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King’s Lynn Festival: The Demon Barbers XL; Disco At The Tavern




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Review: The Demon Barbers XL, Disco At The Tavern, Alive Leisure Corn Exchange

It was a coming home of sorts yesterday for Damien Barber, leader of the Demon Barbers as they played the penultimate night’s concert of the King’s Lynn Festival.

A selfie taken by the Demon Barbers at the end of their concert at the Corn Exchange in King's Lynn. Included in the picture are morris dancers of the King's Morris who featured in a pre-show performance.
A selfie taken by the Demon Barbers at the end of their concert at the Corn Exchange in King's Lynn. Included in the picture are morris dancers of the King's Morris who featured in a pre-show performance.

Damien hails from North Walsham, although as he told the audience last night he spent part of his childhood in Terrington St Clement

He began playing in Norfolk folk clubs at the age of five – but his approach is anything but stuck in the past.

Damien teamed up with the rest of the band, all from Yorkshire, 17 years ago and has been delighting audiences ever since with a decidedly modern take of folk music.

A fusion of everything from traditional folk, to reggaae and hip hop with a bit of rock thrown in for good measure this all makes for a rollicking good evening.

He was joined as frontperson by Bryony Griffith, a brilliant violinist but also – despite fighting a bit of a cold – a wonderful vocalist with real heft in the voice.

One of the highlights for me was a self-penned number by Damien, Rise Up You Countrymen, about Kett’s Rebellion, here in Norfolk.

Go Boys Go, about the tough life of the chemical workers in Teesside, Loudon Wainwright’s The Swimming Song and Sir Lionel and The Boar, sung by Bryony, also stuck in the memory.

All the while the music was accompanied by dancing, in the form of two young female clog dancers and three incredibly energetic hip-hop dancers, a boy and two girls.

Both sets of dancers really added something to the enjoyment of the folk music, a sort of jazz riff on the traditional rhythms.

All came together for an impressive and slightly hair-raising sword-dance.

And the show ended on a rousing rendition of the title track from their album, which gave its name to the show, Disco At The Tavern.

The Demon Barbers have been compared to another of my favourite musical ensembles, Ian Dury and The Blockheads, and although very different in musical form, I can see why.

All members are spot-on musically and the energy never sags, even in the occasional slower numbers. The extrovert dummer Ben Griffith particularly standing out as an focal point.

A great evening and let’s hope they come back this way again.

Mark Leslie



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