The Antlers and Okkervil River entranced the Free at Noon Crowd at Ardmore Music Hall - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Friday’s Free at Noon was a special event for several reasons. To start, the event that usually takes place on World Cafe Live’s stage was transported to Ardmore Music Hall, a refreshing change of scene that provided more space for the crowd, while keeping all the intimacy that’s special about Free at Noons.

In addition, listeners were treated to a combined line-up, made up of indie artists The Antlers and Okkervil River. Each band had only two members playing, but they filled the space with warm, if at times somber, songs that entranced the crowd.

The Antlers started with a slow, ambient song that set the tone for the show. Singer and guitarist Peter Silberman’s vocals were glowing and earned cheers from the crowd mid-song. The crowd was swaying, and I had the urge to close my eyes and let the music lull me to a calmer place. The Antlers’ fourth song was a nice transition between the two bands, with Okkervil River sneaking on stage to join The Antlers for a rousing outro of “Putting The Dog To Sleep.”

The Antlers and Okkervil River | photo by Paige Walter for WXPN

“We’re going to take it back down for a little, this song is about being nothing special,” announced Will Sheff as he introduced the title track of his new album. Nothing Special came out in 2022 and is credited as Sheff’s solo work, although he made it clear that the line between him and his band is blurry, to say the least. “I’m here in my official capacity as Okkervil, but I can’t even tell the difference between the two things at this point,” he joked. The seamless transition into playing “The Valley,” an Okkervil song, only emphasized this point. “The Valley” was one of the most upbeat songs of the set, and had a hypnotizing bass line. How do two people on stage sound like a full band? With some talented multitasking. Sheff rotated between playing guitar, harmonica, synths, and singing, often doing all in the same song.

For their final song, Okkervil River shifted the tone back to a more gentle pace with “Blue Tulip,” allowing The Antlers to slip back on stage and join in for the back end of the song. While most Free at Noons would typically end here, The Antlers and Okkervil River had one more treat in store for the audience. They joined forced to play four more songs in a wholesome collaboration that left everyone calmer than when they walked in.

The Antlers and Okkervil River’s joint tour continues June 21st in Seattle; find the tour dates here.

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