This couldn’t be much further away from my last gig – Alasdair Roberts and an acoustic guitar – but it proves the genre’s flexibility. And this is one of the things I love about folk. At times it’s dense, thoughtful and quiet, but it can just as easily be noisy, extrovert and fun. And there’s plenty in between, of course.
Taking the stage to a squalling intro tape, Blackbeard’s Tea Party waste no time getting up to speed. Opener Steam Arm Man – about a cursed, violent prosthetic limb – is forceful, gory and thrillingly preposterous. Choppy electric guitar, powerful drumming and singer Stuart Giddens’ booming voice (the volume of which makes a few audience members jump back from the speaker) convey the band’s enthusiasm and energy.
And it simply doesn’t let up: they barely pause for breath between songs and tunes. Laura Boston-Barber’s violin duels with Giddens’ melodeon on a frantic Devil in the Kitchen, which rocks so hard that bassist Martin Coumbe and guitarist Tim Yates soon have their feet on the monitors.
Jack Ketch is a morbid rocker, Giddens cheerfully reminding us by way of an introduction that “certain people in the news” won’t be able to escape the reaper. The Ballad of William Kidd is a groovy piratical story it’s impossible not to sing along with, while Stand Up Now delivers a rousing message with a smile.
The customary interval feels a little incongruous, but BTP soon have the momentum going again. Newie Dense Little Funk Nuggets sounds like its title, while The Slave Chase marries mighty riffing with a powerful pro-freedom sentiment.
The band work hard to make things entertaining – there are synchronised dance moves, Benny Hill-style chases around the stage (and into the audience), and even acrobatic jumps. Giddens has some particularly impressive moves – gigging must have been good preparation for the marathon he recently completed. But while this is undoubtedly fun, it’s all held together by the group’s musical talent and understanding.
There’s little in the way of ‘slower’ songs – Dave Boston’s conga gives the sinuous Loose Shoulder a foreboding intro, before the tempo is turned up and Liam Hardy’s more disco-y beat becomes more prominent. The band really cuts loose for the brilliant instrumental Moonshiner, before finishing off with another you can’t help but sing along with: a demented take on Cyril Tawney’s Chicken on a Raft.
I haven’t had this much fun at a show since my last Bellowhead gig. And, as with that band, I reckon they’re a great jumping in point for non-folkies – I’ll be bringing friends with me next time.
Do you like Blackbeard’s Tea Party? See here for their tour dates – and check out this interview we did with Stuart Giddens last year! And since we’re telling you what do, follow Folk Witness on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Thanks!