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

Keeping it Real (Time)..

When the tickets for this gig went on sale I was at Ey Up Mi Duck and had decided that, having secured tickets for the Rough Trade gig that I’d hang fire and give folk who had missed out a chance.  By mid-afternoon there were still a few left so sod it – folk had had a chance, I duly ordered!  I’m glad I did, I’m a big fan of Real Time Live as a venue – sat above a music shop in Chesterfield, it’s an absolute musical grotto!

Come the day we offered to pick up Geoff en route since he’s just a short diversion off the M1, and duly arrived in Chesterfield with a good amount of time to spare.  Once we’d got our bearings (which took a while longer than it should’ve done!) we headed to The Barley Mow, just around the corner from a venue – a nice pub, with plenty of friendly faces already there – and seats outside to enjoy the not-quite-as-warm-as-we’d-hoped weather.

After a good deal of catching up, random photos and a strange experiment involving leaning against a wall and picking up a stool we wandered over to the venue.  Over the course of the evening I was also informed that my good friend and fellow Ferocious Dog fan Andy Harrison has been honoured with an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list – over the course of the evening we weren’t allowed to mention it, but come midnight – well, I think everyone who knows him knows about it now!  It’s an amazing and well deserved acknowledgement of the commitment he’s shown to good causes.

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Freeborn Al / 17th June 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, 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 two.

Before I start I should make a small confession – we might’ve had a bit of a Roystonbury-style breakfast experience that rendered me a little bit asleep for some of the acts, haha.  So I’m terribly sorry to King of Rome and Amy & Paul whose sets I have limited memories of, and more particularly The Star Botherers, The Outlines and Blind Fever whose sets I missed entirely… it’s not big and it’s not clever, folks!

So the day started with a wander – rather than breakfast in the clubhouse I struck a deal with Pete and Becky to trade coffee for a bacon cob, which was a pretty genius deal I thought!  A chance to trade jokes with the kids and play with Buster before heading back to Camp Copier where folk had been stirring – I’m going to single out Mark for suggesting early morning gin and tonics – it soon escalated with tequila, salted caramel vodka and heaven knows what else!

With a degree of merriment we were keen to go see Adam Thompson open up the day on the acoustic stage – I only recall hazily seeing Adam perform at very late night open mics or round camp fires, so I was looking forward to seeing him with a clear head (ahem).  Inkeeping with Dave’s adult-oriented opening the day before, he announced his first song was about a certain part of Teresa May’s anatomy.. and so Dock of the Bay opened up the set.

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Freeborn Al / 3rd May 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Travelling along the (longer) ancient road!

My list of releases to write about never seems to get any shorter!  But that’s no bad thing, and The Silk Road are the next on my list – with a self-titled album to follow up from their EP released in the summer last year.  Back then when I wrote about it I drew parallels with both Levellers and Ferocious Dog in their sound – and that still stands.  As an aside, one of my friends once described FD quite disparagingly I thought at the time as ‘Levelling the Clash’.  To be fair, back then they probably had a few Levs covers in their set.

I’ve subsequently mentally reappropriated the description to be a badge of honour (maybe that’s how it was intended, to be fair!).  So if Ferocious Dog are ‘Levelling the Clash’ then I reckon The Silk Road are more like ‘Levelling the Pistols’.  And much like the former, the latter belies some of the intricacy and individuality on offer – but with the music often tending to the punk end of the folk-punk spectrum (although not always), and Tich’s visceral sneering vocals (although not always) it feels like a suitable pithy description.

All the tracks from the EP are reprised, along with eight companions – here we have a much more polished (without losing the bite) and varied collection of songs.  So whilst I might have suggested that The Silk Road are more punk than folk, there’s plenty of glimpses at their softer underbelly in here too – with traditional energetic instrumentals like Montagu’s Harrier which featured on the EP, and the frankly lovely Elizabeth Rose which almost sounds like it could morph into a McDermott’s 2 Hours song.

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Freeborn Al / 15th March 2017 / 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

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

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

Travelling along the ancient road with The Silk Road..

13532968_1136428143093816_260219737519044595_nThe Silk Road was an expansive trade route network enabling Chinese silk to be exported and sold all over the place from two hundred years either side of the birth of Christ.  Or it was also an expansive dark web black market trading platform famed for selling drugs or other illicit items between 2011 until it was shut down by the FBI in 2013.

I checked in with founding member Tich and it turns out both of these things inspired the band name – the three hares symbol linked to the ancient trade route, although nobody really knows the origins of the images – but for the band, it and the name symbolise the universal connections people and places all have with one another.

I first saw The Silk Road the band back at Something To Smile About in their acoustic guise – but I’ve known singer and guitarist Tich for over a year now, and we’ve often nattered at Ferocious Dog gigs about their output.  With extra performances at Estival and Wistful to take in, they’ve also been in the studio to produce a four track EP (well, really it’s five tracks), so it was great to finally get my hands on it courtesy of Tich at the weekend.

As I tend to do I’ve been hammering it on my drives to and from work this week – since I’ve clocked up over five hours of car time in the last two days (damn you, M42!) I feel like I’ve gotten to know this little collection very well indeed.  That said, I’ve certainly not tired of listening to it whilst idly cursing the strange and unexplained concentration of traffic as I trog to and from the West Midlands each day.

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Freeborn Al / 19th July 2016 / Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

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