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Sunday, March 13, 2005

Big in Transylvania

Tilley's can be a bit of an irritating place to see a band, because it costs too much and the service is distracted and surly. But it is an intimate room, and I have seen some amazing shows there. A good ten years ago, I saw Tiddas play. Kev Carmody jumped up to join the encore and sang "From little things big things grow" while everyone in the audience linked hands and wept. Last year I saw iOTA. He is just astonishingly talented, and it felt like everyone in the room was holding their breath together until the end of each song.

Last night I saw the Translyvaniacs, who were nearly that good. The only thing that held them back was the first violinist's endless prattling between songs, and that there's no room to dance like a gypsy. They were joined by a further two fiddle players, one from Transylvania and a Hungarian.

The music is just beautiful, if you like that Eastern European village vibe. (My auntie came to pick up our son yesterday and asked where we were off to. When I told her we were going to see some gypsy music she told me not to wear any jewellery. Tying your horses up outside would be similarly discouraged, I imagine.)

The performers' dancing was spectacular. They have boys dancing, and couple dancing. (Ladies please bring a plate.) The boy's dancing involves a great deal of athletic jumping about smacking your feet with your hands in mid air and stamping fiercely. Marvellous! The couples dancing has a really interesting dynamic. It involves a lot of the chick standing there with one arm on the bloke's shoulder, gazing admiringly at him while he carries on with the foot slapping and stamping and occasional hearty shout outs. Then he spins her 'round and 'round about a hundred times. Now this may be a means to see if your potential wife is a giddy type, but I think it's probably because it makes her big black skirt swirl up and billow out, and you can look at her black stockinged legs and the tight white embroidered petticoat that falls to her knees.

The female dancer last night looked like a plump village woman. She had dainty ankles and a beautiful smile and she wore a black and red flowered headscarf. When I snuck up the front to watch more closely, I could see the happiness in her eyes as she smiled at her partner after a particularly impressive move.

I mentioned the endless prattling, but not the frustration it caused. You should not be able to go to the toilet AND nip out the front and have a fag AND buy a round of drinks between songs. Of course, there was some interesting stuff in the prattling, including a description of the dynamic between the players and dancers. Before amplification was common, the revellers would swirl around the room, and when you got to the front near the band, they would play the special songs from your village. And when anyone started dancing, the musicians would turn to face them, and would play to them. It is extremely poor form to stop playing while someone is dancing. At this point in the lecture our friend Cammy had had quite enough and said "For God's sake, somebody get up!"

Even that didn't work, but eventually the beautiful, entrancing music took over again. It was no contest between that and the amateur SBS documentary voice over.