A triumphant homecoming..
I talked about my reservations over Splendour as an event before – a little too sterile, a bit too rule-bound, and it didn’t bode well when arriving at the site as it opened to see loads of people having assorted things confiscated. In defence of the security guys, they were very courteous and I thought the organisers had done a decent job in communicating what would and wouldn’t be permitted on the site – but well, taking a lads water off him because he’d had a swig on the way to the park? A bit much!
After the state I got in three years ago I didn’t attempt any smuggling of contraband this year – more’s the pity as I wasn’t so much as patted down on my way through the gate! It’s probably a good thing though! Early on to the site my first objective was something to eat, which was duly purloined from the bacon cob van – shortly after this I bumped into Ian and Lucy for a quick chat over our assorted food choices. They’d hit the bar already, which was my next stop.
Ah, beer tokens. I loathe them – but grudgingly bought some in order to get that all important first cider of the day. You can see why they don’t want people bringing their own booze in when they’re charging £4 a pint for their own edited range of beverages. That said, ales, lager, cider, jägerbombs and Pimm’s were all on offer in exchange for a magic token. After picking up a drink I wandered down to the Confetti Stage where Georgie and her band were getting set up.
I first saw Georgie play on her own before a Moulettes gig in the Glee Club in Nottingham. I think she was Georgie Rose then, and with just her and her guitar she almost apologetically took to the stage and blew us away – she was mesmerisingly good. Subsequently I saw her with her band at the painfully trendy Jam Cafe in Nottingham, and really enjoyed that too but for a few technical wibbles with the sound desk in there – so I was looking forward to seeing her in a big stage setting.
With the backing of her band there’s immediately a much bigger sound than her solo folksier incarnation, and it works well and the gathering crowd are clearly enjoying it. In the meantime the Ferocious Dog bus had arrived back stage and they were starting to muster – Ken had emerged from backstage armed with a fetching pink bag which turned out was a dog carrier for his tiny new puppy Tilly, and before long we’d set up a bit of an encampment in front of the Confetti Stage.
“Who’s this Al? She’s really good” saw Georgie get the Dan seal of approval as he was busy shifting stuff from back stage to the friends and family assembling outside. In the meantime a lady came over to ask me if I had a Ferocious Dog CD assuming I was part of the band (in my own band’s t-shirt? Honestly!).. I put her on to Dan as the merchandise expert in the vicinity and she even got to have a photo with Dan, Ken and John who were all in the vicinity.
Ken was keen to get us to go and see DH Lawrence and the Vaudeville Skiffle Show on the acoustic stage – trying to go anywhere with Ken on a festival site is fraught with delays, and soon enough he was being accosted by people – but we got there in time to enjoy a fantastic set. In the absence of their fiddle player the band had acquired kazoos for the crowd to accompany them to great effect – I’m not sure Kieron and I were particularly tuneful, but we were quite enthusiastic!
There were ballads, there were rowdy numbers – there were moments when the crowd were given washboards, the ‘skiffle boot’, tambourines and kazoos – it was great fun, but that’s not to belie the musicianship and song-writing loveliness on show here too. Definitely an act to keep an eye out for in future, I feel sure I must’ve seen them before but couldn’t tell you when – I’m looking forward to the opportunity to see them again though!
Then it was back to the Confetti Stage area and I was accosted by Dylan to go and check out the fairground – and have a go on the dodgems. An undignified rush across the floor as he decided he wanted one with a union jack flag on it, I perhaps foolishly let him have control of the pedal – but it was good fun and not too scary despite a fair proportion of the participants seemingly unable to grasp you’re meant to try to go round in the same direction. A fairground moshpit!
When I was a kid I can remember I think my Grandad obsessing over the design of fairground rides to make your loose change fall out your pockets – he might’ve been on to something because that’s what happened to me (I think I only had a quid loose so it’s not the end of the world!) but made for a slightly embarrassing admission when taking Karen’s change back to her once the dodgeming was over. Oops!
In the meantime Iris Gold had taken to the Confetti Stage and – well, she was enthusiastic enough but didn’t really do much for me – that said she’d gathered a decent sized crowd so could just be a case of her just not floating my boat. It was made infinitely better when Kieron decided to add some kazoo backing to whichever track she was playing. We passed the time by Wez dropping his drink, me getting some more drinks and generally limbering up for Ferocious Dog.
Making my way down to the front ready for the boys, countless people kept asking about where to get t-shirts, I’d got my 2013 tour one on – I didn’t see any on the merch stand earlier in the day but that was before the band had arrived, but it was good to see there was clearly a degree of awareness already from some unfamiliar faces. The intro music was on and Gallows Justice kicked in – and well, considering there weren’t so many seasoned Hell Hounds there, there were a fair few moshing.
Concerns about the ‘no moshing’ rules in the Splendour T&C’s were quickly cast aside and the security were fine – it was pretty brutal at times but never too much. The boys were sounding great and it wasn’t until after the gig and I saw some photos that I realised just what a massive crowd they were playing to – whilst not their biggest event ever, it might well be the biggest crowd they’ve played to. The drawback to the nice weather was the area in front of the stage was dusty as hell.
I think I’ve ingested and breathed in about half a tonne of powdered soil and deer poo. After the set Andy gleefully suggested I try having a crafty nose-pick and examine the colour of anything yielded – yikes. Not for the faint-hearted! I might invest in a face mask for any future dry-soil moshing! There was no Freeborn John in what was a short set – Wez and I had already decided not to bother trying to sort out a surfboard due to limited numbers and the potential for security-based interference, but the band made the decision for us!
There’s a great video that Dan took during Freethinker of the crowd swaying along – sure – we didn’t get to have a mass circle like we would at a normal gig but that must’ve been pretty breathtaking to witness from the stage. Lyla got a chance to see her dad and grandad perform in full band form for the first time, and get on stage to mark the occasion which was lovely (Waggy captures this moment beautifully below, also check out this photo by Chris), before a raucous encore of Mairi’s Wedding Part II left us in a sweaty mess.
A triumphant homecoming – talking to a couple of folks after one who’d stood by the sound desk was eulogising about how tight the band sounded, singling out Scott and John in particular (he’s a drummer, so he’s bound to really!) – but it’s nice to hear musically knowledgable friends start to ‘click’ – my boss listed Ferocious Dog as one of her highlights on a Facebook post – I’m pretty sure there’s a few new converts out there which is always a good thing – another text from a friend said “Just saw u at the front on Ferocious Dog gig, they were awesome.”
I must admit I didn’t pay much attention to The Twang who were on next – although I have discovered that if you want to get right to the front of a crowded gig then stick Dylan on your shoulders and you’re sorted. We excuse-me’d and thank-you’d our way right to the barrier and back as a bit of a challenge (thanks Helen for the photo!) At the front of the stage a lady likened me to Ragnar Lothbrook from Vikings. I think she must have been incredibly drunk. It’s better than other recent lookalikes certain ex-friends-if-they-don’t-watch-it keep mentioning!
Amongst the crowd another chap tapped me on the shoulder and said “Are you that bloke that donated bone marrow?” – taken aback a bit, I confirmed this – he’d been the recipient of stem cells from another donation procedure so was moved to come say hello, which was lovely. I guess he must’ve seen the news story from a couple of years back when that happened – funny how things stick in people’s head isn’t it? My brother has recently also matched someone for a potential life-saving donation – so a complete aside from my normal subject matter, but sign up at Anthony Nolan or Delete Blood Cancer if you can!
Next up were James on the main stage – wandering around I bumped into Paul of the everyone-elsie-stick fame from Something To Smile About. We had a good natter most of which I can’t remember – ha! – largely looking forward to next weekend’s shenanigans at Deerstock. We spotted a drone flying up from back stage getting crowd shots – it’s a shame they’re not allowed out over the crowds as you could’ve got some great pictures from up there! James were on good form, dropping Sit Down really early in their set, surprisingly. I must admit it was more of a backing track to my general wandering about finding folks I’d not seen yet over the course of the afternoon.
Just behind the viewing platform for folks in wheelchairs I found Scott (not FD Scott) and family so lingered for a while whilst James belted out Come Home and wound towards the end of their set, with Laid – surely their best song – nestling just before the finale. It was an enjoyable set and the crowd clearly responded favourably. It was probably the first time I’d really noted the number of people there, as generally I’d been at smaller stages or right near the front, during FD for example. It’s a big gig, is Splendour.
I must admit the cider was taking its toll by the time I wandered back to the Confetti Stage to check out the end of Bananarama‘s set, and my phone’s battery life so no more photos – it was as cheesy as you could have hoped for really, I’m reasonably sure it was a cover of Help! that was underway when I arrived, I also recall Venus towards the end of their set – it was fun enough, but it was soon time to wander back over to the main stage for The Specials – unfortunately the three beer tokens I had left were burning a hole in my pocket, and were exchanged for jägerbombs en route…
… so my abiding memory of The Specials was Ghost Town played surprisingly early in the set, dancing around like a bit of a loon amongst people in hats and sunglasses before very smartly deciding it would be a sensible idea to beat the rush for the buses and start to make my way back. It’s a lengthy walk from the festival arena to the bus stop so by the time I was getting on the bus the set was coming to a close, and I’d heard all of it pretty clearly. Not very rock and roll of me, but never mind, I got home much quicker!
All in all Splendour was a cracking day out. The clash with things like Wellowfest and the not-exactly-cheap ticket prices meant that there weren’t quite so many of our usual crowd there which is sad – but well, part of the mission for Ferocious Dog this year is to get in front of new crowds and win them over. On those terms, definitely a successful mission I would say. However, even after such a fun day I can’t help but find myself yearning for the more wholesome experience I had last weekend at Wistful. Lucky for me I’ll be doing just that next weekend at Deerstock.
Bring it on!
Upon getting home I’d got an email from BBC Introducing to say that the lovely Dean Jackson had played Ruby Bridges on his show again last night, presumably in the context of Splendour having just happened. You can listen to his show here, I’ve not had a chance to work out whereabouts in there the track is played, if you do then let me know!