levellers

Musings or thoughts about my favourite band, who I muse and think about quite a lot – probably to the interest of nobody else!

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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Far from home..

Once of the ‘perks’ of having a hefty commute to work means you have time to ponder – pondering whilst driving over the last few days is what has prompted this silliness.

Obviously over recent months I’ve been further away from my home town both in living and certainly in working terms than I’ve ever been, but will always consider myself a dyed in the wool Nottinghamian.  Of course, that I now live about 14 miles from that city and work a further 40-odd miles away would suggest I’ve not really spread my wings that far, but it still feels quite significant sometimes when I catch myself in ponderous mode.

So it’s funny that sometimes your habits or observations can echo life.

I shall explain what I’m yammering on about.  It’s been a habit of mine for years to listen to BBC Radio Nottingham on the way to work – indeed, it’s proven a most fortuitous habit really if you think about it – but anyway, I’m lucky enough in Hathern to still be comfortably in the range of my erstwhile local radio station so I still get to enjoy Andy Whittaker’s dulcet tones as I blearily drive to work.

However, as I hone in on Tamworth Services you start to get a bit of static on the airwaves (how many Levellers references can I sneak into here? 😉 ) and normally it will start to fade into nothingness around 10 miles out from Solihull.  Very occasionally, presumably depending on atmospheric conditions or something, I’ll retain a faint signal all the way to our overspill carpark as I pull up – and the signal is still tantalisingly available when I return to the car to head home, but usually it’s either died or bizarrely turned in to BBC Radio Oxford for some reason.

In my head at least it’s a neat metaphor from being further away from the familiar than I’ve ever been – of course, familiar is an interesting choice of word there as it derives from the same latin root as family – and that is probably what has kept me sane throughout all of the literal versions of these themes that I’ve been pondering over the last few months.

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Taking sides

It’s normally the case when Apple release some new tech. As an unashamed fan of their products there’s normally a queue of people waiting gleefully to try to derail whatever modicum of excitement or interest folk such as me may show. Who knew aluminium would bend under sustained pressure? Did you know that a Samsung something or other could perform that new feature x years ago? Yawn.

None of this really bothers me (although sometimes I bite on Facebook 😉 ) but it’s interesting and got me thinking more widely about such motivations, and how people still readily jump to polarities with little provocation or need.

It seems to me as a species we seem very prone to irrational polarities. Which has always sat rather uncomfortably with me, I’m a creature of comfort when people are in harmony. If someone especially loves whatever flavour of Android phone they have then I’m pleased for them – indeed, as a selfish consumer of shiny things the more the competition up their game then the pressure remains on Apple to keep improving too – and vice versa, of course.

At secondary school people were divided into liking Rock or Rave – before the needless subsubsubgenrefication of music took sway, I secretly liked a bit of both. On the tech front you either liked Commodore Amigas (naturally!) or Atari ST’s (urgh!). The meagre differences in their merits built up to gigantic gulfs during bolshy playground debates (I was pretty entrenched in camp Amiga on this one – although when networked up together the ST always seemed to win on Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge 2!).

In the sixth form we were told we must either like Blur or Oasis by an overexcited Britpop obsessed media, I liked both with a slight preference for Blur, although Pulp were and are better than both. It’d be around this time that I’d begin an enduring affair with the Levellers of course which quickly resolved that ‘debate’ for me in a different direction – but even then (and still now amazingly) rather than focus on the frankly amazing music they produced (and indeed, continue to produce) instead people make snide tabloid-inspired remarks about dogs on bits of string or being a crusty.

This is a band who’ve endured 25 years of being, have a veritable string of hits so are even validated somewhat by the facile trappings of the music industry, and continue to tour to thousands of people every year and run their own festival as well as appearing at countless others. They must be doing something right! If you doubt me, grab their recently released Greatest Hits album and decide for yourself.

People who like similar music even fall into the division trap – I always imagine a continuum of folky-indie style music (now who is subgenreing?!) starting (this won’t be an exhaustive list!) with bands like The Wonder Stuff and 3 Daft Monkeys – plenty to say, but with a sense of fun and not taking themselves too seriously through to say, New Model Army who I’ve always found more serious and sometimes bleak (that’s not a critique, I really like NMA too!) – the Levs sit somewhere in the middle with aficionados of the former group finding them too serious, those of the latter too frivolous.

I guess being a football fan is the ultimate expression of our tendency to polarise things that are fundamentally very similar – being a staunch Forest fan obviously the city of Derby is the worst place in the world, and its fans are remorselessly moronic. Which is palpably absurd – I’ve had some great nights out in Derby and count a number of ‘sheepshaggers’ as my dearest friends. Obviously that all goes out the window for 180 minutes or so per season, but normally I can be pretty rational even on this most divisive of topics.

Politics of course is like football fandom taken up a notch – although because I don’t really feel much affinity for any of them – and vote generally tactically to try to thwart the one I like the least – but I see staunch supporters of either red or blue passionately debating what to me seem like minuscule differences between the policies, performance and conduct of their respective parties – whereas I’m left thinking they’re both a bit pants really.

I’m not sure what conclusion I was leading to here really – I’m sat in a hotel room having been on a course for the last few days and I’m bored blogging on my phone! But wouldn’t it be nice if – certainly for trivial differences such as these – people didn’t leap to create division and conflict?

Okay, maybe not for the football, as that’s fun (so long as it doesn’t lead to genuine abuse or violence). In truth though, even the footy ‘banter’ (god I hate how that word has been misappropriated!) is probably symptomatic of a fairly fundamental flaw in our collective nature which leads to cataclysmic consequences particularly in the political and religious spheres.

This is all probably a residual tendency from our more tribal past. Or something. It’s worrying though because it’s precisely these motivations that organisations like Britain First or even UKIP leap upon to exploit – fortunately for me my Facebook feed is relatively clear of such bilious content but I see plenty of folk complaining about theirs.

So what started as a covetous piece about my desire for shiny capitalistic consumerism has started to make me reminisce about manipulation of needs and other university time heavily left-leaning learning – goddammit, maybe I’d be less of a schizophrenic paradox if I had more of a proclivity to just irrationally pick a side and stick with it!

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McDermott’s 2 Hours – Anticlockwise

OTF011D Anticlockwise 1400I’ve written about Nick Burbridge and McDermott’s 2 Hours on these pages before.  McDermott’s are one of those bands that fit typically into the canon of ‘bands nobody has ever heard of’ depending on which circle of friends I’m talking to, although – led by Nick Burbridge – you get the impression that that’s kinda the way he likes it.

They thrust themselves into my consciousness through my many-years-standing obsession with the Levellers.  The band, like the Levs, hail from Brighton and have been a huge influence as well as collaborator with the more well-known folksters.  Whilst the Levellers became well known, Nick and McDermott’s 2 Hours remained wilfully obscure – indeed, whilst remaining active, as well as creating awesome music Nick also writes poetry, novels and stage plays.

Anticlockwise is an interesting concept, and one that perhaps seems strange until you give it some thought – it’s a compilation of twelve tracks from previous releases, combined with two teaser tracks from an album to come out next year.  It’s comforting to listen to familiar songs, but spruced up with remastering and then move into a taste of what is to come.

What are they like?  I find Nick’s singing mesmerising, he plays with lyrics that evoke such strong emotions and imagery coupled with fine folky but ballsy musicianship.  It’s uncompromising and it’s all the more beautiful for it – in an era of shiny and polished ‘personalities’ with no soul or purpose, Nick’s deft avoidance of the limelight and the media circus that necessitates any degree of mainstream musical success is wonderfully pure.

As for the selections – well there are songs by McDermott’s 2 Hours that I like better than some that make the ‘cut’ – but nonetheless, there’s not a bad track on here.  Opening with ‘Dirty Davey’ is apt – this is the song I and I’m sure many others discovered the band through as it was covered by the Levellers.  It then skips through a diverse mixture of stomping band epics and acoustic numbers from the band’s back catalogue and then of course two from their future-catalogue.

There’s a mixture of tracks from McDermott’s 2 Hours on their own as well as a number from their awesome collaboration albums with the Levellers – you get a real flavour for the different levels of energy that they create.  Hopefully it piques your interest and it inspires a bit more exploration, because if you don’t listen to it and then go and avail yourself of the album The Enemy Within and definitely Nick’s project with Tim Cotterell Gathered then you’re really missing out.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, and I guess it would be even more perfect for a person discovering the band for the first time – a taster of sublime quality, and with the band’s back catalogue now available as digital downloads on iTunes or Spotify if you find yourself hooked you can sate your appetite for more very easily whilst anticipating the release of the new album Besieged in early 2014.  Do yourself a favour and get yourself some awesome music!

Whether he craves it or wants it or not, Nick Burbridge deserves the accolades he’s received (such as songwriter of the year from SpiralEarth) and more.  This compilation is a lovely edited introduction to the fantastic work he and his band have been creating over many years, and will hopefully inspire you to dip further into their impressive back catalogue.

iTunes type links:

The Enemy Within – McDermott’s 2 Hours
The World Turned Upside Down – McDermott’s 2 Hours vs Levellers
Claws and Wings – McDermott’s 2 Hours vs Levellers
Disorder – McDermott’s 2 Hours vs Levellers
Goodbye to the Madhouse – McDermott’s 2 Hours
Gathered – Nick Burbridge and Tim Cotterell
Anticlockwise – McDermott’s 2 Hours

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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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I kept them with me, babe. I put them with my own.

December photo

Where’s Wally (aka Alan?)

I’m not quite sure how 2012 has gone through quite so quickly – it’s bloody Christmas Eve already (well, it’s five minutes old).  Christmas Eve isn’t my favourite day of the year these days, so it’s perhaps apt that I’ll be off to work later ostensibly for a normal day’s slog.  It should be quiet, which is good as it’ll give me a chance to get stuff finished off.

So as 2012 draws to a close without the world ending, it seems a natural point for pausing and reflecting a bit.  I ended the year in style on the musical front, as well as lots of Ferocious Dog gigs there’s also been Levellers, Wonder Stuff and New Model Army at the back end of this year, not to mention The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and The Moulettes.  Some damn fine awesomeness upon the stage, and indeed, I made it backstage for the Levs!

On the football pitch Forest have undergone rather a few changes in this last year too, and well, probably need to undergo a few more to kick on to try to claw their way back to the top flight.  I must admit that whilst I have many excellent friends thanks to football, I’ve found the experience of going less motivating this last year.  I’m not quite sure why, but it quite often doesn’t quite live up to the exuberance you get from live music – maybe that shift in emphasis has given me an obvious basis for comparison.

Maybe it’s also that increased exposure to music that seems to have awoken that stark regret I’ve always harboured that I never picked up any musical ability at all, aside from my half-arsed didge-playing ability.  Our school had some really talented musicians in it, right from primary school and through secondary school and I either never really showed much interest, or perhaps somehow missed out opportunities to learn.  I’m not sure.  Knowing me it was probably my own doing, though!

I do remember embryonic guitar lessons courtesy of an enthusiastic primary school teacher and an acoustic guitar borrowed from my Grandad, but I don’t think the club lasted very long owing to a few genuinely talented players who perhaps understandably drew the focus of the teacher with the remedials being left very much behind!  I’m really tempted to buy a guitar and see if I can learn to play it a bit though – not to live performance standards, but for my own indulgence more than anything.

We shall see.  If there’s anything I’m very good at then it’s procrastinating!  I am watching a guitar on eBay though, and can be quite an impulsive so and so when I want to be.

Speaking of indulgences it was over the middle of 2012 that saw me drop from a 16.5 stone behemoth to a snake-hipped 12.5 stone dude.  It’s true a few Christmas pounds have already snuck back on but that’s something I’m not too fussed about, once 2013 is underway I can get back on to being sensible and shedding any results of over-indulgence.  The trick isn’t total denial, it’s not letting things slide quite as badly as they did last time!

Work too has changed at the back end of this year too, so there’s some adaptation and consideration to put in to there.  Sufficed to say I’m pleased to be preparing for a healthy slug of time away from the place to relax a bit, and eventually to start to think about some degree of future planning for my career.  I’m not very good at that, so I really do need to work out how to go about doing that.  It’s tricky when work itself has been so busy.

Still, one more day of that to get through then ’tis officially the season of good will for me.  Once Cat and I have shifted our confounded colds then it should be ace.  Rich and Em are hosting Christmas this year, so for me it will be the first ever time I’ve not been at a parental-hosted Christmas Day, having said that, the family will all be present – I’m really looking forward to some quality time with them before Forest inevitably bring me back down to Earth on Boxing Day!

But to be positive, there’s two Ferocious Dog gigs in the bank for next year already (including one they’ve kindly agreed to play on my birthday in the Rescue Rooms (for those wanting to ‘come dogging’ for my birthday, then tickets can be acquired here!)), and we’re off to Krakow at the end of February for Paul’s stag do which will be awesome.  So a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to anyone bored enough to have read to the end of this introspection.

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We can share our endorphins..

It’s probably not escaped the attentions of many that I’ve been a bit of a grump of late – changes at work have been troublesome, and I succumbed to illness which I’m probably still coming out the back end of in terms of recovery.  That said, there’s been a plenty of good things too – live music aplenty, meeting the Levellers and other such things.

But something else that passed me by a little bit was that I haven’t been playing football for some time – I’d been carrying a thigh strain for a while, which was – despite my best denials – getting worse.  It had started out as something that might ‘go’ at the end of a game, developing to something that ended up with me not being able to kick the ball properly from the start of the game right through to hurting when I walked.

Having admitted I needed to rest it fate conspired to force the issue – I was ill, then the Nottingham branch of Powerleague where we play flooded and combined with a clash of diaries (which involved using going to see Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds at the Arena on Tuesday – which was AMAZING) it’s forced my hand into not playing ’til today.

Running around – admittedly in the freezing cold – felt good, and as I took my first tentative ‘substantial’ kick at the ball it was great to not feel that frustrating pang of pain in my right thigh – it was fine.  Indeed, despite warning the chap that picks the teams that I was a few weeks out so not fully fit, I didn’t struggle as much as I feared in keeping up and we managed to snag the win in a close fought game.

I’ve read before that your wellbeing (not just physical, but mental) can be enhanced through exercise – and I think I’ve been missing my football more than I’d realised.  So it was good to get a game under the belt, a few goals and a good win.  With Christmas party season upon us there’ll be a few more games that I’ll miss out on – but at least that’s for positive reasons rather than negative ones like injury, illness or floods!

Tomorrow I’m off to Derby to see Simon Friend’s Seismic Survey (Simon’s one of the Levellers) with some friends and staying over (so decadent, Derby ain’t exactly the other end of the country) and Saturday sees a trip to the City Ground, a Christmas dinner with my Forest friends and a trip up to Warsop to see Ferocious Dog finish off Dogfest, which is already a rather splendid sounding weekend before we factor in Masterchef finalist Michelle Burge coming round to consult us on food she’s going to cook for us a week tomorrow!

In an unusual move I’ve actually elected to organise a birthday party next year too – okay, when I say organise, that’s over-egging it – Ferocious Dog are playing the Rescue Rooms so I’ve just invited all my friends to grab a ticket and celebrate with me in the finest style I can envisage!  Rock and roll!

Whilst I’m focusing on the positive it’s good to not have a bloody ridiculous moustache any more!  Below is a half-arsed montage of Movember 2012 from my point of view!

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Levelling the band..

I like the opportunity to combined my interests, and last night was a chance to combine my under-stated obsession with the Levellers and the BBC Children in Need charity.  Cambridge 105 ran a charity auction for some Levs related swag which I won – and rather than post the stuff to me tour-manager Phil clocked I was in Nottingham, as were the band, in the next few days.

So through the lovely Claire at Cambridge 105 an aftershow pass had been arranged at Rock City for me to collect the goodies straight after the gig.  Still feeling a bit under the weather I had the interesting experience of watching the Levellers barnstorming set completely sober – it certainly didn’t spoil it.  They’re on as good form as I’ve ever seen them at the moment, blending a nice mix of old and new, well known and more obscure – it was a great selection of songs performed awesomely.

It was also great to see some familiar faces join them on stage to play über-catchy ‘The Recruiting Sergeant” at the end.  I had thought I was recording it for posterity but well, a technical glitch means I either deleted it or never recorded it in the first place – grr.  Post-gig I found tour manager Phil who led be back stage where he handed me a bag of stuff including a signed drum skin lovingly artified by Jeremy, a customised satchel, a Truth Is vinyl and some cufflinks.

Being a bit of a merchandise whore for Levs stuff there’s some duplication, but that’s okay!  It felt a bit strange accosting people who are frankly heroes of mine for photos when they’ve literally just finished an intensive set of performing – but they were lovely and very gracious.  Of course all I could think of to talk about was the kind of banal crap they must hear after every show, thankfully that probably consigns me to a non-specific memory bank of gormless fans for them!

Which means in one fell swoop I’ve completed my collection of ‘pictures of me with Levellers’ which had been standing at 3 over a few year period.  Big thanks to Claire and Phil for organising the opportunity and of course to Simon, Matt, Charlie, Jeremy, Jon and Mark for indulging me when they probably wanted to get down the pub (and to Chris for the lift home).  I think perhaps I might have been better off getting leathered beforehand!

Back on to a dog-tastic weekend of Ferocious Dog action this weekend – it was great to see lots of fellow doggers in the crowd (not least Dan who was on stage for the last song).  We’re off to see them play in Beeston on Saturday night and then in Derby on Sunday night.

For now, I can admire my bag of swag – and think what I can do with my awesome (used) drum skin!  I must be one of a select group of people who now owns two pairs of Levellers cufflinks too!!

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I will fly a yellow paper sun in your sky..

If I said ‘The Crazy World of Arthur Brown’ to people my age they’d probably shout I am the god of hell fire! at me in response – they probably only found that song through the Prodigy sampling that particular part of it.  Certainly I was in that camp.

I only really opted to go see his performance because the excellent Moulettes were supporting and Cat and I really enjoyed them when they played before the Levellers acoustic gig up in Buxton.  So missing the very start of their set, and it only being 30 minutes long, was a bit of a pity in many ways (but still very enjoyable, of course!).  Here’s their final song of the night, Requiem:

We both treated Arthur Brown with some degree of caution – I’ve since discovered he’s seventy years old and these days looking rather like a psychedelic Terry Nutkins, but still pretty spritely as he cavorts around the stage for a good hour or so.  Some of it went a bit too ‘far out’ but for the most part it was awesome… culminating obviously with Fire. Below he is performing my personal highlight of the night, ‘Kites’:

The song leapt out because I recognised it as a song from Sasha and Digweed’s Northern Exposure album.  I never knew it was a cover, to be honest, so it was a bit bemusing for a while.  It turns out the original song was by Simon Dupree and the Big Sound.  I also hadn’t realised quite how long Arthur Brown has been performing for – so I do feel oddly privileged to have been able to say I’ve seen him in action.

Whilst the Rescue Rooms was by no means full there was a healthy crowd of people mostly older than me (which makes a nice change!).  He mentioned he’s recording a new album early next year which he’ll be touring so if you happen to spot a date near you (or not near you) in 2013 then it’s well worth a gander.  A top night’s entertainment.

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