One’s own interpretation of music is a deeply subjective and personal thing. When discussing my opinions about a song, I tend to stick to sonic qualities without revealing personal associations or analysis of meaning for fear of exposing too much of myself.
Esme Patterson, on the other hand, is not only revealing but performing her interpretation of classic works by artists like Elvis Costello, Townes Van Zandt, and even the great Dolly on her new seven track release “Woman to Woman.” A brave one herself, she has taken on the identity of the women described in the original songs to construct a new image of a woman. One that’s self-possessed but fragile, confident but aching.
The Hi-Dive was packed and full of friendly faces to celebrate the album release Thursday night. The sign on the door read “Friends of Esme,” and while the singer had mentioned a brilliant idea to have some buddies opening the show by singing the original songs she’s responding to, I had no idea how it would be set up.
No doubt folks who weren’t familiar with the concept of the record were a little confused by the revolving line-up of openers— each hopping on-stage for one cover each – but no one was complaining. Esme’s friends included Mike Marchant, Natalie Tate, Conor Bourgal, Gregory Alan Isakov, Ian Cooke, a mash up of the bands The Blue Rider and Ark Life, and Reverend Deadeye: a pretty impressive posse. My personal highlight of the opening performances was Ian Cooke’s take on "Eleanor Rigby" which prompted the stunned stranger beside me to mutter an impressed, “Holy f#@!” after only the first few lines.
Esme took the stage after I gave away a couple OpenAir hoodies, and oddly told the crowd to get “anxiety” instead of excited (words are hard). Those who weren’t already in love with her, instantly fell. She began with a heartfelt thanks to her talented friends, told the story behind the songs, then played the album from start to finish. Looking around the room, I saw folks singing along to this brand new release as if it had been a stereo staple for years.