Live Review: Bon Iver; Phoenix; Wye Oak tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 6:36 pm September 21, 2009

I confess to having heard nary a note of Bon Iver music before last week (except for one track off the amazing Dark Was the Night compilation, which if you’re a fan of BI, you should run out and buy post-haste). Then last Friday I fell across For Emma, Forever Ago on Lala and was mesmerized and began regretting not having bought a ticket for the show before it sold out (literally within a few weeks after it was announced — something that’s becoming more and more rare these days). Well, my regret turned around as I got on “the list” and joined the throngs Saturday night at The Slowdown. It didn’t seem like a crush mob when I entered the club; but I was still unable to get to my usual perch near the stage-left exit doors because of crowd density. I was forced to watch most of the show from the balcony (see blurry photo).

My take on Bon Iver is that he sounds like laid-back Jim James (or Yim Yames as he’s known these days) thanks to the high falsetto and the overall winsome-folk style of music. The difference comes from Bon Iver’s melodies, which are just prettier and popper than JJ’s. Despite being known as a quiet performer, I went ahead and bought a pair of the 50-cent earplugs sold at the bar, and was glad I did. While there was plenty of quiet stuff, more often than not the band pushed the sound level to 8 or 9 (as opposed to 11), driven on one song by three drummers. Tribal? Not really.

As a casual fan, i thought the set was fine, if not a bit one-dimensional (and too short). Based on the overwhelming crowd response, however, I was definitely in the majority.

I still scratching my head as to why the Bon Iver show sold out so quickly. Yes, he’s a stalwart presence on the CMJ charts, but he hasn’t had the exposure of a Jim James or a Conor Oberst. I suspect I’m missing something…

* * *

There is no lack of hype around tonight’s Phoenix show at The Slowdown, which sold out only in the past few weeks. Their new album, austerely called Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, is pure pop fun, a jump-run of chiming keyboards and clean, quick back-beat rhythms that are as thoroughly inviting as an ocean beach stroll on sun-baked morning in Saint-Tropez. They’ve been hung with the “’80s synth-rock” label even though their sound is as thoroughly modern as anything on the CMJ charts. Tonight’s openers, a Memphis/Sparta Tennessee four-piece called The Features, have been compared to The Kinks, E. Costello and the Elephant 6 contingent. Like I said, it’s sold out, and starts at 8 p.m.

No tix? Check out Wye Oak at The Waiting Room with local indie supergroup Our Fox and Midwest Dilemma. $8, 9 p.m.

On the sched this week: Interviews with Amazing Baby and Lincoln Calling.

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