Oh we do like to be beside the sea-side…
I’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!
Next up for us on the same stage was The Beat – with The Buzzcocks on next door it was a bit of an annoying clash, but I’m pleased with the choice we made. Ranking Roger loped onto the stage in a boiler suit – which certainly lived up to its name by the end of the set, he’s lithe and energetic as ever which completely belies his age at 54 years. These days he’s joined by his son, Ranking Junior, on stage – their chemistry works really well and well, it must just be really awesome to be able to share work like that as father and son!
Whilst I am familiar with The Beat whenever I think of Ranking Roger I can’t help but bring to mind his ill-considered cameo appearance with Pato Banton in the 90’s – so I’m glad to have seen him in more credible territory. As well as expected material there was an ace cover of Rock The Casbah, and the atmosphere in the crowd was electric when the distinctive bass-leaden intro to Mirror in the Bathroom kicked in – perhaps only topped by the ladies in the room when Ranking Junior returned to the stage after a brief exit without his shirt on. Ha ha!
After a good couple of hours of dancing we opted to head out for some air, which took an age – the access to the venue wasn’t great for a concentrated crowd – by which point it seemed like too much effort to get back inside (sorry Ruts DC!) so we decided instead to amble back to our chalet, en route seeing Mark G act as good samaritan helping an incredibly drunken lady up from the floor to stagger on her way with her partner, and then a loudly arguing couple clearly worse-for-wear on drink and calling each other a torrent of names.
First on the agenda for Saturday was a crazy golf tournament – we joined Addie, Jane, Mark, Amanda, Nick and Lucy having bumped into numerous other folk en route and got underway. I’m not sure who got the best score on overall, but a wayward shot off the course let me sneak ahead of Simon, although Snotty and Nick claimed glory at the end by getting the ball in the hole at the end and setting off the cannon to win a free game – something I don’t think they redeemed! Good fun through!
Then it was back to Reds in time to see Neck unleash their celtic punk – it sounded like there might’ve been a few sound issues but considering it was just 4pm they got the crowd dancing aplenty, I know Gibbo and Hannah are massive fans of Neck so I’m glad I’ve finally got to see them – I’ll keep an eye out for future performances too. In the meantime the FD boys had started to arrive in the venue, they were opening the evening of music in Reds at 8pm so were presumably starting to unload their gear and set up – there was excitement galore.
We headed back to the chalet for a pre-FD rest – Ferocious Dog had an annoying clash with Dreadzone, but still upon getting to Reds early it was good to see people arriving in numbers ready for the boys. There was a delay in them starting which we latterly discovered was due to a few complications in Alabama 3 setting up – but no matter, by the time they were on there was a healthy sized crowd bristling in anticipation of what was to come – plenty of familiar faces, and many more new ones.
In one of the more bizarre stage entrances we saw the curtains open to reveal the band – Scott first on his drum riser, and they launched right into Gallows Justice. The sound was good, and the moshpit was predictably active – it’s been a while since we’ve all had a chance to have a good ol’ wrestle together – it wasn’t long before the shirts were off, and mercifully the security didn’t seem to be bothered, although Paul was quickly dissuaded from having Nicki on his shoulders early doors.
No such problem with Freeborn John kicked in – I was hoisted, Dean clambered – there was a bit of a problem with people under my shoulders which made for a wobbly platform but Dean was immovable as ever. No security intervention here, which is good! There was later when Slow Motion Suicide started I found myself being elevated unexpectedly. The security at the front gestured to get down which we ignored but eventually one of them made their way over to insist – a bit silly really, we weren’t moving around.
Everything else goes by in a blur – we had a circle for Freethinker which was ace, toward the end Wez fell over – in a moment of ill-considered giddiness I jumped on him starting a ‘pile-on’ which culminated in Addie gleefully grabbing at my pants and tearing them – a game Wez gleefully reprised once we’d all emerged from the pile of bodies on the floor. A turbo-mosh-pit-wedgie. Not an experience I’m desperate to repeat but I’m happy to say that no lasting damage was done – the same is true for the flying drumstick from Scott that hit me squarely in the head after he launched into the crowd – cheers, Scott! I didn’t even manage to keep hold of it!
A top set – proven by the throng of people at the merchandise stand at the end. I took the chance to get myself a new tour hoody which is awesome, and have a chat with the band and crew milling around generally buzzing from the set like we were, existing fans appeased, new ones cultivated – that’s what it’s all about. To have pulled a crowd that size when up against Dreadzone (who I’d have loved to see – roll on them supporting The Levs in December!) is a real signpost to how things are going for the band at the moment!
General consensus was to see The Damned next, but the queue to get to the main stage was ridiculous so we had the not inconsiderable consolation prize of Alabama 3. I’m not sure whether it was because I was still post-mosh tired or our placement at the side of the stage was to blame but I wasn’t really feeling their set. Probably a combination – I’ve heard good reports from other friends and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed their performances on previous occasions, but we opted to head back chalet-ward part way through, not prepared to try to gain entry to the main stage for Goldblade later and not too arsed about Chelsea.
Sunday was a real lazy day – we’d brought loads of food with us that we’d not really used so decided to make a bit of a feast, which upon eating it left us in a bit of a food coma for much of the day. So it was relatively late we emerged in time to see The Selecter, finding Mark, Amanda, Addie and Jane with a table near the back we had a very civilised sit-down gig. The Selecter were on great form – I was completely sold on them as a live act when I saw them support the Levellers, and they certainly didn’t disappoint here.
As well as a string of familiar songs there were some from their new album – which sounded great too – but it’s always going to be the familiar songs like Three Minute Hero, James Bond, On My Radio and of course Too Much Pressure. A triumphant showing which went down very well with the crowd. As folk had clearly been leaving during the day we felt okay about heading back to Reds for the closing set of the weekend by Dr. Feelgood – again, we sat down and watched it whilst enjoying drinks with Lucy, Nick, Paul and Nicki.
Their bluesy rock sounded great and it was a nice way to round up a splendid weekend. As we ambled back we were finally able to successfully get a minion out of the grabby machine (well, Snotty was able to!) which became a birthday present for Lucy. And that was it, the weekend was all but finished – checking out was easy, so was booking for next year which Simon did to add to the already burgeoning roster of festivals looming next year.
On the way back I lured Simon and Snotty into visiting one of my other passions in life, the nearby Parrot Zoo (soon to become the Lincolnshire Wildlife Park owing to it evolving from homing just parrots) to see not only feathery beasties but lemurs, tortoises, coatimundis, meerkats and their magnificent family of tigers. I’d thoroughly recommend a visit. Another splendid weekend – and it’s now officially the week that the tour starts – see some of you on Thursday in Birmingham!
I’ve got some other exciting things to write up in coming days too once I get the chance 🙂