We the Collective..

There’s always that extra bit of excitement at the prospect of a new Levellers album dropping through the letterbox – unfortunately for me the postie arrived when I wasn’t in over the bank holiday weekend, so impatient I had to resort to iTunes to have a listen before picking up my goodies this morning.  Reading reactions online has been a bit like those irritating Marmite adverts on TV (for the record, I definitely fall into the hate camp for Marmite) – with fans seemingly either loving it or hating it.

Having not made it so far to the live tour – my postponed date in Milton Keynes has been rescheduled for when I’m at a wedding, sadly – so I’m going to have to peruse the fixtures for another suitable date to check it out.  The new arrangements of familiar songs were a surprise to me, and I’d say a very pleasant surprise!  Recorded in the famous Abbey Road under supervision from John Leckie, and some musical assistance from The wonderful Moulettes and Tobias May this is the familiar (mostly) rendered in a very different way.

I can kind of understand people’s cognitive dissonance – the Levellers music has lived with many of us for years, a comfort blanket replete with meaning both in the merit of their own lyrics and melodies or through life events they provided a soundtrack to (or in mosh pits they’ve been danced to in).  I’ll be honest, I struggled when ‘wrestled with our’ became ‘whispered all our’ fears on the 1998 re-release of One Way.  I still bristle a bit when they still sing it that way now (I wonder if they did on the Levelling the Land anniversary tours?  I’ll have to check on the Live CD!).

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Freeborn Al / 3rd April 2018 / Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

Travelling along the (longer) ancient road!

My list of releases to write about never seems to get any shorter!  But that’s no bad thing, and The Silk Road are the next on my list – with a self-titled album to follow up from their EP released in the summer last year.  Back then when I wrote about it I drew parallels with both Levellers and Ferocious Dog in their sound – and that still stands.  As an aside, one of my friends once described FD quite disparagingly I thought at the time as ‘Levelling the Clash’.  To be fair, back then they probably had a few Levs covers in their set.

I’ve subsequently mentally reappropriated the description to be a badge of honour (maybe that’s how it was intended, to be fair!).  So if Ferocious Dog are ‘Levelling the Clash’ then I reckon The Silk Road are more like ‘Levelling the Pistols’.  And much like the former, the latter belies some of the intricacy and individuality on offer – but with the music often tending to the punk end of the folk-punk spectrum (although not always), and Tich’s visceral sneering vocals (although not always) it feels like a suitable pithy description.

All the tracks from the EP are reprised, along with eight companions – here we have a much more polished (without losing the bite) and varied collection of songs.  So whilst I might have suggested that The Silk Road are more punk than folk, there’s plenty of glimpses at their softer underbelly in here too – with traditional energetic instrumentals like Montagu’s Harrier which featured on the EP, and the frankly lovely Elizabeth Rose which almost sounds like it could morph into a McDermott’s 2 Hours song.

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Freeborn Al / 15th March 2017 / Other Bands, Photos

It’s a two Dogfest kinda year..

With Dogfest having had a break in 2015, we got to have the bonus of a double-Dogfest year in 2016 – the fifth one (or certainly the fifth one I’ve been to) – it’s amazing to see how much it’s grown from!  In the past it’s always been a race to get to Warsop for the start – no such problem here, I poked my head out of a cosy sleeping bag to face the winter temperatures in my van. Brr! At least I’d remembered to sleep the other way around from normal owing to the slope I’d parked on!

First things first was a trip down to the Co-op to buy some supplies to donate to Framework later in the day.  Once bag there were more stirrings in the urban campsite, a chance to chat with Darren for a bit before Wez and I headed out for a very hearty breakfast at The Tea Cosy on the High Street – recommended, a big ol’ breakfast with plenty of tea was just the fuel needed for a day as relentless as what was to follow.  By the time we headed back the doors were open and wristband acquired courtesy of Rich.

On the main stage the show was opened by Jimmy Carroll, I’ve only found a personal page on Facebook rather than a page so far – so I won’t link to that, but an ideal act to open the day – two chaps, acoustic guitars, relaxed vibe.  As is oft the problem for early acts they fall foul of the ooh! people are arriving! curse that means they get a little relegated to background music – it sounded like great background music to me though.  Just before setting up on stage Sam was excited to see his new band on the t-shirts!

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Freeborn Al / 19th December 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, 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

They did the mash.. it was the Münster mash!

img_0490We set off early for Münster, it was a pretty quiet bus all told, all the more reason to appreciate the Herculean efforts of Dean and Stu who got us from place to place whilst we either messed around or slept.  On arriving in town we spotted gig posters on the walls, and soon enough we were pulling into the car park of the hotel (hurrah!), which was right next to the venue – Jovel (double hurrah!).

They had a few rooms ready, so we were able to drop bags off and freshen up and await the rest whilst grabbing a quick drink from the hotel bar.  Once everyone was ready we decided to risk public transport again and grab the bus into the town, this went much more smoothly than the tram in Amsterdam, and was really reasonably priced too – we’d got ourselves to the centre in no time at all and off the bus.

img_0493Münster is a very scenic place – markets bedecked the streets and we had a nice wander around, having failed dismally in Duisburg to eat anything of note I was dead excited to get myself some currywurst, and very nice it was too before heading to a local pub to sink a few beers (and assorted local spirits).  We went back via the market again, Mick bought a soap which he thought was a lump of cheese (ha!), whilst Jacquie and I found some stagewear for The Star Copiers.

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Freeborn Al / 24th November 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Here I Am(sterdam!)..

img_0481The concensus on the bus was that we wanted to set off earlier than normal to allow for us to do a bit more sight-seeing in Amsterdam.  A sensible idea, one I still hold by, but by gosh the excesses of the night before made it a challenge!  I made it up for some breakfast, Mark wasn’t looking too clever, it was a quiet journey for most of us – much of it I spent asleep hunched in the corner of my back row seat!

By the time we arrived in The Netherlands the storm that had apparently been ravaging England days before was sweeping over the lowlands.  We headed into our destination watching leaves being blown in mini tornado patterns, mercifully the rain seemed to have subsided by the time we found our hotel – a short stagger from the venue, the iconic Melkweg, and right on the tram line to get into town.

We’d booked parking at the hotel, but alas the bus proved a bit too big so poor Stu and Mark had to do a few laps of the city – which upon walking around it was bloody bedlam – before eventually changing on one right outside the door (and an epic piece of reverse parking to get in it).  A bonus, as it meant we didn’t actually need to pay owt for parking in what is generally a pretty expensive place to leave a vehicle any length of time (unless it’s a bicycle or a moped which littered every pavement!).

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Freeborn Al / 24th November 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Photos / 0 Comments

Ich bin ein Düisburger..

Dogging in Düisburg - sponsored by Killepitsch!

Dogging in Düisburg – sponsored by Killepitsch!

Breakfast in Kortrijk was a little disappointing, but welcome nonetheless – and sustenance was pretty important.  We didn’t have to leave too early so it was good to load up on caffeine and food before heading back onto the minibus for the next leg.  I think I pretty much slept the whole journey to Düisburg – a place I was only aware of because of League of Gentleman character Herr Lipp and semi-celebrity Nottingham Forest fan Ebby.  Upon arriving outside our hotel we nearly ran over Addie and Jane!

The hotel was bloody stunning, it was a shame we’d see so little of it really!  I shared a room with Deano for this one, we got ourselves showered and sorted and wandered out into a bloody lovely city.  We headed straight to the German market (or, more accurately, since we were in Germany, ‘the market’) which was full of lovely smelling and looking things – keen to locate the venue we carried on walking and settled in the bar next door to the venue.

Our British custom of standing at the bar doesn’t really work in Germany, there they conduct table service and mark your beer mat to keep track of your tab.  Eventually we found a table we could occupy for a while and sank a few beers, and, oh dear, a litre bottle of Killepitsch between us – in the same vein as Jagermeister but a different regional variety.  Plenty of familiar folk were descending on the place – not least Mark, Charlie and Mark from Levellers who were already propping the bar up when we walked in.

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Freeborn Al / 23rd November 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Groovers on manoeuvres.. part one.. Belgium!

An idiot abroad..

An idiot abroad..

I’ve been half dreading half looking forward to writing this, I’ve decided to split the four European dates into separate blog posts because I fear nobody would sit and read them all in one sitting!  Last night on getting home and basically crashing it was daunting, but now the laundry’s on, the dinner’s been eaten and I’m ready to begin.  I think.  Our adventure started on Thursday evening, after work I popped home to finish up chores before heading up to Mark and Amanda’s to pick them up.

From there we went to Kenny and Karen’s – ostensibly our plan was to get our heads down there for a bit before leaving at 3:30am to convene at Dean and Sarah’s to pick up the minibus.  Our merry band of fifteen people had all been merrily making life as easy as possible for each other with car and roof sharing, although the bulk of the credit goes to Sarah, Dean and Stu who booked and organised everything – and in the case of the latter two, did all of the driving too.

Of course, we never went to sleep – we wiled away the hours nattering, Mark and Kenny playing guitar, Kenny learning some last minute German phrases to say when he was on stage and watched daft videos.  Ken left with the dog bus at 1am, we just carried on, Amanda tried to get some sleep, Karen did – soon enough it was time for us to go – five of us piled into my car (Trudi had rejoined us at this point) to head over to our next rendezvous.  With the car parked up it wasn’t long before the minibus arrived courtesy of Stu and we piled on.

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Freeborn Al / 23rd November 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

The theory of Beard-ativity…

IMG_3875Well how do you go about trying to summarise four days at Bearded Theory? My normal modus operandi of slavishly noting set lists would probably lead to a novel that I don’t want to write and you certainly don’t want to read – so I’m going to force myself to be a bit less unimaginative and try to summarise what was a bloody fantastic time – a great setting, wonderful weather, amazingly well organised, great acts and a frankly marvellous collection of people to party with.

It all started for us on Thursday afternoon, we arranged to meet Addie, Jane, Dave and Nadine in a layby near the site to secure a camping spot together.  Getting back onto a busy A38 was entertaining for the two caravanners in our convoy, but soon enough we’d found ourselves queuing to get on site – a few very familiar vehicles already snaking their way around to the entrance to the camping field.  This was Ella and I’s first trip to a festival in our new van – Ludo – so it was pretty exciting!

IMG_3879Eventually in and sited, everyone set about getting things set up – for us it was pretty simple, extract things from the storage under the back seats, spinning the front bench seat around, putting the silver screens up in the window – and cracking open a can of cider!  The only fly in our oinment was a dead leisure battery – despite having been on charge for a couple of days – but well, even the lack of promised power a van would provide still proved infinitely better than the faff of tenting!

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Freeborn Al / 30th May 2016 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Pinch me..

13000365_10153909996611348_7342322413667198927_nEdit: I’d meant to hit go on this on Friday morning to coincide with the ticket sales going live.  Oops! Better late than never!

If you’re a Facebook user you might just have noticed a small announcement earlier in the week.  Ferocious Dog are only going on an autumn/winter tour with The Levellers.  The. Bloody. Levellers. This is a full circle moment for me – I only found the band thanks to my love of The Levellers, and the thought of seeing them touring together has long felt like a pipe dream – now it’s reality.  You can buy tickets for it right here.

Thinking back to that first time I saw Ferocious Dog around five years ago – supporting Mark Chadwick – their set was cracking, it had me hooked, it was about 50% Levellers songs.  That journey to transitioning from being a half-cover-band to one solidly founded on their own material has been an absolute privilege to witness.  Of course there have been other landmark events from other notable bands – an aftershow slot for New Model Army, a support slot for the Wonder Stuff – both at Rock City, but a whole tour? It’s the stuff of dreams.

13043712_10154007271501427_451968298216971043_nOn a personal note that is – my first musical love, and you supposedly never lose your first love, coupled with the band I’ve come to follow mercilessly around the place.  It’s just not to be missed really, is it? Whilst going from selling out Rock City to playing second fiddle (huh, see what I did there?) to a bigger band might seem in some ways a step backward, it’s an amazing opportunity to get in front of a highly compatible audience that might not have kept abreast of how the band have developed.

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Freeborn Al / 23rd April 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments