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..

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Freeborn Al / 13th December 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

The Red Album is no red herring..

I remember when From Without came out I wrote about that difficult second album – the original Ferocious Dog self-titled album was a canon of years of built up song-writing, and a lifetime to date of experiences to draw upon for subject matter.  Subsequent works are always gonna deal with less life back-history, and with more weight of pressure.  But well, I feared in vain – From Without was an undoubted triumph – so I should’ve learned really and not worried about The Red Album, but still, you just can’t help it can you?

I’d heard bits and pieces of live performances, rough cuts and sneaky peeks, but hadn’t heard the final product in earnest ’til Dean popped it on the minibus on the way to The Netherlands last weekend, and even then the excitement of our impending trip (or desperation of Mark’s bladder situation as we blasted into Hull right up against the deadline for the ferry) meant that it probably wasn’t the environment to really sit and take it in.  Luckily when I arrived back from the trip it was waiting for me on my doormat so I’ve quickly been familiarising myself with it, and by gosh, they’ve only gone and done it again.

Unlike From Without, which was an expensive endeavour in a swanky studio with recognised producers and masterers, the band have looked closer to home and recorded it at Electric Bear Studios under the watchful eye of Phill Wilbraham.  Having seen Phill at work he does more than just record tracks and choose levels, even in the couple of hours I spent in the studio he was making lyrical suggestions and tweaks, and extrapolating the logistics in rendering recordings that would be replicable on a live stage.  He’s a clever guy, and the quality of the recording is a real testament to his skills.

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Freeborn Al / 24th November 2017 / Band, Music, Other Bands

Groovers on manoeuvres..

Trips like this weekend are the epitome of Ferocious Dog type stuff for me – there were thirteen of us who mustered on a minibus, most of us would never have had the opportunity to meet one another were it not for this band.  So almost a year to the day after my first trip like this, we mostly met at Jacquie’s where Stuart arrived with our minibus ready to drive up to Hull to get the night ferry to Rotterdam.  With traffic tight it was touch and go, but we just made it in time and got on the boat.

With bags dumped in cabins we found a bar and relaxed, had some food and then more drinks – Paul unveiled the tour t-shirts he’d had made (which is good, we didn’t get one when I went then the trip in February I missed did have one!).  We had a quick conference on when to wear them and figured we might as well go for night one.  After a few more drinks it was time for bed, we’d bought a dinner / breakfast deal so wanted to be up in time for that – it was good, to be fair!

We got back and sorted out our stuff and waited by the lifts to get down to the lower levels – our minibus was handily placed at the front – it’s just a shame that they didn’t let us down quickly so ended up holding up some lorries!  It didn’t take long to drive to Nijmegen, on the way Karen told us a few interesting revelations about Ken’s tattoo history (say no more!), and we soon arrived at our hotel – the lovely staff there dashing out to guide us into the car park at the back.

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Freeborn Al / 21st November 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Photos, Videos

I find myself a-Maze-d again..

When you’ve had an utterly shit week, probably one of the best temporary remedies you can find is a night watching Ferocious Dog in acoustic guise (now four rather than three piece, with Alex adding some percussive oomph) at The Maze in Nottingham.  Add to that the support of the very familiar Brad Dear  (a late replacement for double-booked Bart) and the new-to-me JD the Acoustic Anarchist, and plenty of familiar folk to enjoy the evening with, and it’s bound to be a winner.  The promise of a chicken tikka kebab from Victoria Kebab the cherry on the top of the cake!

With it being a work-in-the-morning kinda affair I opted to drive in, depositing my car on the road behind the venue just outside the parking-meter zone, bonus!  Once we’d found ourselves a cashpoint and picked up some supplies for a food bank donation we made our way into the venue, or at least the bar at the front just before the back room was opened up ready for the evening’s revelries.  I love The Maze as a venue – it’s rough and ready but has friendly staff, and great sound – although it does get warm in there!

JD the Acoustic Anarchist started the show – casually announcing himself and striking up with The Moron Song (I’ve half guessed at some of the song titles so fingers crossed they’re closeish).  Initially he was evocative of a solo incarnation of Phat Bollard but as he progressed he became more and more bluesy, so a kind of blues punk – a really engaging set, always a tough spot to play with the venue still filling up with folk.  How Did We Get This Far as a Species was up next, and was making me smile.

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Freeborn Al / 8th September 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

Farmer Phil’s 2017 – part two!

Saturday morning started with sausage cobs (yes, they are cobs!) for breakfast – then we were up to the arena early doors as Morgan and Ella were doing a Morganella ‘meet and greet’ at the Pink Flamingo Bar. Lucan was a hero and arranged for a 4×4 to pick up our stuff to take up to the stage so I left Mark in charge of my stuff and accompanied Ella up to the arena. Starting the day with a cheeky cocktail and the first questions and answers was fun, but soon enough I needed to report back stage to get The Star Copiers set up – so that’s where I headed.

The sound crew were awesome – we aren’t very experienced really so we take all the help we can get! They got each monitor set up for us so that we could hear what we needed to hear, something I’d never really appreciated before until performing.  Once soundchecking was finished I found a quiet corner to get changed into my silly stage wear (okay, I just got changed in front of everyone back stage, haha!). Mark’s guitar seemed to not want to stay in tune, Kev was a bit nervous, Jacquie was practising lines – I was pretty excited in truth, definitely our biggest stage to date.

We started up by going on one by one with a slow intro to Down Under, Mark first, then Jamie, me, Kev and finally Jacquie to kick off the vocals. I thought it worked rather well! Donning sunglasses meant I couldn’t see the people in the barn – but I could see Kenny grinning at us from the bank outside the stage enclosure. What’s Up was next – even if I was tapping into a different song, already looking too far forward on the set list. Oops! It didn’t put the others off, so I could drop back into the correct beat soon enough. Listen was next, then I Still Believe (the one I started off on before by accident). It’s a song we always cock up in rehearsals – I’m happy to say this time I don’t think we did, although my monitor mix was largely Mark, Jacquie and me.

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Freeborn Al / 27th August 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Farmer Phil’s 2017 – part one!

Farmer Phil’s Festival is one of those impossible to sum up times of the year. It can last potentially for a week if you’re lucky enough to have the time to get on site the Monday preceding it. It was Thursday evening for us when we were able to wend our way to this Shropshire idyll – the original plan was a Wednesday arrival but sadly a funeral waylaid us slightly – it had been raining a bit, we immediately got stuck in some mud but were pushable, having located a route to our camping spot we found ourselves sunk again – this time relying on being towed by the wonderful Craig.

We found ourselves nestled just behind the Purrple Peeple Eater – and quickly reunited with our immediate camp-mates with a cheeky cider or two whilst setting the van up as quickly as we could. Whilst the festival proper hadn’t started yet Bart had organised some music up at the bar tent, and we were keen to get straight into the festival spirit. We wandered up to pick up our wristbands and then onward up the hill and into the arena – still in varying degrees of construction, to find a cast of hundreds of friends already mustered ready for the music to start.

Pete Drake was already underway on the stage, entertaining a burgeoning crowd in the large beer tent, meanwhile we were roving from friend to friend catching up, saying hello and fussing the ridiculous number of four-legged friends. Farmer Phil’s is absolute heaven for anyone, like me, who loves doggies! Pete was followed by Northern Monkey – which seemed to have Joel from Black Thorn amongst them playing bass (I’m sure that’s not the usual state of affairs!). Also nestled on the hill was the Cheezy Vinyl Bar and stalls. It was shaping up to be a stonking weekend.

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Freeborn Al / 27th August 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Studio time with Ferocious Dog..

Back when Ferocious Dog were recording From Without I remember Ken telling me I ought to have popped in to see them, and I always wished I had – so I definitely wasn’t going to miss my chance now The Red Album is underway.  I hotfooted it to Electric Bear studios last week and rang the doorbell.  The flaw in that plan was it wasn’t audible with not too many people in attendance – luckily Dan was nipping out and found me loitering!

Inside I found Phil behind an imposing mixing desk, a screen full of soundwaves infront of him, and Ken through the window above laying down some vocals.  Whilst I have a basic grasp of what recording music entails, I’ve never really sat and witnessed it – it was pretty fascinating.  Ken would sing a verse or a chorus, Phil would give immediate feedback whilst simultaneously chopping up and reordering the recordings he’d already captured (one take Ken, my arse!).

Passages that sounded great to me had tiny flaws quickly identified – and soon enough were being re-recorded.  Occasionally lyrical adjustments were needed, these songs are ridiculously hot of the press (the last one I saw Ken recording had only been written lyrically the night before, and was one hell of a wordy one).  Tweaks and adjustments were needed – it’s quite hard work on Ken’s voice, so he needed a quick break and some hot water with squash and honey.

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Freeborn Al / 5th August 2017 / Band, Music

Celebrating a local hero..

I’m sneakily skipping a post because writing up the wonderful Wistful Festival is going to take a little bit of time, but the reason I spent the saturday of that sober and left when the final act finished to get home was because we’d organised a little shindig to celebrate the amazing achievement that a notable Hell Hound was celebrating.  Sergeant Andrew Harrison is now Sergeant Andrew Harrison MBE – gaining recognition from the highest place going for his unceasing efforts in volunteering and fundraising for charities as well of course as an ongoing distinguished miltary career.

Andy’s my mate and to say I’m incredibly proud of him (irregardless of any official honours, I might add) is an understatement.  Finding a spot of time when he was around the area and – more crucially – Ferocious Dog weren’t gigging all over the place was tricky, so whilst it wasn’t ideal to have to be a bit more thoughtful about the last day of a festival, it was worth it!  Andy was at Wistful too and went for the more hardcore approach of leaving this morning to head down to Nottingham for his party, and why not?

Tom from Saltbox Bar had been conspiring with Rich and Paul to throw something together to mark this landmark, my job on the organising committee was to see if we could get Ken to come and play (and Dan too, who sadly couldn’t make it in the end due to illness – get well soon, Dan!).  He immediately agreed when I asked him a while back, I know we all know Ken is a generous man but it’s still a big ask to get him to come and play a set in the middle of recording an album, gigging, tattooing and the other myriad of things he gets up to.

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Freeborn Al / 30th July 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Keeping it Real (Time)..

When the tickets for this gig went on sale I was at Ey Up Mi Duck and had decided that, having secured tickets for the Rough Trade gig that I’d hang fire and give folk who had missed out a chance.  By mid-afternoon there were still a few left so sod it – folk had had a chance, I duly ordered!  I’m glad I did, I’m a big fan of Real Time Live as a venue – sat above a music shop in Chesterfield, it’s an absolute musical grotto!

Come the day we offered to pick up Geoff en route since he’s just a short diversion off the M1, and duly arrived in Chesterfield with a good amount of time to spare.  Once we’d got our bearings (which took a while longer than it should’ve done!) we headed to The Barley Mow, just around the corner from a venue – a nice pub, with plenty of friendly faces already there – and seats outside to enjoy the not-quite-as-warm-as-we’d-hoped weather.

After a good deal of catching up, random photos and a strange experiment involving leaning against a wall and picking up a stool we wandered over to the venue.  Over the course of the evening I was also informed that my good friend and fellow Ferocious Dog fan Andy Harrison has been honoured with an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list – over the course of the evening we weren’t allowed to mention it, but come midnight – well, I think everyone who knows him knows about it now!  It’s an amazing and well deserved acknowledgement of the commitment he’s shown to good causes.

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Freeborn Al / 17th June 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Painting the town Red..

It’s maybe a bit painfully ironic on the day after Ferocious Dog‘s homeland was painted blue by the electorate that they took to Nottingham to unveil some of the songs which will feature on the forthcoming Red Album.  Or maybe not, the voyage south took them back into Labour territory for a first airing of these new tracks.  But anyway, whilst I might touch on it from time to time this is a blog for music not politics – so I shan’t dwell on that tempting though it might be!

We opted to drive in for the gig – I wanted to concentrate on the new material, plus we’re out and about tomorrow so sobriety made sense, so after finishing up with work for the day into the car we piled and headed to Broadmarsh to take advantage of cheap parking for the evening.  Upon reaching town we wandered past Annie’s Burger Shack knowing a fair few mates were eating there – indeed they were, al fresco so easy to find.

A quick trip to the Angel with Geoff found more friends inside, then it was on to Brewdog where everyone claimed their free pint of IPA in exchange for having a selfie at their polling station.  We found Sigrit to present her with her CD by The Star Copiers she won in Ella’s raffle (unlucky Sigrit!). As I wasn’t drinking and don’t really get on with Brewdog ales Ella and I popped over the road for an iced coffee and a pot of tea respectively – we really are very rock and roll, you know!  After a mooch around the Rough Trade store, the venue was soon open.

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Freeborn Al / 10th June 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos

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