This Is How We Fly at The Pavilion Theatre, Dunlaoire, on November 12th 2016
If Prog-Trad-Jazz wasn’t already a thing, well it is now, and it has This Is How We Fly as its exponents-in-chief. These four brilliant performers had a half-empty Pavilion Theatre rapt for their economic ninety-minute set. Fusing elements of traditional Irish music, jazz and Appalachian rhythms it is no exaggeration to say that they are a unique proposition.
Comprising two Irish men, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh (of the Gloaming) on fiddle and Seán Mac Erlaine on clarinet and electronics; one Swede, Petter Berndalen on percussion; and one American, Nic Gareiss on percussive dance, they are a captivating live proposition. Ó Raghallaigh and Mac Erlaine stay left and right of the stage, allowing the percussionists to own the centre stage as they riff off each other in wholly organic way. Berndalen plays a small, customized kit, drawing a dazzling array of sounds with his deft hand and stick technique while Gareiss is truly captivating when he is in full flight, sliding, tapping and leaping across his amplified, salt-covered surface with a grin permanently etched on his face, and it’s not hard to see why.
Beginning with the aptly titled One Note, which, to be honest, sounds more like the introduction to the first “proper” song of the evening, The Bitter Sweet March, a song about “the ubiquity of mice”, the band are quickly into their stride. The ever-endearing Ó Raghallaigh takes a moment to address the audience, describing their sound as a “synesthetic blurring of sound and movement that we find as our own happy place”. It’s hard to beat that description.
Re Rua features Ó Raghallaigh actively detuning his 10-string Hardanger fiddle and Foreign Fields is based on a poem by his cousin. The eccentric Berndalen then decides, in a strange turn of events, to take us through the origin of every item of clothing he’s wearing, starting including the shoes he got in TK Maxx and his pants which date from 1946.
There follows an extended solo set, where each member of the group performs a party piece beginning with the beguiling Gareiss narrating a dance lesson. It lasts around 20 minutes but does serve to somewhat undermine the cohesion of this group, giving the impression instead of four solo performers who happen to play together occasionally, which, to be fair, they pretty much are.
The only bum note of the set is the encore, an interpretation of a traditional American song, which seemed to end before it got going, to the point where the audience sat in silence for a solid 4-5 seconds after it had ended waiting for it to get going, leading to the band having to awkwardly announce that the show was over.
They are about to launch a Fund:It campaign for their new album and based on this performance it sounds like a campaign well worth getting behind.