Bon Iver @ RNR Hotel, with Black Mountain 2/19/08

Turns out, as predicted, this guy is awesome.  (Yes, Bon Iver is a band, not just a moniker for Justin Vernon, but only in the same way Bright Eyes isn’t a moniker for Conor Oberst.)  What was troubling on this chilly, chilly evening was the amount of people that noticed the entire set was in the same order of the new album “For Emma, Forever Ago.”  Why is that troubling?  The concert was not only the first date of the tour with Black Mountain for Bon Iver, it was also the release date of the album. How did everyone manage to listen to the album before they could buy it?  Well, I ain’t telling, but I felt guilty enough to buy a slightly overpriced t-shirt.
 As per record order, they started with “Flume” and the sound between lines of mini-verses of some sort of overdriven guitar, the sound from some instrument I’ve never heard (seriously, dying for some help.)  It sounded like the level of a guitar string vibrating against some type of wood being raised until the next pseudo-verse begun.  The lead singer and guitarist, Justin Vernon, owned his sweet falsetto, and what worries of that sound being construed for the sake of album all washed away.  It’s a great feeling when a singer sounds even better in person.  

 The deep harmonies of “Lump Sum” was an early crest of the vocal awareness of the band all around.  All three members had two mics, one with a doubled effect and one regular, an interesting twist which definitely highlighted the winteresque vibes.  Unfortunately, 90% of the audience couldn’t see a thing.  The whole band was sitting, and because the Hotels’ stage is all of 4″ above the floor or it just so happens that Black Mountain fans are all 8′ tall, no one could see a thing.  The consolation was in the form of dead silence during the set, even between songs, was so refreshing.  Everyone stood in awe of the art being created in front of them.  This is true for all songs except “The Wolves” where Vernon asked for the audience to sing backup: a resounding “What might have been lost.” The drummer during the end of that song was going nuts, like a drunken yuppie breaking everything he can afford in his one bedroom studio 12 floors above the angry, cold night, only realizing  after shards of glass cover his blood stained carpet that doing so accomplishes less than nothing, and he fades into the sorrow of the sleepless morning after.     Vernon could control the whole crowd.  The songs ebbed from self-proclaimed neo-soul to rock influenced singer/songwriter ballads.  A very awesome beginning to what’s sure to be an awesome, awesome tour.  To listen to the whole show go here and then you can figure it out.  As for Jagjaguwar labelmates, Black Mountain . . . Well, I came for Bon Iver.  They were good; at least I could see them, they were all standing.  The female lead vocalist is the reason people either love or hate this band, as its a mangled sirens’ quivering shriek (guess which camp I fall into), enough to set them apart from the onslaught of other indierock bands.  Doesn’t automatically mean different is better, nor does it mean the opposite.     I like the 90’s, lo-fi sound, what sounds like is influenced by Lou Barlow with the elegant guitar, enough to know he’s talented but won’t try to push too far ahead of his means.  The sensual use of organ from the start of every song hinted at the inevitable  picked-up second movement, and was all but perfect for the credits of a vampire flick.  The heroin falsetto of the lead male vocal was in contrast to the opening acts honest falsetto.   On whole,  songs were just a build up to the last minute or two of each, respectively.  They may have been good finishing minutes, but out of context, they’d be hardware.  I’d like to listen to an album, maybe that would give me a better idea of what they were about.  


One Response to “Bon Iver @ RNR Hotel, with Black Mountain 2/19/08”

  1. 1 michael

    i was at the show

    bon iver was great, i was impressed with the vocals, since i wasn’t expecting them to sound as good as they do on the actual cd (which I, like much of the crowd, had apparently heard before the show… alhough I wish they were standing up during their set…. since, as you said, they were hard to see.

    the female singer for blackback mountain made me leave their set early… she was painful to listen to

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