Master of plenty! Brian Stone album is OUT NOW!

Brian Stone releasing his debut album is definitely a good reason to dust the cobwebs off the blog again – I was really chuffed when he got in touch to ask if I was still reviewing stuff.  Admittedly I’m doing so much less fervently these days – so getting a download link and getting everything synced across to my phone felt quite exciting – I could get a few listens in before getting to grips with writing up a review.  Also that residual nervousness, it’s a mate’s blood sweat and tears you’re being expected to somehow do justice to in words.  Well, I’ll give it a go!

I was reflecting when I first got to know Brian, I think it was at a Gaz Brookfield gig in Oakham, Rutland when we first got talking a good few years ago now – about three and half years ago he and Karen kindly provided me a bed for the night after Ferocious Dog played Cambridge.  After that gig he casually picked up his guitar apologetically before playing through some FD, Gaz Brookfield and Leatherat songs – always one to play down his talents – which quickly became a fixture around campfires and then of course stages over quite a short timespan really if you think about it!

What I particularly love about this album is the assemblage of lots of friends to add their instrumentation to the songs – it’s a risky prospect, we’re used to Brian in solo acoustic guise – but this is done really well, some songs have a full band sound, which don’t detract from the underlying tune, some remain stripped back – it’s all done very well (I was terrified to see Maty Tustian listed on backing vocals, for example!).  The combination of Brian’s songwriting, the artists’ interpretations of that and the predictably awesome production Joel Howe lends to proceedings gives a polished but authentic collection of songs.

(more…)

Freeborn Al / 12th October 2018 / Music, Other Bands

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!

(more…)

Freeborn Al / 15th October 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

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.

(more…)

Freeborn Al / 18th September 2017 / 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.

(more…)

Freeborn Al / 27th August 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Farmer Phil’s 2017 – part one!

Farmer Phil’s Festival is one of those impossible to sum up times of the year. It can last potentially for a week if you’re lucky enough to have the time to get on site the Monday preceding it. It was Thursday evening for us when we were able to wend our way to this Shropshire idyll – the original plan was a Wednesday arrival but sadly a funeral waylaid us slightly – it had been raining a bit, we immediately got stuck in some mud but were pushable, having located a route to our camping spot we found ourselves sunk again – this time relying on being towed by the wonderful Craig.

We found ourselves nestled just behind the Purrple Peeple Eater – and quickly reunited with our immediate camp-mates with a cheeky cider or two whilst setting the van up as quickly as we could. Whilst the festival proper hadn’t started yet Bart had organised some music up at the bar tent, and we were keen to get straight into the festival spirit. We wandered up to pick up our wristbands and then onward up the hill and into the arena – still in varying degrees of construction, to find a cast of hundreds of friends already mustered ready for the music to start.

Pete Drake was already underway on the stage, entertaining a burgeoning crowd in the large beer tent, meanwhile we were roving from friend to friend catching up, saying hello and fussing the ridiculous number of four-legged friends. Farmer Phil’s is absolute heaven for anyone, like me, who loves doggies! Pete was followed by Northern Monkey – which seemed to have Joel from Black Thorn amongst them playing bass (I’m sure that’s not the usual state of affairs!). Also nestled on the hill was the Cheezy Vinyl Bar and stalls. It was shaping up to be a stonking weekend.

(more…)

Freeborn Al / 27th August 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Wistful festival goodness..

Whilst YNot Festival was busy providing both the question in its name, and the answer in its execution, just three miles over the hill Wistful Festival continued to incrementally grow and deal admirably with the occasionally inclement weather conditions high up in the Derbyshire Hills.  When I think back to the first nameless event Lisa organised, it’s pretty amazing to see how much it has grown into a fully fledged festival.

Arriving on site on Friday morning we were just in time to see Dirty Davey, increasingly confident on stage he rattled through a set including Shirt of Blue, the acapella Summer Fields and Riot ShieldsLand of Hope and GloryThe Old ManMarch On Have You Seen Them and finally I Hate You Mrs Thatcher.  Longest set I’ve seen from him, and no drafted-in accompaniments to boot!

A few sound issues troubled the set up of The Collective, but soon enough they were underway with a lively fusion of hip hop, rock and just generally bounciness – I couldn’t tell you many song names beyond Smoke My Troubles Away and a cover of Walking on the Moon – in the meantime we’d been checking out the set up of the arena, The Meadevil Bar debuting their new tent, the Cheezy Vinyl Bar next door – that was me pretty much sorted for the weekend!

(more…)

Freeborn Al / 5th August 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Small but perfectly formed.. pt 1..

I’ve been feeling the pressure a bit of trying to find the right words to sum up another lovely experience courtesy of Roystonbury Festival, with a busy week leaving me no time the task has – if anything – become more daunting, but I’ve taken the plunge!  A little over a week ago we’d set off for the hour or so journey, we encountered a white van with a Star Copiers logo on the back on the way in that looked suspiciously like Jamie, indeed it was as he veered off to a service station for last minute supplies!

We got onto site to a lovely welcome from the volunteers getting everyone in and sorted, and found ourselves a spot close to the arena next to John who was setting up his tent (hell, the whole place is close to the arena, haha!) – Russ and Michelle arrived shortly after so a bit of adjusting of position we got everything sorted in the van and settled with a cider or two before getting our bearings ending up sat by a certain Purple Bus for some early liveners.

The open mic set was open on the acoustic stage early afternoon, and first up was Emily Batchelor who was stepping up for her very first live performance with her guitar.  We’d caught a glimpse of her rehearsing just before as they were camped close by, apparently she was dead nervous (which is understandable!) as we all gathered in the beautifully decorated acoustic area to watch.  She kicked off with Imagine Dragon’s Radioactive – nerves visibly evaporating as the song went on.

(more…)

Freeborn Al / 7th July 2017 / Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Saturday smiles..

On saturday we awoke to glorious sunshine – a welcome relief from the dampness of the night before!  I headed on down to Creative Intentions to get myself and Ella an awesome vegetarian breakfast, sold largely by the inclusion of halloumi in truth, but it was delicious – and that’s coming from normally a fairly committed meatosaurus!  We ate it listening to Steve Grozier opening up the main stage with some lovely chilled out acoustic music.

Once sorted we wandered to the Hidden Stage – I wanted to catch the open mic slots and we were playing shortly after that anyway, so went armed with the stuff I needed for stage too.  Pete Drake was up first, launching his EP and entertaining the crowd with catchy songs with clever lyrics – one about accidental discoveries particularly tickled my funny bone, I grabbed an EP off him which I’ve been really enjoying!

Dusty Herb was up next on the open mic – I’ve seen Herb perform plenty around campfires but never on a stage.  He got off to a banterous start which had the decent sized crowd chuckling before dedicating his first song to his wife Sue on the dawning of a landmark wedding anniversary.  Initially kicking into Please Release Me he quickly changed tack with a cover of Suzi Quattro’s If You Can’t Give Me Love – it worked really well.

(more…)

Freeborn Al / 9th June 2017 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Smiles defeat the rain..

Sometimes the best way to judge or consider the impact of anything is when you place it into adversity – and Something to Smile About had a few moments like that, from last minute snags with the camper van field, broken strimmers and mowers making the alternative somewhat overgrown, a near miss with a lorry deciding to nearly drive directly into the car park from the motorway to a biblical storm and stage malfunction on the Friday night – but organisers and volunteers alike rallied and sorted everything out – and more importantly the lovely festival goers kept their smiles intact.

We arrived the night before and found a handy spot backstage to set up camp for the weekend – in time to muck in with the stage set up whilst catching up with the other folk who’d got on site early.  Come Friday morning everything was looking good – there was a bit of rain forecast just after lunch, otherwise all looked good!  I put some bins out and tried to get a cider early only to be reminded the bar opened at noon by Zoe – so at noon I made sure I was first in the queue for a ginger cider – wow, what a revelation – it might be my new favourite festival tipple.

On the main stage Regime kicked things off – funky reggae dub with a healthy smattering of hip hop was a perfect way to gently introduce music to the arena.  In the meantime Becki had arrived along with Emma and Nick so I popped over to help lug stuff and attempt to help with putting their tents up, which wasn’t too traumatic an experience. It was heading to the car to pick up bags that I first caught sight of the jack-knifed lorry that had nearly ploughed into the car park / camper van overflow field – luckily the driver and presumably other drivers were unharmed in the incident – it was eventually craned away.

(more…)

Freeborn Al / 7th June 2017 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Rock-Stock is rising.. friday..

One hell of a bar has been set as the festival season commenced this weekend, for Ella and I it started on Thursday evening for Jonny’s EP Launch. After finishing up at work Ella got a train in to Solihull and we headed off to grab last minute stuff from home and jump into Ludo to take the short drive up to The Chimneys in Willington for Rockstock and Barrel. On a normal day it’s a nice-but-functual former industrial social club site – when Debbo, Phily and the team get their hands on it they turn it into a magical festival wonderland.  We got ourselves parked up in a handy spot, and set to the quick job of getting the van sorted as our accomodation for the next few nights.

The Cheezy Vinyl Bar and The Scrumptiddly Cider Bar were set up outside, the former also housing a Murphy’s Stage giving a third performance space at the festival.  Inside the main hall housed the main stage area, the acoustic stage moved into the former snooker room which had – predictably – had a Rockstock and Barrel makeover to create a wonderful intimate space.  Friday morning started with helping John move his tent – then a stint covering the gate to the Riverside campsite for just under a couple of hours.  It was quite nice to just watch the world go by and guide in a few early arrivals to their camping spots.

Then it was time to loiter around the Chimneys campsite as people started to rouse or arrive – a quick walk to Willington for supplies passed some more time, and a chance to ‘vandalise’ Tim and Jo’s new van, Tootle (it has a blackboard-paint covered boot lid and they had chalk pens for us to use).  We were pretty restrained I think, it will be interesting to see how it fairs over the course of the festival season!  Soon enough though it was time for the music to start.  I’ll make no apology for doing lots of dipping in and out of things and not making detailed notes – but hopefully I can still do the weekend some kind of justice!

(more…)

Freeborn Al / 2nd April 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos