We won’t Stam-ford this kind of rowdy behaviour!
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.
The ballroom in the Stamford Art Centre is a lovely setting – but there was the slight issue that they’d covered most of the floor – made for dancing after all – with rows of chairs. Mercifully the front few rows had been removed – and rather than find our seats we made a bee-line for the ‘naughty-step’ at the side of the stage near the front. The folk already in their seats were generally of a more mature grouping and I don’t think remotely prepared for what was to unfurl – the posters in the venue made Ferocious Dog sound a lot more down the folk end of the folk-punk spectrum than perhaps is true.
A mix-up somewhere meant there was no support act which caused some mutters when announced by a lady at the venue, meaning the band were going straight on a little earlier than planned. Clearly they’d spotted the disconnect between the local audience and their usual set list so started with Lyla which was a lovely surprise – I’m guessing Carl’s comment of seeing them play it backstage was actually a last minute practice. Given the quietness of the mosh pit (so far) and the ‘naughty step’ opportunity it gave Leanne the chance to get her and baby-bump closer to the action than usual which was nice too!
Once Gallows Justice kicked in though it was always going to be a pretty normal affair by then – there were enough seasoned hell hounds in attendance to have a good ol’ mosh at the front and once the inevitable ensued I’m told a good number of locals actually just got up and left – oops! A fair few moved down to the front and joined in too, so all wan’t lost by any stretch of the imagination. Contrary to what I wrote previously it was the inimitable Les on guitar – it was to be Saturday night in Newbury that Kyle would be making an appearance.
The loveliest moment of the night was before Ken was due to sing a Verse for Lee, The Glass and into Lee’s Tune he invited a young lad, Callum, up on to the stage. Callum had raised £130 for the Lee Bonsall Memorial Fund by making shortbread and selling it – which is awesome. Once the music started up again a quick mosh-council was held on the matter of who was to be surfer, and that really if his parents were willing we should give Callum the chance to do it – agreement was forthcoming so we cased out the set list and plotted.
When Freeborn John kicked in I was hoisted plank-ward and Callum clambered into position to perform an awesome surf with tutelage from Dean below. A lovely moment, Facebook tells me he was still buzzing about it the morning after so hopefully a memorable life event for him and not the last time we’ll see him and his family at a gig. Given the ornate chandelier above the moshpit it’s probably a good job Dean or I didn’t get up – although we could’ve changed one of the bulbs for them which was out.
The poor sound man at the venue was pretty inexperienced with bands so it was quite hit and miss over the course of the evening – with Dan’s violin in particular seeming to be the main problem he was having.
During Slow Motion Suicide Dan had nipped off – with his fiddle – presumably for a loo break. He arrived back just in time to launch into the violin solo only to be met with silence, at least from the front facing speakers – so we were treated to an extended outro as the band carried on and eventually the right button was pressed on the mixing desk enabling him to do the solo again. All’s well that ends well, hey? It was an enjoyable gig despite the challenges.
Stamford certainly wasn’t ready for Ferocious Dog. The Facebook group was buzzing later with faux letters of outrage being sent to the local newspaper about shirtless men offering up child sacrifices to heathen gods. The venue had a prayer meeting scheduled after the gig – I definitely think we can chalk this one up to the right band and the wrong venue with the wrong audience. A lesson to be learned on booking and promoting the gig locally as I’m sure there must’ve been a crowd nearby who would’ve loved it!
Snotface hopped in my car to direct me and we reconvened with Simon back in Stevenage to chuckle more about the bizarre evening and check out some of the awesome photos Snotface had taken. Not all of Scott surprisingly! I’ve nicked one of them to include here – whilst we wait for Waggy to catch up with his photo backlog you’d could check out some of hers and Geoff’s too (from whom I’ve also been shamelessly pinching)…
A pleasant morning after breakfasting and chilling out in Stevenage was preferable to initial idle plans I’d had to mooch around Avebury a bit before Newbury, particularly given the drizzly weather, and in the meantime I’d tempted Simon to come to the gig too. Ella alas couldn’t join us as she had to work that evening…. but more of Newbury in the next blog post…
On another note – if you want to read a more succinct review of the Exeter gig than my ramblings then there’s one just gone up on Musicmusic.com – it’s a cracker. The accompanying photo album is here.