2017 – the ‘slow down year’..

Whilst I always seem to be busy, 2017 was a quieter year than the last couple – that’s borne out by the blog activity, 68 posts this year compared to 90 in 2016.  Home ownership, life events and an inherent need to slow down a little bit (but only a little) took its toll.

There were a few occasions where I bundled events into single mega-posts rather than splitting them out that might be artificially manipulating the statistics downward.  But on the music front it’s been another belting year, regardless!

January got underway pretty late with a trip to Droitwich to see Nick Parker and Paul Henshaw, an ace gig and a chance to finally put a visual reference to a place that had always stuck in my mind from DFS adverts of yore.  Now I’m just looking to head to Darley-Dale and Measham for gigs and I can tick off the sofa-based trilogy of places from those cursed interludes that used to plague us between films around Christmas in the 80s and early 90s!

February was a little livelier, we had a trip with off-duty Nick Parker to see previously unheard of Kevin Devine in Nottingham which was awesome, great support too from The Lion and the Wolf and George Gadd.  Ferocious Dog dropped their From Without acoustic album to us which went down very well indeed, whilst Mad Dog Mcrea played an amazing set in Nottingham along with The Outlines and Star Botherers (I’m not sure if they’d officially dropped the ‘the’ by this point!).

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Freeborn Al / 30th December 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

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.

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Freeborn Al / 24th December 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

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

There ain’t no party like.. TWO house parties!

Because I’m so ridiculously behind on blog posts, I’m going to combine an entry for two excellent house gigs – the first was hosted by the lovely Parry Clan and featured Morganella and Doozer McDooze doing their thing in an intimate and unplugged setting, the second was hosted by the equally lovely Fairish Clan and featured The Star Copiers and Nick Parker all amped up – along with a raucous open-mic finalé – I’m very lucky to have the opportunities to go to such awesome events!

So first up was Parry Towers.  I’d arrived early and Lucy and Nick had laid on a mountain of food for the revelry, so after troughing and discovering the wonder of the Akinator phone game with Evan, eventually guests arrived and it was time to start getting set up.  Morganella were up first in support guise – they’d had a quick rehearsal beforehand which they don’t get to do very often (at least not in the same place), but in no time found themselves a spot in the lounge to act as the performance area.

Kicking off with Black Horse and a Cherry Tree it sounded really good – my limited dalliances into singing have made me really appreciate the wonders of what a monitor does, so to perform fully acoustic is always impressive to my ears (well, if it’s in tune!  And it was!).  Self-penned track Daisies and Sunshine was up next and straight into Refuge and The Standing Stone of Onich to showcase their own EP tracks.  They don’t get away without playing Weak these days, so that featured next followed by Photosynthesis which is one of Nick’s favourites.

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Freeborn Al / 11th December 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

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

Doozer and Funke rock Derby!

Childishness

I’ve not been to The Hairy Dog in Derby for a year or so – so last night was a first chance to check out their new bigger room rather than the old upstairs venue which now houses a smaller venue and a tattoo studio.  The newer main room is a great space – around a 400 capacity, a bar with sound-desk, cloakroom and merch desk with a good sized raised stage.  It’s superb set up nestled behind the no-nonsense rock pub out front.  I whole heartedly approve.

With car woes continuing I decided not to risk it and took the van, parking up at nearby Abbey Street car park and then it was a short walk to the venue.  Outside we found the acts for the evening out front enjoying a drink along with The Famous Artist Birdy Rose too, so we settled down for a natter and a drink.  It was a little while before the doors to the back room were opened, so it was nice just to catch up.  Gradually other gig goers started to arrive – and soon enough we decamped into the main room, Ella doing a stint on the merch desk for the evening.

Funke was up on stage to introduce Doozer McDooze who opened up the live music – despite being a bit poorly (you could only really tell from his between-song chatter, it sounded like he had a bad throat), he didn’t let it inhibit an energetic and empassioned performance though!  I didn’t recognise the song he opened with, I’ll hazard a guess at I Thought We Were Friends.  It always amazes me how prolific Dooze is at songwriting, I see him quite frequently and there’s nearly always something in his sets to throw me!

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Freeborn Al / 11th November 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

When there’s something strange in the neighbourhood..

Well this weekend we’ve discovered that The Lindleys can host one hell of a party!  With Doozer McDooze embarking on a series of house gigs, they threw their house and garden open to the masses for a Hallowe’en themed party, nay, mini-festival.  John had made a stage in the garden from pallets, chipboard and a gazebo, Russ had provided a PA and lighting, and Angela had really gone to town on spooky decorating to create an amazing space for the guests descending for good times and entertainment.

Not only did we have the treat of Doozer’s set, we had four acts preceding him.  We arrived in the car – Ella had dressed up as an undead Romany girl, I’d dragged out my evil jester costume – certainly the other costumes on display from the guests were impressive – most folk had really entered into the spirit of it, and were tucking into spooky snacks or mysterious glow-in-the-dark jellies.  A sinister bird chirped in the kitchen, whilst even the toilet had been made to look suitably eerie.

The weather was very kind and the firepit gave the option of heating up if it did get a bit chilly, and there was a dazzling array of warming food inside – the forty or so odd revellers were very well catered for indeed!  In the meantime though the first act up on the stage was Dusty Herb, for the second time in a week for us!  He started up with Sometimes as last week, and was sounding really good – and followed it up with Black Dogs Eyes again – the fact he forgot the first verse makes me feel better for once again not noting his third song (might be partly down the food becoming available, haha!).

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Freeborn Al / 29th October 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

A lovely bit of Bothering..

Oops – nearly a week late, but it has been a busy week in my defence!  But last Sunday we had a welcome trip up to Market Warsop for a bit of Stars Bothering on Sunday in the Black Market Venue.  I love nights like these, relaxed and informal and fun – and usually with a spot of entertainment.  For our second time we’d been booked too, due on after appearances from the hosts, Herb and Alex Bradford – and followed by Josh Francis (who was running a bit late owing to traffic).

Having settled down with John, Angela, Tony and Trudy folk started arriving and The Star Botherers got themselves set up and the evening underway.  With a slightly later start than planned it was just a two song treat – kicking off with One Inch Death Punch (at least Bart did, Dave start the bass riff for Just Around the Corner which was quite amusing!).  That helped decide the next song, it was indeed Just Around the Corner – short but sweet.  Don’t forget their album launch is a week today and it’s free!

I was looking forward to catching up with Herb – each time I see him take the stage he gets more confident, especially with a sharp new hair cut!  For a blogger he’s great as he interperses songs with the stories behind them and their titles.  He opened with Sometimes, a melancholic finger-picked tune with philosophically observing life’s ups and downs – I really liked the lyrics.  Black Dog’s Eyes picked up the pace a bit – more strumming, and more empassioned vocals – dealing with escapism through substances, another really nice song.

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Freeborn Al / 27th October 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

Gaz, Joe and Maelor not lost in The Maze..

(pic by Angela)

Gaz Brookfield is a very special performer – The Maze is a very special venue, and yet put the two together and you get some kind of exponential growth in awesomeness.  With many people seemingly surprised I wasn’t over at the Hairy Dog for Ferocious Dog (including Gaz!) there really was only one choice for me on this occasion, as much as I’d have loved the other option too.  Nottingham always seems to reserve an especially warm welcome for Mr Brookfield – and it is actually exhilarating to be a part of it.  The last night of the tour too, so extra special for that too.

We drove into Nottingham and dumped the car behind The Maze and hotfooted it through town to find some of the revellers already well on their way in town – John, Angela, Russ, Michelle, Tony, Trudy and Wez were duly found in the ‘Spoons off St James’ Street.  So drinks (soft drinks for me – boo!) and merriment commenced (well, for us – the rest of the party had been engaged with merriment for some time – not least Angela who’d earned yet another 7 deadly sins t-shirt from The Pit and Pendulum and gifted it to Ella, ha!).

Soon enough it was time for the walk back up the hill to The Maze – the back room wasn’t open yet, so we settled in the front room of The Forest Tavern and awaited with lots of other familiar and friendly faces. Soon enough we made our way into the venue to get wristbanded by Jayne and Lee, I found Maelor and Gaz inside – both somewhat surprised to find me there rather than in Derby, and once we’d all caught up it was soon time for the former to take the stage.  That’s the bonus I’d not mentioned yet – support from Maelor Hughes and Joe McCorriston was also on offer.  All for £8.  What a bargain.

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Freeborn Al / 22nd October 2017 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

Got stuff to do.. Groovy.

Yesterday was the kind of day that defies description really.  Many readers will know Richard, he’s often found at Ferocious Dog gigs, festivals and countless other events – and has undergone a number of years of recurring diagnoses, remissions and recurrences of that bastard we’ve come to know as cancer.  But rather than let this be a barrier he’s relentless optimistic, sharing his company, humour and wisdom freely (despite not being able to speak any more) along with his ‘rock’ and wife Julie.

In what was originally billed by Rich as a pre-funeral – in typically dark humour – we just enjoyed a superb day and evening of entertaining bands, laughter, tears and dancing – a perfect ‘living wake’ (as I’ve seen another friend coin it).  A dedicated team of friends worked tirelessly to organise the space at The Yew Tree Inn and Lodges in Ednaston, there was space for vans to stay over, and hotels dotted around the area were booked up, and a big mob of friends brought together through a love of music came together with Rich’s family to celebrate – and did so in fine style!

From the open mic with Niamh singing along to Brian’s guitar beautifully, to Spike doing an amazing and difficult job in making a speech that Richard had written but couldn’t physically say himself, since the disease has robbed him of his voice box.  People underwent the two-verses-one-breath challenge (you have to sing two verses of The Subhumans’ Work Rest Play Die in just one breath) – kudos to Mark who learned it on guitar too and did it at the start of our set over the course of the afternoon!

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Freeborn Al / 15th October 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos