Experimental local musicians play free Kensington Picnic

Kensington picnic - Musicians Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler teamed up during the first Kensington Picnic in 2012. They've spent a lot of time playing together since.  Credit: Ryan Collerd

When harpist Mary Lattimore and synth player/guitarist Jeff Zeigler played at the first Kensington Picnic in 2012, the show marked one of their earliest performances as a duo. “I think Jeff and I were mainly focused on making interesting, weird sounds,” Lattimore recalls. Two years later, they’ll return for the day-long outdoor festival’s second incarnation with much more playing and an upcoming record, “Slant of Light,” under their belts.

“Lately we’ve been zoning in on simple melody and beauty and I think we’ve figured out our sound set-up a little better,” Lattimore says. “Jeff is a really special dude, a very thoughtful and natural player and an easy person to jam with.”

The Kensington Picnic was started to showcase the wealth of music in the neighborhood, says Kathryn Lipman of Mild Time, who is co-presenting the festival with Fire Museum.

“Kensington Picnic happened for the first time because the neighborhood has so many terrific players and — for now — so much green space that it seemed like an obvious idea to get a lot of musicians on one stage outdoors and have a good time. It’s a community festival — no tickets, no doors, just local flavor.”

This year’s free festival, like the original, is made up of artists who live in or have ties to the neighborhood, most of whom fall into the realm of experimental folk and rock. The line-up includes Strapping Fieldhands, Birds of Maya, Fursaxa, Laura Baird, Randall of Nazareth, Spacin’, and Hohlraum along with Lattimore and Zeigler.

The duo create intriguing soundscapes that meld the ethereal and the abstract on “Slant of Light.” Both Lattimore and Zeigler have worked extensively with a host of forward-thinking rock and experimental musicians: Lattimore has played or recorded with Arcade Fire, Kurt Vile and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, while Zeigler is an in-demand engineer who has recorded work by The War on Drugs and A Sunny Day in Glasgow, among others.

“I hadn’t really experimented with my harp until I started playing with Thurston Moore’s band,” says Lattimore, who is the daughter of a harpist and started studying the instrument at the age of 11. “My bandmates all were experienced improvisers and were really into extending parts of songs and playing in the moment, and it was fun to react to each other. Those guys were a big inspiration to get less precious with the parts I was writing and now I really love to improvise and experiment with sounds I can get out of the instrument.”

Kensington Picnic II
Saturday, Aug. 9, noon to 8 p.m.
Liberty Vintage Motorcycles lot
Frankford Ave. near Susquehanna

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