Show Review: A Hawk and a Hacksaw at The Independent, 10/9/09

by Caroline Hernandez on October 10, 2009

Accordian solos don't get any cooler than this.

Accordion solos don't get any cooler than this.

Any trip to the Divisadero corridor always deserves a stop at one of the many excellent and inexpensive restaurant choices available. On this trip, the choice was half an order of BBQ chicken, mac ‘n cheese, and corn. I was still picking kernels out of my teeth when we walked in midway through the set of Damon and Naomi, the openers for the evening. The music was melancholy and wistful, with intertwining vocals from both musicians, Damon on acoustic guitar and Naomi on keyboards. I wasn’t too disappointed, but their brand of self-proclaimed “dream pop” wasn’t doing anything to help out my impending food coma. It was a surprise to learn that the duo did a stint on Sub Pop back in the mid-to-late 90’s. However, I wasn’t much into indie rock back then; rather, mainstream alternative, but that’s beside the point. The set ended a little after 10:00pm, and on to the waiting game.

I first learned about A Hawk and A Hacksaw after reading an article about Beirut. The band’s mainstays, classically trained violinist Heather Trost and Jeremy Barnes, drummer of the former great Neutral Milk Hotel, both had toured with their New Mexico colleague Zach Condon. Intrigued, I checked them out at this year’s SXSW, and much to my pleasure, what I found was right up my alley.

I would describe the music as a feverish dream of a provincial town in the “old country” at the turn of the century. Accordion, violin, mandolin, trumpet and trombone all woven together to create a lush Eastern European landscape. Accentuated by the talent of each musician. I would liken the style of Heather Trost’s violin to that of Andrew Bird’s with a more serious intensity. The rate at which she was playing was incredible to watch.

As opposed to their lulling opening counterparts, A Hawk and A Hacksaw played a lively set almost the entire way through, engaging the free-spirited crowd to dance and offer up an additional vocal or two. Faux hecklers would tease the band, mainly mandolin player, Chris, whom we found out from some nice person in the crowd, is British.

The slow song of the evening, “Macedon,” was dedicated by Barnes to local Team 26 who are currently paving the road outside the Independent. A few lucky teamsters were enjoying the show front and center, and weren’t shy about showing their amusement.

I would imagine the majority of the songs played tonight are off the bands latest album, Délivrance.


The evening’s highlight was the song “I am not a Gambling Man,” which was the only song on the setlist with actual lyrics. Beautifully delivered by Barnes, it made me wish they had more just like it.

The next treat came when the band stepped off the stage and performed the pre-encore and encore songs in the crowd. Not exactly a sold-out show, the excited crowed circled around for an intimate finale, accordion solo and all!

In short, an awesome evening with an incredibly talented troupe of musicians. I left with my new shirt, which of course features an accordion.

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