On this episode of Live Fix Radio we’re continuing our exploration of Bon Iver and the power of the little things and chatting with fellow concert fan Isabel about how this picture of Justin Vernon’s “that was then” tattoo inspired Isabel to get her own tattoo. Isabel’s also tells us why she’ll never forget crowdsurfing during Bon Iver at Coachella and soaking in Cage The Elephant with her dad during a sublime downpour at Lollapalooza. Rock on and thanks for listening!
Got a thought on this show or an awesome idea for a future episode of Live Fix Radio? Drop a comment below or share your feedback and concert stories with us on Twitter @livefixmedia, Facebook , Google Plus, or call the concert fan hotline at 773-609-4341.
I especially like Kate’s description of the frustrated fan:
Standing after every song and cheering, while throwing up a “Rock On!” hand signal, this middle-aged man seemed utterly dismayed at the lack of visible excitement from audience members, who mostly stayed seated, getting up only to replenish their plastic cups. At one point, he even turned around to the audience and yelled “‘C’mon Chicago!” in a frustrated voice.
Now we haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Bon Iver live since Pitchfork 2007, but we did enjoy seeing Bon Iver playing in the supergroup Gayngs during which they soulfully rocked the auto-tune for a packed Metro last fall. Maybe this fan would’ve liked that Metro show a bit more than this ultra-subdued gig at the Chicago Theater?
And What About You?
Were you at this Bon Iver show at the Chicago Theater? Have you ever witnessed a similar moment where a fellow fan annoyingly insisted that you share in his or her desire to rock, when you just wanted to chill? We invite you to share your concert experiences in the comments below, so they can be included in a future episode of Live Fix Radio.
As we’ve discovered before, the Little Things are what draw you in, and they’re what makes the show irresistible and unforgettable. But what happens when concert fans get transfixed by a one-man band street performer, and others artists like Girl Talk, Andrew Bird or TuNeYards who are pushing the art forward in the 21st century.
We’ll explore those three artists in a moment, but first, let me share with you a fantastic encounter I had with a one-man band who put on a virtual Little Things clinic on the streets of Michigan.
Above is a video of Detroit-based street performing one-man band Joseph O’Keefe as he pays tribute the real Jesse James (not the Sandra Bullock one), masters the art of the stop spot pause, and relies on fans to help him tune his cow bell — while playing live in Holland, Michigan during the Tulip Festival.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of seeing a one-man band artist before, I hope you do sometime soon, because it is really something amazing to see.
And what I love about O’Keefe’s take on the multi-tasking solo rocker, is the way he entertained and interacted with the Holland crowd.
There was a big parade going by while he was playing, but most eyes and ears were glued to O’Keefe because he was way more fun to watch that floating balloons and vintage cars cruising by at 5mph.
O’Keefe won me over the instant I saw him jamming on the street. I quickly flipped on my camera and watched as he rambled through the classic folk tunes and told funny stories with the kids in the front row.
And within just a few minutes, I couldn’t help but toss some cash in his tip bucket.
I’ve been excited to share this video with you too because when you watch the video closely, you see just how amazing what he is doing really is. Each of his feet are connected to straps so he can play the cymbal/hi-hat and the bass drum by moving his feet.
The end of his guitar is attached to the cowbell (which a fan kindly helps him re-tune) and he’s wails on the harmonica while plucking his banjo and singing all at the same time. AND he’s got the crowd interaction down pat as he tosses humor and quick jokes into his act.
First, I thought of how technology has created a new 21st century version of the one-man band with the advent of the laptop artist. Yes, DJs have been around for years, but when I think of guys like Girl Talk, I can’t help but think how he’s a great example of a new breed of the one-man band with in his genre. Who else would you put on the list?
Mastering the Art of Live Looping
You can also look at artists like Andrew Bird and or Merrill Garbus of TuNeYards to see how they’ve mastered the art of the loop machine — among other live instrumentation and orchestration — to create mesmerizing sonic tapestries, and get the most out of their own one-man(or woman is Merrill’s case) band creativity.
And the other thing I’ve been thinking about after seeing O’Keefe is the level of captivation that I had while I watched him.
There was so much going on in such a small space and it was all being done by one person.
And the reason I think I was so amazed is that I’m used to seeing five or six band members do what O’Keefe did all by himself. What a show it was. And I know I’ll be thinking about it during my next concert.
Who’s Captivated You?
Think back to your favorite concert. And tell me….
How did they captivate you during the show?
Was is it with their playing, or do they mesmerize you with their words, or how they move their body during the show?
Were you so transfixed during the show that everything and everyone around you seem to fade away?
Special Note and Request for Help: Unfortunately, I didn’t have the change to talk with O’Keefe that day and I have since tried to connect with him, but have been unsuccessful finding his outposts online.
I would really love to share this post with him and invite him on our Live Fix Podcast, so if you know Joe (or are Joe) please drop a comment and let us know how we can get in touch with him. Thank you very much for any info!
To answer my own question and complete for you yet another curiosity-filled Live Fix Experiment, I will tell you that, yes, Gayngs was just as good live as they are on their debut album Relayted, one of my favorite albums of 2010.
But read on, because there was more to this show that just Gayngs rocking the joint and getting all funky and silly with the auto-tune.
One of my favorite albums lately has been the debut release from Gayngs called Relayted. And tonight at Metro we’ll see if the new album is just as good live as it has been between my headphones these past few weeks. Continue reading
Besides the musical performance, how does a band make their show a fully felt dialogue of emotions instead of just an average rock concert? And if a band did create that environment, how would you respond to a concert of conversation?
Hey, unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to visit Austin, TX for the ACL festival this year but thanks to Rock and Roll Mama Lindsay Reed Maines, being a vicarious live music fan was really easy for me.
Maines enjoyed Bon Iver’s set, among others like Kings of Leon, and I wonder if she noticed some Little Things, too.
That said, I strongly recommend being a vicarious live music fan with me and checking out her ACL wrap up to see live music through the eyes of a true rock and roll mama.
While I’m on the subject of moms and live rock, I’d like to know if you have any stories of moms and live music to share.
If you’re a mom who loves live music, I’d like to invite you to tell your concert story here on Live Fix.
Having played baseball since I was old enough to hold a bat and toss a ball, there’s one thing that the game’s taught me about live music; it’s that noticing and appreciating the “little things” makes all the difference.
And when you notice the hidden nuances about your surroundings during the show, you also begin to discover what separates an average show from a great show and why certain shows have stronger subtexts and significance than others.
In the case of singer-songwriter Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, it was his “that was then” tattoo on the back of his neck that added meaning and helped me understand what made his performance at Pitchfork Music Festival last summer one of my favorite in 2008.
But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I began to discover this.
When my wife Colleen showed me this picture she took of the back of Vernon’s neck, it was then that I began to connect the story of the subtext of that tattoo with what I experienced during the show, a connection that I didn’t initially see during his set at Pitchfork Music Festival.
Ever since Colleen showed me this picture I’ve been on the lookout for other little details about that show and others shows I’ve been to. I’ve been looking for the little things that make some concerts more memorable that others. Because when I saw that tattoo I wondered “What did it mean? Why did he have it on the back of his neck?” Was it inspirational to his music? Did it mark a transition in his songwriting or personal journey?”
I continue to wonder about that tattoo and the other “little things” I’ve noticed at concerts. Because I’ve begun to realize that they have an immense power to quietly influence the show and send the emotional fervor flowing strong and furious from the artist’s heart to our hearts unsuspectingly–during or even months after a show.
What “little things” have you noticed about a show? What did they reveal to you that you didn’t noticed before? Was it a tattoo? A piece of jewelry? A comment the artist said in between songs?
Update: Jade, a gracious Live Fix reader, reminded me to note that Bon Iver is the band/stage name of Justin Vernon.