With a night full of traditional folk music, Getintothis’ Shaun Ponsonby finds himself dancing along to some sea shanty rave-ups.
For a while there, it seemed like folk music would be the new rock & roll. Outside of the superstar status of Mumford & Sons, you had Bruce Springsteen’s Pete Seeger tribute project, Frank Turner involving himself in traditional folk, Beans on Toast doing his thing, ex-punks were taking to the road in Chuck Ragan’s Revival Tour. It looked like there was a large group of young people giving it a go.
We’re not quite sure where that stands right now, of course.
Bellowhead have been one of the finest exponents of traditional British folk music for well over a decade now. They’re a young-ish band, dressed in skinny jeans and cool nerdy glasses. However, much of the audience at the Philharmonic Hall tonight are certainly at the older end of the spectrum. Make that much older end of the spectrum.
Not that it mattered. From the moment the eleven-piece hit the stage, which was adorned in foliage, it was clear that nobody’s age was going to even remotely factor in to the proceedings. Opening up with Let Her Run from last year’s Revival set a precedent for the evening; highly danceable, sea shanty rave-ups.
It felt like this was pre-rock & roll. Unlike most other 21st century folkies, Bellowhead are seemingly more interested in re-arranging old folk tunes in their own unique style than writing their own material. This, however, shouldn’t take away from their craft. Notable tonight, an extraordinarily uptempo version of the traditional Scarborough Fair (made famous by Simon & Garfunkel) that, according to accordion player John Spiers “has different notes and different words, but it’s the same song” and came under the title Fakenham Fair.
Furthermore, most songs were given an ample back story, which made us feel like we were actually learning something about the distant history of British music.
Being in the Phil meant the audience were disappointingly seated throughout. But, from London Town onwards (complete with actions demonstrated by one band member), they were instructed to stay on their feet. New York Girls ended the main set and probably received the biggest reaction of the night, as the band and audience all danced along simultaneously.
However, the very best was saved for the final encore. An extended jam of Frogs Legs and Dragon Teeth had even the much older members of the audience bouncing up and down in a surprisingly aggressive fashion.
After the show at the Philharmonic Hall, the band went across the street and played an aftershow at the Philharmonic pub. As great as the main gig was, it felt like the atmosphere of the pub was where this music really belongs.
Photos by Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody