By J. Evan Wade
I witnessed my first ever Scythian performance at Greensboro's Blind Tiger on Wednesday, February 11th. They busted through two wonderful sets of Celtic gypsy music that was equal parts punk rock, bluegrass, polka and klezmer. Having heard so many good things about Scythian, I expected a highly energetic, crowd-pleasing performance and they delivered all that "in spades." Scythian is fronted by the two engaging Fedoryka brothers, Alexander and Danylo, who play violin and guitar respectively, while Josef Crosby plays bass (and violin as well). These three are anchored by the no-nonsense percussive stylings of Mike Ounallah on drums. These four musicians come from diverse musical backgrounds and bring forth an engaging stew of original material. These original songs, in turn, are complemented with engaging takes on certain classics and provide a compelling mix of styles and tunes for the audience to chew on. Their songs range from Irish-feeling jigs with the spirit of punk rock, to sincere, heartfelt numbers that make the girls swoon, to accordion-driven techno songs that are plain ridiculous to witness from the dance floor. Such was the varied, eclectic mix that I found at my first Scythian show, and I found it quite seductive.
Fresh off a convincing win for my beloved Tar Heels, I was in great spirits as we got to the Blind Tiger. For a Wednesday, the place was packed, and I took this to be a good sign. I enjoyed the last half of the first set immensely, and enjoyed interacting with several old friends who had made the trip out for the night. The resulting social interaction amongst us all (even those I didn't know) seemed to have everyone upbeat and laughing, and this definitely contributed to a positive feeling in the crowd that night. At one point, one of the Fedoryka brothers commented how "crazy" the place was for a Wednesday, and how they appreciated everyone's energy. There seems to be a certain "sleeper" quality that comes out on Wednesday night shows, when the energy is right, and the music is great, and the crowd is responsive. This was definitely the case for the Scythian show that night, and it was fun to see all of my friends smiling so broadly and dancing so crazy on a Wednesday night.
With two very capable violin players sharing time and spotlight on the instrument, certain Scythian arrangements featured two violins. As a lover of the instrument, I found these interactions to be particularly pleasing and engaging. The members of Scythian are all very accomplished musicians, and play a wide range of instruments with facility and ease. Their songs feature violin, bass, mandolin, drums, even accordion. This sort of flexibility and adaptability adds another interesting dynamic to their stage presentation, as they switch out instruments and meander through varying styles of music. All the while, there is a certain "tongue in cheek" quality to their performances, as they infuse these rich musical traditions with fun arrangements and a likable "beer-soaked" quality that draws in the audience. The members of the band, all handsome and dashing, interacted with the crowd and exuded charm and humility at the same time. After Scythian played their two sets, and delivered an energetic encore to close the night out, the crowd lingered, smiling and laughing, incredulous to night's end. I try not to make outlandish statements, but it truly had been one of the finest Wednesday night performances I had ever seen, not just in the Blind Tiger, but anywhere... I look forward to seeing Scythian again.
SET-LIST (as retrieved and corrected by Dante)
Road To Galway, Highway 81, Cold Kitchen Jig, Jacobites, Blair Athol, New York Girls, Malobar Train, Cubicles and Tylenol, Palace Funk, Girl Named U, Caeli, Tuesday AM, Last One
Hey Mama Ya, Technoccordian, Leahy, Song O' Sacrifice, Boyko Dream, Folsom Prison Blues > Danny Boy (with a dash of Orange Blossom Special?), Dance All Night, Dark Eyes, Ocean, Final Reel, Grandma, So. Aussie, Greek Fiddle, Dempsey