bon iver Live

Seeing Bon Iver live not only completed the year, but answered all of life’s questions. When you listen to Bon Iver there is sonic mystique. Layered vocals, reverb, plug-ins, and multiple choruses happening at once. Instruments coming at you from every direction. Unlike For Emma, Forever Ago, the new self titled has a plethora of orchestral arrangements. Listening to it, you are blindfolded to it’s origins. But seeing where it all comes from satisfies all your senses with comfort.

Despite his press being everywhere, from the cover of Spin to local papers covering his new release, it still feels like Vernon is from another planet. Maybe it’s his woodsy aura or the fact that his music is unlike anyone elses’ [thank god]. Noting two microphones set up an inch apart from each other on his mic stand removed the guesswork of live spiderwebbing. Seeing one of the two viola players chime in provided another answered other questions. Along with trumpeter and trombone player (whom also did a fine FINE prolonged beat box) there was a baritone saxophone. At the quietest of moments you could see him tapping the keys to get the hushed click of the key pads. Violas, violins, two drum kits, bass guitar, horns, Vernon himself on guitar (one song too few was left to an acoustic solo), synth, and a loop machine made up the nine men on stage.

It was wonderful to see performers working together to create the insane amount of power in the room: poetry, legit vibrations, the power of brilliance, emotion and passion. Sadness at points, but mostly pure joy, you’re silly to look away. I didn’t bring ear plugs thinking “why would I ever need them?” I couldn’t have been more wrong – and more deaf for a good two days. [Bring ear plugs.]

In addition to Skinny Love, he played the title track from his 2009 EP Blood Bank – one of my personal favorites. The set list included most from the new record and tracks from the old. The Wolves (Act I and II) – easily my favorite – wasn’t as heartbreaking with a full band, but who am I to complain? Seeing Vernon wail on the electric guitar (while we’ve known him to cry us to sleep) is a juxtaposition. And the best one I’ll ever see.

His music is great, and we all know that. The only people I know who don’t like it much are those who don’t go for the style, and so far it’s been growing on them.

I left with a feeling that we will see Justin Vernon put out music for the rest of his life – even if it is too spread out for our liking. And if it isn’t music, it will be art, poetry or some sort of crafting genius. Seeing him up close and in person was just reassurance that love and passion are real and exist in people. I think sometimes we have to look too hard to find it. But if we’re lucky, some share it with everyone.

Check out NPR for the second night’s full concert recorded here at DC’s 930 club.