LIVE: Mikaela Davis @ the Parish Public House, 10/9/14
Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Timothy Reidy
If you’re looking for something completely different, please check out the marvelous Mikaela Davis the next time she comes to town. After impressively strong opening sets by Olivia Quillio and Bear Grass, Davis made a dazzling return to the Parish Public House last month. It was her second time there (though it was known as Red Square when she played back in March), and she had previously played at the now defunct Valentine’s Music Hall back in 2011.
Rochester native Davis sings and plays the classical harp. Of course, she’s not the only harpist around playing in a non-classical setting – let’s not forget the harp duo Harptallica, for instance – but Davis plays her harp in service of her own original indie-pop songs, and at PPH in support of her new EP, Fortune Teller, she was particularly sparkling.
There’s an undeniable twinkling sound to the harp, but Davis’ music was anything but twee. And that’s due in large part to her bandmates, Alex Coté and Cian McCarthy. Coté’s drumming was solid throughout the night, but he also played glockenspiel, which added a sharp metallic edge to the harp’s instrinsic sound. Upping the ante even more, guitarist McCarthy layered on some intricate 12-string guitar, and if that wasn’t enough to max out the shimmer quotient of the trio’s sound, he also played sitar on several numbers at the end of the show.
Really? Harp, drums, glockenspiel and sitar? Yeah, that’s an intoxicating instrumental sound that you’re unlikely to have ever encountered before, and yet it worked perfectly. Not in any kind of throw-back, hippie-era, Incredible String Band kind of way, either. Davis doesn’t rely on the novelty of the band’s instrumental line-up, either. She backs up the exotic instrumentation with impressive vocals and a batch of solid original songs, including “Michigan & the BQE,” which was particularly impressive.