A large, almost-square living room is full of spindly chairs, comfortable couches and adorable armchairs, all set up facing the stage in the corner. White twinkle lights hang across one wall, giving a starry glow to the low-lit room. The record player, hidden in the closet, sounds its music softly until someone switches it off. People laugh and joke, settling into their seats. The scent of homemade tacos wafts from the kitchen: the bands dinner.
Its Saturday night at the Souwester Lodge in Seaview, Wash. Were in the main building of the lodge itself, my first time visiting. People staying in the vintage travel trailer rentals, cabins and campground trickle through the doors, their interest piqued.
Portland musician Nick Jaina sits down at the drums, and Esmé Patterson, a member of the Denver-based band Paper Bird, picks up the acoustic guitar. Esmés fluffy curls form a halo around her head. The duo has been touring around Oregon this month, and the Souwester is their fourth stop.
First Esmé sings a song inspired by light, how both ends of the spectrum complete exposure and complete darkness are blinding. Her voice is arresting, in the same vein as Feist and Regina Spektor. She released her first solo album All Princes, I in October.
Another short, melancholy song focuses on love and loss. Esmé says shes been thinking about the approaching spring and the cycles of blooming flowers: crocuses, daffodils, poppies. Its beautiful but sad at the same time. Nothing that we love can stay, but its easy to forget among the flowers, Esmé says. Maybe we should just forget. Maybe thats it.
Nick picks up the guitar and sings a song from the point of view of a bird: the ortolan, a tiny songbird that is roasted and eaten whole in France. This pinnacle of gastronomy is an endangered species and illegal to hunt in France. But though the bird is officially off the menu at all French restaurants, some still serve the delicacy in secret. Nick says he heard about the ortolan on This American Life, where eating it was described as both a disgusting and transcendent experience.
It just struck me: its a bird that is so beloved for both its singing voice and its taste, yet thats its undoing, Nick said.
The duo sing together and solo, and the end of every song is met with enthusiastic applause.