I’m new to what residents of North Carolina call The Triangle: the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill metropolitan area. I’m still getting used to the fact that I can see massive amounts of live music in three different locales (four, if you count the occasional Wake Forest show). I took advantage of this a couple weeks ago and headed out to Chapel Hill from my stomping grounds of Raleigh to check out Patrick Park and Gregory Alan Isakov at Cat’s Cradle.
Cat’s (as it is colloquially called) sits in a non-descript endcap storefront. The venue itself is spartan but homely; not too big and empty to be impersonal, not so small to be considered cramped. Just right for 300 people, I’d guess. (I’m bad at headcount guesstimation.) I immediately liked the place: it announces, “We’re a venue, and that’s it.” Way to be who you are.
Patrick Park opened the night with a set of intricate, interwoven finger-picking. He deftly balanced the complicated guitar work with engaging vocal lines, creating impressive songs. The performance was lively, even though Park was alone on stage with nothing but his dry stage banter to support him. His anecdote about placing a tune in Grey’s Anatomy got people laughing (“I never wrote a song and thought, ‘Oh, this would be perfect for a murder scene.'”), and his varied song moods and structures kept people engaged. It was a fascinating, incredibly enjoyable set, and I hope that Park gets a lot more exposure from his recently-released EP and his upcoming full-length in 2014.
“Suitcase Full of Sparks” references my not-often-mentioned home state of Oklahoma, so I was thrilled when Gregory Alan Isakov and his two-piece band announced they were about to play it. My hopping-up-and-down enthusiasm was only fueled by the fact that they performed the song with one multi-directional microphone placed in front of the trio, doing it “folk style” (as Isakov noted). The vocal harmonies and pure instrumentation resonated beautifully in the space, making “Suitcase” a delight.
Isakov and his backers played several others off The Weatherman, as well as mixing in older tunes like “The Stable Song” and “This Empty Northern Hemisphere.” In contrast to Park’s knowing, dry humor, Isakov projected a humble, earnest stage vibe that the audience thoroughly enjoyed. The majority of Isakov’s tunes are quiet, beautiful works, and the audience was surprisingly quiet to allow better hearing. This allowed the band to really lock in, and the songs sounded just as good, and in some places even more crisp, than their recorded counterparts. The band played for a long while, giving the audience its money’s worth. It was just all-around an excellent set. Both bands were wonderful, making this tour a total joy. I highly recommend catching either of these bands if they come near you.