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Bon Iver at Bowery Ballroom

July 30, 2008

Ok, I wanted to give a quick review of the Bon Iver show I went to last night (if you haven’t heard of him, definitely check him out at

The Bowerbirds opened for Bon Iver. They were good–the lead vocalist Phil Moore’s voice was pleasant–kind of like if Rufus Wainwright got caught in boon country with a couple of bottles of French wine along for entertainment. I couldn’t get over how unhappy and discontented the backup vocalist Beth Tacular looked onstage (which was compounded by the fact that when she wasn’t straddling a drum kit like she was milking a cow, she occupied the most prominent place on the stage right up front, which seemed a bit odd considering her disposition, but whatever…

As for Bon Iver, all in all I thought the show was fantastic. The songs from “For Emily, Forever Ago” were even better live than they were on the CD. Justin Vernon has an uncanny ability to conjure an ethereal intimacy onstage, exuding both confidence and humility in the same breath, not to mention having some kick ass harmonies that make my skin crawl. The melodies are pretty basic, but when he sings it’s coming from somewhere authentic and I totally dig that. And hey, “Skinny Love” and “The Wolves Act 1 and 2” are just damn good songs. The only things I would mention would be that there were times, like in “Creature Fear” when there was a lot distortion added to the songs that seemed unnecessary and even jarring. Also, the final song was a total let down, with all the band members from both bands standing in one line in front of the stage and singing a cover of some song I’ve never heard (that didn’t seem incredibly compelling to begin with, although I’m working on a rendition here, so that might be unfair). I’m gonna go ahead and say it. In theory it sounds like a nice idea…in reality it was kinda painful and overkill in its intimacy.

Oh, and more thing, as a New Yorker I would like to just say that that unlike other parts of the world, NYC fans are not big into collective sing alongs. Especially not when we are instructed to participate with guilt trips about how great some crowd in San Francisco sang the hook, and huge bright stage lights are turned on us. Bon Iver learned that the hard way last night, when they tried TWICE to attempt to cajole the crowd into a sing along. But bands shouldn’t take it too hard, it’s just not our style.

All in all, an awesome time and some really amazing music. I hope Bon Iver gets all the attention it deserves. The picture above is credited to my awesome buddy Nellwyn and her trusty iPhone. Danke Nell!

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