The shizzle in Brizzle..
Tonight 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!
Gaz took to the stage and I must say the sound quality was amazing – he didn’t pause for introductions being tied to a short set, starting with Land Pirate’s Life then quickly into Diabetes Blues and Towns. Being smack bang in Gaz Brookfield country (or Gaz Brookdog as he re-dubbed himself by the end) it wasn’t surprising to see a busy crowd for a first support slot, and a busy crowd who knew lots of the words to his songs! Ode To Ozzy followed, dedicated to his long-suffering van which basically sounds like the vehicular equivalent to Trigger’s brush in Only Fools and Horses.
The Ballad of Elizabeth Duke was up next, dedicated to ‘The Tory minister for patronising statements’ Grant Shapps, who famously last year tweeted about the cuts to tax on beer and bingo helping hardworking people do more that they enjoy. The tosser. Be The Bigger Man followed which is clearly a song that means a great deal to Gaz but also the audience too – a massive bearded bloke stood by me was passionately bellowing along with every word which was quite touching to observe.
The final song was Let The East Winds Blow – a nice energetic finish and of course an excellent singalong opportunity even for unfamiliar crowds. No problem with that here, the backing vocals to the chorus willingly yelled from the crowd before the prompting at the end. Lovely set from Gaz under time constraints. There was time for me to nip back to the merch stand where the lovely Leanne took my hoody and e-cig from me to look after to save mosh-pit based destruction later – always much appreciated!
Ferocious Dog‘s intro music was soon playing, and the band took to the stage by the more customary route of a backstage area and launched into Gallows Justice with a lively moshpit underway from the off, one fellow had his shirt off right from the intro music. Dean – who we knew was en route – arrived shortly into the song, asking if he’d missed much with a big grin on his face. Wez was back in the hotdog causing mayhem – it was Waggy’s turn to drive tonight so the drunken wrecking ball was back!
With the O2 Academy being such a shiny well-kept area the floor soon became very slippy from probably perspiration but also a few thrown pints (these people must be fucking rich to chuck away anything they bought with those prices! Frequent price complaints from the northern contingent in attendance caused much mirth from a couple of local blokes stood nearby before the gig). Meanwhile in the moshpit there were lots of lady folk and a bloke who unfeasibly opted to wear his jumper throughout. Go figure!
I’d had a concerned glance at the heavy-duty looking security chaps before we started, but they were brilliant – vigilant at watching what was occurring but not intervening when it was obvious that everything was fine. For Freeborn John we’d decided to get Raj to do the surfing with Dean as board (thanks Dave for the picture!), which was fine except when the bass line kicked in and we’d lifted Dean up he was nowhere to be seen! Located he went for the unconventional clamber-from-the-front and turned round – it worked though! Top job, Raj!
Unconditional saw the return of the dance-off between John and Les, I’d definitely say John won but well, there could be mitigating circumstances for that.
Quiet Paddy made an appearance – I don’t think it did in Birmingham (but could be wrong) before we seemed to be hurled headlong into the finale of Hell Hounds, Freethinker and Mairi’s Wedding Part II. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Ferocious Dog as a support act (I suppose they’re dual headliners really, but with another big act to follow) but well, Mad Dog Mcrea have become a very frequent feature on Snotty and I’s playlists lately so I’ve been really looking forward to seeing them too.
Reunited with hoody and e-cig I found a vantage point on the sidelines to enjoy Mad Dog Mcrea – they launched into Mad Dog Coll and Happy Bus early doors, then Heart of Stone and Johnny No Legs (one of the most infectiously catchy foot-tappers you will ever hear!). A chap who hadn’t seen them before was merrily jigging his way around the dance floor, Gaz Brookfield was stood watching with a big grin on his face and I was joined by Scott, John, Les, Ken and Waggy too. Mad Dog Mcrea sounded bloody great. Am I Drinking Enough included an awesome interlude fiddle/banjo duel.
One of the things I really enjoy about Mad Dog Mcrea is that no matter how much Guinness and Jameson’s that Mick gets through he seemingly never forgets the words to his songs – and they are wordy songs by and large – during The Devil’s Cauldron he did actually manage it – not missing a beat he provided with “I forgot the words, la la la la!” in perfect time. Unless they actually are the lyrics of course, it’s not a song I’m massively familiar with compared to some of the others!
Other highlights were the frankly beautiful Bee’s Wing which I’d been asked to video for Snotty – that’s going up on YouTube as I type so hopefully there’ll be a nice embedded video in this post by the time I’ve finished. Pikey Killed My Goldfish is frankly awesome, before winding down with Almost Home and an energetic instrumental jig to finish. Rebelliously going over their curfew by a couple of minutes. An absolutely cracking set from them – really enjoyable, my only slight disappointment was no Black Fly which is an near constant ear worm for me these days!
A few goodbyes later and I’ve opted to come back to the hotel to get this posted and an earlyish night to get to the small matter of Bostin’ Days tomorrow as I don’t want to miss any of the acts there, not least Brian who’s on at noon. Another awesome night – the sound in the O2 Academy is probably the best I’ve heard for a Ferocious Dog gig. Absolutely superb.