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

Gaz, Joe and Maelor not lost in The Maze..

(pic by Angela)

Gaz Brookfield is a very special performer – The Maze is a very special venue, and yet put the two together and you get some kind of exponential growth in awesomeness.  With many people seemingly surprised I wasn’t over at the Hairy Dog for Ferocious Dog (including Gaz!) there really was only one choice for me on this occasion, as much as I’d have loved the other option too.  Nottingham always seems to reserve an especially warm welcome for Mr Brookfield – and it is actually exhilarating to be a part of it.  The last night of the tour too, so extra special for that too.

We drove into Nottingham and dumped the car behind The Maze and hotfooted it through town to find some of the revellers already well on their way in town – John, Angela, Russ, Michelle, Tony, Trudy and Wez were duly found in the ‘Spoons off St James’ Street.  So drinks (soft drinks for me – boo!) and merriment commenced (well, for us – the rest of the party had been engaged with merriment for some time – not least Angela who’d earned yet another 7 deadly sins t-shirt from The Pit and Pendulum and gifted it to Ella, ha!).

Soon enough it was time for the walk back up the hill to The Maze – the back room wasn’t open yet, so we settled in the front room of The Forest Tavern and awaited with lots of other familiar and friendly faces. Soon enough we made our way into the venue to get wristbanded by Jayne and Lee, I found Maelor and Gaz inside – both somewhat surprised to find me there rather than in Derby, and once we’d all caught up it was soon time for the former to take the stage.  That’s the bonus I’d not mentioned yet – support from Maelor Hughes and Joe McCorriston was also on offer.  All for £8.  What a bargain.

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Freeborn Al / 22nd October 2017 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

Small but perfectly formed.. part 2..

For longer term readers you might remember a detrimental Saturday morning breakfast with Jamie, Paul and Jayne at last year’s Roystonbury Festival.  I’m happy to say that this tradition was continued but with a different cast – he led a merry band of troubadours to a local pub to watch the Lions play Rugby – I swerved this, with little interest in the game and a desire for a lie in and being able to remember the day – those that did complete the trip returned with mixed results!

So with lie-in in the bag I surfaced and was offered some delicious breakfast wraps by John and Angela, which along with a cheeky cider set me up for the day very nicely indeed!  We popped to see Amanda and Sarah by the Purrple Peeple Eater to await the return of the Rugby revellers which was suitably hilarious.  Between the five of them they’d managed to run up an impressive bar tab and an advanced level of drunkenness.

Dean immediately set to the task of providing speciality shot slippery nipples for everyone, with limited success – before reappearing in slightly different clothing – that soon made its way onto Jamie who spent the rest of the day in a rather fetching dress.  Mark fared less well, he and Simon ended up in bed whilst Darren the fifth intrepid adventurer had been less voracious on the Guinness, Jäger and tequila consumption so was doing pretty well!

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Freeborn Al / 9th July 2017 / Hell Hounds, 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.

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

Ey Up Mi Ducks! Part one.

This weekend is going to be one of those impossible to sum up festivals.  Ey Up Mi Duck – what an absolute triumph!  We arrived on site on Friday afternoon and were immediately directed to ‘Camp Copier’ by Jamie (this was our corner of the campsite, not Mark’s nickname – although it might yet have a dual purpose!).  So after finding a suitable spot to park up we set about sorting out van things before cracking a drink and settling down with our neighbours – Jacquie, Aimee, Mark and Amanda were already in situ, soon enough Kev, Julie and the kids would arrive and Jamie would be relieved of his stewarding duties.

It was a bit of a headspin (in a nice way!) to have an artist wristband for the first time, too!

The entertainment in the evening would all be in the clubhouse – as we’d got an earlyish set the next day we all decided not to be too ridiculous on the drinking front, the best laid plans and all that!  As we moseyed on down to the clubhouse we found some rather splendid ciders on offer – and Al Rate kicking off the music.  Difficult slot, it was a talky room with lots of folk catching up, but Jacquie and I made a point of watching his set – at one point the gentleman whose name I’ve forgotten (but he was drawing folk as they played) settled nearby – and promptly started drawing me rather than Al!  Awkward!

I really enjoyed Al’s set – he kicked off with Lady Chatterley’s Bower, and attempted to fight the background noise with Americana-infused folk – Greenback Dollar was in there, A Protest at the Protest and Sinnerman (with some vocals help from a chap whose name I didn’t catch) – my notes are a bit sketchy at this juncture, it has to be said!  It reminded me that I really must make an effort to get to see DH Lawrence and the Vaudeville Skiffle Show soon, though.  If nothing else it had me listening to their album when driving about today!

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Freeborn Al / 2nd May 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, 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

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 three..

14045553_10210020946138400_6248960456736454191_nSunday morning arrived with that feeling of simutaneous amazement at how quickly the time had gone whilst feeling like we’d been on that happy campsite for much longer than just under a week.  We started the day cooking bacon (we had a lot of bacon to cook) and celebrating Sally’s birthday with.. well, bacon.  And cake, too, as all birthdays should be celebrated.

I think we were supposed to dress up in olympic get-up on Saturday, as we hadn’t done that Tim, Dave, Andy and I donned our Cool Runnings inspired lycra suits perhaps a day late (there was at least one other Jamaican bob-sled team on site though, so maybe it didn’t matter!).  It was universally decided that in the interests of decency that shorts or kilts should be worn over aforementioned suits.  I’m not sure it was any more flattering!

We’d got Sunday dinner booked at Nana’s Kitchen for noon (didn’t stop a sneaky bacon cob though), which clashed with Headsticks opening up the music.  The lovely Drew was happy to serve our food into takeaway boxes – and lucky for us a few technical wibbles meant that there was enough time for us to sit by the main stage and get our dinner eaten before the first act started on the stage.  It turns out Headsticks is a great way to work off a Sunday roast!

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Freeborn Al / 17th August 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Deer-stocking.. across the universe.. (part two)..

IMG_4816Feeling surprisingly fresh we emerged from the van into an already pretty warm day – greetings made, breakfast acquired (again, from Nana’s Kitchen), we had an early appointment up at the arena.

Saturday was Pixiestock day – so it started for us in the kids tent, where Tina was telling the assembled young ‘uns a story about why foxes and badgers live in holes.  Ella was up next, complete in tiger onesie, to read The Tiger That Came To Tea – with the temperature already soaring it was warm work!  Kezzi followed with a fairy story before the assembled children were led to the glade by the Pixie King.

IMG_4817Lucky escape for me, Naomi had been plotting for me to dress as the pied piper at one point for the purpose of leading the procession to the stage!  Once in the glade Spike read The Gruffalo complete with amusing accents – before we were treated to a frankly slightly sinister yet oddly compelling Mouse Circus puppet show.  One of the fantastic things about Deerstock is the amount of thought that goes into keeping the young folk entertained.

There was a vote whether the wooden deer mascot called ‘No Eye’ should be burned or saved – I’ve no idea what the outcome was.  I voted to burn him. Mwah ha ha!

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Freeborn Al / 29th July 2016 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos / 0 Comments

Roystonbury part one..

IMG_4478It was back in March I got a Facebook message from Janice out of the blue asking if we wanted to come to Roystonbury, as tickets were getting scarce.  I must confess, I hadn’t heard of it prior to then, but after some not very hard convincing, a bargainous £20 ticket price including camping and a check on the calendar to see we hadn’t got anything else on it wasn’t a difficult decision to get the tickets bought!

The event started last year as a birthday party for Roy, which went so well it became a festival proper this year – raising money for Horatio’s Garden. They are an awesome charity who create and maintain fantastic outside spaces for NHS Spinal Injury centres – providing essential areas for folk who have months to spend in hospitals to spent time outdoors and closer to nature.  An idea created by Horatio Chapple, who was tragically killed before seeing it become reality.

So on Friday after finishing up at work I headed off in Ludo for the short drive to Burbage, Leicestershire via the station to pick up Ella.  A slight sat-nav mishap was corrected and we arrived on site to be parked up by Roy himself – an ace little site accessed through a farmyard, with a few chickens to dodge and other assorted livestock of a woolly variety.  The arena was right next door, and a few familiar faces were already present.  For us we just needed to break in the levelling blocks to get the van level then the bed set up.  I don’t miss tents!

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Freeborn Al / 3rd July 2016 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments