this one goes out to
due to an unfortunate mixup in times and the need to eat, i arrived late at the hurricane katrina victims benefit at bowery ballroom last week. i missed other passengers completely and caught only the end of grizzly bear. what little i heard made me wish i'd run upstairs sooner. further perusal of their website is making me regret missing them even more and want to order their CD.
in the past year, i've seen akron/family on stages as small as pete's candy store, and now here they are playing the bowery. it couldn't happen to a nicer, happier bunch of guys. their sheer joy in playing is evident every time i see them. at times, they've gone a little off the deep end in my opinion (there was a total noisefest at sin-e that i could have done without), but their post-post-rock noodling isn't for lack of talent or enthusiasm, but sheer restless inventiveness. fortunately this time, mindful of their short time onstage, they reeled it in just enough to have a good balance of melodic songs and freakout sections. at one great point, bassist miles seaton asked the bowery to turn up the house lights, while he reminded everyone of the seriousness of the reason they were there. the four of them then launched into an a capella spiritual, each of them taking turns at the same lead line while the others maintained a harmonic chant of the words "love and space."
i'd never heard of sufjan stevens before the recent flap over the cover art to his latest album. or if i had, i think i confused him with savath + savalas or some other electronica artist starting with an "s". but an mp3 blog had up his acoustic rendition of "the one i love" by rem, and it far exceeded my expectations. at the bowery, he opened with this, as if to say, "here's the famous cover song. now that's out of the way, we can get to the real stuff." or perhaps he wanted to open with a crowd pleaser to get people going. as he remarked, he's been touring with an 8-piece band, and by comparison the solo experience was "fairly terrifying." if his voice wavered at all from nerves, i didn't hear it; it would have been perfectly suited to the beautiful and melancholy songs he played. never have i heard an audience so large remain so quiet and riveted in place for one person with one instrument. he must have played for a half hour or so, but it seemed like it was over in minutes, it was so good. if you haven't actually heard him, he's definitely someone to check out further.
the title of this post is a paraphrase of the r.e.m. song sufjan covers.