Bellowhead @ Rescue Rooms 29/09/07
With their album Burlesque being reviewed as the most important folk album since Fairport's Leige and Leif, Bellowhead have a lot to live up to.
Their idiosyncratic reinvention of folk tunes, murder ballads and sea shanties is unlike any other band and got the packed crowd at the Rescue Rooms on Saturday night dancing from the start.
Eleven strong, it must be a logistical nightmare just getting everyone in the same room. Not an easy night for the sound man either, although I've rarely heard it filled with a bigger or more infectious sound.
The core of Bellowhead is the prolific duo Spiers and Boden on squeezeboxes and fiddle/vocals respectively augmented by brass, one and occassionally two more fiddles, guitar, banjo, brass, drums, cello - the list goes on (and on).
When they charged through songs such as London Town and the shanty Fire Marengo there is so much going on at the same time it's hard to take it all in - but it works.
The impassioned vocals of Jon Boden on top of the swirling brass, complex rhythmic drums and toy percussion are like a folk band gatecrashing a music hall.
Who needs conventional bass players when you've got a cello and a sousaphone. Where on earth do you find a sousaphone player?
The instrumental Hopkinson's Favourite even included a sousaphone solo. This had the crowd dancing along, the brass section got the crowd waving hands in the air and Flash Company had many in the crowd joining in the chorus. True surround sound from where I was standing.
With eleven in Bellowhead there's a fair chance that at least one would be from Nottingham. There were two - Brendan Kelly on saxophone and fiddler Sam Sweeney of local band Kerfuffle.
Rapturous applause and two encores at the end. This has to be one of the best gigs I've seen at the Rescue Rooms.
If they keep this up it could just be that this band, originally put together ad-hoc by Spiers and Boden three years ago to play the Oxford Folk Festival, will be their most enduring incarnation.
If you missed it you can always check out the album; if they come back, see them.
last updated: 02/10/07