Singer and guitarist Brad Barr and his brother Andrew on drums and banjo, as The Barr Brothers released their second album Sleeping Operator in October. The band, which also consists of harpist Sarah Page, organist Andres Vial and bassist Mishka Stein, have been on tour almost nonstop since early November promoting it. And their NYC stop brought them to the Bowery Ballroom for a sold-out Friday night show.
Their friend Leif Vollebekk opened for them, though I missed most of his set, and later on joined the Barrs on stage for a few songs. I had little familiarity with Vollebekk, but his sparsely folk album North Americana has earned scattered praise on the internet and he did maintain the attention of the crowd filling in the venue.
I also didn’t have much familiarity with The Barr Brothers before the show to be honest. I bought their album per a recommendation from my local record shopkeeper but didn’t open it until days before the show so I could give it a quick spin. I actually had thought the band was called Sleeping Operator, overlooking the band’s name below. In any case, the album was a follow up to their 2011 self-titled debut (which I haven’t heard) but I was intrigued by the quiet theatrics of opener “Static Orphans”. The Barr Brothers pool a wide variety of musical influences, like Cat Stevens, desert rhythms and Icelandic dreamscapes, to create some of the most eclectic folk rock around.
The Barr Brothers captivated a hushed crowd with their alternating quiet or lush, but musically boundless, folk ballads. The stillness allowed Page’s harp whispers to breeze by as the group worked through songs like “How the Heroine Dies”, “Even the Darkness has Arms” and concluded with a mesh of several tunes. The audience demanded more, of course, and it isn’t hard to understand why. The band had unearthed some of their deepest emotions through uniquely transformative blend of Americana.
The Barr Brothers:
The Barr Brothers return to NYC for a Summerstage Showcase in early January and remain on tour for a long stretch of European shows after the North American dates below.
Tour dates (with more here):
Dec 05 — Fox Cabaret Vancouver, Canada
Dec 06 — The Tractor w/ Leif Vollebekk Seattle, WA
Dec 07 — Doug Fir Loungeh w/ Leif Vollebekk Portland, OR
Dec 10 — The Chapel w/ Leif Vollebekk San Francisco, CA
Dec 11 — Moe’s Alley w/ Leif Vollebekk Santa Cruz, CA
Dec 12 — The Satellite w/ Leif Vollebekk Los Angeles, CA
Jan 08 — Highline Ballroom New York, NY
Even the Darkness has Arms
Come in the Water
Beggar in the Water
How the Heroine Dies
Love Ain’t Enough
Bear at the Window / Cloud / Please Let Me Let it Go