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

Monkeying around in Cornwall..

Around a year ago 3 Daft Monkeys unveiled a brilliant crowdfunding campaign to get their album, Year of the Clown recorded and produced.  I’m a big fan of this approach for artists who need some cash up front to cover these costs without the luxury of a record label to advance them the money – and it was particularly excited as a couple of the rewards combined would make for an awesome birthday present for Ella.  Of course there’s the considerable fringe benefit that I get to share the experience too – so everyone’s a winner!

Part one of our weekend of awesomeness was joining the band for a zip wire experience near Liskeard in Cornwall – with it being on a Saturday I cunningly worked in Solihull, then headed down to Gloucester where Ella would train to, and we could meet at the hotel we’d booked.  It’s fair to say that it wasn’t a brilliant hotel – but certainly made the drive onward to Cornwall in the morning a lot less daunting!  The next morning we headed straight to Adrenaline Quarry with the nerves of one of us starting to jangle a tad.

We were pretty early, so got to see a jump before Rich was the first Monkey to arrive on scene – and before long the rest of the party arrived, got checked in and we climbed into the deeply unflattering harnesses ready to be weighed in.  I’m pretty confident I was comfortably the heaviest!  Paired up we waited our turn to get hooked onto the zip wires and – boom! – it was over, it was great fun, the persistent mizzle kicked up a cloud of raindrops behind the descending folk, probably the highlight was Rich’s daughter Eliana who eagerly stepped up for her descent – completing it sat on a barrel to get her weight up.

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Freeborn Al / 13th October 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

Rockstock and … well, long overdue…

This is long overdue, so apologies – it’s been a busy ol’ time.  Rockstock and Barrel happened at the end of September, and it was as magnificent as ever.  After finishing up work we arrived on site on Thursday evening and got ourselves set up and reunited with our lovely festival friends.  Soon enough the cider was flowing (Pear and Chilli was my weapon of choice for most of the weekend) – and the music was starting in the acoustic lounge before the festival proper started on Friday.

Phil Cudworth took to the stage first – probably more familiar to most of us for his awesome woodwork, it turns out he’s a bit of a dab hand with guitar and singing too!  He opened with a potentially childhood-destroying song called Disney Princesses where he painted probably on reflection a more healthy set of role models than those proferred by the film company in question, then on to Coward about growing up in the 70s.  A mixture of irreverence, humour but also underpinned with real charm.

Coward was up next and then Bounce, then it was on to Hippy Chick.  I must admit I started losing track of song names – there was one about a chap called Gary, Computer Nerds has a question mark next to it then there was a really bluesy number called Tollpath Blues.  Then we get to where I’ve just covered subject matters – one song was about Russians, another about VIPs, then one called Green-eyed Monster.  The set finished up with Free for a Day but as Zoe took the stage she asceded to the crowds demands for an encore, which we got in the form of Sunglasses – a reflection on how stage-performing can adversely affect ones personality.  Something to watch out for!

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Freeborn Al / 10th October 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, 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

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

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