The Traverse Theatre
Well, what can I say except that we were blown away by this band’s energy and talent…wow-wow-wow-WOW! The band was made up of 3 members: John Langan (lead vocals, guitar, cajόn & foot tambourine), Dave Tunstall (double bass, backing vocals) and Alastair Caplan on (fiddle, backing vocals). The venue was super relaxed and cosy while still being large enough to accommodate a large, excitable crowd.
Their synergy was such that it truly sounded as though every song was a high quality recording- every note, every explosive beat and harmony in perfect co-ordination throughout. These dudes are professionals to the core and clearly love nothing more than entertaining a roomful of sweaty revellers- by the time the 5th song burst forth, as though fired from a musical cannon, the movement in the room had reached a wild crescendo and this crazy tempo was maintained until well near the end- as the show ran rather late, we were forced to sneak away a song or two before the end and trying to get through the mass of human jumping beans without getting moshed in the face was no easy task!
What started off with a rich but slow and moving Mexican folk ballad, ‘La LLorona’ (and as I am half Spanish I can tell you that his accent was really very good), quickly gave way to a powerhouse of explosively energetic songs from many different cultures including Romany Gypsy, Scottish, Irish, Latin American and Spanish, with a little bit of Jewish thrown in and a sprinkling of Cajun on top.
Song 2 started off sounding a little like a Cajun melody, slow but gaining momentum, and was woven through with a definite touch of the Hillbilly- anyone with nerve endings in their feet was compelled to tap them, at the very least. This was followed by a sort of tango (I may as well say now that all their songs are ‘sort of this’ or ‘sort of that’…every single one seems to draw on a veritable melting pot of influences and in the space of one tune you feel you have travelled from one continent to another!) with some Andean harmonies thrown in and a definite nod to Rodrigo & Gabriela.
Song 4, ‘The Winter Song’, took us back to a more mellow sound, and very fitting it was, too, with the main message being one of accepting and embracing this dark, cold season for the beauty it brings, even if we have to look a little harder for it through the rain and long nights.
The 5th song was a rousing, Rumanian ditty all about a man desperately in love with his son’s wife, potentially leading to incestuous relations but apparently drawing back at the last moment, before he commits a crime too terrible to live with…phew! Next was a song about Aquaplaning. Yes, you read right, Aquaplaning. Don’t even ask me why or…what…or how or…hopefully this will illustrate the enormous scope and invention of this band and incite you to go an d see them at the next available opportunity.
Set 2 included, amongst others, a song about a drunken dwarf, followed by what is, frankly, the most bizarre composition I’ve ever heard (and we’d already heard a few of those in Set 1), named ‘A Formidable Marinade’ (originally by Amanda Palmer), and here’s a sample of the lyrics to prove it:
‘If sodomy is not just for animals
Human flesh, is not just for cannibals
I’ll feast on your body if you’ll feast on mine
‘Cause blood is thicker, and redder than wine
Oh, lay ourselves out, upon the table
Ravish each other ’till we’re no longer able
When juices mix in the heat of the fray
It’ll make a formidable marinade’
To sum up, most of this is not the sort of music I would necessarily listen to for relaxation at home but for a stompingly good night out dancing ye cannae beat it! These boys have been well known on the scene since winning the Danny Kyle Open Stage Award at Celtic Connections 2008 and have released 2 albums to date: ‘Bones of Contention’ in 2013 and ‘I’m Alive/Live at The Globe’ in 2015. I had a quiet word with John Langan during the break and he told me they may be playing at Kelburn Garden Party next year, amongst many other festivals and venues so, as it’s one of my favourite places, I will definitely be heading back up there and make sure I catch these talented madmen again, this time in a more rural setting.
My only negative comment is the timekeeping- they started a full 20 minutes late and then took a good half hour’s break- for what was approximately a 1.5h gig, this was pushing the limits, especially for those who had to be elsewhere at a certain time afterwards. I’m not sure if this was down to the band, the management or issues with the space itself but this could easily be improved and of course did not detract from the quality of the performance. Add to this that fact that these lads are very easy on the eye so I think we can forgive them this small transgression. Go and see them- and take a change of clothes for after as you’ll be soaked in sweat from all the dancing.
Reviewer : Maya Moreno