Demon Barbers bring drum'n'bass to Morris dance, and folk music

The Inter Varsity Folk Dance Festival 2009 review

published: Wed 4th Mar 2009

Friday 27th February to Sunday 1st March 2009
University of Exeter, Stocker Rd, Exeter, Devon, UK MAP
£24 for the weekend, £15 for students or children (aged 7 to 16)
last updated: Fri 13th Feb 2009

This Saturday afternoon show has been organised thanks to National Lottery funding and brings to the IVFDF Exeter Festival the winners of Radio 2's Best Live Act at the their annual Folk Awards.

The Great Hall has been full of energetic dancing before the arrival of The Demon Barber Roadshow, the crowds have been being entertained by Pigs Might Fly who have had the audience up on their feet with their traditional music, and a showcase of some of the other professional artists at the festival who are holding workshops. Their set closes with Tara and Fernando performing an Argentinean Tango, and the dancing populous all sit to watch the performance.

The Demon Barbers take to the stage as everyone is getting their breath back and so the audience remain seated throughout the performance. Starting with 'The Good Old Days' the five piece of guitar, fiddle, melodeon and a thumping drums and bass rhythm section suggest we sing along, and we happily oblige.

The funky basslines and frenetic drumming continues into the 'The Ballad Of Minepit Shaw' and the band are joined by some traditional clog-dancing girls. The dancing is impressive, as are the little pockets of spirited dancers in the audience.

'The Bonny Labouring Boy' is a traditional song sung by fiddler Bryony Griffith with a foot stomping rhythm and an infectious clap along beat. The bands off centre instrumentation is interesting with drum'n'bass augmenting an almost ska like groove. Yet, it still marries well with the high jumping Dog Rose Morris who catch some big air leaps whilst still waving hankies around, and adding to the fiddle accompaniment with the bells attached to their legs, this is a new take on this traditional dance and they're the youngest Morris Men I've seen in some time.

Rebellion songs, tales of secret trysts, more impressive dancing, song titles like 'Katy Cruel' or 'Betsy Bell' and some fast fiddle playing, and it's all rather good, the pace picking up with each song, there's even a speedy clog solo by the two girls, who also perform a dance off against the drummer's beats, with some incredibly flourishing dancing.

Bryony Griffith sings a proper song as she calls it, a heaving Diamond Rappers song with no accompaniment, and her voice fills the cavernous room. As the last of the rousing applause dies, a processed beat pulses out and the boys from the band return wearing traditional dress of red sashes, and white shirts, to perform a Rapper Sword, a traditional North East England sword dance, which is incredible to watch. The swords entwine, the fiddle starts to get faster. The clog wearers tumble, and spin - what a show, well worth watching.

The band finish with a pacey re-working of Grateful Dead's 'Friend Of the Devil', and the set has flown by. I hope this is the future of traditional dance and music. in the case of some of the dance forms, which have been dwindling in popularity, this is just the boost they need, it's time Morris dancing had a revamp like this. As for the music combining drum'n'bass and traditional instruments is I think a positive development. I'm expecting the crowd to be less impressed, I'm thinking of Dylan when he went electric but it's much more readily received than I anticipated.
review by: Scott Williams

Friday 27th February to Sunday 1st March 2009
University of Exeter, Stocker Rd, Exeter, Devon, UK MAP
£24 for the weekend, £15 for students or children (aged 7 to 16)
last updated: Fri 13th Feb 2009


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