The Demon Barbers are quite hard to describe if you haven’t seen them before, but what they definitely are is AMAZING so I will make the effort. Founded by Damien Barber (the Demon) they started life as an electric folk group at the end of the 90s.Traditional and not so traditional folk dance were then added to the mix in the form of Clog dancing, Morris dancing and sword dancing. The performance became more layered and started to metamorphose into something very special. In 2010 another element was added with the arrival of a street dance trio. The resulting fusion of the most ancient and the most contemporary styles of dance, all with a live folk music backing creates a quite unique explosion of genres. It’s all delivered with such expertise and energy and by such fine, young talented dancers that you can’t help but be infected with their enthusiasm. This show puts the cool into clog dancing and brings Morris Dancing Mojo to centrestage, probably for the first time in living memory. Gone are the ageing beardy hanky wavers with the knee length socks. Instead we have two cool, young, athletic dancers who have an amazing high octane Morris dance off, while wearing a baseball cap and an Evil dead t shirt. They leap high into the air in a fast exciting and ever so funny parody of the hip hop street gang face off. I’ve seen a lot of dance and I’ve never seen anything like this before. It knocks spots off The Nutcracker for me. The show we saw was called ‘The Lock In’ and the concept was set in a pub called the Fighting Cocks and the dancers were also characters in the pub bar. Even a businessman in a bowler hat appeared at one point and joined in with an incredibly fast and furious sword dance which went at a cracking pace, creating sword stars and chains which looked impossibly complicated.
The Demon Barbers won best live act at the BBC Radio 2 Folk awards in 2009. It has to be said that the audience at the Whitley Bay Playhouse this weekend were pretty representative of the Radio 2 listener in their demographic. Now, I’ve got nothing against Radio 2 but this was something which has a much wider appeal and there should have been a lot more younger people in the audience. This ‘Maverick Folk’ extravaganza is extremely original and fabulously funky – it’s only a matter of time before Lady Gaga catches on to the Demon Barbers.