Have you ever heard drums sing a melody? A fiddle playing hide and seek with silence? A clarinet taking a dander along the winding course of a river? A pair of fleet feet having a lively conversation with all of the above?
Neither had I.
I don’t have a musical background. I have no qualifications or even understanding to begin to critique music, let alone the type of intellectual, groundbreaking music I was lucky enough to experience this evening. Thus, my disclaimer: Maybe all I say about this is completely away with the fairies and off-point. And if so, I apologise to you, music aficionados, for I’m just here to write about the gig. And even worse, my own subjective experience of it. I’ll leave the technicalities to those who understand them…
Which brings me to an interesting point. “This Is How We Fly” was the gig at The Model, Sligo tonight. The Model, which strives to be as accessible and welcoming as possible to all inhabitants of this town and county, and lovers of culture in all its forms. Even part-time dabblers in culture. Culture vultures, culture virgins, culture curators, culture degraders. The word starts to lose all meaning in repetition, and so it should. Because a gig like “This Is How We Fly” should be (and is) utterly accessible to everyone and anyone, regardless of their layers of cultural or musical understanding or education.
Case in point, the five-ish year old boy sitting in front of me for the duration. Sure, some of the slower moments bored him to fidgety floppiness, but by the end, for the last two numbers (my own favourites as well, might I add), he danced along with all the enthusiasm his rhythmic little heart possessed. He wasn’t concerned with the breathtaking mastery of their instruments these four men demonstrate, their effortless and perfectly spontaneous-seeming performances, the interplay of their musical heritage with the sheer force of creativity involved in making something so NEW… No. He just knew what he liked and he felt it in his core, so he danced.
I liked it all. I liked the way these energetic, passionate, positive people came together and showed us with all the excitement and freshness of that very five year old boy on Christmas morning what they’ve found and what they can make with it. I liked how they occasionally retreated into the shadows to let one member of the band at a time bask in the sunlight (which is what clarinet player Sean Mac Erlaine likened the main spot to), tell their story, use their voice along with their instrument to weave a new magic. I liked how their resistance, their holding back, had as much impact as their energetic and perfectly-pitched climaxes. I loved the interplay of soft and strong, light and dark, gentle and wild, modern and traditional, sound and silence.
Nic Gareiss somehow seems to hover an inch above the ground when he dances; lightly, lightly touching toes and subtly scratching boards, crunching salt and using edge-of -the-seat pauses to elevate himself even further.
Caoimhin O’Raghaillagh is one with his fiddle, enraptured by the music and his fellow performers throughout. Sean Mac Erlaine does spectacularly surprising things not only with his clarinet, bass clarinet and loop station, but also with his voice alone.
And the one who stole my heart, the endearingly kooky, melodic drummer, Petter Berndalen, whose touch is as light and accurate as a fine-tuned feather on his uniquely assembled selection of drums and bells, whose stories are wonderfully weird and personal and whose whole demeanour suggests exquisite delight throughout.
This group are high-end culture. Highest-end music. Stratospheric talent. But they are also genuine, gentle, gregarious and completely without pretension.
Don’t steer clear of these sorts of gigs just because they’re a bit different, a bit intimidating.
“This Is How We Fly” was FUN. And while I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface of what was technically going on on that stage, I was spellbound and thrilled and giddy as a five year old on Christmas morning.
And who doesn’t want to feel like that?