Beth Jeans Houghton – Festival No. 6 review

Beth Jeans Houghton at Summer Sundae Weekender 2011 by Tim Cheesman
Beth Jeans Houghton at Summer Sundae Weekender 2011 by Tim Cheesman


It’s difficult to define Beth Jeans Houghton. Attempts to do so have fallen variously flat – bleached hair and buckets of eccentricity – Gaga you say? No – too folk. Deep folky tones then – perhaps a touch of Marling? No, too wacky. When discussing BJH, Nico, Vashti Bunyan, Marling and Gaga/Stefani comparisons all rear their heads, but in reality, she’s quite unique.

Still only in her early twenties, after the release of her first EP in 2008, it was a good four years before her debut, Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose finally came to see the light of day earlier this year. In the meantime, the nu-folk, alt-folk and freak folk trends have all made their way to megastardom (Mumford and Sons, Marling) or not, which serves BJH well, all the better with which to appreciate those unique qualities.

Kicking off her Festival no.6 set on the drizzly i stage with the rousing single, ‘Atlas’ and its ‘red wine and whisky are no good for me’ refrain, Beth Jeans Houghton and her marvelous band, the Hooves of Destiny are showcased in all their rollickingly pounding, colourful glory. The ‘hooves’ appear to have run through a vintage shop backwards – day-glo, leopard fur and a Hawaiian-print dressing gown all make an appearance, while BJH herself plays harlequin in a red gold and black polka-dot suit with a Harry Hill-collared shirt.

BJH acts as ringmaster, introducing band members and crew, initiating a ‘most uninhibited dancer’ prize, and calling on the audience to issue their most guttural, innermost thoughts in scream form during ‘Lilyputt’. It’s in these primal scream moments that BJH packs a punk-edged punch, a far cry from the soft tones of her characteristic falsetto.

Having waited so long for the first record to come out, it’s now time for another, with three new songs from the new album (due to being recording in a month) showcased during this short festival set. With the band decamped to Los Angeles, the US influence is clear – ‘Joe Frazier’ is all driving (hooves) through canyons and boxing legends while ‘Manslide’ sounds like early Blur with both scuzzy guitar solo and joyful rap coda. More of the same wacky, undefinable but infinitely enjoyable folk-punk weirdness to come then – we hope just a little sooner this time.