How now, Brown Cow!

This blog post is nearly as horrendously late as I was a week ago to the Roots Acoustic Evening at the Brown Cow in Mansfield, it meant I managed to miss the host, Phil Ashmore and the first act on too, Alan Robinson – but luckily my epic day of driving got me there in time for Sam Jones.  I’ve not seen Sam in solo acoustic guise in ages, and it’s always a treat (and in truth, why I feel motivated to write a blog post more than anything, especially in this venue where I first saw him!).

So once I’d got myself loaded up and my gear out the car (chances are I wouldn’t have made the trek from home to Stevenage and then to Mansfield, but we were playing, you see, under the guise of The Carrot Spies since Kev couldn’t make it, sadly – and frankly we aren’t The Star Copiers without a full compliment of members – lucky we’ve got a gigantic list of anagrams isn’t it?

But anyway, the amazing Sam Jones was up first – he’s such a talented fella.  He was standing in for his dad, Mark, who was feeling under the weather (Sam himself complained of feeling rough too, but it didn’t bring his performance down any that I could see!).  He kicked off with Death of the Free Man, then that lovely cover of Bee’s Wing he busts out for his Mum, Kathie – who was in the crowd to enjoy it, always lovely to see!  I took to Facebook live for this as it’s one of Ella’s favourite songs too (I couldn’t resist getting Lucy in on the act!).

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Freeborn Al / 25th February 2018 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Photos, Politics

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

Another fine Dogfest!

As if Dogfest isn’t a prospect mouthwatering enough for your musical delectation, Bart runs a pre-Dogfest night to get you limbered up for what is to follow – so I decided to bash the two reviews together as a further time-saving measure (given I’ve got three gigs coming up this weekend, d’oh!).  We got ourselves up to The Black Market Venue in good time and for a mere fiver were granted entry to the back room where both stages were being utilised to put on an amazing line-up.

First up on the side stage were 3 Wise Men, acoustic mellow tunes with all three of ’em providing vocals at one point or another and well synchronised guitars.  In The Cold Cold Night was early in the set which was followed up with That’s Life.  I was really enjoying the set – especially a cover of Massive Attack’s Man Next Door which was simultaneously unexpected and delightful in equal measure – well worth getting in early doors for (not, of course, that the event started on time – arf!).

The Outlines were up next on the main stage – looking ever more confident in their own skins, launching into Waiting and filling the room with energetic grungy rock, a stark contrast to the gentle set before but just as enjoyable.  Static, She Don’t Know, Calm Down – all quickly establishing themselves as classics.  Next up was probably my favourite of theirs (for now) in Buried a Lie.  Tight backing vocals and Kyle’s distinctive voice over an unfeasibly heavy sound for three of ’em..

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Freeborn Al / 13th December 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

There ain’t no party like.. TWO house parties!

Because I’m so ridiculously behind on blog posts, I’m going to combine an entry for two excellent house gigs – the first was hosted by the lovely Parry Clan and featured Morganella and Doozer McDooze doing their thing in an intimate and unplugged setting, the second was hosted by the equally lovely Fairish Clan and featured The Star Copiers and Nick Parker all amped up – along with a raucous open-mic finalé – I’m very lucky to have the opportunities to go to such awesome events!

So first up was Parry Towers.  I’d arrived early and Lucy and Nick had laid on a mountain of food for the revelry, so after troughing and discovering the wonder of the Akinator phone game with Evan, eventually guests arrived and it was time to start getting set up.  Morganella were up first in support guise – they’d had a quick rehearsal beforehand which they don’t get to do very often (at least not in the same place), but in no time found themselves a spot in the lounge to act as the performance area.

Kicking off with Black Horse and a Cherry Tree it sounded really good – my limited dalliances into singing have made me really appreciate the wonders of what a monitor does, so to perform fully acoustic is always impressive to my ears (well, if it’s in tune!  And it was!).  Self-penned track Daisies and Sunshine was up next and straight into Refuge and The Standing Stone of Onich to showcase their own EP tracks.  They don’t get away without playing Weak these days, so that featured next followed by Photosynthesis which is one of Nick’s favourites.

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Freeborn Al / 11th December 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

A lovely bit of Bothering..

Oops – nearly a week late, but it has been a busy week in my defence!  But last Sunday we had a welcome trip up to Market Warsop for a bit of Stars Bothering on Sunday in the Black Market Venue.  I love nights like these, relaxed and informal and fun – and usually with a spot of entertainment.  For our second time we’d been booked too, due on after appearances from the hosts, Herb and Alex Bradford – and followed by Josh Francis (who was running a bit late owing to traffic).

Having settled down with John, Angela, Tony and Trudy folk started arriving and The Star Botherers got themselves set up and the evening underway.  With a slightly later start than planned it was just a two song treat – kicking off with One Inch Death Punch (at least Bart did, Dave start the bass riff for Just Around the Corner which was quite amusing!).  That helped decide the next song, it was indeed Just Around the Corner – short but sweet.  Don’t forget their album launch is a week today and it’s free!

I was looking forward to catching up with Herb – each time I see him take the stage he gets more confident, especially with a sharp new hair cut!  For a blogger he’s great as he interperses songs with the stories behind them and their titles.  He opened with Sometimes, a melancholic finger-picked tune with philosophically observing life’s ups and downs – I really liked the lyrics.  Black Dog’s Eyes picked up the pace a bit – more strumming, and more empassioned vocals – dealing with escapism through substances, another really nice song.

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

Got stuff to do.. Groovy.

Yesterday was the kind of day that defies description really.  Many readers will know Richard, he’s often found at Ferocious Dog gigs, festivals and countless other events – and has undergone a number of years of recurring diagnoses, remissions and recurrences of that bastard we’ve come to know as cancer.  But rather than let this be a barrier he’s relentless optimistic, sharing his company, humour and wisdom freely (despite not being able to speak any more) along with his ‘rock’ and wife Julie.

In what was originally billed by Rich as a pre-funeral – in typically dark humour – we just enjoyed a superb day and evening of entertaining bands, laughter, tears and dancing – a perfect ‘living wake’ (as I’ve seen another friend coin it).  A dedicated team of friends worked tirelessly to organise the space at The Yew Tree Inn and Lodges in Ednaston, there was space for vans to stay over, and hotels dotted around the area were booked up, and a big mob of friends brought together through a love of music came together with Rich’s family to celebrate – and did so in fine style!

From the open mic with Niamh singing along to Brian’s guitar beautifully, to Spike doing an amazing and difficult job in making a speech that Richard had written but couldn’t physically say himself, since the disease has robbed him of his voice box.  People underwent the two-verses-one-breath challenge (you have to sing two verses of The Subhumans’ Work Rest Play Die in just one breath) – kudos to Mark who learned it on guitar too and did it at the start of our set over the course of the afternoon!

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Freeborn Al / 15th October 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Rockstock and … well, long overdue…

This is long overdue, so apologies – it’s been a busy ol’ time.  Rockstock and Barrel happened at the end of September, and it was as magnificent as ever.  After finishing up work we arrived on site on Thursday evening and got ourselves set up and reunited with our lovely festival friends.  Soon enough the cider was flowing (Pear and Chilli was my weapon of choice for most of the weekend) – and the music was starting in the acoustic lounge before the festival proper started on Friday.

Phil Cudworth took to the stage first – probably more familiar to most of us for his awesome woodwork, it turns out he’s a bit of a dab hand with guitar and singing too!  He opened with a potentially childhood-destroying song called Disney Princesses where he painted probably on reflection a more healthy set of role models than those proferred by the film company in question, then on to Coward about growing up in the 70s.  A mixture of irreverence, humour but also underpinned with real charm.

Coward was up next and then Bounce, then it was on to Hippy Chick.  I must admit I started losing track of song names – there was one about a chap called Gary, Computer Nerds has a question mark next to it then there was a really bluesy number called Tollpath Blues.  Then we get to where I’ve just covered subject matters – one song was about Russians, another about VIPs, then one called Green-eyed Monster.  The set finished up with Free for a Day but as Zoe took the stage she asceded to the crowds demands for an encore, which we got in the form of Sunglasses – a reflection on how stage-performing can adversely affect ones personality.  Something to watch out for!

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Freeborn Al / 10th October 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

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

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

Ploughing an unlonely furrow..

Speaking as a member of The Star Copiers we were dead excited to get the chance to play Brad Dear‘s open mic night in The Plough, Warsop again.  It’s a great chance for an on-stage warm-up ahead of Farmer Phil’s, and a chance for our ‘secret weapon’ to blow the cobwebs out of live performing.  With added excitement of course of getting to see Brad perform too, along with The Band With No Name and a quick set from Herb at the end too!

Brad Dear was up first – he opened with the yet to be titled New Song, then followed it up with old favourite Circles and Roundabouts.  Then it was time for New New Song – he’s been on a bit of a songwriting marathon lately apparently which bodes well!  The Only Road I Know was up next then he dipped into his arsenal of cover versions for Levellers track Together All The Way, he finished up with Special Brew with The Lindleys bullying everyone into a conga-line around the pub, ha!

The Band With No Name could do with a name really – with the very familiar Russ on vocals, two guitars and cajon made up the remainder – and they were really rather very good.  They kicked in with Land Pirate’s Life by Gaz Brookfield, and then into Whiskey In The Jar (I think by this point Mark was probably getting a bit pissed off by his band mates asking him why he couldn’t do that on guitar!).  Unconditional was up next – with Ken sitting in the front row Russ got over his nerves to deliver a cracking version.

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Freeborn Al / 5th August 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos