Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Can we turn the other two down?"

Got stuck at work talking about everything and watching a mild amount of crunk gettin' got, so I ended up getting to the Mt. Eerie show a little bit late.  Thank God I wasn't any later than I was, though, or I would've been shut out of the candlelit, hauntingly appropriate Lutheran Church of the Messiah in Greenpoint.  A big space, and a lot of people, and a glowing light of our saviours coming from the stage had me confused as to why so many people were leaving.  I missed Woods, which is a bummer, but I've also seen them a million times.  The exodus still made no sense to me, but such is life.  Eight bucks later, I was in, when I saw some familiar faces including one who's been in Tibet for a year.  Ten minutes later, and another twenty-three bucks out of my pocket and into P.W. Elverum's, I was working my way towards the front for the rest of the show.

Julie Doiron came on with shadows being thrown all over and Fred Squire on drums.  Now, Eric's Trip I'm no stranger to, but Julie's solo stuff I never had heard, really.  And I had definitely never heard her like I did on Mt. Eerie's "Lost Wisdom," where her duets with Phil took the usual Eerie sound somewhere I didn't think it could go.  So needless to say, I was excited, and summarily enchanted and dragged around by my heart strings for the next hour.

I've got a soft spot for female singer-songwriters, but I guess I didn't really expect material as good as Julie's.  Feist, et al. comparisons don't really do justice, as she's really combing the depths of both the personal and collective American psyche.  Mournful melodies housed in her voice have seemingly infinite depth to them, and it comes effortless and hitherto as she moves back and forth from the microphone.  Her songs are less compositions and more journal entries; the twang she wrenches from bent chords is voluminous and speaks to a greater emotion than the standard singer-songwriter fare.  I understand why she's one of Phil's favorite singers; it's the same reason that Jason Molina as Songs: Ohia is so important.  The stripped down guitar and drums versions of things carry a little extra something that isn't there on the full fledged recordings.  It's like the skeleton being on display.

And, on top of that, Fred and Julie switched instruments and gave a brief preview of their new band "Calm Down It's Monday."  Unsurprisingly, it was great, a strange blend of western rollick with the bared emotive force of their other collaborations.  Only a couple live recorded demos, but apparently an album by Christmas?  Swoon.

So then it was Mt. Eerie's turn, which basically meant setting up a couple chairs for the on-stage duo and getting Phil to abandon the "souvenir table" as he called it and tell the young fools in the front to sit down so the rest of the seated assembly could see what was about to happen.

I was never a huge fan of the Microphones, but the transformation into Mt. Eerie, along with the establishment of P.W. Elverum & Sun Co., had me hooked pretty much instantaneously.  Phil seemed to move into a mythic frontier, where American history is still being composed and reconstituted, sometimes even destroyed.  A timelessness emanates from all of his projects.  Historicity provides weight.  You want to care about these songs, these artifacts, and the quality fulfills that wish.

Mt. Eerie on the new "Lost Wisdom" record, my favorite so far, consists of Phil and Julie and Fred, so it's something of a treat to see the first show of all three together.  They played the entirety of the album in a tender and heartwarming fashion.  It wasn't perfect, which made it that much more real, that much more identifiable.  To err certainly is human, the performers seemed to say, and there was a lot of humanity on display, both on stage and in the crowd and in the ether passing back and forth.  Even a well-crafted spell can be brittle and transient despite the power behind it, so the little lyrical slip-ups and false starts made the energy on display that much more genuine.

When Phil kept going after the trio stopped, it was fitting that he wound down the night by playing "Human."  The crowd recited the personal incantation with Phil, and I was happy to watch the bootlegger sitting next to me recording the show on a Zune.  A record of something like that seems most needed.

No comments: