Reviews

Feist and Bon Iver: 31 May 2012 - Morrison, CO

Photo Credits: Matthew Speck

Though it wasn’t the first Red Rocks show of the summer for everybody, it was certainly a great way to kick it off for most – a bill featuring both Feist and Bon Iver in a single night at one of the most beautiful venues in the country.

Feist

Bon Iver + Feist

City: Morrison, CO
Venue: Red Rocks Amphitheater
Date: 2012-05-31

You always wonder how good a band will be live, who you pretty much only listen to alone, preferably on a quiet night with the lights low. They sound so perfect on record, all the nuances captured and instruments turned to just the right volume. These kinds of musicians require a delicate balance to be enjoyed at their highest potential. Many artists who capture complicated melodies and exact timing on record spend days perfecting it, unfortunately unable to duplicate it in a live setting. Usually they don’t live up to your expectations or excitement, but once in a while, when that band is playing their music right there in front of you, they capture your being for ninety minutes as you stand in awe, clutching your arms to your chest, listening for every note and being pushed then pulled by every change in momentum, tempo, volume, key. A band that can do this at all is impressive -- to say the least. A young band that can do this at Red Rocks, with as much open space to fill as God had World to build, is fucking unbelievable.

Though it wasn’t the first Red Rocks show of the summer for everybody, it was certainly a great way to kick it off for most -- a bill featuring both Feist and Bon Iver in a single night at one of the most beautiful venues in the country. Though Feist’s set was played in daylight -- the May Colorado sun does not set until about nine – it was still highly attended, a little difficult considering that she started at just after 7 pm, and Red Rocks is just far enough outside of Denver and Boulder that making it to the venue on time after work on a Thursday is what some would call "pushing it". Nevertheless, her unforgettable voice was a big enough draw to get most everyone to the venue and to their seats by the time she went on. Unfortunately, The Staves, a trio who has been touring with Bon Iver, played even earlier than Feist and likely did not enjoy the same full house -- though they have been lauded as quite impressive recently.

In just about an hour, Feist and her backing band waded through her songs with a little more grunge and crunch than they have on her albums. Her set featured songs both from her previous albums and 2011’s Metals including a pounding "My Moon My Man" and a roaring, set-ending "The Bad in Each Other" featuring Bon Iver instrumentalists Reginald Pace and Colin Stetson, who played a thunderous bass saxophone on the tune. Though her more recent album was not as well received as her previous two, her performance proved that anyone questioning her continuing ability should listen again.

As the sun set, the stage was dressed for Bon Iver’s performance. Burlap curtains were hung from the rafters and light cones were placed to surround the performers, who each had their own area carefully carved out. The crowd cheered, then quieted well before Justin Vernon, the main man behind the moniker Bon Iver, plucked the opening guitar notes to "Perth". Those notes filled the space as if they were always there, a perfect compliment to the evening. When, about 90 seconds into the song, the rest of the band kicked in, it was clear that the night’s performance was to be a good one. The band followed with "Minnesota, WI" before Vernon spoke -- almost stumbling over his words, seemingly in awe of the venue.

If you’ve ever read a review about a show at Red Rocks, you’ll know that just about every artist who plays there -- whether young or old -- expresses a delight and awe at having the opportunity. Vernon and his band were no different, repeating thanks often between songs. But it’s the artists who use the space best who are most remembered, and the music of Bon Iver is naturally akin to that -- the tones need to spread and settle to make their mark, and the crispness of the natural amphitheater allow that better than any recording studio or auditorium ever could.

Bon Iver played for just about 90 minutes, enough to settle in and make their presence felt, but it certainly could have gone on for at least another hour without complaint. The audience hardly moved or said an unrelated word for the entire time, the music capturing, and not as dance-inducing as other performers (though of course there are always those few who feel the need to imbibe at every outing - drunk 18-year-olds in front of me, I’m talking about you). Some musicians feel their music speaks for itself but Vernon realizes that impressing the audience visually -- and including them in the mix -- is important as well. The light-show synced with the band’s crescendos, explosions of light would collapse to dark at just the right moments and sing-alongs were not only appreciated, they were encouraged. Throughout the show, songs like "Holocene" and "Skinny Love" got just about everyone involved in the act -- whether it was singing along or just plain screaming. As an encore, Vernon asked the audience to sing along to "The Wolves (Act I and II)" in the hopes that the combined efforts of 9,500 singers could cause the amphitheater to turn into a spaceship, and take us all to outer space. Vernon commented something along the lines of, "I’d miss my Mom and everything but I still think it would be fun." Indeed, his dreams of space travel did not come true on that night, but it was fun nonetheless.

View a larger gallery of images over at PopMatters' Facebook page!

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta



19. Antwood: Sponsored Content (Planet Mu)

Sponsored Content is a noisy, chaotic, occasionally beautiful work with a dark sense of humor that's frequently deployed to get Antwood's point across. For instance, throughout the aforementioned "Disable Ad Blocker", which sounds mostly like the creepy side of Tangerine Dream's early '80s experimental output, distorted slogans and recognizable themes worm their way into the mix. "I'm Loving It", we hear at one point, the Sony PlayStation startup music at another. And then there's a ten-second clip of what sounds like someone getting killed in a horror movie. What is there to make of the coexistence of those sorts of samples? Probably nothing explicit, just the uneasiness of benign and instantly-recognizable brand content in the midst of harsh, difficult art. Perhaps quality must to some extent be tied to sponsorship. That Antwood can make this point amidst blasts and washes of experimental electronic mayhem is quite the achievement. - Mike Schiller



18. Bonobo - Migration (Ninja Tune)

Although Bonobo, a.k.a. Simon Green, has been vocal in the past about not making personality driven music, Migration is, in many respects, a classic sounding Bonobo record. Green continues to build sonic collages out of chirping synths, jazz-influenced drums, sweeping strings and light touches of piano but on Migration sounds more confident than ever. He has an ability to tap into the emotions like few others such as on the gorgeous "Break Apart" and the more percussive "Surface". However, Bonobo also works to broaden his sound. The electro-classical instrumental "Second Sun" floats along wistfully, sounding like it could have fit snugly onto a Erased Tapes compilation, while the precise and intricate "Grains" shows the more intimate and reflective side of his work. On the flipside, the higher tempo, beat driven tracks such as "Outlier" and "Kerala" perfectly exhibit his understanding of what works on the dance floor while on "Bambro Koyo Ganda" he even weaves North African rhythms into the fabric. Migration is a multifaceted album full of personality and all the better for it. - Paul Carr


17. Kiasmos - Blurred EP (Erased Tapes)

The Icelandic duo of Olafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen, aka Kiasmos, is a perfect example of a pair of artists coming from two very different musical backgrounds, finding an unmistakable common ground to create something genuinely distinctive. Arnalds, more known for his minimal piano and string work, and Rasmussen, approaching from a more electropop direction, have successfully explored the middle ground between their different musical approaches and in doing so crafted affecting minimalist electronic music. Blurred is one of the most emotionally engaging electronic releases of the year. The duo is working from a refined and bright sonic palette as they consummately layer fine, measured sounds together. It is an intricate yet unforced and natural sounding set of songs with every song allowed room to bloom gradually. - Paul Carr



16. Ellen Allien - Nost (BPitch Control)

BPitch boss and longtime lynchpin of the DJ scene in Berlin, Ellen Allien's seven full-length releases show an artist constantly reinventing herself. Case in point, her 2013 offering, LISm, was a largely beat-less ambient work designed to accompany an artsy dance piece, while its follow-up, 2017's Nost, is a hardcore techno journey, spiritually born in the nightclubs and warehouses of the early '90s. It boasts nine straight techno bangers, beautifully minimalist arrangements with haunting vocals snippets and ever propulsive beats, all of which harken back to a hallowed, golden, mostly-imagined age when electronic music was still very much underground, and seemingly anything was possible. - Alan Ranta

It's just past noon on a Tuesday, somewhere in Massachusetts and Eric Earley sounds tired.

Since 2003, Earley's band, Blitzen Trapper, have combined folk, rock and whatever else is lying around to create music that manages to be both enigmatic and accessible. Since their breakthrough album Furr released in 2008 on Sub Pop, the band has achieved critical acclaim and moderate success, but they're still some distance away from enjoying the champagne lifestyle.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image