030312 The Barr Brothers, Ottawa, ON

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The 4th Stage was such a great addition to the National Arts Centre.  The only street-level part of the building went unused for a long time before someone finally took the initiative to conform the space into a small, seated concert venue, and since it opened in 2001 I’ve seen some great performances there.

Like the The Barr Brothers concert on March 3rd, 2012.  The band was a perfect fit for the concert hall venue, and not just because of the unique inclusion of a classical harp in the group’s lineup.  The brothers (Andrew and Brad) are so intensely thoughtful when they play that it almost seems wrong to imagine them playing in a bar or nightclub.  The beauty of the Barr Brothers is a cut above the beer hall level of most rock acts out there and they are well-deserving of a room in a proper sit-down venue where the audience is willing to experience the music with as much intensity as it is delivered.

Sure the room could be cozier – it gives off the honest vibe of a storeroom that was converted into a nightclub on a very small budget – but the crowd that tends to patronize it doesn’t seem to care.  We quietly line up for drinks at a concession stand that looks like it came from a local hockey rink and ignore the very-industrial ceiling just a few feet above our heads as we happily enjoy great music in the intimate space.

Here’s hoping that the current overhaul of the NAC includes plans to add a little more atmosphere to the 4th Stage.  It wouldn’t hurt to make the place even cooler than it is.

(I bought their wonderful debut album after the show and was surprised when Andrew Barr greeted me at the merch table like an old friend.  I hadn’t spoken to either of them since the nero days.  So much time had passed that I wasn’t even going to bother introducing myself because I figured they couldn’t possibly remember the small handful of times we’d hung out.   Super-cool dudes, those Barr’s.  I thought it when I first met them and I think it now.  I’m pretty sure Brad didn’t remember me, and that’s fine.)

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