The world turned upside down..

Ah, it’s good to be back writing about Ferocious Dog for a change!  Upon arriving at the Rescue Rooms with Jamie and Teresa to find Ken holding court outside.  A gentle chide about my rather less than impressive attendance record was followed up with a big grin – he was clearly really excited about playing the first of three sold out nights on home turf.  With a full on day I’d arrived straight at the venue, with another today I’d opted to drive, saving Friday and Saturday for alcohol opportunities.

So I wandered straight into the venue – in addition to the Ferocious Dog banner, on equal billing was one depicting Kurtis Mann, a fellow fan of the band who lost his life last year, a lovely touch.  It was emblazed with The Kurtis Mann Stage.  Sadly I never got to knew him although must’ve bumped into him at countless gigs – in a small world moment I do actually know his dad from pre-Ferocious Dogging days, I’m looking forward to catching up with Cliff over the next couple of evenings – it’s been a long time since he guided me to walking on hot coals, broken glass and breaking boards with my hand!

But I digress from the off.  There were, of course, countless people to catch up with milling around in the venue with more arriving all the time as the place filled up to a really healthy crowd in time for the support act for the evening… the inimitable Mr Gaz Brookfield, who needs absolutely no introduction to any vaguely regular reader of these pages.  He unassumedly took to the stage to a rapturous reaction from the crowd, Gaz always goes down well in Nottingham (I note another Maze date slotted in to October, just sayin’ like). (more…)

Freeborn Al / 21st April 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, 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!

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

A cheesy escapade to see Gaz in Ashby..

Last night was a landmark gig – one I could taxi to and from to home, woo!  Gaz Brookfield has made Ashby-de-la-Zouch an annual stop for his tour, and generally it centres around someone’s birthday – and features the patent-pending Ashby ‘cake break’ in between two sets.  Being so close Dave and Andy came over to stay, both armed with cheese (hurrah!) for a late night snack once home, some of the cheese in the sealed Tupperware box Dave brought so powerful it even broke through the airtight seal to make the house smell of, well, bum! Haha!

A taxi was duly arranged and into Ashby we headed – a quick cash point trip and we spotted an alluring micropub opposite the venue for a cheeky pint, before heading on over to the Bulls Head – a really nice traditional pub on the high street, to find it full of very familiar faces.  Best of all, they had cider from the same stockist that the amazing Scrumptiddly Cider Bar of Rockstock and Barrel fame on offer – rhubarb initially which once emptied was replaced with mango (whether it was a godless mango or not wasn’t specified).  Either way it kept me very happy for the night!

As gig time approached Jamie took to the mic to introduce ‘the marvellous Gaz Brookfield’ – a fitting accolade, but as Gaz pointed out, people probably shouldn’t expect a magic act from him – arf.  With such a friendly familiar crowd it was a very relaxed feeling performance which is always a pleasure to bear witness to – he launched into Solo Acoustic Guy, including amusing echoing on the ‘a touch of reverb if ya like, like, like, like, like’ line.

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Freeborn Al / 3rd March 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

A-Maze-ing – part three!

It’s no secret (nor, I imagine, a surprise) that if work holiday and funds were no object then I’d have spent the last few days gallivanting around the Netherlands to check out the new Ferocious Dog line-up, but when Gaz Brookfield announced his Nottingham date it made for a very welcome consolation activity to be undertaking.  In the meantime Lee and Jayne had pulled out all the stops to make it a full half-day of fantastic music at The Maze.

European-trekking decision was further vindicated by an unexpectedly high car maintenance bill – so I opted to drive for this one and stick to a few soft drinks.  We hit town in time for the doors to open and for a free parking space within a short stagger of the venue, and being one of the first fifty people through the door were handed a raffle ticket for a prize draw later (I never did find out what it was for, although I do know I didn’t win, ha!).

I do like The Maze as a venue.  Nestled behind the Forest Tavern on Mansfield Road it’s compact-but-big-enough, the lack of lighting in the rearmost loos did present a certain challenge but added a veneer of adventure to an otherwise mundane activity, the sound was superb and well, it was full of lots and lots of my favourite people to spend time with. I’d have gladly paid the ticket price just to see Gaz, to have six high quality support acts on the bill made it ludicrously good value!

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Freeborn Al / 19th February 2017 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

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

Gaz clearly doesn’t know his place..

I’ve been impatiently waiting for Gaz Brookfield‘s new album to drop only to realise at the eleventh hour I’d not updated my address from the order, so I didn’t get the sneaky day or two bonus time before release to get my teeth into it.  But thankfully the Bandcamp download became active before I had a chance to visit my folks to pick up the CD, giving me the chance to spend the last few days getting acquainted with I Know My Place whilst commuting to and from work.  And quite a bit in between!

From following this album’s progress on Facebook and having a natter with Mr Goodman in Banbury shortly after he’d had a sneak preview it was clear that Gaz had big plans for this production – rather than stick to the mantra of his previous releases and setting off as a solo acoustic guy (maybe with some fiddle from Ben Wain) he enlisted the help of a veritable who’s who of musician friends to add some depth and layers – and packaged it all together in a lovely digipak complete with an awesome piece of cover art by The Famous Artist Birdy Rose.

It’s no secret on these pages the esteem I hold Gaz in as a songwriter and performer (he’s quite a nice chap, too) – so I must admit it was a mixture of excitement and nervousness when I finally got my download onto something I could blast through my loudest speakers.  Would the Gazness of this album be diluted by the influence of all these other talented folk or would it be enhanced with their input?  Mr Goodman was absolutely raving superlatives about it, but well, you can’t always trust a cockney geezer, can you?  But in this case, you most certainly can.

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Freeborn Al / 12th December 2016 / Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Resolved..

A malfunction with letting him know my new address means I won’t get my hands on Gaz Brookfield’s new album ’til the weekend. However, a similarly exciting delivery did arrive on my newish doormat this week. A new album by Nick Burbridge is always pretty damn exciting for me – coupled with it being another collaboration with Tim Cotterell and well, excited doesn’t really cover it!

My first impression of this upon opening the jiffy bag on my doormat was that the cover of Resolved is a bit more friendly than its predecessor Gathered was. It seems like ages ago I had the latter in my hand for the first time (I suppose it was – 2012!). I loved it so much I felt compelled to write about it despite not having yet developed writing about music as a hobby. Sixteen tracks promises to be a bumper, although noticing six titled tanka with numbers prompted a quick Google.

A tanka is a short poetic structure from Japan consisting of five lines and 31 syllables. Five in the first and third lines, seven in the remainder, sort of like a haiku plus I suppose. Intriguing! Nick is, after all, a well-regarded poet (and playwright) as well as songwriter. All but the second track are prefixed Song of – a hint of some kind of narrative or journey perchance.

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Freeborn Al / 8th December 2016 / Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Dream gig?

slide1By a considerable margin I’ve not seen any live act as much as I’ve seen Levellers, Ferocious Dog and Gaz Brookfield – but I’ve never seen them all on the same bill, much less one after the other in the cozy confines of Rock City.  It’s doubly fitting as if it weren’t for my enduring love of the headliners, I wouldn’t have discovered the other two (well, maybe I would eventually) – so Sunday’s trip to Rock City felt like a poignant and fitting way to close a circle of sorts.

Being a geeky data mangler by profession I couldn’t resist a cheeky Venn Diagram!

img_0549Unfortunately a season of festivalling and gallivanting off around Europe meant I didn’t have holiday from work to spare for the day after – coupled with a bit of mosh pit flu starting to kick in, driving to and from the gig seemed the way forward for Ella and I.   That said, we were keen to get into Nottingham early enough to join the socialising in the Tap n’ Tumbler – immediately faced with Mark Chadwick surveying the swelling crowd of other familiar faces.  It’s funny, I still find it really difficult to go and chat with members of Levellers unlike the other two acts on the bill.  No reflection on them, just me being a starstruck wuss!

img_0551Elsewhere in the pub it became increasingly packed with countless gigging and festival friends – it was great to see Wez back amongst us in particular.  Being in non-drinking mode and mindful of an early start I’d planned on spending the gig further back and taking in the show – until Dean beckoned me over.  “I need a word with you, Al” he said, looking a bit stern – after last year’s Rock City mix up he was insistent I needed to surf on him for Freeborn John to make amends – not that it was necessary, it’s a signal honour though.  Looks like I’m in the mosh pit then!

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Freeborn Al / 29th November 2016 / Band, 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

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