All about Evesham..

I'm not sure what Ken is chuckling at. Maybe Ellis had just snapped his string?

I’m not sure what Ken is chuckling at. Maybe Ellis had just snapped his string?

Evesham on a school night is actually a pretty convenient destination for me – much of my working life is spent in Solihull so upon clocking off for the day it was a relatively short trip into  Worcestershire.  Arriving at the venue rather early I was lucky enough that Dan was loitering outside gaining me access to their green room since the pub wasn’t open yet – so a chance to sit and have a natter rather than wandering off into the town.

As everyone started to arrive food was eaten, assorted things were signed including the paper that will eventually comprise the excellent lyric art prints that were revealed on Facebook this week, a few of ’em practiced Ruby Bridges, restored to the set list given it’s just been released as a single, Les restringed his guitar, Waggy revealed he used to have a parrot.  As opening time loomed non-band folk were politely dismissed as they did, well, whatever it is they do right before a gig!

Meanwhile the Iron Road had opened itself up – a rock pub that has risen from the ashes of the Railway Inn, what was probably a traditional near-the-train-station pub.  Now on the one side there’s a big screen and seating, on the other a fairly cramped (for a six piece at least) stage and small dance floor.  There were concerns on the size – and more than a few people had noted the fast-spinning ceiling fan above the mosh pit area.

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Freeborn Al / 12th June 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

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.

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 / 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

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

We won’t Stam-ford this kind of rowdy behaviour!

Ella will soon be rivalling Waggy with shots like this!

Ella will soon be rivalling Waggy with shots like this!

Stamford seems to have been destined to be a comedy of errors.  As the gig drew to a close I was expecting Ken to do a speech like Marty McFly at the end of his performance at the ‘Enchantment Under the Sea‘ dance where he shreds his guitar at the end of his rendition of Johnny B. Goode leaving the 1950’s audience including his parents staring dumbstruck at him.  “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet“, he says sheepishly.  “But your kids are gonna love it!

I’d arrived in Stamford pretty early – I’d booked a room for the night (and triple-checked the dates after Plymouth-gate!) and was feeling ready to get checked in, sorted out and maybe have a few cheeky beers.  Only to find that the mortified man behind the bar had no record of my booking and had no spare rooms – there’s a lesson if you use Booking.com or similar, call the hotel/pub to confirm they’ve received it…

Luckily Simon and Snotface offered me a place to crash which still meant driving later – but at least in a more helpful direction for Newbury than going back home.  An angry tweet at Booking.com saw them quickly get in touch to try to help – as I’d already sourced accommodation they were simply very apologetic and offered me half of the price of the booking as compensation which was pretty good of them to be fair.

So I did have my one pint of beer in the delightfully quirky old Tobie Norris pub where I met Steve, who had secured somewhere to stay.  After that we wandered to the venue which was, well, unusual to say the least.  Whilst there we caught up with the band and numerous fellow gig-goers whilst drinking coffee and eating flapjacks… when the lovely lady wearing her best twinset and pearls combination checked my ticket and pointed out where my assigned seat was it was getting a little bit surreal.

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Freeborn Al / 26th April 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Photos / 0 Comments

The south-west? We shall exit ‘er in Exeter..

Well, now the dust has settled and I’ve grabbed a few hours of kip in my own bed it brings us to the Exeter leg of the tour.  Having surfaced and written yesterday’s blog I got the call from Dan on loading times from the venue, so I checked out and staggered that way to find John and Scott had pretty much got everything out of The Hub and we just had to wait for the bus (or ‘the buzz’ if you’re John) to load up.  It’s worth considering at this point how much stuff it takes to make a Ferocious Dog gig.  Just some of it is pictured below.

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It’s fairly obvious really – there’s six of ’em, Ellis plays about eight million instruments, there’s a drum kit – there’s amps, there’s merchandise, there’s the stage backdrop and assorted maintenance kit, there’s a few spare guitars for quick changes in case of string snappage.  Then of course there’s up to ten people in the bus too along with their travelling gear (in our case we only had six of us for most of our journeying).  It’s a logistical challenge for sure – and Waggy and Ken are masters of the game of 3D Tetris involved in getting everything in the back section of the dog bus.

When you see a band playing to a group of people going crazy, people eulogising about them on Facebook (not least me) and clamouring to get photos or just talk after gigs it’s easy to forget after that it’s the same people – admittedly with some help from venue staff or folk they might have on tour with them – who will be packing everything up and getting it either in the bus or ready to collect in the morning.  It makes Ken’s mingling with the crowd after gigs all the more charming – and it’s not an act either, he turns heads and starts conversations wherever he goes!

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Freeborn Al / 19th April 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos / 0 Comments