Martin Longley wrestles through the crowd at the latest home turf gig by The Destroyers.
Hare & Hounds
The Destroyers have now become the ideal festival band, but the problem with that evolution is that the translation back to a ‘regular’ gig leaves them seeming larger than the life of a ‘usual’ Saturday night.
Nevertheless, the upstairs room of the Hare’n’Hounds was so full that it must almost have been sold out, and the seething crowd was intent on recreating a micro-festival party vibration. With this local band, all the musical (and physical) gestures have grown into an exaggerated scale, the singalongs, the crowd instructions and the highly accessible, almost-novelty vocal content.
The outfit’s orientation has shifted since the departure of poet Paul Murphy. This gang, which seems to enlarge every time they play, are tightly rehearsed, a fighting unit of mostly horn players (trumpets, trombone, clarinet, flute, whistles, tuba) who romp with virtuosity, aided by a punchy mix of sonic equality. They also boast guitars, accordion, electric bass and drums.
The heart is Balkan, but several of the songs wander far out into a descendant fusion zone, co-opting multiple elements, usually those that are believed to be more entertaining. Indeed they are, on the first occasion that they’re witnessed.
Agile fiddler Leighton Hargreaves has become the frontman, vocalising on songs which are pontificating about big brother spying activities, performing rights licenses and the band’s own compact disc distributions. Some of these songs revolve around very simple vocal repetitions, and the concepts can become tired after the first hearing.
There are also an abundance of visual clowning routines, but many of these, such as the whistle and fiddle juggling-with-two-bows, are also regular staples. The Vortex Cannon appears to be a new addition, a song replete with a prop that’s biggest e-cigarette we’ve ever seen.
They closed with their longest, purest instrumental run, illustrating that with hardcore reproducers and/or genuine Balkan practitioners being so popular on the touring circuit, it wouldn’t be too much of a risk for The Destroyers to dive back in to the deeply traditional instrumental repertoire, as they often did when beginning their career journey.