Another fine Dogfest!

As if Dogfest isn’t a prospect mouthwatering enough for your musical delectation, Bart runs a pre-Dogfest night to get you limbered up for what is to follow – so I decided to bash the two reviews together as a further time-saving measure (given I’ve got three gigs coming up this weekend, d’oh!).  We got ourselves up to The Black Market Venue in good time and for a mere fiver were granted entry to the back room where both stages were being utilised to put on an amazing line-up.

First up on the side stage were 3 Wise Men, acoustic mellow tunes with all three of ’em providing vocals at one point or another and well synchronised guitars.  In The Cold Cold Night was early in the set which was followed up with That’s Life.  I was really enjoying the set – especially a cover of Massive Attack’s Man Next Door which was simultaneously unexpected and delightful in equal measure – well worth getting in early doors for (not, of course, that the event started on time – arf!).

The Outlines were up next on the main stage – looking ever more confident in their own skins, launching into Waiting and filling the room with energetic grungy rock, a stark contrast to the gentle set before but just as enjoyable.  Static, She Don’t Know, Calm Down – all quickly establishing themselves as classics.  Next up was probably my favourite of theirs (for now) in Buried a Lie.  Tight backing vocals and Kyle’s distinctive voice over an unfeasibly heavy sound for three of ’em..

.. it just works really well.  A storming set was finished off with Streets of England and Vanilla Poison.  They properly rock.  On the side stage Stevie Jones and the Wildfires (or at least two of ’em!) were up next, I must admit that through no fault of their own a chunk of this passed me by with a load of folk arriving who I’d not seen for a while – although Angels and Sirens, title track from their album, did jump out through the melée to grab my attention – I’ve just spotted a cheeky download pre-release on their Facebook page so will be indulging in that later!

Back on the main stage Star Botherers lined up in four-piece format, sadly Ellis was double-booked but nonetheless they provided the kind of entertainment we’ve come to expect from them!  Ringing in Sick was up first, and second initially as Bart launched into the same song again – correcting soon after to Just Around the Corner.  With time marching on they rattled through a relatively short set – First Night Festival Fever was probably apt for some folk in the room, then One Inch Death Punch  and finally When Dave’s Dead.  Short and sweet!

Pretty Babs are another relatively new yet ridiculously tight band much like The Outlines, and they were up next on the main stage launching into Fade so Low – adding the extra guitar has really given them the extra oomph I never realised they lacked, freeing up Sam to throw in the fiddly bits without losing the rhythm elements of the guitar work on their songs.  Buttons and Pennies was up next then Up From The Floorboards.

Again like The Outlines they can effortlessly reproduce their (excellent) album sound live on stage – Cold Lake Shore and Down in the Alley were up next.  At this point Dave foolishly entrusted Mark and I with the remote control for the smoke machine, haha – sadly it was nowhere to be seen on stage the next day when we were performing!  The set was finished up with Don’t Step on the Moor – stormingly good set, even if they have a silly name!

With time marching on and an early start the next day we’d already resolved we needed to regrettably make our escape – not before catching the start of Black Thorn striking up on the side stage though – they played Psychic Sally and Vin Rouge as we started a round of goodbyes, heading out the door as they played Coffee.  Gutting – and particularly gutting to miss Les Carter and Headsticks who followed, but we had a long day and an early start to contemplate and with hindsight definitely the right decision!

So after a good night’s sleep we drove back to Warsop – we’d been summoned there by soundman Phill to soundcheck at 11am sharp.  Unfortunately the hosts were still busy fiddling with their own soundcheck (amusingly John Leonard soundchecked his vocals to ‘The Littlest Hobo’ soundtrack).  That meant for a slight delay in the doors opening and our set starting, but once we’d got ourselves sorted with Phill the doors were opened and the queue (yes, queue!) of people started meandering in.

Mindful of time Kev introduced us and we rattled straight into it – and I think it went pretty well!  Having been to Dogfest every year since it started in 2012 it was really special for me and I’m sure my bandmates to be playing it on the main stage, the stage I first saw Ferocious Dog all those years ago, and thanks to them I met everyone in The Star Copiers.  One minute we were playing to a largely empty room, I next looked up and it was surprisingly full!

We opened with Down Under and then into Nights in White Satin (I always love the excuse to jangle the ol’ chimes!), then into I Still Believe.  Issac took guitar duties from Kev for Too Late, then we were on to Sunday Girl our new song (although we did play it at Kev’s house party to be fair, but a first fully public airing).  Tiny Ugly World was dedicated to Rich and Julie who were in the crowd, then with time pressure mounting we managed to finish up our set with Mairi’s Wedding Part III before final track Fifteen Years with Les Carter joining us for some tambourine action on stage – which was probably more of a thrill for us than it was for him!

Once we’d finished it was time to get packed down – this takes a surprisingly amount of time faffing around (have you ever tried to get a rack of chimes back into their box? Nuisance things!), soon enough everything was boxed or bagged up and I’d taken it back to the car strategically parked at the back of the venue.  Our next stop was the nearby Plough for a spot of Christmas lunch (well, that was the occasion – the food wasn’t on theme but plentiful and delicious!).  It was nice to decompress for a while before heading back.

We caught the end of Folk the System who’d also had Les on stage with them over the course of their set.  It was over all too soon though and Phat Bollard were limbering up on the main stage – I’d read/heard that they prefer to play without amplification, but it works so well as it did at Wistful Festival – they are talented songwriters and musicians, pretty much all of them provide vocals along with a myriad of instruments.  Excellent performers – the only song title I know is Millionaires, though!

On the side stage The Leylines were setting up – I must admit I was already flagging, despite not drinking, and took advantage of my artist wristband to head up to the balcony so I could sit and watch.  The soundcheck / set up had a few issues so a shorter set but still thoroughly enjoyable – Hannah’s Song opened but with little violin in the mix they mixed up to Save Your Soul whilst the sound guys leapt to action to resolve the issues.

Fly Away was up next and soon enough that wonderful soaring fiddle sound was back int he room.  Queen and Country elicited its usual empassioned response from the crowd, and an all too short set was drawing to an end with Run for Cover which was expertly morphed straight into final track Sat in a Field.  I love it when bands do that, don’t know why – we are going to have to work into a seamless transition like that, I think!

Recharged suitably it was back downstairs to the main stage for Gaz Brookfield who had Ben Wain with him for company.  He was – as ever – on astonishingly good form.  It doesn’t matter how many times I see him, he always blows me away.  Diabetes Blues was up first and then March of Progress.  The crowd fed off his positive energy and that in turn fuelled him and the perpetually grinning Ben – they just looked like they were having so much fun!

The Tale of Gunner Haines led to a drinks-aloft singalong for Under the Table, then onto Life Begins and The Busker Song.  Dotting between older songs and those from his latest album, It’s all so Rock and Roll was up next, and Dogfest didn’t disappoint on the ‘la la la’s’ at the appropriate moment.  A vehicular themed section saw us hear Ozzy and Cursed back to back, and since it’s December now Getting Drunk for Christmas is an appropriate and welcome addition to the set!

All good things must come to an end though, and he saved a kinda traditional by now run of four songs to finish up with Land Pirate’s Life led into Thin with its associated crowd participation lustily adhered to, Bigger Man had a big portion of the room singing along to word for word before the final crowd-participation number Let The East Winds Blow finished up a bloody excellent set.  The crowd needed no prompting to perform their part of the song!

Brad Dear was up next in full band guise on the side stage, and I was back ensconced in my idyll watching from on high.  Brad looks to have got a new electric guitar, he opened up with Sail Away (I think that’s what it’s called, it’s a newish one) and then into Circles and Roundabouts.  One of the as-far-as-I-know-as-yet-unnamed new songs was up next, then it was on to Far Away.  They all looked like they were really enjoying it, especially Lizzie bopping away whilst playing fiddle!

Save our Souls got the crowd moving with its punchy energy, then the pace was brought down a notch with Billy Brown.  EP title track The Only Road I Know picked up the pace again, before Special Brew unleashed a substantial conga line started by Tim but surprisingly ultimately being led by Mick!  The brought the set near to a conclusion – tthere was just time for I’m Still Here to finish off.  Quality stuff – Brad and the band are recording an album in the new year which I’m really excited about!

It’s been a while since I’ve seen Hobo Jones & the Junkyard Dogs who were up next on the main stage – they opened in suitably irreverent style with Fat Bottomed Girls in their own skiffly style, then into Zepplin’s Rock n Roll.  They went back to their own material for One Night Only next, then back to covers with I’m a Believer.  Frontman Hobo Jones was full of humourous banter between songs – and being very mean to Wino Tyrone, it has to be said!

A parody of Coldplay’s Yellow (re-themed around Tyrone’s pants) was up next, then Maty drew level with Les on stage appearances for The Riverflow with his bodhran.  American Idiot was next then the spectacularly post-watershed Country Boy.  Should I Stay or Should I Go and then Ace of Spades were given the Hobo treatment before a rousing finale of One Way and Fairytale of New York.  I still don’t understand how a tea-chest bass works but I kinda want one!

On the side stage Nick Parker and the False Alarms were set up and ready to go nearly from the off, so kicked off a little early.  Make Yourself at Home was up first and followed up with I’ve Never Been to Dublin Before.  No sound issues here, it was sounding awesome and a big crowd amassed infront of the stage.  Down with the Yoof was followed up with the crowd being set up as a choir for I Guess I’ll Never Know – it shouldn’t work, but it really does!

John Leonard was invited up on stage to play some whistly things for a simply lovely cover of Home for a Rest.  It was pretty impromptu making it all the more impressive.  Es Tut Mir Leit was next along with some young placard holders – holding canvas subtitles they’d decorated themselves over the course of the week since Nick was up at Kev’s, they were later auctioned to raise money for The Lee Bonsall Memorial Fund.

Ode to Marburg got another rare UK airing in the space of a little over a week – charmingly reworded to reference Warsop at the end (had Nick not thrown that little tweak into a rehearsal then Ben would’ve probably ended up in Worksop so doubly good!).  Terry and June was up next (it was an in off the pink kinda night), and the set wound down with Metaphor and Half a Song for Suzy mashed straight into The Other Half.  Nick is always a highlight at any event and this was no exception – he and the band were on fire.

With the number of Carter t-shirts in the crowd Jim Bob was clearly a big lure in bringing a lot of people to the day.  I think I’ve written on here before that Carter USM kinda passed me by in the day, I was aware of them but never got into them.  So I’m going to be pretty crap at song titles I’m afraid – however, watching Mark, Nicki and Paul looking on enraptured along with a big chunk of the crowd was quite lovely to be fair.

I think Is Wrestling Fixed? opened up the set and Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere followed.  In between songs he was bantering with the crowd and looked like he warmed into the performance. A Prince in a Pauper’s Grave was after one I missed the title of, followed up by Every Time a Churchbell Rings.  Next up was Billy’s Smart Circus and then the next one that I missed the title of but was apparently themed on food technology!

Shopper’s Paradise was followed up with After the Watershed (a track made famous by that infamous Smash Hits performance that featured Les rugby-tackling Philip Schofield – it was also subject to legal action from The Rolling Stones!), next up was Angel Strike then a rendition of The Wheels on the Bus oddly!  The Only Living Boy in New Cross was up next, and then a cover of Inspiral Carpets’ This is How it Feels.

Despite repeatedly claiming Les (or Fruitbat I suppose for this performance) wasn’t going to join him, sure enough he did – taking Ken’s guitar and joining his old partner for Sheriff Fatman.  The excitement in the room was palpable, and even for this uninitiated onlooker who felt a bit like he was gatecrashing a special moment it was really quite moving and a great finalé for the set.  That put Les 3-2 up against Maty and he hadn’t even done his main set yet!

As all the acts were on the main stage now it was raffle time on the side stage – raffle draws are always shambolic, but a lot of tickets had been sold and eventually all the prizes were claimed (and as ever I won nowt, although we did mishear one number and thought we had!).  Russ claimed the set list we’d donated much to his delight (although Mark, Jacquie, Kev and Jamie wanted to win it!).

Once that was over Mad Dog Mcrea struck up on the main stage with Mad Dog Coll.  Pound for pound they are one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen, I never ever tire of them.  A Longer Road was up next and then Heart of Stone – inexplicably Pikki initially providing services as a dancer on stage (and backing vocalist by the end once Mick had lowered his mic stand for him, haha!).

Johnny No Legs is in the mental top four songs that make for a perfect gig from them and it was up next, then Climb a Hill, followed by a properly slow-burned start for the soaring instrumental Curly Whirly Jig.  Devil’s Cauldron was followed up with Whiskey Moon and then that newish one that I can never remember the title of (sorry!).  The Butterfly dropped the pace a notch ready to run into an all too soon finish.

Pikey Killed my Goldfish is another of my top four (as is opener Mad Dog Coll) so I was already in a glass three-quarters full situation, the set drew to a close with Happy Bus and finally Am I Drinking Enough.  Astoundingly talented performers, my only quibble was missing out my fourth of the absolute favourites which is Black Fly, but well, that’s a small quibble in the grand scheme of things really, isn’t it?

Which meant it was time for Ferocious Dog to finish up the show – once they’d got themselves set up the intro music was soon booming and the room looked incredibly full all of a sudden (it had most of the day, to be fair – but I suppose this was the set nobody was going to miss!).  Gallows Justice launched in, John L had a few sound issues which looked like it was caused by him unplugging himself but it was quickly resolved as one of the crew dash on to stage to sort it.

The intro for Poor Angry and Young had a Dan improvised intro whilst John was being sorted out, and then it was on to On The Rocks – I’m really glad that’s snuck its way back into sets!  Ruby Bridges had a lyric slip (we fought in demonstrations?!), and then it was on to Crime and Punishment.  I do like to watch FD from afar occasionally, there is an almost irresistable pull to the mosh pit but I resisted this time to watch – it looked lively in there though!

Spin upped the energy levels and then Verse for Lee gave a pause before The Glass and finally Lee’s Tune whip the crowd back into a frenzy.  There was a proposal from Jeff to Karen in the aftermath of this before Too Late (I’ve made a note of John having issues again, but I can’t for the life of me remember what they were – we were too far away for our heckles of ‘bring on Issac!’ to be heard though!).

Freeborn John struck up and Mick was hoisted as a board and Dean surfed – there was a bit of a foot slip but an otherwise impressive performance considering his advanced stage of drunkeness!  Unconditional had the child friendly lyrics, then a moving rendition of A&B gave Ken a voice break, as did an incredibly empassioned A Place I Want to Be from Les – with a lyrical tweak at the end (I took back my space / get off my face) – I think that might’ve been quite cathartic!

Lyla was up next – Big T did the roar without the aid of a microphone, and we could hear him loud and clear right at the back of the room on the balcony!  Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye really gets the crowd moving, The Enemy Within (announced as Enema again – arf) had a false pause in there but was dealt with smoothly, soon enough we were onto the home straight for the set – Quiet PaddyHell HoundsFreethinker (huge circle!) and Mairi’s Wedding Part II are the traditional set finishers.

Of course, there’d be an encore though – I thought there’d just be the predictable final song, but just as Stu and I were remarking they’d not played Black Gold that was the very song they struck up with next, ludicrously catchy and a great opening track for The Red Album.  Then the booming reggae vibe of Class War filled the room much to my delight – I fucking love that song – before a final rousing track of Slow Motion Suicide.

Considering the length of the day, the calibre of other acts and the fact that the band had been mingling with the crowd all day an absolute triumph to have put in such an epic set – Dan had even been back to his t-shirt printing unit to run off more t-shirts and hoodies which were in high demand on the day (still blows my tiny mind to see my band on there amongst such amazing company!).  We hastily goodbyed folk and headed off to the car, dropping Jacquie off on the way home.

It’s amazing to think how far Dogfest has come from 2012 when it felt like there were about 30 of us rattling around that massive room – a nice metaphor for the rise of the band in that time too – and by gosh isn’t it thoroughly deserved?  I’ve not even mentioned the food bank collection, the fundraising for both the Lee Bonsall Memorial Fund and the Hunt Saboteurs that took place too.  Just an excellent day in every way.

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