An a-Maze-ing night of music..
I was going to be sensible and get to sleep upon getting in from tonight’s shenanigans but I’m suitably energised to be a tad insomnia-bound for a while so I might as well empty my brain of over-stimulus. I know this is a Ferocious Dog themed blog but well, I do occasionally make time for other music in my life and Gaz Brookfield is up there with my favourite performers – so you’ll have to indulge me. Or close the browser of course!
It’s kinda ironic that it was in the last week or so Frank Turner put tickets on sale for his tour and Nottingham sold out so quickly he quickly arranged a second Rock City date to meet the demand. I like Frank Turner a lot, and I’d wager anyone else who likes him would love Gaz Brookfield. So whilst I truly relish the opportunity to see him perform in the intimate setting of The Maze to a healthy-if-not-sell-out crowd I can’t help but feel more and more that he deserves to be in front of a bigger audience.
But we’ll get to Gaz later. For the princely sum of about six quid (I think, I bought the tickets months ago!) there were four acts on offer this evening. Three of whom I know very well, and would’ve paid six quid to see any of individually, and one unknown element – Jake Martin – who I’d not yet encountered. So yes, it’s a Tuesday night, and we’ve all got work in the morning, but we are really incredibly lucky to have such a great small music scene here in Nottingham – kudos to folk like Lee and Jayne who put on nights like tonight.
With it being a ‘school night’ I drove so picked up Rich and Andy in Clifton on the way to Nottingham. My sat nav is hugely confused that Clifton is now largely back to normal after the interminable tram-related roadworks – it was not time at all before we were parking up on the street directly behind the venue, just in time in fact to be press-ganged into helping Dave and Bart (aka the Star Botherers) to load their gear in, once Andy had jogged round the front to get them to open the loading door, that is!
First order of business for us was some food – in the form of some really rather nice burgers from the Hard to Find Cafe (which wasn’t particularly hard to find, and I’ll probably be finding it again if I need food when I’m that end of town again), before hot-footing it back to the Maze in time to see the Star Botherers kick off the evening’s entertainment. They don’t really need much introduction to FD aficionados, with Dave having played bass for them until recently and Bart being the writer of Freethinker.
They were underway when we arrived and putting on a typically entertaining performance – it’s hard to classify them, folky and energetic music with witty and funny lyrics delivered with the entertainment levels of a novelty act but with the musical talent to make it more serious. Songs like My National Trust and Bad Guys always make me chuckle no matter how many times I hear them. It was a short set given the crammed schedule, but full of energy and had the crowd dancing and singing along.
Around the room were countless folk I’ve gotten to know from Ferocious Dog gigs – I won’t even start name-checking as I’ll be here all night and I’m bound to forget someone, but it was so nice to see so many friendly faces in the place. To quote a Gaz lyric I’ve quoted before ‘that keen sense of belonging, that feeling that I’m home, comes from every town I play in, and I don’t feel so alone‘ – it works from the other side of the guitar, too – I was lucky enough to have Rich and Andy accompany me tonight but could’ve merrily gone along on my own had I not.
Up next on stage was Maelor Hughes, another act I’ve picked up on my radar thanks to FD. He’s a beautiful performer – in the sounding sense, although I suppose he’s a good looking fella too – his guitar work is filled with delicate finger picking along with energetic strumming and a stomp pedal for a bit of percussion, all topped off with a fantastic voice and brilliant evocative songs.
Before he started he’d complained of having a dodgy throat, it didn’t show to me at least – highlights from the set for me were Morning Sun and Fight With Me (both of which are on his current EP) – it was another short set, but he was able to end with a rousing cover of the Levellers’ One Way. As an aside he’s let his hair grow a bit which makes him look like Cesare Borgia from The Borgias.
But don’t tell him I said that.
Next up was the surprise element – frankly, if Gaz was going to have Jake Martin touring with him then he must be pretty good – and he was. Again t’was a man with a guitar and plenty of energy – he even perhaps foolishly dared to question the cult of New Model Army in a room with not-a-few die hard fans of the band in attendance – but he got away with it. I picked up his EP after he’d finished and I’m looking forward to having a listen to that when I’ve had a chance to rip it to iTunes.
Then t’was Gaz himself, for a man who can’t drink cider any more I think he’d had a few over his quota tonight – we were treated to a repeat of a verse on that particular song early doors and a few lyric slip ups – but he’s just so bloody good. He really is, I’m sure he gets better each time I see him – how one dude, a guitar and an occasional harmonica and maybe a stomping foot can create such an engaging performance time after time never ceases to fill me with admiration.
I’m a big fan of his recorded material, but like many artists his music really does come alive to a different level when you see him perform it live. Part of the appeal of carrying on my FD obsession into the autumn tour is how many times Gaz will be part of the experience.
Partly due to associations with Ferocious Dog he has a solid following in the Nottingham area which I sense isn’t the case normally outside of his West Country stomping ground, indeed, when I saw him perform in Oakham last year whilst the crowd were appreciative many were clearly new to his work. To see the look of surprised glee on his face when he can hear the crowd bellowing back his songs to him is an absolute delight – because he shouldn’t be surprised – and he is good enough to have that happen all over the country.
There were songs from the new album which is great to hear in a live setting, but his set was mostly older material. There was some frustration derived from the talkier section of the crowd, but his subtle (and not-so-subtle) hints in that direction were either not noted or not heeded. It didn’t detract from a cracking performance – it was great that the songs that he normally prompts for crowd participation for needed – and got – no prompting at all – Towns in particular was pretty epic and he actually looked pretty moved by the extent to which we sang along.
I feel so privileged to have been able to take in such a huge amount of talent for such little outlay – sure, getting in and out of Nottingham is a bit of a pain for me these days, sure, I have work in the morning – but hell, it was one hell of a show with fantastic performances from all four acts. If you haven’t got on board the Gaz Brookfield bandwagon, then please do and thank me later – but the same goes for the other three acts tonight, keep your eye out for them and support them. You won’t regret it.