T’was Dogfest eve, babe..
With reports of the awful incident that caused the M1 to be closed on Friday (obviously thoughts and best wishes to everyone affected by that) I set off early to make it up to the Black Market Venue in time for us to get set up and soundchecked as we were up first for pre-Dogfest Stars Bothering on Friday. I picked up magician Tom en route – more on his awesome skills later – and mercifully was able to get to Warsop in time and get the van parked up in the car park.
We got ourselves all set up as The Star Copiers – during the soundcheck the cajón was sounding huge – I think it could’ve done with turning up a bit during the set. Alas I didn’t realise ’til it was too late, never mind! As for our set, we left feeling a bit disappointed – we dropped a sound to make sure we could fit in Merry Christmas Everyone at the end and well, we all felt like we’d made a few too many mistakes. Whilst we don’t take ourselves remotely seriously we do want to be as good as we can be!
That said, the first thing that happened when I got off the stage was to be faced by Rob who said “Al, I’m really disappointed” – I was about to concede we were a bit too, only for him to follow up with “I was expecting it to be all tuneless and rubbish!” – maybe it’s true you’re your own worst critics! Either way, we had some fun and we started distributing the CDs we’ve had made to raise money for Framework. The raffle on the night was also supporting them, not to mention the collection of food and toiletries occuring the next day too.
After us Beardy Keef put the crowd through its paces with ukuleles and kazoos – accompanied by cajon, Dave on his bass and guitar for good measure, even Bart getting in on the act too. It was great fun watching countless folk joining in to make some mighty fine sounding music. During this set we spent a big chunk of time being dazzled by Tom Roper, an excellent close-up magician – coin tricks, card tricks and bamboozling things involving him appearing to remove his little finger left us suitably confused!
The mind-reading bits were cool too – not least because it meant Michael ended up having to change the pin on his phone after it was correctly guessed! I love all that kind of stuff, you might’ve seen Tom at a Stars Bothering on Sunday too – he was telling me on the way up that he’d been experimenting with stage magic rather than close-up walking around the crowd type stuff. I hope that he’s at a few more when I next get up there! If you’re on the lookout for some magic for an event you’re organising then I’d highly recommend Tom.
The Star Botherers were up next, and either played a short set or perhaps the cider I’d been quaffing was going down a little better than I thought! Just Around The Corner kicked things off nicely followed up with Calling in Sick. I must admit by this point I’d hoped to see a bit of a bigger crowd in – however, given the implications of the traffic situation I guess it’s understandable. Star Wars Bride kicked into Bad Guys and that was the set done. Short but sweet!
The Silk Road were up next – and I’m guessing from my notes that there’s a few tracks from their soon to be released album being showcased in here – in amongst unfamiliar songs were I Don’t Care, Breaking Down the Walls, The Ancient Road and Montagu’s Harrier – I bloody love that fiddle-infused instrumental. Looking forward to getting my hands on the album, it was good to have plenty of time to natter with Tich, he’s dead excited about it, it’s at the stage where it just needs to go through the dark art of mastering.
I was excited to finally get to see Pretty Babs – aka Sam Jones, Liam Bainbridge and Brad Drury. It’s a nice development from what we’ve heard before from Sam’s bands, a full sound – energetic and gritty. Sam remains evasive as ever with song titles, although Buttons and Pennies was in there from his older canon of material, and one called Michaela. Sam manfully carried on whilst getting electrocuted my a microphone, ha! They were playing again at Dogfest too, bonus!
With hunger looming I took a quick trip to the chip shop for a cheeky kebab, upon heading back there was a bit of a party in the Purrple Peeple Eater in the car park – it seemed rude to not pop in to say hello! Back inside Last Word Dogs were filling the room with earthy folk goodness – bass, guitar, flute/penny whistle, keyboards, percussion and didgeridoo created a really rich and gently rhythmic sound – I couldn’t tell you any song titles though, but it was pretty mesmerising! They’d go down really well as a late night festival wind-down band!
Then it was time for Treebeard – guitar, bass, cajón AND bodhran and piccolo / whistles / flute made for more folky inspired stuff. I was a bit fixated on the cajón as a fledgling player – a wider than normal one with a sloped playing surface, and a strangely familiar looking player. I think that’s because it’s Joel from Blackthorn’s brother, James! He was very very good though! They kicked off with Matty Groves and then lots of other songs I’m afraid I don’t know the names of. Sounded great though.
Probably the peak of the excitement though was when a gigantic triangular three-stringed instrument was brought out (along with a russian hat!) – I’ve since discovered it is called a balalaica. Its smaller brother was wielded by another band member – basically we were taken on a bit of a world tour of folk from different regions, really engaging set. Looking forward to getting a chance to spend a bit more time getting to know Treebeard’s music.
Then it was time for the headline act – Shanks’ Pony are always a highlight – as the timings had all delayed somewhat they were going on later than planned, and with fiddler Helen due at work at 6:30 the next morning it was pretty sporting of her to carry on playing ’til 1:30! They kicked off with Poacher’s Moon and then Special Brew dedicated to Debbie who – as midnight had just been and gone – was now officially in to her birthday.
Final Breath was next, and then with Rev Hammer sadly not able to make it to Dogfest we had the treat of Down by the River O’ in homage to him. Top of the World led into Dirty Old Town and then Far From Home. I was keeping a close eye on Bob on the cajón much as I had all the other box-bangers throughout the evening – it’s at once inspiring and a bit daunting to watch folk and realise how much you’ve got to learn, but I’ve been enjoying learning so it’s all good!
Raggle Taggle Gypsy got a few folk up and dancing, but Moshpit Waltz eroded the resolve of those reluctant and soon enough there were couples waltzing their way around the dance floor. Despite probably wanting to hit the road, loud cries for an encore were heeded – amusingly Paul introduced Merry Christmas Everyone as the first instance of anyone being a Star Copier Copier since we’d picked the same song for Christmas (there’s was much better, it has to be said – even with the added ‘camel toe’ lyric!).
Delilah was their next choice for an encore of cheesy cover versions – which certainly had everyone singing along with gusto – and then Bob switched out to his bongo for White Christmas. Despite really really really probably wanting to go we managed to coax a second encore out of them – launching into Beautiful Day which took us to probably half past one in the morning. Leaving us time for a bit more chatter before heading off – for me into the freezing van in the car park – brr!
At least I’d be well sited for Dogfest in the morning though, I’d just need to fall out the door and be there! Hurrah! But more on that in the next post (probably tomorrow). A really fun evening, and a decent sum of cash raised for Framework too – the perfect warm up for a day of carnage! Well done to Bart, Dave and the rest of the team for a top night!