As we took our seats at the Danforth Music Hall on Wednesday night, a rich tapestry of sound filled the room as a six-piece ensemble took the stage—they were The Barr Brothers. Encountering them for the first time, I felt uplifted with their lengthy instrumental preludes and ornate harp solos (you heard me, a Harp!). The band worked together like a well-oiled machine, not overpowering one another and adding in subtle vocal harmonies amid the lines of string, bass and percussion instruments. There were moments where I had to actively remind myself to breathe because I felt as if I was witnessing something so delicate, and sitting 2nd row, I felt that any sudden movement might wake me up from a dream. There were selections that they performed that made me want to dance in my chair and certainly there were a particular few that persuaded everyone to take a beat, a deep inhale and exhale, and lean in towards loved ones and absorb the timeless folksong. I truly believe that Brad Barr, Andrew Barr, Sarah Page, and Andres Vial (and friends) were the perfect opening for the evening’s main act, Bahamas.
Afie Jurvanen is the man behind Bahamas. He’s a Torontonian who sings about love and sunsets, sandy shores, and belonging. Afie is a laid back, and handsome looking man who approached the stage as if we were all sitting in his living room. He struts on stage wearing a wool coat with the collar popped and his hair neatly coiffed. I was taken aback by his sincere demeanor and humble comments to all in attendance. A few songs into his set he remarks, “…Well I think this concert is going pretty well” and we rushed to applause, almost a muted sound, like we were snapping praise in a jazz cafe. Something distinctive about him was the way he owned the silence between songs. He’s not chatty, but he’s a storyteller with a few choice words– he’s a poet in every way, and I was pleased to learn that. I first discovered him through The Mahogany Sessions version of Lost in the Light. The lyrics are intuitive and transcendent, they encourage me to look at the world around me in awe of its beauty.
Jurvanen released his latest album, Bahamas Is Afie, in August 2014 and his earlier albums Pink Strat and Barchords in 2009 and 2012 respectively. He has worked alongside Feist, Jason Collett, Jack Johnson and Zeus and his craft is truly unique. Alongside him on stage this night was Felicity Williams and when they broke out into songs like Waves and Never Again I had chills that ran through me like an electrical current. His sound is for the senses. I felt like I was watching a grand mural come to life before me, each lyric a brushstroke that added texture. Every moment of rest and repercussion, was worth its weight in gold. The show ended with Be My Witness- the sweetest love song I have ever heard– and Lost In The Light – the longstanding champion of my heart– and it was one of those cozy, wrap-your-arms-around-this moment of tenderness where everyone had a smile across their faces. I went home completely satisfied hand in hand with someone who shared in the experience, and it affirms a few things that I knew from the start: Bahamas is soul music, it can warm up any damp or dreary Toronto weather and Afie Jurvanen is a soul-shattering, vibrant artist and we are lucky to have him in our community. I returned from Bahamas contented, relaxed and open to the possibility of whatever comes next.