Howay the Dog in Toon..
… 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.
During the load in I set up my phone in stop-motion mode to capture a bit of the set up – the band load in and get set up really quickly, so it’s already well underway by the time it starts and it needed interrupting to pinch the step-ladder I’d been using to get the banner up. So consider this a prototype for something that I might revisit to get right from the start to the end – maybe even throughout the gig as well if you change the interval – getting people coming in, the performance – could be interesting!
Newcastle was an emotional venue for the band to play as it was home town to Hell Hound Jay Barsanti, who is now carrying on the party in Valhalla. Ken dedicated the entire set to him, and always dedicates Hell Hounds to him, Dean also paid tribute during the Freeborn John surf (doubly good, this time there was a projector I might’ve put my head through if it had been my turn to go up!). I didn’t know Jay tremendously well but got on with him really well, and he’s sadly missed in the mosh pit – but it’s great his memory is kept alive.
The stop-motion video sparked a conversation with Ken about doing more video type stuff – which spiralled into doing video for the Rock City gig at the end of the tour. By mentioning that to Leanne as well as recording the gig with a feed from the sound desk for a live album it soon found its way to Dan – and I believe the project is now under way, which should be awesome. It’s going be such a monumental homecoming it will be great to be able to re-live it after the event!
Back stage at The Cluny was pretty compact, it was a hive of activity with set lists being determined, decorating being added to (ha) and in the meantime a decent sized crowd had mustered in the venue – with plenty of familiar folk making the trip as well as a host of local folk. It was shaping up to be a great night even without everyone’s favourite hot dog in attendance (Wez had kindly left his festering hot dog in the bus, but funnily enough none of us were remotely tempted to put it on!
In no time Gaz Brookfield was up on stage, I decided since the venue was well populated to watch from further back where the sound was more optimal. It was a cracking performance from Gaz sticking to the same set list he’d used in Leeds, and getting a great response from the crowd. Amusingly he had a brain-fart moment during The Ballad of Elizabeth Duke which was handled deftly before moving on through the uber-strong finish of Towns, Bigger Man, Let the East Winds Blow and Thin.
I’m sure it’s true of most performers that when they get good energy from a crowd it enhances their performance – certainly that seems the case here, Gaz was on blisteringly good form lyric-slip aside and the crowd were absolutely buzzing from it from my vantage point of being further back than usual. As his dad and I remarked, people unfamiliar with him have a certain expectation when a bloke and a guitar hits the stage, but well, he really does have something rather special doesn’t he?
There was plenty of anticipation in the room for Ferocious Dog taking the stage from familiar and unfamiliar faces alike – Gayle and Des had made the trip up (nearly twice due to some forgotten tickets!) and people started to muster either in good vantage points on the balcony or on the stairs, and of course a good number down on the dance floor as the intro music boomed through the excellent PA system. The sound on the tour so far has been excellent and Newcastle was no exception.
The set list was pretty familiar – Dean did the surfing for Freeborn John, ending up just behind the projector (having sensibly gone for a ‘to me, to you’ session to get the board in the right place). He’d written ‘For Jay’ across his chest which was a touching tribute to our fallen comrade. The mosh pit was really good – locals and travellers alike eager to get involved enthusiastically – Steve was up for this too with some of his family, and indulged just as he had in Leeds perhaps a little beyond what might be considered sensible!
We lured even more people into the eye of the storm for a big Freethinker circle – a lot of the songs were apparently played really fast listening to the band talking about it after. In truth, even to my increasingly familiar ears it’s not really noticeable – neither is the random “I tried something a bit different” type comments they might make about particular songs, but then I’m not remotely musically apt so maybe it takes a more trained ear to spot these subtleties – but comparing videos from the gigs to those on the album there is a marked difference in pace! No wonder these mosh pits are so tiring!
After the gig it was a rush to get packed up and back to the hotel, with some more confectionary abuse en route. We’d been there earlier to pick up key cards and case out a spot for Cerebus as the attached car park was too low for it. Then it was straight out and Scott was determined we find a pub called Head of Steam near Grand Central station – the hotel receptionist said it was a five minute walk, it was more like half an hour before we found it perhaps not via the most optimal route in the world.
The pub was packed but eventually some space cleared and it was great to just sit and have a few drinks to relax with everyone along with Dean, Sarah, Michael, Rebecca, Mick, Paul and Nicky who were out for the night too. A few ciders and a sambuca saw Carl and I decide to call it a night, keen to catch up on a lack of sleep before. Waggy joined us to wander back to the hotel, again, not via the most optimal route (we nearly ended up crossing the Tyne at one point), but we were soon back.
Premier Inns have a good night’s sleep guarantee – and they certainly didn’t let us down on this occasion – by the time I woke up it was already gone 10am which is ludicrously late to be getting up for me even after a late night and a fair few drinks – but well, that brings us on to the next instalment of this weekend’s tale, so you’ll have to wait for me to get around to writing up the Carlisle leg before you find out what happens next…