Concerts Concerts CMF 2011: Two Shows With The Barr Brothers

CMF 2011: Two Shows With The Barr Brothers

The Barr Brothers at Czehoksi
The Barr Brothers
The Dakota Tavern in Toronto, ON
March 10, 2011
Czehoski in Toronto, ON
March 12, 2011

Review by: Lucas Samuels
Photos by: Greg Abramowitz

It didn't take too long for The Dakota Tavern to become one of my favourite places to see music in Toronto.

The Barr Brothers @ The Dakota Tavern

With it's grungy-saloon feel, unpretentious clientele and super friendly bartenders, it's easy to see why The Dakota is a special spot in our city. When I heard that The Barr Brothers would be playing their first CMW set there, I knew I had to attend. The 2:00am set time only sweetened the deal.

Opening the show with "Beggar in the Morning", the group grabbed the packed Dakota's attention quickly. Moving fearlessly into new territory, The Barr Brothers debuted "Kisses From Chelsea" for Toronto for the first time. Lovely harp breakdowns and plenty of "ooh ooh oohs" from pump organ player Andres Vial and harpist Sarah Page made this new tune easy to love, and showed a new direction of writing for brothers.

The tribal rhythms of "Deacon's Son" saw the band venturing into heavy jam territory, as Andres played percussion instruments that resembled giant tongs which emitted a metallic clapping sound. Brad Barr (guitar, vocals) took several minutes to himself on this one, showing his versatility by breaking out in a huge solo that showcased everything from blues riffs to metal-style tapping techniques.   

The playfulness of the band was on full display during another new tune titled "If You Leave Me". Brad and Sarah teased each other back and forth, seeing who could play the higher harmonic as well as call-and-response melodies. The song was highly amusing for both band and crowd and was the perfect ending to a near perfect performance. Finishing the set at well past 3:30 in the morning, The Barr Brothers were greeted off stage by Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene who seemed seriously impressed and pleased to stumble upon such a great band in a city packed to the brim with music.

The Barr Brothers at The Dakota Tavern   The Barr Brothers at The Dakota Tavern   The Barr Brothers at The Dakota Tavern   The Barr Brothers at The Dakota Tavern   The Barr Brothers at The Dakota Tavern   The Barr Brothers at The Dakota Tavern   The Barr Brothers at The Dakota Tavern   The Barr Brothers at The Dakota Tavern   The Barr Brothers at The Dakota Tavern   The Barr Brothers at The Dakota Tavern   The Barr Brothers at The Dakota Tavern  

The Barr Brothers @ Czehoski

Still reeling from The Barr Brothers top-notch performance only two nights before at The Dakota Tavern, I wasn't really sure what to expect from their show at the Czehoski.

Czehoski may boast delicious food, some quality booze and plenty of cute girls, but it's far from a great place to see a concert. Squeezing into the narrow back room, awkwardly bumping into tables and diners, a group of fans filed into place to see The Barr Brothers, one of Montreal's finest live acts. They opened the set with "Beggar in the Morning" which seems to be their go-to song for wowing a crowd right from the start. Sarah Page plucked some quick arpeggios on her massive harp while drummer Andrew Barr rubbed his cymbals with a violin bow to create some spacey sounds. Once the drums and shakers kicked in, heads began to nod and sway along to the soothing folk music.

Andrew and keyboardist Andres Vial traded places for "Old Mythologies", which features some great turn-of-phrases from Brad including the line "there's nothing so wrong that's what right can't fix, despite how blood and water mix, and when a pony runs out of tricks then his work has just begun".  Although Brad lost his guitar pickup half way through this tune, he champed through the mishap opting to sing-a-capella, his voice sounding great overtop Andrew and Andres' hand and leg slap percussion. 

A thundering drum intro led into the always-impressive "Give The Devil Back His Heart", a deep and dark blues tune with West African influences, which had a daring solo from Brad. While the remainder of the set was well played, especially the rousing Delta-blues of "Lord, I Just Can't Keep From Cryin'", The Barr Brothers did struggle with some mixing and feedback issues, largely due to the unattended soundboard at the front of the stage. CMF is often about making the best out of a not-so-ideal-situation and that is exactly what The Barr Brothers did. Regardless of the sound problems and cramped space (for both band and audience), the band's music still managed to shine brightly and everyone seemed to enjoy the short-but-sweet set.

The Barr Brothers at Czehoksi   The Barr Brothers at Czehoksi   The Barr Brothers at Czehoksi   The Barr Brothers at Czehoksi   The Barr Brothers at Czehoksi   The Barr Brothers at Czehoksi   The Barr Brothers at Czehoksi   The Barr Brothers at Czehoksi   The Barr Brothers at Czehoksi