There is an ill-wind blowing down the river Clyde tonight as the port of Glasgow welcomes the crews of moored ships for a night of sea shanties, polkas and musket firing pirate metal.
New crew members queue outside the venue to clamber up the gangplank for a voyage that will be serenaded by the onboard entertainment provided by Rumahoy, The Dead Crew of Oddwood and the battle hardened legends Alestorm.
The O2 ABC is a mid-sized venue that has become hugely popular with bands and punters alike and tonight, Europe’s largest glitter ball looks down on a landscape of tricorn hats, frilly shirts and more Jack Sparrow lookalikes than you could shake your foam cutlass at. Pirates and wenches, this is Piratefest!
First to take to the stage are the bombastic Rumahoy. Complete with pirate outfits and slightly menacing balaclavas, this band proclaim proudly that they are true pirate metal unlike their tour-mates Alestorm! Vocalist Captain Yarrface strikes an imposing figure at nearly 7 foot tall alongside his three crew mates on guitar, bass and drums. This is no-nonsense nautical power with tales of adventure that can be heard on the band’s recently released album ‘The Triumph of Piracy’.
Yarrface bellows lyrics whilst holding onto his tricorn chapeau and engages this crowd from the first few bars. The songs are supported by backing tracks for the all important whistle and accordion parts that add to the atmosphere. The band are solid, tight and there are some special moments along the rapid set of eight songs – in particular the guitar solo in ‘Netflix and Yarr’. Yes... ‘Netflix and Yarr’! This vocalist certainly gets into character but don’t let that distract from the ability to understand what works in this now-established genre market. The rendition of ‘Pirateship’ is delivered in German with smatterings of English thus ensuring the European thirst for bands like this is satisfied.
As Rumahoy leave the stage, a different take on the night’s theme emerge as The Dread Crew of Oddwood take to the stage with an air of authenticity. These guys look like they have shinned down a rope of a galleon and walked into the venue. I could swear there was a faint aroma of tar and salt flowing from the stage.
Armed with mandolin, accordion, whistle, double bass and a more orthodox drum kit, this five-piece are talented musicians who inject a flagon of traditional, almost folk influence to their polkas and jigs. Make no mistake however, these are rockers and the material is powerful and foot stamping. The subtle few bars of Slayer’s ‘Raining Blood’ maybe missed some of the audience but it was there for a brief fearsome moment! This classic moment is surpassed hilariously however by the wholly accurate statement from the stage “You just moshed to a mandolin and an accordion”.
There are sublime moments in the set that deserve plaudits. Four part harmonies are spot on and each band member has there moment in the limelight with tastefully delivered solos. The sneaky inclusion of George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper’ have those around me looking at each other trying to place the song, followed by nods of recognition as it dawns on them.
Oddwood understand there is a light side to this genre and interact well with the lively crowd getting laughs with the well-made point that “Pirate ships suck. They have no Wi-Fi and they’re powered by wind”. Good point – well made. I’d recommend you maintain a lookout in your crow’s nest should these intrepid buccaneers arrive in your nearest port. A crew I certainly wouldn’t dread seeing again!
It’s clear now that the passengers on this voyage are well prepared for tonight’s main act. The piped sing-along Queen tracks are keeping everyone engaged as the theme tune to 70s Mel Brooks classic Blazing Saddles flow from the PA. There is a barely noticeable tremble in the centre of the room as those present ready themselves for what’s coming. The wait doesn’t last long as the band burst from the wings into the frantic opening melodies of Keelhauled. Those brave enough to stand in the maelstrom in front of the stage are crowd surfing from the get-go as the band bludgeon through such legendary tracks ‘Alestorm’ and ‘Mexico’, the latter hoisting a few attendees to their friends’ shoulders, adorned in full sombrero and poncho outfits. One reviewer begins to feel somewhat under-dressed.
Alestorm have sailed the seven seas since they first dipped their toes in the pirate metal genre back in 2004 and haven’t looked back. Their global success is evidenced by their theatrical performance tonight where they display their power metal roots alongside those traditional sea-shanty melodies. The material is full on and only slows unapologetically with a rendition of ‘Nancy the Tavern Wench’ that has hands held aloft, swinging from side to side – demanding a good pair of sea-legs and a strong stomach to hold down your ships biscuits. The show cuts a course through all the songs the crowd wants to hear and includes a chin-stroking guest appearance by a monstrous individual introduced as ‘Beef Guy’ for ‘Hangover’. Keen observers will realise that the opening band featured another 7 foot chap with an identical physique. Was this Captain Yarrface? I reckon so.
Chris Bowes enjoys the opportunity to goad his loving audience with well aimed comments such as “you weedgie scum” – something the Glasgow (weedgie) crowd take well and give back in equal measure. Bowes needn’t worry though as this crowd are in full party mode and engage in synchronized rowing in the eponymous ‘No Grave but the Sea’ and wonderfully brutal wall of death in ‘Captain Morgan’s Revenge’.
This is a striking performance with no let up in energy on stage. The gags between songs continue and hold the grins of even the most sceptical present. The reference to ‘Peg Leg Potion’ lyrics being from the back of a ‘Matey’ bubble bath bottle are quietly noted by the crowd (has anyone checked yet?) and we jump, crowd surf and headbang towards the close of play. The final song could be none other than (the very Scottish) ‘Fucked with an Anchor’ that has everyone singing along in light-hearted revelry.
Employing the Iron Maiden approach to feel-good outro music, sweaty pirates and punters start to filter to the exits with the Mr Blobby song exorcising any thoughts of a quick pillage before the bus home. Piratefest has been a resounding success and the voyage across the UK and beyond continues until next time. Until then.....Ahoy!
Rumahoy can be examined at –
The Dread Crew of Oddwood can be keelhauled at –
Alestorm can take the king’s shilling at –
Piratefest tickets are still available for remaining shows at –
Alestorm Setlist -
That Famous Ol' Spiced
The Sunk'n Norwegian
No Grave but the Sea
Nancy the Tavern Wench
1741 (The Battle of Cartagena)
Bar ünd Imbiss
Captain Morgan's Revenge
Wenches & Mead
Fucked With an Anchor