Not so long ago they were one of the most popular touring bands. The Wiyos played Celtic Connections festival twice, took part in the Barbican Theatre’s Folk America series which was televised by the BBC, then a film crew shadowed them when they played Shetland Folk Festival, for another TV special. They got the invitation (a genuine ‘would you like to be involved?’ request) to open the Big Summer Tour as Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson hit the road to take in 28 baseball parks across 22 States.
The Wiyos were a very visual band; there was always tons of on-stage activity to keep the audience entranced. And, no one is going to argue if we say that the main focal point was extraordinary frontman, Michael Farkas – a musical entertainer from the old school with drama academy class, refinement and delivery.
They’d started out busking the streets of New York and New Orleans; within two years, they were being invited to play Newport Folk Festival, their whiz-bang brand of “vaudevillian ragtime-jugband-blues and hillbilly swing” winning them legions of Stateside fans.
When individual band members each eventually went their own way, there was, at first, some natural down time far removed from the touring toil. Then, the pandemic put paid to any plans that might have involved public performance.
Farkas put the time to good use, won a Grammy for another appealing side project and developed his own solo show that met with early success when he was able.
We were keen to get him back over here. Michael relishes the chance to serve up surprises – plenty of on-stage twists and turns as the musical road followed each night heads off in different directions.
Versatility, of course, should always have been his middle name. Multi-faceted, he’s a one-man band with brass knobs on!
He told us: “I’m developing a character called FARKASH – my surname with the H added as that’s how it was originally. This has roots in my Hungarian/Roma/Ukrainian bloodline.”