We’re just Lost Folk..

Unusually for a Wednesday night I was unfeasibly excited on 21st November in 2012. Despite being full of cold and feeling rotten, I was off to Rock City to see the mighty Levellers, and by virtue of winning a charity auction I’d been handed a backstage pass to go and collect my swag directly from the band. My love of live music had been reignited by Ferocious Dog, and looking back made me once again more receptive to new music that I’d struggled to find in the mainstream.

Nestled under the righthand staircase (which has subsequently moved in a remodel of the venue) nursing a Diet Coke and sporting a ridiculous Movember moustache was where my enduring love affair with Gaz Brookfield began – and it was love at first sight. I couldn’t even tell you the set list he chose that night, I definitely remember The Ballad of Elizabeth Duke being in there, and either Thin or The West Country Song (or maybe both – I definitely remember a singalongy song).

Whilst awkwardly hanging around the dressing room door after the gig I mumbled something incoherent about how much I enjoyed his set to him as he was presumably gearing up to depart (as we now know, from Land Pirate’s Life, the promised lift on the tourbus went unutilised due to the rubbishness of our rail network) for the next leg of the tour in Leeds at the O2 Academy. I then captured a series of awkward selfies with the Levs – ridiculous moustache instantly regretted!

Citizen Fish followed Gaz and didn’t really do it for me, so I popped downstairs to the merchandise stand and availed myself of the CDs he had on offer – either Trial or Error or Tell it to the Beer, again, possibly both. Since then I’ve avidly consumed his prodigious output and taken in as many live shows as I can – aided not least by his hooking up with Ferocious Dog on their From Without tour.

That love blossomed for a solo acoustic guy, but his incisive lyrics and catchy songs don’t get lost when backed by a band and incrementally flashy production or extras as we step through the albums. I remember Gaz posting that he was ‘throwing everything’ into this recording – and here we’ve got loads of layers, there’s brass, piano, synthy sounding things and more guitar effects along with the more customary acoustic guitar, percussion and fiddle.

Whilst this might be an album for the Lost Folk, you can easily navigate your way through the complexity of layers – the songs cut through loud and clear. The depth and layers of instruments might be considered the mirrors and the smoke of this recording – to steal a line from the title track – but you certainly don’t get lost in it.

Like in his homage to Loudon Wainwright III, Gaz’s semi-autobiographical tendancy either through charting his musical career, personal life or topical musings without getting preachy is both brave and poignant, and I guess being in a very similar age bracket there’s a lot of resonance in those musings for me – perhaps not so much in the musical career musings – but ultimately as humans we’re all fragile with the same kind of life concerns.

Title track Lost Folk opens up the album at pace, I love the addition of brass and chugging bass with swirling keys in the background. Typically catchy lyrics – creating or maybe defining in a demographic grouping I’m sure lots can relate to. Not quite old, definitely not young, politically marginalised in an increasingly polarised world and not interested in the sanitised and saccharine mainstream musical offerings. I’ve been in a few fields full of those kinds of people. It’s more of an attitudinal grouping I suppsoe than a demographic one!

The promise of bigger and more ambitious is delivered without comproming the essence of Gaz’s music. IOU is an uplifting tribute of thanks, The Glorious Adventure Co. slows the pace but doesn’t dull the mood – a bit of googling suggests it’s charting a motorcycle based tour given Gaz’s love of his two-wheeled conveyance – imagery of getting lost for the sake of it is always appealing to me, I do that quite a lot albeit usually walking rather than on a motorbike. I’m far too clumsy for that!

Afterthought has swirling fiddle and brings the pace back up to a bounce – a supportive anthem of how we need to look after each other and it’s really important to not be afraid to talk about your problems. Sage advice – did you know in 2018 there were more than 6,000 suicides in the UK? Men are three times more likely to make up that statistic – and most likely to be in the 45-49 age bracket. Awareness of mental ill health is becoming less stigmatised – but there’s still a way to go, it’s a good subject to address.

We’ve heard Aged Revolt before – an anagram of a popular hotel chain who wouldn’t give Gaz and Jake permission to use their name for their collaborative album. It’s given a facelift here – Ben’s fiddle in particular is rather spectacular! Given the overall theme and feel of the album it does make a lot of sense to revisit it here, and it’s a banging tune he and Jake collaborated on.

Any excuse to use Ella’s awesome shot from Farmer Phil’s a few years back!

Whilst I’ve talked a lot about the layers and complexities – it’s nice to take a break in the middle of the album with just Gaz and his guitar for Pen to Paper – you might’ve seen him open recent shows with this songwriters block lament with two chords and no chorus (although as the lyrics suggest he does sneak some E minors in amongst the Gs and the Cs!).

Snakes and Ladders kickstarts us back into high energy territory with electric guitar, robot-trumping synthy noises and – once of those gently nearly-political ones that ultimately concludes we might just take life a bit too seriously. Oalaego has a swaying feel to it, with an almost country feel to it – I have a nagging feeling I’ve heard Gaz explain the backstory to this song but I’ll be damned if I can remember it – googling or anagram hunting hasn’t helped, I’m sure it’ll come to me!

Uneducated Guess has a much rockier feel musically and notably in vocal delivery – machine-gunned at you over chugging guitars. It works really well for me, unusually for Gaz might prove a tricky one to sing along to (the verses at least).

Another reprise from Aged Revolt is the charming Great Minds Drink Alike with Jake Martin, a bromance of a duet with a bit of a facelift – most notably the piano giving it a pub knees-up feel which is very fitting, with the crowd at the Beehive in Swindon providing backing vocals as the track builds (I was gutted I couldn’t make the logistics work to join in with this – I’m sure I can hear Jamie Westwood on there though!).

Which leaves the finish of Just Another Day, starting with just vocals and guitar and again picking up the themes of ageing but ultimately acceptance as bass, percussion and keyboard joins the mix. The preference of a local pub to a noisy club is something I’ve been able to relate to since my early twenties, so this is definitely up my street – the brass section starts to come into the mix as the track builds and ultimately is simply faded out to bring us to the end.

Another awesome album – and reflecting on looking at the array of talent involved, it brings be back to the start of the post on discovering new acts through old favourites. There’s the likes of Chris Webb, Jake Martin, Nick Parker involved who of course are all songwriters and performers in their own right who through osmosis I’ve subsequently discovered through following Gaz. Supporting the support is the gift that keeps on giving!

Now I really need to get my arse into gear and work out which of Gaz’s tour dates I can make!

Freeborn Al / 28th September 2019 / Music, Other Bands, Photos

Beat the Streets!

I must admit up front I didn’t really feel up to Beat the Streets, which is a shame – but since they so handily placed three of my favourite acts right next to each other in the same venue we did muster ourselves to get into town.  I do regret not entering into the spirit a bit more so, but with an early start on Monday sometimes you do have to be disappointedly sensible at times, so we drove into town and parked up.

Upon reaching Rock City it was kicking out from Sleaford Mods’ set – they’ve never done it for me recorded, I would’ve given them a chance live but what was immediately apparent was the very reasonable ticket prices had seen loads of people snap them up, great to see so many people out to support an anti-homelessness charity, with numbers recently released to show rough-sleeping is on the rise, along with the use of foodbanks, we really are fundamentally failing more and more people as a society.

We found Lee and Geoff outside the venue and awaited being allowed in as hundreds of people poured out the place – once in we joined a queue for the basement where Headsticks were coming on soon – but Kagoule were already underway, and the room was hella full so it was one-in-one-out – they over-ran a little so we got to see the last couple of songs and I really enjoyed them, I think I shall keep an eye out for them playing again nearby.

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Freeborn Al / 28th January 2018 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

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

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

Re-living Rock City..

IMG_3347I’m probably late to the party for anyone who reads this blog – but whilst Rockstock and Rolling out the Festival Barrel was a perfectly justifiable excuse for missing trips to Buckley and Burnley at the weekend with Ferocious Dog, waiting for me when I got home was what might prove to be my salvation when financial and logistics make a trip to Exeter and Newbury highly unlikely next weekend.  Yes, the hotly anticipated live CD and DVD from November’s sell out gig at Rock City in Nottingham!

Having got back from Willington Ella and I spent a chilled afternoon airing the tent in the garden listening to the CD – the sound quality is great!  Remembering poor croaky Ken just a week before the gig in the rehearsal studio, it’s pretty amazing really.  After that the doctor ordered him to cancel the gigs in Stroud and Cardiff right before Rock City – the transformation that rest and recuperation yielded is incredible.  Not so much as a lyrical slip either!

If you’re a ‘full contact’ Ferocious Dog spectator frankly quite often nuances either visual or aural can easily be missed in the blur – and on Rock City day, okay – the Hell Hound AGM – it had been a long day!  Coupled with a raft of awesome music before the main event, plenty of drink and food (and Ella and I were both feeling ill) – my memories of the night itself are a bit blurry, the amazing atmosphere, getting my surfboard nicked (ha!), being pinballed round the moshpit – but above everything else an amazing homecoming and moment of history, watching them take to that famous stage and frankly own it for an hour and a half.

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Freeborn Al / 4th April 2016 / Band, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Alice? Who the Wolf is Alice?

IMG_3111Often my gig-going is centred around the very familiar, it made a nice change tonight to go to a gig almost entirely blind.  I’d booked a ticket to see Wolf Alice at Rock City back in October at my brother’s suggestion – and entirely forgotten about it until I glanced at my calendar on Tuesday evening after work.  A text to my brother enquired as to whether he’d got the tickets, he replied saying he didn’t think I was coming – a search of my emails revealed an e-ticket.  Two e-tickets in fact.  Oops!

With Ella down south Rich was able to get my ticket re-homed with Simon, a friend of Ed’s who was also coming to the gig.  Perhaps just as excitingly, we decided to pop to Annie’s Burger Shack before the gig – I opted for the current special on offer, the Cannonball – it was delicious.  I love Annie’s.  Annie came to the UK pursuing music, but found fame for her imaginative music-themed burgers, initially served in The Old Angel, then The Navigation Inn and finally in her own extremely popular restaurant – a real characterful success story.

IMG_3110After eating we waddled up to Rock City deciding to find a spot on the sidelines rather than in the mosh pit – it was pretty much a sell-out, quite a feat on a Wednesday night.  We found a good spot on the elevated area to the left of the stage and decided not to move from there for the evening – it seemed a bit strange to be on the sidelines at a gig but I wasn’t keen on the idea of being smashed around the very lively (even for the support acts) mosh pit whilst quite so full of burger!

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Freeborn Al / 24th March 2016 / Band, Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

A cheeky little DVD teaser..

If you’ve been pondering ordering the Rock City DVD and CD or simply can’t wait to see it, Dan’s provided a nice little teaser of the start of the gig with the band launching into Gallows Justice.  The image and sound quality looks to be cracking, production should be this week or so, shipping straight after – just the thing you’ll need for the post-Dogfest comedown!

Freeborn Al / 9th February 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Videos / 0 Comments

Miss the band on Notts TV? Fear not!

Due to watershed related issues (John’s t-shirt possibly? Haha!) Notts TV had unfortunately decreed not to add their Noise Floor special featuring Ferocious Dog at Rock City, nor seem very amenable to sharing the video in any other means than repeat broadcasts – which is great if you live in Nottingham or have Sky so you can tune your box to it.  Not so good if you have neither of these options.

Well, Tim found a handy YouTube link featuring a decent quality rip of the whole episode – enjoy!  If you want to keep it for posterity try using a service like KeepVid to download the video file.  Together we are strong indeed!

Freeborn Al / 6th January 2016 / Band, Gigs, Interview, Music, Videos / 0 Comments

TV personalities..

3373_10153880894334343_8765133109960421985_nHopefully most of you got to see Notts TV’s hour long Ferocious Dog special which aired last night at 10pm.  Those of you that missed the opportunity through geographical constraints or not having Sky will get the chance to catch up online once their systems update (it doesn’t appear to be quite so quick as more established channels at catching up!), but I thought that it was a superb introduction to what Ferocious Dog are all about from presenter Mark Del.

The programme centred around the climax of the tour – the sell out gig at Rock City, the first ever unsigned act to do so.  My only pedantic quibble was the repeated claim of them being the first local unsigned act to do it – they are the first act, full stop, in 35 years of the venue to sell it out without the backing of a label.  Whilst it is of course nice they’re local, it’s not relevant to the feat at all.

A mixture of interviews from before the gig – constant references to the fans (well, okay, family) – when Anton from Rock City was interviewed before the gig he made some astute references to the relationship between hell hounds and the band being akin to that he’d seen before with the Levellers and New Model Army, and not from other bands since then.  He was also pretty on board with the idea of pushing for more national coverage for the band too – good news!

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Freeborn Al / 2nd January 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Interview, Lee Bonsall, Music, Photos / 0 Comments

2015 – The year of the Dog..

12347814_10153863571453060_2422930688827816042_nOkay, so Ferocious Dog have been around a little longer – but this last year has felt rather like a landmark.  And not just because back in February it’s when Ferocious Blog was born, ha!  The lead up to a new year is traditionally a time for reflecting back on the year just gone and looking forward to the next one, so I figured it’d be nice to trawl back through the months and pull out a highlight or two for each month of 2015, it will be tough to pick just one or two so feel free to chip in your own in the comments – despite my best efforts I didn’t quite make it to every Ferocious Dog gig in the year!

January 2015 – a light month, Ferocious Blog was yet to be created (although it had been an idea kicking around in my head for at least a couple of years).  Checking my calendar and personal blog doesn’t reveal much at all in the way of Ferocious Dog activity – we’d have been still basking in the warm glow of Dogfest back in December – I latterly discovered that a 3 Piece Acoustic performance took place in honour of Ella’s 21st birthday in this month, but alas I didn’t know Snotty at this juncture!

IMG_9188_gFebruary 2015the blog is born after an acoustic appearance by Ken and Dan at the Brown Cow in Mansfield.  Seldom has one of Sam’s nights had such a huge crowd packed in.  The demand for the event was the perfect excuse to arrive early and chat nonsense with friends for the afternoon.  An afternoon of drinking had taken its toll on Dean who for the first time decreed I needed to get up and surf in his place – a great way to start what became a year of extreme ‘dogging’.  These smaller intimate gigs are as enjoyable for me as the bigger and bolder shows that are to follow.  We were first introduced to Scott at this appearance too.

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Freeborn Al / 30th December 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Thoughts