In Focus: Mikaela Davis Kicks Off Spring Residency At Funk ‘n Waffles In Syracuse

A quick walk through Syracuse’s Armory Square on the evening of Thursday, May 4 would have provided an astute listener the sounds to give hope that another winter was behind us.  Conversation drifted from sidewalk tables, birds sang from nearby trees, and the music of Mikaela Davis poured from Syracuse’s Funk ’n Waffles, as the band kicked off their “Here Comes Sunshine” spring residency.  This was the first of three scheduled performances at Funk ‘n Waffles for the band.

Davis, a native of Rochester, is a classically trained harpist who has toured extensively over the last decade.  She has built the reputation of being one of the brightest rising stars in the music industry.  In 2018 she released her debut solo album, Delivery.  Soon after the release, she joined forces with her backing band Southern Star.  The band, who consist of brothers Shane (bass guitar) and Cian McCarthy (guitar), Alex Cote (drums) and Kurt Johnson (pedal steel, guitar), have compiled an impressive touring resume. They have previously shared the stage with artists such as Bob Weir, Bon Iver, Lake Street Dive, and will tour with The Mountain Goats and later this year.  The five members have contributed to the band’s unique and refreshing sound.

Of late, the band has become known for their seasonal residency concerts;  three concerts over consecutive weeks in the same city.  The concert consists of two sets of music; one set of original music, and a second set of Grateful Dead covers. After selling out many residency shows across New York State this past winter, the band have again returned for a spring slate.  

Shortly after 8pm the band took to the stage and launched into the groovy “Don’t Stop Now”.  The song’s drum and bass rhythm would soon be joined by the familiar sounds of Davis’s harp plucking and the night would be under way.  The first set would consist of tracks from 2018’s Delivery as well as offerings from the band’s upcoming release And Southern Star.   The songs placed Davis’s talents on full display, with her vocals and signature harp style blending beautifully with the band’s accompaniment.  A highlight of the first set would be the band’s performance of “Far From You”, the the hauntingly beautiful first offering off of And Southern Star.

After a short intermission, the band would return to the stage for a set consisting entirely of Grateful Dead covers.  The stage, which was draped in bohemian decor, offered a fitting backdrop for the remainder of the evening.  During this portion of the evening, the band’s musical talent’s were really able to shine.  Grateful Dead classics turned in to musical jam sessions, while the near capacity audience filled the area closest to the stage and danced along.  During one jam session, Davis abandoned her seat at the harp, and each band member took a different percussive instrument.  They led the audience on an extended drum solo jam, much to the audiences’ delight.  

After a brief encore, the band returned to the stage and closed out the evening with their rendition of Grateful Dead’s “Bird Song”.  The combination of Davis’s vocals and harp playing allowed for the classic track to soar to new heights.  The evening’s combination of original music along with Grateful Dead classics make for an evening of must see music.  Be sure to catch the band on one of their upcoming residency shows.  

Mikaela Davis Residency Shows

5/8 – Ithaca NY – Deep Dive

5/9 – Buffalo NY – 9th Ward at Babeville

5/10 – Albany NY – Parish Public House

5/11 – Syracuse NY – Funk ‘n Waffles

5/15 – Rochester NY – Lilac Festival

5/16 – Buffalo NY – 9th Ward at Babeville

5/18 – Syracuse NY – Funk ‘n Waffles

5/19 – Albany NY – Parish Public House

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