2017 – the ‘slow down year’..

Whilst I always seem to be busy, 2017 was a quieter year than the last couple – that’s borne out by the blog activity, 68 posts this year compared to 90 in 2016.  Home ownership, life events and an inherent need to slow down a little bit (but only a little) took its toll.

There were a few occasions where I bundled events into single mega-posts rather than splitting them out that might be artificially manipulating the statistics downward.  But on the music front it’s been another belting year, regardless!

January got underway pretty late with a trip to Droitwich to see Nick Parker and Paul Henshaw, an ace gig and a chance to finally put a visual reference to a place that had always stuck in my mind from DFS adverts of yore.  Now I’m just looking to head to Darley-Dale and Measham for gigs and I can tick off the sofa-based trilogy of places from those cursed interludes that used to plague us between films around Christmas in the 80s and early 90s!

February was a little livelier, we had a trip with off-duty Nick Parker to see previously unheard of Kevin Devine in Nottingham which was awesome, great support too from The Lion and the Wolf and George Gadd.  Ferocious Dog dropped their From Without acoustic album to us which went down very well indeed, whilst Mad Dog Mcrea played an amazing set in Nottingham along with The Outlines and Star Botherers (I’m not sure if they’d officially dropped the ‘the’ by this point!).

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Freeborn Al / 30th December 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Another fine Dogfest!

As if Dogfest isn’t a prospect mouthwatering enough for your musical delectation, Bart runs a pre-Dogfest night to get you limbered up for what is to follow – so I decided to bash the two reviews together as a further time-saving measure (given I’ve got three gigs coming up this weekend, d’oh!).  We got ourselves up to The Black Market Venue in good time and for a mere fiver were granted entry to the back room where both stages were being utilised to put on an amazing line-up.

First up on the side stage were 3 Wise Men, acoustic mellow tunes with all three of ’em providing vocals at one point or another and well synchronised guitars.  In The Cold Cold Night was early in the set which was followed up with That’s Life.  I was really enjoying the set – especially a cover of Massive Attack’s Man Next Door which was simultaneously unexpected and delightful in equal measure – well worth getting in early doors for (not, of course, that the event started on time – arf!).

The Outlines were up next on the main stage – looking ever more confident in their own skins, launching into Waiting and filling the room with energetic grungy rock, a stark contrast to the gentle set before but just as enjoyable.  Static, She Don’t Know, Calm Down – all quickly establishing themselves as classics.  Next up was probably my favourite of theirs (for now) in Buried a Lie.  Tight backing vocals and Kyle’s distinctive voice over an unfeasibly heavy sound for three of ’em..

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Freeborn Al / 13th December 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

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.

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

The happy bus pulls into Nottingham..

Mad Dog Mcrea are right up there in the increasingly populous pantheon of bands I absolutely adore to see live.  So it was a bit surprising that I hadn’t registered they were playing up the road until earlier this week when Dan posted about it on Facebook!  Luckily with no other plans I obtained myself a ticket for The Rescue Rooms, which made up for Ella going to see them in Cambridge last night which I couldn’t really justify on a work night!

There was of course the extra bonus of support from not just The Outlines, but a bonus addition of The Star Botherers too.  With a relatively early curfew it was an early start, so I got myself to venue in good time to find Adam, Hollie and Mark in the bar.  I really like going to The Rescue Rooms, it was a trip there to see Mark Chadwick years ago that first put me on to Ferocious Dog, and that in turn has led me to countless other awesome musical diversions – not least all of this evening’s entertainment!

Lots of other friendly faces in attendance too – although not as many as I’d have thought, even given it was a weeknight.  The Star Botherers got us underway to a room still filling with folks, kicking off with Just Around The Corner and then into Ringing in Sick, Bart joking that his songs were all about his disdain for work – dedicating the latter for folks who had work in the morning (cheers, Bart!), then gleefully pointing out he didn’t (bastard!).

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Freeborn Al / 10th February 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos / 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

Sell outs..

IMG_2066.. in the best possible sense, of course – it took until the day but Ferocious Dog were indeed successful in capping off the tour by selling out home town (ish) venue Rock City in advance – the first unsigned act to do so in the 35 year history of the venue.  28th November 2015 is a day that history was made.  For me it felt like a real watershed moment for a band I’ve had the pleasure of following for the last few years.

IMG_2034I spent the evening before making my hair look a bit more silly than normal.  It turns out I should’ve probably checked in with Spike and Chris who would end up with the same coloured hair as me for the evening, but never mind, eh?  I’ll probably regret it more when it starts to fade out to pink!  I even managed to get it spiked into a pretty good mohawk without the assistance I often get from Ella!

IMG_2033Come Saturday morning unusually the postman turned up before midday bringing me Gaz Brookfield‘s new acoustic album to provide the soundtrack to my fairly short drive into Nottingham.  More on this at another time, though!  I got parked up near Rock City and found Cerebus being unloaded, so time for a few greetings with the band and crew who were all looking suitably excited about what was to come.  Simon and Ella arrived which meant for us it was time to head for food.

IMG_2037Dave and Bettina had done a great job in organising the whole of the downstairs of Annie’s Burger Shack to be reserved for a group of fifty or so of us to be fed a fine array of burger goodness in a buffet style.  Very filling it was too, handy stomach lining for what was to follow and a chance to have a nice leisurely chat with a section of the wonderful folk we’d be coming into contact with over the course of the day!

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Freeborn Al / 29th November 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Thoughts

Lock, stock and three smokin’ artists..

IMG_1738It was only back on Thursday I was preparing to head off to London town – it feels like a month ago!  The day started with a phone call from Wez who had ended up in the wrong town due to a satnav mishap, soon enough that was remedied and we were hotfooting it up the M1 to Warsop to convene with Cerebus and the rest of its happy band of travellers.  Soon into the journey Scott was sharing his beauty regime secrets meanwhile Ken was absorbed in a book entitled Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class by Owen Jones.

To pass the time John, Scott, Brad and I had a few rounds of rummy – I didn’t have masses of change and was running up a substantial gambling debt (okay, it was four quid..) to John before mercifully I won a game and enough cash to clear my increasing arrears.  A trip to the service station saw Brad’s hat end up on the roof of the van, and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves in Camden – and doing a few laps of it to find the spot we needed to unload into Dingwalls. Mercifully it was clear so parking up wasn’t a problem ready to get the gear off the back of the van.

Of course, avoiding the glaze-eyed sauntering dawdlers wandering like a zombie procession down the pavement between the van and the venue was more of a challenge – but we’d soon got the assorted cases and boxes and instruments into Dingwalls enabling Wez to find somewhere to leave the bus until later.

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Freeborn Al / 16th November 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

The shizzle in Brizzle..

IMG_1362Tonight has been bloody brilliant.  I leisurely got up in Birmingham and had an awesome breakfast at the Old Crown and had a slow wimble down the M5 to get to Bristol to coincide with check-in time at the Travelodge rather than fart about.  Having parked up and settled in I might’ve succumbed to a little snooze – but that left me time to get showered and out in time feeling thoroughly refreshed and ready for more of the same.  With the huge bonus of some Mad Dog Mcrea thrown into the mix too!

The Hatchett was our first port of call – just over the road from the venue and chock full of familiar faces, including Justin – unscathed from his epic voyage from over the sea.  Amongst other random pre-gig nonsense being talked the thing that has stuck in my head ever since was Waggy’s revelation that the story behind Mad Dog Mcrea’s Happy Bus in real life culminated in them driving a minibus into the sea.  Fully populated.  The mind boggles!

Given my sneaky nap it was soon time to get into the O2 Academy – with a strict 10pm curfew Gaz was on ludicrously early.  But first, the venue is very swanky and new looking, the merch and loos were encountered first, the steps up to the auditorium with a raised bar/standing area and steps down to an extensive dancing area.  It reminded me of the gig they played in Newbury earlier in the year but on a much grander scale!  The sticking point was the price of £4.55 for a pint of cider – outrageous!  I was planning on taking it steady given the need to get to Nuneaton tomorrow for noon – and well, there was some extra motivation!

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Freeborn Al / 16th October 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

It’s a Brum do…

IMG_1356I was dead excited when the tour was set to open in Birmingham – as I work in Solihull it would be a short shlep from the office to get there.  Fate conspired against me and saw me up in Manchester for a meeting instead – but planned with sufficient time to dash down the M6 (well, dash until the West Midlands were breached!) to get to my hotel probably earlier than I would’ve done had I gone from our offices!  Having missed a turn I ended up driving past the venue to double-back and saw the band unloading Cerebus.

The Old Crown is a brilliantly quirky old pub a stones throw from the venue which was why I chose it – the car park was full but I found a pay & display one down the road at a reasonable rate.  Once I’d got checked in (and remembered not to smack my head on the low beams) it turned out Mick was staying here too – so after getting a little too engrossed in building a new coil for my e-cig and watching Tipping Point I headed down to the bar to join Mick for a few cheeky beverages.

No sooner had we done that then another Mick arrived to join us, as did Tina and crew, followed by most of the band along with Wez, Gaz and Dom, Dave and Nadine, Michael and Rebecca, Darren, Colette and their lad, Paul and Kim, Geoff and probably loads of others I’ve forgotten – what an auspicious gathering!  Mick R and I had succumbed to the lure of ordering food which took a while to arrive in the busy pub, but was worth the wait – although left me eating a little closer to gig time than I’d have liked ideally!

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Freeborn Al / 16th October 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Rockstock and barrel-of-laughs..

pylonSo we’ve just spent a splendid weekend at Rockstock & Barrel, nestled in the shadow of the cooling towers at Willington – just a short twenty minute drive up the road for me.  The atmosphere was literally electric with live power lines crackling overhead and people literally charged up with static electricity – but figuratively too with a fantastic and varied line-up of musicians and a ridiculous number of familiar faces in the crowd too.  Okay, so we weren’t brave enough to camp out in freezing October – which denied me the inevitable thick-head from the dangerous looking Scrumptiddly Cider Bar.

Paul took this awesome shot from under a pylon which you could drive under – as I discovered when moving a drunken Andy’s van from Campsite B to Campsite A as a space in the field became available thanks to the 3 Daft Monkeys electing not to stay over after their headline set.

IMG_1244Arrival time was planned after finishing up with work to take in the opening act, the very familiar Brad Dear who took to the outdoor-in-a-tent Electric Stage to kick off the festival with an acoustic set.  As noted from his support slot at The Beards the other week, Brad is a lad who is growing in confidence with his performances – he looks like he’s really enjoying performing and he’s on great form.  The news that studio time is likely to be imminent is great news for me too, looking forward to more tracks I can play on my travels – the newer songs he’s been adding to his sets recently sound great.

Then it gave us chance to catch up with the many many more hardy souls than us who had decided to brave camping – there was a campsite on ‘The Chimneys‘ site just behind the performance area but also another over t’road.  Already in position were countless familiar faces – Tim, bless him, had even provided some non-alcoholic shots so that the tee-totalers didn’t feel left out.  The sun was veritably beating down and I must confess that briefly I was a little bit sad I’d decided not to camp – that would change later when the sun went down and it was freezing!

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Freeborn Al / 4th October 2015 / Band, Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments