Gig Review: Boat To Row @ The Exchange 21/2/16

by Polly Hember



Birmingham-based folk quintet Boat To Row came to the Exchange in Bristol on an otherwise quiet Sunday night, bringing fresh tracks from their new album Tightrope that they have just released with their own record label Nocturne. Drawing on classic English folk, with soft pastoral influences running throughout their melodies, they have produced a complex, sophisticated and eclectic sound that was a pleasure to listen to.


The Exchange had organised a full folky line up, with three support acts to set the tone for BTR. Layla Rehman and Funeral for Bird started off the night, and we caught singer-songwriter Alanna Burrows’ last few songs, which were delicate, innocent and sugary sweet.


Boat To Row have opened for Johnny Flynn, Willy Mason, toured with the likes of Dog Is Dead, and have launched themselves into the indie-folk scene. However, their focus on song-writing, experimental melodies and instrumental arrangements is wholly unique. Their use of the violin and electric guitar added a contemporary edge to the metronomic rhythms, cascading chords and traditional folk vocal harmonies.


The Exchange itself can hold 250 people at maximum capacity, however BTR saw a relaxed group of 20 or so scattered around the floor. For other touring bands, this small turnout would risk disappointment and destroy the atmosphere that live music thrives on. However, the small audience did not dampen BTR’s performance and instead contributed to a mellow, truly intimate experience that is perhaps one of the best ways to appreciate the melodic swells, enchanting lyrics and soft harmonies. Frontmen Mike King and Ben Gilchrist were charismatic and charming, and delivered the perfect relaxed Sunday evening whilst showcasing their accomplished and complex new album.


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This album launch was quieter than it should have been, but it did nothing to quell the talented musicians on stage. Boat To Row have cast off and set sail. It may be that they’re floating in gentle waters, but their new album and approach to contemporary folk has created ripples. This boat is definitely one to keep an eye on in the vast oceon of indie-folk. 


Check out their music below, and happy sailing!

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