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In concert: Sarah Harmer at the Birchmere

sarah harmerSarah Harmer: good tunes, enlightening stories. (All photos by Evy Mages/TWP)

By Juli Thanki

It's not often that you learn about 17th-century Native American burial practices and hear a hilariously filthy joke about semen donation within a two-hour period. Unless, that is, you attended Sarah Harmer's Sunday night performance at the Birchmere.

Supported by a four piece band, the Canadian singer-songwriter alternated between acoustic and electric guitars in a set bursting at the seams with hook heavy indie-pop tempered by the occasional alt-country ballad. Nearly half of the evening's twenty songs came from new album "Oh Little Fire," Harmer's first release in five years. Guitarist Dean Drouillard and keyboardist Julie Fader backed Harmer's plaintive vocals with sweet harmonies and infectious arrangements that belied vivid, moody lyrics about burned out relationships and dingy basement apartments.

sarah harmer

Aforementioned joke (which received roars of laughter from the Birchmere crowd) and anthropology lesson aside, much of Harmer's banter revolved around her environmental activism, first as she dedicated the "peace song" "Dandelions in Bullet Holes" to the city of Toronto with hopes for an end to the violence plaguing the G-20 protests, and later sung "Escarpment Blues," a folk tune she wrote about the dangers of a proposed gravel quarry near her Burlington, Ontario home.

After an encore that included a solo acoustic take on the fan requested "Came on Lion" and a rafter rattling version of "Lodestar" (which was also recorded by Harmer's '90s alternative band Weeping Tile), it became clear that Harmer is poised to achieve Neko Case levels of stateside success and won't be held back much longer; as she sings on "Careless," "All the words that I've held too close to my chest/Are calling on me now to get through."

sarah harmer

By David Malitz  |  June 28, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: Sarah Harmer  
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