Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mount Eerie Live at Mass Art's Pozen Center, Boston, MA, September 27th, 2008

The best kept secret last Saturday was a Mount Eerie show. Trying to find Mass Art’s Pozen Center where the show was held proved to be puzzling even to the Mass Art students smoking on the street. For a show with such a unique atmosphere and hypnotizing performances, it was tricky to find out anything about the show as it wasn’t even publicized on the school’s web site.

Following a hand written sign, past the large tower building, a couple of dumpsters and through a side door, was the venue. Despite its hidden location, one step inside the auditorium hushed the onlooker with its glowing hardwood floors and huge light riggings hanging in front of the classical molding on the ceilings. For such a large space, the music was intimate while sounding full and having a distant natural reverb.

The opening band, Manners, played in the center of the room, rather than on stage, with the audience sitting in a circle around them. A single clamp light created a dark and bright contrast on the band and transformed the room into a séance. It reflected Greg Sun’s quiet whisperings and meditative electric guitar, the sound filled out by a synthesizer.

After Manners finished, the Needy Visions called everyone to circle around them on the side of the room. Their music was silly, but not a joke, resembling Vampire Weekend…even though the band has no idea who they are. The quirky Dan Shea played acoustic guitar complimented by his staccato vocals such as on the catchy “Weymouth.” The bassist, Sam Portykus is formerly of Christians and Lions, local Boston folk philosophers. The drummer, Bill Conroy sat against the wall with a Djembe drum in his lap as Elliott Chaffee followed the melody on electric guitar.

The rest of the show was set up in front of the stage. Calm Down, It's Monday played first, with Julie Doiron on drums. Dick Morello was part musician and part comedian for his set, keeping the audience laughing with his off topic banter. While he played electric to his story-like songs, his eyes never moved from a spot on the floor a few feet in front of his microphone.

Morello switched instruments with Doiron for her set, although Morello was more like a member of the audience for most of it. Doiron was amazed by the mood in the room, which prompted her to play older, slower songs. “I should’ve written a set list,” she said. “That’s the professional thing to do, right?” Her sweet songs were like Regina Spektor meets Maria Taylor (even though she has been playing longer than both of them). She has such a large catalog that at times she forgot the lyrics, but cutely recovered, once swearing in French, “Merde!” She thanked everyone profusely for being so attentive and said that the show was one of the best she played.

Doiron and Fred Squire recently recorded an album called Lost Wisdom with Mount Eerie’s Phil Elverum. After Doiron, they played the album in its entirety from start to finish. Morello played electric for the set, while Elverum used a nylon acoustic. Doiron mostly sang backup, although a few songs soloed her songbird vocals, particularly “If We Knew…”

Elverum experimented with the acoustics of the room during “Voice in Headphones.” He had the whole crowd quietly resounding “It’s not meant to be a strife, it’s not meant to be a struggle uphill.” During Mount Eerie’s set, Phil Elverum kept hinting for fans to buy Doiron’s CD’s as her 90s band, Eric’s Trip was a big inspiration for him.

After the album had finished, Elverum played alone. By request, he started out with two songs from his previous moniker, the Microphones, “I Want Wind to Blow” and “The Glow, Part 2.” Strangely, when asked to play “Headless Horseman,” Elverum shook his head, saying, “Oh no, I can’t play that one.” He added another plug for Doiron, explaining that the type of guitar playing at the end of “The Glow, Part 2” was invented by Eric’s Trip.

The next song, newly unpolished “Wind Summons” off of the forthcoming Wind’s Poem, felt like being lost in a dream. The lyrics roamed around with imagery of nature, the melody being tossed about like dead leaves in the wind. The song is exemplary of Elverum’s experimental free association technique. It seemed like he was trying to capture every moment of inspiration by writing and singing whatever first came out of his head during the creative process. This kind of style mirrors the idea behind his unfiltered lo-fidelity recordings.

Elverum ended the set with another new song “Buried in Space” before shyly walking away from the stage, through a mesmerized and cheering crowd.

Mount Eerie Set List:
2. Voice in Headphones
3. You Swan, Go On
4. Who?
5. Flaming Home
6. What?
7. If We Knew…
8. With My Hands Out
9. O My Heart
10. Grave Robbers
Phil Elverum solo encore:
11. I Want Wind To Blow
12. The Glow, Part 2
13. Wind Summons
14. My Burning
15. The Intimacy of the World with the World
16. Buried in Space






~Lee Stepien

Published at WERS.org on September 28, 2008
Photography by Jenny Bagnyuk

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