“It’s so good to play in a real room in front of real people,” said Darlingside‘s Harris Paseltiner to this week’s Free At Noon audience. If it felt odd to hear post-pandemic lockdown sentiments as 2023 draws to a close, remember that the New England folk ensemble hasn’t exactly toured a ton in the 2020s, and their Philly area stops tend to be in outdoorsy settings (Longwood Gardens, Haddon Lake Park, Philly Folk, XPoNential).
So it must have been exciting prospect; Darlingside’s first venue gig in the Philly market since forever, their first non-virtual face time with Philly fans, their first chance to show off their past two albums (this year’s Everything is Alive, 2020’s Fish Pond Fish) in our area. And it being an on-location broadcast from Ardmore Music Hall, where Darlingside was set to play a sold out show Friday night, it was a chance to warm up for the big gig.
Darlingside’s core four-piece — Paseltiner on guitar and cello, Don Mitchell on guitar and banjo, Auyon Mukharji on mandolin and violin, and David Senft on bass — is augmented on this run by Molly Parden on bass, Benjamin Burns on drums, and Deni Hlavinka on keys. Putting Darlingside in more of a rock band configuration adds energy and atmosphere to new cuts like “Green and Evergreen” and “Green Light,” but their exquisite harmonies soared on older favorites like 2015’s “The God Of Loss.”
As usual, the band used its copious tuning and re-tuning breaks for playful conversation: describing the venue to the radio audience at home, arranging the band intros by hometown and number of syllables in each member’s last name. The banter was very much giving All Things Considered, and whether it was tongue-in-cheek satire of public radio while performing on public radio, or simply Darlingside doing Darlingside, their charisma had the audience engaged. And when they stepped offstage and into the crowd for a breathtaking off-air off-mic encore of Everything Is Alive‘s “The Breaking Of The Day,” played “directly under the disco ball,” they had the room enthralled.
Darlingside’s tour with Field Guide continues tonight at the Brooklyn Made festival, and wraps in Northampton, Massachusetts on December 15th before a UK jaunt in the new year; full dates here, check out photos from Free at Noon below.