After fifteen consecutive months of Winter (or however long it's been), it's easy to fall into a type of narcoleptic haze. There's really no cure until the temperature rises, or at least until the days get longer and the air smells fresher. Last night was one of those late-Winter evenings that calls for something...anything...to break the spell.
So, as most of our region nested, watching another sloppy snowstorm outside (and the Oscars), we took a harrowing, high-speed drive up I-91 to Northampton's Iron Horse Music Hall to hear the Irish virutoso fiddler Martin Hayes and guitarist Dennis Cahill. The two have the most amazing musical mind-meld I've seen, or heard, in a long time.
I got to witness this up close last summer, when the duo came to our Studio 3 for a concert and conversation on Where We Live. At the time, we were talking about their new CD, "Welcome Here Again" - which I described at the time as "quiet, intimate and lyrical" and "more like evening chamber music than a night at a raucous pub." Which was, I think, right on the money. And their morning concert with Where We Live reflected that pensive mood (although at times they did get things moving pretty well).
Last night, in front of a pretty large crowd, which Hayes said was "full of accomplished musicians" - they showed a different side. They tore it up. Hair and bow-hair flying - flash and dazzle. Rock 'n Roll stuff.
For those who think of traditional Irish music as their parent's thing (picture a turtlenecked Chieftans concert), this was a wakeup call. Sitting not more than two feet apart, the Clare-born fiddler Hayes, and his long-time collaborator from Chicago locked in on long sets of songs, reels, jigs and marches that moved from heartbreaking to frantic to bent-note blues. While there was a fair amount of foot-stomping from the crowd, most of us just sat, mouths open, waiting for each set to end - then to explode.
As we walked back out into the cold, an older woman asked us if we liked the show. "I'm from Clare," she said - so excited she couldn't contain herself. "They made me want to dance," she told us. Well said.
The next time they're playing locally? March 9 at Joe's Pub in NYC. To get a sense for yourself, watch this video of the group playing (and check out the Gaelic-speaking presenter).
- Listen to Where We Live's concert from 2008 with Hayes and Cahill
- You can read more about the group on the Iron Horse's blog
- You can hear some more samples of their music on the band's website