Published Jul 02, 2011I'd have liked to have seen Django Reinhardt inspire people to do the Funky Chicken. Gypsophilia did just that. The Halifax gypsy swing band swung into Saskatoon for two shows, and the club date in the non-desrcript but friendly Bassment was by far a more attentive audience than the "oh look, there's music" crowd in the park hours earlier.
The subterranean club was filled evenly between older folks up front and college kids in the back, but there was no generation gap here. The ECMA-winning band is composed of three guitarists, bass, violin and trumpet, but takes gypsy swing in new directions thanks to unusual arrangements and instrumental touches. Within a few songs, people were jigging right along, but they didn't hesitate to suddenly drop into a much more serious almost noirish sequence before returning to a breezy groove.
The self-described "Jamaican meets Jewish" "Hora Ska" worked on both levels, with staccato guitar giving way to Gina Burgess's keening violin and leader Ross Burns deploying a güiro for that scraped percussion sound for which ska is famous. All the silliness (and there was plenty of it) could have been off-putting were it not consistently inventive and well executed. "Super Bowl Party" (forthcoming on their new album Constellation) featured a coda of "We Are the Champions." For good measure, they even threw in a quote from "Another One Bites the Dust" during the second set to confirm their fandom.
The songwriting and care in arrangements eclipsed the playing, which seemed a little ragged in the first set, only to kick into a higher gear in the second. Burns variously brought out a pandeiro, cuíca and triangle to lend an unexpected but totally worthwhile Brazilian element to their music. A standout track was "Agricola and Sarah," which was tender and beautiful with an almost post-rock arrangement and a strong if sideways blues feel.
As for the Funky Chicken, that moment was another highlight of the second set; but it was a mere whistle stop in Funkytown before the band continued their vagabond journey through myriad grooves.