I swear I went into this with the best of intentions. Anyone who follows my blog knows that I am a bit of a Pollyanna blogger: I tend to amplify the positive and sugarcoat the negative. It’s not objective journalism, but it’s my blog and I can be positive if I want to. Thing is, honesty makes for a better read. And while Pollyanna may make more friends, she’s
fucking boring. It’s time to evolve and be real. It’s time to start going to gigs I know nothing about or may hate.
My first victim is Bon Iver.
Let me preface this by saying that I went to the Bon Iver concert last night expecting big things. There has been considerable hype surrounding Justin Vernon‘s self titled sophomore album, a follow up to his critically acclaimed 2007 breakthrough, “For Emma, Forever Ago,” so I wanted to be more than entertained, I wanted to be sold. After all, Kanye West, Peter Gabriel and the Grammy committee can’t all be wrong, right? This guy must be UNBELIEVABLE live, right? I did realize I would get myself into trouble by having high expectations (that is the side effect of hype, after all). What I didn’t realize was that I would fall victim to the hype. At the end of the show, my unimpressed boyfriend challenged my knee-jerk “Hey, that was pretty good!” response with “What did you like about the show?” I looked at him blankly. “Um, well, the intensity. The musicianship?” I sounded like an interviewee scrambling for the right answer.
There were some beautiful moments during the show. I dig Justin’s falsetto and it’s not everyday that you see nine musicians (playing a minimum of three instruments each) sharing a stage. I dig the pain and melancholy. I even dig the dramatic lighting and laser effects. But once the hype evaporates, you are left with a guy who abuses auto-tune and other effects, backed by a band who could really be tearing shit up and flexing their multi-instrumental muscles.
Maybe it wasn’t the right venue, maybe I need to lock myself in a cabin in Wisconsin, maybe I really need to read up on what his music is trying to evoke (a couple of girls next to my boyfriend were bawling their eyes out, so perhaps we were the only two insensitive souls in the concert hall), but the whole package felt vacuous and flimsy. There I said it (whoa, that felt pretty good!). So begins the demise of Pollyanna as I re-emerge from my hype-induced coma.
I will conclude on a positive note: The surprise of the evening was discovering Minneapolis indie rock band, Poliça.
Unlike for Bon Iver, I didn’t have any expectations (heck, I hadn’t even heard of them until last night), but they gave me plenty of reasons to get excited. The band features two drummers, bass and ghostly, ethereal vocals (yes, she uses auto-tune but here it adds spook) by frontwoman Channy Leanagh. Freestyle R&B meets electronica, the result is a fleshy, stick to your bones sound. And the best part is – they aren’t trying to be cool. From the moment they took the stage unassumingly, they just did their thing as if they were jamming in a basement. Now we’re talking. I don’t have their setlist, but I did capture this song on video. I will now stalk this band and say nice things about them. As for Bon Iver, ditch the auto-tune, get back to the basics and defrost your soul.
The Wolves (Act I and II)