Monday, July 13, 2009

Bon Iver - Fox Theatre (Boulder, CO) - 07/12/09

Bon Iver could do no wrong on Sunday night. After a sold out show in Denver and a sold out show this night in Boulder, they continue to ride the wave of popularity after only one LP and one EP. And they ride this wave exceeding well, as opposed to other acts with similar rises to stardom that have not ridden that wavve so gracefully. If you don't know the back story on Bon Iver, let me fill you in - Justin Vernon made an amazing album by himself a few years ago and now everyone knows about it. Now he is touring behind that album and his recent Blood Bank EP and doing an outstanding job of it. If you can put on a great live show, and you're in a position where almost every song you have as a band is good, you get an end product that only comes around so often (If you're from the mainstream 90s, think 3eb on tour after their first album came out).

As with any show review I do, I end up giving my people watching report as much as I talk about the music. And let me tell you, this sold out show gave me more than enough examples, of which I'll pass along the best.

The setting:
Thinly bearded man and female companion standing on stairs, with 2 slightly older dudes and a woman behind them. One of the dudes is wearing a plaid shirt and the other has aging 90s rocker dude hair.

Skinny dude with thin beard (SDWTB): (turns to dudes behind him) Could you guys quit talking so I can hear the music?

90s rocker dude: (loudly) What?

(SDWTB turns back around and pinches fingers together with international sign for "shut it," which incidentally is also the international sign for "I'm probably a pretentious jerk")

(time passes, tension visually grows)

SDWTB: (not directly to dudes behind him, but uttered vaguely so as to implicitly address them) this is an amazing show.

Plaid shirt dude who would clearly win should the altercation turn physical (PSDW...TP): yeah, sure is.

SDWTB: would be even better if we could hear the songs over you talking.

PSDW...TP: (pretentious voice) We paid just the same as you.

SDWTB: (sheepishly, voice almost cracking) Maybe you should take a walk man.

PSDW...TP: (more confident, less sheepishly) Maybe you should take a walk.

SDWTB: Dude, do you even know this band? Can you even pronounce the name?

PSDW...TP: (in a mocking grade school argument voice, you know the one) Can you even pronounce the name? (returning to pretentious voice, and also conveniently avoiding saying the band name, for fear of actually mispronouncing it) Dude, I made the f-c-ing domain name for this band.

Annnnnd scene.

Whether true or not, plaid shirt dude played the indie nerd card that was pretty much the end of the interaction. I seriously doubt this guy created the domain name for Bon Iver, but whether he did or didn't is far from the point, as the entire interaction was an awesome display of the indie pretension one finds at a Bon Iver show, involving not only who "really knows" the band's music, but also who can correctly pronounce the band's name. And thankfully for you as much as me, this was a much better summation of the crowd in general than my typical ramblings about silly hats and headbands.

Oh right, I guess I should mention the music too. The overall show was flawless and went above and beyond my expectations in regard to regurgitating more than the recorded versions. In spite of the completeness and strength of For Emma, the band nonetheless finds just the right places in the live show to add harmonies, percussion, dissonance, whistles, bells, feeling and emphasis that elevate the live show to an experience that you won't find on youtube. Perhaps most notably of all, Bon Iver does the unthinkable by taking a packed house of people who are too cool to sing along and somehow gets almost all of them to participate in a singalong during "The Wolves (Act I and II)." Throughout, Vernon was quite the gracious host of the night's music, speaking with the audience in a very friendly manner, no doubt in such a way that he may unintentionally spur further insiderism from the indie crowd, as was displayed in the above interaction.

Given that I lean more toward the fan end of blogging than the journalist end, I don't have pictures from the show, but you can check out a close approximation of such (that is, from the Denver show) at I am Fuel, You are Friends, through her review of the previous nights' performance at the Ogden Theater.

Opening the show in both Denver and Boulder was The Wheel, a Denver band I was previously unfamiliar with. I've since come to find that they are a side project of sorts from a more long-time Denver act - Born in the Flood. (Admittedly, I never had a great familiarity with that band either.) In short, the Wheel performs at a level that I would say makes it hard to call them a side project. As is often the case with openers, I basically went in with the mindset that they were going to have to prove something to me if I was to like them, i.e. do something well above mediocre, and I think they did an impressive job of that. I know I spend as much time talking about how blogs already overload you with music and how none of us have time for that much new music, BUT if you're feeling adventurous, give "Early Spring Till" a try on their myspace. It takes a certain mood to get into this, but if it happens to catch you at the right time, it's a worthwhile listen.

Whether or not you could accurately pronounce Bon Iver or correctly spell the name of The Wheel frontman Nathaniel Rateliff turned out to be immaterial last night, as the music was everything a good indie fan could ever ask for (besides maybe a new silly headband).

Update: You can also check out the Denver Post's reviews of the Denver and Boulder shows, and also Wyoming Beat's review of the Boulder show. You know, if you like pictures and stuff.

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