I’m not sure what Ken is chuckling at. Maybe Ellis had just snapped his string?
Evesham on a school night is actually a pretty convenient destination for me – much of my working life is spent in Solihull so upon clocking off for the day it was a relatively short trip into Worcestershire. Arriving at the venue rather early I was lucky enough that Dan was loitering outside gaining me access to their green room since the pub wasn’t open yet – so a chance to sit and have a natter rather than wandering off into the town.
As everyone started to arrive food was eaten, assorted things were signed including the paper that will eventually comprise the excellent lyric art prints that were revealed on Facebook this week, a few of ’em practiced Ruby Bridges, restored to the set list given it’s just been released as a single, Les restringed his guitar, Waggy revealed he used to have a parrot. As opening time loomed non-band folk were politely dismissed as they did, well, whatever it is they do right before a gig!
Meanwhile the Iron Road had opened itself up – a rock pub that has risen from the ashes of the Railway Inn, what was probably a traditional near-the-train-station pub. Now on the one side there’s a big screen and seating, on the other a fairly cramped (for a six piece at least) stage and small dance floor. There were concerns on the size – and more than a few people had noted the fast-spinning ceiling fan above the mosh pit area.
Well there was certainly plenty to smile about this weekend for the inaugural Something To Smile About festival up in Thorne near Doncaster. Before we even contemplated that I picked up an exciting email from the BBC that they were going to play Ruby Bridges that evening too – which of course is to be released as a digital single on Monday 8th June, so get your download fingers ready from tomorrow, folks.
I’ve since managed to get the broadcast ripped courtesy of the listen again link, so hopefully the magical Soundcloud embedding wizard will have worked so that you can listen to it below if you didn’t manage to catch it live. I’m sure you’ll agree, technical wibble aside where a BBC jingle interrupts the intro, it’s a going to go down a storm when it’s released tomorrow so make sure you get it downloaded and see if we can’t get it somewhere in a chart.
But anyway, Something To Smile About was set up by Becky and Pete to raise money for a number of excellent charities – with not only a fine array of talent to entertain the crowd we were also treated to a splendid selection of ales, ciders, meads and food – which I probably sampled a few too many of judging by the day long hangover I’ve been nursing since. It was certainly worth it though, a cracking day and a huge success – already looking forward to next year!
I’ve already waxed lyrical about both the appropriateness and auspiciousness of the Half Moon in Putney as a venue for a Ferocious Dog gig, so I won’t labour the point again – but the evening was certainly not a let down by any stretch of the imagination. Lucky for me Andy handled logistics of this trip – so I just needed to wait to be picked up safe in the knowledge the driving, tickets and hotel were all already in hand, so big thanks to him for that!
The drive down was straightforward, we were staying in the Premier Inn in Wandsworth, which meant we got to drive past the venue beforehand – and had a chance to bellow at the ever unflappable Ellis who was having a smoke outside, and completely unmoved at being yelled at by a passing car. A slight lane-choosing malfunction meant we briefly ended up on the north of the Thames again but eventually we found the NCP carpark we were aiming for and wandered to the hotel. A stop, freshen up and change and we were ready to go.
A rogues gallery of Hell Hounds at The Rocket
Our first meeting point was The Rocket, a Wetherspoons pub not far from the venue – a good number of Hell Hounds were already in attendance and had been for some time, for us there was time for a few pints and a cheeky short before moving onward to make sure we didn’t miss the support act. We even managed to get a lovely local to take a picture without running off with Geoff’s camera! Arriving in plenty of time we found more friends and of course the band hanging around at the back of the venue. The atmosphere was great.
The tour schedule has a handy break this weekend for a bit of much-needed rest and recuperation.
It’s been a busy week at work so that’s much appreciated. It’s also given Ferocious Dog the opportunity to get back in the studio to put what are hopefully the finishing touches to their album – they’ve been pretty quiet about how things have gone which I’m taking as a good sign. It was clearly a gruelling schedule they were undergoing given the photo of Waggy asleep in a chair that surfaced on Facebook earlier in the week!
Speaking of Waggy, he’s been confirmed as the official tour manager for the band – a great choice! He’s also caught up with his photo albums, so you can check out pictures from Bridport, Plymouth, Exeter, Stamford and Newbury – there’s some crackers in there as ever – let’s hope he’s able to delegate what ever during-gig duties he might have as tour manager to make sure that camera is still in action!
Of course the other big news this week was on Monday when the autumn tour dates were finally revealed – twenty dates in all, including the previously announced gigs with Mad Dog Mcrea in Camden, Bristol and of course at Rock City. Exciting times. Whilst I’m on a good run of FD gigs so far this year (!) I’m coming to terms with the fact I’ll not make it to all of them – even so, I’m pretty sure I’ll be on for most. I’ve been plotting with the work holiday planner and a good few are already booked in, with a fairly hefty number on the ‘to order after payday’ list.
Newbury was going to be the point where I did bypass an opportunity for a tour date – but my willpower caved in. Having spent a chilled out day with Simon and Ella before the latter had to go to work, we hit the road, Simon not taking much convincing that a trip to Newbury was most definitely the order of the day.
To be more accurate, the venue was the fairly remote Arlington Arts Centre nestling a mile or two out of town in the grounds of a school. Hmm. Arts Centre. Reminiscent of Stamford, and fears of another difficult venue or crowd. There was a slight navigational cock up that made for a quick trip up and down the A34 near the venue but other than that it was easy to find – had I looked at the map rather than listened to the sat nav I imagine it would’ve been right first time!
Nerves around suitability didn’t subside upon arrival – a modern venue that had the look of a leisure centre in the reception area, I was expecting Gordon Brittas to come out to make a kerfuffle of giving me my ticket. Fortunately it wasn’t like that at all, so tickets duly collected we grabbed a drink and waited – there were no food options unfortunately so we people-watched the folk already milling around, mostly they looked like theatre-goers.. it could yet all go a bit Stamford after all!
We’d noted Cere-bus outside and it wasn’t long before Bev and Tina had appeared from inside the actual venue, and a few more Ferocious Dog t-shirt wearing people arrived to offer a bit of reassurance. John had posted a photo on Facebook earlier of the venue, again it was seated – but this time they’d retracted the lower level of seats to leave a decent sized floor area with a high bank of seats behind – the perfect venue really to leave an arena for a moshpit but a safe area of seating for those who just wanted to watch from on high.
Ella will soon be rivalling Waggy with shots like this!
Stamford seems to have been destined to be a comedy of errors. As the gig drew to a close I was expecting Ken to do a speech like Marty McFly at the end of his performance at the ‘Enchantment Under the Sea‘ dance where he shreds his guitar at the end of his rendition of Johnny B. Goode leaving the 1950’s audience including his parents staring dumbstruck at him. “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet“, he says sheepishly. “But your kids are gonna love it!”
I’d arrived in Stamford pretty early – I’d booked a room for the night (and triple-checked the dates after Plymouth-gate!) and was feeling ready to get checked in, sorted out and maybe have a few cheeky beers. Only to find that the mortified man behind the bar had no record of my booking and had no spare rooms – there’s a lesson if you use Booking.com or similar, call the hotel/pub to confirm they’ve received it…
Luckily Simon and Snotface offered me a place to crash which still meant driving later – but at least in a more helpful direction for Newbury than going back home. An angry tweet at Booking.com saw them quickly get in touch to try to help – as I’d already sourced accommodation they were simply very apologetic and offered me half of the price of the booking as compensation which was pretty good of them to be fair.
So I did have my one pint of beer in the delightfully quirky old Tobie Norris pub where I met Steve, who had secured somewhere to stay. After that we wandered to the venue which was, well, unusual to say the least. Whilst there we caught up with the band and numerous fellow gig-goers whilst drinking coffee and eating flapjacks… when the lovely lady wearing her best twinset and pearls combination checked my ticket and pointed out where my assigned seat was it was getting a little bit surreal.
Last night I was having a long overdue catch up with one of my friends, Sarah. Killing two birds with one stone I took her to Ye Olde Dolphin Inne in Derby for a bite to eat before Paige Seabridge was due to take the stage there. It was a lovely evening and Paige was on sparkling form – she’s one of many amazingly talented acts I’ve gotten to know thanks to following Ferocious Dog. You should definitely check her out, an amazing singer, songwriter, guitar player and generally lovely lass.
Anyway, I digress right from the start. On the drive down the A52 we were chatting about the weekend just gone – as we’re friends on Facebook she’s familiar in photo form of what a typical weekend of Ferocious Dog gigs looks like, but hadn’t ever heard them. “What do they sound like?” she asked, “This is them now” came the reply – I forget which track was playing, but I think it was Living on Thin Air. “Wow, this is really tuneful – I saw the pictures and imagined it was death metal or something!”
First impressions are funny things aren’t they? You can form them without even a fraction of the facts and they can be difficult to shift. Sarah had filed away Ferocious Dog as something I enjoyed but she probably wouldn’t – now she’s shifted that perception and if she can’t wangle Deerstock then we’ll definitely be looking for her debut at a gig on the autumn tour some time once the dates are announced – on Monday, so keep an eye out on Facebook for that!
Well, now the dust has settled and I’ve grabbed a few hours of kip in my own bed it brings us to the Exeter leg of the tour. Having surfaced and written yesterday’s blog I got the call from Dan on loading times from the venue, so I checked out and staggered that way to find John and Scott had pretty much got everything out of The Hub and we just had to wait for the bus (or ‘the buzz’ if you’re John) to load up. It’s worth considering at this point how much stuff it takes to make a Ferocious Dog gig. Just some of it is pictured below.
It’s fairly obvious really – there’s six of ’em, Ellis plays about eight million instruments, there’s a drum kit – there’s amps, there’s merchandise, there’s the stage backdrop and assorted maintenance kit, there’s a few spare guitars for quick changes in case of string snappage. Then of course there’s up to ten people in the bus too along with their travelling gear (in our case we only had six of us for most of our journeying). It’s a logistical challenge for sure – and Waggy and Ken are masters of the game of 3D Tetris involved in getting everything in the back section of the dog bus.
When you see a band playing to a group of people going crazy, people eulogising about them on Facebook (not least me) and clamouring to get photos or just talk after gigs it’s easy to forget after that it’s the same people – admittedly with some help from venue staff or folk they might have on tour with them – who will be packing everything up and getting it either in the bus or ready to collect in the morning. It makes Ken’s mingling with the crowd after gigs all the more charming – and it’s not an act either, he turns heads and starts conversations wherever he goes!
The morning after the night before wasn’t too bad in Bridport – a relatively early rise, a return to the venue to meet Ken and Waggy to load up the van then a return to my hotel for and awesome breakfast before reconvening to prepare for our onward journey. Scott and John were ready but it was a little more challenging to get Ellis upright.
The locals passing by as the van was loaded were all really friendly – a few had been to the gig, others drawn by Ken’s unusual appearance in the area. It gave rise to some conspiracy theories on the bus that it was all a front for some kind of Hot Fuzz style hidden sinister society underpinning the place, everything just seemed so lovely and welcoming – I’m not sure that’s really true, but it made for some amusing bus banter.
The going was good before the roads became terrifying!
The run from Bridport to Plymouth is relatively straight forward so was done and dusted reasonably quickly. With John added to team crossword we did a bit better on this trip. As we didn’t have a cigarette stop it’s true that Ellis did start to get a little bit agitated – the signal for this I’ve discovered is when he starts to quote from Robocop! It does make for an entertaining end of journey though, although judging by the look on John’s face maybe it’s novelty factor from my point of view!
Moments later the RoboCop quotes were out in earnest! “You see I got this problem…”
It was slightly earlier start than initially planned as Ken kindly offered me the opportunity to skip driving to the South West for this leg of the tour and hitch a ride on Cerebus, the Ferocious Dog minibus.
I should’ve grabbed a picture or two really – I’ll try to remember tomorrow. I got myself up to Trowell Services for the pick up and procured a massive box of doughnuts as they arrived, with Ken in the driving seat, along with Waggy, Scott and Ellis – all mostly in good spirits, Scott’s previous evening’s alcohol consumption aside.
Waggy took over driving duties and we were off to Bridport via picking up John off the M5.
Cerebus is awesome – emblazoned with Ferocious Dog graphics on the outside, and inside the middle row of seats are replaced by a table printed with an image of the band making it spacious and comfortable compared to a typical cramped minibus for someone of my height. It certainly draws a lot of looks on the motorway from passing motorists too. The windows at the back are blacked out too, mercifully considering later on…
The journey down was fun – we joined the M5 at the junction after the service station we were meeting John and after 16 miles or so of not seeing any services realised so doubled back to collect him. Oops. In the meantime Ellis and I had made a solid attempt at the crossword (ahem) and watched Scott transition from still-drunk to getting-hungover. The new Ferocious Dog tracks were on the stereo and it was interesting to listen to them talking about little bits and pieces they were happy and less happy with. There was even a sneak peak of prospective new album artwork passed around which looks great.
…. but once cabin fever kicked in somewhere on the M5…
Once John was on board our party was complete – Dan and Leanne were travelling down separately by car and Les too was meeting us down in Bridport. A couple of stops for toilet breaks and cigarette breaks from the increasingly agitated Ellis and Scott and eventually we were honing in on Bridport – only to encounter a series of bizarre road closures, suicidal parking and general kerfuffles – however, we did make it and ingratiate ourselves with the locals with a quiet and dignified drive through the quite well-to-do looking Dorset town. Ahem.
Whilst much of what happens on the bus must stay on the bus, the overwhelming experience is one of a bunch of fellas who are down to earth and loving what they do – albeit well hidden in the case of a certain hungover drummer. He did perk up as the day went on though and was in high spirits but the end of the night. It will be interesting to see what level of inebriation he’s managed to achieve this evening when we reconvene in the morning!