All smiles in Thorne and Warsop..

IMG_0110Well there was certainly plenty to smile about this weekend for the inaugural Something To Smile About festival up in Thorne near Doncaster.  Before we even contemplated that I picked up an exciting email from the BBC that they were going to play Ruby Bridges that evening too – which of course is to be released as a digital single on Monday 8th June, so get your download fingers ready from tomorrow, folks.

I’ve since managed to get the broadcast ripped courtesy of the listen again link, so hopefully the magical Soundcloud embedding wizard will have worked so that you can listen to it below if you didn’t manage to catch it live.  I’m sure you’ll agree, technical wibble aside where a BBC jingle interrupts the intro, it’s a going to go down a storm when it’s released tomorrow so make sure you get it downloaded and see if we can’t get it somewhere in a chart.

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IMG_0112But anyway, Something To Smile About was set up by Becky and Pete to raise money for a number of excellent charities – with not only a fine array of talent to entertain the crowd we were also treated to a splendid selection of ales, ciders, meads and food – which I probably sampled a few too many of judging by the day long hangover I’ve been nursing since.  It was certainly worth it though, a cracking day and a huge success – already looking forward to next year!

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Freeborn Al / 7th June 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 1 Comment

Gaz Brookfield – True and Fast album review..

I’d be amazed if anyone vaguely into Ferocious Dog hasn’t encountered Gaz Brookfield too – he’s been support a few times to the band as well as making starring appearances at the last couple of Dogfests.  I first saw Gaz as the early support act for the Levellers and immediately rushed off to buy an EP – that was obviously a striking occasion as it features in Land Pirate’s Life subsequently.

On that day as a competition prize I was due to collect some merchandise from the Levs backstage so even had the chance to meet him briefly behind the stage at Rock City and congratulate him on a cracking performance – not that I imagine that has stuck in the memory.  I hope not anyway, I was in the midst of a particularly ridiculous Movember effort at the time – but ever since then I’d decided to keep an eye out for him.

Lucky for me then that he subsequently seemed to forge a relationship with the other main band in my life – so as well as taking in as many of his own gigs as I’ve been able to I also benefit from his support slots with FD as well.  The autumn tour will be doubly a treat on this score since he features on the bill for the vast majority of these!  So anyway, background aside, Gaz’s new album True and Fast dropped in my mailbox yesterday much to my excitement.

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Freeborn Al / 6th June 2015 / Music, Other Bands / 0 Comments

All the world is waiting for you brave young girl..

As the clock ticks down to Something to Smile About on Saturday there’s also the excitement of Ferocious Dog releasing Ruby Bridges as a digital single on Monday too.  I talked about the song when previewing some of the rough cut tracks from the album a while ago, briefly summarising the subject and that the song was conceived in Dan’s mind when Ruby would’ve hit the news having just turned 60 last year in September.

Dan had earmarked the song as a potential idea for a co-written piece with Maelor Hughes, but subsequently liked what he’d started too much to not have it as a Ferocious Dog track that he finished off with Ken.

The story of Ruby Bridges is one of real inspiration though.  In 1960 a federal court order decreed that public schools in New Orleans, where the Bridges family lived, were forced to desegregate.  Put simply, white and black children were no longer to be educated separately.   Black children from kindergarten were tested to see who would be put forward to go to an integrated school – Ruby duly passed this test and the first challenge was to overcome divisions within the family.

Her father was understandably reticent – worried that the act of his daughter going to a mixed school was ‘just asking for trouble’ whilst her mother saw the opportunity Ruby could have for a better education and future prospects, and of course the bigger picture of taking a opportunity of a real tangible step forward toward racial equality.  Eventually after much debate within the family it was this view that won out, and it was decided that Ruby would indeed attend an integrated school in November 1960 – a date decided by a federal judge.

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Freeborn Al / 4th June 2015 / Band, Music, Thoughts / 0 Comments

Well I would drive 400 miles..

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… then I would drive 400 more!

I really hadn’t been planning on going to Aberdeen.  I looked at flights which were too expensive and would involve getting to Birmingham or Manchester first, and driving alone seemed ridiculous.  Then came a random comment on Facebook that changed it all.

Lisa was planning a potential get together, I half-jokingly commented “What, you’re not coming to see FD in Aberdeen?”  A moment later my phone rang, and plans were hatched to take a car up and share the driving.

She also recruited The Stig to join us, so come midnight on Friday night/Saturday morning I headed over to theirs to set off so we could avoid any traffic and have plenty of time to recuperate after the drive and check out the Granite City.  It was a flawless plan – we piled into my car and hit the motorway, and before we even got a junction north something odd had happened.  “What the fuck is that?” I asked as it felt like we’d driven on a never-ending rumble strip – we had a tyre blow out.

All we know is, he's called The Stig!

All we know is, he’s called The Stig!

On to the hard shoulder we went, sure enough the passenger side front wheel was flat – The Stig duly jacked up the car and got the spare on, a space-saver wheel with a speed limit of 50mph.  Not the best for the 400+ miles to our destination and back again. But give up we did not – we went back and changed cars and started again – this time The Stig took the first driving stint, giving me a chance to have a bit of a snooze in the back of the car.  A comfort stop later and Lisa took the wheel to get us the remainder of the way with The Stig getting some sleep time in the back.

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Freeborn Al / 24th May 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Photos / 0 Comments

On this day..

My first Ferocious Dog gig on this day in 2011!

My first Ferocious Dog gig on this day in 2011!

I loaded up Timehop this morning, as I do most mornings.  Timehop is an app you can install on your phone and it will trawl through your photos, Facebook and Twitter accounts to find out what you’d been up to on a particular day in previous years.  For a maudlin nostalgia-junkie like me it’s a fun way to peruse things and see how things have changed over years gone, or just jog your memory of things you might’ve been up to.

So, on 19th May four years ago today I excitedly finished up my working day then headed up to the Black Market Venue in Warsop to see Mark Chadwick play a solo gig supported by, of course Ferocious Dog.  Because when picking up the ticket from Dan a couple of weeks prior I was given an EP I already knew four tracks – Quiet Paddy, Criminal Justice, Mairi’s Wedding Part II and On the Rocks.  They’d been on somewhat of a heavy playing cycle in the run-up to this gig.

I remember Ken and Dave both looked at me a bit funny as I was singing along to them despite never having seen them before.

Back then the set opened – I think – with Burford Stomp, a cover version of the song the Levellers recorded for Rev Hammer‘s Freeborn John album – it involved a bandana-clad Ellis taking the stage first with an energetic solo that the band joined in with.  I have no real memory of the set list but there were a fair few cover versions – certainly River O’Joe and What You Know featured along with Burford Stomp.  I have been able to dredge a video out of my archives of that first gig for me along with the photo.

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Freeborn Al / 19th May 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Thoughts / 0 Comments

Capital entertainment..

IMG_9841I’ve already waxed lyrical about both the appropriateness and auspiciousness of the Half Moon in Putney as a venue for a Ferocious Dog gig, so I won’t labour the point again – but the evening was certainly not a let down by any stretch of the imagination.  Lucky for me Andy handled logistics of this trip – so I just needed to wait to be picked up safe in the knowledge the driving, tickets and hotel were all already in hand, so big thanks to him for that!

The drive down was straightforward, we were staying in the Premier Inn in Wandsworth, which meant we got to drive past the venue beforehand – and had a chance to bellow at the ever unflappable Ellis who was having a smoke outside, and completely unmoved at being yelled at by a passing car.  A slight lane-choosing malfunction meant we briefly ended up on the north of the Thames again but eventually we found the NCP carpark we were aiming for and wandered to the hotel.  A stop, freshen up and change and we were ready to go.

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A rogues gallery of Hell Hounds at The Rocket

Our first meeting point was The Rocket, a Wetherspoons pub not far from the venue – a good number of Hell Hounds were already in attendance and had been for some time, for us there was time for a few pints and a cheeky short before moving onward to make sure we didn’t miss the support act.  We even managed to get a lovely local to take a picture without running off with Geoff’s camera!  Arriving in plenty of time we found more friends and of course the band hanging around at the back of the venue.  The atmosphere was great.

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

No debate: Putney’s the place to be this Friday..

I guess you can’t really get away from politics at the moment, and let’s face it – the songs Ferocious Dog regale us with are full of political past, present and maybe just the promise of a brighter future (if you listen to Freethinker right the way through at least!).  When you finally get your mits on the new album – or if you’re especially keen at picking out lyrics at live gigs – then the second album has an almost certainly more overt political theme.

This isn’t really an appropriate vessel for current political commentary, not least because I’m not really qualified to provide it, but it is quite timely that the band happen to be playing in Putney this coming weekend (c’mon – is it Friday yet already?) given the role this once small town nestled by the river outside the capital once played in shaping modern British democracy (if you can call it that.. hang on, I said I wasn’t going to get political, didn’t I? I do apologise).

Putney is a political landmark for the development of British democracy – in 1647 in played host to a series of discussions (the Putney Debates) between Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army to attempt to resolve the constitution and future of England.  Matters like whether to come to terms with the defeated Charles I, should we even have a King or Lords?  Should it really only be owners of property who have the right to cast a vote on those who should govern them?  Would giving such power to the common-man lead to destructive anarchy?

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Freeborn Al / 12th May 2015 / Band, Gigs, Thoughts / 0 Comments

Brighton-ing up the south coast..

IMG_9693 (1)As the ramifications of the general election result this week sink in I certainly welcomed the opportunity to get back into tour mode this weekend.

A straightforward drive to Brighton was the order of the day, made more amusing by overtaking the Dog Bus near Leicester Forest East and meeting up with Sarah, Dean, Karen, Adele and Ken at Toddington Services and shortly after the contents of the bus – amazingly on their first cigarette stop pretty much half way on their journey.

The onward trip to Brighton was grand and the earlier rain was giving way to lovely sunshine as a first glimpse of the sea was on offer as I headed towards Hove where I was staying.  I don’t know whether it’s true of all folk raised firmly inland but in my experience people from Nottingham get a bit giddy at the sight of the sea, and I’m no different.  Digs located the not inconsiderable task of finding somewhere to leave the car overnight was the next mission – eventually a very dodgy looking multi-storey carpark up the road did the job for a not ridiculous fee.

Oh we do like to be beside the seaside!

Oh we do like to be beside the seaside!

Settled in to the cheap (for the area) and cheerful Smart Seaview I got myself changed and sorted, then it was a mile and a half straight down the seafront for me to get into Brighton – so a bracing walk down and I found Dave and Nadine tucking into Burritos before we headed off to find a suitable drinking establishment.  The Black Lion duly provided, close to the venue and a nice old gothic looking place with a decent beer garden (with heaters!) out back for us to settle – shortly after we directed assorted other folk there for a bit of pre-gig socialising.

It was great to have the chance to just to have a sit and a natter with folk in relaxed surroundings whilst sinking a few beers.

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Freeborn Al / 10th May 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Photos / 0 Comments

Rest and recuperation..

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(Ferocious) Dog tired

The tour schedule has a handy break this weekend for a bit of much-needed rest and recuperation.

It’s been a busy week at work so that’s much appreciated.  It’s also given Ferocious Dog the opportunity to get back in the studio to put what are hopefully the finishing touches to their album – they’ve been pretty quiet about how things have gone which I’m taking as a good sign.  It was clearly a gruelling schedule they were undergoing given the photo of Waggy asleep in a chair that surfaced on Facebook earlier in the week!

Speaking of Waggy, he’s been confirmed as the official tour manager for the band – a great choice!  He’s also caught up with his photo albums, so you can check out pictures from Bridport, Plymouth, Exeter, Stamford and Newbury – there’s some crackers in there as ever – let’s hope he’s able to delegate what ever during-gig duties he might have as tour manager to make sure that camera is still in action!

Of course the other big news this week was on Monday when the autumn tour dates were finally revealed – twenty dates in all, including the previously announced gigs with Mad Dog Mcrea in Camden, Bristol and of course at Rock City.  Exciting times.  Whilst I’m on a good run of FD gigs so far this year (!) I’m coming to terms with the fact I’ll not make it to all of them – even so, I’m pretty sure I’ll be on for most.  I’ve been plotting with the work holiday planner and a good few are already booked in, with a fairly hefty number on the ‘to order after payday’ list.

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Freeborn Al / 1st May 2015 / Band, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

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