I live in Bedford, a town 50 miles north of London and a mere 35 minute train journey away from the big city. Needless to say, about 90% of gigs that I go to are in London – after all, it really is the best place for live music, and especially punk rock, in the south of the UK. However, Bedford does have a pretty active music scene of its own… just not so much of a punk scene (not that I'm aware of anyway!).
Bedford Esquires is an independent, 200-capacity venue and has hosted a variety of gigs over the past 20+ years from up-and-coming artists to local Bedfordshire acts and everything in between. A month or so ago I spotted an event on the Esquires Facebook page that sounded right up my street. I hadn’t heard of Ferocious Dog prior to seeing the event but judged solely on their description – ‘a full on six piece sound that encompasses folk infused with rock, reggae and Celtic vibrations’ – I figured that this was a gig for me.
The support act for the show, and indeed the whole tour, was the a self-professed ‘solo acoustic guy’ Gaz Brookfield. Now, I definitely had heard of Gaz, but for one reason or another I hadn’t actually gotten around to listening to his stuff. I quickly fixed this about two weeks ago and have been listening to his albums ‘True and Fast’ (2015) and ‘In The Company of Thieves’ (2013) on repeat. His songs of travelling, playing shows, drinking cider (or not drinking it, as the case may be) and – my particular favourite – having enough money to buy a house are great on record, but even better live. With a bunch of fans at the front dancing and singing a long to every word, it’s easy to see why Gaz is so popular all across the UK, despite remaining an unsigned artist. As with a lot acoustic artists with music in the same vein as Gaz, his songs are highly relatable and accessible with clever yet catchy lyrics. But he does it all whilst still sounding original. Put it this way, I quite possibly enjoyed the support act more than the headlining act – and that’s not something I often say! I am keen to see Gaz Brookfield again soon – and as he plays up to 200 gigs a year, I imagine I won’t have to wait too long.
Taking inspiration from artists like The Pogues, The Levellers and Rancid, as well as politics and world affairs, Ferocious Dog play a blend of celtic folk music with elements of punk rock and ska. I must admit, I didn’t know any of their songs very well but that didn’t stop me from dancing and having a good time. For a band encompassing a violin, mandolin, banjo and acoustic guitar (plus bass and drums), Ferocious Dog play some pretty aggressive music but they still manage to maintain a wholly feel-good atmosphere at their show(s).
There were clearly lots of big fans of the band in the audience (and lots of mohawks too!) and it was great to see everyone moving to the music. At one point a man was lifted up into the air for the entirety of a song – a little different to the crowd surfing and human pyramids that I’m used to. Despite not knowing many of the songs, I really enjoyed Ferocious Dog. They are a very talented bunch of musicians and frontman Ken Bonsall’s lyrics are poignant and informative. I particularly liked the appearance of a banjo, for a couple of songs, halfway through their set – I’m always a sucker for a bit of banjo. However, it was the violin playing of Dan Booth that really impressed me. I don’t listen to a lot of bands with violinists but Ferocious Dog certainly have one of the best.