Ferocious Dog at The Drill

In 2016, I attended the Levellers ‘Levelling The Land’ tour gig at Rock City. That was my first exposure to Ferocious Dog, and I watched from the sidelines, entranced at the connection forged between the crowd and band. I was an observer, and I wondered what it meant to be a Hellhound, something Ken referenced a couple of times throughout the evening.

Fast forward seven years (ouch, feels like a lot less), and Ferocious Dog headlined a gig at my local venue, The Drill, in Lincoln. My experiences there have moved me enough to write on this site again, something I haven’t done since (checks notes) the last time I went to see Ferocious Dog. Perhaps I ought to point out I do write for a living and have a couple of popular websites (The Stacey West and The Real EFL) as sidelines. I don’t seem to write much about films, music and video games anymore.

Going into last night’s gig, I hadn’t been listening to FD. It feels criminal now, but since Dogfest I’ve been obsessed with Millie Manders and the Shutup, and Black Water County. Tickets are purchased to see both in Nottingham over the coming months, and FD had taken a backseat. My running playlist has even been tweaked and features far less of Warsop’s finest. That’s not to say I don’t like FD anymore, obviously. Music doesn’t work like that, does it? You don’t just go off a band, but you do go on a journey and sometimes don’t visit something as often as you should.

Last night, after Lincoln locals Hell’s Ditch had whetted the appetite, I did what I haven’t done since Green Day, V98. I made my way to front. I don’t know what my thinking was, in honesty. I’ve never been one to throw myself about in a pit – I bruise easily, I tend to lack energy, and for a good ten years, my back was as fragile as a butterfly wing. Reconstructive surgery has helped that, but I’m often found on the edges at a gig, watching sweaty people hurtling into each other for no reason. It’s not my thing.

Until last night.

I might have strayed into other artists of late, but from the first bars of the opening track (I was drunk, but if memory serves, it was Haul Away Joe) to the final moments of Slow Motion Suicide, I was completely and utterly captivated. The band put on a masterclass, a demonstration of why they have such a rich and varied following dedicated to covering motorway miles to see them play. I hadn’t listened to them much since Dogfest, but every song felt as fresh and exciting as the first time I heard them. If I had to liken it to anything, hearing the songs felt a lot like smelling your first love’s perfume on someone else – instant recognition and familiarity, a reminder of what you’ve been missing.

What is it that makes this band so unique, so different from the rest?

It’s not just the songs – although every single one is excellent in its own right. Their back catalogue is so extensive that after about two hours last night, they left the stage and I could still name four or five tracks they hadn’t played that would have fitted right in. 95% of mainstream bands couldn’t fill a set like FD and not have any filler at all. There’s nothing – no fat to trim, no album track you scratch your head to when it comes on. Everything they play has the quality to be a standalone single. Every single one hits like an uppercut from Mike Tyson.

It’s not just their enthusiasm, either. There’s something very endearing about FD that I don’t see with other bands. I’ve watched them all over – in Nottingham, Leeds, Boston, and Lincoln and not once have I seen Ken without a smile on his face. When they play, in fact every time they play, they want to play. You can see it in their body language. They enjoy it, and they approach every gig, big or small, headline or support, with the sort of passion and enjoyment that I want from a band. I’ve seen some ‘big’ bands go through the motions in Lincoln (The Enemy and The Fratellis spring to mind). We saw it at Dogfest with the Skints, a slightly disinterested performance not really worthy of a paying crowd. You never, ever get that with FD. When Kyle took to the mic for Pocket Full of Madness, Ken stands back happy for another member of the band to enjoy centre stage. The same goes for Jamie’s solo at the end of Slow Motion Suicide. No egos, just enjoyment.

It’s not just Ken himself, a man who I somehow feel is relatable on every level. There’s something so genuine about his performance as a frontman, something that makes me feel like I’m watching a mate play. I feel his emotion, from kissing his necklace after Lee’s Song to the anger in his voice during Spin. Every song FD have means something, and that meaning comes across in their engaging frontman. I believe music should always mean something; it should always come from somewhere, not be created just to keep people entertained. There’s no band on the planet that believes in their message as much as Ken believes in that of FD.

It’s not just those things that make them unique; it’s all of them and one other salient component – the Hellhounds. Back in Nottingham in 2016, I watched on and wanted to know what it meant to be a Hellhound. I love music, but there’s something religious about the Hellhounds, assembling all over the country to hear political messages, educating tales, and emotional stories. I don’t believe in religion, in enforced belief. I believe in FD, though. I think after seven years, multiple gigs, and an evening at the front, getting bashed about by sweaty bodies (and one really aggressive woman who took too much pleasure in throwing her elbow about), I might now qualify as a Hellhound.

There were a few moments I thought it might have happened to me. A random girl resting her arms on my shoulders mid-song before going back off into the pit felt natural like we’re all in it together. When a chap brought his wife down the front for Slow Motion Suicide, he tried to stop her getting bashed into, and I’d seen someone doing the same at Leeds, so I put my robust frame between the energetic crowd and the lady, to ensure she could enjoy it without getting battered. It might have been earlier, when for the first time since I was 19 I was throwing myself into people, not fearing a sly punch, clothesline, or elbow (I avoided the angry lady). I’m normally reserved at gigs, and yet for the first time in years, I felt completely and utterly free.

Fuck me, it felt good.

It’s all of those things that make this band unique. I can’t remember what the ticket price was, but I can’t help but feel I robbed Ken and the gang. However much they charged me for attending the sermon last night, it wasn’t enough. Every song was brilliant; every moment was as good as the last, right up until the lights came on, and it was time to go home. We even had a beer afterward, sitting in soaking wet clothes, shivering a little, not wanting the night to be over. I’m not saying next time I watch the band, I’ll be in the middle at the front, but I’m damn sure that I’ll feel 100% like I belong, like everyone there is my people.

You don’t get that with stadium gigs by aging Britpop acts looking for a fast payout.

As a side note, a massive thank you to the guys booking stuff at The Drill. FD, Beans on Toast, and Riskee and the Ridicule coming up as well. Hopefully, they’ve got Millie Manders’ agent’s number and have already booked FD 2024 as well.

I’ll sign off for now, but from one Hellhound to all of the others – thank you. We’re a special bunch.


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