Sheelanagig’s origins lie between the now defunct Dartington College of arts in South Devon and the diverse melting-pot of the Bristol music scene. Formed in early 2005 the band had an instant chemistry and set about playing at every pub, club and open mic night they could get their hands on. Described in an early review in Venue Magazine as “fresh and distinctive”, with “rhythmic variety and great imagination”, the band gained a considerable local following and quickly earned a reputation for their exhilarating and intense live performances.
It was on the festival scene, however, that the band really began to make their mark outside Bristol. Early successes at Shambala, Knockengorroch and the Bath Fringe Festival helped to build Sheelanagig’s reputation. Camping and partying with the festival crowds, the band frequently augmented their early-afternoon ‘graveyard’ slots with late night guerrilla gigs in the bars and chill-out tents long after the main stages had shut down.
Three albums were recorded in quick succession: ‘Uncle Lung’ (2006), recorded with Portishead / Get the Blessing bassist Jim Barr at his studio in Bristol, sold well and was described by fRoots as a “high octane stuff…would liven any party and keep the floor full”, and by The Living Tradition as “a most invigorating debut” by a band with a “vitally energetic and full sound”.
“Baba Yaga’s Ball” (2007) was recorded at Real World Studios, and was again reviewed well with Living Tradition highlighting the album’s “high energy and incredible musicality”, while Folk and Roots praised the “quality of musicianship, the vibrancy and sheer joy” contained on the album.
“Freaks, Fools and Ghouls! Live” (2008) was a low-key release which the band did not distribute to the press. It was conceived as a way to document Sheelanagig’s evolution, and just as importantly to produce an album for a newer audience which was a more accurate reflection of their current live show.
Between recordings Sheelanagig have continued with a relentless gigging schedule in every imaginable venue, from clubs and theatres to arts centres and European street festivals and ever more high profile slots at UK festivals like Glastonbury, Green Man and Beautiful Days. This rigorous timetable has honed Sheelanagig's live performance into an intense experience, encompassing street theatre, elements of storytelling and acrobatics, it can provoke a frenzied reaction – flying drinks, mosh pits and stage invasions are hazards on a really good night. Although this has become the bands trademark they are still dedicated to creating music that can delight listeners with intricate and rhythmically diverse arrangements of traditional and composed music.
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