Barr Brothers: The Basement, 03/09/13
It feels awful nice to be watching live music back inside, on solid ground, with a drink in a glass receptacle. In respite from summer’s festivals, I went to a tableclothed, candled Please Please You show, with The Lungs, Boss Caine and Barr Brothers and emerged warm and glowing from within.
The Lungs are a well-kept York secret – a Sweet Baboo–Moldy Peaches-almost Daniel Johnston duo that entirely charm the already full room. Their online presence as a band extends to two songs on Soundcloud, which hardly convey the strength of their voices, but they are playing Fibbers again later this month.
What is most wonderful about The Barr Brothers themselves is that their show feels so casual and easy; but fast becomes rather captivating. They flow so easily from greetings to songs, to anecdotes, to instrumentals, to praise for York, to different instruments, to strong blues-y breakdowns, to thank yous, always with some sort of music to accompany. This subtle fluidity is only made more fun by their toy box of sounds; ‘experimental percussion’, some call it. A few songs in, I notice drummer Andrew Barr has a bicycle wheel as part of his set up, which he plays with a violin bow, also used on the edge of his cymbal. For the last few songs, he and Sarah Page gather round Brad’s guitar – he plays the fret board and they kind of…floss the strings, by each pulling the end of a cord. It’s rather touching to watch.
With these sorts of instruments, one loses track of what’s tuning up, what’s background music for one of Brad’s stories, and what’s strictly a ‘song’. It feels a little like an evening of torchlight story-telling in a creaky old haunted house, gathered round the band for a pleasant tale where the story meanders in plot and truth, but retains poignancy.
They play the well-known songs – opening with ‘Beggar in the Morning‘, slipping in ‘Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Cryin’’ in the middle and leaving a beautiful slower version of ‘Even the Darkness Has Arms’ to the end, but it is all the inbetween embellishments that make this show so delightful. That, and the new songs (it’s been two years since their debut album), which already feel like a story I’ve heard before, but cannot wait to be told again.