Thursday, August 20, 2009

Espers live at Penn Treaty Park

As I was saying in my last post, I saw an excellent show by Philly’s great psychedelic folk band the Espers, live at Penn Treaty Park yesterday as part of their Wednesday music series. Rain was forecast, but it held out and the band played on into the dusk.

I haven’t seen the Espers in a few years. The last show I remember was an ideal setting for the atmospheric folk-rock style the band has perfected: a late night show in the Franklin Institute’s Fels Planetarium. The audience lay on the ground, watched the stars and lights and listened to the Esper’s experimental doodling. Great. (The night also featured a Secret Cinema showing, I think they do similar events at the FI every year, if so it’s worth checking out).

For their Penn Treaty Park show, the Espers seemed to play a more acoustic-based, traditionally folky show than I remembered from years’ past. This was a welcome change and fit perfectly with the laidback outdoors vibe of this hip Fishtown waterfront park, a place that’s increasingly putting itself on the Philly social map with free shows, fairs, and pickup games of ultimate frisbee and the like. If this is the current style of the Espers, still freeform, but more rootsy, I’ll have to check them out on more occasions. Meg Baird and Greg Weeks have always had a good chemistry, and together with talented bassist Chris Smith and a collection of other well-matched instrumentalists, the Espers deserve any acclaim that comes their way. Recently, there’s been quite a lot.

The opening act, The Oubliette Ensemble, fit the bill well with a set of compositions that would fit into the British folk scene anytime in the last several centuries (one song was announced as “this is a piece from the 14th century”). Their loose playing was a perfect intro for the Espers. The Oubliette Ensemble should make a welcome addition to any bill.

Unfortunately, this was the last show of the season at PTP, we hope this great summer music series returns next year.

The Espers live, "Something Different"

Neither the Espers nor the Oubliette Ensemble have any upcoming shows on their myspace pages (click band name to access).

Shows at Penn Treaty Park

Saw an excellent show by Philly’s great psychedelic folk band the Espers, live at Penn Treaty Park. I’ve been going to this Fishtown green space a bunch recently for their free Wednesday concerts. A few weeks ago I saw Hunter/Gatherer and War on Drugs, two pretty good Philadelphia bands.

Hunter/Gatherer started with some great female sung compositions, featuring the powerful voice of Audrey Zelia and some great guitar interplay between Zelia and bandmate Jesse Hale. I liked their latter songs featuring Hale on vocals a little less than the earlier songs and found myself a little distracted by the end of their set.

When indie rock outfit War on Drugs started playing I was racking my brain trying to figure out what Bob Dylan song they were covering. I know the famed Minnesota folkster’s catalogue pretty damn well and this was an unknown song that seemed to be unmistakenly Dylanesque. As the set went on, I realized that it was not a Dylan song, but just one of many Dylanesque numbers by this Philly band. Theirs was a highly enjoyable set, perfect for the outdoor venue.

I would like to call out War on Drugs, and other Philadelphia bands, for their decision to play “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. As everyone who plays original sets should know, there is a list of songs that should not be covered by any band ever. “Freebird” is the clich├ęd example, “All Along the Watchtower” is another exemplar of this. It’s a song by a incredible recording artist (Bob Dylan), that was covered in its most perfect form by the premier electric guitarist of pop music (Jimi Hendrix). You should not attempt this. I’ve come to believe that “Hallelujah” is another one of these songs. It’s by the Canadian poet-musician Leonard Cohen (his version at the Academy of Music this Spring was sublime), but it has been done by numerous great singers, including Rufus Wainwright, K.D. Lang, Bob Dylan, Jon Bon Jovi (!), Alexandra Burke (British Pop Idol winner!), and Bono (!!!). Jeff Buckley provided perhaps the best interpretation with his 1994 cover. Picking from a Leonard Cohen catalogue that includes many touching an brilliant numbers, there is no reason to choose this song to cover. I saw Hoots and Hellmouth do it recently. Well, but still…. no more Hallelujah, okay?

Hunter/Gatherer at Penn Treaty Park from Mark Schoneveld on Vimeo.

Neither Hunter/Gatherer nor War on Drugs have any upcoming Philly shows on their myspace pages (click on band name to access).

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"It's A Living" by Rachel Andes

Video of "It's A Living" by Rachel Andes with Evan Gist and Christopher Munden.
filmed by Jon Gangwer.

Camera (a) - preview from Jon Gangwer on Vimeo.

See the original here: