Whilst obviously disappointed at missing out on what sounded like an amazing night at Exeter (actually we only partially missed out, Laura was thoughtful enough to video call Ella during the gig so whilst the audio stream was pretty bad we had fun watching the moshpit and the band for three or four songs, including getting the chance to wave to Ken, John and Ellis and watch Dean surfing!), there was a high degree of consolation in making a return visit down to the Arlington Arts Centre just outside Newbury.
On Friday night, clearly sympathetic to my dilemma, Addie had invited Ella and I to go with him, Jane and Tommy to West Midlands Safari Park on Saturday too. Sod it, we thought – it’s practically on the way to Newbury from here so why not make a full day of it – we also considered the logistics in heading into Newbury itself after the gig to catch the end of Gaz Brookfield‘s set in The Monument. That would prove a step too far in a very long day, so sorry Gaz, the minds were willing but our bodies weren’t!
So a fun day was spent of accidental crocodiles, sea lion shows, feeding lorikeets and goats and other general animal fun – followed by the M42-in-rush-hour simulator that is the drive through safari experience. With the added danger of the fuel light coming on part way round, we were genuinely worried we might have to survive for days on a sachet of mayonnaise and some deer food the traffic was so bad – that said, we did see some wild dogs, lions, cheetahs, rhinos and assorted deer-like things before we took advantage of a shortcut to escape.
An awesome day full of laughs. The safari part was underwhelming for me (aside from the amusing company) but the park part was great. The food there wasn’t too bad either – at first I was dubious at the £7+ cost for main meals but the portions were massive and it was pretty tasty. So suitably full of food we bid farewell to the Burns family and hit the road onward to Newbury – with an ETA of 6pm it was pretty clear we were going to be really early. Much like last year I managed to cock up the last bit of the journey so had a deja vu blast up and back down the A34 before turning off to the secluded venue location.
Outside we found Leanne and Wez (“bloody hell, I thought you weren’t coming!”) before heading in to the abandoned box office, giving us the chance to just wander in to find set up underway, and Mick and Dean to chat with. Once the band had finished soundchecking (as noted on my last visit, the sound in this venue is awesome) we wandered back to the foyer to collect tickets whilst Chris, Barry, Tina and the contingent from Wales had arrived, then Dave and Sally, Mark and Caroline, Claire and Chris – it was great to meet Christina and Brian too!
Soon enough it was time for the support act to start up – there’s a tannoy in the foyer that lets you know when they’re about to start – very civilised. When I saw that The Salts were lined up to play I was hoping that it would be Dean and his brother (arf), but instead we were faced with a five piece comprising drums, banjo, mandolin, guitar and double bass (there were a few instrument swaps during the set, mind, including quite a bit of penny whistle). They promised a mix of old and new shanties, and soon had our feet tapping.
Their set was full of alternating lead vocals, harmonies, and a bit of crowd participation too – amongst the set nestled such gems as Down to South Australia (familiar to me as a Pogues track), Hanging Johnny was introduced with the inevitable condom gag, and followed by Johnny Come Down the High Road – presumably this was the prophylactic section of the set list. The drummer told a couple of truly awful jokes, we had a new genre of a funky shanty (or ‘fanty’) in Haul Away For Rosie with plenty of singalong opportunities.
Ten Thousand Miles Away introduced a theme to be picked up later by Ferocious Dog about a man deliberating getting transported to Australia to be renunited with his wife, before finishing up with a Scottish shanty Heiland Laddie. A fun set – I picked up a CD at the end which I’m looking forward to listening to – I even ended up temporarily looking after their merch stall, Ella was helping Leanne on the Ferocious Dog merch stall and busy, so I managed to sell a CD. I’ll make a salesman yet!
In between sets we encountered Ken getting set lists photocopied at reception – giving me a handy opportunity to get a photo of it before the gig to save a job for later. I nipped to grab Ella a drink as she was being kept pretty busy on the popular merch stall, as I queued at the bar the intro music kicked in – once served and drinks were delivered Ferocious Dog were just coming out, perfect timing really! I popped up the stairs into the seats in the venue to grab a couple of pictures before heading off into the fray.
Gallows Justice rang out and the mosh pit was lively but small, Dean was restricted to the sidelines with Sarah due to a poorly shoulder, I don’t like seeing him watching forlornly from the periphery! The lobster claws were out for Poor Angry and Young, before what seemed like a particularly tricky delivery of Verse for Lee kicked into The Glass and Lee’s Tune. As Crime and Punishment gave us a spot of line dancing it dawned on me with Dean out of action there was the matter of the surf, with a slightly sore back myself I basically bullied Mick into it and quickly told people. Sorry Mick!
Too Late is the cue for what’s next as as the drum and bass intro of Freeborn John kicked into life I got myself horizontal on Wez and other helping hands basically giving Mick no choice. Haha! He was worried because he wasn’t alcoholically lubricated enough and didn’t know the movements – from my vantage point he did a fine job! I’ve stolen this picture from the Facebook Group, taken by Andrew Watson, as obviously it’s a bit difficult to get a snap whilst you’re being stood on!
Ruby Bridges was up next and then Lyla. Whilst photocopying the set lists Ken said it was the wrong one, as this one had Blind Leading the Blind on it – which they played, there were a couple of slips even my musically limited ear picked up, but it’s a lovely song – and relevant as inspired by protestors protecting ancient woodlands from developers. The Newbury Bypass protests weren’t all that long ago after all! Marikana Massacre picks up the pace again for a lively thrash about the mosh pit.
During On The Rocks I noticed something I never normally spot – a percussion slip up from Scott. Slow Motion Suicide was dedicated as ever to the death of Margaret Thatcher to cheers from my vantage point. Mick went up on Wez’s shoulders, amusingly wanting to get down for the fiddle solo but Wez refusing to comply, even thwarting Mick’s attempt to dismount by leaning backwards, eventually hurling him bodily forwards before we had a chance to realise and get in a position to catch him. No harm done though!
Criminal Justice had a bit of a lyric slip but rescued very quickly, then it was Quiet Paddy and Hell Hounds to finish up the set proper. As always dedicated to Jay, but also the considerable number of ‘dog virgins’ in the audience, a healthy contingent particularly up in the safety of the seated gantry. The band left the stage to loud calls for an encore, and it didn’t take long for them to reappear for Freethinker (with a nice large circle to lure people into the mosh pit) and a finish of Mairi’s Wedding Part 2.
At the end Ella and Leanne were doing a roaring trade on the merch, so I waited until that had died down – Mick was helping with the loading of stuff, and eventually it was time to pack up everything – plenty of willing hands mucking in, that’s what’s great about the whole thing – paying punters helping out their mates get away more quickly – quietly, efficiently, not seeking renumeration or credit. Ken basically had a queue of people waiting for a moment, in the lull I helped Luanne locate the various members of the band to get her From Without vinyl signed by each of them, and soon enough we were amongst the last there.
Other lovely things, the guys checking the tickets at the venue had organised a collection amongst the staff at The Arlington Arts Centre to contribute to the Lee Bonsall Memorial Fund, the guys from The Salt gave Ella a CD for looking after their merch whilst they packed up – since I’d bought one already she gave it to Dan and Leanne. After we were finally ready to go we decided getting home via some food was our priority rather than braving the parking in Newbury Town to maybe catch the end of Gaz’s set.
A good mosh is just what my back needed – feels much better combined with the stretches Mick told me to do! Sod physio, doctors need to be referring folk to Ferocious Dog gigs! Good for the body and soul!