The Barr Brothers
The Barr Brothers are fronted by the poly-rhythmic, jocular drumming of Andrew Barr and the songs and guitar playing of brother Brad Barr. They spent most of the 90s touring across North America, with their improv-based rock trio, The Slip, when in 2004, a fire broke out in the venue in Montreal, and Andrew offered his coat to a waitress from the bar. The waitress became one of their managers, and Montreal became their home. As if one chance encounter wasn’t enough, the brothers met harpist Sarah Page when Brad moved in next door to her, and her playing began seeping through the cracks of the wall and into Brad’s music. Multi-instrumentalist Andres Vial came on board, completing the line-up.
Since becoming a foursome they have toured relentlessly, performed on the David Letterman Show, opened for Emmylou Harris, been nominated for a Juno award, and played festivals from Iceland to Portland. Their second album, ‘Sleeping Operator’, was released in July 2014. Equally at home in solemn Arcadian ballads, swampy North African improvs, or classic rock and roll revelry, The Barr Brothers continue to embrace and enchant audiences with their methodical-yet whimsical approach to music making.
Mt. Joy started off as a rekindling of shared musical ambitions between Philadelphia high school friends Matt Quinn (vocals, guitar) and Sam Cooper (guitar). Reunited in Los Angeles thanks to the ebbs and flows of adult life, the pair met multi-instrumentalist Michael Byrnes through a Craigslist ad. They named themselves Mt. Joy as an ode to a mountain in Valley Forge National Park near Sam’s childhood home, and together, with Byrnes’ roommate Caleb Nelson producing, they recorded three songs and sent them out into the world, hoping for the best.
Much to the band’s amazement, the infectious and warm single “Astrovan” accomplished the impossible. Without initial promotion or fanfare, the song took off on Spotify, racking up 5 million streams to date. Mt. Joy quickly transitioned from a part-time calling into a full-fledged band rounded out by Byrnes on bass, Sotiris Eliopoulos on drums and Jackie Miclau on keyboard.
Come 2017, Mt. Joy hit the road, and hit it hard: They played tour dates alongside the likes of The Shins, The Head and The Heart, The Lone Bellow, and Whitney, and popped up at some of the summer’s biggest festivals, including Bonnaroo, Newport Folk Festival, Lollapalooza and Made In America. They eventually caught the attention of Dualtone Records and began work on their debut album.
Steeped in folk-rock tradition and powered by the intuitive creative connection between Quinn and Cooper, the songs on ‘Mt. Joy’ depict Quinn wrestling with his own conscience, where the mundane and the fantastic collide as he processes tragedy, society, and love. It’s a startlingly open document, wracked with the anxieties and fears that come just as life seems to start working out – an honest portrayal of a young band facing that moment where dreams become reality, and finding beauty in the exhilarating uncertainty of it all.
Now in its fifth year, River Town brings the music of America’s heartland to the south west in a summer celebration of roots and Americana music. With a vibrant programme of blues, bluegrass, country and gospel, 2019’s series is packed full of performances from global icons and rising stars.
In 2019 the River Town series takes place at venues across Bristol including St George’s
Bristol, The O2 Academy, SWX, The Winston Theatre at Bristol University SU and The Crofters Rights,
and also makes its first foray into Bath with two performances at The Forum. With artists including k.d. lang, Lucinda Williams, The Shires, The Mavericks, Keb’ Mo’ and Jerron ‘Blind Boy’ Paxton, it’s the most ambitious programme yet.
River Town began in 2015 under the banner of Bristol Americana Weekend and under a co-producing partnership between Colston Hall and St George’s Bristol presented Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Larkin Poe, Police Dog Hogan, Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham and many more outstanding artists of American roots music.
The festival returned after wide-spread acclaim in 2016 to feature Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Mary Chapin Carpenter and the now internationally famous The White Buffalo.
In 2017 we launched the festival for a third year under the new name of River Town and showcased some of the finest blues, gospel, country and bluegrass, from across the pond and closer to home in Colston Hall, St George’s Bristol and for the first time in O2 Academy. Three UK greats – Paul Carrack, Nick Lowe and Andy Fairweather Low – joined forces in a rare trio performance that celebrated their shared love of American R&B, soul and country. The compelling singer songwriter Martha Wainwright performed along with R&B powerhouse, gospel legend and civil rights icon Mavis Staples. Plus performances by duo The Shires with crossover stars Ward Thomas brought country-pop to Bristol.
In 2018 the festival expanded across the city as part of our Colston Hall Presents programme, showcasing events taking place in venues across Bristol during the Hall’s Transformation project. In it’s fourth iteration River Town’s line-up featured music icons
Graham Nash and Rosanne Cash alongside The Barr Brothers, Steve Earle & The Dukes, The White Buffalo.