A sweet ‘un in Nuneaton..

Even Lara Croft popped in to enjoy the gig!

Day two of a double header of The Leylines went swimmingly.  As Michael and Bex were heading down from Yorkshire I sent them a message to see if they wanted to stay over at mine as I was driving anyway.  This paid dividends for me – they had an early start on Sunday but offered to pick us up en route, woo!  Andy was staying too – so once everyone had assembled we piled into Michael’s car and headed off down the M42 to Nuneaton, which was surprisingly busy – eventually we found ourselves a largely abandoned car park within a short stagger of the venue.

I’ve not been to The Crew / Queen’s Hall for ages – it’s an ace venue, we had a drink downstairs waiting for the upstairs venue to open.  Soon after arriving upstairs The Strays were underway – a new band to me, a three piece fusion of rockabilly, blues and rock and roll – not my normal repertoire but really enjoyable and upbeat.  Sam on guitar and backing vocals, Gary standing up and drumming (and backing vocals) and livewire lead vocals and occasional tambourine from Estelle, it made for cracking warm up for the much more familiar bands that would follow.

Reading through my notes I didn’t do a great job of noting song titles – the danger of drinking cider and a new act I suppose!  One featured You scratch my back I’ll scratch yours in the lyrics – the opener and third track I missed the name of, Sam took the vocals for The Whisky Kid, which was then followed up with Stranger Danger.   It was revealed there was a new EP coming out in the next week or so, if you like blues infused rockabilly then you’d do well to get yourself a copy!  Waiting is one of the tracks on there, and it was a belter.

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

Tam-Worth it!

Since moving to South Derbyshire around half a year ago it’s been pretty good realising there’s so many places within easy reach of home where live music is happening.  Admittedly gaining access to Tamworth’s Two Gates club threatened to prove difficult – a members only establishment requiring you to be nominated and seconded by existing members to gain access.  Luckily an email explaining I’d just like to go to the gig rather than join secured a couple of tickets on the door.  The sat nav did less well at finding it, but eventually we rocked up in the car park then over to the chippy for some tea.

Once in the venue, rather than the Eyes Wide Shut type scenarios or masonic lodge we’d imagined it was perhaps something more reminiscent of Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights.  A traditional social club with a lovely welcome – we got ourselves checked in, paid up and found the soundcheck underway – giving us a chance to grab a drink and catch up with Nick and the Black Thorn collective who were waiting their turn to get underway.  Soon enough Clakka, Mark, Russ and Ann arrived too so we had some kindred gig-going spirits with us!

Nick Parker was up first – it did have a bit of a feel of a family party with some background music on for much of the room – we’d positioned ourselves in the sweet spot for the sound system though so the chatter didn’t distract me at all from listening.  It was a crisp sound too – kudos to Dan for that.  After a swift soundcheck he kicked off with Departures – gradually luring in a decent number of the crowd into abandoning their conversations and taking in the clever lyrical interplay.

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Freeborn Al / 25th March 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

Acoustic albums like buses!

It feels like we’ve been waiting for ages, but no sooner does Ferocious Dog’s acoustic album land then shortly after The Leylines Trio’s album hit the doormat.  It’s taken me a while to get around to getting around to writing this up, which is good as it’s given me more chance to listen to it!  The packaging is basic, a cardboard sleeve – the front artwork is understated, but the tracklisting design is a thing of beauty – if the first bite of a meal is with the eye then maybe the first listen of a CD is, maybe not – but it’s a good start nonetheless!

Trio Album is short but sweet – clocking in at just under half an hour it has seven tracks, five of which you’ll know if you’re familiar with The Leylines and two new tracks that might offer a teaser into the new full album release (or might not!).  It was recorded live as a band rather than track by track in a studio – which helps to enhance the stripped back and more intimate sound that resonates throughout these tracks – you can get properly up close and personal, and also appreciate some thoughtful new arrangements of familiar tunes.

Gotta Get Out of Here kicks in with guitar and mandolin before the more familiar guitar strum brings in some pace and Steve’s vocals, not a million miles from the full album track although here obviously we don’t get the bass and percussion oomph – instead you get the backing vocals really popping to the fore, occasionally all the strings drop out to give full on harmonised acapella sections which is really very effective indeed – a familiar song performed by familiar artists but in an unfamiliar yet delightful manner.

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Freeborn Al / 14th March 2017 / Music, Other Bands, Photos

Glastonburied..

We had a bit of an inpromptu decision to head down to the wonderful Bocabar in Glastonbury last night to see Nick Parker and the False Alarms and The Leylines.  I’d not planned on being in the West Midlands for work earlier in the week, but as I was it seemed logical that I was already thirty odd miles along in the right direction, so why not carry on? Plus Ella could get the train across to Solihull easily enough and meet me at my office, so that’s what we did – final meeting finished up, laptop shut down and off we went!

Now it’s worth taking some time to comment on the venue – reclaimed from an old industrial building, it has a wonderful creative and community-led vibe to it, nestled near a Premier Inn on the outskirts of Glastonbury itself, although still get lovely views of the town and the tor on the way in to get parked up.  Inside you’ll find an eatery, bar, awesome and reasonably priced artwork adorning the walls, and a low-ceilinged large event venue that holds around 300 people.  A really lovely space, nestled in an area that has clearly suffered a bit of depravation in recent years.

We descended late afternoon and settled with coffee and soft drinks, outside a murmuration of starlings was threatening to form as they prepared to roost as dusk set in.  Alas despite my best efforts I never did get to see whether or not they eventually succumbed to that peculiar and mesmerising urge they have to perform complex acrobatics together.  Inside we sat merrily watching soundchecks as the assorted musicians arrived – if you ever see a gig you fancy at The Bocabar then I’d thoroughly recommend a visit!

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Freeborn Al / 25th February 2017 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos / 0 Comments

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

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

Beware the Silk Leylines!

img_0335Nice little triple-header gigs like this are a real treat – particularly since fate conspired against me making it to the Hairy Dog (or rather, my energy levels did!) to see Ferocious Dog the night before as I’d originally planned.  A blast down the M42 and M40 takes you to Banbury from my house in a little over an hour, a small inconvenience stacked up against a free gig at The Wheatsheaf – a splendid traditional pub nestling in the town.

We arrived pretty early really, catching up with assorted folk in the venue rather than venturing forth to find what was probably a very drunken gathering of folk who’d been in Banbury since the night before.  A local character who introduced himself as ‘Hat Man’ was a particular highlight whilst nattering with Hannah and Dan outside.  In the venue we could hear strains of the first act soundchecking which boded very well for the gig – since we already knew the remaining two would be ace.

So Beware This Boy were up first – a traditional folk rock sound infused with fiddle to accompany the guitar, bass, drums and vocals also present.  Hailing from Oxford, I really enjoyed the set.  Singer Simon wasn’t big on telling us song names, although he did a few times (and I’ve derived a few more from the CD I bought from them after the set), the first song names were a mystery but Won’t Care came in at three.

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Freeborn Al / 6th November 2016 / Gigs, 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 / 1 Comment

A pissed fool at Wistful (part one)..

IMG_4568There’s no greater frustration than working the day you’re heading to a festival – coupled with that, I was waiting for a delivery so even when I’d worked my way through my to do list for the day I was still waiting to set off to Wistful Festival.  The Parcel Force man arrived, I hit the road and got to Hankin Farm by early evening on Thursday – the lovely folk that run the farm were on hand to arrange payment for the camping, and after a few attempts I found a good flattish bit of the field to get set up.

The van sorts itself out for the most part, I’d packed the teepee too for Becki and Emma who were arriving the next day and brought a gazebo as an experimental awning substitute.  Soon enough I had everything where I wanted it, greeted the neighbours (Mary, Rachel, Spike, Beth, Christina, Julie, Mark and The Seabridges amongst others!) and headed down to the arena where a film screening was happening courtesy of a projector and a white screen on the side of Paul and Lisa’s caravan.

A fun way to pass the evening – although the temperature dropped ludicrously after dark – still, cider and mead flowed nicely and Paige and I fought for the attentions of Alfie and Pebble the dachsunds (furry hot water bottles!) before starting to wander back up the hill.  A campfire drew me over where rum was flowing, and Brian and Jonny were entertaining us with guitars and songs – perfect wind down before the lure of bed finally took over.  The first time I’d slept in Ludo on my own, which was a bit weird!

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Freeborn Al / 17th July 2016 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 1 Comment