This week’s feature: Lincoln Calling; Live Review: Sufjan Stevens

Category: Blog — @ 12:22 pm September 21, 2005

First, this week’s feature, a look at the second annual Lincoln Calling music festival and chat with event organizer Jeremy Buckley (read it here). Yes, I think this year’s line-up easily eclipses last year’s, thanks to the Creek/Team Love showcase at Knickerbockers (brought to you with the help of One Percent Productions) which is being held concurrently Friday night along with the Ideal Cleaners/Ladyfinger/Bombardment Society/Stay Awake show at Duggan’s. But the real highlight (for me, anyway) is The Prids/For Against/Eagle Seagull show the following night at Duffy’s. Buckley tells me that this could be the last time you Prids fans will get to see your band until maybe 2007 as they head out on 18 months or so of touring. Legendary ambient rockers For Against, which rarely if ever plays live, will be celebrating the rerelease of their December CD, which is a must-have. Why doesn’t Omaha do something like Lincoln Calling? Because, as Buckley pointed out, we don’t have six decent live music venues in walking distance of each other like they do in Lincoln. As for the great divide that separates the two cities scenewise, Buckley points out (rightly so) that it doesn’t have to exist. I, for one, would love to see more Lincoln bands take the stage at O’Leaver’s and Sokol and The 49’r and The Goofy Foot and Mick’s. Maybe events like this will help make it happen.

Onto the live review: Packed it was last night at Sokol Underground. It was sold out, and we’ll leave it at that. Packed from stage to the merch table, wall to wall, a mass of humanity come to see Sufjan Stevens and his 8-person band of cheerleader musicians dressed in their Big “I” T-shirts, some holding pompoms, all playing a myriad of instruments, most singing. The pompoms weren’t mere props. Stevens and crew began four or five songs with well-choreographed cheers, complete with arm signals and spirit fingers. It was that kind of set, a goodhearted rah-rah for ol’ Illinois, all in celebration of his second “state LP,” this one dedicated to The Prairie State.

Seriously, at times it was like listening to a choir led by a little guy in a Cubs hat with a voice that was a morph of Art Garfunkel and Ben Gibbard singing lullabies to Jacksonville, Decatur and Chicago. I didn’t know what to expect from the arrangements, I knew Stevens would be hard-pressed to recreate the lushness heard on the CD. But by God, he captured the majesty thanks to the glockenspiels and brass (especially his trumpet player) and keyboards and battery of percussion and those four female cheerleaders whose angel-voices made the whole thing float. Listening to Come on Feel The Illinoise as I write this after the show, I think everything was a tad funkier live, especially “Decatur,” which sported a nice bass riff and finger snaps and probably some sort of synchronized cheer-dance. After playing high school pep-rally standard “Varsity,” the band came back and did a one-song encore that nicely rounded off the hour-long set.

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