The Barr Brothers – Shank Hall

28 May

Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of witnessing a talented group of musicians hailing all the way from Montreal, Quebec (well actually the brothers are from there, the rest of the band is from Providence, RI). They played at a fairly small venue, Shank Hall, where they bother you for singles as they don’t have enough in their cash register. Bluesy, soulful folk by The Barr Brothers.

Being a Wednesday, and the fact that the promoter didn’t do that great of a job, the crowd was small. I’m talking 25 people at the most, which is unfortunate as this band was passionate, entertaining, and brought great music to Milwaukee.

The lead singer, faintly remembered playing at Shank Hall previously, although his experience was tainted by some food poisoning resulting in thirty minutes of puking. Shame on you Milwaukee, you should treat our guests like gold.

Because it was a small crowd, it created a very intimate atmosphere, where everyone was at least 8 feet from the stage. They tried out some new songs on us, which were awesome. I was perplexed by their array of instruments and various techniques they used. A pump organ was present, as well as a harp, which both added a lot of dimensions and depth to the sound. The percussion section was seemed somewhat experimental, finding things that make noise, yet the sounds created fit well with the arrangements.

Bicycle wheel, yes, they played a bicycle wheel. I’m not exactly sure how this worked, but they had it mounted onto a stand, no rubber, and would tighten or loosen the spokes to change the sound, and then would play the spokes with a bow. He would also strum the spokes with a drum stick, creating an eery yet subtle sound. I have never seen this done before, so that was quite the spectacle.

The lead singer used some type of string and would pull it across the strings of his guitar while playing chords, which resulted in an eery noise, that is barely recognized on the album, but seeing him create this noise live added to his level of musical experimentation.

“Lord I just can’t keep from trying” is not done justice on the album. To see this song live was an emotional experience, involving a little slide guitar, rhythm, blues, and passion. By far my favorite song of the night.

Walking away form the concert, I felt bad that more people didn’t show up, yet I selfishly enjoyed the intimate setting and hoped that they had as much fun as I did.

I hope Milwaukee treated The Barr Brothers well this time around, and if you don’t come back, I fully understand. Thanks for the encore, and thanks for doing what you do.

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