Old Songs, New Songs, & Each other’s Songs – An Evening with The Antlers & Okkervil River

The Old Town School of Folk Music
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The Old Town School of Folk Music in Lincoln Square never disappoints. It’s part music venue, an intimate one at that, bringing in artists from all over the world, and part music school. While concerts are going on, you might run into a banjo class, burlesque chair dance class, or dance class for kids-to name a few. Their performance offerings are vast and unique, and this week’s dual performance of The Antlers and Okkervil River was not to be missed.

Both musical acts have been around since the early 2000’s, have large discographies and are no strangers to touring. What made this night so special was that each act was stripped down versions of their songs, from all albums. First were The Antlers, and for those who have never listened to them before, the voice of the lead singer, Peter Silberman- is honestly, that of an angel. As a new fan, I was pleasantly surprised at how crisp and close to the recordings he sounded and was mesmerized. Their set was just him and the drummer, Michael Lerner, and while a two-person performance might not give an engaging impression, and leave sounds to be desired, their commitment to the stories behind the songs, and connection to each other’s performing were palpable, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

As I sat in the audience taking the music, which could only be described as healing, even though the subject matter of their music is quite sad, I couldn’t help but overhear audience members around me discussing their favorite songs by The Antlers and how much certain albums meant to them. One album that kept coming up, was Hospice-the 2009 concept album about a hospice worker and a female patient suffering from terminal bone cancer. To my surprise, this album is also a metaphor for an abusive relationship, making it even more devastatingly emotional to listen to. Someone in the crowd shouted, “play epilogue!” to which Peter replied, “we’re getting there”. This made the audience chuckle, as it’s one of their most popular songs on the critically acclaimed album.

Okkervil River, led by frontman Will Sheff

After they performed, came Okkervil River, led by frontman Will Sheff- who looks like John Lennon! (I cant be the first person to have thought of this). They were a bit more upbeat than The Antlers, which was a nice dichotomy, but they also complemented their sound well, clicking as to why they’re on tour together. Will’s music also greatly influenced Peter’s music, so this seemed like a very meaningful tour for them as individuals. It was really nice to see some audience members dancing freely, throwing their hands in the air, semi stomping around to their music- it was clear that their music means a lot to a lot of people. When Okervill River was done, they brought out Peter and Michael and they performed a few songs together. The combination of the two front men’s voices was so sweet and harmonious, it was honestly an honor to witness. Daily life moves fast, and is often chaotic and stressful-but there really is something to be said for surrendering to music, letting yourself slow down, and fully appreciate some of the best singer song writers of these fast times.

See what’s coming up at the Old Town School of Folk Music

See what the upcoming tour dates are for the Antlers & Okervil River

Photos provided by Old Town School of Folk Music


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