Farmer Phil’s 2017 – part two!

Saturday morning started with sausage cobs (yes, they are cobs!) for breakfast – then we were up to the arena early doors as Morgan and Ella were doing a Morganella ‘meet and greet’ at the Pink Flamingo Bar. Lucan was a hero and arranged for a 4×4 to pick up our stuff to take up to the stage so I left Mark in charge of my stuff and accompanied Ella up to the arena. Starting the day with a cheeky cocktail and the first questions and answers was fun, but soon enough I needed to report back stage to get The Star Copiers set up – so that’s where I headed.

The sound crew were awesome – we aren’t very experienced really so we take all the help we can get! They got each monitor set up for us so that we could hear what we needed to hear, something I’d never really appreciated before until performing.  Once soundchecking was finished I found a quiet corner to get changed into my silly stage wear (okay, I just got changed in front of everyone back stage, haha!). Mark’s guitar seemed to not want to stay in tune, Kev was a bit nervous, Jacquie was practising lines – I was pretty excited in truth, definitely our biggest stage to date.

We started up by going on one by one with a slow intro to Down Under, Mark first, then Jamie, me, Kev and finally Jacquie to kick off the vocals. I thought it worked rather well! Donning sunglasses meant I couldn’t see the people in the barn – but I could see Kenny grinning at us from the bank outside the stage enclosure. What’s Up was next – even if I was tapping into a different song, already looking too far forward on the set list. Oops! It didn’t put the others off, so I could drop back into the correct beat soon enough. Listen was next, then I Still Believe (the one I started off on before by accident). It’s a song we always cock up in rehearsals – I’m happy to say this time I don’t think we did, although my monitor mix was largely Mark, Jacquie and me.

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

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

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

All’s well at Birdwell..

img_0212Our original plan for Birdwell was to head up to Sam and Matt’s in Ludo and then taxi in, which would have undoubtedly been ace, but since we have plans today back in the Midlands it just made more sense to drive.  Allowing for the not-particularly-bad Friday night M1 traffic meant we made it up there in good time, so parked up and went for a wander around Birdwell – a place I must admit I never knew existed!

The Travellers Inn clearly designed for eaters – as we popped in for a couple of soft drinks to pass the time one of the waitresses stood by our table like a hawk to whisk our glasses away.  The food did look good mind, even if the welcome was frosty!  Rather than endure another round of that we headed down to the venue, what I guess is an old social /working man’s club – bar at the front, venue at the back.  The venue wasn’t open yet but the bar was.

It gave us a chance to have a sit and a natter with Rob and Russ, and admire Russ’ new tattoo that Ken has been working on before eventually being permitted into the venue room.  What a room too, nestling back there is a big stage, dancefloor and tabled area along with a bar – slightly reminiscent of The Black Market Venue but without the head space (or balcony) – cracking space in there though, and for my non-audiophile ears at least a decent sound system,

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Freeborn Al / 22nd October 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Photos, Videos / 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

That difficult second festival… night one!

13076514_485725474954762_3562155143094634744_nI’m sure you know the story behind Bostin’ Days – in a nutshell, an accident happens at Beautiful Days… it’s sorted out thanks to the local air ambulance.  Addie Burns has a crazy idea.  It’s the kind of idea that people probably have all the time – but in this case, he made it happen – get a fabulous array of musicians to record a cover of a Levellers song and release it as a compilation, then have an associated event by the said same artists.

That album is still a regular feature on my playlists – and last year’s event was superb.  How do you follow up something like that? Well, they bloody well did it – I’ve just got back from a fabulous weekend, and after sorting out assorted domestic stuff now I have the unenviable task of trying to put it in to words!  Unlike last year I was able to make the Friday night too, so arrived at the hotel in Wolverhampton early afternoon in time for a bit of a chill out.

Ella and her Mum would be arriving later – so after a pleasant afternoon with a book (rock and roll, huh?) – I hopped in a taxi to The Robin 2 in Bilston with Mark and Amanda.  I’d booked it using an app, and pre-paid for it – which confused my journey companions when I thanked the driver and got out without paying, as they thought!  Haha!  The venue wasn’t open yet, but the attached bar was so we headed in there and got ourselves some beers.

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Freeborn Al / 16th October 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

An electric atmosphere..

img_5635Rockstock and Barrel is fast becoming one of my favourite festivals – to take what is, frankly, a somewhat tired old social club attached to an abandoned power station and sprinkle it with imagination, art and music is a real testament to Debbo, Phily and their ever-expanding team of helpers.  This year the them of the festival was Tim Burton films – the decor and fancy dress were the magic dust on top of a solid foundation of facilities and great acts.

img_5560I’d dumped Ludo on the site on Thursday night, but alas work commitments meant I couldn’t stay – arriving back on site on Friday afternoon – complete with some shopping for Tim and, perhaps most randomly, a watering can for Lynne and Ian (which looked alarming like some kind of thing you’d find in Ann Summers!).  First order of business was to get the van sorted out – and then get my mits on the first of many Pineapple ciders.

As well as organising superb venues, decor and entertainment the stand out feature of Debbo and Phily’s events are their wonderous array of ciders and wines – and of course the Cheezy Vinyl Bar, which even had the option of pre-booking a baked camembert too.  The main stage was in the social club, the cider bar hosted the second stage and a third was nestled in the attached Cheezy Vinyl Bar.

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Freeborn Al / 5th October 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 2 Comments

All’s well at Whitwell..

bbWe had a really busy weekend just gone – with events on Friday and Sunday we wouldn’t have missed for the world, combined with the possibility of me finally getting completed on a new house we thought Whitwell might’ve been a step too far.  Luckily the house move was delayed by a week – some hasty arrangements involving somewhere for us to park Ludo meant that we could at least make the Saturday.  And it was sure worth it!

The festival nestles in the Whitwell Community Centre – what I’m presuming is a former school building eerily reminiscent of my old Primary school (which has long since been torn down and replaced by an old folks home!) – with a stage and stalls outside, and a couple more inside functioning as the second stage and an open mic performance area.  Stalls ranged from food, clothing and of course a bar.

Upon advice of people who’d been there on the Friday I was pointed towards the cider bar to sample the Mango cider – it had sold out the night before, hasty new provisions had been sourced – and I took heed and made sure I got a few pints in before it had gone.  My gosh, what a delicious drink… keep an eye out for Lilley’s Mango Cider – it really is a thing of beauty (not quite up there with Rockstock Pineapple cider for my money, but bloody nice!).

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Freeborn Al / 14th September 2016 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Geddin’ on Farmer Phil’s land.. part two..

I'm dead when Ella sees this!

I’m dead when Ella sees this!

Saturday morning came and despite the strange cold-like thing I’d had the night before I felt fine aside from a bit snotty, which is a bonus!  Speaking of Snotty, she had an appointment with an open-mic night where Morganella were scheduled to perform – so our first order of business was to head over a couple of fields where clan Parry were camped for an opportunity to rehearse a bit, grabbing a coffee en route.

By the time we’d finished and headed up to the arena it was lunchtime, nachos were my weapon of choice, we munched food whilst Emma and the Professor were getting started, it provided a most excellent soundtrack for a nice lunch – I only caught Kisses Sweeter Than Wine amongst the set before we decided to check out the shops.  I had designs on a poncho – as The Mighty Boosh rightly states, it’s impossible to feel sad in a poncho!

IMG_5075Whilst shopping though I was drawn down the bank to the second stage where Guitar Cubed were playing Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd – one of my favourite songs, and done justice here.  They moved on to Hey Jude before I headed back off up the hill to find Ella mooching around the shops some more.  It was a shame not to have had the chance to catch more of their set though, the little bit I caught sounded great (I managed to miss getting a photo too).

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