After an absence from the DC metro area of nearly three years, Mikaela Davis stopped in at DC9 Monday night and performed a set that spanned musical genres from dream pop to country to straight ahead rock. Who would have thought that a harpist could be so versatile? With a voice that is strong and pure, and instrumental chops that rival any lead guitarist’s, Mikaela’s set wowed the faithful crowd.
The use of harp in pop/rock is not entirely unprecedented. At least three harpists mark relatively long-lived successful careers: Joanna Newsom, Andreas Vollenweider, and Fiona Davidson from the UK prog-rock band Iona. Mikaela’s harp playing, however, is decidedly more adventurous, with broad musical strokes that sound like a sitar or sarod, as well as the traditional, classical tones one would expect. But her mastery of the instrument was undeniable despite the tongue in cheek warning a particular classical composer had once given her, “As Stravinsky told me, ‘Harp players spend 80 percent of their time tuning, and 20 percent of their time playing out of tune.’”
After opening act Vanessa Peters finished her brief but well-received set, Mikaela and her band (Alex Coté: drums, vocals; Shane McCarthy: bass, vocals; Cian McCarthy: guitar, vocals) took the stage. Opening on keyboards with the title track from her debut album, Delivery (Rounder Records), Mikaela quickly established a forceful, yet easygoing stage presence. The evening featured tunes primarily drawn from her debut, with some new tunes (“Home in the Country,” “One of These Days,” “A Promise Nobody Wanted to Keep”) in the mix. A solo turn on the lovely “Emily” was easily the highlight of the evening for me.
Watch the official music video for “Delivery” by Mikaela Davis on YouTube:
In My Groove
Pure Divine Love
Home in the Country (new song)
One of These Days (new song)
A Promise Nobody Wanted to Keep (new song)
A Letter That I’ll Never Send
All I Do Is Disappear
Mikaela uses a modern harp equipped with levers and pedals that vary the pitch and range through the technique of chromaticism (e.g., adding sharps and flats). But technical details were far from our minds as we watched a lovely young artist display her virtuoso talents with music both unique and accessible. Mikaela will be on tour supporting Delivery through January 2019. Find music, tour dates on her website.
Here are some pictures of Mikaela Davis performing at DC9 on Oct. 15, 2018. All photos copyright and courtesy of Mark Caicedo.