The year the music died?

Image credit: christhebarker

2016 will probably go down as one of those years where sad news overshadowed the good – certainly that was true for me both in personal terms, which I won’t cover here, but also the seemingly relentless march of famous icons being taken by the grim reaper.  Just as we were coming to terms with Lemmy passing away at the end of 2015, in 2016 we’d be constantly reminded by social media of a glittering parade of cultural icons shuffling from this mortal coil.

David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Jimmy Bain, Terry Wogan, Harper Lee, Frank Kelly, George Martin, Keith Emerson, Frank Sinatra Jr, Paul Daniels, Ronnie Corbett, David Gest, Victoria Wood, Lonnie Mack, Prince, John Berry, Nick Menza, Muhammad Ali, Henry McCullough, Anton Yelchin, Caroline Aherne, Kenny Baker, Dalian Atkinson, Gene Wilder, Pete Burns, Leonard Cohen, Andrew Sachs, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Rick Parfitt, George Michael, Liz Smith, Richard Adams, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

That’s not an exhaustive list, I’m sure, but that’s not really what I wanted this blog post to be about – but you can’t really do a review of the year without mentioning the elephant in the room.  As with seemingly most things these days it caused ruckuses on Facebook with folk taking to social media to express their sadness whilst others get irked at seeming over-emotionalness.  Certainly there’s a lot in that list who whilst I’ve never met have had huge influences over my life, and I felt genuine sadness at them moving on – some seemingly far too early, others having reached a ripe of age.

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Freeborn Al / 30th December 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Doozering Derbyshire..

img_0676I won’t deny that the last gig at Rock City meant I was eyeing people heading to Brixton to the next leg of the Levellers tour with envious eyes, however, that’s not to say I wasn’t really chuffed to be able to take in a much closer to home leg of Doozer McDooze’s ‘Flick the V sign and do it anyway’ tour.  Whilst it was only a few miles up the road for me I decided to take Ludo and take advantage of the hospitality of the pub and sleep over in the car park so I could have a few drinks.

To that end I was in the pub car park mid-afternoon, once I’d got the bed set up I decamped to Dave and Caroline’s van where Murph was kind enough to share his sleeping space for me for a couple of cheeky drinks, Rob joined us shortly after and before long with John, Angela, Russ and Michelle arriving (with the awesome Merlin) we headed into the pub where there was a bit more room (and warmth!).  The Yew Tree Inn is a lovely building, I’m really sad that the brewery is moving Chris on as he’s created such a lovely atmosphere in the place.

img_0647A few folk ordered some pizzas, whilst most of us decided to hold out for the curry and chilli on offer upstairs.  I’d never been in the function room upstairs – what a cracking space, a bar, loos and a nice big room set up for the gig.  Doozer was on hand to personally hand stamp people by drawing a picture of himself on your hand (or you might’ve got something worse if Birdy had the marker!), we had plenty of time to find a spot to sit and get comfortable.

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Freeborn Al / 4th December 2016 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Gotta plough on through..

14947756_1602473626445353_1721629188249715556_nSo in the one previous gig I played with The Star Copiers I had the privilege of Bart writing us a review – it doesn’t feel right reviewing something you’re involved in yourself somehow!  For last night’s gig at Brad’s open mic Ella offered to fill the gap for me – then foolishly advanced that to writing the whole blog for me, so I duly accepted – so following are her words, and also her awesome photos!  Anyone fancy writing up Sunday’s set at the Black Market? Haha!

Brad Dear has recently started doing a Open Mic at The Plough Inn in Warsop on a Thursday night, Tonight’s line up was a smashing one at that with Brad himself playing, The Star Copiers and King of Rome. After travelling from Stevenage to Solihull, and then the traffic fuelled journey from Solihull to Alan’s house so he can get changed ready for the gig, and jumping back into the car to have a service station sandwich on the way as we didn’t have time to have the dairy-free lasagne, but that doesn’t matter!

We got to the Plough in time for sound-check and even time to have a chat with everyone who had come. Ken, Ian and Lynne Corbishly which was a lovely surprise, The Dears and many other locals who had come to see the line-up of people play.  First on was Brad Dear, who Alan has blogged about a lot before during this year, Brad played solo tonight which is always just as good as full band with his rustic voice which I really enjoy.

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Freeborn Al / 4th November 2016 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

That difficult second festival… day two!

img_0052Friday night was so memorable, so it was with that ambivalent mixture of excitement and tired reluctance we hauled ourselves out of the hotel come Saturday to taxi our way back to the Robin 2.  As such, we owe apologies to Stevie Simpson for missing his set in its entirely and to Emma & The Professor who were half way into theirs by the time we made it – but well, non-stop music for twelve hours, it wouldn’t be the only stuff we missed – and I must confess to sitting and feeling daunted about trying to write it all down!

img_0051Heading back into the gloomy venue worked a lot like the casinos in Vegas – it made it seem perpetually evening.  Emma & The Professor were on the second stage, and just striking up Bostin’ track Men An Tol – thankfully plenty of folk were more disciplined at getting up than we were, there was a good crowd in already!  This was followed up with Battle of the Marches and The Old Black Crow.  They have such a unique sound, and a new album in the offing which I’m excited about!

The two stages were alternating – Stevie Simpson compering the main stage, handing over to (or being handed over from) Brian Stone on the second stage.  If you take a moment to think about the logistics, soundchecking through the sound-desk only, the first chance to artists get to hear their monitor mix was starting the set – the sound guys and stage management deserves some serious kudos for even considering this way of working, to have pulled it off – just wow!

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Freeborn Al / 19th October 2016 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

An electric atmosphere..

img_5635Rockstock and Barrel is fast becoming one of my favourite festivals – to take what is, frankly, a somewhat tired old social club attached to an abandoned power station and sprinkle it with imagination, art and music is a real testament to Debbo, Phily and their ever-expanding team of helpers.  This year the them of the festival was Tim Burton films – the decor and fancy dress were the magic dust on top of a solid foundation of facilities and great acts.

img_5560I’d dumped Ludo on the site on Thursday night, but alas work commitments meant I couldn’t stay – arriving back on site on Friday afternoon – complete with some shopping for Tim and, perhaps most randomly, a watering can for Lynne and Ian (which looked alarming like some kind of thing you’d find in Ann Summers!).  First order of business was to get the van sorted out – and then get my mits on the first of many Pineapple ciders.

As well as organising superb venues, decor and entertainment the stand out feature of Debbo and Phily’s events are their wonderous array of ciders and wines – and of course the Cheezy Vinyl Bar, which even had the option of pre-booking a baked camembert too.  The main stage was in the social club, the cider bar hosted the second stage and a third was nestled in the attached Cheezy Vinyl Bar.

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Freeborn Al / 5th October 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 2 Comments

Geddin’ on Farmer Phil’s land.. part two..

I'm dead when Ella sees this!

I’m dead when Ella sees this!

Saturday morning came and despite the strange cold-like thing I’d had the night before I felt fine aside from a bit snotty, which is a bonus!  Speaking of Snotty, she had an appointment with an open-mic night where Morganella were scheduled to perform – so our first order of business was to head over a couple of fields where clan Parry were camped for an opportunity to rehearse a bit, grabbing a coffee en route.

By the time we’d finished and headed up to the arena it was lunchtime, nachos were my weapon of choice, we munched food whilst Emma and the Professor were getting started, it provided a most excellent soundtrack for a nice lunch – I only caught Kisses Sweeter Than Wine amongst the set before we decided to check out the shops.  I had designs on a poncho – as The Mighty Boosh rightly states, it’s impossible to feel sad in a poncho!

IMG_5075Whilst shopping though I was drawn down the bank to the second stage where Guitar Cubed were playing Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd – one of my favourite songs, and done justice here.  They moved on to Hey Jude before I headed back off up the hill to find Ella mooching around the shops some more.  It was a shame not to have had the chance to catch more of their set though, the little bit I caught sounded great (I managed to miss getting a photo too).

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Freeborn Al / 17th August 2016 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Park life in Thorne..

13680884_1712994702295886_1002611072608679530_nIt was a jam-packed weekend just gone – just the way I like it!  It started with a morning soujourn to Thorne near Doncaster for A Midsummer’s Music in the Park, a reprise of last year’s event.  I parked up Ludo outside Becky and Pete’s, got him set up for later in the evening – unfortunately Ella’s train was delayed which put a spanner in our finely honed plans so I grabbed our new camping settee and wandered parkward alone.

With the Meadevil Bar in place, inflatables for the kids, facepainting, and a couple of stalls (including the ever-popular magic stall) already in place I found a suitable spot to spend the afternoon, grabbed a cider.  The sun was shining, there was good company – aside from rail based delays everything was going according to plan beautifully!  I really do like the Memorial Park in Thorne as a place to sit and chill watching good music!

The first music was served up courtesy of Honeywitch – stripped down somewhat, with guitar, bass, cajon (I was watching this most carefully) and Claire on vocals.  They started with acoustic guitar for more ethereal folksy numbers – Fly With Me kicked off the set, followed with a song whose title escaped me but was about a chap who’d until recently been on death row (having subsequently been exonerated) – with the awesome lyric “democracies die when democracies kill” – succinct and perfect.

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Freeborn Al / 8th August 2016 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos / 0 Comments

Deer-stocking.. across the universe.. (part one)..

IMG_4743We arrived on site at Deerstock on Thursday afternoon for some early revelry – once we’d set up and settled amongst the other festival pioneers it was really just a splendid afternoon and evening for nattering, eating and drinking.  The most exciting part of the day came though when Pete and Becky asked us to keep an eye on their lads for a while, they disappeared off to Nana’s Kitchen for dinner and came back engaged!

Pete had been plotting with Ella, and we’d agreed to watch the boys whilst he whisked the Evil Mead Lady off to a pre-planned steak dinner and proposed.  As they returned to the gathered folk we sat and stared for a while, before Becky announced it was okay to hug her now – awesome news!  They make such an ace couple.  The other thing of note was that upon visiting the on-site portaloos, the inclusion of some air-fresheners made them the most fragrant ever!

The festival proper of course started on Friday though – over a breakfast cider we were treated to a jam from The Star Copiers (well, most of them, Kieron was absent and there’s an extra one now) at the campsite, Paul and Sarah had brought vodka infused watermelon as has become a bit of a Deerstock tradition whilst breakfast was a delicious bacon sandwich courtesy of Nana’s Kitchen (and of course washed down with aforementioned breakfast cider).

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Freeborn Al / 27th July 2016 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

A pissed fool at Wistful (part one)..

IMG_4568There’s no greater frustration than working the day you’re heading to a festival – coupled with that, I was waiting for a delivery so even when I’d worked my way through my to do list for the day I was still waiting to set off to Wistful Festival.  The Parcel Force man arrived, I hit the road and got to Hankin Farm by early evening on Thursday – the lovely folk that run the farm were on hand to arrange payment for the camping, and after a few attempts I found a good flattish bit of the field to get set up.

The van sorts itself out for the most part, I’d packed the teepee too for Becki and Emma who were arriving the next day and brought a gazebo as an experimental awning substitute.  Soon enough I had everything where I wanted it, greeted the neighbours (Mary, Rachel, Spike, Beth, Christina, Julie, Mark and The Seabridges amongst others!) and headed down to the arena where a film screening was happening courtesy of a projector and a white screen on the side of Paul and Lisa’s caravan.

A fun way to pass the evening – although the temperature dropped ludicrously after dark – still, cider and mead flowed nicely and Paige and I fought for the attentions of Alfie and Pebble the dachsunds (furry hot water bottles!) before starting to wander back up the hill.  A campfire drew me over where rum was flowing, and Brian and Jonny were entertaining us with guitars and songs – perfect wind down before the lure of bed finally took over.  The first time I’d slept in Ludo on my own, which was a bit weird!

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Freeborn Al / 17th July 2016 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 1 Comment

Estival the best of all?

IMG_4362We always look forward to a trip to Thorne – it generally involves something awesome set up by Pete and Becky!  Estival is in a similar ilk to last year’s Midsummer’s Afternoon in the Park – a fundraiser for Firefly Cancer Support and community engagement project to get the local folk of Thorne exposure to the arts as well as the aim of giving the local food bank a boost.  We hotfooted it straight from Banbury, picking up some ice and water en route and dropping it off at the park to keep the wine and mead cool.

After the errand was run we popped the van round to where we were going to stay, and made our way back to the park armed with chairs, and having glanced at the weather prognosis a couple of umbrellas!  With the weather in mind the MeadEvil bar was set up in one of the marquees with another set up with seating to protect folk from the elements – and the first performer, Davey Wilson, was already underway on the bandstand.

He was perfect for the time of day, the sun was still shining just about – and he flooded the park with acoustic cover versions often in medley form.  Pete had said he hadn’t had time to tell him, a last minute substitute, that he doesn’t like his events to be full of cover versions (a pity, as Davey would’ve preferred playing his own stuff too!), however it worked really well for me – a myriad of songs like Valerie, Sweet Home Alabama, Let’s Get it On, Stuck in the Middle With You sounded nice to me!

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Freeborn Al / 27th June 2016 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 1 Comment