Concert Review: Mikaela Davis, talented harp player at a bluegrass show

One of the coolest things about smaller venue concerts, especially in these smaller genres, is discovering new bands by way of the opening act. After featuring Gaby Moreno their first two of three nights in DC, the Punch Brothers had harp player, singer-songwriter, and new name Mikaela Davis from Rochester, New York for their late-scheduled third show. Her website says she’s known for her covers of Sufjan Stevens and Elliott Smith, and that she’s also played with Willie Watson, My Brightest Diamond, the Infamous Stringdusters, My Brightest Diamond, and others.

I only caught Davis’s last two songs, so I won’t say too much here. She’s a very talented harp player with a silky voice, which means she’s blazing a musical trail few have and the audience clearly paid attention and definitely appreciated her. This tweep wasn’t alone:

Sometimes she tours with a trio, but Sunday night she was solo. I kind of wish she’d had the trio with her. Don’t get me wrong, she was very talented – but on its own, no matter how intricate, complex, and lovely, in my experience a solo harp’s a solo harp. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just not my thing outside of a classical setting. But watching her YouTube videos, I’m somewhat intrigued by the way her band blends the harp, guitar, sitar, and percussion together for an interesting indie sound. Not necessarily what I look for personally and the melodies are too rainy-day dreamy for me (though that’s a good fit for non-classical harp), but there’s certainly talent here and maybe it will match your own tastes.

I’m surprised Davis is opening for the likes of Watson, the Stringdusters, and the Punch Brothers. Not because she’s not talented enough – she certainly is – but because she seems a better fit for indie folk or more new-agey singer-songwriter audiences then bluegrass or traditional folk. The song she did with Filigar makes more sense to me. But then again, talented artists certainly know how to appreciate and promote one another across genres, and that’s not a bad thing.

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