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