Reviewed by Cain Barriskil
As Leicester’s Saturday night revellers meandered their way down the city’s High Street preparing for an alcohol soaked night ahead, most had little idea of what was going on practically beneath their feet. In the basement of the unassuming café bar The Crumbling Cookie, fiddles were being tuned, banjos restrung, accordions prepped and vocal chords stretched, as a rag-tag bunch of musicians prepared for what looked like a fantastic night of alternative folk shenanigans.
Unfortunately, this reporter didn’t arrive in time to catch the opening act, Milton Keynes instrumental 4-piece Inlak’esh. Having witnessed the group on several previous occasions, they are certainly a band that can deliver a master class in acoustic prog folk and if that sounds like your cup of tea, then I would recommend catching them without hesitation.
The privateer turned pirate Edward Thatch built a fearsome reputation that has lasted centuries after his death. Taking their name from the archetype buccaneer, tonight’s co-headliners, Blackbeard’s Tea Party, now in their tenth year, have established their own reputation as one of the country’s best folk-rock acts. With their own take on traditional arrangements, a driving rhythm section and wild stage antics, the band have graced the stages of Glastonbury and Cambridge Folk Festival to name a few.
Perhaps it was the long journey from York, or being a member down, or the fact that venue was far from capacity, but Blackbeard’s Tea Party at times seemed like a band going through the motions. There were no outlandish outfits tonight, no costume changes, no on stage props, and the chaotic choreography was kept to a minimum.
Despite the best efforts of frontman Stuart Giddens to rally his troops, it was not until the band unleashed a medley of their old songs some three quarters of the way through their set, that Blackbeard’s Tea Party really showed the Leicester crowd what they could do. The band finished the set with their signature track Chicken on a Raft and even though this may not have been one of the best performances, the crowd seemed happy as they sang and danced along, The Tea Party won them over.
Hometown heroes, The Whiskey Rebellion on the other hand, needed no time to warm-up. Jonny Eve and his bunch of miscreants hit the stage running and maintained the energy and intensity for the next relentless 50 minutes. This was clearly a bunch of troubadours who enjoy what they do and the obvious on stage camaraderie showed that they very much enjoyed doing it together.
Opening tracks Cocktail Radio and Horror Show set a frantic pace and let the Cookie crowd know what there were in for tonight. The influence of Celtic Punks Flogging Molly is clear, but there’s much more to The Whiskey Rebellion.
During the plethora of sounds they presented to their audience, gypsy rhythms could be heard, along with glimpses of English folk, sea shanty sing-a-longs, and twisted humour. With so much going on it was easy for something to get lost, tonight’s victim was talented banjo player Max Hing, who couldn’t quite be heard over the crash of competing instruments.
The crowd however were oblivious, they were there to share the fun with the local favourites and front women Liz Marriott helped bring them along on The Whiskey Rebellion journey. The band polished off their high octane set with three of their best-known tracks, O Mother, Funeral Songs, and A Pirate I Will Be.
The crowd were exhausted, the band were exhausted and a great night was had by all.
You can next catch The Whiskey Rebellion play New Year’s Eve and Duffy’s Bar or frontman Jonny Eve play a solo show at The Soundhouse Saturday 2nd November.
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