thu 02/02/2023

Bonfire Radicals, Hare & Hounds, Birmingham review - un-traditional folkies unveil their new album | reviews, news & interviews

Bonfire Radicals, Hare & Hounds, Birmingham review - un-traditional folkies unveil their new album

Bonfire Radicals, Hare & Hounds, Birmingham review - un-traditional folkies unveil their new album

Klezmer tunes, a murder ballad and appreciations of Spaghetti Junction and Surbiton

Un-traditional folkies indeedGrant Harper

Folk music? It’s all old blokes in shapeless clothes wailing on about ploughmen and fishermen, isn’t it?

Not in the hands of the Bonfire Radicals it isn’t. In fact, their sophomore album launch at the Hare and Hounds not only challenged this somewhat outdated and clichéd view of Europe’s traditional roots music, but completely blew it out of the water. For south Birmingham’s self-proclaimed un-traditional folk band brought out reels, jigs, a murder ballad and plenty of global grooves – which had their audience bouncing around from the first notes to the final fade out at the unveiling of The Space Between.

To be honest, it was a fairly safe bet to assume that Bonfire Radicals were on first name terms with many in the crowd and support band the Drystones also did a fine job in warming things up before Katie, Michelle, Sarah, Emma, Pete and Ilias had even stepped on stage, dressed in the garb of glitter-enhanced extras from 1960s TV series The Prisoner. This took nothing away from a serious powerhouse of a performance though.

The surprisingly diverse crowd of aging hippies, old punks, bearded and flat-capped hipsters and all points in between on the counter-culture spectrum were most certainly up for a fun evening, as they made clear when they were greeted by a “Birmingham, we love you” from spritely recorder player and occasional vocalist, Michelle Holloway. From there, it was slinky bass playing, a lively fiddle and Illias Lintzos’ solid backbeat to the fore for an opening brace of tunes to ensure that everyone was in the mood. With that mission accomplished, the Bonfire Radicals introduced their home crowd to their new music by playing The Space Between in the order that its contents appear on disc, to an ecstatic reaction.

Opening tunes, “Brenda Stubbert’s Reel” and “The Bonfire” were foot-stomping and adrenalin-powered and came on like folk music played by ravers. “Café de Flore” added sultry Caribbean flavours to the mix, while “Satsuma Moon” sounded like psychedelic circus big-top music.

At this point, Bonfire Radicals calmed things down as Michelle Holloway sang the heart-breaking “Mary Ashford”, a Birmingham murder ballad from just after the Napoleonic Wars, before Pete Churchill unleashed his accordion for a paean to his home town of Surbiton, “The Man from Suburbia”, an exotic instrumental which sounded like it owed as much to the sound of the Balkans as to South West London. This was followed by a crowd-pleasing pair of Ashkenazi klezmer tunes “Sha, Sha, Di Shviger Kumt” and “Freilacher Nashele”, which were enlivened further by confetti cannons, and album closer “Coffee Countdown”.

That wasn’t the end of the show, however, and the Hare and Hounds was further treated to Michelle Holloway shimmying around the stage while clucking like a chicken, a song about the joys of Spaghetti Junction and an exuberant approximation of Eastern European ska before the band finally vacated the stage. As clarinettist, Katie Stevens smirked, “If you came here for nice traditional folk music, I’m very sorry”. She needn’t have worried though, as no-one in the audience looked like they were anything less than completely satisfied with their evening out.

No-one in the audience looked like they were anything less than completely satisfied with their evening out

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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