Entertaining the riff-RAFA in Newark..
I’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.
Back into familiar territory a cover of Neil Young’s Hey Hey My My which for me is now always perpetually associated with the Sons of Anarchy soundtrack. They finished up their set with a mash-up of Nirvana songs – always going to go down well in my book – with Polly blending into Lithium into About a Girl then Come as you Are, Pennyroyal Tea, Where Did You Sleep Last Night and then finally Smells Like Teen Spirit. It was amusing to note the increasingly grungy stance of both performers finishing up with full on hair-over-the-face hunched standing.
A cracking set to get us started – really enjoyable. Bookending it with Pink Floyd and Nirvana was always going to prove a winner with me, in truth, but the orignal songs were punchy and melodic too. I dimly remember seeing Black Rose Garden at Deerstock last year although I suspect it was only fleetingly. I shall keep an eye out for future opportunities though, they’re only from Southwell so there’s bound to be local opportunities to see them some more.
Meanwhile the Ferocious Dog posse had arrived – they were next up and took a bit of time to get set up with Dan’s fiddle box of tricks taking a while to get right. Once they were ready it was a nice mixture of a familiar set list and some surprises thrown in. Gallows Justice started proceedings as is customary and unusually for an acoustic incarnation Poor Angry and Young kept its usual second spot leading into Living on Thin Air – Ken immediately apologising in advance for forgetting some of the (admittedly many) words – he didn’t do too badly even if the third verse got two airings in place of the second – ha!
A Verse for Lee gave its usual pause for reflection leading into The Glass. There was a fair crowd gathered and a bit of light-hearted nearly-moshing. Unconditional was up next and then Freeborn John. Definitely not enough of us to consider a surfboard and mercifully the omission of Too Late which was written on the set list threw Tim’s nefarious plans to lift me on his shoulders. Mwah ha ha! Marikana Massacre was up next which again proved a lyrical memory struggle.
Then we got the nice surprise of seldom-heard-of-late Blind Leading The Blind thrown into the set – hugely resonant with today’s political climate, then On The Rocks took us into Slow Motion Suicide. The stripped down two-piece sound doing nothing to take away from the spine tingling fiddle solo at the end from Dan. Ken dedicated the song to Jeremy Corbyn, a politician who obviously resonates strongly with Ken’s (and mine, to be fair) values – qualifying it by pointing out even if folk might not agree with him, at least there’s a viable alternative on offer to the dirge of centre-right airbrushed politicians.
Criminal Justice led into Quiet Paddy (which Ken told me after is his favourite song to play – taking him ‘somewhere else’ while it’s underway. Hell Hounds was dedicated to Jay as ever leaving us with Freethinker and finally Mairi’s Wedding Part III making a last-minute substitution for its predecessor – Ken again worrying about remembering the words to a song he’d not done for a while, but in this case he didn’t slip up at all – it’s a spellbinding song so always great to get the chance to hear it live.
Another nice surprise for the evening was when a young lad called Alex took the stage with a guitar he’d borrowed – and belted out a cracking cover of Noel Gallagher’s Girl With X-Ray Eyes. What amazing confidence from this fella, he made a point of thanking everyone from the chap organising the event, the chap whose guitar he borrowed and Brad for the opportunity, really charming to see – and a cracking performance to boot. I’m sure he’s got a musical future ahead of him if he keeps up the hard work he’s clearly already put in!
Now to say Brad Dear was the headline act they had a relatively short set – launching into his trademark tales of wanderlust it began with I’m Still Here before a guitar change to the telecaster for They Say and Festival Bar Blues. Despite some of the set up wobbles earlier by now the sound in the venue was really really good – and the band were on top form. So Far Away took us into Billy Brown followed by Save Our Souls. With a nice new logo (including on the drum kit) and a new range of merch, hopefully this will see a glut of Brad gigs to come.
The set continued with Walls (which we always joke is about sausages – because we’re really funny like that), Long Road Home and then finally Special Brew which led to the customary ridiculous conga-line – which at least did a good job of luring / coercing / dragging more people to the front, not least Kenny who was caught up in about the third pass. A great reaction from the crowd coaxed an encore out of the band – which was the frankly anthemic Circles and Roundabouts.
A wonderful set capping off a splendid evening – a chance to spend time with many familiar faces but also catch up with folk I’d not see in a while like Steve and Di. I’m definitely glad to have mustered the energy to get myself roused to spend such a fun evening out