BARR - Live in Philly (2/19/2007)
There’s nothing more refreshing than a band who doesn’t take themselves too seriously, particularly when they are this catchy. Even more inspiring is a band who, perhaps unknowingly, manages to deconstruct what it means to be a male musician.
It was my first time. Seeing BARR was a release like no other. Their performance exhibited a seamless balance of blunt honesty and raw optimism. Even before they began their set, the band’s playful interactions and infectious smiles radiated warmth throughout the dim basement of the West Philadelphia venue, Clap It Off.
It was moments before the band began to play their first song, conveniently titled “First,” that I began to realize just how genuine and sincere of a place they were coming from. A slow introduction on the piano and drums gained momentum and intensity, finally giving way to the chaotic and poetic vocals of singer Brendan Fowler. Fowler stumbled over instruments as his earnest emotions poured out onto the basement floor. The drums picked up tempo and a catchy bass line occupied the space as the band moved right into “The Song is The Single.”
Fowler’s flailing arms and staggered legs suggested an openness and vulnerability I rarely witness at shows. It was as if the audience was given permission to read the trembling words and phrases of someone’s diary. We were let into Fowler’s own internal dialogue, laden with uncertainty and candor. The result was a beautifully circular stream of consciousness performance akin to spoken word layered with captivating melodies.
BARR offered the closest thing to a non-gendered performance I have ever experienced. This, in so many ways, was both liberating and reassuring. Was it possible that my notions of “male musician” had been so narrow?
BARR did not take on the stereotypically masculine character that taints so many musicians. In fact, they did what is unheard of for an all-male band. Through their movement, disposition, lyrics and melodies, they were able to expand definitions of gender, music and sexuality, thus blurring these strict and often paralyzing categories.