We’d been looking forward to this gig for a LONG time, we heard they were coming down to Exeter back in February and judging by their live videos on YouTube, we just had to be there…. One thing that worried me was the distinct lack of a ‘barrier’, have you seen their live videos? Yes, we have too, I mentioned this to the in-house security and he shared my concern, “oh well” he said, “I’m sure they’ll sort themselves out”…..
Fast forward a couple of months, we arrive at the Exeter Phoenix Arts Centre expecting to be met with a queue snaking out of the venue and into the car park, it was surprisingly quiet, this concerned me, I hoped that we weren’t going to be the only ones in there, clapping that little bit louder to give the effect that there were more in the crowd than there actually was….then I thought that as they weren’t due on stage until 10pm (it was a Saturday night after all), most of the revellers wouldn’t be arriving until later on. We entered the auditorium, met Dan Booth (fiddle player) who I had been able to arrange a telephone interview a few weeks back, he dragged us backstage where we were introduced to the rest of the band including one Captain Les Carter aka Fruitbat, formerly of Carter USM fame who joined FD a little while ago to do the guitar thing. I was relieved of the beers that I had smuggled in for them, Les and I chatted about his ‘Mazda Bongo’ love bus and his love of real ales, we then decided it was time to go and do some work so we left them to smash through the rider and generally enjoy themselves…
The evening consisted of 3 acts, a local singer songwriter called Emily Howard, a Somerset band called Leylines and lastly, Ferocious Dog would come and squeeze any remaining sweat out of the audience.
We took our places, the lights dimmed and the first act took to the stage….
Emily Howard is an Exeter based singer songwriter who stood alone on the stage, just her and her red electric guitar. She opened with a beautiful stripped back version of ‘Summertime’, her breathy vocals drifting gently over the lightly plucked strings, sending shivers down my spine. She demonstrated a brilliant bit of mouth trumpetry, probably not the technical name for it but hey ho….
Her set consisted of a couple of new tracks that will be making an appearance on her new CD, ‘Skip This Track’ was written about when bad things happen and you just want to skip past that time, ‘Looking out for Number One’ was another new one that sounded great and should help to push the new album when it is launched.
A singer songwriter isn’t a singer songwriter without a track that involves some audience participation, this young lady decided to share a track that was written about Nigel Farage of UKIP, the chorus required the audience to sing ‘Nigel Farage is a ballbag, ballbag….’ which, whilst not the best track in her set, got the crowd involved and set the scene for the next act. We’ll be doing an interview with Emily very soon, we dropped in a few cunning questions and I for one am excited to see her responses.
Up next were Somerset based 5 piece ‘The Leylines’ who delivered a high octane set of fiddle powered folk-punk from the off. Steve Mitchell lead his companions through a blinding 45 minute set which by its midpoint, I was getting worried for Ferocious Dog as they had some serious work to do to prevent these guys from stealing their thunder.
Hannah was playing a rather futuristic looking see through fiddle, her flowing auburn locks flowing wildly on stage as the band beat the crowd into submission, they looked like they were having the time of their lives up on that stage and judging by the audience reaction, they had every reason to be proud, they really did a great job of delivering some brilliant music, executed perfectly by all.
The Leylines are set to play loads of festivals and shows throughout the summer, be sure to keep your eyes on their website as no doubt more dates will be announced soon.
With the stage set for the headline act, the lights dimmed, a didgeridoo soundscape washed across the stage as the 6 members of Ferocious Dog bounded onto the stage, leaping straight into their opening track which set the place alight with their high energy blend of celtic-folk-punk-rock. I did wonder how the guys were going to maintain this energy throughout their 90 minutes on stage, maybe they would take a break midway through and go for a nice lie down to recharge their batteries, nope, they just did what they do and soldiered on from one track to the next. The audience were bang up for a great night and it didn’t take long for the travelling ‘Hell Hounds’ to start a moshpit in the middle of the room, encouraging others to come and join the fun (if you want to call it that….), I thought about it for a few nan seconds before deciding that having attended far too many Carter USM shows in my heady days of youth, I was not really interested in explaining my battle wounds to my colleagues at work, so I stayed side of stage and watched the ‘younger’ folk enjoy themselves!
I soon noticed something about FD’s songs, some started nice and slow, allowing you to almost catch your breath, then, suddenly, they just burst into life, beer was thrown skywards and in a matter of seconds, the room had been transformed into a mass heaving, jumping sweaty mess….. I had to laugh as my photographer had made his way through the moshpit with his camera and ended up wedged over on the other side of the stage, having to wait for a lull in the music prior to making his way back to the safety of our vantage point.
I chatted to a couple of the ‘Hell Hounds’ who had travelled down with FD and they explained that despite it looking like the moshpit were full of people trying very hard to rip each others heads off, there was some semblance of order, control amongst the chaos with an understanding that nobody was actually going to get hurt, it just appeared that way. Before long, they had hoisted a turquoise haired reveller up onto their shoulders where he indulged in a nice bit of stationary surfing which was very impressive, luckily he dismantled safely and rejoined the throng for a little more pushing and shoving!
Before the band kicked into ‘The Glass’, Ken announced that this was a ‘slow song’, sorry mate, not falling for that one and right as rain, it was only a matter of a couple of bars before the place erupted, Scott Walters providing that epic backbeat that drove the rest of the band on to present their wares to the crowd, how on earth he maintains THAT beat during the set is beyond me, he is a machine! Once again, my intrepid cameraman was stuck over the other side of the room, a sea of ‘mosh’ standing between he and I, he eventually reached home in one piece where he said that he was stood in front of the pit and everytime he tried to take a picture, someone would tickle him, this was only likely to ever happen at a FD gig folks!
They played a full set consisting of 17 tracks in all, towards the end of the set, they had decided not to bother with an encore and just play all the way through with a strong set of songs including 'Hell Hounds' , 'Free Thinker' and 'Marie's Wedding Part II' which left some fans looking for more at the end but worked pretty well seeing as they had literally given their all and were fit for nothing apart from getting their lips around a bottle of ale, chatting to the fans and generally making themselves available for ‘selfies’ and autographs.
The band were immense this evening, the technical ability of fiddle player Dan Booth shone brightly, the drumming prowess of Scott Walters, the vocal talents of Ken Bonsall all backed up by the one and only Les Carter on lead guitar, Ellis Waring on mandolin and banjo and finally John Alexander providing the bass line, there was no way that any band are going to be in a position to de-throne these reigning kings of the folk-rock scene….
Poor Angry Young
Living on Thin Air
Crime & Punishment
The Glass & Lee's Tune
Slow Motion Suicide
On the Rocks
Marie's Wedding Pt II
Review by Steve Muscutt
Photography by Bruce Benson 241photography.co.uk
You can see all the images that we took at the show by clicking on the links below;