Ferocious Dog @ Highbury Garage, London – live review

Folk punk band 'Ferocious Dog' play the Highbury Garage in London. 8-4-17

Ferocious Dog
Highbury Garage, London

8th April 2017

What a difference 120 miles can make.

Not long ago Ferocious Dog became the first underground band to completely ram 2,500 capacity Nottingham Rock City. On this outing they’ve sold out 3 nights at the more intimate Nottingham Rescue Rooms along with most of their other shows. It is their biggest tour to date. Yet here in the big smoke the modestly sized Garage is very busy, yet not quite the sweat box that we’re used to north of Watford.
 
Not that their lack of profile in these parts had dampened the spirits of their fanatical travelling (and local) ‘hell hounds’. Jay and Lee from Newcastle gleefully tell me how they’ve endured a 6-hour Megabus to be here. The place is buzzing.
 
Backstage Ken Bonsall is overflowing with praise for the band’s new additions.

Folk punk band 'Ferocious Dog' play the Highbury Garage in London. 8-4-17
 
“This tour has been absolutely amazing. These two (John & Alex) joined just two weeks before we started. You’d expect to take two steps back when your introducing new musicians but with these two its been two steps forward. The energy they’ve brought to the live show is just fantastic and they are here in time to be recording on the next album.”
 
A few minutes later the band are opening their set with ‘Gallows Justice’ and it is clear that the mohicaned ex miner was not exaggerating about the ability of the new members.
 
John Leonard is playing the intricate folk melodies on his various stringed instruments with commendable ease & precision. Meanwhile the drums are being expertly punished by Alex Smith.  At just 21 he wasn’t even born until many years after this band first started in 1988.
 
The show has indeed moved up a level since we last saw them supporting the Levellers at Brixton Academy last year. The solid bass of John Alexander completes the rhythm section leaving Ken’s vocals & Dan Booth’s fiddle to lead the charge with Fruitbat (aka one half of Carter USM) completing the line up on guitar. Live experiences don’t get much better and they have the songs to go with it.
 
We get nearly 20 tunes tonight, which range from the energetic madness of ‘Hell Hounds’ to the melancholy dub-ska of ‘Freeborn John’. Other highlights include ‘Ruby Bridges’ a tale of superhuman bravery in the face of institutional racism and ‘Crime & punishment’, which remembers the unfortunate souls, transported to Australia from an unforgiving Victorian England. While very many bands have written many well-meaning ballads about the 84-5 Miners Strike, Ken Bonsall actually lived through it and songs like ‘Criminal Justice’ and ‘Slow Motion Suicide’ (which closes the set) have an incredible poignancy, which other artists don’t quite achieve.

Folk punk band 'Ferocious Dog' play the Highbury Garage in London. 8-4-17
 
As always Ken graciously thanks his crew and plugs the work of the Sea Shepherd eco warriors whom have a stall here. Also the local food bank who’ll be going home with boxes of supplies as the band’s loyal following continue to empty their kitchen cupboards on request.
 
For each date of the tour local charities helping the skint & homeless have benefited from a now established practice of nightly donations from fans that like the band themselves do more than just talk the talk. Ken was full of praise earlier for ‘I Daniel Blake’ but his band were taking practical steps to address poverty and social injustice long before Mr Loache’s masterpiece hit the silver screen.
 
Politics aside, their cover of ‘Raggle taggle gypsy’ has to one of the best versions of the ancient folk ballad and ‘Lee’s tune’ continues to put the ‘mental’ in instrumental. It is actually quite impossible not to dance to this lot.
 
With a new album in the pipeline and a live show that just keeps going from strength to strength this is a band that everyone must see before they die. Hopefully my fellow Londoners will soon discover what they are missing.

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8 comments on “Ferocious Dog @ Highbury Garage, London – live review”

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  1. Muggy McMugface

    We all know the band have a manic following, but this review oozes the same level of narrowminded fanboy positivity that every other article ever written by every other manic follower of the band contains.
    Keep believing the hype, buying the tshirts, DVDs, vinyls, FD mankinis, getting yourselves tattooed from head to toe, getting tickets to every last show on the tour and listening to the same setlist every night.
    The band took my money AGAIN in good faith for the ellusive third album LAST YEAR and yet again we sit around waiting while Dan can afford to quit his job.
    I used to believe in all that “Together we are strong” stuff but not any more.
    I will await a load of sheeple to jump down my throat.

    • Really sorry to hear you feel this way, you must be incredibly unhappy in yourself to write stuff like this; don’t take it out on these amazing people, they have more time for their fans than you will ever know. Yes, we pay in advance for a third album because they are unsigned and we want them to stay that way. As for having a dig at Dan, you have no idea what you are taking about, I have no idea how he lasted holding down a job up till now, it isn’t just about the gigs you know lots goes on behind the scenes, not to mention all the additional work they do for collecting food, PTSD, working in schools, educating kids. I suggest you ‘get in your basket’ till you can write something nice!

    • There is something very special about music and how it makes you feel, how it can change your mood or even your perspective on life and how it can bring together a more diverse group of people than almost anything else. For those people like myself that love Ferocious Dog’s music and the time and effort that goes into it, there is nothing that we will relate to in your post. When you next bring joy to several thousand people, educate a society by high lighting inequality and injustice, make a worthwhile social contribution that will feed and cloth hundreds, or even have a couple of hundred care enough about you or your views to spend £20, leave home and turn up to hear you speak or perform, perhaps then your opinions will have a degree of authenticity and validity to them. Until then, I very much doubt that Ferocious Dog, their families, friemds or fans will really worry about your self indulgent moaning.

    • “but this review oozes the same level of narrowminded fanboy positivity that every other article ever written by every other manic follower of the band contains.”

      Actually this gig was the first and only time I’ve ever seen them do a headline show so more of a ‘starry-eyed new recruit’ than a “manic follower”.

      Why not soothe that bitterness with a nice cup of sugary tea instead of stalking the band members facebook statuses looking for point scoring material?

    • I was wondering Muggy are you a fan??? Follower?? Just a critic?
      You’ve pre ordered the album so I assumed you liked FD and yet seem disgruntled about the band and their personal life. Maybe ask for a refund which I’m sure as kindhearted as the band are they will happily do.
      We as FD family will continue to do what we do when we do It together being strong and loving it all the way….

  2. Third album will come when the new lineup is ready to go for it. I’d rather wait till it’s a thing of excellence than a rush job. Same as with any of the bands I like.

    And just because we have paid for entertainment/Merch/projects does not mean we own the band or have any say in their private or professional decisions. Bit controlling, that.

  3. Nobody made you buy the album. You knew it was pre-order on Dan time, so just be patient for a little longer. Peace.

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