#upthebabs

Pretty Babs haven’t been slouching since they released their debut album, Graffiti Lights, back in 2017 (I had to check then, in my head it was only last year!) – with an ever-growing gig schedule they’ve released a new EP, #upthebabs – building on their debut by adding Craig to the ranks to beef up their guitar sound.

For a bunch of fellas so young they have a mature gritty rock sound – the kind of thing Sam’s powerful voice has been literally crying out for since I first used to go see his acoustic evenings up at the Brown Cow in Mansfield. Coupled with the clear bond of friendship the four of them have, it makes for a really engaging live show.

Most recently I caught them at the always awesome Ey Up Mi Duck festival last month, and have subsequently been procrastinating about writing this review having acquired their EP there (thanks Andrew!). Oftentimes I find that my favourite live bands don’t always translate to recording – not that I don’t enjoy them, but it can lose the buzz you get from a live performance.

Not so here – clearly the band are careful to work with producers who aren’t going to smooth the edges too much when they hit the studio. Guitars snarl, bass thumps and drums crash across these five tracks, paces change and they give the perfect backing to counterpoint Sam’s voice.

The Fall opens gently before the main guitar riff kicks in joined by bass and drums, as the vocals join the guitar slows right up. There’s pace-changes in the pre-chorus leading into the chorus too before a treat of a guitar solo – the lyrics talk of lighting beacons and I suspect echoes of the horrendous political turmoil we find ourselves in at the moment. It’s a strong start!

Tumbleweed comes with an accompanying video (well, okay, it’s more of an image!) – after initial guitar it’s very percussion led with some overlaid guitar intracies. Almost hypnotic verses are pretty much driven by Brad’s drumming with building guitar and bass input before a rousing chorus kicks in. There’s a nice instrumental bridge here too showcasing pretty much everyone before the backing almost drops out but for subtle guitar and vocals – then everything’s back for a final rousing chorus. More referencing to lighting of fires too!

Blue kicks right in with vocals and guitar strums and occasional stabs, then some drum fills kick in to the full track. If there’s an underpinning of political influences in the previous tracks then here it becomes much more overt “It’s such a pity she’s a Tory girl” is the lament throughout but this is a real barnstormer of a track – you could get a good sweat on having a dance to it.

Roadrunner kicks straight in after a cymbal count in – I do think they missed a trick to have a “meep meep” in there, but maybe it’s not about a cartoon bird trying to constantly foil a not-so-wily coyote! But on listening, perhaps not the right mood to set – we have heavy chugging guitar here and empassioned vocals – definitely much heavier, with an unfeasibly catchy riff following through most of the song.

Then finishing up with with the quieter lament of Death of the Free Man, starting with deliciously intricate finger picking and heartfelt vocals, which you can sample a live rendering of below. I’d half expected it to kick in with the full band – but even as Sam’s vocals lift for the chorus the guitar picking is all that accompanies him, and I think that’s the right call for this song – and rounds off nicely the multi-facets that Pretty Babs bring to the party.

Of all the unsigned bands on the circuit I’ve grown to know and love over the last few years, I’ve said before and I’ll say again that in Pretty Babs they’re the one that I could imagine crossing over to become more mainstream – and I certainly don’t mean that as an insult, but they have such an accomplished style that you could see landing well with a more mainstream audience.

You can catch Pretty Babs at The Bodega in Nottingham on 15th June with a glittering array of amazing support acts too for the sum of just ten English pounds. It promises to be a really awesome night – I for one am looking forward to it very much. You can avail yourself of a copy of #upthebabs from the band at a gig – and presumably digital releases will follow.

Freeborn Al / 22nd May 2019 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

The adrenaline of denizen..

I’ve been looking forward to Funke and the Two Tone Baby’s new album – Denizen – ever since he’s talked about creating it.  There’s a few familar songs there from the last year or so of gigs which have evolved over time, and some new ones – and unusually we had the opportunity to hear them all live before getting home to eagerly listen to the recorded version.  Playing the last date of his tour at Bodega in Nottingham last Sunday we all crammed in to see what the fuss was about.

First up though was support act She, Robot – also known as Suzy Condrad – she took to the stage in a sparkly top behind a console of gubbins much like Funke does, and frankly she had me won over from the off.  To start a gig just up the road from where Xylophone Man used to busk (although he actually played a glockenspeil) with the said same instrument, looping it into the mic to open the set with Whose Army, was a sure fire way to win me over.

She effortlessly builds layers of sound and vocals to build an ethereal soundscape – really clever stuff, and really engaging.  Seven Bells was up next, then a Ukulele makes an appearance for Walk of Shame.  A sublime cover of Joy Division’s She’s Lost Control was up next, one of my favourite songs which always means a cover needs to tread carefully – no fear on that score, it was a compelling interpretation.  Breakdown was next, then Fragments and finally forthcoming release Brains.

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Freeborn Al / 27th April 2018 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

Prince of Thieves?

It feels weird not going to see Gaz Brookfield at The Maze in Nottingham – but in full band guise with his fellow Company of Thieves he was on at The Bodega this evening.  We got in to town a bit early to grab some food and meet folk in The Pit and Pendulum for some pre-gig drinks (lime and soda in my case – on driving duty – it’s all so very rock and roll!) – it was great to see so many folk out though, especially Lisa, Paul, Suzy and Bryan who I’ve not seen for a while!

By the time we ambled over to the venue over the road Chris Webb was already underway in an already well populated room – it’s a genuis move of Gaz, recruit people into your band who can also provide not one but two support acts!  I headed to take in his performance and hadn’t realised I was stood directly behind Gaz doing similar, amusing!  Meanwhile I’d become transfixed by watching how Chris strums his guitar, with his hand perpendicular to he guitar but his thumb out to pinch bass tones from the top two strings, whilst alternating picking or ‘flick’ strumming the four thinner strings.

It was mesmerising!  As I said he was underway when I went in, so the first song I picked up was called Breakfast which is from latest album Bungalow.  I’ve already mentioned the clever guitar playing, he’s a clever lyricist too – I couldn’t tell you what they were, but expect to become more au fait as I made sure to pick up a couple of his albums from the merch desk at the end of the gig!  I missed another song title, but then came Heat which had a frankly baffling array of lyrics – not just a feat of memory, but breath control too to get all those words out!  That’s also on Bungalow.

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Freeborn Al / 18th February 2018 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

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

Funke friday!

Everyone loves a Funke Friday!

I’ve been looking forward to the first Funke headline show I’ve been to, I think.

Bodega in Nottingham was the venue, with another night out on Saturday I opted for driving rather than working out a way of making it a drinkable trip – so we picked up Jamie and Teresa en route and headed to beautiful downtown Nottingham and got to the venue for a drink or two downstairs before the venue was open.  Plenty of familiar faces were amassing (and an impressive collection of Brian Stone t-shirts, clearly some of us need to have a quick wardrobe-plan conversation before we head out to a gig!).

First up was local act Motormouf who I’m aware of but had never seen before – and wow, was he impressive!  He unassumedly got himself on stage and straight into it combining a soundcheck with the start of his set.  Highly compatible with Funke in that he was using loops and a sampler – but it was pretty much all vocal beatboxing (possibly with some other samples thrown in) – overlaid with hip hop vocals, thoughful rapping and clever lyrics, and an amazing stage presence with plenty of movement and eye-contact for the crowd.

I was really rather taken with him – in terms of track names, well I didn’t do very well on that score – What You Waiting For? was second track in I think, and he finished up an all-too-short set with a cracking interpretation of Earth Wind and Fire’s It’s Alright.  He had to dash as he’d inadvertently double-booked himself so needed to get up to The Maze for another gig minutes later (good luck with that!), but definitely a good support act moment, someone I’d love to hear more from, and shall make sure that I do that very thing!

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Freeborn Al / 8th April 2017 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

Dear Brad, you rock!

I’ve been looking forward to Brad Dear‘s EP launch ever since it was announced – it’s been literally years I’ve been watching Brad but I think this is only the second time in that time I’ve seen him headline his own gig, and the first time he’s done so with the full line up of him, Andy, Chris and now of course Lizzie on fiddle.  With Unknown Era unfortunately having to drop out, Spud was drafted in as a last minute support which frankly is a bonus in itself.  As we normally would anyway we made sure we were there in time for proceedings beginning.

Plenty of folk were already in Bodega early doors too – Spud got himself sorted and on stage, kicking off with The Small Festival Scene, charting the awesome array of grassroots events that go off around the country (and how tricky it can be to get to play them!).  Amusingly, being in a DHP venue, he went for Life Without DHP next – explaining to the crowd how difficult not being on the radar of the ubiquitous Nottingham-based promoter can be.  Certainly raised a few chuckles in the crowd.

Getting into his stride next up was the inimitable I Can’t Get Penetration on Tinder – raising the stakes of chuckles to downright laughter!  His love of fishing was up next for Wherever I May Roam (not a Metallica cover, I hasten to add!) before his love of, well, other things was paid tribute to with High Green.  A proud Nottinghamian his homage to Robin Hood was next with The Legend of Nottingham has its own video(which which I never knew!), he finished up his set in the crowd with Sam on guitar for a raucous final track of Chocolate Biscuit.  Ace set.

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Freeborn Al / 12th March 2017 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Politics / 0 Comments

Brad Dear has a new EP coming out!

I was having a ponder about when I first heard about Brad Dear – and realised with some alarm that it was five years ago!  The local radio station on the way in to work was featuring a young musician from Southwell who was on the verge of releasing a single on iTunes the proceeds from which would support the charity Help for Heroes.  I downloaded it and liked it very much, and it might well have been that that was where my journey with Brad ended – but for the fact that he was somewhat taken under the Ferocious Dog wing – so he’s been a regular feature of my gig repertoire ever since.

Most of those gigs have been as a solo performer – and I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing his various stages of forming bands – he’s probably had more line-up changes than Ferocious Dog, haha!   It’s been a genuine privilege to have been able to watch Brad develop as a performer and see some of his songs evolve into the accomplished anthems they’ve become.  So I was really excited when he asked me if I’d be happy to get hold of his forthcoming EP a little early to be able to write a review, which is what you’re reading now!

For those of you who’ve seen Brad perform either alone or with band you’ll have heard these songs before – indeed, a couple have appeared on previous recorded releases but here with the additional input of Chris on percussion, Andy on bass and in particular Lizzie on fiddle they now feel like they’ve evolved fully.  From reading his interview with Ella on her Snotography page it’s a conscious choice to have included songs that he’s been kicking around live for a while – with new songs promised for an album to follow (exciting!).

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Freeborn Al / 16th February 2017 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 1 Comment

Devine contribution..

A rare trip into Nottingham with Nick and Ella was on offer this week to see Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band at Bodega.  When we were plotting the trip I had grand ideas about going to do cheesy tourist things, maybe grab a burger at Annie’s before heading to the gig.  Luckily they were loosely made plans, by the time we’d wiled away a pleasant day talking nonsense and eating the breakfast/brunch Ella had made there wasn’t really time for much beyond a cheeky coffee and cake and a drink before the doors opened.

I feel a little bit like I might’ve sold my home town a bit short, really – but there’s always the next time!

With an early curfew and four acts to get on the music was due to start before seven.  I do like Bodega as a venue, although did fall foul of the finding the place where I’m in everyone’s way.  As all the acts were new to me I wanted to observe from afar, and I’m always conscious of how my height can restrict people’s views – but we found a cunning zone triangulated by the bar, the merch desk and the door which seemed to mostly work – although why so many people go to busy gig venues with rucksacks strapped to their backs will always evade me.

Avoiding turtle-like folk aside it was a pleasant crowd, I was finding it odd to be at a gig where I literally knew two people in the room.  Although we did meet Tom (the second act of the night) through Nick and he was a magnanimously friendly chap covering the merch.  But more on him later.  There was a bit of a beer scandal too – Monday night in the Bodega downstairs is happy hour, their house lager is £2 – unless you go upstairs then it’s £3.40.  Scandalous!  It’s easy enough to nip downstairs for one though.  I think lime and soda was cheap at both bars, since I was playing designated driver!

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Freeborn Al / 1st February 2017 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands / 0 Comments

2015 – The year of the Dog..

12347814_10153863571453060_2422930688827816042_nOkay, so Ferocious Dog have been around a little longer – but this last year has felt rather like a landmark.  And not just because back in February it’s when Ferocious Blog was born, ha!  The lead up to a new year is traditionally a time for reflecting back on the year just gone and looking forward to the next one, so I figured it’d be nice to trawl back through the months and pull out a highlight or two for each month of 2015, it will be tough to pick just one or two so feel free to chip in your own in the comments – despite my best efforts I didn’t quite make it to every Ferocious Dog gig in the year!

January 2015 – a light month, Ferocious Blog was yet to be created (although it had been an idea kicking around in my head for at least a couple of years).  Checking my calendar and personal blog doesn’t reveal much at all in the way of Ferocious Dog activity – we’d have been still basking in the warm glow of Dogfest back in December – I latterly discovered that a 3 Piece Acoustic performance took place in honour of Ella’s 21st birthday in this month, but alas I didn’t know Snotty at this juncture!

IMG_9188_gFebruary 2015the blog is born after an acoustic appearance by Ken and Dan at the Brown Cow in Mansfield.  Seldom has one of Sam’s nights had such a huge crowd packed in.  The demand for the event was the perfect excuse to arrive early and chat nonsense with friends for the afternoon.  An afternoon of drinking had taken its toll on Dean who for the first time decreed I needed to get up and surf in his place – a great way to start what became a year of extreme ‘dogging’.  These smaller intimate gigs are as enjoyable for me as the bigger and bolder shows that are to follow.  We were first introduced to Scott at this appearance too.

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Freeborn Al / 30th December 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Thoughts

The waiting is almost over..

IMG_0447.. and boy are you going to think it’s worth it.  From Without has been mastered, and is going into production ready to be sent out to the good folks who made it a possibility by paying up front for it.   Back in April I wrote a review based on some of the rough-cut tracks I’d been privy to, subsequently I’ve been lucky enough to hear a number of the iterations of mixing that occurred and finally the mastered full album this evening.  And wow, what a treat.  I’m not sure if posting this is torturing folk who’ve waited or help with anticipation.

In the recent radio interview Ken talked about From Without and how it was inspired by Karl Marx.  More specifically the inference that revolution can’t be triggered solely by the proletariat but would need help from without their ranks.  Of course all the speculation and misinterpretations were fun – but undoubtedly this is an album that has a strong political underpinning almost throughout – be it contemporary or historical – there’s anger and cutting observation.

Whether it be what sounds like a summary of Iain Duncan-Smith’s assault on the disabled and the farce of the bedroom tax in Living on Thin Air (this is the track, you’ll remember, that was co-written with Nick Burbridge), historical accounts like Ruby Bridges, Crime and Punishment and more recent history in the form of Marikana Massacre or the hauntingly sad-yet-beautiful Slow Motion Suicide charting the demise of a jobless miner in the wake of the pits being closed – there’s clear messages of the disenfranchised ringing through the opening nine tracks of the album.

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Freeborn Al / 1st September 2015 / Band, Music, Photos / 0 Comments