London’s XOYO venue refrained from being its usual sweltering, over-crowded self for Wednesday night’s dual folk performers. Pleasantly bustling with an eclectic array of listeners in many ways it was a gig of two parts: British, often humorous folk songs and Balkan instrumentals brought to us from Dan Haywood’s New Hawks and Jeremy Barnes’ A Hawk and a Hacksaw respectively.
Dan Haywood has a lot to say, on and off stage it seems. His band’s recent debut recording, five years in the making, is a full to bursting collection of no less than 32 tracks, something of the John Darnielle about him perhaps with such skills at prolificness. The onstage self is an eccentric Northern frontman with deadpan delivery that brings chuckles and smiles even when simply declaring: “this next song is about a horse”. There’s something altogether friendly, relaxing, even comically unnerving at times about his demeanor throughout. He’s an artist to watch and his live band of deft ability in transporting a bog standard basement venue as if to an outdoor folk festival somewhere in the English countryside.
The six-piece band’s set comprised of songs which flitted between folky laments, coupled with intricate Celtic fiddle from two onstage violinists, to more bizarre and lightly psychedelic flirtations which would see Haywood stand nicely (though perhaps uneasily) beside David Thomas Broughton’s spontaneous, alternative folk performances. And yet while the New Hawks were a hoedown revelation, much of the audience’s contended nattering was the downside that was felt for those who perhaps too late would realise the talents missed in that opening performance.
Hawk and a Hacksaw’s February 2011 release Cervantine found itself the main focus of their headline set – frantic Gypsy folk with Spanish inflected accordion from Barnes at its centre, with the passion and intensity with which the duo perform the most transfixing aspect of this affair. In contrast to openers, Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost’s intricate Eastern European jigs provided introspection and contemplation in-spite of the high tempo reels of fingerwork Trost’s violin skills exposed, the duos often unison-style of performing later incorporating a Leslie Feist cover into their repertoire. In taking inspiration from Eastern Europe, Turkish folk and Israel’s traditional musical scope, Hawk and a Hacksaw’s seesawing from original compositions to reworkings of traditional world music was as beguiling as it was intoxicating.
Review by Melanie McGovern
Photos by Michael Farrant (All Rights Reserved)