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A Hawk and a Hacksaw show review

September 25, 2009

Jeremy Barnes actually answers e-mails. It’s nice. I’m keeping them off the record for now, but the conversation is encouraging.

As for the show last weekend:

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I won’t bother discussing the openers because both were completely blah. I’m surprised I remember either of their names at this point.

A Hawk and a Hacksaw, though, was fantastic. I went in with no real expectation, both because I haven’t listened too much to any of the gypsy folk band’s recorded material and because I don’t go to a lot of concerts with instrumental acts. On top of that, my feet hurt and my whole body was tired after spending the whole day wandering around the greater DC area (including the fantastic National Zoo, where I saw one of these, these and these).

So there was a chance I might not be all that interested.

But I was. I so was. Barnes led the band with his accordion, but it was the total package — mostly Heather Trost’s violin shredding, but certainly in part the tuba, trumpet, bouzouki, etc. the rest of the band offered — that made the performance so indelible.

After about 45 minutes on stage, the band took to the floor for another few songs, unmic’d and in the middle of the crowd. There are only a few sorts of bands who can pull this off, and only in a few sorts of venues. But when it works, it’s wonderful. And it worked.

Playing in the crowd puts the band on a level plane. It demystifies them in a way the pedestal of the stage cannot. The sound is absorbed into the crowd and the whole experience is so organic and natural that, as easy as it is to write of an accordion-led band as “quirky,” is so human that the band gets lost in the crowd. No longer is there a dichotomy between performer and audience; everyone is a part of something.

After the band disappeared backstage, the audience begged for an encore. Barnes and Trost returned to the floor and played a song or two in front of the stage, not more than a few feet from me. As I was sort of behind them (or at least they had their backs to me), my eyes began to wander, and they caught a giant mirror on the far wall. In the reflection, I saw Jeremy Barnes, and I saw myself, standing right behind him. I saw us both on the same plane.

In my experience thus far, I’ve tended to get a bit starstruck when it comes to these E6 people. On the whole, I’m not the sort of person this happens to easily, but this is obviously a unique situation and is something I need to get over. Seeing Barnes on the same level as me, seeing that we were both just people, went a long way in doing that. We are all just people, and this is not the first time the Elephant Six has reminded me of that.

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