Life begins at fifty..

IMG_2943These birthday party/gig combos are starting to become a thing – I love it!  This time round it was for Dave’s 50th – Caroline had been busy organising all manner of exciting things.  Dave knew he was having a party, but he didn’t know who was playing.  For us the day started with gathering a few bits and pieces – Ella was frantically finishing off some paper cuts which were gifts for Dave and Caroline (who shares his birthday), I grabbed some food from the shops.

Caroline picked us up to go to the pre-party at their house – which meant we got to spend some time with Murphy the awesome festival hound, and have a few drinks with the gathered folk who were either staying with them or outside in camper vans – their street had become a mini festival by the looks of it!  Then it was a short taxi ride to the venue, Brennan’s in Long Eaton, where we were ushered into the function room which was stocked to the gunnels with food and people already.

IMG_2947Dave meanwhile was in the second taxi run – which gave us the opportunity to catch up with folk already arrived – and prepare to film Dave’s reaction when he walked in to see the magnificent Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican banner on display over the stage (not to mention the band themselves).  Ken had called me to ask where the venue was – when he was parked next door – and it didn’t take long to get the party underway.  The venue had a novel power system that cut out if a certain noise level was reached – with a gauge over the bar.  Luckily the sound system was plugged into the kitchen which bypassed this!


Freeborn Al / 28th February 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos / 0 Comments

Entertaining the riff-RAFA in Newark..

IMG_2926I’d ummed and aahed about heading up to Newark – a busy week left me tired, but probably infinitely predictably it proved to be a shrewd move.  A blast up the A46 just after rush hour, a parking spot outside the RAFA club for a quid and the chance to show a bit of support for Brad Dear.  What could be a better way to spend a Friday night?  With the bonus of support from Troy Foster (and Dylan, I think) from Black Rose Garden and some band called Ferocious Dog, or at least a third of them.

Arriving early meant soundchecking was underway, Tina spotted us in the car park so we headed into the venue along with her and Tim.  We’d not bought tickets as it was a last minute decision so paid on the door and into the very empty RAFA club – which has been running since 1989 raising vital funds for ex servicemen – a cracking little spot, a small stage, a bar and a surprisingly decent quality sound system (at least the end result was!) and an amusing mixing desk that looked like a gun turret.

First up were Troy and Dylan (I’m really sorry if your name isn’t Dylan!).  Troy on vocals with an acoustic guitar and Dylan on a twelve string initially that sounded a lot more like an electric guitar.  They opened with a cover of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here – one of my favourite songs, so always a good start.  The combination of picking from Troy and more of the rhythm working well together.  The next couple were original numbers which the titles evaded me – one involved the sun (or a son), the next one involved a school bus and saw the 12 string switched out for another electro-acoustic.


Freeborn Al / 27th February 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Gaz a-Maze-s us again..

IMG_2783I defy anyone to have had as fun a saturday night as we just did for the princely sum of £8.  I’ve used this kind of comment before, but the entry fee would have been good value for any one of the four acts on offer at The Maze, nestling behind The Forest Tavern on the fringes of Nottingham’s city centre.  To have basically paid a couple of quid to see each of them is frankly insulting really.  I was surprised that the crowd wasn’t a little fuller in truth, not that that detracted from a most excellent evening.

With Ella arriving in the afternoon fresh from album recording with The Leylines we headed into Nottingham to meet Paul, Sarah and Andy and attempt to find somewhere to eat that wasn’t booked up – initially attempting to fulfil a craving for barbecued food we ended up settling for the newish Handmade Burger Co in the revamped-but-still-soulless Victoria Centre – which at least was on the way up to The Maze.  The food was decent – and by the time we’d finished the grotty weather had eased up making the schlep up Mansfield Road a less traumatic prospect.

Once in the pub there were plenty of folk already assembled awaiting the venue at the back to open up, including Sam Jones who’d had an unfortunate beard over-trimming incident making him resemble someone still at school.  Haha!  It wasn’t long upon getting through to the back before Star Botherers took to the stage.  Or at least two thirds of them – Dave apparently competing in an international bingo tournament in Skegness (so Bart informed us!).  This left us with just Bart on guitar and vocals, and Brad adding percussion and backing vocals.


Freeborn Al / 21st February 2016 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments



I just spent a good ten minutes trying to think of a witty headline, and then figured – why do I need a witty headline?  Dogfest kinda speaks for itself, doesn’t it?  I certainly don’t pretend to be able to speak for it, but I’ve just breached 2,500 words trying – I’d probably better stop there!

I think this was the fourth Dogfest.  Certainly it’s the fourth Dogfest I’ve been to, and like much about Ferocious Dog related activities they illustrate a stark exponential progression – from a handful of folk rattling around the main hall of the Black Market venue in 2012 to a jam-packed room of folk, many of whom have come to be firm friends.  Plenty that’s familiar, plenty that’s grown – the only problem with that was how bloody hot the mosh pit gets in there, and the difficulty in navigating the room with tables in the middle.  Small issues with an otherwise amazing day.

It started for us at Dukeries Lodge in Edwinstowe where we set up base this weekend – breakfast was a welcome addition with Adele, Drew, Simon, Richard and Julie – whilst I might’ve overdone it more than intended at A Bit of Bothering Before Dogfest I was feeling relatively fresh.  Ella opted for a lie-in instead, and once we were about ready Becki arrived so that we could get ourselves sorted and in the car ready to head to Warsop – again, eager to get there for the start of proceedings.

We arrived in plenty of time, time to get wristbanded up, greet the countless folk also already there – and down to the stage in time for Brad Dear to open the day.  He’d got a few chaps filming some up-to-date gig footage for them – and it was great to see so many people there early and in the party spirit, I’m looking forward to seeing the footage!  Plenty of familiar songs like They SayFestival Bar Blues, Save Our Souls  and Far Away kept us all bopping and singing along.


Freeborn Al / 15th February 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

A bit of bothering before Dogfest..

IMG_2705Of course everyone was rightly excited for Dogfest the weekend just gone, but there was the small matter of a bit of ‘bothering’ for the night before.  The bargainous sum of £5 gained entry to the main hall in the Black Market venue for a nice little warm up.  I arrived in where we were staying in Edwinstowe and met up with Ella and Simon who were awaiting a bit of food, giving me time to get checked in and finish up my working week with a couple of conference calls (oh such fun!)

Once that was over and we were suitably fed and relaxed we hopped into the car for the short drive to Warsop – keen to arrive in time for the first act, easily making it in time for a marathon round of hellos before heading through to the main room.  First a word for Black Market Brewery‘s offerings – well recommended for ale lovers, after a warning from Dave (which I suspect for many would be an advert!) I steered clear of Insane but did enjoy a few pints of Illicit and Imposter, quickly putting paid to my plan of not going to mad with alcohol.

First up on stage was the inimitable Brian Stone.  He is building in confidence more and more – although taken aback at how many people had made it to the wilds of Warsop for a 6pm start.  Launching into Life Begins at 50 his set was an energetic singalong both of his own songs and an eclectic selection of cover versions like Believers by Levellers and Ward the Pirate.  Highlights for me were his own song Where is all the Rum Gone evoking memories of that campfire at Farmer Phil’s, and a raucous singalong of Gaz Brookfield’s Let the East Winds Blow to finish.


Freeborn Al / 14th February 2016 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos / 0 Comments

A cheeky little DVD teaser..

If you’ve been pondering ordering the Rock City DVD and CD or simply can’t wait to see it, Dan’s provided a nice little teaser of the start of the gig with the band launching into Gallows Justice.  The image and sound quality looks to be cracking, production should be this week or so, shipping straight after – just the thing you’ll need for the post-Dogfest comedown!

Freeborn Al / 9th February 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Videos / 0 Comments

Peace in the valleys.. not!

IMG_2678I hadn’t really got that excited about this gig, other things going on in our family meant it rather snuck up on me.  But once we’d got in the car and underway at lunchtime on Saturday I must admit I was gearing up for a good mosh, it’s been a long time since Rock City after all.  Even the increasingly awful weather and occasional aqua-planing down the roads didn’t dampen my enthusiasm.  Ella chose to use the trip to start to testing out her Go-Pro (video below), an experiment that was curtailed by a technical glitch, but shows some real promise for a fun way of documenting gigs and festivals.

Despite the rubbish weather it was a clear run through to Cardiff and a pretty easy job to get parked up and checked into our hotel.  Opting to have a bit of chill time we’d noticed the rain had stopped a bit, which was cause for optimism.  Alas, by the time we were ready to emerge it was once again pissing it down – after a bit of a wander we found (after a couple of attempts) Hopbunker.  It had been recommended to us on Facebook by fellow Hell Hounds Martin and Diane, who work there and are very proud of their bar.

IMG_2655And with good reason – just opposite the castle and down some stairs you’ll find a grotto of real ales, craft ales and ciders – but without the wanky pretentions that seem to attach to such bars in my experience.  A fun relaxed atmosphere, and just £3 a pint from a fine selection of pumps – I tried a pint of Ella (had to be done didn’t it?) a Ginger beer and an IPA whose name escapes be before switching to Reveller cider – which was lovely.  Dave and Sally arrived with us, and countless folks of a Ferocious Dog persuasion followed.  Once the Rugby was over the bar was awash with Ferocious Dog related music.  Highly recommended pub if you find yourself in Cardiff, and the urinals in the gents were a work of genius – and alas, the only thing I took a photo of in there!


Freeborn Al / 7th February 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos / 0 Comments