the outlandish creation of a future Olympic sport but well, it’s good to have ambition isn’t it?
I mentioned before Dan’s impeccable sense of timing in arriving on the scene generally after the heavy lifting has been done – I guess that’s a trick of the trade. As he tends to be the organiser so is normally on his phone – one lovely moment in Exeter happened when he rang me to write a guest list out including his mum, Karen, with the stipulation not to tell Ken so it would be a surprise for him. Along with Wez coming down to drive the bus back to give him and Waggy a break.
Considering the kind of gigs he’s played in the past Les is just so unassuming and chilled and clearly very much part of the group despite limited opportunities for them to spend time together outside of touring given their varied geographies. Plus I can now say I’ve made a cup of tea for a Glastonbury headliner (who was subsequently apparently banned from the festival!).
Waggy has a surprising career history and his name descends from being the village elder with a staff of authority – I can kind of imagine a Waggy ancestor fulfilling that role, much as present-day Waggy kind of does within the band. Shakespeare has the same etymological roots – essentially describing an authority figure with a staff (or spear) that they would wag or shake to demonstrate their position.
And then we come on to anticipation… the tour starts again tomorrow at the Arts Centre in Stamford. In the ballroom no less. I’m pretty excited by the prospect – you’d think that you’d end up with gig fatigue but I never seem to – whilst getting back into the working week was a struggle after last weekend I’ve been absolutely hammering the new tracks in the car on the commute so they are starting to feel devilishly familiar, so I’m looking forward to another chance to have a good ol’ mosh to them!
Waggy has photos up from Bridport and from Plymouth as I type. I’m not sure I’ll get a chance to put them in a video so do check them out on Facebook – as ever he’s really captured the mood of the gigs. Then remember after helping pack up and carry everything back on to the bus invariably he or Ken were driving round the rabble in the back around the South West to get us to the next gig. This music lark is bloody hard work.