Nearly four years after their first public outing at the catalytic Dublin Fringe Festival (http://journalofmusic.com/focus/departure and http://tradreview.com/2010/09/19/caoimhin-o-raghallaigh-sean-og-petter-berndalen-nic-gareiss-fringe/), This is How We Fly returned to their debut venue, The Grand Social on the north bank of the Liffey, this time under the wing of the great Improvised Music Company. At that first gig, their guest on stage was none other than, just-landed-in-Dublin-by-coincidence Dan Trueman, one of Caoimhín O Raghallaigh’s closest musical associates and fellow hardangerer; on this occasion his other hardanger-playing American pal, Cleek Schrey, happened to be in town with his fiddling partner, Stephanie Coleman (http://www.cleekandsteph.com/), and they did a great Appalachian double fiddle support set that could have gone on all night and I would have been happy. (“Their music eschews fusion and embraces repertoire, seeking to probe the corners, hollows, and curvatures of traditional American music in search of new possibilities of interpretation.”)
For me, these happy coincidences point to something special about this band, This is How We Fly. I don’t go in for any of that “law of attraction” crap (how naive, slippery and dangerous is that nonsense!), but I do see evidence of a certain positive way of behaving bringing about positive experiences that may then appear as “more than simply coincidence”. As Barra O Sheaghdha rightly said in that first review of their live performance, This is How We Fly “broadcast almost a surfeit of charm”. Handsome fellas, quietly comfortable in their own skins, and quirkily charismatic, they could almost just chat together onstage and hold the attention of an audience of curious onlookers for an hour or so. Add in the talent, creativity and hard-work-derived musical abilities and you’ve got a sure-fire success on your hands, and a lot of people wanting to get close and do good for these guys.
Anyhow, here are a few things I’d observe about This Is How We Fly:
1. See them
If you haven’t seen them live yet, go and see something unique in the Irish music world either tonight (if you fly) in the Triskel Arts Centre, Cork or tomorrow at the Baltimore Fiddle Fair. It’s simple music, brilliantly played and beautifully presented with a hint of theatricality and a soupcon of instruction (in how to listen, in how to perform, in how music is constructed, in the folk dances of America, in the rhythms of Swedish folk music, in how to improvise …).
10 – 05 – 2014 Baltimore Fiddle Fair, Co. Cork, Ireland
09 – 05 – 2014 Triskel Arts Centre, Cork, Ireland
2. See them again
If you’ve seen them already and are wondering whether to bother going again, that’s a bad sign. That suggests that the charm and music didn’t work the first time so maybe it never will. Didn’t you find yourself saying, “My God, these guys are clever/ these guys are creative/ these guys think about their art/ these guys are imaginative in how they perform … I think I’ll have to see them again?” I don’t think there was any doubt in most of the audience last night that multiple doses of TIHWF would be a good thing.
3. If you see them again, you’ll notice
They are playing mostly the same material but with the same levels of enthusiasm and passion and energy they displayed on that first night, and because they aren’t the kind of people to sit back and go through the motions, they are changing the material considerably, exploring it, shape-shifting all the time, not just at an ad hoc improvisational level but more fundamentally too. For instance, since I saw them in The Mermaid in Bray and/or the Riverbank in Newbridge last year (http://tradreview.com/2013/09/26/this-is-how-we-fly-at-the-riverbank/) Ó Raghallaigh has moved to the other side of the stage positioning himself up close and personal with Berndalen on the drums (percussive fiddle kit!) and if I’m not mistaken is letting MacErlaine create a lot more of the melodic momentum these days, while he explores more contrasting sounds and rhythms on the 5×5.
4. If you don’t see them again, you’ll be missing
A show-stopping overture-like opening set (a Nils Økland tune with Cead Moladh le Muire) that lifts you up and takes you on a dramatically varied and beautifully improvised journey across the instruments and interactions, modes and moods of the group; those spirit-lifting simple motifs that latch on to your inner ear and keep popping up days and weeks later; those mood-changing improvisations that complicate the proceedings and bring you down to earth, as it were; Nic dancing … and a whole lot more besides that I’ll try to get back to later …