A Hawk And A Hacksaw
Jack Rose and The Hun Hangár EnsembleEdit this event
- Bush Hall, Hammersmith »
Balkan folk music: it’s a genre that’s been bandied about a lot in the last six months, but it’s pretty much all been linked to the relative success of Beirut. Unlike Zach Condon, however, his friends Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost from A Hawk And A Hacksaw journeyed to Eastern Europe before recording their latest album,_ The Way the Wind Blows_. In fact, they made said LP with celebrated Romanian folk outfit Fanfare Ciocarlia, and now Barnes and Trost actually live in Budapest. So, proper Eastern European folk, then. But more of them in a minute.
The last time I saw Jack Rose was Upstairs at the Garage, quite a few years ago. He was supporting someone else, and there was a small crowd of middle-aged men at the front, standing with rapt attention as Jack played his mesmerising, and quite possibly improvised instrumental acoustic tunes. At the back everyone else hung around chatting, much to the anger of the middle-aged men who would periodically turn round and scream “shut up!” at everyone else. Tonight, it’s pretty much the same, except with more people and without the screaming. I mean, the man’s clearly talented, I can kind of appreciate what he’s doing, and in a quieter and more reverent place Rose’s music might begin to transport me to dusty canyons and the like… but tonight I’m really not feeling it. Maybe I need to be older.
The last time I saw A Hawk And A Hacksaw it was just the two of them, with Barnes acting as a sort of one man band – operating drums with his feet, and hitting thing with sticks attached to his knees and bell-bedecked hat (see the band’s new DVD/EP for some amazing footage of this – Ed). Tonight he doesn’t need to do all that (apart from the feet drums) because he’s got a band of four virtuoso Hungarian musicians with him, who call themselves The Hun Hangar Ensemble.
They’re amazing! Expert musicianship is not always what I look for at gigs, but tonight it’s so right. Although all six of them are brilliant, the star of the show is the big guy at the back playing the cimbalom, an instrument I hadn’t come across before, which is basically a big horizontal stringed instrument which is struck with sticks. He got probably the biggest cheer of the night after an extended cimbalom solo.
Although there are a few familiar songs from AHAAH’s back catalogue, which sound very fine indeed, tonight is all about the collaboration with the Ensemble. They play for almost two hours (with a ten-minute break, “for a glass of wine”), and most of the songs are unfamiliar. Some are probably on the new EP, unsurprisingly called A Hawk and a Hacksaw and the Hun Hangar Ensemble; some of them are traditional folk songs; and some are just folk-jazz improv. But the unfamiliarity doesn’t matter: there’s just too much to enjoy, right from the opening procession into the crowd, complete with masks, drums and rattles, to a similar closing procession. And, in between, the mad energy, great skills and sheer enjoyment of their folk-waltzes and wig-outs.
At the heart of it, there seems to be a common thread running through European folk music. One song which Jeremy introduced as a “Transylvanian folk dance song” probably wouldn’t have felt out of place at a Scottish ceilidh. It seems to me that the ingredients for a good dance are actually pretty simple. Certainly, the up-for-it audience who were much more of an indie crowd than old bearded folkies thought so too. Never mind new rave with its synths and dayglo – all you need for a good time is some fiddles, an accordion and (probably) a decent bottle of spirits. Rave on.
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