.. in the best possible sense, of course – it took until the day but Ferocious Dog were indeed successful in capping off the tour by selling out home town (ish) venue Rock City in advance – the first unsigned act to do so in the 35 year history of the venue. 28th November 2015 is a day that history was made. For me it felt like a real watershed moment for a band I’ve had the pleasure of following for the last few years.
I spent the evening before making my hair look a bit more silly than normal. It turns out I should’ve probably checked in with Spike and Chris who would end up with the same coloured hair as me for the evening, but never mind, eh? I’ll probably regret it more when it starts to fade out to pink! I even managed to get it spiked into a pretty good mohawk without the assistance I often get from Ella!
Come Saturday morning unusually the postman turned up before midday bringing me Gaz Brookfield‘s new acoustic album to provide the soundtrack to my fairly short drive into Nottingham. More on this at another time, though! I got parked up near Rock City and found Cerebus being unloaded, so time for a few greetings with the band and crew who were all looking suitably excited about what was to come. Simon and Ella arrived which meant for us it was time to head for food.
Dave and Bettina had done a great job in organising the whole of the downstairs of Annie’s Burger Shack to be reserved for a group of fifty or so of us to be fed a fine array of burger goodness in a buffet style. Very filling it was too, handy stomach lining for what was to follow and a chance to have a nice leisurely chat with a section of the wonderful folk we’d be coming into contact with over the course of the day!
The timing was perfect for us to nip back to the cars, unload and wander to our hotel via bumping in to Gaz on the way for a chat. Soon enough we were checked in, resisting the urge to nap off the food coma before heading over to the venue with our bags of groceries for Framework. It looks like my fellow Hell Hounds were as generous as I thought they’d be – certainly there’ll be a lot of people saved from going hungry thanks to Ken’s call for us to bring some supplies for the food banks.
There was a quick chance to catch up with countless other folk who’d not joined us for burgers before the live music started up in earnest in Rock City’s basement. Elle Knight took the stage first, she kicked off with a cover of Mad World and ran through a set of original songs and cover versions concluding with I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You. A lovely set to a large and appreciative crowd who’d mustered at the venue good and early.
Paige Seabridge was up next with a set including Trouble Town, hers own song Alive and Guide Me To The Light and finishing up with You Got The Love. She was on typically scintillating form, although I missed having Home to finish up with – although mercifully there was no sign of Tim lurking nearby at this juncture for insisting on any early afternoon shoulder rides!
Brad Dear was up next in this mini showcase – Far Away, Save My Souls, I’m Still Here and Festival Bar Blues were in the set list and a follow-up and all round singalong with Special Brew which is always pleasing for Ella and I in particular! Much like it’s been a privilege to have watched Ferocious Dog develop over the years – the same is true of artists like Paige and Brad who I’ve gotten to know through the band’s support of other local talent. They’ve both come such a long way over the last few years!
Sam Jones finished up the trio of familiar pre-acts – as usual I’m crap at knowing what his songs were called, but certainly he went down very well indeed with the crowd. It was quite cute when he referred to Paige as his girlfriend too – pretty much a celebrity couple in our circles now! For his last song he invited Spud up on stage with him to perform Chocolate Biscuit, providing the guitar backing – a nice raucous finish to the set!
A quick trip to the gents found countless other folk to chat to, not least Kev and Magz – Kev in particularly seemed to be having immense difficulty in extricating himself from the lobby thanks to countless folk to talk to. It meant that I missed a good portion of The Eskies set, which I’m pretty sorry about as they sounded great and they had epic beards! Thankfully Claire wanting someone to find Lisa with her for a birthday card exchange means I did get to sample some of their music.
In perhaps a taster of what is to come with Ferocious Dog gigs, once upstairs folk were starting to save spaces at the front right from the main venue opening, including us! Both Ella and I were feeling decidedly unwell thanks to the assortment of bugs that have been doing the rounds, but determined to tough out the evening. It’s not that long since I’ve been to Rock City but I don’t remember the air conditioning being so damn powerful – it was like standing in a fridge!
First up on the main stage was Gaz Brookfield, suitably recovered from his bout of illness he was on rude form along with fiddler Ben Wain. I’ve never seen Gaz perform with him before so that was a real treat. Gaz maintains that look of utter shock at how well received he is by crowds (it was packed and full of singing along), which betrays what I’ve witnessed on my travels around the country with him and the band – he’s popular nationwide, even with crowds unfamiliar with his work at first.
Land Pirate’s Life opened up the set followed up by Diabetes Blues and its reprise. Ozzy still maintains his space in the set in spite of needing new brakes recently apparently, whilst The Ballad of Elizabeth Duke was introduced with the revelation that its inspiration Grant Shapps had apparently quit that day! Be a Bigger Man, Let the East Winds Blow and Thin comprised an epically strong finish with the loudest singing along I’ve ever heard for a Gaz gig. A wonderful warm up!
Of course there was the small matter of Mad Dog Mcrea up before Ferocious Dog – they kicked in with Am I Drinking Enough to get the feet moving nice and early, next up one of my favourites Johnny No Legs. Heart of Stone, Climb a Hill, Sugar Water Sunday and Devil’s Cauldron led exhaustingly into an instrumental jig. A nice singalong to Happy Bus was followed with a slow in the pace for Bee’s Wing which delighted Ella – it’s her favourite. Mick seemed reticent to try it in such a packed room, but it went down beautifully.
Almost Home and Stupid Things concluded a short but great set from the Devon band – despite loud cries from the crowd we weren’t treated to Black Fly which would certainly have pleased Simon (and me to be fair), whilst I was holding out to hear Pikey Killed My Goldfish. I’m definitely going to have to make an effort to get to a few more Mad Dog Mcrea gigs where they have a full set length, I think!
Then the appointed hour. I was weighing up whether to stay on the sidelines or get involved given a bit of illness, but well, if you can’t pick yourself up for this then you’d be kicking yourself so duly took up a spot just behind the mosh pit to grab a photo or two before getting stuck in. The intro music boomed out and Ferocious Dog marched on to the stage clearly already pumped to the max – fist pumping to the crowd who roared their appreciation back before a note was played.
Once Gallows Justice kicked in mayhem was unleashed, the moshpit taking up nearly half the dance floor. Poor Angry and Young kept up the pace before the pace was dropped with Verse for Lee – not that the jostling stopped for it, The Glass and Lee’s Tune soon picked up the pace again before Crime and Punishment gave way for a spot of line management. It turns out an energetic mosh pit is the perfect way to forget whatever might be ailing you.
Unconditional led into Too Late which we know what leads up to by now. Dean had been busy organising earlier in the day and had briefed me that we were both going to surf, Paul had kindly consented to be my board for the evening – come the opening bars of the song we got set up only for Dean to have lost Craig, his board – just as I was about to get legged up he’d clambered up on Paul so I stayed on the floor.
I must admit I was a bit gutted to be denied a bit of crowd limelight for Freeborn John at this of all nights, but if only one of us were to be able to go up then really it had to be Dean – and after an initial wobble he did a fine job of it. The extended instrumental section with a rap from Bru-C was fantastic – having heard them rehearsing it it’s amazing how tight it sounded considering they literally ran through it about four or five times in the studio last week. I was worried about them messing with my favourite song, but it worked brilliantly.
The first of a few blasts from the past for those of us who’ve been watching Ferocious Dog for a while saw dancers Chloe and Megan joining them for Lyla just as they did at Farmer Phils and Dogfest years ago. This led into Marikana Massacre before something I was particularly excited about, Kyle took to the stage with his old bandmates to perform Pocket Full of Madness – it’s a great song and one I’ve missed since he moved on to pastures new, but also lovely that the band thought to include him in this the pinnacle of their gigs so far.
On The Rocks, Criminal Justice and Quiet Paddy led into the tribute to Jay that Hell Hounds has become. Freethinker saw us struggle to get a circle together in a packed mosh pit so it became a sway-fest instead before Mairi’s Wedding Part 2 saw the end of the set proper and the band leaving the stage to rapturous applause and roaring from an appreciative crowd, still not really that sweaty thanks to the industrial air conditioning.
Of course an encore was lined up – Ken had changed into a kilt and clogs, they belonged to Jay Barsanti as a final tribute to our fallen friend of the evening. Also on stage were welcomed a string quartet to unleash the only full band live performance of Mairi’s Wedding Part 3 so far – you can’t mosh to it, it was lovely to hear and considering it’s not too frequently practiced it sounded great.
The string section remained to add luscious texture to Slow Motion Suicide before we were finally bid farewell with an opportunity to dance like crazy to Raggle Taggle Gypsy. The bouncers at Rock City were great – they didn’t interfere at all with surfing, shoulder riding or tower building, good job guys. With the cameras recording for a DVD I’m really looking forward to re-living the gig. It was epic.
By the time it was over and we’d regrouped Ella and I were both feeling knackered so after a marathon round of goodbyes and collecting stuff from the cloakroom we bailed on the aftershow party (sorry Headsticks!) and headed back to our hotel in dire need of sleep. What was Kenny doing after the biggest gig of his life? Meeting fans and signing stuff in the merch kiosk of course. If it had been a ‘normal’ gig we might not have made it at all, but hell, we weren’t going to miss this for a second.
Where does this leave Ferocious Dog? I posted on Facebook earlier that watching how far this band has come has me bursting with pride for them – they have worked so hard to get this far, and it’s amazing to see the extent to which their reach has grown. With that comes a bit of selfish malaise, I quite liked it when I was on to something, small gigs, three men mosh pits in Bridport, I can’t see that happening again!
It feels like this gig was the moment things might change, but they have integrity and strength and a loyal following – maybe bigger could mean better? Everything planned for the day was perfect – local upcoming acts given a platform to reach a new audience, huge amounts of food collected for Framework, an old member reunited to perform his song, another band given the chance to boost their following with the aftershow.
It just goes to show though, you don’t have to be a sell out to sell out! Together we are strong.
Oh, but Ken, you so are worthy.