A cheesy escapade to see Gaz in Ashby..

Last night was a landmark gig – one I could taxi to and from to home, woo!  Gaz Brookfield has made Ashby-de-la-Zouch an annual stop for his tour, and generally it centres around someone’s birthday – and features the patent-pending Ashby ‘cake break’ in between two sets.  Being so close Dave and Andy came over to stay, both armed with cheese (hurrah!) for a late night snack once home, some of the cheese in the sealed Tupperware box Dave brought so powerful it even broke through the airtight seal to make the house smell of, well, bum! Haha!

A taxi was duly arranged and into Ashby we headed – a quick cash point trip and we spotted an alluring micropub opposite the venue for a cheeky pint, before heading on over to the Bulls Head – a really nice traditional pub on the high street, to find it full of very familiar faces.  Best of all, they had cider from the same stockist that the amazing Scrumptiddly Cider Bar of Rockstock and Barrel fame on offer – rhubarb initially which once emptied was replaced with mango (whether it was a godless mango or not wasn’t specified).  Either way it kept me very happy for the night!

As gig time approached Jamie took to the mic to introduce ‘the marvellous Gaz Brookfield’ – a fitting accolade, but as Gaz pointed out, people probably shouldn’t expect a magic act from him – arf.  With such a friendly familiar crowd it was a very relaxed feeling performance which is always a pleasure to bear witness to – he launched into Solo Acoustic Guy, including amusing echoing on the ‘a touch of reverb if ya like, like, like, like, like’ line.

Like before, he was apologetic about playing songs from the new album – probably at least vaguely aware that the bulk of the room had already heard them, learned them and were more than happy to sing along to them – March of Progress was one of those, but he determinedly mixed them up with older tunes too, Diabetes Blues was next and then back to the new album, The Tale of Gunner Haines is definitely one of the new songs that translates particulary well to solo acoustic mode.

Under the Table produced some awesome singing along by the end.  During It’s All So Rock and Roll I was conscious that with limited photo opportunities it’d be good to nip outside and take a photo in the pub.  The crowd clocked me doing it and it might’ve put Gaz off a bit, oops!  I remembered after that that this song has a great ‘la la’ bit so dashed back in to get a good vantage spot to bellow it at the appropriate moment and get the crowd singing it back unprompted – I needn’t have bothered, they were already well and truly on it!

Apparently the fourth time that’s happened for that song now!  It must be a lovely feeling to be the artist to have a new song properly ‘validated’ (for the want of a better term) by a crowd.  Towns was up next before Gaz’s heartfelt tribute to Loudon Wainwright III (“the only love song I’ve ever written”) made a welcome addition to the set list, LW3 isn’t one I hear too often live – he followed it up with a rare cover version of one of Loudon’s songs, Road Ode which went down very well.  Andy was Facebook-live streaming this one, which prompted Nick Parker and Gaz’s pledge to include an Alan Partridge quote in their sets – Gaz opting for shouting ‘Dan! Dan! Dan!…’ (etc) towards the phone.

Life Begins finished up the first half, which saw the cakes come out for the infamous cake break (cake was presented to Teresa, Dave and Caroline on stage) although for Dave and I (along with Dave and Caroline) we re-appropriated it to be a kebab break from the takeaway over the road.  It was filling but not delicious, but it did the job I suppose!  Back inside it was great to catch up with so many people – but particulary Ian (and Lynne of course!) who’s had a tough time lately and it’s great to see him back out and about, even without his customary glass of cider.

Which brought about the second half – Man of Means kicked things off and then Ozzy the van got a look-in to kicked off the vehicular and navigation portion of the set, so Ozzy got quite a nice airing full of fondness and accepting of occasional faults – to be followed up by Cursed with no fondness whatsoever from the many cars Gaz has had in his life and apparently hated them all – ha!  Maps was next which again is one I’ve not heard live for a while so that was a welcome return.

The Ballad of Elizabeth Duke followed, and then back to the new album with the increasingly anthemic I Know My Place.  He was clearly in throwback mood though, I don’t think I’ve heard Diet of Banality for ages, Four Chords and the Truth of course actually has five chords in it – then it was onto the home straight for definite Gaz anthems of Land Pirate’s Life and finishing up the set proper with Thin.  The response from the crowd was pretty damn loud, so an encore was kinda inevitable – and very welcome indeed.

He started it gently with The Ferry Song from the new album – before hitting the crowd with Be The Bigger Man and finishing up with an epic singalong of Let the East Winds Blow with a very appreciative crowd.  A fabulous (or marvellous?) set in a lovely venue with wonderful people – a top way to spend an evening, long may Gaz’s traditional trip to Ashby remain an annual tradition – cake break and all!  Happy birthday to Teresa too, which is today.

We were home and braved the ‘bum cheese’ – but alas it was a bit too much bum and not enough cheese, luckily there were plenty of other cheesy offerings which were very palatable, although the camembert-like one we decided to bake didn’t go tremendously well.  It was a fun and civilised way to end the evening though before heading off to sleep, and the hangover this morning wasn’t too bad either – bonus!

Of course today, the third of March, is obviously a day of significance to Ferocious Dog too – the anniversary of the day that Lee Bonsall put his wine glass down to leave us for eternity, so tonight I’m sure fans of the band all around the country and beyond will be raising a glass to his memory tonight.   On a happier note Ferocious Dog have also today been confirmed as a main stage at at this year’s Beautiful Days Festival.

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