Three-Way View: Bon Iver @ The Pabst, 8/14/08

Video: “Lovin’s For Fools” is by Sarah Siskund, covered by Bon Iver

Although last Thursday seems a decade ago, and in the scheme of things, may as well be, not taking the opportunity to review one of Wisconsin’s most recently-publicized musical exports might be considered blasphemous to some, while to others it might be another releasing of droning musical media mosquitos, bloodthirsty for the next hot musical act…whichever way one looks at it, the interesting situation was having three writers at Fan-belt planning to attend the Bon Iver/AA Bondy show at The Pabst Theater last week. One was a total ‘Bon Ivirgin’ as he calls it, one, one an appreciative listener and the other, a diehard fan. One viewpoint might not be enough to warrant a late and media-redundant review, but three viewpoints? Why not? Here’s what we came up with:

The Bon ‘Ivirgin’: Milan Zori

Woman: “I need four tickets, please. I have some friends in from German. They’re really excited about this show. Also, I think I read somewhere that Outpost Co-op Members get a discount.”

Kid Behind Counter: (typing on computer) “Um, actually, we only have one ticket available.”

Woman: One? For the whole show? Really?!? I was assured over the phone that this would in no way sell out…”

At this point, the woman turned to three of us standing behind her in line at Will Call, looking for sympathy or reassurance. The couple in front of me just kept on staring at the wall, trying to ignore her. I, however, stared her straight in the eye, hoping she’d see that, were there different laws in Wisconsin, I’d shake her like a maraca until good sense kicked in.

This is Bon-fucking-Iver, lady. Justin-frickin’-Vernon. The man who wrote that game-changer of a record, For Emma, Forever Ago. The one every blog, Web site, and magazine with a clue has reviewed, interviewed, and gushed over like the second coming of the indie-rock Christ. You really didn’t expect this to sell out? Especially in his home state?

I knew it would sell out, and I’ve never even HEARD the damn record.

Oh, did I mention that earlier? Yeah…I somehow managed to avoid crossing paths with this album. Not on purpose, mind you. I’ve been dying to hear it. But this happens quite a bit with me. The last example being Arcade Fire’s much-talked about Neon Bible. I didn’t wind up hearing that until over a year after it came out.

(In my defense, however, I tend to spend my record-buying money on things that aren’t so easily accessible to me, like Csolkolm’s last album, or the new Slackers record. Have you Bon Iver-ites heard either of those? Well, then don’t give me grief.)

So, when they announced the show, I decided it was time to hear what all the fuss was about. I signed up to work the WMSE swag table at the theater, and figured when we tore down, I’d duck in to experience the magic.

Unfortunately (for me, not Bon Iver), the show was so sold out that finding a seat for my late-to-the-party ass was damn near impossible. Slightly defeated, I decided to leave. But not before I pressed my ear to the door, catching :20 of something incredibly beautiful. not exactly how I’d hoped my first Bon Iver experience would go, but at least I didn’t disappoint my overseas-traveling friends…

The Bon ‘Iwitness’: Erin Wolf

Bon Iver has a nice, comfy spot in my heart. I neither feel fanatical about the man and his musical skills, nor am I irritated by the onslaught of fervor created recently by the music media, I just feel pretty damn appreciative, based upon my initial audio experience with the album For Emma, Forever Ago.

When I first heard the two songs from Justin Vernon’s Myspace page before his show at Mad Planet in January (which I failed to attend…I somehow ended up at a party across the street, playing a decrepit-looking pedal organ), I was intrigued, and my interest was piqued enough to eventually burn through the entire album on first-listen.

Right around that initial listen, I’d lost two immediate family members. Not to create a sob story of any sort, but more to make a point on the impact of the music, is to say that the album definitely became a security blanket for the surrounding weeks, not for wallowing in self-pity, but for realizing that it’s okay to thank fucking god that not everything is unicorns and sunshine all the time. Listening to the Monkees? Not appropriate. ABBA? Abominable. But Bon Iver? Somehow, he managed to create an album that I’d include in the ranks of ‘it’s so good to feel bad’ that trauma homes one into.

This Pabst show, now, a few months later after all this, seemed almost like a sacred event…more of a show to absorb and experience based on it’s cathartic qualities. With that said, I was *this* close to not going, for fear of ruining the music’s delicate spot in my heart, but fortunately, the audience at the theater was generally well-behaved and earnest enough to help feed that calming effect, rather than breaking the bubble. Mr. Vernon was genuinely appreciative of his ‘home’ crowd, and although at times, some of the songs wavered through live interpretation, the vocals made for one of the most ethereal shows I’ve seen at that majestic theater. I’ve also found a new drumming-and-singing-at-the-same-time idol besides Phil Collins. Good job, Bon Iver’s drummer (Sean Carey).

The above video doesn’t completely pay due to the actual live moment, but the covering of Sarah Siskind’s “Lovin’s For Fools” was heartfelt and lovely. And I’m not even the diehard fan. Let’s see what Lille said…

The Bon ‘dIehard’: Lilledeshan Bose

(The “I’m so cool I knew Bon Iver before he was on Pitchfork, for Chrissakes”, review)

Actually, I’m kinda miffed that I had to share Justin Vernon with 100x more people than the last time I saw him. A bunch of people braved the zero-degree weather in January to watch that Mad Planet show, which was also sold-out.

Back then, Bon Iver definitely was just Justin Vernon’s nom-de plume, and his backup musicians were only there to help him along. It was a sparse, lonesome and starkly beautiful performance. I remember the bottom of my stomach falling out, and then listening to his album — written up north after a bad break-up — the rest of that desolate winter.

But last week, at The Pabst, that Bon Iver performance was a whole different band. The performance was warm, joyous, and suffused everyone with a golden glow that they took home.

I’d read interviews where Vernon said Bon Iver has solidified into a real band now, with its members contributing equally to the songwriting and performances, and it showed. On the songs, from For Emma, Forever Ago, song parts that used to be silent were filled with bouncing percussion and deftly-woven harmonies. There were steady bass parts holding up the melodies; there was energy and strength behind the songs of heartbreak and pain.

Of course, there were some parts that faltered — a Talk Talk cover made me feel like dozing off, and “Lump Sum” had some prog-rock bits that seemed forced, like unecessary jam band noodling.

The Pabst crowd was great for the most part, except when buffoons would yell out random things during the songs, which I hate. I also don’t get the audience participation for Bon Iver songs because they’re terribly sad, but in this instance, they worked.

But those were tiny glitches in a beautiful night, which included a cameo by Collections of Colonies of Bees’ Jon Mueller on drums, and was capped by a cover of “Lovin’s For Fools” by Sarah Siskind.


One Response to “Three-Way View: Bon Iver @ The Pabst, 8/14/08”

  1. DrAwkward Says:

    It’s ok, Milan, i haven’t heard the Bon Eye-ver record yet either. I can’t imagine i’ll be getting to it anytime soon, either. I am so so tired of folk music right now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: