The Wiyos

Traverse Theatre


Rob Adams


They may have been appearing in a modern building in the centre of Scotland’s capital city but the mood the Wiyos evoke is largely of the Great American Depression in the 1920s and 1930s. And that’s an era which their music would have been both a reflection of and an antidote to. How can a poor man stand such times and live? If not by singing about them himself, as those who became icons of the time did, then by accessing, by however means, an uplift of the kind that Michael Farkas creates by becoming as one with his washboard.

There’s a little more than a vintage household implement involved here: car horns, desk bells and various chimes and trinkets that expand his options into a sort of percussion orchestra come into play and fully incorporated into his mouth music it makes for great entertainment, a certain thrill and not a little art.

Farkas and his colleagues, guitarist Teddy Weber and double bassist Seth Travins, also look the part in their hats and waistcoats but they’re no museum act. Their music lives and breathes in the moment, with Weber blowing improvised New Orleans and Chicago-school cornet lines on a couple of numbers to make a credible horn section with Farkas on kazoo as well as, elsewhere, integrating bass drum and hi hat into his own six-string locomotion and Travins’ drum-brush on bass strings slap.

The songs, both their own and blues-jazz classics, have a vintage character but sung variously with rakish charm and honest eloquence they transcend retro notions to sound as fresh and resonant as the news headlines of the day.