Markontour had never heard of the Barr Brothers before their extraordinary gig at the Music Hall of Williamsburg last night. Now I’m sitting in La Guardia airport, mapping the intersections of my 2018 travel itinerary and their world tour.
The core of the band, as I now understand, are the aforementioned brothers, Andrew (drums) and Brad (singer-songwriter), along with harpist Sarah Page. In Brooklyn, however, they were joined on stage by variously a double-bassist, slide guitarist, pianist, trombonist, saxophonist and trumpet player. Not content with this, Brad changed his guitar every song, alongside dealing out some mean harmonica and doing something weird involving pulling a guitar string like a magical thread.
It’s hard to describe the songs, such was their breadth, variety and magnificence. One minute it was country-gospel, four singers gathered around an antique microphone, reminding markontour of the Soggy Bottom Boys in ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’. Next it was soaring soundscape, encompassing magical rock harp, and the kind of trippy percussion that makes you wonder if the drummer has four arms.
The band were too absorbed in the music to waste time chatting, so we learned little about them, other than that Canada is now home because New York was too expensive. This was conveyed by way of introduction to a gorgeous number about Montreal, ‘Song that I heard‘, featuring a strong-man – the Great Antonio – who could pull coaches with his moustache. There was a great lyric about decision making: “Like a moonlight mathematician / I subtracted my concerns / And I multiplied my options / And divided my returns”.
That’s all markontour knows about the fabulous Barr Brothers for now, other than that I will be seeing them again very soon..