Stompin’ Dave and his Bluegrass Band

stompin-daveElectric Palace 15 May 2015
BR Rating ****

By Sean Geraghty

I first encountered Dave as Dr Stomp busking outside the Arts Centre in the late 1990s. He cut a memorable figure hair flailing in the wind, wrestling with his rattlesnake fiddle, feet flying, hopping about on the square stomping-board. He had something of a cartoon image for a while. It seemed he was exorcising some sort of demon, putting in lengthy stints long into the afternoon.

He gigged at the Hope and Anchor in the good old days and became a fixture in the square alongside Oz and the old fella.

It’s delightful to see Dave in his present set-up, leading the line on the banjo with a band that had perfected the not-really-from-London-in-disguise look. Fortunately, they totally nailed the musical content. There was plenty to enjoy with fiddle and banjo solos, great harmonies and solid shiny bass lines.

Working around one live mike, with the occasional tweak from out front they got the enthusiastic crowd tapping their feet and a good number up on the dance floor. The healthy turnout demonstrated how Dave’s popularity has continued to grow.

The second set got off to a gutsy start with Ain’t gonna be treated this way. After a corny wander into Goodnight Irene things kicked up through the gears via Midnight Special, I’ll Fly Away and onward we went until three encores including a smoking solo, Duelling Banjos, (however contradictory that sounds).

Dave has a hatful of tricks, dancing while singing or picking up and down the fret-board, strumming the banjo up over his shoulder and spinning around on the well-worn stomp-box; even on the acutely raked Palace stage he floated like a ballerina in his patched pants and steel-tipped shoes.

Dave is a great musician and his tour is universally well supported, deservedly so. It may be only 50 yards or so from Bucky Doo to the Palace, but Dave’s certainly come a long way in between.

By |May 16th, 2015|Music, Review, Sean Geraghty|0 Comments

Vote, Vote, Vote…But Who For?

BR OpinionA personal view by Sean Geraghty

When I had my first vote in Dorset in 1983, a massive truck crashed into The Clock House in Chideock on polling day. The greasy undercarriage blocked the main road and a spectacle was made of a team of butchers unloading several hundred carcasses as the evening wore on.

When we woke up, Thatcher was in again, and James Spicer, the minister looking after trade with South Africa (then under Apartheid) was in again in the safe seat of Dorset West.

The same day there was a triple hanging in South Africa (www.sahistory.org.za/topic/political-executions-south-africa-apartheid-government-1961-1989), with the victims allegedly strung up with twine made in Bridport.
The omens are similar today. The Clock House has been destroyed again and a vile (minority) Tory government is claiming to be in power. Our local MP is hell bent on privatising anything that moves and Thatcherism has never gone away.

My solitary vote of conscience in 1983 contributed to 3,000 or so polled for Labour against a 23,000 Tory majority and we took the right hooks in the coming months as Bridport’s unemployment rate went up to 25% after Gundry’s closed. This was made easy for the owners by Thatcher ‘opening up the markets to international trade’. In effect, British companies could still be British even if their manufacturing base moved abroad where labour was cheaper. So the rope-making industry moved to Portugal and Bridport had dole queues so long that the line of people waiting in the rain ran around the block from the old DHSS office (now the Citizens Advice Bureau) and down Church Street past the Water Board, (later privatised of course).

There were a lot of people whose lives were irrevocably changed by the politics of the time, and while the industry wasn’t as heavy or traditional or as widespread as mining, steel-making, fishing, shipbuilding or any other nationally recognised industry, the effects of its removal have never been forgotten.

Quite a few people got council houses in that era, probably their first-ever break, and celebrated Thatcher as some sort of champion. People like me were advised to take anything they could find and so I got on to a scheme for the National Trust and worked 40 hours a week for about £35, a full £10 more per week than social security. It didn’t lead to anything, but it got the unemployed numbers down by one.

The bus service we relied on to get around was instantly streamlined and any non-profit-making services were cut. This meant that if you wanted to travel late in the day you had to do it by 5.45pm heading west out of Bridport, or 6pm heading east. People like me, a 19-year-old pedestrian, used to hitch-hike everywhere.

The Tories are always giving the impression they are rational, making a strong case for economic stability. But is that what daily life is about? I see the extension of the Thatcher years as something more sinister. You used to pull the ladder up behind you. These days it’s more like raising a drawbridge around your mansion, with private health care, private schools, old-school tie jobs, private security, fantastical wages and lifestyle while the rest of the people out there in the badlands have to get by some way or other, or just crawl off and die.

The mentally ill can just deal with it; the old can get themselves out of bed or rot in their soiled bedsheets. The privateer drug-dealer or hustler can go about his business with the skeletal police force uninterested and understaffed mopping up the mess after the event.

Thatcher-lite is not what the Eton crowd are peddling. They think that going further down that blocked road is the answer. I keep thinking people can’t be so stupid to swallow it again, but there is no doubt that the dumbing down process has been very effective and many people are indifferent, ill-informed and downright gullible, lured by the false hope of personal furtherance, about being unique or special. We’re all in it together….

Oh yeah, we are all lost in it together.

So, in case it isn’t obvious, I won’t be voting Tory. They are facile people who can only deal with simplistic solutions: get on yer bike, get up off your arse and start a business, it’s all down to you, anything’s possible. Well it isn’t, actually. Most people need help through their lives at different times. Help to get an income, get a roof over their heads, feed their children, get well, find some sort of hope, purpose or meaning to their lives. To better yourself when you have trouble just getting by, when all your energy is diverted into survival is where many people will probably find themselves if Cameron and his shysters get another crack at running the show. This lot are coming back to pick up the scraps they missed last time after the energy companies, the oil, the railways the buses, all the public utilities that were siphoned off.

My dilemma is whether to vote Green, because I believe in a radical approach that has our use of our resources as the paramount consideration, or to vote for a locally-minded person. Do we see the solution to a housing crisis as building more, or maybe legislating to encourage second-home owners to sell up through high taxes? To deflate the housing market would be my vote winner, but the Greens don’t go far enough for me. They also want to boost fuel prices so independent travel in rural areas would become a major problem for those of us who live and work in places such as West Dorset. There is no way buses would be able to serve the small communities dotted about the place and rural isolation would probably increase.

So Labour. Vote for them? I have done in the past, and I traded my vote last time for a Lib-Dem one and feel so repelled by Clegg’s behaviour I am wrangling with very mixed feelings about doing something similar again and voting for Ros Kayes. She has done her bit locally and supported many causes I agree with strongly. She also has the only realistic chance of unseating Oliver Letwin. While I have sympathy for Labour, they really did bollocks it up when they went to war and sided with that cretin, Dubya. I so admired the preening French for saying non in the face of pressure to go to war.

I despise the false hope that Blair engendered. I remember the celebrations we had in 1997, running from Kings Cross to the South Bank to join the party. Walking along opposite Parliament that day I believed I could hear the dying howls of John Major’s lacklustre crew fleeing the building. It was like a breath of fresh air in the spring morning sunshine and hope abounded.

This time my only hope is that the election will depose this awful, dreary brigade of toffs. The BBC have done their best to misrepresent the left, as usual, insinuating a Scottish takeover, economic ineptitude and a weakness in that curiously uncharismatic Milliband brother who is still trying to convince us he is part-human with his ineffectual sincerity-speak.

I will probably have to vote local, and send Ros a card saying I only voted tactically, hoping it might keep the bigger evil out. To try and pick between Letwin and Clegg is actually impossible, like trying your best to support Germany or Argentina in the World Cup final.

Getting Ros in would be the best of a bad lot for me. She doesn’t make the same noises as Clegg and I would hope she would also vote according to her professed beliefs rather than the party whip. I would hope she would have a go at promoting local issues that are aimed at benefiting the local community in a far wider regard than Letwin, (or his predecessor, Spicer) who seems to see himself as a national figure, and is one of the ringleaders of the selfish swine who care nothing for our buses, our housing crisis or our hopes for our young or old people to live in a safe environment.

So I will draw back the little curtain, scrawl my cross somewhere and wait with a vague hope that we get a bunch of decent-minded people into a cramped chamber to make some good decisions and hopefully prosecute a few bankers, but I don’t really have much hope. I will be hugely surprised if Dorset West changes its colours, flabbergasted in fact.

One person, one vote. I only hope that more people use theirs. I will probably hold up the queue when I go to use mine, dithering, wrestling with my conscience, while many will simply not bother.

They say we get the governments we deserve as a society. I hope they are wrong.

By |May 6th, 2015|Opinion, Sean Geraghty|4 Comments

Ferocious Dog

Ferocious dogElectric Palace 16 April 2015
BR Rating ****

By Sean Geraghty

“Blown away,” answered Ken Bonsall, when I asked the band’s frontman what he made of the experience at Bridport’s Electric Palace. I would have said the same thing, as any ‘Ferocious virgin’ would.

I approached the gig with scepticism. I’d seen the website with its striking photographic images of a mohawked singer, backed by a piratical crew playing to a moshing bare-chested tattooed crowd and thought… erm, OK what’s this all about? Smoke and mirrors, or is this the real deal?

Hailing from Warsop, a village in Nottinghamshire between Mansfield and Worksop, the band has hit a rich seam, appropriate for a former mining community.

Their second album was crowd-funded and a significant endorsement in a business landscape where faith is rarely demonstrated with such enthusiasm and easily misplaced in less-deserving causes. Their reputation grows by word of mouth.

Ferocious Dog offer a full-on six-piece sound that encompasses folk infused with rock, reggae and Celtic vibrations. The combination of instruments creates a palette of sound that offers infinite variations: going in hard to get people up and moving, or slipping into melodic passages and dub-like fusions without the gruesome pretentions of some bands they have been compared with, (mentioning no names… I’m on the level here.)

I was sold when I strolled into the 200-ish crowd on a Thursday night seeing a geezer in a Clash t-shirt singing about Gallows Justice, following with tunes titled Poor Angry, Young, Living On Thin Air… not an easy sell to the typical age-ambiguous West-Dorset-Thursday-Night-Willing crowd.

There was definitely something going on, with Scott Walters’ exceptional drumming – a boy who can seriously PLAY – it still took a few warm-up tunes and pointed persuasion from Dan Booth’s dazzling fiddlework to weld the unconverted audience to the more dedicated lyric-hollering fans who had turned up in force from all corners of the country.

The bridge was built with two songs titled The Glass and Lee’s Tune. Lee, a young soldier who came back from the war in Afghanistan, died at his own hand after struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. This was no made-up pastiche but a story told direct from his father, Ken, mourning his son’s suicide and being delivered with such dignified passion, with no sentimentality, no nonsense.

Ferocious Dog have plenty to say and plenty to offer. They could be taken as a good stomping night out or as political messengers, but they should be taken seriously. They stand and deliver, reclaiming the credibility and tradition of the fiercely independent musicians that once roamed the music scene, setting their own agenda, supported by their own fans. It’s punk Jim, just as we knew it.

They should soon be seen on bigger stages. They deserve the opportunity to make a name for themselves without comparison, and I hope it comes their way soon.

By |April 17th, 2015|Music, Review, Sean Geraghty|0 Comments

Chris Spedding

Chris SpeddingThe Crown

4 January 2015

By Sean Geraghty

A zillion idiots keep a guitar in their household as a reminder of their youth. Of those zillion, few more from this region might have made it out to hear one played properly.

Bridport is a town of 14,697 people according to the inturnip (the Dorset information superbyway) and approximately 35 attended to see Spedding play a free gig.

Spedding’s last appearance in the West Country was at Glastonbury in 2014 when he was invited to appear on the pyramid stage by Bryan Ferry. Let’s consider that: INVITED by Bryan Ferry, who could likely have invited any guitarist on the planet.

Aged 70, Spedding has amassed enough practitioner-experience to achieve mastery of his instrument. He has earned the respect of his peers; these include members of the Beatles, Nillsson, Soft Machine, Brian Eno and Joan Armatrading.

Spedding’s accomplices for the evening were Malcolm Bruce on bass and Bridport’s Chris Page on drums. This no-nonsense classic pub-rock trio kicked out sharp-edged renditions reminiscent of The Jam or Dr Feelgood during a punchy first set.

Despite the thin attendance, Spedding matter-of-factly displayed his wares, shredding his see-through axe through the night. For those of us lucky enough to catch this unexpected preview for Spedding’s London gig at the 100 Club on Oxford Street on January 10, it was a delight to hear him play in the warm and welcoming surroundings of the Crown, which does a great job in promoting live music in the area.

But Bridport, where were you?

By |January 5th, 2015|Music, Sean Geraghty|0 Comments