Raquy And The Cavemen CIBC Concert Stage, Harbourfront, Toronto ON - September 5, 2004

Raquy and the Cavemen's Dust, released at the beginning of the year, was one of the most notable fusions of Levantine riddims with hard rock and electronic touches. Most excitingly, this fusion is contained almost entirely in the songwriting and the playing; it doesn't sound studio-bound in the least. Touching down amid the heavily klezmerised Ashkenaz festival, Raquy may have been a little too intense for some of the bubbies and zaydes in the crowd, but their children and their children's children were swept up in the grooves. The Cavemen are composed of two multi-percussionists, a bassist, a woodwind player and husband Liron Peled, who played acoustic guitar and hand drums. Immediately the complexity of the music was apparent as bass lines chased percussion patterns against complex time signatures and microtonal harmonies. The opening tune's strummed yet foreboding chords on guitar added to the distinctive percussive harmonies. It was a remarkable demonstration of what Page and Plant have always wanted to do but have never succeeded at. As Peled peeled off one Zeppelin III riff after another, the energy increased and Raquy entered with the kemeche, or Iranian violin. She sawed away at dark harmonies against the guitar, her playing becoming more powerful as the soundman got a handle on how to mix the instrument. The crowd was intrigued but not enraptured until the next few pieces, which were dedicated to traditional forms. Accompanied by a quartet of hand drums, Raquy showed off her formidable command of the dumbek. She bent the pitch of notes, used a variety of striking techniques and even showed some choreographed moves with Liron — this performance was as much a clinic as a show. In fact, if this show had a weakness, it was Raquy's lack of confidence on stage in this festival setting, which was also evident in the inconsistent set pacing. However, each song was wonderful on its own merits, if not for the collective flow. The finale was a suitable climax, departing the Middle East for Bulgaria. Woodwind player Daphna Mor did Roland Kirk justice by jamming two recorders into her mouth and harmonising with the kemeche. Next time, I hope Liron will get into some of the thrashy guitars and menacing electronics that made Dust even more intense, but this was still a very satisfying afternoon.