Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers - Wharf Chambers, Leeds

by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date:

With a line-up that includes The Pop-Up People, Kate Goes and Biscuithead & the Biscuit Badgers it’s fair to assume that they’ll be a fair amount of fun packed into the next few hours. With three albums to their name and the patronage of BBC 6Music’s Tom Robinson, The Badgers are an established collective of Leeds based musical nutters. Dabbling in comedy, cabaret and tributes to David Attenborough, the band is the musical embodiment of a good night out and certainly isn’t the kind of act to take itself too seriously. I mean, just look at what they’ve called themselves.

The night begins with a low-key performance from Stacy Mellor. Often spotted fronting The Pop-Up People, Mellor gets the evening off to a fine start with a selection of odes to bakers, disappointing magicians and pre-Brexit politics. A relaxed and fiendishly clever songwriter, Mellor holds the floor with nothing more than a ukulele and an impressively imaginative set of lyrics. The highlight comes with an imagined obituary to Max Spielmann and the heady days of high-street photo development.

The sprawling musical goliath known as The Pop-Up People is up next with their gloriously insane take on pop music. Always ready for a party the band takes to the stage dressed in a variety of outfits based around tonight’s theme, Crimewatch vs Disney. If you’ve ever wanted to see Robin Hood play the trumpet, hear a song about a weather presenter marrying a rock star or hear an accordion tribute to 101 Dalmatians then tonight is most certainly your night.

It’s difficult to choose highlights (or to even adequately describe most of what’s going on) but their psychedelicised rendition of ‘Little April Showers’ from Bambi is pretty hard to forget. You’re also highly unlikely to hear the likes of the fantastic ‘Swamp Thing’ anywhere else; a manic accordion punk song with surprisingly operatic tendencies.

With keytar, accordion, trumpet and glockenspiel supporting the more traditional drum and bass combo the band manages to create an impressive amount of sounds and textures; from sea-shanty vibes to funky singalongs about Rupert Murdoch drowning in Dandelion & Burdock. Each member brings their own unique style to the bands collective sound and somehow it all makes thrilling sense.  

Next up, we’re introduced to Birmingham’s Kate Goes. Kate Thompson, Beth Hopkins and Susie Minnear pay tribute to The Pop-Up People’s theme and take to the stage dressed as two thieves and a dragon. Hopkin’s valiantly keeping the stocking over her head even when taking a sip from her pint. The three-piece proceed to take us through a set of charming and downright beautiful songs. The harmonies and melodies are particularly gorgeous and give everything a gentle, dreamlike quality. There’s something a little bit magical going on here.

The songs are based around keyboard and acoustic guitar with Hopkins providing banjo, bongos, recorder, clarinet and coconuts. There’s a song about a polar bear, a borrowed Jeffrey Lewis melody and a moment where Hopkins and Thompson manage to play pat-a- cake throughout an entire song. They’re clearly having a blast and, well, so are we.

Unashamedly twee and brilliantly idiosyncratic, Thompson’s songs veer between the giddily energetic and the more melancholic sounds of songs such as the sweetly romantic ‘Heartbeat’. Like listening to the most eccentric album of kid’s songs you’ve ever heard, Kate Goes offer up something sweet, silly and genuinely wonderful.  

Things aren’t about to get any more sensible with the arrival of Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers. I’m endeared to the band from the start as they open with a jaunty number about Royal Park Road, a street in Hyde Park (Leeds) literally minutes from wear I live. Besides noticing the local references it helps that the song stands as a breezy, effortlessly catchy slice of pop perfection. They say you should sing about what you know and that’s certainly what seems to be going on with The Biscuit Badgers. Cheese, allotments, local streets and toupee emporiums all get a look in during the course of the bands set.

Along with acts such as The Devils Jukebox, The Biscuit Badgers produce a sound that sits somewhere between cabaret, jazz and pure, all-round entertainment. The warm, vibrant and welcoming sounds skilfully crafted by ukulele, piano, drums and tuba. To paraphrase The Pogues, The Biscuit Badgers aren’t exactly the kind of band you meet every day.

Watching The Biscuit Badgers isn’t merely some passive experience either, there’s audience participation and, if you’re in the mood, much dancing to be had. During the bands enthusiastic ode to David Attenborough we’re asked to fling our hands into the air in time to the songs central chant. Maybe it’s out of respect for the BBC’s foremost naturalist or perhaps we’re all just having a really good time but everyone is more than happy to oblige.

There’s a real love for all things surreal running through the bands songwriting and an affinity with the likes of genuine, home-grown eccentrics like Kevin Ayers. ‘I’m a Triangle’ is a truly silly and utterly infectious rocks ‘n’ roll song about being, well, a triangle. ‘Cheese’ opens with the immortal line, “I don’t drink/ I don’t smoke/ I’m an introverted kind of bloke/ I’m not as fleet as the mountain goat/ but I’m so pleased because I love cheese”.  I’m sure this kind of thing would drive some people up the wall but I can’t see anyone who isn’t grinning like an idiot and loving every, ridiculous minute of the bands performance.

Some artists suffer from writer’s block, simply unable to think of a new and suitably satisfactory idea for a new song. No such creative drought is anywhere in sight tonight. A really great night’s entertainment.  

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