Up the wooden hill to Bedford..

IMG_1651The trouble with staying over after a gig and heading to the next one after the hotel boots you out is you end up in the next place ludicrously early – unless you find an awesome falconry place near your destination, which is what we did with our early afternoon.  So we had entertainment from an assortment of owls, hawks, falcons and eagles to tide us over until a reasonable time to be heading into Bedford – in the absence of any owls in the Owl Sanctuary the previous night it felt like balance had been restored!

Once we headed into Bedford I followed the Sat Nav to what it thought was Greyfriars car park, but it wasn’t quite right (we discovered after paying) so moved the car to the right car park which didn’t charge after 6pm and wandered to locate the venue before repairing to the nearly Ship Inn for a drink since it was early.  Who should we happen upon shortly after arrival but Mick?  It’s funny how that always happens!  Haha, after drinking up in the absence of serving food we nipped a few doors down for a pizza.

By the time we’d finished that the downstairs bar at the venue was open so we headed there finding a few folk already there – not least Ellis and Dom playing pool, the rest of the band we saw heading out for food as we were heading in.  Sue, Paul, Brian, Karen, Claire and assorted other folk soon started joining our merry band – tainted by the sad news coming in from Stevenage that Simon was feeling too poorly to make the trip up – get well soon, Simon!

Much fun was had with balloons from the halloween decorations, and the amazing discovery of what happens when you blow e-cigarette vapour into a glass (which I’m sad I never recorded now), before long it was time to head upstairs into the venue proper.

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Freeborn Al / 31st October 2015 / Band, Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Having a Hoot in Norwich..

IMG_1636Norwich is a strange place to get to – in my head getting Snotty to train up to Loughborough so that we could head from there made sense, Norfolk’s main (only?) city is kind of across and down a bit from there, and going via Stevenage would’ve been a massive L shape.  Blindly following my Sat Nav though took us most of the way back there before hopping over the A1 and into East Anglia. Ho hum!  I had kind of assumed it would take me on a more direct cross-country route!

After negotiating a bit of traffic we were soon checked into the Travelodge in the city centre and in the market for something to eat.  Along with Dave and Caroline we were off towards the venue, and found The Woolpack nearby that provided us with food and drink, and some riffraff in the form of much of the band arriving shortly after – and Mick too.  Scott was in trouble for what he described as ‘long distance darts.’  They provided some pretty awesome bangers and mash in a Yorkshire pud.

Shortly before heading off Dave had summoned me outside for what could’ve been a sinister conversation – it turned out to be quite the opposite – and soon enough we were off to the venue.  The Owl Sanctuary unfortunately didn’t have any owls in it, although I don’t suppose they would’ve appreciated the noise levels once the acts got started.  An administrative complication meant Waggy et al didn’t actually know The Lagan were up first, so a bonus for us but I guess extra faffing with sound-checking, but it all went off pretty well in the end.  The front bar area was in a horseshoe shape, with the venue out the back.

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Freeborn Al / 31st October 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Not extinguished at the Old Fire Station..

IMG_1514As morning broke in Newcastle I was feeling pretty good – both Carl and I had a great night’s sleep and were up and ready to tackle breakfast downstairs where we found Waggy and Ellis already seated.  That’s right, Ellis was already there!  Folk started arriving downstairs, piecing together the night before – Les had walked to the wrong Premier Inn who gave him a map to find the right one, John and Scott had been on an adventure that saw them end up at the University and in the middle of a busy traffic island – but everyone was unscathed.

Breakfast was very welcome, that’s for sure!  Eventually with everyone sorted and checked out we returned to Cerebus for the next leg of our journey, Brad hopping in Ellis’ car, Les coming with us as he’d travelled up by train from Leeds.  We needed to get a bit of fuel, and as Carl spotted a convenient petrol station Scott and John’s choice of location for a cigarette break gave Ken the chance to spot and recognise The Denton, which was the venue for Jay’s wake last year.

Having bought some poppies in the garage Ken decided we needed to go and have a pint to honour our old friend – Carl duly drove the bus over there and we did just that, a fitting way to be heading out of Newcastle to follow the course of Hadrian’s Wall (every wall we passed on the way loudly announced to be Hadrian’s Wall).  Kenny’s battery had run out so I let him use mine to peruse Facebook.  Amazingly he resisted the urge to ‘Frape’ me – unless he left inappropriate comments somewhere I’ve yet to find – I don’t think he did though, what a gent!

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Freeborn Al / 25th October 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos / 0 Comments

Howay the Dog in Toon..

IMG_1504… and so seemingly no sooner had my head hit the pillow it was time to get up again for the reverse journey of a few hours before, Mansfield to pick up Scott and John, then onward to Warsop to reconvene with the Ken, Waggy, Carl and Brad to get into Cerebus and head north to Newcastle.  It was a decent run, punctuated by card games – some pretty impressive card tricks from John and some unfortunate experimenting with sherbet and crushed Parma Violets.

The least said about that the better.  Let’s just say that the crushed Love Hearts were a step too far.

The Cluny is an old converted industrial spinning mill in the Ouseburn Valley area of Newcastle.  A cracking venue with a low dance floor/stage area overlooked by a balcony with a small bar at the back of a nice looking eatery/bar area.  As this was my only gig of the weekend where drinking was really an option we’d indulged a little on the way up, and carried on in the venue after loading in all the gear whilst everyone went about their setting up.  It was quite nice to just sit up on the balcony and chill for a bit – Mick had arrived early too so joined us.

The soundcheck was over quickly for the band, when it was Gaz’s turn he even did a few Brad impressions – meanwhile Waggy had been sorting out who was rooming with who at the hotel later, and gave Brad a few tips on how to get Ellis to settle down to sleep.  I hope he didn’t take it too seriously!  I was sharing a room with Carl which worked quite well – we were both knackered from lack of sleep so were up for a few drinks post-gig but not a ridiculously heavy night.  Meanwhile Scott dropped the revelation that he could do Mongolian throat singing and promised to demonstrate at the soundcheck in Carlisle.

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Freeborn Al / 25th October 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos / 0 Comments

Bringing the ceiling down in Leeds..

IMG_1490I had intended to get the Leeds blog up on the night, but tiredness won – but rather than write a mega-long blog post I’ll split this into three instalments for each of the gigs.  So first up was Leeds, and it was to be a return to Cerebus for me – so first order of business was to get up to Ken’s where Carl and John were already getting on board, Dom arrived shortly after then it was just Waggy and Scott to pick up before we hit the road to Leeds, mercifully avoiding the M1 tailbacks that struck others on the way.

One of the nice contextual things about travelling with the band is experiencing their build-up to a gig – Cerebus (the Ferocious Dog tour bus) is a well appointed van, with a section at the back for all the gear (which just about fits), a seating area at the back around a table with lighting and its own music player and then the cab at the front seats the driver and up to two more.  It’s great, but not exactly comfy for extended periods – boredom soon struck, an eclectic selection of gangster rap John had compiled was playing, and the cards were out for rounds of ‘bullshit’ and rummy.

But luckily Leeds isn’t too far away and we’d soon arrived and parked up behind the venue between a camper van an act in another part of the venue were using, and a pizza van that would open later to provide much needed sustenance.  The Brudenell is an ace small venue – it’s my first time there but a good sized room over a couple of levels with the bar at the top and a lower level dance floor in front of the stage.  We were soon unloaded leaving the band, Dom and the sound man to get everything set up and plugged in.

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Freeborn Al / 25th October 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

And a Bostin’ time was had by all!

IMG_1373How on earth do you go about summing up a day like Bostin’ Days Live? Both Jamie and Bart at different points in the day asked me how on earth I was going to keep track, I revealed a bit of note-taking on my phone to act as an aide memoire but well, that’s something I generally do (except when in Ferocious Dog moshpits funnily enough – can you imagine?!) and I frequently still frequently forget crucial details.  But making a few notes and making sure I grab a photo of key things I’ve seen generally suffices to at least try to get the point across.

The early finish in Bristol combined with exorbitant drink prices in the O2 Academy saw me on the road in good time – only an accident on the M42 caused some delays around Solihull, as I work there I’m well-versed in dodging that road, so got myself to my hotel where the owner was glad to let me check in early so I was at The Crew well before everything started.  Clad in the best wristband I’ve been given all year (it’s going to be a real bind to take this one off) and a nice plastic pint pot.  I thought about being sensible and ordered a cider.  Oops.

Shortly after Snotty and Simon arrived, it had been a bit odd being at a couple of Ferocious Dog gigs without her (the first question either of us get when out without the other is ‘where’s Snotface/Fisher?’  Anyway, it was good to be at an event together – as folk started arriving we made our way upstairs where things were kicking off – Steve Bentley opened the event by introducing the first performer and compere for the upstairs stage, Stevie ‘One Bloke One Mandolin’ Simpson, and also inviting a sheepish looking Addie on to the stage to mark the start of the event.

Now, I am confident I’ll remember everyone I saw – whether I remember songs I heard is another matter entirely!

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Freeborn Al / 18th October 2015 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

The shizzle in Brizzle..

IMG_1362Tonight has been bloody brilliant.  I leisurely got up in Birmingham and had an awesome breakfast at the Old Crown and had a slow wimble down the M5 to get to Bristol to coincide with check-in time at the Travelodge rather than fart about.  Having parked up and settled in I might’ve succumbed to a little snooze – but that left me time to get showered and out in time feeling thoroughly refreshed and ready for more of the same.  With the huge bonus of some Mad Dog Mcrea thrown into the mix too!

The Hatchett was our first port of call – just over the road from the venue and chock full of familiar faces, including Justin – unscathed from his epic voyage from over the sea.  Amongst other random pre-gig nonsense being talked the thing that has stuck in my head ever since was Waggy’s revelation that the story behind Mad Dog Mcrea’s Happy Bus in real life culminated in them driving a minibus into the sea.  Fully populated.  The mind boggles!

Given my sneaky nap it was soon time to get into the O2 Academy – with a strict 10pm curfew Gaz was on ludicrously early.  But first, the venue is very swanky and new looking, the merch and loos were encountered first, the steps up to the auditorium with a raised bar/standing area and steps down to an extensive dancing area.  It reminded me of the gig they played in Newbury earlier in the year but on a much grander scale!  The sticking point was the price of £4.55 for a pint of cider – outrageous!  I was planning on taking it steady given the need to get to Nuneaton tomorrow for noon – and well, there was some extra motivation!

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Freeborn Al / 16th October 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

It’s a Brum do…

IMG_1356I was dead excited when the tour was set to open in Birmingham – as I work in Solihull it would be a short shlep from the office to get there.  Fate conspired against me and saw me up in Manchester for a meeting instead – but planned with sufficient time to dash down the M6 (well, dash until the West Midlands were breached!) to get to my hotel probably earlier than I would’ve done had I gone from our offices!  Having missed a turn I ended up driving past the venue to double-back and saw the band unloading Cerebus.

The Old Crown is a brilliantly quirky old pub a stones throw from the venue which was why I chose it – the car park was full but I found a pay & display one down the road at a reasonable rate.  Once I’d got checked in (and remembered not to smack my head on the low beams) it turned out Mick was staying here too – so after getting a little too engrossed in building a new coil for my e-cig and watching Tipping Point I headed down to the bar to join Mick for a few cheeky beverages.

No sooner had we done that then another Mick arrived to join us, as did Tina and crew, followed by most of the band along with Wez, Gaz and Dom, Dave and Nadine, Michael and Rebecca, Darren, Colette and their lad, Paul and Kim, Geoff and probably loads of others I’ve forgotten – what an auspicious gathering!  Mick R and I had succumbed to the lure of ordering food which took a while to arrive in the busy pub, but was worth the wait – although left me eating a little closer to gig time than I’d have liked ideally!

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Freeborn Al / 16th October 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

The lesson here it’s not too late to write your song and tune..

DSC_0227One of the unplanned but very welcome spin-offs of starting this blog has been getting my mits on music before it’s released to have a listen to and a ponder about.  This last week or so I’ve been lucky enough to be listening to some demos that none other than The Star Botherers have been working on in the studio lately, and what a treat it’s proven to be!

I first encountered them as an act at Bearded Theory 2013 in Gail’s tea tent – eager to check out the then Ferocious Dog bass player’s side project with the dude who wrote Freethinker.  I’ve seen them perhaps harshly categorised as novelty act – but then again the early gigs I saw of them were dominated by expansive bingo sessions or heavily customised merchandise including tins of beans and condoms – these days the focus is fully and deservedly on the music.

Four songs landed in my email from Bart inviting comment, two of them later reprised as spoken word tracks – and my gosh they’ve had some hammer over the last few days.  For those of you who’ve seen Bart, Dave (and now with added Brad on drums) on the festival circuit this year then this won’t contain too many spoilers as these songs have all featured in set lists over the course of the summer – indeed, many of us so familiar with them there are already singalong opportunities aplenty.

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Freeborn Al / 13th October 2015 / Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Oh we do like to be beside the sea-side…

IMG_1318I’d been looking forward to the Alternative Weekend at Butlins, Skegness for ages – of course, it was a return to Ferocious Dog action but with plenty of other awesome acts on offer too.  Upon arriving an going through the check-in process that would’ve been slick if only they’d made it a bit clearer which check-in gate to go through we found ourselves in a three bedroom apartment rather than the two bedroom one we’d paid for – always a bonus!

Upon settling in and getting unpacked Snotty, Simon and I headed to the arena – once there we found Scott who’d arrived before the rest of the band for a night of debauchery the night before their gig.  Our first port of call was the stage in Reds where Neville Staple was opening events for us.  It was a solidly professional and engaging performance until an unfortunate mishap involving kicking a football into the crowd, a loose cable and a trip saw him end up tumbling over a monitor.

He laughed it off though and finished off a cracking set in style – it was great to get a dance on early and plenty of singalongs for his more well-known songs of The Specials fame like A Message to you Rudy and Ghost Town.  I’ve always liked 2 Tone and Ska but only really fleetingly picked up on it through the snippets my Dad listened to when I was younger – so it’s been good to do a bit more catching up and this weekend offered a few opportunities to do that!

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