ferocious dog

Gigs, geeks and getting older..

I’ve had a fun-filled time of late – plenty of awesome gig action, the Levellers were amazing in Buxton.  First up we got to see the film A Curious Life, a semi-documentary type film that Dunstan Bruce of Chumbawamba fame has put together.  It was a charming insight into a band that has been a fairly constant feature of my life for the last twenty years or so (wow, twenty years!).  This was followed by a mesmerising acoustic gig.

Before that I finally did the giving blood deed – it wasn’t remotely traumatic so I shall certainly be signing up for a repeat performance.  I was convinced for some reason I had blood type B (probably because my Mum does), but it turns out I’ve inherited my Dad’s blood type of A+ – no matter really, but interesting nonetheless!  It certainly made the relatively small number of beers I had before the gig have a quicker impact than they normally would!

Where Levellers tread in my gig-going life then Ferocious Dog are sure to follow – I’ve been writing about them in some detail over at Ferocious Blog.  The tour started at the Bodega in Nottingham which was a magically awesome day, and I’ve been lucky enough to head to Nuneaton and Barnsley subsequently to see their next shows – they’re on rip-roaringly good form so looking forward to heading down to Harlow on 27th when the tour recommences!

Team Holly!  Had a lovely day working with Hattie Hayridge at EM-Con

Team Holly! Had a lovely day working with Hattie Hayridge at EM-Con

After these last two gigs it was time for EM-Con – a sci-fi convention organised by one of my good friends Lee Wallis.  I’d volunteered to help for the day and he bagged me the awesome job of being an assistant to Hattie Hayridge for the day.  As someone whose childhood was played out watching (and quoting from!) Red Dwarf it was a great opportunity – and mercifully it turns out Hattie is a lovely lady to spend the day with chatting nonsense and reminiscing about Red Dwarf!

I'm officially a joy to work with.

I’m officially a joy to work with.

It’s true being busy working with her all day dealing with fans wanting her to sign stuff meant I didn’t get to take in much of the other attractions at the convention, but that’s okay – having been in Barnsley the night before I wasn’t exactly full of energy so sitting down all day and chatting with someone who played a significant role in a lifelong favourite show was a perfectly good way to be spending the day!

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Arlo as a Ferocious Sprog

Then it was my birthday which I’d booked holiday from work for as is my habit – given the previous days gig-going and convention volunteering a quietish day was an appealing prospect, but I did get to go see my Granny, have a burger at Annie’s and have a lovely stroll around Colwick Park with the folks, Rich, Emma and Arlo – so it was all told a rather splendid way to spend the day followed by a resurgent interest in Red Dwarf on the media server!

Last things last Forest took on Rotherham last night and in a largely uneventful game two moments of absolute magic saw the Reds emerge 2-0 victors.  The unplayable Mikael Antonio set up a chance for Dexter Blackstock to delightfully lob the too-far-out ‘keeper who could only touch it into the goal, then the marauding winger picked up the ball in his own half and powered his way past three defenders before planting the ball in the bottom corner from 25 yards.  It was Collymore-esque.

The benefit of a couple of days holiday at the start of the week means that the weekend is already looming large on the horizon.  Tomorrow sees a more chilled gig to see the awesomely talented Paige Seabridge, a quiet Saturday will be followed by Sunday where there’s promise of seeing Ellie Keegan and Sam Jones’ open mic night at the Brown Cow in Mansfield.  Got to love music!

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Busy bee watch the world go by…

Phew. It’s been a busy ol’ time, it seems.

Forest briefly turned not rubbish before losing to Charlton, which gave a bit of much needed cheer at the City Ground under the stewardship of Dougie Freedman.  It’ll be interesting to see how he handles this latest setback with the not unchallenging arrival of Middlesbrough at the City Ground this weekend, but the new manager has undoubtedly made a good start (much like his predecessor).  Doubts remain over his longer term future at the club so I remain a bit dubious – I hope he’s here for a while though, I’ve been impressed so far.

Now I half know what’s going on at work that’s been quite busy but really interesting too – it’s nice to feel like you’re actually able to contribute something useful having spent a few months acclimatising to a very different industry indeed.  Still lots to learn, but I at least feel like I roughly know what’s going on – it’s always a good starting point I find!  Certainly a lot of perceptions I had before working in a media-maligned industry have been proven rather inaccurate.

I’ve got a couple of days off now to take in the Levellers, followed by the Ferocious Dog tour kicking off at the weekend.  Whilst I mention Ferocious Dog I set up a separate blog about them partly for indulgence, partly because it stops me flooding this blog (hmm… maybe trickling this blog!) with writing about them, partly because I couldn’t resist the pun-tastic opportunity to register ferociousblog.co.uk, partly because they’re on a real roll and someone else would’ve done it sooner or later and I’d have kicked myself having been pondering it for ages, and well, because it’s a fun side project since I lost momentum on blogging about Forest!  So should you desperately miss reading about them – head over there instead!

The weekend should be great though – an opportunity to catch up with countless friends and hear the new line up for the first time and some new album tracks – what could be better!  The countdown to giving blood is nearly up too – that happens tomorrow before I hotfoot it up to Buxton to see the Levs – the dauntingness of it somewhat compensated for by a cunning plan to have a massive carvery just beforehand!

Ooh, and Pebble have announced a new watch they’re launching via Kickstarter again – which I’ve tempted myself into.  It’s called Pebble Time and there’s also a Steel variant – this time round it has a colour screen and a microphone, and my beloved original Pebble is a bit battered so I think an update is justified.  I shan’t be accidentally taking the new one into a mosh pit or on a climbing wall, that’s for sure.  Whether that does enough to quell the inevitable desire for the soon-to-be-launched Apple Watch remains to be seen – but I think I’d like to see them out in the wild a bit before deciding anyway.

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That keen sense of belonging.. that feeling that I’m home..

I mention Ferocious Dog occasionally, I know.  It’s an exciting time to be a fan of theirs though, indeed, it generally has been – but with a refreshed line-up and a recent announcement of a headline slot in the main room at Rock City in November it’s properly a case of the year of the dog, what with a new album coming in the next few months too (and the tour starting in 10 days!) it does feel like the dawn of a very special chapter for them, and I feel privileged to be able to tag along for the ride.

It was back in late 2010 I first saw them play, I’m sure I’ve told the story before here, because they’d arranged for Mark Chadwick to play up in their home venue in Warsop and were the support act.  I’ve been smitten ever since, and started going regularly to see them – skulking at the back normally taking videos.  Eventually I lured friends to come with me – and being the shy bogger I can be eventually starting to get to know the initially daunting pack of ‘hell hounds’ that follow them passionately.  I’d count myself as one of those now.

Sooner or later the lure of the mosh pit – observed so many times but avoided – became too much one night at the Bodega in Nottingham, an outwardly brutal but surprisingly considerate arena of pseudo-battle that is pretty much perfect for a work out for any latent aggression and enhancing the amazing music the band produce.

I already have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to my family and friends, but I’ve significantly enhanced that with the scores of people I’ve got to know and bonded with through regularly attending gigs.  It didn’t matter that the friends I’d previously lured were less keen to go to quite as many gigs as me, as I knew I could go to any gig pretty much anywhere and know people there – or get to know others.  Of course, Andy has taken to it like a duck to water too and doesn’t take much persuading to come along too.

After a few bouts of being bashed around the moshpit and due to the absence of the regular role-filler I found myself being hoisted horizontal at shoulder height at Bearded Theory to act as a surfboard for Dean when the band played ‘Freeborn John’ – a signal honour and something that’s happened many times since – and it’s always felt like a genuine privilege, even on the one occasion I got unceremoniously dropped on my head at Dogfest last year!  It’s a great exhibition of the camaraderie and teamwork that might go unnoticed to the untrained eye in the chaos of the pit.

Subsequently I’ve even had my first tattoo – a Ferocious Dog logo – on my calf inked by none other than its designer, and founding-member and frontman of the band, the incomparable Ken Bonsall last year in August.  Another landmark was reached on Sunday – a light version of the band, comprising of Ken on guitar and vocals and Dan on fiddle, played at Sam’s acoustic evening in the Brown Cow at Mansfield (a night you should most definitely check out – I’ve been to a fair few now and it’s a great way to round off a weekend, and Sam is a fantastic performer too).

Ferocious Dog draw quite the crowd these days so whilst perhaps the time of arrival a few of us chose might’ve been overly cautious (ha!) – it made for a lovely afternoon of chatting nonsense with people I’d never have known if it weren’t for the band, followed by a standing room only gig at which Dean was adamant we were going to do a role reversal – so I was to graduate from surfboard to surfer.  It was a daunting prospect in a packed pub with furniture and glassware not to mention people, but it was pretty clear that refusing wasn’t an option – plus, let’s face it, what an awesome thing to get a chance to do!

So once the song kicked in there was a bit of confusion when folk realised they were picking Dean up instead of me – a quick leg up and an undignified clamber and there I was, hunched under the deceptively low ceiling and trying to find my balance.  I loved it, and it felt like a real coming of age moment – and particularly nice as it’s my favourite FD song being a bit of a John Lilburne nerd.  I’m looking forward to the possibility of a reprise at a full band gig – and there’s plenty of those coming up at the Bodega in Nottingham, Nuneaton, Barnsley, Derby, Deerstock and I’m sure others over coming weeks and months as the dates on the tour become more difficult to resist!

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I’m not one to take people for granted, but sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in your daily doings and not take a pause and reflect on how blessed you can be thanks to random circumstance.  Being comfortable enough to go and see a band I love at pretty much any event they play and feel like I’ve walked into a family party is a very nice safety net to have no matter what else might be going off in your life – so to all of you good folk who create that, and there’s too many of you to list, I thank you very much indeed.

Oh, and the music is bloody amazing too from the nicest bunch of grounded lads you could ever wish to meet.  If you’ve not heeded me before and jumped aboard the burgeoning Ferocious Dog bandwagon then you bloody well should and get yourself a ticket for their gig at Rock City on 28th November when they go on sale on Friday.  Oh, and the support is Gaz Brookfield (whose lyric I mercilessly stole for the title) and Mad Dog Mcrae.  It will be immense.

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Bloody hell..

As ever the weeks wimble on by and I don’t think of anything to add to the blog.

It’s the time of the year when people traditionally sit and reflect a bit and maybe plan for the future – I’ve never really been very good at the future planning part – although I’m very prone to reflecting.  This time last year I was lying awake in a ward in the London Clinic having foolishly nodded off earlier in the evening and thus being wide awake awaiting the next morning when I’d be of to theatre to be anaesthetised and undergo an operation.

And it all went bloody well – last I heard the recipient of my stem cells, a small boy, was still alive and doing well having obviously been in a very bad way indeed.

One of the things I’d idly planned for the future for ages was to start giving blood.  Mainly because it’s a good thing to do, partly because I’ve got it into my head my blood group is B which is relatively unusual (that may well turn out to be wrong – although certainly with blood groups in my family it is certainly a possibility).

So today I registered at http://www.blood.co.uk and made an appointment in March to do that very thing.  I’ve avoided it in the past because I absolutely hate needles and letting blood – I passed out when I had to give samples to Anthony Nolan prior to my donation (although probably because I did it early in the morning on an empty stomach as much as anything!).

You can’t donate blood until a year after donating bone marrow hence the delay, there’s also a time lag after having a tattoo or piercing so my awesome Ferocious Dog tattoo in August was quite well timed on that score.

If nothing else I’ll at least get to confirm what my blood group is!

Of course another Christmas and New Year has been and gone – it was great to take some time out and spend some time with family and friends whose generosity and warm spirit was as appreciated as ever, it was definitely good to get some down time, even if my immune system took a break and let a cold get me earlier in the month.

On the work front I’m finally feeling like I might actually know what I’m doing a bit more – still lots to learn, but that’s true of any job.  I guess the rest of the year is about sorting out all the other things that occurred over 2014 that’s left pretty much every area of my life fairly dramatically different and somewhat transient.

Maybe that might even be fun.  But anyway, I’m not big on resolutions but I think signing up to give blood is a pretty good one – if you haven’t then maybe you should too, it’s dead easy to register and find donation sessions near you online.

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Flowers don’t grow up as one, each finds its own way to the sun..

Infrequent updates on here make it quite easy to gloss over things that might have happened over a matter of months let alone days, such is the lot of the infrequent blogger.

However, 2014 has been a pretty seismic year for me so far – it kicked off (almost) in a clinic undergoing a bone marrow donation and leads to here – and it was picking up a letter from Anthony Nolan last week that prompted the prose really.  It was the best letter I’ve ever had, I think – it was short, it was quite impersonal and it was non-specific – but the gist of it was that the young boy who was recipient of my stem cells is still alive.

There’s no more detail than that to report – but it’s amazing news nonetheless and hopefully my chosen inference that he continues to battle and recover from either Leukaemia or Lymphoma is an accurate surmise on my part.  Whatever extra time that procedure has granted him is a blessing, but of course I dearly hope for a full recovery.  I’m looking forward to hopefully further positive updates which are likely to arrive over probably years rather than months.

Thinking back to January is a bit strange – I was living in a home I part-owned (admittedly Leeds Building Society owned most of it, but still), in a long-term relationship and worked at the same company for getting on for a dozen years.  What a difference a few months makes as I now find myself temporarily ensconced with my ever-dependable parents on the verge of selling the house, no longer in a relationship at all and a week and a bit into working for a new company.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself a bit to make me realise quite what a shift in circumstance I’ve undergone – and whilst of course such decisions aren’t made lightly, with particular pleasure or indeed easily I do think the big picture is positive albeit deeply unsettling for someone who generally takes comfort in stability and predictability.  Oh, I became tattooed as well, which was also a special moment as I had the honour of being inked by the lead singer of one of my favourite bands (a band who continue to go from strength to strength, having just smashed the twelfth Beautiful Days festival!)

IMG_8390Most seismic of all was that I became an Uncle!  Emma gave birth to Arlo who has already packed more into his first few months than many children will in years – including a trip to Ibiza!  He’s naturally been to the Parrot Zoo already as well!  I’ve never really paid much attention to babies before but it’s definitely different when the baby in question is such a close relative – I’m really looking forward to seeing him grow up – he’s already got a Forest season ticket despite being too young to take advantage of it (or should that be be punished by it?!).

IMG_8254There was profoundly sad news in that time too – in June my (our, really) three birds became two as Phoebe succumbed to suspected kidney failure – despite picking this up quite early unfortunately the vet wasn’t able to do anything for her and she passed away having spent the night with the vet ready for further examination in the morning.  I won’t lie, it was pretty devastating not least for Cat who was estranged from her (but mercifully did get to see her shortly before the end) and Frankie who was very much her partner in crime.

So, once the house is sold and sorted and I’ve settled into my new professional life which involves trekking out to the West Midlands (and indeed, oop North quite a bit) I’ll be in a position to make a better call about what to do more permanently about my living situation.  I’m reticent to move my personal life away from the comfort of Nottingham but I’m also mindful that I’m already looking at an hour commute (with a fair wind – and the schools are off) here in Hathern, Nottingham would add half an hour or more to that potentially.

Decisions, decisions!  But in the meantime I need to get to grips with a new industry – I’ve inherited a great team which I’m really thankful for so the ‘new kid at school’ feeling has been minimised as much as possible, but obviously I need to get up to speed and settled before deciding how to settle other matters – so that’s the plan, get the house sale finished, then take the opportunity to save like buggery to try to make whatever next move I make as easy as possible and preferably with as small a mortgage as possible.

Coupled with that of course there’s a new wave of football optimism with Stuart Pearce taking the helm at Forest.  Not unplaced “we’re going to win the league” type optimism (although we might!), more a relief that the club seems to be on more of an even keel on the professionalism stakes – I find myself daring to hope we might enjoy a bit of stability and long-term planning rather than the series of knee-jerk tactical misjudgements we’ve been subjected to over recent years.

Having the chance to witness Psycho’s return to the City Ground against Blackpool was a special moment that I’m sure all Forest fans relished, especially those of us of a certain age who idolised the man as a player for both Forest and England.  He’d have to do a lot wrong to lose the backing of the fans, so let’s hope that Fawaz takes our lead and gives him time to build a sustainable and hopefully successful future for the club.

So all in all, a pretty eventful few months in most areas of my life that are important – but apparently change can be good, and I’ve been surprised at how well I’ve been able to adapt to some quite significant differences.  If you’d asked the Alan of a year ago of the likelihood of all this happening then he’d have probably laughed a bit then run away to hide in terror – but in truth as with most things I guess the thought of change can be a lot more scary than the act.

I have absolutely no idea why I’ve decided to chronicle all this beyond perhaps hammering home quite how much has happened recently for my own indulgence.  So if you’ve read this far, yes, this is a very self-centred post!

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Tick tock, tick tock..

Bloody hell, July has gone completely!  Of course, quite difficult to follow a blog post as interesting (to me at least) as our Polish adventure – but that’s not to say there’s been reasonably exciting things occurring since then.

Not least  – and top of mind – the return to the football pitch for me after the dreaded drop-foot.  On a fitness level, this has been monumentally horrible – half a year of not playing, and not exactly doing a great job of finding alternative ways of maintaining my fitness, has really taken its’ toll. Fortunately my technique – such as it is – doesn’t seem to have suffered too much after my first couple of ‘bedding in’ games.

I’ve been getting a bit of jip in one of my thigh muscles from kicking the ball hard, but I’ve had that before – a combination of not stretching/warming up properly and my spell out of action have been causing this – but a combination of anti-inflammatories and treatment with heat is seeing this recover faster after each game, which is reassuring.  Tonight is my first outing for Thursday football so far this year, probably my more challenging group.  So fingers crossed!

I’m really hoping Henri Lansbury has kept this summer addition to his head. It’ll almost be like a Ferocious Dog gig at the City Ground!

As well as playing football of course we also have watching it to look forward to.  Forest kick off the season at home against Huddersfield on Saturday and now Forest have deigned not to evict us from our seats I’m looking forward greatly to seeing how Billy Davies starts the season.  We’ve made some shrewd acquisitions and seem likely to add some more – if you read the rumour mills then there are very few players out there who haven’t had some kind of medical or offer from Forest.

Following Forest online lost a lot of lustre for me last season when I literally ‘lost that loving feeling’ and opted to shut down my semi-anonymously written Forest blog, which now sits in mothballs like an old abandoned place.  I must say I haven’t missed what had become a bit of a drudgery, whilst the goings on at Forest are rarely dull – sometimes I wish they just were a bit.  The forums are increasingly like warzones and I barely follow any Reds related users on Twitter aside from folk I actually know.  It’s sad that by and large football fans are so incapable civil communication – even when they support the same team.

On the music front a last minute decision to snag a day ticket for Deerstock in nearby East Bridgford proved a masterstroke – an excellent little event organised by Jed Southgate at the rear of the Reindeer Pub took place, even a fair amount of rain on the Saturday night couldn’t spoil a top day – it was headlined by Ferocious Dog which is always going to float my boat of course, but a nice mix of other talented acts throughout the day kept us very well entertained.  I shall look into probably going to the whole festival next year, as the Friday and Sunday were awesome too from what I’ve read.

Related to Ferocious Dog was the recent Panorama show relating to post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by people coming away from active service in the forces.  Lee Bonsall, son of Ken and brother of Dan in the band, was featured in the show – he tragically took his own life having not received the support he needed from the army.  Alarmingly the programme revealed that this tale is disturbingly common – I would recommend taking a look at the programme, and most definitely signing this petition calling for support for our service personnel.

Ken and the band continue to do sterling work in raising both awareness and money to directly help folk in the same boat that Lee found himself through the Lee Bonsall Memorial Fund.  Families of others who suffered the same fate are similarly taking real positive action to help others – it’s a real inspiration and I’m in awe of how brilliant these people are considering how badly let down their loved ones have been.  They fight on, and I’m proud to support them in whatever small ways that I can – which will definitely include hammering out any fundraising activities via Facebook and Twitter for those of you that have the undoubted joy of me on your social networks.

To finish on a lighter note I’ve become strangely addicted to Rooibos tea.  As part of last year’s ‘Project Fatty’ I basically knocked caffeinated tea on the head at work, opting instead for herbal variants (ostensibly to cut down my dairy intake).  Having run out of such tea a couple of weeks back I started back on my old stash of tea which had an impact on both sleep and digestion patterns (I’ll leave that there!).  I picked up some Rooibos on the recommendation of a workmate and it does the refreshment job without any of the caffeine nasties.

Speaking of ‘Project Fatty’, that half year of inactivity has rendered a sequel to probably be in the offing, I really need to eat a bit more sensibly and get a bit of weight off again…. at least being back on the football pitch 2-3 times a week will help at least arrest the weight gain!  I also need to face up to the elephant-in-the-room that my guitars seem to have become since recovering from ‘Susan’..

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Weirdy beardies..

Dean clambers up on to a surfboard comprising of yours truly!

Dean clambers up on to a surfboard comprising of yours truly!

As the weeks drew closer to my first ever visit to Bearded Theory I was pensively looking at the long range weather forecast.  Rain. Lots of it.  It didn’t bode well, despite the frankly amazing line-up of acts and the potential for new discoveries.  The sticking point for me was not really liking camping very much.  Being less than an hour from home, I suppose heading home each day wouldn’t be impossible – as it turned out, the camping wasn’t so bad.

Luckily for me Linda and Lou insisted I go and camp with them – so I met them on Thursday in the carpark and we set up in a likely looking spot – starting with a 5m by 3m shelter (thereafter dubbed ‘the erection’) which proved invaluable as a sitting spot during down time.  After a few attempts we got the shelter looking like it should and duly pitched our tents around it including one for an arrival in the morning.

Nearby were plenty of Ferocious Dog types so there were plenty of people to chat to, and with Simon and Lynn arriving at our camp later, as well as Mike and Martine camping nearby too there was a great community vibe going on once we were fully underway.

However, back to Thursday night eventually we headed off to see the not particularly secret gigs in the Lock Inn tent.  One awesome thing about Bearded Theory is the laid back attitude to people bringing their own alcohol, not only is it fine to do this in the campsites, but in the arena too it’s absolutely fine, the only rule was a reasonable request to not bring glass onto the site.  That said, we still bought a fair few beers!

Whilst I’m bound to forget notable things I saw during the weekend, it opened stormingly with Ferocious Dog and then 3 Daft Monkeys taking to the Lock Inn stage.  A chance to get a mosh in early doors is always good, and getting to be ‘the surfboard’ during Freeborn John a personal highlight in my now not inconsiderable journey following the band around – even if the security got a little over-zealous and tried to eject Dean from the premises, order was restored – as was the song, and the surf.

Other musical highlights in no particular order (and probably missing some) were scattered around the venues – in the Something Else Tea Tent we were treated to awesome performances by the Star Botherers, Red Ruff, Brad Dear, Gentle Kitten (arf) and annoyingly missed the Beanfeast Banjos.  In Tornado Town we were treated to Whisky Stain, Bootscraper, Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons and The Beards whilst the main stage played host to Goldblade, Reverend and the Makers, New Model Army, Asian Dub Foundation and – of course – The Levellers.

I didn’t spend much time in the Magical Sounds tent although enjoyed from afar the sounds of the Peatbog Faeries, and found that Subgiant had a strangely soporific effect from the campsite nearby as it lulled me to sleep.  Not quite so much the case for A Guy Called Gerald who was a bit more jarring when trying to find a comfy position whilst clothed in many layers inside a sleeping bag!

There was loads more too – but when you’re addled with cider, beer and/or rum then you don’t remember all of it, and looking idly at the line-up on the Bearded Theory website makes me think “Oh, how did I manage to miss that too?”  I’m not too downhearted by that though as I saw some really cracking new bands, a few that I’m not too bothered about and some consumately awesome performances from bands I’m more familiar with.

As well as drinking my own booze we also sampled a few of the ales available at the festival – they’re reasonably priced (in the beer tents – the Lock Inn was quite pricey) and tasty.  The thing that consumed most of my cash over the weekend was the awesome array of food though!  I had brought quite a lot of food with me, but found that both the quality and reasonable prices – we had toasties, pies with mash, shish-kebabs, halloumi, hotdogs, burgers and still managed to not visit ever vendor – not to mention an excellent full Welsh breakfast every morning to set us up.

Having said that, the restorative powers of ‘Betty’ the gas stove was needed to mobilise us for breakfast – Lou’s coffee making skills of a morning came with a high billing, and she certainly didn’t disappoint.  Betty did run out of gas literally come the final day, but we were rescued by one of our kind neighbours who let us pinch a bit of theirs.  There’s no way I’d have had a gas stove and kettle if camping alone!

The pervading thing about the whole weekend was the laid back and easy vibe from staff and visitors alike – with the weather not as bad as feared spirits were high and fun was had.  The participation rate for the final day fancy dress and beard-wearing speaks volumes for the crowd – as well as the considerable number of folk I already knew there, I met plenty more who seemed to have a similar mindset of having a great time without being an arse.

On the slightly less positive side there were tent thefts on the first couple of nights – many quite close to us, however the security team really excelled themselves and managed to capture and detain a group of them and hand them over to police custody and take steps to return people’s property – but that and a bit of rain on the Friday night were really the only blemishes on an otherwise splendid weekend of good friends, good music, good drink and good food.

Definitely a festival to recommend – my favourite performances of familiar bands was undoubtedly delivered courtesy of the Levellers, Ferocious Dog and 3 Daft Monkeys, whilst new discoveries like The Star Botherers (‘Bad Guy’ might well be song-of-the-weekend for me), Red Ruff, Whisky Stain, The Beards and Bootscraper will all be future welcome additions to my playlists and gig-going.  I’ve been enjoying the photos filtering through on Facebook – just Linda’s to go I think.. c’mon Linda, get a move on!

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Erica Nockalls – Imminent Room

I meant to write something about this album ages ago, as I acquired it before the official release and have listened to it loads – I could pretend that I was awaiting the opportunity to see how Erica’s music translated to live performance (which I’ve now done!), but if I’m honest I’m just a terminal procrastinator and I either never quite got around to it escaped my mind.  So now I’m going to get around to it!

Erica Nockalls is probably best known as the fiddle player with The Wonder Stuff and as part of a duo with Miles Hunt – both projects that I’d heartily recommend checking out if you haven’t already, but a solo project is quite an intriguing proposition.  When I pre-ordered Imminent Room I had no idea what to expect in terms of style of music, so I can’t exactly say I was surprised when I first listened, but I kinda was because well, it’s not really something that is easy to categorise.

That fits quite nicely with her comments in the record artwork really, this is a response to not really finding any music that quite fits the bill.  I’m not a fan of pigeon-holing anyway, but it’s something that seems quite irresistible when describing music or other things – but even if you manage to do that with one of the tracks on this album, you’ll find others that you’d classify differently – yet the whole composition hangs together wonderfully without jarring.

Despite trying not to, I’ve found myself going track-for-track as I reflect on this, so I’m going to be a bit waffly – although I think it’s worth it you might just want to go and get the album and see what you think!

The intro to Manikin gives few clues to what’s to come, it could be the start of a dreamy Cranberries song – but once it accelerates itself it warps into an almost jarring tirade of energy.  Neon Crucifix plays a similar trick with a jaunty intro leading into an intense-but-slow-paced sound-scape and then more high energy almost punk with the angry cry of  ‘Thank God we don’t believe in God’ screaming out from the dirty guitar noise, it’s one to be careful not to accidentally sing along to whilst at work with your headphones on!

If you think you have the measure of what’s to come though you’re brought down to a brooding and dystopian image when Serpentine City begins, a slow-paced start as before but this one remains haunting and slow with Erica’s voice deservedly taking centre stage.  Straight after we’re back up to a faster pace, Cut Them Out is catchy from the off with the violins taking a leading role amidst the dirty guitar dirge – it’s no surprise that it’s found itself a single, it’s brilliant catchy whilst retaining the edge and quirkiness prevalent across the album.

The next track is my favourite – I Am Me, This Is Now sounds a bit like a long-lost track from Garbage’s first album (this is very much a compliment!), although there’s a prominent fiddle solo in there too which I can’t imagine Manson, Vigg et al featuring that in their early material. The brooding menacing music is countered with layered vocals and sampling that just works for me on every level along with the dirgey repetitive chorus, I just love it – I was properly chuffed when it featured in the live performance at Rock City.

Day One, One Day is another highlight for me – starting with violins it kicks into a varied-pace and multi-layered refrain that anyone who has ever attempted a ‘Day One’ exercise in giving up something could probably relate to (or witnessed someone else doing one and not doing a very good job of it!!).  Lover Fifty-One brings us back to a relaxed pace again with vocals the central feature until some percussion and intensity builds a little short of half way through the track

One More Forest is higher paced and fun, at least for me being a Forest supporter always raises a wry smile with the line “Get lost in the forest, there’s no fear here” – quite the opposite of what we generally experience when watching the football team (not that I think the Reds were Erica’s inspiration for the song!!).  This moves us onto It’s A Killer, Darling which has a gentle beginning that builds into something really rather intense and lovely as it reaches the half-way point and beyond.

erica

Erica and her band are awesome live, too.

The title track Imminent Room is a beautiful piece of music from the off – gentle violins and whispers kick into expansive layered vocals ending in something that sounds like a modern re-imagining the soundtrack to an Elf scene in a Tolkien film.  I realise that sounds batshit crazy, but that’s what it evokes in my mind, so there!  Finally we finish with Goodbye Spider, a touching and gentle lament to bring the album to a quiet close.  A collection of varied sounds that somehow manage to make sense together – it’s really very good indeed.

Upon hearing it I was intrigued to see how what is a pretty complex and very produced album could be rendered live, and along with her awesome band Erica delivered on that too – with just drums, guitar, bass and her covering vocals, violin and second guitar they produced a brilliantly engaging performance.  I’d definitely pay to see them not just as a support act, and in being sandwiched by Ferocious Dog and The Wonder Stuff they both followed and were followed by tough acts!

So click on this link and buy it – it’s a tenner very well spent indeed!

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Rocky-eyed..

If 2012 was supposed to be the end of the world then 2013 has felt a bit post-apocalyptic so far – the year started with bastard cold(tm), descended quickly (literally!) with drop-foot, and on my birthday no less picked up the PVL-positive Staph infection affectionately known as Susan.  No sooner is the end of Susan in sight, we’ve had cockatiel-based woes which are hopefully also on the way to resolution.

In the midst of all that too we had the death of Margaret Thatcher.  She’s proven as divisive in death as she was in life – personally, and perhaps characteristically, I tend to sit in some middle-ground.  It’s difficult to countenance celebrating a frail old woman dying, although I abhor everything she stood for – channelling that kind of energy would be better directed at the incumbent government still peddling the same twisted ideals in real time.

I wouldn’t mourn her, and sure, it’s childishly amusing that ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead’ might well top the charts when they’re counted on Sunday – but I can’t help but think the myriad of 79ps people parted with to achieve this could’ve been better spent on areas of society stripped of funding in recent cuts.  Okay, so tens of thousands of pounds wouldn’t solve all those issues, but could’ve done some good somewhere I’m sure.

Certainly I don’t agree Baroness Thatcher should have a state funeral, I don’t think any Prime Minister should really – at a time when vital services are being compromised it seems ridiculous to spunk millions on an occasion that a significant chunk of the population doesn’t support – but then, we are all in this together ain’t we, Dave?  The only thing it’s likely to achieve is a rallying cry for all sides of the argument that will probably end in rioting.

I suppose the police and army laying into their own populace might be fitting funeral, on reflection.

The saddest thing of the whole episode is that the event has successfully overshadowed the ham-fisted handling of the country by those in power at the moment, which I imagine they’re not too sorry about – and is probably why they’re fuelling the debate with a state-funded Tory roadshow that I can only see ending in regrettable conflict as people seem more easily drawn into petty squabbling than sensible debate.

Never mind, enough Iron Lady ramblings.  Today I’ve got the all clear to rejoin society (I think there is such thing as a society 😉 ) by the NHS so can return to work next week, and more importantly enjoy Ferocious Dog snagging a support slot to play before Erica Nockalls and then The Wonder Stuff on Saturday on the main stage at Rock City, which is tremendously exciting.

Before all that I get to go Zorbing with Rich!  Exciting stuff!

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Stuff an ting..

Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 23.29.24Drop foot – no change. Hella annoying.  I’ve had an electro-conductive study that I’m awaiting the results of, hopefully it will offer some kind of indication as to the cause.  Something to chase up with the doctor later in the week.  Deep joy.  No football for over six weeks now, I’ll be turning back into a fatty in no time!  It’s really rather disheartening – but all I can do is try to put up with it as best as I can hope for resolution.

Guitar – making some progress, of course learning via RockSmith is limited to teaching you by rote rather than by theory, although I’ve been learning a few bits and pieces away from the game too.  I’m starting to face into the need to start working on mastering the art of chords / power-chords which will necessitate me working my fretting hand a bit more to be able to reach / sustain those positions.  I’m really enjoying it still, though!

Music – there’s been plenty of Ferocious Dogging – with a trip to Chesterfield (see picture) for a beer festival where moshing was banned (yeah right!).  Next up is my birthday gig in the Rescue Rooms, then hilariously Chris, Andy and I (and possibly Phil and Oscar) are seriously considering heading to Llandewi Brefi to see ’em (if you’ve not twigged, it’s where Daffyd ‘The Only Gay in the Village’ in Little Britain is from.

Online – I’ve shed a couple of my online distractions ostensibly due to disillusionment with their subject matter.  In truth, I’ve not really missed either of them, so I’m appreciating the lack of the drag-factor that had come with keeping things updated.  That’s a bit cryptic isn’t it?  Well, I was committing time to something out of habit/duty – turns out belatedly that whatever satisfaction I derived from them wasn’t sufficient to compensate for their overall hassle factor.

Travelling – I’m off to Krakow in a week and a bit for Elmo’s stag do – this is rather exciting.  I’m looking forward to it, and must get around to ordering some currency.  Travellers are advised to use dollars there but that seems boring, so I’ll probably get me some Zloty instead I think!  Now to find somewhere with a reasonable exchange rate!  In March we’re off to Norfolk too, which should be nice too – albeit a rather more relaxing proposition.

Photo every day – amazingly I’ve remembered to take one every day so far this year!  Whether I maintain that remarkable record (hmm, okay – so I remembered 49 days – it’s not really that impressive is it?!).   Should you wish to explore my 2013 so far via the medium of pictures and you’ve not been watching my mundane Facebook timeline, then you can see them by clicking on this link right here.

Busy old times.. of no real consequence.  Then again, what really is of consequence?  We are all but specks upon a speck that is itself merely a speck upon the universe.  Deep, huh?

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