Bethlehem and Sad Patrick
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Bethlehem and Sad Patrick

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | SELF

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2012
Duo Folk Soul




"Key Studio Session"

If you’re in search of evidence that the Philly open mic scene is very much thriving, look no further than Bethlehem and Sad Patrick.

The local duo blends the focused minimalism and poetic lyrics of folk tradition with simmering, freewheeling jazz and blues — slick guitars, soaring vocals, nuanced melodies. And it all came together by chance.

A few years back, Patrick Arkins was running an open mic at what is now Malelani Cafe in Germantown, when Bethlehem Roberson stopped by one night to sing with her family. Arkins was blown away, and when he saw her returning to the series on the regular to perform, he approached her with the idea of singing one of his songs.

This led to her singing more of his songs, which led to Bethlehem and Sad Patrick’s first home-recorded EP release in 2012. The two continued performing and collaborating, recording Bethlehem’s 2013 solo release Bigger Than Music in Sad Patrick’s spare bedroom — a space he dubbed Purple Room Studios. It’s also where they worked on songs and sounds for Did You Ever Do?, the first Bethlehem and Sad Patrick LP, released in 2015.

For rhythm, Bethlehem began using a tarima, a raised wooden box that amplifies footstomps to kickdrum levels; her handclaps and finger snaps accentuate the beat. Sad Patrick, meanwhile, plays a Godin electric guitar through a very portable Fishman amp. They like the setup due to its simplicity, and say that audiences respond to its uniqueness. Occasionally, instrumental collaborators color the studio soundscape with solos and guest spots — listen for the subtle horn arrangements on Did You Ever Do? — but the project is a duo at its core, with a very natural give-and-take. When pressed about it, Bethlehem and Sad Patrick tell us they will likely remain a duo, to keep that chemistry intact.

You can hear it in action in this week’s session, starting with the Emma Lazarus-referencing “Mother Of Exiles” — their incorporation of the famed poem about the Statue of Liberty provides a moment of reflection in the societal climate of late 2016. We also hear the snappy emotive pop of “Maybe You’re Amazed” and “Better Days,” and a powerful set-closing performance of “Rise (Oh My City),” which stews in the struggles and ennui of city life but shines with hope and resilience.

Watch a video of “Rise” via VuHaus and stream the entire session below; you can grab a free download of the set at our Soundcloud page. Bethlehem and Sad Patrick have a few gigs of note this autumn. This Saturday, they’ll be at the Big Tree Music Studio showcase in Richlandtown (more information on the event can be found here); the following weekend, they’ll be at the For The Love of Germantown release party at Rittenhouse Soundworks (details here); and on November 5th, they play WaR3house 3 in Swarthmore with Danie Ocean and the Soul Tide (more information can be found here).

Then, once winter settles in, Bethlehem and Sad Patrick plan to retire to Purple Room to work on their next LP, tentatively titled Love and Other Struggles. Look for it in 2018. - WXPN

"Local Duo Breaks the Mold"

There is no shortage of singer/songwriters in the Northwest. However, the Mt. Airy duo “Bethlehem & Sad Patrick” breaks the mold every time they take the stage.

Stoic and bearded, Patrick Arkins, 53, could pass for a Penn professor who put down his brief case and picked up a guitar. Standing next to Bethlehem Roberson, 34, Arkins all but disappears when the lithesome singer’s waist-length braids start flying, her hands clapping and feet stomping.

Recently named the “next rising star” by WHYY/NewsWorks after the release of her first solo album, “Bigger Than Music,” Roberson describes her mix of song and body percussion as a “vocussionist.” The duo refers to their music as “Blues, Soul, Jazz, Love and Heartbreak.”

“Growing up in Germantown, I listened to my father and uncles sing gospel music, keeping the beat by clapping their hands and stomping their feet,” she said. When she performs, Roberson claps and stomps, but she takes it a step further by wearing tap shoes and accentuating the sound with a “tarima,” a wooden box that comes from the flamenco tradition. It’s a three by two-foot box made of poplar and pine that turns her footwork into a drum kit.

Before they met in 2011, Roberson and Arkins were seasoned singer/songwriters in their own right, each with their own individual style, influences and musical range. “I had just moved from Bella Vista to Mt. Airy and was looking for places to perform,” said Arkins, who came from the folk tradition and accompanies himself on guitar. “I met Bethlehem at an open mic night at the former Wild Beans (now Malelani Cafe).” And, yes, Bethlehem is her real name. “It means house of bread in Hebrew,” she said, “When I sing, I feel that I am feeding people’s spirits.”

While most singer/songwriters prefer to perform their own material, Arkins and Roberson saw the advantage in teaming up. “Bethlehem sings my lyrics exactly the way I hear them in my head when I’m writing,” said Arkins. “Plus, I tend to be overly serious, and she’s always positive.”

While Arkins, a multi-instrumentalist originally from lower Delaware, was influenced by Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Ani DiFranco, Roberson took her cues from Sam Cooke, Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott and Rochell Farrell. Meeting at the intersection of folk and jazz, Sad Patrick and Bethlehem rivet audiences with emotionally charged lyrics, compelling rhythm and haunting melodies. To say nothing of Roberson’s highly kinetic body percussion.

“When we perform together, I sing Patrick’s material, but when I perform solo, I sing my own songs,” said Roberson. But she doesn’t sing every song he writes. “If it doesn’t speak to me, I won’t sing it,” she said, “However, I appreciate Patrick’s simplicity, which allows me room to create.” Meanwhile, Arkins doesn’t mind if all eyes (and ears) are on Roberson, whose captivating voice conjures up the velvety, soulful sound of Sade. “I might open for Bethlehem, but I’d never want to follow her,” he said.

So why is Patrick so “sad?” “My brother once introduced me to the crowd in an Atlanta bar as ‘Sad Patrick’ because my early songs were long and melancholy. I thought it was funny so I kept it,” said Arkins, who is now far from sad about the path his career has taken since joining forces with Roberson. “We’ve received a lot of support from WXPN. They played us on ‘Sleepy Hollow,’” he said.

For now, Roberson and Arkins are holding onto their day jobs. He provides tech solutions for a major Philadelphia law firm while she runs Otenti Love, a natural hair care salon in Mt. Airy for which her head-turning coiffure is a walking advertisement

Last summer, Bethlehem & Sad Patrick performed at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, drawing rave reviews. In February, they received a standing ovation from a capacity audience at Rittenhouse Soundworks in Germantown. Upcoming gigs include: The Media Roots Ramble, April 8; Folk Factory at Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration at 6900 Stenton Ave., April 9 ; Outbound Poetry Festival at 30th Street Station, 2:30-4 p.m., April 15; and Roberson will be among the talented vocalists performing at Sisters Attune at Venice Island Performing Arts Center in Manayunk, April 28. - Chestnut Hill Local

"Bethlehem and Sad Patrick on WFUV with John Platt"

Bethlehem and Sad Patrick are a dynamic duo from Philadelphia who met at an open mic. While Patrick supplies the songs (drawing, he says, on "blues and jazz, love and heartbreak"), Bethlehem is the singer, inhabiting them with her deeply soulful vocals and percussion. - WFUV


Love and Other Struggles (LP, 2019)

Oh My City, It's Time for You to Rise (EP, 2017)
For the Love Of Germantown (Compilation, 2016)
Did You Ever Do? (LP, 2015)
This is Going to Break Your Heart (EP, 2014)



Bethlehem and Sad Patrick deliver powerful songs of love and other struggles. Combining smart, heartfelt lyrics, soaring vocals, sparse guitar and driving percussion, they dig deep into being in and out of love, keeping your head up in the city, struggling in all sorts of ways, and searching for peace and contentment on the margins. Sad Patrick’s hybrid of folk, blues and jazz guitar provides a subtle, well-blended counterpoint to Bethlehem’s “vocussion” – her term for her powerful, immersive singing, remarkable improvisations and nuanced melodies riding atop tarima and body percussion. Their second full-length album, 2019’s “Love and Other Struggles”, sonically and thematically extends the ground they broke on 2016’s “Did You Ever Do?”, which garnered significant airplay on WXPN, and WSTW, and landed them on XPN’s Folk Show with Ian Zolitor and WSTWs Hometown Heroes with Mark Rogers.  But they are best experienced live, where you can see their interplay with each other and witness how fully Bethlehem inhabits their songs and captivates a crowd. “Bethlehem and Sad Patrick blend the focused minimalism and poetic lyrics of folk tradition with simmering, freewheeling jazz and blues – slick guitars, soaring vocals, nuanced melodies.” – John Vettese, WXPN / The Key

Band Members