Bon Iver with Anais Mitchell
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Bank of America Pavilion, Boston
Caroline and I both had single tickets for Bon Iver’s Boston show and decided to carpool. She’s a busy high school senior but eventually made time to write the thorough post below about our magical evening with Justin Vernon. What sticks out to me is the search for the elusive Channel Café (Google walking maps apparently can’t tell you that you need to go up a stairwell to get to a street above), catching up with Bob, Shea, and Chris, and singing “what might have been lost” all together during The Wolves (Acts I and II). Justin said he was glad we were there because it was the last time they’d be touring for a very long time. I hope he was kidding.
My first guest blogger! Here’s Caroline’s post with just slight editing:
I would like to acknowledge what an honor it is to be the first guest writer on Bree’s blog. Bree and I are alike in that we both occupy the same building three quarters of the year. I’m a high school senior, and she’s a hard-working teacher. We both have an intense passion for live music and have similar musical taste. Bon Iver has been one of my favorite artists for multiple years now. When I heard his song “Skinny Love” on my Pandora radio station my freshman year of high school, I immediately researched him. All of the music I love brings out various emotions. I think how I interpret music depends on the season and my mood. Bon Iver’s music has acted as a type of therapy. The soothing voices and melodies and genuine lyrics have brought me comfort during rough patches. In my eyes, Justin Vernon is nothing less than a deity.
When tickets were released in early July for his Boston show, I quickly made my purchase as I knew it would be a must see show. Quickly after, I became aware that Bree had purchased her ticket right before me. My only concern during those summer months was figuring out how I would actually be able to physically get to the venue. As time passed, since Bree and I both knew we had single tickets to the show, it made sense that we might as well carpool together to the show. Huzzah! Just like that, I had arranged my transportation—and boy was I in for a treat!
Safely arriving in Boston, the first obstacle we faced was finding a place to park. We settled on a $10 parking lot near the venue. Food was next on our to-do list with the extra time we had to spare. iPhones are truly a blessing to the 21st century. If Bree and I didn’t have her handy-dandy Urban Spoon app on her phone, we would most likely have looked like little kids in a corn maze. Channel Café—it looked easy, quick, and appetizing! Bree and I quickly agreed this was the place we should sit down and have a leisurely bite to eat before the show. Evidently, Google walking maps were not up to Boston “street code.” Walking past numerous streets, we finally realized a special stairwell that brought us up to a WHOLE other level of Boston. I was amazed at the design of the city, coming from the small town of Topsham, Maine. Weary from being steered in the wrong direction so many times, Channel Café seemingly became more and more delightful as we came closer to our destination. Not for long! Too bad the café closed at four o’clock. Back down the stairs we went.
Bree and I decided to make our way back towards the venue because show time was nearing. To our amazement, a hopping sandwich shop, J. Pace & son, was literally 500 feet from the Bank of America Pavilion—all that walkin’ for nothin’! Bree and I split a mozzarella, tomato, and basil sandwich as we met up with one of her other concert buddies, Bob. This was the first time I had been introduced to Bob, but now I’m glad I have had the opportunity to meet such a wonderful guy. Boy, is he a riot!
Showtime! The ticket I purchased online and printed out at home let me into the concert venue in no time. I quickly found my seat, which was dead center in the middle of the venue. Anaïs Mitchell was opening for Bon Iver, and was a little bit into her set list when I located my seat. A little history about the gal—she is from Vermont, grew up on a small farm, and went to Middlebury. Her music does resemble her life a bit as she declares her self a folk singer, but there is also a little country tone to her voice. She made me laugh with her stories of once being a poor college student. To me, it is almost cliché that so many artists share at least one thing about their first experiences starting their music career, or even their first struggles as becoming a young adult in the real world. Whatever she did, it worked. Anaïs was sweet with her charm.
Since I came in late to her set, it took a little time for me to gather myself and collect my thoughts after being hyped up for this show for so long. I focused on her voice and instruments because it was hard for me to understand some of her lyrics to her songs. I would say Anaïs is a folk artist—no doubt about it—but she had something different to her. Like I mentioned earlier, she had a little bit of country in her voice and the way she structured the instruments in her songs were a little country, too. Her music was quite mellow, but it was not like Justin’s style of music. I think the two bands complemented each other very well.
I specifically listened to Anaïs’s lyrics in the last song that she played. With more determination to focus on it, her music was easy to relate to. She sang, “Why do we build the wall?/Build the wall to keep us free/We build the wall to keep us free.”To me, these simple lines gave me new insight by better interpreting others’ actions, and society around us. We build a wall with us on one side, and everyone else on the other—almost to act like a comfort zone, so that others can’t bother us. In that state, we feel as if we are free in our own little world. Yet, we often do not realize we are not just part of our own little world, but that we are part of something much greater. Without our comfort zones, we have a greater perspective to help others and understand conflicts better. In that, we shortly notice where true freedom comes from. “Why We Build the Wall” is from her “folk opera” album, Hadestown, which tells a story of Orpheus and Eurydice.
The crowd roared when Justin Vernon and his band took the stage. It might be an understatement to say that people were more than ready to hear some of his songs. All emotions of excitement and joy filled my mind and soul. Justin opened with “Perth” which is on his second album, Bon Iver, Bon Iver. Immediately, a spectacular light show took place. I felt as if the lights were part of the music itself, not just an extra piece to captivate the audience. The loud drums filled my body with vibrations as the mystical sounds Bon Iver created kept me in awe. Even though I was not as close to the band as Bree was (she was in the third row), I will admit I found myself pinching my skin to see if I really was there experiencing this great moment.
Justin sang some of my absolute favorites—“Holocene” and “Blood Bank.” The thing I enjoyed so much about Justin while he played his music live is that he made the whole audience feel as if they were the only one in the audience listening to him. When I watched the band play, the lights, sounds, instruments, and voices all kept me mesmerized. The set up was really cool—there was a cloth backdrop that reflected images and light effects. This brought even more character to Justin’s songs as he played because it guided me as a listener to feel a certain way. During “Towers” there were images that showed spring and new beginnings. “Towers” is a light-hearted, cheerful song. I enjoyed how Justin connected the images with the music.
As much as I would like to think of Justin as an absolute God with nothing but wisdom and grace—he is really a funny guy! Quite frankly, he has a very goofy side! During a short break between songs, he advertised his t-shirts for sale. I don’t know if Justin was just being very genuine (because everything about him makes me think he is) or he has really good marketing skills, but he told the venue full of people that his variety of band t-shirts proved they were “expansionist capitalists” and he said it embarrassed him. Everyone got a kick out of it—making the level of love for Justin raise a few notches on the scale.
Justin said that “Skinny Love” was about sweet love being destroyed. In an interview before Bon Iver was created, Justin mentions how his first album was recorded in his dad’s hunting cabin in northern Wisconsin where he escaped to be alone from previous bands and an old girlfriend (who apparently broke his heart). The album For Emma, Forever Ago includes the hit “Skinny Love.” When Justin explained the meaning behind the song during the concert, I instantly connected what he said in the interview.
Justin emphasized that that this would be their last tour for a while. He played a few more songs (“re: Stacks” and “Calgary” among others) and then said his goodbyes to the audience. He again said that he was really glad we’d been able to come out for the show because it was the last time he’d be on tour for the foreseeable future. (Let’s hope that was an exaggeration! No, really—please don’t let that be true!)
Justin and the band came out for a much-requested encore. It was a bittersweet moment when he asked us to sing along during “The Wolves (Act I and II)” because I didn’t want the night to end. Our part was the line “what might have been lost,” which he said he wanted us to belt out. “The Wolves (Act I and II)” is such a powerful song. Whenever I hear Justin’s voice on that song, he has a cold, blunt attitude and his lyrics send chills up and down my spine. They wrapped with “For Emma” and said goodbye for good. Their performance that night was incredible! And singing that song, all together, was an amazing moment.
The crowd would not stop cheering for Bon Iver. All of us wanted more. The experience that Justin personally gave to me as an audience member was incredible. After the show, Bree and I met up with Bob and their sweet friend Chris from bostonthroughmyeyes.com. Here are his beautiful pictures and videos from the evening.
It took me weeks after the show to finally process my thoughts and feelings about that evening. It was a magical night complete with tasty food, great friends, magnificent music, and a lively city. Let’s hope Justin was joking (although I fear he wasn’t) about not touring again for a long while!