This past Sunday, I checked Facebook before I left for church and there was a post on a someone’s blog (found here) about seeing Bon Iver–particularly their performance of my favorite song of their’s “Holocene.” So just to satisfy my curiosity I checked their tour schedule online, and I kind of freaked out.
You see, I check bands’s sites every once in a while just for fun. I usually can’t bring myself to spend the money on concerts if I can actually go to one, but Bon Iver is different. Bon Iver redefined how I listen to music.
Music has become an experience in so many levels of my being. When I sit and absorb music, I often get visual and physical responses. There is the typical goosebumps and chills that people get hearing and hauntingly beautiful chord, but I get tingling sensation in my arms and hands occasionally. I’m not a huge dancer and rarely get the urge to prance around. I am a swayer, but my arms get more of an urge to move than my leges ever do–particularly my fingers. I also see music in colors, patterns, and shapes. I could probably cover the walls of a house with my visual interpretation of half a song. And often what I see changes each time I hear a piece. If I ever got a patron or suddenly became rich enough to rent gallery space, I would love to fill a space with pieces inspired by a song with each area playing the specific part in which the idea was birthed.
I see countless images to a single line of a Bon Iver song because of the all the intricate layers that make perfect sense out of what would appear to be pure chaos on paper. The instrumentals of each musician just noodling around should sound awful but rather stems an almost adventurous stimulus for creation.
When I checked their tour schedule, I couldn’t believe my eyes–they were going to perform in Philly THAT NIGHT!!! Tickets weren’t ridiculously expensive (especially considering how amazing these artists are), so I immediately became determined to see them. I bought my mom and I each a ticket and we set off for the Mann Center around 5:30. (Side note: some people have been surprised that I went with Mom, but it was actually really fun. Yeah, it would have been nice to go with people that knew the music and could actually say their name right without me correcting them, but I got to share a piece of me that night with her. She got to see how much music means to me and affects me even when I’m not the one performing. I’m glad I got to share this experience with Mama.) Traffic wasn’t too bad considering the Eagles game (which leading man Justin casually mentioned.) We got there about an hour early and my breath was taken away. Having never been to the Mann before, I had no idea what to expect. This place was gorgeous. It appeared to be made mostly our of wood and didn’t have 3 walls–just a floor, ceiling, and back to the stage. All the guests came in on the left of the stage, but the whole right side of the venue was lined with trees with the back edged with lawn seating. It was gorgeous.
Being in an outdoor venue brings some interesting things you don’t have to deal with at, for instance, the Academy of Music…things like chain smoking, lots of beer, and a heck of a lot of pot. So much pot. And fried food. And pot. I wasn’t that surprised because let’s face it, it’s Bon Iver in and outdoor venue. Let’s be serious here. Needless to say, I warned my mother (and recommended she bring an inhaler just in case.) Let’s say it was a little awkward when a huge wave of pot would slowly drift by.
The concert was pretty much amazing. The opening band was really good and reminded me of a mini Bon Iver with female vocals, but nothing can come close to the actual band’s performance. They opened with Woods. Holy crap. They managed to make Justin’s voice super robotic like in the recording, but his timing was slightly different but so much more effectively dramatic for such a large venue.
As fantastic are their records, they don’t come close the live performance. You can hear each instrument so much better–and, man, there are so many instruments. Even before the musicians entered the stage, I saw both drum sets and freaked out. I remember thinking, “They are so intense they need two percussionists!!!! WHAT?!?!” And oh my gosh even the percussions themselves made sit there speechless. Each musician played multiple instruments and played whatever was needed for that particular song. There appeared to be a lot of improv from each instrumentalist that could only be possible with people that understand music on more than a theoretical level; these guys lived and breathed their craft but had so much fun. You could feel their passion emanating with each note. The combination of each member seamlessly adding their part forced me to sit in awe. I often chuckled to myself when they would start to play a song because it would immediately reveal who was a fan and who was a fanatic. Obviously everyone was excited for “Skinny Love” (which I wasn’t the biggest fan of until I heard it live and now I like is sooo much more than I did) and “Beth/Rest,” but I loved the sporadic claps for “Flume” and “Creature Fear” (which Justin was even impressed with how many actually knew that one.)
I didn’t drink or smoke anything that night, but I was most definitely in a state of bliss the entire time. It was one of those experiences that was just so amazing that I don’t really remember details but rather the overall essence of the experience. I hope to see them again in the future so focus more on the details, but I am most definitely satisfied for a while.
Even the backdrop was amazing! It was made of two layers of a very interesting tapestry. For the duration of many songs, there were only lights projected on them, but some songs I found myself watching a sort of film on the tapestry. Also, the light show went along perfectly with the various beats–which tend to be rather unexpected with Bon Iver.
Overall, it was a fantastic show. It’s not one of those where you jump around and dance like a crazy person, but for someone who feels music, it was an experience that I will often look back at with fondness and a yearning to repeat that night.
By the way, I love Reggie’s hair.