The Beachland Tavern was pretty packed last night, especially considering it was a Monday. I'll admit being surprised by this, particularly in light of the disagreement I'd had with another friend the day before about how attendance for last night's A Hawk and a Hacksaw show would be. She said it would be busy, I said it wouldn't be. After all, The Horse's Ha show was on a similar night and it was totally dead, and that these two bands ought to be attracting the same kind of crowd. The same exact crowd. She said it would be busy and that while she didn't know The Horse's Ha, she did say that A Hawk and a Hacksaw had opened for Andrew Bird a while before and that would prove the difference. I didn't think that would be the case.
I was wrong.
I had forgotten the hipster factor.
The crowd was thick with them last night, raising the temperature of the room at least 10 degrees as well as that terrible trend of indignance I do my best to keep bottled up but don't always succeed at restraining.
Jeremy Barnes and his fellow performers did their thing and they did it well. Barnes is a proficient accordian player, and Heather Trost is even better on the strings. My favorite dude in the band was the tuba player, though, perhaps because in my own brass band days I was pretty handy with that instrument myself. The foursome (which included a trumpet player) played hard and inspired and with sincerity. The sound was not gimmicky in the least - you can tell that Barnes breathes and lives for the culture of this part of the world and respects it deeply. I like that and was happy to see it come out in their performance. It all went so well and so real, in fact, that had you closed your eyes, you'd have been able to convince yourself this was actually a Bulgarian/Turkish/Hungarian folk group on some State Department sponsored cultural exchange.
Only it wasn't. It was a bunch of white folks from the USA playing their best (and laudable) interpretation of that music. That's fine - nothing necessarily imperialistic or opportunistic there, and as noted above, they do a pretty good job of paying homage to their sound's origin. But, take away the Neutral Milk Hotel cred and the frontman's slashing cop 'stache, and as I perhaps too cynically said to my pal at the show, there guys would be a band marching in a small-town Gypsy Day parade. And there wouldn't have been a soul in the room.
What struck me as a bit imperialistic and opportunistic and definitely gimmicky was the audience. Decked out in their thrift store flannel finest, what are the odds that these same folks would've attended the aforementioned hypothetical State Department tour? None. They certainly wouldn't be pulling the dick move like the dipshit from one of the opening bands, the chubby dude with the bad hair, all drunk and doing his mocking version of a generic Eastern European folk dance based on something they hazily remembered from a childhood viewing of Fiddler on the Roof. (Speaking of which, can I give a shout-out to Topol? That dude seriously rules. He was one of my father's heroes when I was a small child and I have fond afternoons of watching him on video tapes on sluggish Sunday afternoons.)
3 years ago