Back on March 29th, Montreal’s Patrick Watson returned to Atlanta for the first time in over 10 years, leaving the small but dedicated crowd woozy after such a stunning set.
Newcomer Trevor Sensor, from Sterling, Illinois, opened up the night. Trevor’s debut album, Andy Warhol’s Dream, comes out on June 16th via Jagjaguwar. The Midwesterner showed off a set of some compelling folk tunes as he bounced around the stage with his band, before switching to some solo songs with just Trevor and his piano.
One thing Trevor made perfectly clear, as he obviously enjoyed being on stage with the crowd, was that he has made a conscious effort to study the greats of the past like Woody Guthrie to Tom Waits to Bob Dylan. And that’s the first thing you immediately notice with the 23-year old, his vocals, the growls and raspy-ness, that are a clear ode to those greats. But that’s the thing that also gave me pause about Trevor Sensor, at times his vocals felt forced, like that’s not really how his vocals are supposed to sound, it was an effort to get there. Perhaps it was just an off night, and it’s not as though Trevor didn’t bring plenty to the table, but it was hard not to think about the vocals as Trevor and his band played on stage. But with his signing to acclaimed indie label Jagjaguwar, and the new album recorded at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studio in Chicago, while being produced by both Jonathan Rado of Foxygen and famed songwriter/producer Richard Swift, it’s obvious the former English Literature and Philosophy major has a lot of believers behind him. There was still plenty there to for me to be still interested in hearing the record from the young upcoming songwriter.
Patrick Watson and his extremely talented band took to the stage next. The lights went down, and the band immediately took over the venue. The crowd was much smaller than I expected, after all, as Patrick mentioned, it had been like 10-14 years since he had played in Atlanta. While Patrick Watson may not be known in “radio” music circles, he has definitely developed a large critical underground following. In 2003, Patrick Watson independently released his debut, Just Another Ordinary Day, before his first label release, Close To Paradise, in 2006 on Secret City Records. Since then, Watson has released three critically acclaimed albums, including the last, the effervescent Love Song For Robots in 2015. But while the crowd may have been small, all of us in attendance were treated to something absolutely special.
Patrick Watson and his band mixed up the set that night, playing a career spanning set that showed all of their different sides. There was Patrick on the piano, bringing the audience to it’s knees with songs like “Lighthouse”; there were multiple times where the band all left their regular places on stage, and went full acoustic folk all together over one mic as the band harmonized and switched vocals; there were other times the band went all jazzy experimental and creating an atmosphere with perfectly placed synths that you never wanted to leave on songs like “Love Songs For Robots”, “Good Morning Mr. Wolf” and others.
It was an absolutely magical night that was hard to forget. Really, Patrick Watson and his band took me on a ride that I hadn’t seen at a show since Rhye played Terminal West last November. And while Rhye and Patrick Watson are two very different bands, they share a lot of similarities – Mike Milosh of Rhye is also from Canada and can hit other wordily notes with their vocals, while their bands share an affinity for jazz and experimentation – so it was obvious why this was such a stunning night. Let’s hope that it won’t be another 10 years until Patrick Watson returns to Atlanta.
Check out Mike Gerry’s photos of Patrick Watson and Trevor Sensor at Terminal West:
Check out video footage from Patrick Watson’s set at Terminal West to get a glimpse of how stunning this set was (included: playing of a haunting saw):