In the 1960s, keyboardist Jon Lord envisioned writing a score to be performed by a rock group and a symphony orchestra in a live setting. It made no sense. The two musical styles had no business being intertwined. In 1969, the Deep Purple keyboardist’s dream became a reality. He finished the score he had been piecing together sporadically for years, and along with his bandmates, performed it alongside the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Public reaction differed. Purists thought it was sacrilege and degrading to classical music. Some of the musicians in the orchestra even approached the event with indifference. Yet others were seen tapping their feet to the beat. Twenty years down the road it became the ‘in’ thing to do. Metallica, KISS, Roger Waters, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Elton John, and the list goes on, have all performed with orchestras.
Welcome to 2015. Well actually you can go back a few years, but it was only recently that I was introduced to a fusion of two musical styles that are so different that my narrowmindedness put me back to that 1969 stance some of my elders took. WTF?
Meet Dave Crowe, native of Ledbury in Herefordshire, England and Andy Balcon, from Ackworth, just next to Leeds, in the north of England. Both street performers, the former a beatbox musician and the latter a blues oriented guitarist. Having crossed paths in New Zealand, the two got together when Balcon invited Crowe back to his place for a pint (‘his place’ being a van that Balcon lived in at the time). Crowe noticed Balcon had a guitar and asked him to strum a few chords for fun. Balcon obliged and Crowe jumped in but rather that spew out some lyrics he started producing drum beats, rhythm and other musical sounds with his mouth. Balcon loved it. The seed for their future had been planted. Ladies and gentlemen meet a new genre...Beatbox Blues.
After separating and taking different learning routes, the two hooked up a few years later in Sweden where they began taking their jams to the stage. Not sure what to book themselves as, Balcon recalled a picture he had drawn while at an office job, which he had nicknamed ‘Heymoonshaker’. As their show developed and their touring routes became more extensive, so too did their sound as they mixed features from heavy rock & roll, roots music, and dubstep. Taking huge inspiration from the likes of Muddy Waters, their love and appreciation for the blues is something that stays true throughout their writing and the driving force behind their music.
Heymoonshaker spent the better part of two weeks of the coldest February on record traipsing across La Belle Province, winning over fans with their fusion of blues and beatbox. An intense media campaign along with their show schedule did not prevent the two from taking the time to meet with all comers. Before closing out their tour of Quebec with two last shows on the weekend, they opened for Steve Hill at l'Astral on a Thursday night in Montreal. You could see the two different audiences at this show become one as they listened and watched the artist they hadn't necessarily come to see. A kind of crossover audience took place that is hard to describe. Let's just say the Heymoonshaker fans have less grey hair. The future of the blues depends on new fans, and as Bruce Iglauer recently noted, the blues needs to adapt to the present, and all the influences that encompasses.That night was an example of that.
Live, the duo has an explosive presence and they deliver their message with an infectious urgency. Mild mannered Balcon is transformed on stage and delivers his vocals with a gritty, forceful passion while giving his guitar the same treatment. Crowe’s ingredient is conveyed with pure energy, intense and angry. The lower end frequencies produced are really best appreciated in a live setting.
As Crowe sermoned at a live gig, “Don’t let anyone tell you who you are and what you can and cannot do. Do what you want and if you are happy with that it’s the way to go.” The pair appear to be taking Crowe’s advice creating a new form of music and having a great time in the process. According to Balcon, for the most part the feedback they have received has been positive. If they receive any negative comments they relish it and turn it into an affirmative. It keeps them from being complacent or perhaps they will tell you to bugger off because they are doing what they want to; it’s the only way to go.
Heymoonshaker, folks, is not your daddy's blues. Take them out for a spin. You just might like it!