Black Country, New Road performing at Rockaway Beach Festival in 2020Paul Hudson/Flickr:

A policeman, a grandmother and a tiara-wielding fairy walk through a door. This is not the first line of a particularly excruciating joke; Black Country, New Road were arriving on stage in full costume. They never did explain why.

Formed in Cambridgeshire, BC,NR gained popularity for their unique combination of instruments, including violin, flute and saxophone, as well as their elegant lyricism. However, upon releasing their second album, Ants From Up There, in 2022, lead vocalist Isaac Wood left, citing mental health problems. Since then, the band have continued to produce music, with their latest record Live at Bush Hall consisting entirely of songs written after Wood’s departure.

“Part of BC,NR’s appeal has always been the limitless possibilities enabled by its size”

Sitting behind his drum kit, Charlie Wayne began to talk into the mic. Throughout the workshop, he took to the role of host with ease. Nevertheless, he seemed a little surprised to be there, noting how proud his mother was that he was lecturing at Cambridge, before promptly falling off his stool. It was this mixture of candid remarks and daftness that defined the workshop.

Black Country, New Road - 'Live at Bush Hall'YouTube/Black Country, New Road

The band offered unprecedented insight into their creative process. Not only did they dissect songs that any self-respecting fan would have memorised, but they also treated us to unheard material. When the band reached the climax of ‘I Won’t Always Love You’, however, the music stopped. The electricity had failed.

“Never had a more audacious move been pulled since Dave Grohl abandoned his drum kit”

Soon, the power was restored and Lewis Evans took the mic. Part of BC,NR’s appeal has always been the limitless possibilities enabled by its size. When Evans started the sing, the dynamic changed to chaotic effect. His style was reminiscent of former vocalist Isaac Wood. Yet, whilst Wood’s voice was shot through with anxiety and melancholy, Evans provides comfort and humour. Lewis claimed that he often finds fun in the saddest, most maudlin moments of songs, the heartbreak of ‘Bread Song’ ultimately still being about a piece of bread.

Lewis went on to discuss jokes hidden in the band’s songs. Who knew that ‘Chaos Space Marine’ contained a kernel of the little-known song ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’? With the removal of one note, Evans successfully ‘fucked the lawyers’ and ensured that we would never hear the song the same way.

When questioned about lyrics, the band became reticent for the first time. Wood’s lyrics were always deeply personal, making it difficult to find a new identity without him. This is clear from the problems they faced when compiling songs for Live at Bush Hall. However, this only adds to the feat of having written an album within a few months before performing it around the world.


Mountain View

‘BC,NR friends forever’: Live at Bush Hall review

Lastly, we heard a song that was barely a week old, the experience being like watching a sixth-form band jamming after school - though the band adamantly refused to call it “jamming”. The audience gasped as Charlie picked up a guitar. Never had a more audacious move been pulled since Dave Grohl abandoned his drum kit. Despite its rough edges, the track’s cathartic moments were just as beautiful as anything on Ants From Up There. May Kershaw’s discordant piano part required incredible precision and levity, whilst Georgia Ellery’s violin soared.

Whilst coping with Wood’s absence will continue to be challenging, BC,NR showed just how resilient they are, and how they work best cooperatively. One thing is certain: wherever they go and whatever they do next, they will do it together.