If you’re feeling a bit of a banjo-shaped hole in your heart following Mumford and Sons’ rejection of every single folk-related instrument, then look no further than Bear’s Den. A London based trio who got together in 2012, they’ve struck the perfect balance between folk and indie rock and have been steadily gathering pace since then. I first discovered them that year supporting the aforementioned (then banjo clad) Mumford and Sons at the O2 arena and have followed their progress ever since, buying all their EPs as they were released and finally getting their stellar debut album Islands this time last year.
It was with much excitement that I was able to go and see them live again for the first time since that O2 arena show. Heading into the Roundhouse felt like a bit of an event in itself; it’s a very ‘aesthetically pleasing venue’ as my friend Joe put it and one that I would definitely hope to visit again. It’s got an interesting history – a former railway shed in the Victorian era – and it certainly has a unique feel to it, though it could probably do with an extra exit as it took quite a long time to get out after the show finished!
Kicking off the show was singer/songwriter Lisa Mitchell, who really could have done with a bit more stage presence to do her lovely vocals justice. I struggled to hear what she was saying – as far as I could tell one of her songs was about a hallway and another was about the earth talking. A bit weird. The second support act, Banfi, were the total opposite – a brilliant new band that have definitely gained a new fan. They were almost like a slightly more subdued version of Catfish and the Bottlemen with very nice guitars and even nicer haircuts. I’ve been loving their free download of ‘Where We Part’ and can’t wait to hear more from the band.
Coming on to Bolero (all 15 minutes of it) was a slightly odd idea, but one that seemed to work in the end and create a lot of excitement (once everyone realised what on earth was going on). Beginning the set with Elysium was something I wasn’t really expecting and although I enjoyed it I feel like the song might have got more of a reaction if it had been saved until later in the show. From there on it was an hour and a half of folk rock perfection. Bear’s Den have struck the ideal balance between classic harmonies and banjo solos with some more rocky and electric elements that ooze sheer joy and perfection. I tend to sometimes not enjoy ‘slower’ concerts (basically any time where I don’t get to throw myself into a group of sweaty bodies) but this was a total exception and I didn’t mind that my legs hurt or that I was surrounded by annoying people (the woman directly in front who couldn’t dance, the couple doing far too many PDAs and whoever kept doing majorly stinky farts).
My set highlights are as follows: the wonderful Magdalene which provided an upbeat singalong, and one of the first of Bear’s Den songs I loved, Mother, which gave the opportunity for a minor headbang. Agape was also excellent and I felt as if the people who had consistently heckled for the band to play it throughout the show really deserved the stellar performance it achieved. But my absolute favourite part of the set had to be Bad Blood, during which the band headed into the crowd to play an unplugged version of one of my favourite songs. I ended up really close to them, which was definitely lucky as I’m quite short!
Setting the standard for modern folk-rock bands, Bear’s Den are here to stay and I can’t wait to see what they do with their second album.