Date: May 07 2012
Katoomba RSL, May 5
Reviewed by John Shand
WHILE the Iron Curtain was up, no one saw the eastern European invasion coming.
After a century of African American influences dominating popular music, and while we were wondering if the status quo would last forever, gypsy and Balkan music sneaked up on us and possibly answered that question.
The genre is now replicated around the world, and blended with other idioms. Rather than thrashing electric guitars, countless male musicians now sport waistcoats and fedoras and play accordions and fiddles.
Frogfest is the splendid brainchild of Dave Carr, ''frog'' being his shorthand for ''progressive folk''. In this particular edition the gypsy/Balkan element was the nearest thing to a common thread, alongside an almost complete absence of singing.
Mr Fibby replaced singing with storytelling, courtesy of the very funny Adam Hadley with his Transylvanian accent and bent, black, homemade fairytales.
A violin/guitar/cello trio created a deft, programmatic accompaniment to the stories, and broke up Hadley's mania with intricate, enchanting instrumentals that touched on eastern European classical and folk traditions.
The performance contained a delicious sense that anything could happen, whether story-wise, music-wise or entertainment-wise.
A quartet version of BOB was the night's black sheep, the influences on the music of Ben Hauptmann (electric guitar) coming more from Africa and the Caribbean than eastern Europe, but the expert, jazzy improvising was a worthy foil for all the swirling fiddles.
Dave Carr's Fabulous Contraption found the heavy-metal implications in anything from flamenco to Americana, with Carr playing acoustic guitar and banjo.
However, overly robust drumming and a somewhat arch cleverness stripped the music of something of the charm and subtlety it could have had.
A similar criticism could be levelled at the Crooked Fiddle Band, although some surging energy did underpin their frantic gypsy-fired melodies, led by Jess Randall's violin.
The Woohoo Revue provided an appropriate finale with their big, exuberant, Balkan-inspired sound, featuring violin, trumpet, alto saxophone, 12-string guitar, bass and drums.
They might not be quite in the Goran Bregovic league, but they did provide a varied repertoire, driving rhythms, raucous, skilful soloing and a very lively stage show. This might just be rock's successor.
Frogfest (with various bands) is at the Brass Monkey, Cronulla, on Wednesday and the Red Rattler, Marrickville, on Saturday.
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