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

Finalé..

What a way to end a tour!  For us the day started with a wander across Nottingham from our hotel to Annie’s Burger Shack and Freehouse.  As Matt has recently turned 40 celebration was very much the order of the day – and appropriately around forty of us piled into the basement bar thanks to Dave and Nadine’s organisational skills for a few beers and some epic burgers served up in a buffet style, so whilst you don’t quite get the extravagance of the restaurant offering, boy do you get a superb plate full of scran!

It was great to see Matt’s family and friends mingling with the gig-going types and having an awesome time – probably the most amusing bit of proceedings for me was daring the two Daves into eating the scotch bonnet I’d bravely picked up then cowardlyly deciding not to eat – it’s fair to say that one of the Daves clearly has a higher spice threshold than t’other!  With plates cleared there was time for some cake cutting (an epic violin-shaped creation!) and Happy Birthday singing before we started to make our way gig-ward.

By the council house we bumped into Lee doing promotion for EM-Con complete with a dalek, a quick catch up and we wandered up to The Tap n Tumbler, where we found a few early starters – with more arriving all the time.  The jukebox got a bit of hammer – probably a decided step to the strange for any regular pub goers there expecting a decidedly more rock-based playlist!  It was great to catch up with the folks who’d not been around the rest of the weekend – I’m not gonna start listing ’em, I’ll miss some out, haha!

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Freeborn Al / 23rd April 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Groundhog night?

Ah, day two.  Groundhog night? Not a bit of it really. This time the evening started in a hotel, waiting for Ella’s train to get in – once we’d got ourselves checked in and sorted we nipped up to the marvellous Tap and Tumbler for a few drinks and general catching up with folk.  There was a nice atmosphere about the place, and I finally succumbed to the temptation I always have in there to buy a pint of Trooper – Iron Maiden produced beer, and very nice it was too.  With plenty of folk on hand to talk to, it was a splendid way to start the night.

Better still, who should be stood next to me at the bar but Cliff – who I mentioned yesterday.  I’ve literally not seen him for a good many years, and it was absolutely fantastic to get the chance for a prolonged natter at the bar.  Reminiscing, putting the world to rights and occasional introductions – it was great.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog (which gave me my record views in a day since the blog’s inception – thank you!) Cliff tutored me through firewalking and glasswalking back in the day – both amazing experiences on different ends of the adrenaline scale.

The only pitfall was as time did its inevitable thing we realised we’d propped the bar up and talked our way through the support slot of Louise Distras which is very remiss of me, my humblest apologies to her.  In the venue we headed up to the balcony, Ella was planning on taking in the gig from on high – whilst unlike yesterday I was planning on getting smashed around the moshpit for an hour and a half.  Which gave Ella dual duties of set list noting and carrying my assorted breakables.  So it’s thanks to her that I have the song order, haha!

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Freeborn Al / 22nd April 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

The world turned upside down..

Ah, it’s good to be back writing about Ferocious Dog for a change!  Upon arriving at the Rescue Rooms with Jamie and Teresa to find Ken holding court outside.  A gentle chide about my rather less than impressive attendance record was followed up with a big grin – he was clearly really excited about playing the first of three sold out nights on home turf.  With a full on day I’d arrived straight at the venue, with another today I’d opted to drive, saving Friday and Saturday for alcohol opportunities.

So I wandered straight into the venue – in addition to the Ferocious Dog banner, on equal billing was one depicting Kurtis Mann, a fellow fan of the band who lost his life last year, a lovely touch.  It was emblazed with The Kurtis Mann Stage.  Sadly I never got to knew him although must’ve bumped into him at countless gigs – in a small world moment I do actually know his dad from pre-Ferocious Dogging days, I’m looking forward to catching up with Cliff over the next couple of evenings – it’s been a long time since he guided me to walking on hot coals, broken glass and breaking boards with my hand!

But I digress from the off.  There were, of course, countless people to catch up with milling around in the venue with more arriving all the time as the place filled up to a really healthy crowd in time for the support act for the evening… the inimitable Mr Gaz Brookfield, who needs absolutely no introduction to any vaguely regular reader of these pages.  He unassumedly took to the stage to a rapturous reaction from the crowd, Gaz always goes down well in Nottingham (I note another Maze date slotted in to October, just sayin’ like). (more…)

Freeborn Al / 21st April 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos

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