last night i got to see bon iver play at the wiltern with californias newest resident. bon iver has long been my favorite but he has always eluded me in concert… UNTIL YESTERDAY. lets just say i had a huge “boner iver” all week
the general appeal of bon iver’s last cd, For Emma, Forever Ago at least to me was the rhythmic thumping, whispery falsetto and lyrics that perfectly encompass loss/surrender/resurrection. these musical attributes are easy to relate to, but somehow seem to rarely surface in such an honest and vulnerable way. now i have been to a lot of sweet concerts in my day, but last night was pretty unique. all of these things i love about bon iver are not singular to him alone; other bands have similar talents. everyone in the audience had connected with bon iver’s music through this artistic talent and very candid music and i have never seen this kind of artist/audience connection in a concert before. but in almost every song i found myself “playing along” with the band, whether it be slapping hands together to form the beat or singing/shouting with the chorus. in two songs in particular, “the wolves” and “skinny love”, we were encouraged to shout along, even prompted by justin vernon with “louder… LOUDER” slowly working us up in to a fever until at certain points the audience volume met the guitar harmonies and pounding drums. the music was not drowned out by our noise, nor were we subservient to the band -we came together as equals and justin vernon’s song became our music. it was as if we were an instrument played by the band, our voices bouncing from the crowd to the stage and back. it was pretty cool. especially in “the wolves” which at the very end builds to a cacophonous crescendo asking “what might have been lost?” and then slips back into a sublime hum. it felt, to me at least, that all of the emotion and feeling that went in to original making music had again surfaced and together, bon iver and audience were sharing that moment of creation. all in all i left the concert feeling like i had just made art, which is weird but it was definitely a cool concert experience. other highlights were the two encore songs – “swimming songs”, a cover of loudon wainwright and “worried mind” along with megafaun (since it is there song after all).
at the end of the show bon iver (and megafaun, his old friends and a surprisingly strong opening act) said something along the lines of “thank you for allowing us to do the things we love, and you owe us nothing”. but at that show i at least felt an enormous debt of gratitude for what we all just shared.