On Saturday, June 18, during her performance at the Larimer Lounge, Esmé Patterson bemusedly told the audience that the last time she played the Larimer, it was probably with one of her old bands, Harpoontang. That project was concurrent with her involvement in Paper Bird, a band that she helped found in 2006 and which she left in 2014, so her comment would date the previous show to at least several years back.
Patterson, who relocated to Portland in 2014, is far from a nationally known name right now, despite her association with Shakey Graves. Yet the announcement that she was playing a small rock club rather than a theater for the release of her new album, We Were Wild, came as a bit of a surprise. Maybe in coming back to town to put out a record, she wanted a more intimate setting than even a small theater like the Bluebird affords. Whatever the reason, Patterson seemed to be in especially good spirits, surrounded by friends in opening acts Inner Oceans and Littles Paia. Bassist Julia Mendiolea performed double duty with both Inner Oceans and Patterson, and Littles Paia, aka Adam Baumeister, owner of Meep Records, played slide guitar on We Were Wild. Patterson made sure to let us know that locally renowned songwriter Joe Sampson, who also performed on the record, was in attendance as well. That gathering of her musical family and connection to her roots probably wouldn't have had as much meaning or impact in a larger space, much less in another city. (Additionally, in Denver, some people might appreciate that Griff Snyder of Inner Oceans was once in Dovekins, a band with which Patterson often shared a stage during her time with Paper Bird. )
Even though Patterson surrounded herself with a good deal of her Denver music family, that information was neither required nor necessary to enjoy the show. Drawing from three solo albums, She seemed particularly free and energetic, as embodied in the performance of “Feel Right.” Patterson's performances never seem tentative, and the Larimer's intimate environment highlighted her ability to establish and maintain the playful intensity and subtle grit that has made her a compelling artist all on her own.
Before playing “No River,” Patterson told us that making the video was probably the craziest twelve hours of her entire life. The song outlines the kind of weariness of being burdened with the everyday, unrealistic expectations of being a woman. And yet Patterson seemed free of all such concerns, matching the enthusiasm of the crowd until long after the last strains of the encore had faded.
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Check out a full slideshow of Esme Patterson at Larimer Lounge.