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

Saturday smiles..

On saturday we awoke to glorious sunshine – a welcome relief from the dampness of the night before!  I headed on down to Creative Intentions to get myself and Ella an awesome vegetarian breakfast, sold largely by the inclusion of halloumi in truth, but it was delicious – and that’s coming from normally a fairly committed meatosaurus!  We ate it listening to Steve Grozier opening up the main stage with some lovely chilled out acoustic music.

Once sorted we wandered to the Hidden Stage – I wanted to catch the open mic slots and we were playing shortly after that anyway, so went armed with the stuff I needed for stage too.  Pete Drake was up first, launching his EP and entertaining the crowd with catchy songs with clever lyrics – one about accidental discoveries particularly tickled my funny bone, I grabbed an EP off him which I’ve been really enjoying!

Dusty Herb was up next on the open mic – I’ve seen Herb perform plenty around campfires but never on a stage.  He got off to a banterous start which had the decent sized crowd chuckling before dedicating his first song to his wife Sue on the dawning of a landmark wedding anniversary.  Initially kicking into Please Release Me he quickly changed tack with a cover of Suzi Quattro’s If You Can’t Give Me Love – it worked really well.

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Freeborn Al / 9th June 2017 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Kev-Fest?

I don’t think I’ve ever been to an album launch tour date that comprises a house party – but that was part of Nick Parker‘s plan in between more conventional dates.  Kev duly leapt on the opportunity to host one of these, and of course supply a support band in the form of The Star Copiers (and bonus ‘Dirty Torry’ – ie, Dirty Davey and Russ too!).  So we move right from what was a really up close at personal gig in Chetwynd Aston to a really really personal one at Kev and Julie’s house.

The original plan was to take Ludo up there and stay over, but with quite a bit of stuff to do over the weekend instead I just took the car up instead.  With illness ravaging half of our band we’d not had a rehearsal this week and decided to wing it in terms of a set list – on arriving the PA was already set up and people were starting to arrive.  Dave and Russ were also keen to do a set so once folk had arrived and a ridiculously huge amount of food and drink was laid out they got themselves sorted under orders from stage manager Josh.

Dirty Torry (ie. Dirty Davey and Russ) kicked off with Sell Out – Dave playing guitar and Russ providing vocals – they work well together as a team.  Criminal Justice was next (with an interesting lyric change of ‘Egyptian Whores’ instead of ‘Eviction Laws’ – there’s one for Ferocious Dog misheard lyrics!  Millionaires was up next and then into Riverflow.  Back on to Ferocious Dog and Unconditional got a welcome airing, then a brave and cracking version of Elation finishing up with Slow Motion Suicide.

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Freeborn Al / 6th May 2017 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

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

Rock-Stock is rising.. saturday..

Saturday morning came with no particular hangover, the joys of Scrumptiddly Cider and pacing yourself!  With the morning likely to be taken up with wedding preparations, as Dave and Caroline were being handfasted early in the afternoon, and with The Star Copiers having a set mid-afternoon I was more interested in acquiring some breakfast and tea than thinking about getting on the cider.  We did find time to pop into the main room to see Phily’s daughter and her band open up the day with some ace indie rock to blow the cobwebs away.

I’m going to try to remember that I think they were called The Hatters – I’m really sorry, that’s pretty bad not even getting a name written down!  I was dipping in and out of the set trying to track down the sword I needed for the ceremony shortly, but one song was dedicated to a dead fish called Speedy (I think!), and there was a rousing rendition of Chelsea Dagger to enjoy too.  It was a shame not to have seen more of the set but my principle duty until he was handtied was to protect Dave, so I set out to find him.

Eventually guests were ushered into the acoustic room which had been set up to perform a handfasting ceremony – which Tina expertly guided them through.  Siobhan and I were witnesses – along with the rest of the room.  It was a really quite moving, I’ve never really experienced a handfasting before.  I was sorry to have to give up the sword to Dave though, I must admit!  The indoor ceremony was concluded with the sharing of mead from a drinking horn, whilst outside bird seed was scattered and the happy couple jumped a broomstick held by the witnesses.  A beautiful way to start the day.

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Freeborn Al / 3rd April 2017 / Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, 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

It’s a two Dogfest kinda year..

With Dogfest having had a break in 2015, we got to have the bonus of a double-Dogfest year in 2016 – the fifth one (or certainly the fifth one I’ve been to) – it’s amazing to see how much it’s grown from!  In the past it’s always been a race to get to Warsop for the start – no such problem here, I poked my head out of a cosy sleeping bag to face the winter temperatures in my van. Brr! At least I’d remembered to sleep the other way around from normal owing to the slope I’d parked on!

First things first was a trip down to the Co-op to buy some supplies to donate to Framework later in the day.  Once bag there were more stirrings in the urban campsite, a chance to chat with Darren for a bit before Wez and I headed out for a very hearty breakfast at The Tea Cosy on the High Street – recommended, a big ol’ breakfast with plenty of tea was just the fuel needed for a day as relentless as what was to follow.  By the time we headed back the doors were open and wristband acquired courtesy of Rich.

On the main stage the show was opened by Jimmy Carroll, I’ve only found a personal page on Facebook rather than a page so far – so I won’t link to that, but an ideal act to open the day – two chaps, acoustic guitars, relaxed vibe.  As is oft the problem for early acts they fall foul of the ooh! people are arriving! curse that means they get a little relegated to background music – it sounded like great background music to me though.  Just before setting up on stage Sam was excited to see his new band on the t-shirts!

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Freeborn Al / 19th 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

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

Gotta plough on through..

14947756_1602473626445353_1721629188249715556_nSo in the one previous gig I played with The Star Copiers I had the privilege of Bart writing us a review – it doesn’t feel right reviewing something you’re involved in yourself somehow!  For last night’s gig at Brad’s open mic Ella offered to fill the gap for me – then foolishly advanced that to writing the whole blog for me, so I duly accepted – so following are her words, and also her awesome photos!  Anyone fancy writing up Sunday’s set at the Black Market? Haha!

Brad Dear has recently started doing a Open Mic at The Plough Inn in Warsop on a Thursday night, Tonight’s line up was a smashing one at that with Brad himself playing, The Star Copiers and King of Rome. After travelling from Stevenage to Solihull, and then the traffic fuelled journey from Solihull to Alan’s house so he can get changed ready for the gig, and jumping back into the car to have a service station sandwich on the way as we didn’t have time to have the dairy-free lasagne, but that doesn’t matter!

We got to the Plough in time for sound-check and even time to have a chat with everyone who had come. Ken, Ian and Lynne Corbishly which was a lovely surprise, The Dears and many other locals who had come to see the line-up of people play.  First on was Brad Dear, who Alan has blogged about a lot before during this year, Brad played solo tonight which is always just as good as full band with his rustic voice which I really enjoy.

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Freeborn Al / 4th November 2016 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments