Photo Credit: Helen Tate ©
HANDS OFF GRETEL are a 4-piece Alternative Rock/Grunge band from South Yorkshire, created in 2015 by Singer/Songwriter Lauren Tate and guitarist Seán McAvinue. They crowdfunded their debut album in 2016 and have been described as one of the most exciting new bands to watch out for. They're set to release their second album later this year though they can't be pinned down to a date.
The band take to the stage at The Picturedrome, Holmfirth, supporting FEROCIOUS DOG, and look every inch the grunge-punk band, led by Metal-Barbie. Do not, however, underestimate these guys, they are loud and fierce and will rock you til your nose bleeds. Lauren Tate has a killer body, killer smile and killer voice, detonating and exploding throughout the small venue in a mix of melodic and savage vocals, as they belt out tracks like 'Be Mine', 'Bad Egg', 'Baybee' and 'Oh Shit'. Tate is a Yorkshire Courtney Love, vivacious and voracious, and looks like the love child of Britney Spears and Marilyn Manson. More importantly, she can deliver vocals sweet as sugar as well as murderous and intense, accompanied by exciting guitars and a resounding drum and bass. The band are a great alternative to some of the "samey" stuff being peddled in the UK at the moment, reminiscent of ‘90s grunge and channelling punk icon Iggy Pop in a rowdy cover of 'Be Your Dog'.
This band have something to say and they deserve to be heard. They give it their all and give the audience a show. Well done on a great show guys.
Bigger Than Me
Be Your Dog
Hands Off Gretel are:
Lauren Tate - Vocals and Guitar
Sean McAvinue - Guitar
Sam Hobbins - Drums
Becky Baldwin - Bass
A Celtic folk/punk band from Warsop, FEROCIOUS DOG are huge across Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, beloved for their working class hero ethics and political musings about a broken society. This is their first gig in Holmfirth as is towards the end of a run of dates across the UK. They tore the place a new one, flying their flag of rebellion and anarchy loud and proud. First, let me set the scene; the venue is a charming and quaint old picture house set in a picturesque village, over-run tonight by big butch men wearing kilts, Ferocious Dog t-shirts, pom pom headbands (yes) and even clogs. It looks like a biker gang has beset Last Of The Summer Wine. All joking apart, this is genuinely a really good bunch of fans, loyal to the core to the band, friendly and sociable, and all in it together for a big party.
After the atmospheric spoken-word intro (written and recorded by Hell Hound John James Kirk) the band take to the stage for 'Gallows Justice' and the crowd immediately start to move as one big organism in time with the music, and most of them know every word. Ken Bonsall belts out the lyrics, ripe with passion and seasoned with dissent, "We fought back in the year of the famine, revenge on the rich by the poor, the sake of our lands and our farms, our rights to live on these shores". John Leonard (he of many instruments and a bit of shouting) is on a Mandolin. It's a track for the oppressed and disenfranchised and the whole place erupts. 'Poor Angry and Young' is from the same album, a head-banging fist-pumping call to arms, affectionately known as "Four Angry Onions". The mosh pit is in full sway already, rife with topless, sweaty blokes dancing their hearts out, which will soon turn into full body slams.
'Black Leg Miner' is always a crowd pleaser. A controversial 19th-century English folk song, which is believed to originate from the miners' lockout of 1844, depicting the determined, uncompromising stance against strikebreakers. This is one of two traditional folk songs in the set, the other being 'Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya', the basis of 'English Civil War' by The Clash. But don’t let the description "folk" fool you - there are no cardigans here! And the crowd is one of the most devoted and energetic bunch of rockers I've come across.
Ken at centre stage energises the crowd in a way which creates one of the most fun-filled gigs I’ve been to, whipping them into a frenzy of movement and sound, alongside Dan Booth's sublime fiddle-playing and John Leonard's various string-based instruments peeling out lush folk melodies to accompany poignant narratives, the combination of instruments creating a rich arrangement of folk and punk rock sound.
‘Ruby Bridges' starts with a gentle banjo before exploding into life, a song about the little girl who was the first black child integrated into an all-white school in America. By now the buoyancy and vitality of both crowd and band is ebullient, but there is a more serious and emotional aspect to a Ferocious Dog gig as the next few tracks are dedicated to the memory of Lee Bonsall, who tragically took his own life as a result of undiagnosed PTSD. 'A Verse For Lee', 'The Glass' and 'Lee's Tune' are a staple in the setlist. The crowd, many devoted followers who travel the length of the UK to a gig, show their respect and love to the band who lost a son and a brother. Fundraising and awareness-raising are a big part of life for Ferocious Dog. They also encourage donations for local food banks at each gig, from those who can afford to. Just more reasons their legion of Hell Hounds adore them.
The banjo leads us into 'Crime and Punishment' about the miner's strike of the 1980s, to which, as a former miner, Ken adds true emotion and authenticity, and the fervid crowd erupt as the band continue to give their heart and soul with tracks 'Too Late’, 'Class War', 'Unconditional' and 'Marikana Massacre', which is penned about striking miners who were shot in South Africa. Their songs have meaning but are also incredibly rousing and enjoyable. Don’t let the socio-political content put you off giving them a listen, you'll be glad you did.
Dan Booth is simply captivating on the violin and John Leonard switches between banjo, mandolin, Irish bagpipes, penny whistle and guitar in an amazing display of skill and flexibility, taking a seat in 'Small Town Hero' to delight us on the Uilleann Pipes which are a first for me and I had to ask what they were. Alex Smith pounds the hell out of his drum kit and there is a steady rumbling bass all night courtesy of John Alexander, Les Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine on guitar. Ferocious Dog have successfully crafted a distinctive and well-loved sound, with influences from The Levellers, Billy Bragg, New Model Army and the Pogues, spanning folk, alt rock and punk.
'Lyla' is followed by 'A&B', another political track about the concentration camps and beautifully sung by Dan Booth, and 'Quiet Paddy' before the stage is handed over to guitarist Les Carter (aka "Fruitbat") to perform lead vocal on 'A Place I Want To Be' from the 'Red' album; gentle evocative vocals, guitar and fiddle. Fans of Ferocious Dog are affectionately referred to as Hell Hounds, taking their name from the penultimate track 'Hell Hounds', from the 2013 self-titled album. This is always dedicated to the fans and lost hounds, and creates a near-riotous experience live; "The devil sends the hell hounds for me, Hell hounds come a calling, They're howling at my door". The closing song is 'Black Gold', a song about the slave trade, which features the trademark FD strings and percussion alongside electric guitar.
After a few minutes off stage, the band return for an encore for the frenzied audience. 'Mairi's Wedding' is a Scottish folk song originally written in Gaelic which FD wrote a part II and part III for, and they come back on stage for 'Mairi's Wedding Part II' before closing the set with the emotional 'Slow Motion Suicide', written about alcoholism in "Thatcher’s ‘80s" and with a stunning guitar riff streaming through it. More than one big brusque man was in tears and it was simply beautiful to witness and full of an incredible poignancy which is often unparalleled today.
The set was a non-stop party, foot-stomping and ferocious moshing - which does spread out from the centre a little so if that's not your thing then maybe stand somewhere else. The atmosphere was electric. The crowd were mixed, including young kids and women, all welcoming newcomers to the fold. It was frenetic, loud, and immensely fun to be a part of. They switched from a huge wall of sound to gentler, quieter moments and back again. Much to the dismay of security, there are women on people's shoulders amongst the crowd, dancing and singing along, one of them stood fully erect, and John Leonard takes a stage dive towards the end of the show. I was unfortunately stood in front of the guy wearing clogs and his fervent dancing meant I felt like I'd been stood on a Flabelos machine by the end.
If the Dogs come calling, make sure you don’t miss it. A fantastic atmosphere, family-friendly, actively promoting respect for the women and children in the audience, and great music.
Poor Angry and Young
Black Leg Miner
A Verse For Lee - The Glass - Lee's Tune
Crime and Punishment
Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya
Small Town Hero
A & B
A Place I Want To Be
Mairi's Wedding Part 2
Slow Motion Suicide
Ferocious Dog are:
Ken Bonsall - vocals and guitars
Dan Booth - fiddle
John Leonard - Banjo, Mandolin, guitars, Bouzouki, Whistles, Uilleann Pipes, Accordion ("and a bit of shouting!")
Les Carter - guitar
John Alexander - bass
Alex Smith - drums
The Lee Bonsall Memorial Fund: https://www.facebook.com/The-Lee-Bonsall-Memorial-Fund-1710657392582137
This fund was set up in July 2012 after the sudden and tragic death of Lee Bonsall. Lee left the army with undiagnosed PTSD and tragically took his own life, aged just 24.