I’ve been going to quite a few shows lately, which has been not only a good time but has also shaped my view of musicians and, I guess, music as a whole. It’s kind of a cumulative thing, but it mainly had to do with my meeting Phil Elverum. I guess I’ll just briefly break down the shows and its highlights for me.Mount Eerie Live
I saw Mount Eerie, basically the new moniker of The Microphones
, twice in one day. The first time was at a very small record shop. We walked in (my friends and I) and began to browse the store waiting for Mount Eerie to show up. There was a guy stringing his guitar sitting on the ground in the corner of the store that I didn’t really pay much attention to until he started to play and I realized he was Mr. Microphone himself, the wonderful Phil Elverum. He only played a few tracks, but it was a beautifully intimate set. Phil had a really quietly funny sense of humor. The show was more of an ad to come see him play at the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit (CAID), which was the real show of the day. He said he had merch outside if we wanted anything, so we walked out back looking around for him, and then realized he walked right by us and opened up the trunk of his car. He threw his clothes around and pulled out a few cases of CD’s and stuff and just sat cross legged on the back of his car. He had literally zero ego and was so approachable that it was almost offsetting. I bought the Mount Eerie
album under The Microphones name, which I got seriously into for a few weeks after the show, and shook his hand and told him that I appreciated his music. I think autographs and pictures are kind of weird and superficial, so it was nice to just shake his hand and disappear.
But then we went to the CAID show later that night and we were the first ones there. There were only a few people working and Phil and the girl he was touring with, whose band is named Privacy, just hanging out. Presented with the opportunity to make small talk with Phil, I tried to, but it seemed even more awkward and forced, so I eventually just stopped trying, as did all of my friends. The Privacy girl was insanely nervous just standing around, let alone playing, so I never really tried to approach her.
This particular show was badass on several levels, most not having do with Mount Eerie, actually. There were five bands playing that night, all pretty good. The first guy did drone/noise stuff that seemed pretty simple but nonetheless good while film loops played. The second band included one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met who worked at one of the local bookstores where I live but quit and we’d since lost touch, until I found him playing at this show. Then a band named Frontier Ruckus played, who were good but seemed a little forced. Then Privacy played, who was so unbelievably quiet that the people talking in the next room became an issue.
Now you have to understand that in between all of these bands there was down time where we’d walk around, look at art on the walls, meander, etc. All the while Phil bounces around, gets his ipod, has more awkward conversations with random people, and is totally unassuming in the corner at his little merch table. It was the surreal understanding that not only was Phil Elverum in the same room as you, but that no one seemed to care, and he was quietly sitting in a corner, totally approachable. I’d never put artists on pedestals, I just greatly admire them, and I love Phil’s music and respect him, so it was just a very strange feeling. He even seemed a little goofy, darting around through the audience with his bouncy steps and funny hat.
The other amazing impact the show had on me was that there was a real concrete audience for this type of art. Living in such a culturally vacant city you forget that there are other people, quite a few other people, who enjoy this type of art just as much as you do. It was a really inspiring, accepting crowd that was there that made you feel good to be an artist. And my beard never felt more at home. I just wish everyone didn’t smoke.
When Phil finally played he was great except for the fact that a few annoying girls kind of killed the once in a lifetime totally intimate set vibe that was going on for a few songs. Phil played some of his experimental films as he played, which were quite good. They were all static shots of simple things, like grass blowing, a sunset, a leaf, and one of an industrial site, but they were all excellently composed and many were quite moving.
So it was a really cool and semi surreal night. I spotted a guy that was at the show when I saw Southland Tales in theatres, and then saw him again when I went to see Darjeeling, and mentioned it and it turns out he helped set the show up. Really cool guy. I’m going to try to have some of my films shown at the CAID, since that’s the idea behind its creation, of spreading local artists work. That would be awesome.Prefuse 73 Live
I then saw Prefuse 73 when he came to the Magic Stick. I’ve never been that into his music when I listened to it, I kind of bobbed along but it never stuck. There was something in those recordings, though, that I could just sense that they would be great live. Like, fucking, really really good live. So I had to go to this show. I went with my really super cool friend Dianna, and we wound up running into one of the people I went to the Mount Eerie show with and another one of my friends, which was also cool.
There were two opening bands, who were both really good. While the second band played Guillermo danced right next to me in the crowd with the first band. I didn’t even know it was him until my friend pointed him out. This just keeps happening to me.
The first one, I believe named Blank Blue, were a three piece. It was very basic construction, but the music sounded strangely dense and otherworldly. The singer had a very delicate, ethereal voice, and the drumming was verging on slight psychedelia.
Two singers, one of which is married to Guillermo Scott Herron, Mr. Prefuse himself, and the other of whom is the sister of the wife fronted the second band, School of the Seven Bells. They were really good freak folkish type stuff, lots of energy.
The true coup of the night was Prefuse, though. As good as the other two were, they were mere precursors. His set was one continuous song. I can’t recall the music ever really stopping. It was one big blend of his music, which I don’t know that well, but that didn’t matter at all. It was instrumental, so there were no interpretations or messages or insights to be had, just great grooves and thumping beats to dance along to. And dance I did, front row using the stage as a coat rack for my hoodie. It was the kind of experience that makes you feel as if all things are connected, and there is a single pulse running through humanity that we all primitively respond to regardless of age, sex, or race. It really made me feel that as long as humanity survives so will music, as it is a very basic understanding we have with each other and with nature, in a way, since all instruments are made of various elements stemming from the earth that we manipulate to connect with each other. It was a really beautiful experience.The Fiery Furnaces Live
So that takes us up to speed. I just saw The Fiery Furnaces tonight. It wasn’t as magical as the other two, but it was still really cool. I’d always liked the Furnaces, but never felt that I truly got their spastic, almost schizophrenic style of music. I connected with it, it just didn’t seem like I did as much as I thought I should.
There was one opening band, MGMT, who fuckin’ blew. I left the audience around the stage to go sit down. They were like shitty prissy electro pop type stuff with really bad lyrics and whiny totally innocuous band members. They were just really not good the more I think about it.
But then the Furnaces took the stage. The lead singer was really very pretty in a fascinating sort of way. I really like her vocal delivery. She’s one of two primary band members, along with her brother, who seemed really cool. When the music would really get kicking and go into an instrumental segment she would duck down so that you couldn’t see her, which was kind of cool, almost a way of diverting the attention to the other band members in a respectful way. They played the two songs I wished they would, Navy Nurse and Benton Harbor Blues. I still don’t think I’m there with them, but I feel like seeing them live added another dimension of understanding to where they’re coming from. What’s funny is that the three friends I went with didn’t dig it nearly as much as me, but all three thought MGMT was okay.
So yeah, those are my shows of late and how they’ve affected me.
is working on my new film project. Yes, that Schwump. Awwww, yeah.