The West Country’s always been good to me..

Ever since I’ve got into Gaz Brookfield I’ve always harboured an ambition to see him play closer to home, particularly one of his Christmas shows.  Then they always seemed to clash with Dogfest, but this year it didn’t – so I booked tickets aaaaages ago along with a hotel and consigned it to something to be excited about.  Then Ferocious Dog announced they were playing Weston Super Mare the next day, well, I was practically there wasn’t I?  So I booked tickets and a hotel.

A support of The Leylines Duo made this doubly exciting.  Then to compound matters Nick Parker announced a full band gig at Bocabar in Glastonbury on the Friday night before – well, y’know, since we’re in that neck of the woods anyway – it would be rude not to wouldn’t it?  An extended weekend of gigging taking in some of my very favourite live performers in a last hurrah before Christmas takes over.

So Nick was up first – Ella trained to Solihull where I was working so we could hit the road to Glastonbury.  A pretty good trek down there found us at the Premier Inn, and a fully booked restaurant next door.  D’oh!  Luckily we found an Aldi nearby (there’s not a lot else!) so ended up stocking up on stuff there for something to eat before heading to the venue just over the road from the hotel.

It’s a cracking venue, as I’ve noted before, and was already starting to fill up.  With Ella struggling on a bad knee we took an uncharacteristic position where the seats were at the back of the room.  Nick had laid on no less than three support acts – first up was B-Sydes, who took the the stage armed with a guitar and his vocals to hit us with his melodic folky goodness.  Bocabar is really warm, but also sells a lot of varieties of gin, and sitting at the back is a bit weird – but the music is good!

I didn’t do very well at song titles, although This is my City and Marionettes were early in the set.  There was a really good crowd in too which is always good to see.  A trip to the bar for more gin probably rendered the next couple of songs unattainable to me even if they were revealed, but I was back in time for Wrecked VesselsThe Desperate Dance and then one to finish up which I missed the title of.  Ben is a really clever performer though – excellent guitar work and a great vocal range.

Next up was Lonely Tourist, I’ve done particularly badly at identifying any songs at all they played – possibly partly down to the gin, or that they didn’t tell me what they were – I was enjoying their bouncy rocky indie sound.  Lonely Tourist himself is Paul Tierney, a Glaswegian fella who has resettled in Bristol and claims to play ‘Beard Pop’ or ‘Pub Step’ – here I noticed Chris Webb had joined him along with a full band, it was really getting the crowd going until…

… power cut!  Some kind of spillage had shorted out the sound desk I think, so fevered working from the chap running the sound had it working soon enough, in the meantime the band were improvising with an unamplified performance in the middle of the dancefloor which was keeping the crowd entertained – soon enough the sound system was working again, and we were back to some really catchy and irresistibly foot tappy songs, many with harmonised vocals.  Excellent stuff.

The Mosquitoes were up next, hailing from Cornwall (via Columbia, allegedly!) they unleashed a set of rock and roll with a healthy slice of fun into the bargain.  I couldn’t help be reminded a bit of 90’s britpop troubadours Space (who were Liverpudlian but pretended to be Mexican).  The novelty aspect to their performance didn’t detract from the technical excellence of the musicianship though – I really enjoyed these guys.

They opened with a song about Che Guevara, then moved on to I Lost My Sombrero (which had cat and dog noises included in there).  Argentina was up next and then one from the homeland, Pablo Escobar documented one of Columbia’s most notorious drug lords and narco-terrorists.  I missed a couple of song titles, but then we had Chica China, A Town Called Malaus (I might have the spelling wrong on that!), Guacamole, a Donald Trump themed song and finally a South American Motorcycle Incident.

An excellent set – full of fun, possibly slightly over-running!

Which left Nick Parker and the False Alarms who were keen to crack on – launching into Make Yourself at Home and then I’ve Never Been to Dublin Before.  I’d actually worn by t-shirt themed for the next song Down With The Yoof but forgotten to double-denim it for the evening, I didn’t note many double-denim attendees actually!  Could We At Least Try was up next with some rather splendid harmonising from the crowd.

Departures was next and included the treat of Alison (who works at Bocabar) to join on French Horn, they then reprised their cover of Home for a Rest by Spirit of the West (which we saw at Dogfest) which sounded great again – a pity there was no John Leonard in attendance to provide some whistly goodness though!  More Like This is lyrically one of my favourite of Nick’s songs, so gently demonstrating that song subject matter that might get suggested to him isn’t the most engaging, but then he’s turned it round and made an ace song out of it.

Alison returned with her French Horn for Es Tut Mir Leid, time constraints meant to placards but they were hardly needed in this crowd to be fair!  Terry and June featured some excellent instrumental highlights for Rich, Ben and Brad (it was an in off the pink kind of evening), which left room for Metaphor and a rousing finalé of Half a Song for Suzy and The Other Half with Alison adding to the wall of sound.  It works so well live in a full band setting.  Awesome set.

A short stagger back to the hotel was in order as a DJ was striking up, we were tired so got ourselves settled for a good night’s sleep and then it was a short schlep back up north to Bristol via a lunch stop and a trip to find some crutches for Ella, as we’d read that the Bierkeller wasn’t the best venue for seats with a view of the stage.  Argos literally sell everything!  Soon enough we’d parked up in Bristol and checked into the hotel.

We opted to wait and head straight for the venue to case out good spots to settle down – there was a bit of a queue and soon enough we were in and we’d found a really good spot by the mixing desk with an elevated view over to the stage.  We had lots of familiar faces to catch up with too, Andy, Hannah, Nick and Katie settled with us in our spot – whilst Jamie, Teresa and Sean went into the melée, and loads of other friends wandered past to say hello.

In echoes of the previous night, B-Sydes struck up first – I did even worse at decoding his set list, it definitely had This Is My City in there, I bumped into Ben after the set and confessed at how shit I was at working out what he’d played.  It was great to see a healthy crowd gathered and listening though.  I could probably have blagged some of his set list from the previous night as being included, but well, that would be dishonest!  His heartfelt acoustic sound is really ace though – hoping to see much more of him next year.

I’ve fared even less well with Lonely Tourist who don’t seem to reveal song titles anyway – but more bouncy feelgood music from them got the crowd moving about.  I did note that the drummer uses a shaker a lot!  That feels like a tremendous cop out, so I resolve to make sure I see both support acts again next year and make sure I do a bit better at learning some of their song titles!

However, today was always really about Gaz Brookfield and the Company of Thieves, the atmosphere was pretty electric as they took the stage and launched into The World Spins Round and then into March of Progress.  The full band sound really is awesome, as much as I adore Gaz is solo acoustic guise.  The Diabetes Blues and its reprise was next and then The Tale of Gunner Haines, probably amongst my favourites from his new album and it doesn’t disappoint.

A blast back in time to Under the Table had pretty much the whole room with drinks aloft and swaying unprompted.  Life Begins was next and then It’s All So Rock and Roll got some deafening ‘la la’s’ with no asking.  Vehicle corner was next, Ozzy is treated with fondness for his foibles whilst an assortment of cars are scathed in Cursed.  I’ve Paid My Money might not be a necessary message on a night like this, but it’s an ace song!  Nick entered into a spot of male grooming during this apparently.

The Ferry Song brought the pace down a notched before it was ratcheted up several levels with a full throttle version of Black Dog Day (Gaz on his third guitar of the night, which Ben did the classic ‘unplug/plug in’ gag to).  Since it’s December then Getting Drunk for Christmas had an appropriate airingthen on to I Know My Place.  With time marching on we were moving into the classic ‘closers’ for a Gaz gig.

Diet of Banality was a welcome addition, I don’t think I’ve heard it for a while (I just checked, I heard it in October, but not since March before that!).  Land Pirate’s Life and then Thin (with the requisite crowd participation not even needing to be requested) saw the set proper finish, with much roaring for an encore eventually the band returned for a rousing three-song encore of Bigger ManThe West Country Song and Let The East Winds Blow.

Exhilarating set – it was great to be part of a sell-out home town gig for Gaz and the band, but it also reassured me that us Midlanders treat him very well indeed when he’s on his travels too!  There was a lot of talk of post-gig drinking but we opted for heading back to the hotel via a kebab van, both a bit knackered and conscious we had another day of shenanigans to get through!

So on Sunday we headed off to Weston Super Mare.  Our hotel check in was quite late so we found a long stay car park and went for a mooch, grabbing ridiculously large sunday roasts before entertaining ourselves on the Grand Pier (for all of about an hour) before heading back into town where Paul, Nicki, Dean and Sarah had landed so we had a few drinks and laughs before we could get checked into our hotel, and they could go get some food.

Once we were all sorted we reconvened in the Wetherspoons before heading off to the venue.  Loves Cafe is a lovely little space, with a balconied level it’s almost laid out like a really small music hall.  Definitely on the intimate scale of venue, Hannah and Nick had cunningly saved some seats mindful of Ella’s bad knee so we got settled in time for the music to get underway.

The Leylines were up first in duo form, they kicked off with Let it Go and then into Sorry My Friends.  It’s always testament to a good song that they can work stripped back like this, and they really do.  My Own Worst Enemy is my favourite of theirs and whilst it missed some of the oomph of the full band it’s still ridiculously effective.  Gentle Save Your Soul is next and the relatively new Fly Away.

Things I Know sees some broken guitar strings and a quick change, then it’s on to Hannah’s Song which still doesn’t seem to have gained a name!  In a set that seemed over all too quickly next up was Run for Cover and finally Sat in a Field, which on a cold winters evening felt like quite a far away prospect!  Excellent set though.  On a related but unrelated note I’ve just picked up Steve’s cook book in his guise as The School Chef, and it looks great – I’m looking forward to getting stuck into some recipes in the new year.

Ferocious Dog finished the night in acoustic guise, opening with Ruby Bridges and then into On The Rocks (all except Alex, who’d had his set list sabotaged – comedy gold!).  Crime and Punishment was next and then Spin (which Ken confessed to a lyric slip after, assuming I’d spotted it, which I hadn’t – ha!).  Too Late was dedicated to Nicki, this was part of a run of extended birthday celebrations for her.

Funnily enough, in such a cramped space there was no surfboard for Freeborn John, then it was on to Unconditional dedicated to the Weston food bank volunteers who were there for the evening taking donations.  A&B kept the pace more sombre, beautifully delivered – then the pace kicked up a notch for Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya and was kept high for Gallows Justice and then The Enemy Within (albeit with a dodgy intro on guitar).

A round of happy birthdays were next – Ken had asked me to record it to send to Sarah, but couldn’t see me perched precariously on the balcony – but we got there on the end.  Then we moved onto Verse for LeeThe Glass and Lee’s Tune. Back onto newer material Black Leg Miner was next, and then back to the classics with Lyla.  Ken randomly launched into a cover of Levellers’ Cardboard Box City before resuming with the set proper.

Quiet Paddy led into Hell Hounds and then Freethinker (again, Ken confessing to mistakes I never noticed – the wonder of gin!).  Mairi’s Wedding Part II led into Class War, which works surprisingly well without the chugging bass line, then it was on to Black Gold with a rousing finish of Slow Motion Suicide.  An awesome set in a lovely little venue – if you’re ever in the area (or even if not) look out for gigs here.

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