For those who braved the rain, the first annual 2nd Street Festival in Northern Liberties proved to be a pretty good day. Yards was selling booze, there were a handful of good vendors, and a stage with some fairly good bands. I'm repeatedly struck by how much NLibs as changed in the decade or so since I was a regular at the 700 club. It is a different place, and though we miss the Ministry of Information, it still has a core of good bars. The area along Second Street, Liberties Walk, and the new Piazza, is now a veritable urban village. I like my visits.
I didn't catch the names of most of the bands, but there were some good acts playing that indie sound that has become de rigeur listening among my hipster friends in the last few years, the best practitioners are bands like TV on the Radio, Spoon ... that kind of thing. They were good but somewhat unremarkable.
The day was kicked off by a more subdued but no less powerful songstress named Sharon van Etten. She played a solo show with a clean-sounding electric guitar, showing off a beautiful voice, elegant songwriting, and a steady stage presence. My friend compared her to Sandy Denny, and Sharon talked to me after the show about British folk music like Fairport Convention and Richard and Linda Thompson, so the influence is there. She has a delightfully idiosyncratic yet accessible folk sound, like a solo version of Philadelphia's great psych pop band, the Espers (they are still around) and her melodies are enticingly strong.
Sharon hails from Brooklyn, and seems to be a regular on their folk-type circuits, but you may hear more about her here. Her first album, "Because I Was In Love" (she saw my face when she told me the title and assured me it was a line from a Richard Brautigan poem), comes from the Philly label Language of Stone and she hoped to make it to our provincial hinterland more in upcoming months. She should stay a little while.
Sharon van Etten playing "For You"