Last weekend’s gig followed a really informative day at the same venue beforehand, which is something that I might return to when I’ve had a bit more ponder time. The closest thing I have to a mining background is playing around the Gedling Colliery site as a young ‘un, and my brother’s ill-timed ambition in the mid eighties (at the age of about 4-5) of being a coal miner. And years of abuse from Yorkshire football fans for being a scab, what with being a Forest fan. The ramifications of the strike were something alien to me until it featured in my university studies – I’m not really qualified to write about it with any authority, but then of course this isn’t really a vessel of authority anyway – but it’s a topic that needs treating appropriately.
After the day’s speeches and discussion groups though some very in-theme musical entertainment was on offer – all three acts fronted by former mineworkers. First up was The Star Botherers, or well, The Star Botherer in this instance – it was Bart in solo guise who took to the stage first, unusually opting to stand up for the set. It was a big old room, bedecked with banners from the different mines around the area – heraldic, proud and defiant, much like the tone of the day – maybe it’s right that Bart was standing up!
He kicked off with Just Around the Corner, the sound in the venue was great and with the lights low in the crowd and the stage lights picking him out it was impossible not to be drawn to the performance – it was a confident one too. Of course we missed Dave but the songs and lyrics in particular cut through the room bringing plenty of smiles. If I was a Tory was always likely to go down well in this particular crowd, and it certainly did here (I’m sitting typing this whilst watching I, Daniel Blake – it feels strangely apt to be remembering Bart’s scathing lyrics whilst the film plays.
My National Trust brought the mood back to humour (of course, with an underpinning of seriousness) and then Ringing in Sick continued the dystopia masked with humour theme. He finished up his set with Star Wars Bride which had plenty of folk laughing along, Freethinker of course needed an airing given the band to follow to give him the opportunity to let the crowd hear it how it’s meant to be ( 😀 ) and then a finish of Bad Guys – a really solid set, confidently delivered and Bart looked rather like he was enjoying himself!
Next up were the increasingly excellent Parson’s Lot – every time I see them I think they get better, today was no exception. Passionate, tuneful and danceable – the sooner they get into a studio the better for my money! No Regrets kicked off proceedings followed by Bastard Beer. Much like Bart, the band really looked to be enjoying themselves on stage – I’m not sure where the virtuous circle of on stage fun and sounding great starts and ends, but one definitely feeds the other and it gets through to the crowd too.
Hurrier’s Toil tells the tale of the young children who used to work in the mines and were often treated worse than the pit ponies that subsequently replaced them. Drink Away Our Tears is a heartfelt tribute to a family member, which then mashes up straight into a rowsing cover of I Fought the Law, they finished up with a new song inspired by the Spanish Civil War – what with Jethro’s Barnsley accent and the Spanish title, I never quite caught it, it might have been the Battle of Tereul, but it sounded great – it was its first ‘proper’ outing at a decent sized gig. Cracking set.
I must admit that whilst the prospect of seeing Ferocious Dog always excites me, with the recent personnel changes I hadn’t felt quite so giddy about one of their gigs for some time. Of course I’ll miss Scott and Ellis much like it was sad to see Dave, Brad and Kyle part ways too in the past, but from enviously watching videos of the Netherlands dates and those up north the week before it was clear that they’ve found some very able replacements in Alex on drums and John Leonard on – well – on lots and lots of things!
As the intro track boomed around the room, taught with anticipation, I positioned myself by the merch desk to watch the start of the set. I wanted to take in a bit from afar before inevitably getting lured into the moshpit. Gallows Justice kicked off with John on mandolin rather than the bouzouki we’ve become accustomed too, he also stepped up for some backing vocals – but what’s immediately apparent is he never stops moving – and that on-stage energy is infectious, it’s certainly kicked the other John into action too.
It doesn’t stop there either, with instruments now wirelessly connected he can venture over to Dan and Les, or get up on the drum riser and jump off again. Before now, I’d never have considered that a Ferocious Dog performance was lacking anything – just as you might not know what you have ’til it’s gone, sometimes you don’t realise something is lacking until you witness it, and well, if you think about the pace of the music, the frenetic mosh pits – thinking about it you would kinda expect a bit of on-stage drama too wouldn’t you? Well you get it now, in spades!
Poor Angry and Young was next – John L had made a beeline over to Dan and Les, they were all dancing about together, before the mood lulled for Verse for Lee, The Glass and Lee’s Tune – at which point the pull of the moshpit was irresistible, so I stashed my glasses and e-cig behind the merch desk and made my way into the fray. On The Rocks came next before Ken introduced Crime and Punishment, only for the band to kick into Raggle Taggle Gypsy – with John L bringing something else new to the party in the form of penny whistle. It sounded great, quite quiet in the mix I thought but fits in very well with the song.
Then we did have Crime and Punishment for a spot of line-dancing, Too Late led into Freeborn John, we’d decided Rich needed to do the surfing for the night so Dean was board and I was the knee holder, he did a fantastic job of it too! Unconditional was next and then Lyla – with John L taking on Ellis’ other mantle of bellowing the song back to life part way through. You’ll note the brevity of notes during moshing – but my moshpit fitness levels were flagging (not to mention the massive curry we’d been for before weighing heavy in my belly!) so I nipped back to further back for a watch.
Criminal Justice was next, and then another old school track in Quiet Paddy again with John L adding penny whistle to the sound. During Hell Hounds Dan was up on the drum riser – unprompted, this stage galavanting is contagious! Alex was up on his stool getting the crowd going, by the time Freethinker kicked in John was up on the riser too – and finally the set came to a close with Mairi’s Wedding Part II with Dan and both John’s on the riser, culminating in what looks like a potential tradition of the John-over-John jump from the riser.
Demands were loud for an encore, and of course it was always going to come – we were treated to Marikana Massacre, and finally of course what could be an anthem for the whole event, Slow Motion Suicide made for an epic finish. A superb set, it was tough to deal with the idea of Scott and Ellis moving on – both are my mates, Ellis taking to the stage to launch into an instrumental about six years ago was the first I’d ever seen of Ferocious Dog – but by gosh, they’ve helped the band find two superb proteges to keep the good ship Ferocious Dog more than afloat.
We hung around for a while goodbying and nattering – much to the consternation of a very angry bouncer (one of whom had oddly tried to get Barry down from someone’s shoulders despite all the surfing and stacking that had gone before). Once we’d had the chance to say cheerio to everyone we adjourned to The Black Horse over the road for a few more beers, it had been a superb day. On the way out we met a random Moroccan dude called H who took a massive shine to my hoodie (which he can’t have!), then there was a trip to the bizarre but ingenious late night pie and peas shop – which was amazing.
Walking up Westgate in Wakefield on a Saturday night though was like a terrifying window into the social life I could’ve ended up stumbling into if seventeen year old Al had continued down the path he found back then. Funnily enough in the pub we’d been talking with Dean and Stu about their path into live music – I’m so grateful to have somehow found my way into that area rather than ended up patrolling around a small town drinking expensive-yet-pissy lager wearing chinos and a shirt, with a cold-as-underdressed lass in tow with eyebrows that look like they were inspired by an unconvincing drag act.