2017 – the ‘slow down year’..

Whilst I always seem to be busy, 2017 was a quieter year than the last couple – that’s borne out by the blog activity, 68 posts this year compared to 90 in 2016.  Home ownership, life events and an inherent need to slow down a little bit (but only a little) took its toll.

There were a few occasions where I bundled events into single mega-posts rather than splitting them out that might be artificially manipulating the statistics downward.  But on the music front it’s been another belting year, regardless!

January got underway pretty late with a trip to Droitwich to see Nick Parker and Paul Henshaw, an ace gig and a chance to finally put a visual reference to a place that had always stuck in my mind from DFS adverts of yore.  Now I’m just looking to head to Darley-Dale and Measham for gigs and I can tick off the sofa-based trilogy of places from those cursed interludes that used to plague us between films around Christmas in the 80s and early 90s!

February was a little livelier, we had a trip with off-duty Nick Parker to see previously unheard of Kevin Devine in Nottingham which was awesome, great support too from The Lion and the Wolf and George Gadd.  Ferocious Dog dropped their From Without acoustic album to us which went down very well indeed, whilst Mad Dog Mcrea played an amazing set in Nottingham along with The Outlines and Star Botherers (I’m not sure if they’d officially dropped the ‘the’ by this point!).

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Freeborn Al / 30th December 2017 / Band, 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

Who put the crown on the head of the clown?

I do bloody love 3 Daft Monkeys, there’s no denying it.  They’re playful yet poignant, irreverent but relevant, mischievous and mystical – they weave and fuse their modern folk sound with celtic and balkan type influences – they bring smiles, they bring tears.  It was a real honour to be sent a preview copy of their new album – The Year of the Clown.  I’m always touched to be asked to review something somebody has created, it’s a personal thing and I’m only too eager to make sure that I treat it with the respect it deserves.

The CD arrived whilst I was galavanting at Rockstock and Barrel – I excitedly put it in the car when going to take Ella back to Stevenage only to be greeted with the dreaded ‘disc error’ message – oh well, I’ll rip it when I get home, I thought.  And I did – but only nine of the twelve tracks copied successfully… modern technology is great though, a quick email and Tim kindly furnished me with digital copies of the remaining tracks which I’ve spent the last few days getting to know whilst commuting, doing chores and well, basically any time I’ve been listening to music.

Accompanying the disc is a press release – Year of the Clown is a deliberate reference to the frankly terrifying global political stage – it positions the album as being very personal, 3 Daft Monkeys exposing their bare bones and their souls.  It shows in the sound too – in typical style there are powerful observations masked by catchy melodies, mischievous rhyming devices and swirling soaring fiddle journeys.  It’s unmistakably 3 Daft Monkeys, but with a degree of themeatic reinvention we’ve seen in their last few albums – and going another step toward trying to capture their raw live energy on a recording.

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Freeborn Al / 6th April 2017 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Rock-Stock is rising.. saturday..

Saturday morning came with no particular hangover, the joys of Scrumptiddly Cider and pacing yourself!  With the morning likely to be taken up with wedding preparations, as Dave and Caroline were being handfasted early in the afternoon, and with The Star Copiers having a set mid-afternoon I was more interested in acquiring some breakfast and tea than thinking about getting on the cider.  We did find time to pop into the main room to see Phily’s daughter and her band open up the day with some ace indie rock to blow the cobwebs away.

I’m going to try to remember that I think they were called The Hatters – I’m really sorry, that’s pretty bad not even getting a name written down!  I was dipping in and out of the set trying to track down the sword I needed for the ceremony shortly, but one song was dedicated to a dead fish called Speedy (I think!), and there was a rousing rendition of Chelsea Dagger to enjoy too.  It was a shame not to have seen more of the set but my principle duty until he was handtied was to protect Dave, so I set out to find him.

Eventually guests were ushered into the acoustic room which had been set up to perform a handfasting ceremony – which Tina expertly guided them through.  Siobhan and I were witnesses – along with the rest of the room.  It was a really quite moving, I’ve never really experienced a handfasting before.  I was sorry to have to give up the sword to Dave though, I must admit!  The indoor ceremony was concluded with the sharing of mead from a drinking horn, whilst outside bird seed was scattered and the happy couple jumped a broomstick held by the witnesses.  A beautiful way to start the day.

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Freeborn Al / 3rd April 2017 / Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Foxy bingo!

I’ve been really looking forward to getting my hands on Jonny Wallis‘ debut EP ever since we collectively coaxed him into setting up a crowdfunding page to get the cash in to make it happen, so to find it hand-delivered (thanks Katie – sorry I wasn’t in to offer you a cup of tea!) when I got in from work this evening was a real treat (admittedly, the email confirming the digital download details probably spoiled the surprise a bit, but that’s okay!).  Clad in a cardboard monochrome sleeve featuring an excellent shot by Dan of Ferocious Photography, I eagerly got it downloaded and synced over to my phone to get it playing.

The Year of the Fox is a reference to Jonny’s old band, 3 Eyed Fox, who I first encountered way back in 2011 – way before Ferocious Blog existed, although it did warrant a mention on my (even more) self-centred personal blog – a very short mention.  By the time I started more dutifully writing about music I don’t think they were any more sadly, so I couldn’t tell you how many times I got to see them – although obviously since this platform has been available to me Jonny has featured quite a lot on my gigging roster!  One musical door closes, another opens – catalysed perhaps somewhat by his occasional partnering with Brian Stone for a spot of The Fox and the Pirate.

Light the Darkness has a ludicrously catchy finger-picked riff breaking into occasional strums overlaid with initially gentle lyrics.  Jonny has a wonderfully melodic voice – but then get let rip into empassioned mode too as he does in the chorus here.  It’s a powerful song of togetherness, offering support to bring someone out of a dark place.  It’s a lovely start, having heard it live a few times now it’s translated brilliantly to a recording – it sounds polished without losing its heart, so some credit needs to go to Electric-Bear Productions who provided the mixing and mastering.  They’ve really rendered something here that sounds slick but is a great representation of what Jonny delivers live too.

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Freeborn Al / 21st March 2017 / Music, Other Bands, Photos

It’s a two Dogfest kinda year..

With Dogfest having had a break in 2015, we got to have the bonus of a double-Dogfest year in 2016 – the fifth one (or certainly the fifth one I’ve been to) – it’s amazing to see how much it’s grown from!  In the past it’s always been a race to get to Warsop for the start – no such problem here, I poked my head out of a cosy sleeping bag to face the winter temperatures in my van. Brr! At least I’d remembered to sleep the other way around from normal owing to the slope I’d parked on!

First things first was a trip down to the Co-op to buy some supplies to donate to Framework later in the day.  Once bag there were more stirrings in the urban campsite, a chance to chat with Darren for a bit before Wez and I headed out for a very hearty breakfast at The Tea Cosy on the High Street – recommended, a big ol’ breakfast with plenty of tea was just the fuel needed for a day as relentless as what was to follow.  By the time we headed back the doors were open and wristband acquired courtesy of Rich.

On the main stage the show was opened by Jimmy Carroll, I’ve only found a personal page on Facebook rather than a page so far – so I won’t link to that, but an ideal act to open the day – two chaps, acoustic guitars, relaxed vibe.  As is oft the problem for early acts they fall foul of the ooh! people are arriving! curse that means they get a little relegated to background music – it sounded like great background music to me though.  Just before setting up on stage Sam was excited to see his new band on the t-shirts!

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Freeborn Al / 19th December 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Disarm you with a smile..

IMG_4102Late on Saturday Ella and Morgan had sneakily secured themselves an open mic slot on the hidden stage.  As Sunday morning came I was up and ready way before the performer – luckily for me I scored some bacon and and egg from Herb to cook up for breakfast to stick on a sandwich, thanks Herb!  We alternated kettle boiling whilst the rest of the camp got themselves mustered.

I sneakily told as many people as I could about the imminent performance – given the relative earliness of the hour – Mick had come round to say goodbye, but was eager to stay to watch, and we managed to round up a few more folk to get a bit of a crowd ready to head on down to the hidden stage where last minute rehearsals / discussions were taking place, whilst the stage crew got everything plugged in and soundchecked.

Morgan – as noted yesterday – had been writing down guitar chords during The Leylines set, then wasted no time in teaching himself Run For Cover overnight, which was the song they opened up with.  As Ella spent time in the recording studio with The Leylines and did backing vocals for that particuar song – it was one she didn’t need any lyrical help with at all!  It sounded lovely, to my admittedly biased ears.

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Freeborn Al / 8th June 2016 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos / 0 Comments

The theory of Beard-ativity…

IMG_3875Well how do you go about trying to summarise four days at Bearded Theory? My normal modus operandi of slavishly noting set lists would probably lead to a novel that I don’t want to write and you certainly don’t want to read – so I’m going to force myself to be a bit less unimaginative and try to summarise what was a bloody fantastic time – a great setting, wonderful weather, amazingly well organised, great acts and a frankly marvellous collection of people to party with.

It all started for us on Thursday afternoon, we arranged to meet Addie, Jane, Dave and Nadine in a layby near the site to secure a camping spot together.  Getting back onto a busy A38 was entertaining for the two caravanners in our convoy, but soon enough we’d found ourselves queuing to get on site – a few very familiar vehicles already snaking their way around to the entrance to the camping field.  This was Ella and I’s first trip to a festival in our new van – Ludo – so it was pretty exciting!

IMG_3879Eventually in and sited, everyone set about getting things set up – for us it was pretty simple, extract things from the storage under the back seats, spinning the front bench seat around, putting the silver screens up in the window – and cracking open a can of cider!  The only fly in our oinment was a dead leisure battery – despite having been on charge for a couple of days – but well, even the lack of promised power a van would provide still proved infinitely better than the faff of tenting!

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Freeborn Al / 30th May 2016 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Rolling out the festival barrel in style.. (part two)..

aIMG_3284A combination of factors had made for a bad night’s sleep – a small degree of being drunk (not too much though), an airbed that deflated itself at an alarming rate, persistent rain and the presumably associated crackling and buzzing from the overhead powerlines.  Eventually I deigned to emerge from the tent to find the guy rope from the front had been ripped away from the tent – I’d assumed by a passing early hours reveller in the dark, it’s happened before (and I’ve got the kit to fix it, so no big deal).

First call was one of nature so wandered toward the building – in time to find Steve, Matt and Dave packing up their gear.  Then some less good news, it turned out there’d been some opportunist thefts in the night – a couple of vans had had cash and phones taken – whilst folk were asleep in them.  This is distressing and unfortunately not unheard of in festivals.  I believe that it wasn’t anybody on the site already, but we’ll probably never know.  It made me wonder about our torn guy rope and the tent being partially unzipped, but who knows.

IMG_3243It’s a learning for future events – to double-check the security of access to the site from outside, and perhaps have a couple of security guys patrolling in the evening and early hours.  And of course, a reminder to all of us to be vigilant with valuables – keep them on your person or locked away in vans (or cars if you’re tenting it), and be a bit paranoid even once you’re in and asleep.  I pondered not mentioning this at all, but it’s something to be aware of – but absolutely shouldn’t put people off attending events, poor Debs and Phil were understandably distraught as were all the festival team (not least the folks who’d had things taken too).

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Freeborn Al / 4th April 2016 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos