Mount Eerie: 8 November 2009 - Lakeshore Theatre, Chicago / Words and Pictures by Kirstie Shanley
It was like driving through a dark night with David Lynch at the wheel. Mount Eerie, the moniker of Phil Everum who also has released albums as The Microphones, has always been more on the human side than most musicians dare venture, exploring the outer regions of cerebral metaphor. Elverum has also proved himself to be adept in his collaborations with others, most recently with Julie Doiron for 2008’s Lost Wisdom.
However, even hard-core fans following the length of Elverum’s career--from the winding roads and bare shreds of sanity on his trip to Norway to the perfectly constructed compositions that feel like home--would not have predicted his latest turn. It's almost as if Elverum has reinvented metal. The performance in particular does not feel like anything familiar or currently a part of the genre. Though it was based on his most recent release, 2009’s Wind’s Poem, and Elverum played the album in order as he usually does with current releases, it was much heavier live. In fact, amidst all the ethereal smoke was a huge weight, like a physical presence.
The performance and album is too mature to represent angst and so it hangs in the air like a tragedy one can’t quite put your finger on, which is a jarring effect. Not only that but the almost brooding deep sense of mood created by the Twin Peaks reference and keyboard parts resonate deeply within the Angelo Badamenti subconscious. The imagery is vivid, at times abstract and always something that strikes you in echoes later on when you least expect it, which is precisely what Lynch does best with his directing.
Paired this tour with Canada’s No Kids, Elverum began the night drumming for them as they played a set of mostly new songs that they explained were supposed to be about 1940's Los Angeles through the present. The two-piece used keyboards heavily and so it’s not at all surprising that this was their role during the Mount Eerie's set as well. In terms of emotional tone, genre, and overall feel of the music, however, their most recent collaboration with Elverum does not resemble anything they have released on their own.
Another addition for this tour are the two drummers playing at the back of the stage which made all of the bombastic guitar parts even more effective. Elverum has never been anything less than gentle and, in some ways, this hasn’t changed even though this is a drastically different approach for him. There is a great flux within most of these new songs between moments of greatest and least intensity. It’s almost a bipolar journey into the ranges of human experience. Whatever you’d like to call it, you can’t help but feel it--and be thankful for what is definitely a gift Elverum has given his all in creating.
There were moments during his hour-long set when Elverum actually played snippets of transmissions picked up from truckers on the road. It seemed like the night was a careless 3am journey with the only human voices around serving as slight, uncanny relief. Of course, Lynch himself has always thrown in bits of black humor that seem too strange to laugh at but still provide a happy reprieve from the madness permeating his works. Though an unusual device, Elverum's trucker effects made perfect sense and made his set work almost like an homage, as the album does in parts.
Perhaps the most piercing moment his set, and on the album, was a cover of his own song "Lost Wisdom," aptly titled "Lost Wisdom Pt.2"--a slight departure from the Lynch reverence but still with a complete sense of despair. The original, with Julie Doiron, served as a melancholic, modern, and female-led Simon and Garfunkel song. The new version was far more desperate, or lost. On stage it threatened to dissolve into a completely new form with a force that felt renewed and heightened, providing a definite climax to the set. Astounding and awe inspiring doesn’t even begin to cover its impact. It would be great music to play at the end of the world, when there is really nothing left.