A song for everyone..

I feel a bit vindicated in taking a while to get this review out the blocks because I’ve waited for ages for Shanks’ Pony to get some of their songs recorded!  I can’t remember exactly when I first saw them play, but I know it wasn’t long after I’d first got into Ferocious Dog, I have a vague memory of my first sight of a cajón in use at The Black Market Venue in the murky past – and ever since then I like many of you have had to make do with getting to see them live and not be able to listen in the comfort of our own homes.

But no longer!  We knew an album was in progress and then suddenly a Facebook post announced we could order – so that’s what I did and greedily eyed the letterbox at home until it arrived – clad in a delightfully designed cover (courtesy of Kezia Parsons) depicting the band in a woodland scene.  I eagerly grabbed the CD out of the case and got it ripped onto a device I could play loudly – whilst the technical stuff was happening I cast an eye down the track list – eight songs all familiar titles (and will help with me trying to translate their impossible set lists in future, haha!).

Top of the World is up first, kicking in with Bob’s distinctive drumming intro then layered in some staccato guitar strums from Paul and then the fiddle instrumental builds up for the vocals, I’m sure I remember this song documents an event at Harefield Hall (I know Dean has said more than once during a live airing that he was there!).  You don’t really have to be familiar with the precise events chronicled though – lots of name-checking of now familiar artists – plus Edward Tudor-Pole in there too..

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Freeborn Al / 17th October 2017 / Music, Other Bands, Photos

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

Doozer is here to HELP!

One of the great powers music has is to get important messages out there – and that’s just what Doozer McDooze is aiming to do wiht his latest release to coincide with World Mental Health Day.  Help is a heartfelt call for awareness of mental health issues – something that is not only becoming more and more prevalent, particular amongst young people, but is being systematically decimated in terms of funding for treatment through the NHS thanks to the machinations of our current government.

As far as the song goes – it’s a very melancholy affair compared to usual Doozer McDooze fair, poignant and very personal lyrics – his very raison d’être is that of the troubadour bringing a bit of frivolity and joy to the world be it through festivals, gigs – or just sharing his and Birdy’s alternative lifestyle choices in ecshewing the trappings of mortgages and being rooted (perhaps as much by necessity as by choice, but nonetheless it’s a story I find endlessly inspiring and fascinating).  But that must be a tough role to fulfil when you’re feeling low or suffering with depression.

You can listen to the song and watch the awesome video below:

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Freeborn Al / 10th October 2017 / Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

Just the Start..

Ah, the impossible review – how do you go about reviewing an EP that your other half is the lead singer for?  I shall attempt to do so dispassionately, after all, this whole blog generally documents and is named after a band who’ve all become my mates over the years – so I should be able to do this without bias.  Morganella have been on the scene a little over a year, forming to play an open mic slot at Something to Smile About last year, and comprising of Morgan on guitar and Ella on vocals.

The way they work is pretty interesting and I guess I get a unique view of that – there’s a pretty big distance between where they live, Morgan is still at school, Ella can’t drive (yet) which makes regular practices well, pretty much a no go.  So when they started out with acoustic covers it’s relatively understandable they could work in isolation then bring things together with a quick run through somewhere quiet before a performance, but to come up with original material – surely that’s a step too far?

Apparently not.  And I’ve seen how it happens – Morgan will sit and come up with the instrumental parts of the songs, he’ll video them and send them to Ella who will have ideas around themes or subjects for the lyrics and then fit them to the music – they can back and forth this a bit and come up with something that works, then next time they’re in the same place they’ll fine tune it literally just before going on stage, and invariably smash it.  That’s pretty much the story for three of the five songs on Just The Start.

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Freeborn Al / 18th September 2017 / Music, Other Bands, Photos

Might as well be on Marr’s..

Sunday’s road trip taught me I really need a Geography lesson, I excelled at the subject at school and A-Level – but clearly the syllabus had a bit too much focus on longshore drift, precipiation levels and the GDP of assorted countries rather than the basic location and direction of towns and cities in the UK.  I was down in Stevenage, and needed to head home to South Derbyshire, and figured – hell, Worcester is definitely kinda on the way, right?  Um. No.

That said I knew that when I put the destination in the sat nav and still went – even though it was 20 miles further than driving straight home.

Basically when I’ve run out of M42 I realise I’ve actualy gone quite a long way – echoes of going to Droitwich back in January (which also means I’ve already used the Worcester Sauce pun – dammit!).  I must admit that I’ve always had a bit of a hankering to visit The Marr’s Bar in Worcester too – so with Nick Parker along with Ben Wain playing, it seemed like this was to be my excuse!  There’s a car park 2 minutes away, and once I’d mastered the intricate one way system of Worcester I found myself parked up and a bit early so off in search of a hostelry, settling in the nearby Wetherspoons.

Inside a surprising number of people wearing double denim – I must’ve been in the right place!  Nick, Ben and Emily arrived shortly after looking for food, so we sat and had a natter, I wasn’t hungry until presented with the chips Nick didn’t want which were strangely demolished in no time at all!  Nick sorted out the set list for the evening, always keen to get feedback from attendees to keep them happy, I probably frustrated him by just saying I was happy to see whatever he wanted to play!

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Freeborn Al / 11th September 2017 / Gigs, 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

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