As mentioned in my previous concert review, we spent time last Saturday in VA to enjoy Leif Vollebekk perform at Jammin’ Java.  Sitting outside in the parking lot prior to the show, L was browsing through our Twitter feed when she saw a tweet from Miranda Mulholland stating that Harrow Fair would be playing in Alexandria, VA on Sunday evening at the Birchmere. Our plans originally were to stop over on Saturday night and head back to PA first thing Sunday morning, but come Sunday morning….nah, those plans had to be amended.  After all, when Miranda tweets that we should come to the show, it would be rude to decline such an invitation, right?

After spending a hot and sunny Sunday in Northern VA, we made our way to the venue in plenty of time.  Harrow Fair would be the opening act (blues artist Tab Benoit was the headliner), and it was not difficult to miss the Canadians driving into the parking lot (Ontario plates = dead giveaway).  With perfect weather, we enjoyed waiting outside for the doors to open, before heading inside once the doors officially opened so that we could grab some much needed refreshments.

Once inside the main concert room, we found a table with a decent view of the stage, and were eager to see how the stomping roots-folk sound of Harrow Fair would fare in a room full of blues fans.  As the lights dimmed, the track “Harrow Fair Pig Auction” played on the public address system whilst Miranda Mulholland and Andrew Penner made their way onto the stage.  And as the auctioneers’ “Sold” cry rang out, up came the lights to prompt the duo to launch immediately into “Told a lie to my heart.”  This was a great opportunity for Harrow Fair to test their 2016 material (from their debut album, “Call to Arms”) with a different crowd, and each song played was received with enthusiasm from the packed out room.  Miranda was naturally charming with the audience in between tracks, yet so incredibly focused and musically perfect with her violin during each track.  Andrew demonstrated his multi-instrument versatility, with his guitar, kick drum and maracas, but really amazed with his outstanding vocal range and delivery.

Prior to playing their 2017 single release (a cover version of the Chris Isaac hit, “Wicked Game”), Andrew was eager to let the audience know how difficult it was in the studio to cut this song due to being distracted by the original Chris Isaac video playing in the background.  “And there is Chris, rolling around on the beach with a beautiful girl (reference to model Helena Christensen).”  Not to be outdone, Miranda would add that they just played on the beach at The Outer Banks, and that with her pale skin (and “lots of 100 SPF sunscreen”), she could not imagine rolling around on the beach like that.  The audience lapped up the humor, before the duo performed their amazing version of this song.

Having only a limited time slot as an opening act, Harrow Fair would score highly with the crowd thanks to their closing number.  Whether planned or not, what better way to appeal to a blues crowd than to go all out with a cover of the Muddy Waters and Led Zeppelin hit, “When the levee breaks”?  Armed with just a violin and a Gibson guitar, as well as their vocal talents, the duo blew everybody away and certainly fulfilled their duties for warming up the crowd prior to the main event.

During the intermission, we were incredibly fortunate to be joined at our table by Miranda, and took the opportunity to thank her for the recent interview she did with us to promote the upcoming Sawdust City Music Festival in Gravenhurst, ON.  Miranda has such a wonderful personality that shines, as does her enthusiasm for both the Harrow Fair project and the joys of putting together her first music festival.  Being a Brit, I was certainly clued into her jokes earlier in the evening about not wanting to wear pants when performing in the UK (due to the cooler weather, Miranda was unable to wear dresses to shows, and unwittingly informed UK concertgoers that she’d rather not wear pants, amusing the Brits who typically consider pants to be the undergarment variety).

We were certainly grateful that Miranda spent over 20 minutes with us, and cannot wait to catch up with Harrow Fair again at the Sawdust City Festival in August.  If you happen to be in Ontario that weekend, you may want to consider taking a look at the wonderful line-up that Miranda has assembled for this inaugural event.  We will certainly be there to experience it for ourselves, and will definitely follow up with a feature here at Great Dark Wonder.

Harrow Fair Set List:

  1. Told a lie to my heart
  2. I will be your man
  3. Held tight
  4. Call to arms
  5. Wicked Game (Chris Isaac cover)
  6. When the levee breaks (Led Zeppelin cover)

~ M

Visit Harrow Fair’s website.

Listen to “Call to Arms” on Spotify.