Patrick Park never smiled. Patrick Park hardly said a word, but he didn’t need to. There was so much happening in his eyes. Wearing a T-shirt, blazer and jeans, Park mesmerized the diehards who showed up early to catch his brief opening appearance with British power pop mainstays Supergrass at Spaceland in Los Angeles, California.
Armed with an acoustic guitar, a whole lot of charisma, and more than a little angst, Park led the small crowd through a quiet, but fierce, set. The most obvious thing about him was his almost gleeful lack of pretence. No schmoozing the crowd. No trying to be anything other than what he is. When you see a Patrick Park show, the music is the star. And in a music business over saturated with pre-packaged studio acts, an artist like Patrick Park is a welcome breath of fresh air.
Though Park plays music that can be easily classified as folk or even alt-country-folk, his punk roots are evident. Many of Park’s songs traverse love’s rocky terrain, but his lyrics are never trite or syrupy; instead they are honest, personal, and sometimes ugly. Park is a fearless singer who frequently sings out of the bounds of his natural range and it works. Park’s voice during the gorgeous “Honest Skrew” was all rasp and passion. “Wake up next to you, honest screw / Because you always go too far / So, you slip slowly out, to sit in the next room / And eat your breakfast in the dark / It won’t feed your cold and lonely heart”. Strongly reminiscent of Kurt Cobain, with a little Morrissey thrown in for good measure, Park sang the song as if he were still waist deep in the muck.
Park ran through songs from both his modest back catalogue and his newest release, Under the Unminding Skies, including “Past Poisons”, another fine example of the power of Park’s lyrical content. “You’re just another one of last summer’s dreams / Your eyes are blue, and your seas are green / Some small consolation you get for a while / So drink down your sorrows and their crooked ass smiles.” His voice during “Past Poisons” was strong and defiant. “Nothing’s Wrong”, a beautiful country-inspired folk song with soaring vocals over a gentle tinkling guitar, and the well-crafted pop-folk of “Home for Now” were both captivating live.
The early ‘70s rock-inspired “Thunderbolt” (think Neil Young with a prettier voice) was also strong. Once again Park’s lyrics shined: “She’s a thunderbolt with guns and fire / Two arms full of holes and nothing to hold / She’s a restless sort with secrets that wait on corners in the dark / To pinch with a pain / To sting and to smart / God knows it gets so hard to keep out the cold, when you’re living in a house full of holes”.
During “Bullets by the Door” it became clear that Park is not only a strong singer-songwriter, but also a fine guitar player. His finger picking is impressive, but even more exciting is his ability to play lead, rhythm and bass on the acoustic guitar. Park is also a bit of a perfectionist. After missing a note during “Your Smile’s A Drug”, he blurted a spontaneous “fuck” and cracked an unexpected wait, was that a smile? Perhaps, but it was brief. A flash, really. Kind of like a late-night apparition you might think you see out of the corner of your eye.
Park rounded out the show with a rousing cover of the Carter Family version of the traditional American hymn, “Will the Circle be Unbroken?”, which prompted some crowd participation in the form of hand claps, and “Silver Girl”: “That howling wind, it comes knocking on her door / You know I want her here, but it wants her more / She’s a sad-eyed silver skinner, with worn and broken decks / And you can hear her moan, as the main sail sets / She says, “Hang on silver girl, “It’s going to be alright, now”. The melancholy in Park’s voice as he sang “Silver Girl” was palpable. And as he sang each word, there was no doubt he meant every bit of it.