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

A song for everyone..

I feel a bit vindicated in taking a while to get this review out the blocks because I’ve waited for ages for Shanks’ Pony to get some of their songs recorded!  I can’t remember exactly when I first saw them play, but I know it wasn’t long after I’d first got into Ferocious Dog, I have a vague memory of my first sight of a cajón in use at The Black Market Venue in the murky past – and ever since then I like many of you have had to make do with getting to see them live and not be able to listen in the comfort of our own homes.

But no longer!  We knew an album was in progress and then suddenly a Facebook post announced we could order – so that’s what I did and greedily eyed the letterbox at home until it arrived – clad in a delightfully designed cover (courtesy of Kezia Parsons) depicting the band in a woodland scene.  I eagerly grabbed the CD out of the case and got it ripped onto a device I could play loudly – whilst the technical stuff was happening I cast an eye down the track list – eight songs all familiar titles (and will help with me trying to translate their impossible set lists in future, haha!).

Top of the World is up first, kicking in with Bob’s distinctive drumming intro then layered in some staccato guitar strums from Paul and then the fiddle instrumental builds up for the vocals, I’m sure I remember this song documents an event at Harefield Hall (I know Dean has said more than once during a live airing that he was there!).  You don’t really have to be familiar with the precise events chronicled though – lots of name-checking of now familiar artists – plus Edward Tudor-Pole in there too..

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Freeborn Al / 17th October 2017 / Music, Other Bands, Photos

Shirebrook together..

I love initiatives like this – Shirebrook Together intends to revitalise an area, to encourage folk to get out and get involved in local events.  I picked up my tickets at Farmer Phil’s, literally within seconds of chatting with Waggy I’d had a couple of tickets thrust at me – for just a fiver it promised to be a good laugh though, Shanks’ Pony and The Star Botherers would provide the soundtrack along with a disco crossed with a megalithic monument set up by the side of the stage.  On the one hand I go to things like this and lament the dearth of local folk who take part, but then realise that there could well be similar things set up closer to home I’m not aware of!

With an early start the next morning I drove up despite having a few overnight options, and arrived just as a deluge was stopping mercifully to park just up the road from the venue – the Shirebrook Welfare.  I headed in and nearly wandered into the members-only bar to the left, but hearing music coming from further down the corridor I carried on toward the function room, what an ace room it is!  Angela was outside on the phone so I knew I was in the right place, inside I found Waggy to hand over my ticket to, and John, Rob, Annie, Rob and Caroline had already bagged a table.

I mentioned a dearth of people above but the room was filling up quite nicely – there was a disco running, one part music system, two parts light show and ten parts skyscraper – it was spectacularly loud!  It made conversation very shouty, but well, we can manage that!  Moving over to the stage The Star Botherers were up first, a little late in getting on so the set and soundcheck merged into one, poor Bob on the sound being kept well and truly on his toes in getting them underway as the first track / soundcheck track 13 Years in Oregon got everyone’s feet tapping.

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Freeborn Al / 4th September 2017 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Farmer Phil’s 2017 – part one!

Farmer Phil’s Festival is one of those impossible to sum up times of the year. It can last potentially for a week if you’re lucky enough to have the time to get on site the Monday preceding it. It was Thursday evening for us when we were able to wend our way to this Shropshire idyll – the original plan was a Wednesday arrival but sadly a funeral waylaid us slightly – it had been raining a bit, we immediately got stuck in some mud but were pushable, having located a route to our camping spot we found ourselves sunk again – this time relying on being towed by the wonderful Craig.

We found ourselves nestled just behind the Purrple Peeple Eater – and quickly reunited with our immediate camp-mates with a cheeky cider or two whilst setting the van up as quickly as we could. Whilst the festival proper hadn’t started yet Bart had organised some music up at the bar tent, and we were keen to get straight into the festival spirit. We wandered up to pick up our wristbands and then onward up the hill and into the arena – still in varying degrees of construction, to find a cast of hundreds of friends already mustered ready for the music to start.

Pete Drake was already underway on the stage, entertaining a burgeoning crowd in the large beer tent, meanwhile we were roving from friend to friend catching up, saying hello and fussing the ridiculous number of four-legged friends. Farmer Phil’s is absolute heaven for anyone, like me, who loves doggies! Pete was followed by Northern Monkey – which seemed to have Joel from Black Thorn amongst them playing bass (I’m sure that’s not the usual state of affairs!). Also nestled on the hill was the Cheezy Vinyl Bar and stalls. It was shaping up to be a stonking weekend.

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Freeborn Al / 27th August 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Small but perfectly formed.. pt 1..

I’ve been feeling the pressure a bit of trying to find the right words to sum up another lovely experience courtesy of Roystonbury Festival, with a busy week leaving me no time the task has – if anything – become more daunting, but I’ve taken the plunge!  A little over a week ago we’d set off for the hour or so journey, we encountered a white van with a Star Copiers logo on the back on the way in that looked suspiciously like Jamie, indeed it was as he veered off to a service station for last minute supplies!

We got onto site to a lovely welcome from the volunteers getting everyone in and sorted, and found ourselves a spot close to the arena next to John who was setting up his tent (hell, the whole place is close to the arena, haha!) – Russ and Michelle arrived shortly after so a bit of adjusting of position we got everything sorted in the van and settled with a cider or two before getting our bearings ending up sat by a certain Purple Bus for some early liveners.

The open mic set was open on the acoustic stage early afternoon, and first up was Emily Batchelor who was stepping up for her very first live performance with her guitar.  We’d caught a glimpse of her rehearsing just before as they were camped close by, apparently she was dead nervous (which is understandable!) as we all gathered in the beautifully decorated acoustic area to watch.  She kicked off with Imagine Dragon’s Radioactive – nerves visibly evaporating as the song went on.

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Freeborn Al / 7th July 2017 / Hell Hounds, 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

The Leylines tour is underway!

I’m a bit late with this update – apologies, but last weekend a rather splendid event took place at The Black Market Venue in Sunny Warsop.  Well, threatening-to-be-snowy Warsop I suppose!  I hotfooted it up there early, because it would let me get a good spot to park the van which would be our bed for the night, but also because Becky and Pete were bringing Buster down for a bit of socialising practice. The band were in place soundchecking, I passed a lovely few hours nattering with folk and supping a pint of Illicit or four!

This was the opening night for The Leylines tour – and Andrea had pulled out all the stops as promoter (is anyone really surprised at that? Ha!) and snagged not one, not two, not three, but four support acts so the night got underway pretty early – utilising the main stage which is sporting a new sound system for the assembled crowd.  It was particularly exciting to see Dirty Davey get his first announced outing for a while (although I did make a sneaky trip to see him at an open mic night last week!).

The last time I saw Dirty Davey performing at an announced event it was his first time being microphoned up and it’s fair to say the experience was overwhelming – but this time the practice has clearly paid off, a very confident performance – showcasing two of his own compositions as well as a couple of well-chosen cover versions.  It was a short set as he’s been struggling with illness, but it left not just me bursting with pride watching him do his thing on the big stage.

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Freeborn Al / 14th February 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

T’was Dogfest eve, babe..

Thanks John 🙂

With reports of the awful incident that caused the M1 to be closed on Friday (obviously thoughts and best wishes to everyone affected by that) I set off early to make it up to the Black Market Venue in time for us to get set up and soundchecked as we were up first for pre-Dogfest Stars Bothering on Friday.  I picked up magician Tom en route – more on his awesome skills later – and mercifully was able to get to Warsop in time and get the van parked up in the car park.

We got ourselves all set up as The Star Copiers – during the soundcheck the cajón was sounding huge – I think it could’ve done with turning up a bit during the set.  Alas I didn’t realise ’til it was too late, never mind!  As for our set, we left feeling a bit disappointed – we dropped a sound to make sure we could fit in Merry Christmas Everyone at the end and well, we all felt like we’d made a few too many mistakes.  Whilst we don’t take ourselves remotely seriously we do want to be as good as we can be!

That said, the first thing that happened when I got off the stage was to be faced by Rob who said “Al, I’m really disappointed” – I was about to concede we were a bit too, only for him to follow up with “I was expecting it to be all tuneless and rubbish!” – maybe it’s true you’re your own worst critics!  Either way, we had some fun and we started distributing the CDs we’ve had made to raise money for Framework.  The raffle on the night was also supporting them, not to mention the collection of food and toiletries occuring the next day too.

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Freeborn Al / 18th December 2016 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Star Copying on Sunday..

img_0343Another one of those strange blog posts featuring a set where I’m actually a performer rather than spectator, but there are three other acts to cover too – I’ll cross the potential for self-reviewing when I come to it!  Stars Bothering on Sunday is – as I’ve written before – an amazing way to round off a weekend.  An early start and early finish means you don’t need to be out late if you need to get to bed early for work in the morning, and has introduced me to loads of ace new bands.

Tonight was no exception – three familiar bands on offer, one of whom breaking in a new substitute fiddle player, one I’m part of, and of course the Star Botherers themselves.  The new band for me was Swifty’s New Front Teeth who are old friends of Mark’s.  Being in an unfamiliar setting they were a bit pensive before hitting the stage, so when it came to discussions around running orders they were keen to get on first, so set about sorting out the stage.

For just the three of ’em, electric guitar, bass and drums, they make a big noise – I cunningly clocked their set list before they started, although that’s bitten me in the arse now because I didn’t make any notes, and because of the ambitious idea of squeezing four bands into a little under three hours they had to drop a few from there.  D’oh!  Just Friends kicked things off in fine style, and those pre-show nerves seemed to evaporate in no time.

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Freeborn Al / 7th November 2016 / 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