A Hawk And A Hacksaw - Music Box
Live Review

A Hawk And A Hacksaw – Music Box, Manchester

In order to retain his mysterious edge, Graham Van Pelt lead man of the Montreal based quintet, Miracle Fortress, letting his roving guitarist and Sister Jessie S fill in the blanks. The guitarist entertains with her dry humour and friendly comments, whilst technical formalities are sorted out. Early gatherers think nothing of treading onto the hallowed wooden floor that represents the front area upon her requests. Already they are congratulating themselves on the move, upon hearing the bending Four Tet spirited intro to the Stone Roses drum march featuring, ‘This Thing About You’. Simple lyrics are pitched with mumbling poise by Van Pelt. The acoustics hold out in this rugged basement of a venue and the extra guitar fuzz and two drummers create a friendly, hooky and slightly murky vibe.

It is this dual percussion drive that adds buoyancy and vim, to The Magic Numbers infiltrated by The Sonic Youth soiree of ‘Have You Seen in Your Dreams’. This Sparks off some gentle swaying from an audience that is contentedly soaking up the feel-good vibe. A move away from material on their engaging debut album ‘Five Roses’, in the form of ‘Hanky Panky’ adds a dose of cheeky provocation to bring smiles to faces. A natural conclusion to a brisk and melodically potent set is Byrds fused and disco flavoured gee up ‘Maybe Lately’. Rough Trade Records may yet again be justified in casting their net in wider, less navigated waters in order to maintain a fresh roster.

A great deal has changed since New Mexicans, A Hawk And Hacksaw (AHAAH) frequented these shores in 2006 in order to promote their violin and harmonica brandishing album, ‘The Way The Wind Blows’. For a start, ex Neutral Milk Hotel drummer and firmly the face of AHAAH, Jeremy Barnes has lost the percussion yielding fun hat now that he’s passed thirty. Also, two accomplished Hungarian musicians keep him and violinist, Heather Trost company onstage. Latest release ‘And The Hungar Ensemble’, represents a bolder take on their largely instrumental foraging through blues to skirt classical music with stop off at gypsy-folk, en route. Heather Trost delivers a noire led violin kick and a feisty violin march early in, illuminating the range of these accomplished musicians on display.

A one hour and forty minutes set passes by and the deft range sends gatherers into a comfort zone. Jeremy Barnes makes you question why the accordion hasn’t taken over from the keyboard in this day and age. Given the robust thrust and aching strut he conjures from his instrument that is. A highlight is reached when he spends the encore in the middle of the crowd, drawing everybody in with his focused serenading of Trost. Then the mysterious and focused femme moves to the front of the stage, to give the romantic, classic tinged encore more heart and personality. With vocals being sparse to say the least, during this set, Barnes and Trost show a rare, continuing boldness. They continue stretch their instruments beyond conventional boundaries, to mesmerizing effect.



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