By Sophie Israelsohn
On April 13, The Haunt hosted a better-than-average hump day with a show by San Fermin and Esmé Patterson. Going from big festivals like Lollapalooza to a small-town bar, San Fermin and The Haunt could have seemed an unlikely pair. Attention given to it or not, venue has a lot to do with the overall concert experience and The Haunt in particular is worth a praise or two.
For first timers like myself (I’m surprised too), the venue was a pleasant surprise. You enter from what seems like the side of the building to a little table where someone checks off your name and number of tickets, slaps a wristband on you and welcomes you in a way that’s just short of “come in, take a load off.”
Caddy-corner to the stage is the bar, set facing the rest of the room on a slightly raised platform. There’s only one TV for those who care about what the score is — dare I say one too many — and a respectable selection of craft brews and liquor. The L-shaped bar has plenty of seats and there is additional seating high top style or booth on the outer edges of the bar platform.
All that and there was still plenty of standing room left over. Granted, at any venue, the timing of when you were to get there might then vary how much space one has between themselves and their neighbor. But for the pack I traveled in, coming in a solid half-hour between when doors opened and the show would start, grabbing a beer and a nice spot up front wasn’t difficult to manage, personal space to spare.
Promptly enough, Esmé Patterson came on in her Crayola blue overalls (that I may or may not have admired from the Instragram she posted at Niagara Falls earlier that day) and the rest of her band. But in defense of my admiration, I’ve been waiting to see Esmé Patterson live since watching her sing with Shakey Graves — who played The Haunt this time last year — on “Dearly Departed” for their Pandora Session.
Patterson and her band kept it casual with their style of performance, no theatrics necessary, but it was obvious that they really wanted to be there. I appreciate so much openers who don’t let that title dictate how they treat their set. San Fermin’s baritone saxophonist Stephen Chen made an appearance during Patterson’s sizable set wherein Esmé played some new material from her forthcoming album and also a nice slew of songs from her previous album Woman to Woman — a concept album told from the perspective of women sung about in popular songs, like Eleanor Rigby and Jolene.
Not too long after, the members of San Fermin took the stage and put on a set that honestly could have lasted all night. Its energy was so ridiculous that the mind-wandering side effect of a too-long set was impossible. San Fermin’s use of theatrics was also quite minimal, mostly sticking to hue changes in the lighting. Every once in a while, lead singer Charlene Kaye would hike up her combat-booted foot on to the center monitor. Not one member of San Fermin is limited to one role; songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone held down stage right on the synth and keys, drummer Michael Hanf at one point delegated to Kaye — who herself shares the vocals with other lead singer Allen Tate — swapping out for guitar. The whole night was one big game of who has the egg shaker.
San Fermin had a good mix, tracks from its most recent album taking set priority. Its first album was generously dispersed as well, Kaye taking the brunt of the vocals once sung by Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe (both of Lucius). But boy, was she up for it; “Crueler Kind” as a more than sufficient example. Tate’s pleasantly lethargic, Matt Berninger-esque tone was warmly charming. The partnership between he and Kaye justly brought out the personal meaning behind the tracks. Adding to the growing connection between audience and bandmates, trumpet player John Brandon jumped down into the audience during a song; something not often expected at any ol’ show.
San Fermin truly capitalized on the intimacy the venue provided, a quality that made both the band and the location memorable and worth another weeknight.