Up and coming folky Elvis Perkins swung by Great Scott’s last night in Allston as part of the Fenway Recording Sessions series. He’s been getting some great pub for his debut album Ash Wednesday from both Stereogum and Daytrotter (be sure to download the live cuts) and with a recommendation from a buddy I decided it would be worth it to check him out. Opening act Patrick Watson, from Montreal and playing their first ever gig stateside, delivered the goods as well with cuts from their latest Closer to Paradise.
I profess to being a total ignoramus regarding both acts before last night but if anything is clear it wasn’t just me that was won over by the completely different bands last night.
But before we get into the nuts and bolts of the sets from Patrick Watson and Elvis Perkins it should be noted, if you’re scoring at home, that thanks to the adorable staff writer of the Boston Phoenix (whose name I didn’t ask) I’ve now been told I have a Canadian accent to go along with others telling me I have a southern accent and a midwestern accent. I’ve lived in Boston my entire life except for a few short stints in upstate NY, Indianapolis and Charleston, SC. At no point have I ever lived in Canada, eh? Regardless her needling of my last name and accent would have made my night, had it not been for the stellar live tunes.
Though he may emulate the folksy-roots rock of Bob Dylan and Neil Young it’s clear from the strum of his guitar, hum of his harmonica, and intonation of his lamenting voice, that Perkins is beholden to the ghosts of no one. His offbeat lyrics seem humorous one moment and devastatingly poignant the next such as the song “Emile’s Vietnam in the Sky.” It begins with the non-sequitor “Jean Cocteau is covered in butter…” but soon Perkins asks “Do you ever wonder where you go when you die?” His ruminations, because it would be a disservice to simply label him a mere songwriter, have the power to enchant, hold an audience in rapture, cause laughter and sadness all at the same time.
His gently fractured voice manages to carry the sound of a heavy-soul. That he manages to do all this in a single one-hour set of songs is pretty amazing. Then again Elvis Perkins seems to be a pretty cool dude. Dressed to the nines in an impecably fitted black velvet suit, scarf draped gently around his neck, the tiny detail of his boots being held together with ducktape indicates he has more important matters to consider than a pair of new shoes.
He dropped an unreleased track, “Shampoo” with the most memorable line of the night. “Black is the color of love. It’s a color. I don’t wanna die today, maybe tomorrow. There’s a square of sun above me.” It’s clear, even having only heard him this one time, that Elvis Perkins will be making important music for years to come.
He closed with “While You Were Sleeping” and then a one song encore of “1,2,3, Goodbye.”
As for Patrick Watson. The four lads were incredibly excited to be in Boston with their dreamy art rock sound. The lead singer, Patrick Watson (yes, the band and the singer have the same name), has a lilting falsetto voice which when he decides to sing is a thing of beauty. To often he hums and makes pretty noises. But his voice sounds similar to that of M. Ward’s. As for their music, well, we don’t know much about their chamber pop except they reside in a place where Coldplay wishes they could be. Dreamy and haunting songs that are hopeful and uplifting. Where Radiohead turns towards the paranoid and scary, Patrick Watson wonders about the places that make life worth living.
The band used everything from balloons, pianos and accordians to create their sound. But the standout instrument is Watson’s voice. You can stream some of their songs over at their Myspace page and it’s probably worth it to do so.
The highlight of the night came during their closing acoustic song, “Man of the Sea” where the band played a shanty ditty out amongst the crowd before returning to the stage and rocking out.
All in all a great night of music.