This was one of those rare occasions when you have no idea what to expect from a gig. ‘O Bro: A musical celebration of the Coen Brothers’ was an inspiring musical treat, a fitting tribute to some of the film world’s most notable scores with an eclectic mix of musicians as diverse as the films themselves.
The evening was full of surprises, with intriguing never-heard-before instruments (a clawhammer banjo, pimped up Gramaphone, a saw and bicycle wheel drum to name just a few), plenty of audience participation including some impressive whistling, and for me personally, a new found love of country and blues and shiny new acts to add to my music collection.
A heavenly sounding, fresh from the fields, local choir kicked off proceedings and set the scene for what was to follow. The beautiful and hugely talented Carrivick Sisters brought a lovely up-tempo, bluegrass feel to the room, an impressive collection of instruments, tight harmonies that only twins can achieve and some fresh and well-received original songs amongst some Coen classics.
The enigmatic Thomas Truax followed with a bizarre and energetic set, ingenius inventor of ‘Mother superior’ (a motorized drum machine made of bike wheels) and a pimped up Gramaphone known as ‘The Hornicator’ he used every inch of St George’s to deliver his Coen covers including ‘You are my Sunshine’ and unique-sounding originals notably ‘Full Moon over Wowtown’ complete with torchlit moon. My jaw sat firmly on the floor throughout.
His exit made way for the very wonderful, if a little raspy sounding, Kirsty McGee and her double bass playing guest. Her confidence and natural affinity with the music is mesmerizing, a true musical genius with a voice (and a saw) to die for.
Johnny Lynch, aka The Pictish Trail bowled the audience over with extraordinary vocals (you could hear a pin-drop at one point) and rib-tickling comic banter to rival any established comedian. He is clearly a Coen fan. Despite technical glitches, his set included a hypnotic, heartfelt Coen cover and ramshackled remix of the Fargo theme tune.
My toes started tapping the minute Austrailian singer/songwriter Emily Barker arrived on stage with The Red Clay Halo trio, twenty minutes of delightful, melodic interpretations of covers ‘I’ll Fly Away’ from O Brother Where Art Thou’ and an all-act-finale of ‘Will the Circle be Unbroken’ complete with choir. A real high point and a great end to a hugely enjoyable and fitting tribute.
It struck me that there was a real sense of respect for each other’s music here, every act bowed down to the one before and seemed genuinely proud to be sharing their stage. Understandably so. The musicians were clearly cherry picked for their style and seamless musical connection to Coen soundtracks. Well done The Local for bringing them all together – the Coen Brothers would be proud.