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 Say, Festival Bar Blues, Save Our Souls and Far Away kept us all bopping and singing along.
But the end of the set with Special Brew was pretty special – Andy had brought four cans of the songs’ namesake which foolish me decided to drink one of, talk about taking it steady rapidly going out the window with that as your first drink of the day. There was a massive conga line going round the Black Market venue, and still time for him to finish the set off with Circles and Roundabouts. A great way to get the party started. Much like with the night before though, the music was relentless and with switching between two stages even more so.
In no time at all it was time for Star Botherers on the second stage. The pitfalls of the room layout made it difficult to get a good vantage spot as folk had already mustered in the narrow gap between the tables and side stage, but no matter – once the vocals were turned up a bit on the sound desk they treated us to their folkish skifflish storytelling, Hubble Shuffle took us into Star Wars Bride, then One Inch Death Punch and Just Around the Corner. I think there was a new song (at least to me) snuck in there, before Bad Guys and Freethinker to finish off. At some juncture I ended up getting smeared with glitter (thanks Jenny!).
Next up on the main stage were The Afterdark Movement, I’ve been listening to a bit of their recorded stuff after meeting Bru-C at the pre-Rock City rehearsals and appreciating his addition to Freeborn John, I fancy the bass in the mix was a little bit too high but a really enjoyable set and nice to have some real variation in musical style – a kind of fusion of rock, reggae and hip hop for want of a more accurate description. As a relatively new artist to my listening list I’ve not done brilliantly at getting song titles though (or not done it at all, ha!).
Then t’was the much more familiar Maelor Hughes over on the side stage, as ever he balanced his melodic and intricate guitar work with clever lyrics and catchy melodies – highlights in particular for me were Morning Sun (my favourite of his, to be fair), Better Day, Fight With Me, a raucous cover of Levellers’ The Boatman finishing up with Big Golden Pot and then his Lancashire anthem Milltown Boy (with a bit of Gaz’s Let the East Winds Blow (or North winds, in this case!) thrown into the mix).
We decided at this juncture to head over to the chip shop for food which was already heaving – despite ordering what I thought would be a staple thing what they had ready it turned into the longest wait in the world for some kebab meat and chips. With no food to be taken into the venue we ate it outside which was pretty cold. We got back in time to catch most of Headsticks set – stand out tracks for me being This Dog Will Have Its Day and some wonderful rabble-rousing in the form of What Do You Want.
Next up on the side stage were Blackballed – I’ve got a lot of love for them, yet they never seem to have merch when I see them (they did apparently, but hadn’t put it on the merch stall – damn!) so I’ve never picked up a CD from them, which I’d really like to – because I have no idea what their songs are called, but I know I like them! Groovy rock with a whole lot of attitude, sharp dressing and hats. What’s not to like? They went down extremely well with the crowd – again I fell foul of not-being-able-to-get-closeness so opted to watch from afar. Still thoroughly enjoyable though!
I’d been excited about finally getting to see The Outlines. Kyle is obviously familiar to us from his guise as a guitarist (and one-song-singer) for Ferocious Dog, his own band are one I’m familiar with through their album – and this translates pretty well to the live experience. Fast-paced and frenetic punk with rasping vocals and a fulsome sound for a mere three piece, by this point I’d had a few beers and jägers – but I do remember jumping about to Vanilla Poison and I’m pretty sure I heard Sound of Rain in there too – great set, definitely looking to be seeing them again very soon.
Next on the side stage were Super Fast Girlie Show, I hadn’t heard much of them and must admit that much of their set I was either outside or nattering – not what I expected just from the name, an energetic three piece rock outfit that looked anything but girly, two of them had beards! It sounded good though from my assorted vantage points quite far from the stage. The first real victim of the length of the day – with the best will in the world it’s a long slog to fully appreciate the full offering at an event as relentless as Dogfest!
Dirty Vertebrae were up next on the main stage – I was keen to see these having missed them at Deerstock sleeping off a massive roast dinner from Nana’s Kitchen (totally worth it, even though the band are cracking). Highly energised stage performers delivering what I can only describe as rock hop. A fusion of high paced rock with hip hop. Two be-dreadlocked singers marshall the crowd whilst the band back them brilliantly with rhythm and tone – cracking performers, I’m looking forward to the next time.
By this point we’d clocked the need to get to the side stage early if you wanted a spot near the front – and with The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican up next we did just that. Rather than their usual intro tape they’d got a Kraftwerk style one, and were resplendent in red shirts and black ties rather than the usual lurid knitwear (tuck your shirt in though, Björn!) – leading neatly into She’s From Dodworth. Eager to get through as many songs as they could it was light on the usual banter and a lot of songs – no complaints here, time was short! Massage in a Brothel was followed up with Fight for Your Pint. Nandos led into crowd-pleaser (If I could punch a face, it’d be) Justin Bieber’s.
Ella had been particularly excited by the prospect of her mum Becki seeing the Bar-Stewards for the first time so it was funny watching her anticipating the songs then watching for her mum’s reactions – Lady in Greggs seemed to do the trick, leading into the frankly hilarious Since You’ve Been Ron (with a very swift version of Alan’s story!), The Devil Went Dahn t’Barnsleh led into a raucous rendition of Levellers’ Riverflow leading to an encore of Jump Arahnd including the obligatory crowd-surf by Scott to and from the bar well executed. Awesome set – really properly got the party swinging and guffaws aplenty. I did miss The Zipper, though!
Oh, we saw the lesser-spotted Andy Doonican too on guitar and bass. That was a bonus!
Whilst I’d been looking forward to Hobo Jones and the Junkyard Dogs we retained our spot by the side stage to watch them, as a certain someone was a bit overly excitable about the next act on there. Over on the main stage a riotous cacophony of skiffle punk was underway – in between chatting with the setting up Leylines I took in another interpretation of Riverflow, The Ace of Spades and a raucous encore of One Way which as always goes down very well with an appreciative crowd.
The Leylines took to the side stage and fully justified their growing reputation round these parts – launching into Let It Go it was an all out assault of songs that are strangely familiar considering that – EP tracks aside – I’ve only heard them a handful of times. My Own Worst Enemy followed then Save Your Soul (Addie got his group hug as well – he finds that song quite emotional!). Instrumental foot-stomper Stone Circle was next leading into You’ve Changed – dedicated to ‘that’ member of the family most have (not that I think ours has one – which worryingly means it might be me, according to Steve!).
He movingly introduced For Queen and Country by decrying the politics surrounding where our armed services are sent to war, and their subsequent treatment upon returning to civilian life, dedicating it to Lee Bonsall. The mood was picked up with Sorry My Friends then proper anthem Sat in a Field – evoking what feels the ever closer arrival of festival season. Things I Know was next then Ella joined them on stage to provide backing vocals for Run for Cover. So efficient was their time-keeping (or could it be Ferocious Dog were late setting up on the main stage? 😉 ) that we got a bonus song dropped from the set list The Reasons.
An awesome set – I think it was my favourite of the day in truth, along with the main one of course! In the meantime over by the main stage the big curtains had been drawn closed and folk had started gathering in anticipation. I’d stashed my hoody and filled its pockets with breakables like my e-cig and most importantly my glasses (ha!). I hung back a little as is customary to grab a pointlessly blurry photo of Ferocious Dog before joining the fray at the front. The intro music came through the system and then the curtains drew back to reveal the band set up in front of a banner of Lee Bonsall.
Gallows Justice kicked off the set as is customary, Andy had strapped a Go-Pro to his chest so should have some interesting ‘mosh-cam’ footage – something I’ve always thought would be an interesting experiment – watch this space! The tried and tested set list held firm with Poor Angry and Young leading into A Verse for Lee, The Glass and Lee’s Tune. Crime and Punishment. Unconditional gives a little mosh break with Too Late following – Nicki up on Paul’s shoulders, Dean getting Paul onto his for the first tower of the day.
Then for the bass-intro to Freeborn John, Dean and I had already discussed arrangements – we wanted Richard to be the surfer, as Too Late finished I barged my way over to him to get him in position, Dean got himself horizontal and we hoisted Rich on to him for an impressive job! He even got the benefit of the extended version of the song – with Bru-C on the premises the rap section was back, and I must admit, it really does make the song better for me – which I didn’t think it was possible, it’s my favourite Ferocious Dog song by far.
The temperature was rising and a few times I had to sneak out to get water – Ruby Bridges, Marikana Massacre were followed by Slow Motion Suicide, by now back in the mosh pit trying to stop people barging Dean who had Leanne up on his shoulders. On The Rocks, Criminal Justice then Quiet Paddy – it wasn’t getting any cooler, another tactical withdrawal to watch the remainder from afar – a novel experience but well, it had been a long day so I got to see Hell Hounds, Freethinker and Mairi’s Wedding Part II with my glasses back on! Ha!
After the gig a lady was looking for a handbag – luckily enough I overheard her, I’d retrieved a handbag from the floor of the mosh pit and put it on the stage, where it was still even after the clear up was well underway so I was able to reunite her with it much to her relief. Whilst everyone came down a bit gradually we started goodbyeing our way around the room – as much as the music is the feature of what I write about, it’s these folk that are the real reason that I’m drawn to this scene. Amazing people.
I’ve been going through some real shit times recently, and those kind words really do mean a great deal – other lovely friends are going through difficult situations too, and it’s a privilege to be able to offer a supportive word even if you can be no tangible help. Intangible help helps too, you know? But to see people able to momentarily forget their concerns and get lost in a moment of music, laughter or just good times with friends – that’s what these bonds we’ve all forged is really about, and I thank you all the part you play in it.
Bloody hell that was soppy wasn’t it?
An eventless journey back to the hotel saw us retreat exhausted to bed – resisting Dave and Caroline’s invitation to a ‘gincident’ back at their van. Breakfast this morning was surprisingly okay, Simon had already gone but Ella, Becki and I tucked in before heading on our way, amusingly I followed Wez on his way back from Warsop for a good while, I doubt he noticed though, before getting home and starting to prepare to get back to reality for a while again. Dogfest was an absolute triumph – huge hats off to all the organisers, acts, the sound guys, Dave, Colleen and their team.