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).

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