[ATTENDED: January 31, 2017] Mary Lattimore
I wasn’t sure who would be opening for Parquet Courts. I was surprised and delighted to see that the opening act was going to be a harpist. I had never heard of Mary Lattimore before, although on looking her up it seems quite likely that I have heard her before–she seems to be a go-to harpist for a lot of bands [a shortened list includes these records: Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts ; Jarvis Cocker – Further Complications ; Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo & Wakin on a Pretty Daze ; Sharon Van Etten – Are We There? ; Quilt – Plaza ; Hop Along – Painted Shut].
When I arrived her harp was onstage–lit up and gorgeous–and I was really excited to hear her show.
She came out while we were waiting and made some final adjustments. And then a few minutes later she sat down at the harp, quietly thanked us for coming and began playing.
I had never seen an electric harp before–I didn’t know that it would have pedals–at least six that I could see– (that’s her foot on one of the pedals to the left). But more importantly I had no idea that Mary would be manipulating the sound as she played it.
So she leaned her harp towards her and began playing and on her lap was a large effects box.
After playing some beautiful passages, she often used her left hand to tweak the sounds (making them spacey, or looping them) with the box.
Typically while she was manipulating the sounds, she played high notes with her right hand (I’d never seen anyone play those teeny strings before. And then she would reach out with her left and play a deep bass note or chords and the process would begin again.
It was mesmerizing. I was just a few feet away and I was able to watch her hands play the strings and play with the effects pedals.
She played four pieces in total each one was about 8 minutes long. After each song, when she deemed it over, she would lean the harp away from her and smile at us. She nodded her thanks and then pulled the harp in once more.
On some of the songs she used the very large ring on her right hand to clack the harp for percussion sounds (which were looped). She also grabbed some bass strings and ran her hands down the for scraping sounds. It was really cool to watch.
She didn’t very often play the stereotypical “pretty harp” music (the kind you might hear in heaven, of course). There was some of that, certainly, but mostly it was melodies and looped sounds that she was accompanying herself with.
I’m assuming that the four pieces were not improvised. But I don’t really know any of her song titles to know if she was playing anything in particular either. I bought her EP (with Jeff Zeigler on guitar) on the way out and I thought some of the melodies and percussion sounds were similar. But none of her shows ever list a setlist available online.
But who cares.
It was a really beautiful set and just couldn’t get enough of it.
I was also thrilled at how quiet and respectful the crowd was for her. And I had to laugh when the set was over, a young girl next to me said “I have GOT to get her to play on one of my violin pieces. Does anyone know what her name is?” Maybe the next Lattimore collaboration was birthed right next to me.