Bowfire is very obviously influenced by Riverdance and its various offshoots. Strong Celtic themes, ensemble performances with solo breakouts, and a very simple stage all reminded me of shows I’d seen before. And then, of course, there was the stepdancing that three of the performers periodically broke into. Dead giveaway, that.

But the difference between being a knock-off and participating in a genre is how good the show is, and Bowfire kicked ass. All the musicians clearly knew what they were doing and were capable of playing in a group. Several of them were just fucking amazing. Richard Wood and Lara St. John in particular stuck in my mind.

On stage, Richard Wood looked like a crack dealer. Seriously. Everyone on stage wore a fire-themed outfit. His was black leather pants with a black shirt and jacket, big silver chain around his neck, and a bucket hat with a flame motif on it. I figured he was going to be a jazz-style player, but he ended up participating in a couple of the stepdance routines and did a couple of very rousing not-quite-Cape-Breton pieces. At the end of his solo when he was in full jam mode, dancing and fiddling at the same time, he held the violin out away from his body and maintained a perfectly level note for several seconds. The guy has a very developed sense of physical awareness.

Lara St. John had a more classical approach to her playing. The term “classical” could conjure images of crisp, dignified chamber music played with sharp precision. But in her case, it was more a case of an intense passion barely restrained by exquisite technique. She really demonstrated the range of the violin. Her bowing was wild, with tiny rapid strokes jumping across all four strings without missing a note. Really spectacular.

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