Bellowhead – A Record Launch With A Difference

30. 10. 2006 | Rubriky: Články,Interviews, reviews,Multilingual

My long-time friend and much respected colleague Ken Hunt kindly volunteered this report from London.

Bush Hall, Shepherd’s Bush, London 6 October 2006

Bush Hall’s entrance on the Uxbridge Road doesn’t prepare you for what you find inside. Rather like the Tardis in BBC television’s Dr. Who, the interior is so much bigger than you are prepared for. The album artwork for Burlesque, Bellowhead’s début long-player (as opposed to their recorded début, E.P.Onymous and you’ve guessed what size that was), shows the interior of a balconied hall. Bush Hall felt a little like a bleached out echo of the Burlesque photo shoot. Maybe it helped Bellowhead’s decision to launch Burlesque there. It worked in ways that, if such a thing exists, unfaithful replicas of the cover artwork seldom do.

The octet musters an impressive instrumentation. Over the course of the evening people turned their hands to fiddles, percussion of many sorts (kitchen and pantry utensils included), sousaphone, tuba, saxophones, bass clarinet, guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, banjo, bagpipes, cello, trumpet, flugelhorn, oboe, free-reed instruments and trombone. Their sound and presence was mighty with performances and arrangements sticking tightly to the material on Burlesque with a sprinkle from E.P.Onymous for good measure. One of the things that impresses me most about Bellowhead the quality of the music aside is that they take the music seriously without seeming to take themselves seriously. They played their big songs Rigs of the Time, Fire Marengo and Flash Company with admirable playfulness and, when necessary, circus wit, However, their souped-up, trad-style instrumentals, like the funk and soul horn interjections juxtaposed with the fiddlistics of Sloe Gin, similarly hit the bull’s-eye. It’s the balance that creates their dynamics.

What set the launch concert apart and made it an event was the ambiance created by the band’s coming in costume. The range of hats was impressive. From cloth cap to pith helmet, topper to one that looked as if it had been stolen from the set of Oliver, Bellowhead’s headwear and costumes enacted a small-scale class war on stage. Costumes were not restricted to those puffing, blowing, thrashing or wailing on stage. Tasmin, the cover pin-up, reprised her black-and-red corset costume and feathered mask for anyone into vaudevillian corsetry. (Alas, I must have averted my eyes and missed the cover’s stunt dove.) What’s more, a coterie of audience members who had been tipped off had dug into the fancy dress chest and pulled out family heirlooms or charity shop bargains. During the intermission Bellowhead came down to mingle with punters and their lowly kind. Funnily enough, Bush Hall’s rectangularity must make it ideal for revivalist meetings. Certainly, it was a very different sort of revivalist meeting that Bellowhead convened. Bellowhead successfully zigzagged their way through the minefield we laughingly call folk music in the twenty-first century. All in all it was a very special night.

Ken Hunt

Ken Hunt is a full-time freelance writer, broadcaster, translator and lyricist.


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