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

Shirebrook together..

I love initiatives like this – Shirebrook Together intends to revitalise an area, to encourage folk to get out and get involved in local events.  I picked up my tickets at Farmer Phil’s, literally within seconds of chatting with Waggy I’d had a couple of tickets thrust at me – for just a fiver it promised to be a good laugh though, Shanks’ Pony and The Star Botherers would provide the soundtrack along with a disco crossed with a megalithic monument set up by the side of the stage.  On the one hand I go to things like this and lament the dearth of local folk who take part, but then realise that there could well be similar things set up closer to home I’m not aware of!

With an early start the next morning I drove up despite having a few overnight options, and arrived just as a deluge was stopping mercifully to park just up the road from the venue – the Shirebrook Welfare.  I headed in and nearly wandered into the members-only bar to the left, but hearing music coming from further down the corridor I carried on toward the function room, what an ace room it is!  Angela was outside on the phone so I knew I was in the right place, inside I found Waggy to hand over my ticket to, and John, Rob, Annie, Rob and Caroline had already bagged a table.

I mentioned a dearth of people above but the room was filling up quite nicely – there was a disco running, one part music system, two parts light show and ten parts skyscraper – it was spectacularly loud!  It made conversation very shouty, but well, we can manage that!  Moving over to the stage The Star Botherers were up first, a little late in getting on so the set and soundcheck merged into one, poor Bob on the sound being kept well and truly on his toes in getting them underway as the first track / soundcheck track 13 Years in Oregon got everyone’s feet tapping.

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Freeborn Al / 4th September 2017 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos

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

Ploughing an unlonely furrow..

Speaking as a member of The Star Copiers we were dead excited to get the chance to play Brad Dear‘s open mic night in The Plough, Warsop again.  It’s a great chance for an on-stage warm-up ahead of Farmer Phil’s, and a chance for our ‘secret weapon’ to blow the cobwebs out of live performing.  With added excitement of course of getting to see Brad perform too, along with The Band With No Name and a quick set from Herb at the end too!

Brad Dear was up first – he opened with the yet to be titled New Song, then followed it up with old favourite Circles and Roundabouts.  Then it was time for New New Song – he’s been on a bit of a songwriting marathon lately apparently which bodes well!  The Only Road I Know was up next then he dipped into his arsenal of cover versions for Levellers track Together All The Way, he finished up with Special Brew with The Lindleys bullying everyone into a conga-line around the pub, ha!

The Band With No Name could do with a name really – with the very familiar Russ on vocals, two guitars and cajon made up the remainder – and they were really rather very good.  They kicked in with Land Pirate’s Life by Gaz Brookfield, and then into Whiskey In The Jar (I think by this point Mark was probably getting a bit pissed off by his band mates asking him why he couldn’t do that on guitar!).  Unconditional was up next – with Ken sitting in the front row Russ got over his nerves to deliver a cracking version.

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Freeborn Al / 5th August 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Wistful festival goodness..

Whilst YNot Festival was busy providing both the question in its name, and the answer in its execution, just three miles over the hill Wistful Festival continued to incrementally grow and deal admirably with the occasionally inclement weather conditions high up in the Derbyshire Hills.  When I think back to the first nameless event Lisa organised, it’s pretty amazing to see how much it has grown into a fully fledged festival.

Arriving on site on Friday morning we were just in time to see Dirty Davey, increasingly confident on stage he rattled through a set including Shirt of Blue, the acapella Summer Fields and Riot ShieldsLand of Hope and GloryThe Old ManMarch On Have You Seen Them and finally I Hate You Mrs Thatcher.  Longest set I’ve seen from him, and no drafted-in accompaniments to boot!

A few sound issues troubled the set up of The Collective, but soon enough they were underway with a lively fusion of hip hop, rock and just generally bounciness – I couldn’t tell you many song names beyond Smoke My Troubles Away and a cover of Walking on the Moon – in the meantime we’d been checking out the set up of the arena, The Meadevil Bar debuting their new tent, the Cheezy Vinyl Bar next door – that was me pretty much sorted for the weekend!

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Freeborn Al / 5th August 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

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

Rainstock!

Whichever malign entity invoked the heavens to open with a rain dance couldn’t dampen too many spirits in Nottinghamshire this weekend.

We arrived at the Deerstock site on Thursday evening, one of the perks of buying a live-in vehicle pass!  Having accidentally bought an extra ticket I donated it at the gate for a charitable contribution, then headed on in to the site – finding our camping spot for the weekend with Mark, Amanda, Paul, Nicki, Ian and Lynne (with more to join later!).  Unlike previous visits we’d settled up on the open flat space nearer the arena – with the weather forecast due it made sense not to venture too far down into the narrow wooded area in heavy vans.  Although Wez had made quite a home there with his recently acquired horse box!

Soon enough everyone was set up and sorted – we had a few cheeky drinks and wiled away the evening by the vans and in the Cheezy Vinyl Bar whilst the tireless folks making the festival happen beavered away on getting the site ready for Deerstock to happen when it started properly the following day.  I should admit from the off, we were slightly weather-wusses – Saturday in particular we rarely ventured far from the campsite – so there will be some hefty musical gaps in my musings.  I would apologise but well, it meant we stayed dry and we still had an absolute hoot – so I’m not going to!

Friday’s music started with catching the very end of Jake Martin‘s set (oops, sorry Jake!) having been fed by Paul and Nicki’s seemingly miraculous Cadac Chef – which has attachments for every conceivable way of cooking (it had cooked us pizzas the night before, now it was doing a fine job of breakfast too!).  Anyway.. Jake finished his set with I Don’t Wanna Be Your Heroes, I was just heading in to the Roy’s Place stage to see more and he thanked everyone and duly unplugged his guitar.  D’oh!

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Freeborn Al / 24th July 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Tring Tring!

It’s almost like the sound of a doorbell isn’t it? Arf. Definitely an apt spot for Morganella to be making an appearance hot the heels of releasing pre-order details for their forthcoming EP.  The event at the excellent Anchor in Tring (which is in the wonderfully named Borough of Dacorum) was organised by Neil for young students he works with (of which Morgan is one) to showcase their talents, it’s great there’s folk like Neil inspiring folk to pick up instruments and perform, and helping them to get together to form bands!

With the venue being pretty small and unsurprisingly each of the performers bringing a number of family members with them to watch it wasn’t always easy to take in the vast array of acts on offer, but it was a fun afternoon spent mostly outside nattering with folk waiting for the Morganella spot at 4pmish.  Although Morgan did have two other sets to perform first – I caught some of his second, which was him in his rockier guise and it was pretty awesome.  I live-streamed a track via the Morganella Facebook page of them in action (Ella did the same for his first stand-in appearance in another band – talented bugger!).

Quite a gathering of folk had arrived by the time it was time for Morganella to hit the stage – a tribe of Ella’s family from Stevenage, Nick, Lucy and Evan from nearer by, myself obviously – as well as Brian and Karen, Paul and quite a few others – always great to see a decent crowd of folk, luckily for us a fair few folk had cleared out of the narrow bar area so we were able to find some decent spots to take in the set.  Only a short one too!

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Freeborn Al / 9th July 2017 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

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