The mighty Bellowhead bandwagon is about to make its final journey. One last rev of the engines and one last climb to the highest peaks and the curtain will finally fall on the astonishing party that has been running for almost 12 years.
Actually make that two last ascents, as Bellowhead, never a band to do things by halves have announced a two phase farewell with UK tours booked for the coming November and the April next year. The final, final curtain will fall, appropriately enough, at Oxford Town Hall, where the band made their live debut back in 2004.
The bad news / good news of it is that Jon Boden has simply decided the time has come for him to stand down as lead singer, and the rest of the band do not feel they wish to continue without him. So after over a decade, and achievements way beyond their expectations, the band will go their separate ways in spring 2016 to work on new musical projects. Given the incredible talent mixed up amongst the 11 members there will be much to look forward to and who knows, what collaborative ventures, spin offs and partnerships might ensue.
When you consider what they have achieved over the years, you have to start by reminding yourselves that back in 2004 they were formed, just for bit of fun. As John Spiers and Jon Boden sat in a traffic jam on the way to playing as a duo show in Essex and started reeling off names to invite to join their fantasy festival conquering big band, neither could have predicted the headline making, record breaking act that Bellowhead would become.
Topping festival bills and selling out tours of major concert halls the length and breadth of the UK have become almost routine, year in, year out. Last year alone they sold out The Royal Albert Hall and Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall to finish the spring tour, they played a heap of festivals, including their select billing at the BBC Radio 2 Festival In A Day in Hyde Park. They then went on to play to well over 30,000 people in November on their most successful tour yet.
Meanwhile, from their first self-released E. P. Onymous, Bellowhead have gone on to record five studio albums of which they have sold over 250,000 copies. Hedonism, their 3rd album, found them working with John Leckie and recording at the legendary Abbey Road and making the highest selling, independently released folk album of all time. They are proud recipients of two silver discs, have won eight BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, released a songbook with Faber, spent eight years as Artists in Residence at London’s Southbank Centre, recorded theme tunes for The Archers and The Simpsons at the request of the producers… And earned top marks for brewing their own beer… Twice!
Last year they also surprised everybody by signing to the legendary Island Records and releasing Revival, which entered the UK Album Charts at 12 and led to three BBC Radio 2 play-listed singles and appearances on mainstream TV, to add to their historical Proms and Folk Awards live TV appearances and the Christmas/winter special they recorded for BBC 4 with The Unthanks some years ago…
There will be more to follow up on this over the last legs of their incredible journey, but here we’ll conclude with the band’s simple statement of intent, “It’s in keeping with all the musical and theatrical traditions that make Bellowhead what it is, that we will end at our peak and leave the audience wanting more. The shows always finish on a high, and so should we.”
and if you’ve yet to see them live then make sure you catch them live. Check their website for those folk festivals and tour dates: http://www.bellowhead.co.uk/live.html