When: Wed., July 20, 8 p.m. 2016
WEDNESDAY, JULY 20
Singer-songwriter Esmé Patterson has a knack for lending perspective. Woman to Woman, from 2014, was a collection of responses to classic songs about women, written from the woman's viewpoint. She gave voice to Townes Van Zandt's Loretta, Dolly Parton's Jolene, Elvis Costello's Alison, and even Eleanor Rigby. As Jolene, she insisted "your man don't mean a thing to me," while her Loretta let it be known that she was going to "keep my dancing shoes on long after you're gone."
Now, the former member of Denver indie-folk outfit Paper Bird has returned with her third solo effort, We Were Wild. There, she turns the folk ethos of making music to forge and sustain community on its head. We Were Wild brims with feedback and punchy riffs alongside breezy pop. On "Feel Right," Patterson's characteristically sweet croon morphs into a vocal delivery full of grit when she reaches the line, "Without feeling wrong, how can we know what feels right?"
Two days after the release of We Were Wild, the Portland-based artist made her own stand for what's right in an article for The Talkhouse on the Stanford rape case. Referencing the victim's brave and powerful statement that was read aloud to her attacker during his sentencing, Patterson describes being moved by the victim's focus on the Swedish bicyclists who happened upon the scene, tackled and held down the assailant until the police arrived.
"She said in her letter to her rapist that she drew two pictures of bicycles and put them over her bed to remind her of the good in people in a time when that was hard to remember," Patterson wrote, adding that she'd be wearing an emblem of two bicycles at her forthcoming shows in support of We Were Wild.
"I believe that with the right to artistic freedom comes the responsibility to use your voice to do good in the world, and with the opportunity that I have to play to rooms full of people every night comes the responsibility to try to heal and help when I can," she wrote.
For Patterson, that healing is personal; she wrote that her experience as a survivor of sexual assault compelled her to take a stand, too. By speaking up and fostering a community focused on working together—invoking the very folk ethos that informs her songs—she aims to affect change outside of her songs as much as within them. —Desiré Moses
THE PINHOOK, DURHAM8 p.m., $10–$12, www.thepinhook.com