Brothers Andrew (drums and percussion) and Brad (vocals, guitar and keys) Barr, who have been members of the Slip and Surprise Me Mr. Davis, moved to Montreal after one of the brothers fell for a local waitress. Early on, Brad and neighbor Sarah Page (harp) could hear each other playing through the walls and struck up a musical friendship. Then, following the addition of Andres Vial (keys, pump organ and bass), the Barr Brothers were born. The folk quartet’s self-titled debut album (stream it below) came out in 2011. “The Barr Brothers are a different kind of folk group,” announced AllMusic, “bringing in unusual instrumentation and performing in a manner that draws the listener into a special musical world.” The Barr Brothers (above, playing “Even the Darkness Has Arms” on Late Show with David Letterman) released their second full-length, Sleeping Operator (stream it below), last month. And the good folks at Relix were impressed: “A product of both invention and intuition, the appropriately dubbed Sleeping Operator isn’t anything less than a dazzling delight.” See them headline The Bowery Ballroom tomorrow night. Bluesy folk singer-songwriter Leif Vollebekk, also from Montreal, opens the show.
Tag Archives: Surprise Me Mr. Davis
Surprise Me Mr. Davis – Mercury Lounge – April 17, 2010
It takes a certain kind of band to fill the late slot, to be the show after the other show, to pick up wherever the first part of your night left off. Surprise Me Mr. Davis, starting on the healthy side of midnight on Saturday at Mercury Lounge, epitomized the late-night band. If you were looking for soulful, drunken sing-alongs, they were your band. If you were looking for heady, jazz-inflected jams, they were your band. If you were looking for raucous, “there are four drummers onstage right now” percussion parties (including Joe Russo of Furthur and Jeremy Black from Apollo Sunshine), they were your band. If you were looking for a full-on variety show—music, magic and more—then they were your band. If you were looking for heartfelt, full-band a cappella moments, lo, Surprise Me Mr. Davis was your band.
The set began with Brad Barr on ukulele and the rest on vocals with frontman Nathan Moore both leading the song and doing magic tricks. Have you ever seen a guy sing and pull one of those quintessential long handkerchief chains from his mouth at the same time? Well, you haven’t let Surprise Me Mr. Davis surprise you yet! But it wasn’t all fun and high jinks Saturday night. Drunken partiers were on the receiving end of some shushing with dirty looks to match as the packed house hung on every lyric and instrumental excursion. With Marco Benevento rounding out the band, adding a loose upright piano to Barr’s guitar, Marc Friedman’s fluid bass playing and Andrew Barr’s superlative drumming, there were plenty of these moments to go around, but never too far and always to the point. For the most part, the band found a nice Bill Withers-esque compromise between acoustic-fronted folk and swinging grooves. The single tambourine that seemed to get passed around to every suit-wearing musician onstage at one point or another best summed up the sound. One thing was certain: This isn’t just a side-project any more. —A. Stein
In 2003, singer-songwriter Nathan Moore visited the avant-rock trio the Slip in their Boston apartment when a blizzard hit. Snowed in, the musicians did what they do best, play music. When one person would ask another what to play, the answer was invariably “Surprise me.” Add some recording equipment to the mix—and a wrong-number message to Moore, addressing him as “Mr. Davis”—and Surprise Me Mr. Davis was born. A self-titled electronic-folk debut followed in 2004 and the band toured the Northeast. Now they’re back with a new seven-track EP, That Man Eats Morning for Breakfast, which brings them to Mercury Lounge on Saturday. So check them out above, playing “One Sick Knave,” and then see them in person in just two days.
Surprise Me Mr. Davis/Land of Talk – Mercury Lounge – November 21, 2009
Remember when NASA smashed a rocket into the moon in the hopes of finding water? Saturday night at Mercury Lounge, the same kind of counterintuitive cosmic alchemy was on display. First up, Surprise Me Mr. Davis, a project featuring folk singer-songwriter Nathan Moore as the projectile with jam-pop stalwarts the Slip serving as the lunar mass.
The explosion resulted in unexpected chemistry, high energy and genre-bending fun. Early on, “When a Woman Cuts Your Hair” set the north-meets-south tone with Moore offering sweet, provocative songwriting and the Slip guys—Andrew and Brad Barr on drums and guitar and Marc Freidman on bass—wrapping it all up with tight, constructed playing. The set gave the sold-out crowd plenty of reason to dance or sing along or just hang back and listen. Occasional instrumental forays, powerful harmonies and some real live magic-trick high jinks from Moore proved that there was more to this hunk of rock than first met the eye. Closing with a raging “Sisyphus” an hour into the set, the band seemed like they were just warming up, ready for at least 60 minutes more, but alas, they ceded the stage following a touching a cappella end.
Without the usual crowd flip you find between sets at the Merc, the room stayed at capacity for Land of Talk. Here Andrew Barr stayed behind the drums, acting as the rocket colliding with some addictive Canadian rock. Frontwoman Elizabeth Powell was a revelation, leading the band through one raging song after another. Barr continued to show he’s one of the best drummers out there, elevating good music to greatness—revealing the water hidden beneath the surface and plenty of signs of life. —A. Stein