Newbury not bypassed..

IMG_9628Huh, see what I did there?

Newbury was going to be the point where I did bypass an opportunity for a tour date – but my willpower caved in.  Having spent a chilled out day with Simon and Ella before the latter had to go to work, we hit the road, Simon not taking much convincing that a trip to Newbury was most definitely the order of the day.

To be more accurate, the venue was the fairly remote Arlington Arts Centre nestling a mile or two out of town in the grounds of a school.  Hmm. Arts Centre.  Reminiscent of Stamford, and fears of another difficult venue or crowd.  There was a slight navigational cock up that made for a quick trip up and down the A34 near the venue but other than that it was easy to find – had I looked at the map rather than listened to the sat nav I imagine it would’ve been right first time!

Nerves around suitability didn’t subside upon arrival – a modern venue that had the look of a leisure centre in the reception area, I was expecting Gordon Brittas to come out to make a kerfuffle of giving me my ticket.  Fortunately it wasn’t like that at all, so tickets duly collected we grabbed a drink and waited – there were no food options unfortunately so we people-watched the folk already milling around, mostly they looked like theatre-goers.. it could yet all go a bit Stamford after all!

We’d noted Cere-bus outside and it wasn’t long before Bev and Tina had appeared from inside the actual venue, and a few more Ferocious Dog t-shirt wearing people arrived to offer a bit of reassurance.  John had posted a photo on Facebook earlier of the venue, again it was seated – but this time they’d retracted the lower level of seats to leave a decent sized floor area with a high bank of seats behind – the perfect venue really to leave an arena for a moshpit but a safe area of seating for those who just wanted to watch from on high.

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Freeborn Al / 26th April 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

We won’t Stam-ford this kind of rowdy behaviour!

Ella will soon be rivalling Waggy with shots like this!

Ella will soon be rivalling Waggy with shots like this!

Stamford seems to have been destined to be a comedy of errors.  As the gig drew to a close I was expecting Ken to do a speech like Marty McFly at the end of his performance at the ‘Enchantment Under the Sea‘ dance where he shreds his guitar at the end of his rendition of Johnny B. Goode leaving the 1950’s audience including his parents staring dumbstruck at him.  “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet“, he says sheepishly.  “But your kids are gonna love it!

I’d arrived in Stamford pretty early – I’d booked a room for the night (and triple-checked the dates after Plymouth-gate!) and was feeling ready to get checked in, sorted out and maybe have a few cheeky beers.  Only to find that the mortified man behind the bar had no record of my booking and had no spare rooms – there’s a lesson if you use Booking.com or similar, call the hotel/pub to confirm they’ve received it…

Luckily Simon and Snotface offered me a place to crash which still meant driving later – but at least in a more helpful direction for Newbury than going back home.  An angry tweet at Booking.com saw them quickly get in touch to try to help – as I’d already sourced accommodation they were simply very apologetic and offered me half of the price of the booking as compensation which was pretty good of them to be fair.

So I did have my one pint of beer in the delightfully quirky old Tobie Norris pub where I met Steve, who had secured somewhere to stay.  After that we wandered to the venue which was, well, unusual to say the least.  Whilst there we caught up with the band and numerous fellow gig-goers whilst drinking coffee and eating flapjacks… when the lovely lady wearing her best twinset and pearls combination checked my ticket and pointed out where my assigned seat was it was getting a little bit surreal.

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Freeborn Al / 26th April 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Photos / 0 Comments

The south-west? We shall exit ‘er in Exeter..

Well, now the dust has settled and I’ve grabbed a few hours of kip in my own bed it brings us to the Exeter leg of the tour.  Having surfaced and written yesterday’s blog I got the call from Dan on loading times from the venue, so I checked out and staggered that way to find John and Scott had pretty much got everything out of The Hub and we just had to wait for the bus (or ‘the buzz’ if you’re John) to load up.  It’s worth considering at this point how much stuff it takes to make a Ferocious Dog gig.  Just some of it is pictured below.

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It’s fairly obvious really – there’s six of ’em, Ellis plays about eight million instruments, there’s a drum kit – there’s amps, there’s merchandise, there’s the stage backdrop and assorted maintenance kit, there’s a few spare guitars for quick changes in case of string snappage.  Then of course there’s up to ten people in the bus too along with their travelling gear (in our case we only had six of us for most of our journeying).  It’s a logistical challenge for sure – and Waggy and Ken are masters of the game of 3D Tetris involved in getting everything in the back section of the dog bus.

When you see a band playing to a group of people going crazy, people eulogising about them on Facebook (not least me) and clamouring to get photos or just talk after gigs it’s easy to forget after that it’s the same people – admittedly with some help from venue staff or folk they might have on tour with them – who will be packing everything up and getting it either in the bus or ready to collect in the morning.  It makes Ken’s mingling with the crowd after gigs all the more charming – and it’s not an act either, he turns heads and starts conversations wherever he goes!

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Freeborn Al / 19th April 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos / 0 Comments

Ply-mouth to mouth.. resuscitation required..

The morning after the night before wasn’t too bad in Bridport – a relatively early rise, a return to the venue to meet Ken and Waggy to load up the van then a return to my hotel for and awesome breakfast before reconvening to prepare for our onward journey.  Scott and John were ready but it was a little more challenging to get Ellis upright.

The locals passing by as the van was loaded were all really friendly – a few had been to the gig, others drawn by Ken’s unusual appearance in the area.  It gave rise to some conspiracy theories on the bus that it was all a front for some kind of Hot Fuzz style hidden sinister society underpinning the place, everything just seemed so lovely and welcoming – I’m not sure that’s really true, but it made for some amusing bus banter.

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The going was good before the roads became terrifying!

The run from Bridport to Plymouth is relatively straight forward so was done and dusted reasonably quickly.  With John added to team crossword we did a bit better on this trip.  As we didn’t have a cigarette stop it’s true that Ellis did start to get a little bit agitated – the signal for this I’ve discovered is when he starts to quote from Robocop!  It does make for an entertaining end of journey though, although judging by the look on John’s face maybe it’s novelty factor from my point of view!

Moments later the RoboCop quotes were out in earnest!  "You see I got this problem..."

Moments later the RoboCop quotes were out in earnest! “You see I got this problem…”

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Freeborn Al / 18th April 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Photos, Videos / 0 Comments

Bridport down, Plymouth and Exeter to go!

Initially it was quite the intellectual journey

Initially it was quite the intellectual journey

It was slightly earlier start than initially planned as Ken kindly offered me the opportunity to skip driving to the South West for this leg of the tour and hitch a ride on Cerebus, the Ferocious Dog minibus.

I should’ve grabbed a picture or two really – I’ll try to remember tomorrow.  I got myself up to Trowell Services for the pick up and procured a massive box of doughnuts as they arrived, with Ken in the driving seat, along with Waggy, Scott and Ellis – all mostly in good spirits, Scott’s previous evening’s alcohol consumption aside.

Waggy took over driving duties and we were off to Bridport via picking up John off the M5.

Cerebus is awesome – emblazoned with Ferocious Dog graphics on the outside, and inside the middle row of seats are replaced by a table printed with an image of the band making it spacious and comfortable compared to a typical cramped minibus for someone of my height.  It certainly draws a lot of looks on the motorway from passing motorists too.  The windows at the back are blacked out too, mercifully considering later on…

The journey down was fun – we joined the M5 at the junction after the service station we were meeting John and after 16 miles or so of not seeing any services realised so doubled back to collect him.  Oops.  In the meantime Ellis and I had made a solid attempt at the crossword (ahem) and watched Scott transition from still-drunk to getting-hungover.  The new Ferocious Dog tracks were on the stereo and it was interesting to listen to them talking about little bits and pieces they were happy and less happy with.  There was even a sneak peak of prospective new album artwork passed around which looks great.

.... but once cabin fever kicked in somewhere on the M5...

…. but once cabin fever kicked in somewhere on the M5…

Once John was on board our party was complete – Dan and Leanne were travelling down separately by car and Les too was meeting us down in Bridport.  A couple of stops for toilet breaks and cigarette breaks from the increasingly agitated Ellis and Scott and eventually we were honing in on Bridport – only to encounter a series of bizarre road closures, suicidal parking and general kerfuffles – however, we did make it and ingratiate ourselves with the locals with a quiet and dignified drive through the quite well-to-do looking Dorset town.  Ahem.

Whilst much of what happens on the bus must stay on the bus, the overwhelming experience is one of a bunch of fellas who are down to earth and loving what they do – albeit well hidden in the case of a certain hungover drummer.  He did perk up as the day went on though and was in high spirits but the end of the night.  It will be interesting to see what level of inebriation he’s managed to achieve this evening when we reconvene in the morning!

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Freeborn Al / 17th April 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Preparing for a road trip!

Today’s been a good day – a nicely truncated working week finished, and anticipation of a road trip starting tomorrow heading to the South West for a triple-header of Ferocious Dog gigs in Bridport, Plymouth and finally Exeter.  Given how broken I was after just two consecutive gigs last weekend this will certainly prove an interesting experiment!

What better way to get into the mood than by enjoying some video compilations of Waggy’s awesome photos from the Cambridge and Derby gigs?  I certainly can’t think of one!  I’ve just had an exciting offer to travel down to the West Country on the Dog bus too… wow!  This could prove memorable!

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Freeborn Al / 15th April 2015 / Band, Gigs, Music, Photos / 0 Comments

The real derby day this weekend was in.. well.. Derby!

Scotty - proving to be a bit of a hotty with the Ferocious lady folk

Scotty – proving to be a bit of a hotty with Ferocious lady folk

Folk might’ve been getting excited about the Manchester derby this weekend, but for Hell Hounds derby day was the day before (although Dan at least I imagine enjoyed United’s 4-2 triumph over City this afternoon – nice belated birthday present!).

Derby is not far off a home town gig, really – and it shows, whilst Bodega sold out in around twenty minutes tickets for the gig at The Hairy Dog in Derby were gone in a little under an hour too I believe.  Plenty of Hell Hounds made arrangements to congregate in places prior to coming together at the venue, for me I was continuing my weekend of being an itinerant hobo and staying with Lisa and Paul (along with Rachel) so I travelled into Derby with them, but not before meeting their newly acquired ferret!

It was straight to the venue via the chippy on the corner for us with Mel, and then once at the Hairy Dog, a rock bar with the venue upstairs, catching up with the countless friends out in force for the gig.  Dave, a friend of Lisa and Ferocious Dog virgin, met us outside the bar, after sinking a few beers Dean elected it was my turn to go up on the surfboard – more on that later, a fairly unconventional and ungraceful performance on that front.

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Freeborn Al / 12th April 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Do you believe in the power of rock and roll?

IMG_9433A slight diversion from the main subject matter of this blog, but a worthy one I think – firstly for the cause tonight was raising funds for.  The Sophie Lancaster Foundation was set up to create respect and address abuse and intolerance against alternative subcultures – in memory of Sophie who was murdered in 2007 after a disgusting attack on her and her partner Rob.  A hugely worthy cause so hopefully everyone there bought themselves a wristband.

Secondly it was being hosted at Foremans, a deliciously non-conformist carbuncle gleefully retaining its punk rock roots whilst being increasingly surrounded by bland corporate chains like Revolution or Slug and Lettuce in the centre of Nottingham, overshadowed by the bleak Cornerhouse eyesore.  With a capacity of 55 people you’re guaranteed an intimate gig venue with some awesome people.  Thirdly the act was Goldblade – a lure in itself, but one I was intrigued to see in an acoustic setting.

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Freeborn Al / 29th March 2015 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Freeborn Al / 16th March 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos / 0 Comments

Talk of the Tarn..

Another day, another chance to discover a new venue for a Ferocious Dog gig!  Barnsley Rock and Blues sits near the hospital in Barnsley and comprises a friendly bar with a hidden gem of a venue room at the back – something Andy and I rather spoiled the surprise of by arriving early and inadvertently going in via the back way, but never mind, huh?  It was a good chance for Andy to catch the end of the egg-chasing and to watch the end of the Burnley vs Man City match along with Dan and Ken.

Anyone local should pop back tomorrow (well, later today now) to check out the Star Botherers.

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Freeborn Al / 15th March 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments