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Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, The Walkmen [9/15/11]

Sometimes the universe takes a dump on you, like when your crush cracks your back before class and you lose control of your bowels. But other times, the stars align and you’re able to score a ticket to witness Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, and The Walkmen perform a one-night only indie rock Superbowl in Phoenix, AZ. Thankfully, I experienced the latter.

The Walkmen

Opening with an abbreviated set of mostly new material, The Walkmen were missed by a large portion of the audience on account of the fact that Comerica puts its openers on right when the doors open. Since most venues open the doors 90 minutes before any music is played in an attempt to sell more alcohol, concert-goers have been conditioned not to arrive early. Those who did come for what lead singer Hamilton Leithauser dubbed “the early bird special” were treated to a dark and driving version of “All Hands and the Cook” and a new Hamilton solo song which may or may not be titled “I Hate Jazz.”

Fleet Foxes

With harmonies galore, Fleet Foxes impressed even the annoyingly discriminating Dan Phillips. Though he appears to have emerged from the woods after a 30 year walkabout, 25-year old lead singer Robin Peckhold’s voice soared throughout the room, floating on top of the folk. However, multi-instrumentalist (and former FREAKING Blood Brother) Morgan Henderson may have been most impressive after lending vocals and playing percussion, guitar, upright bass, a massive baritone saxophone, and clarinet. Dude was a one-man band.

Bon Iver

@Discographies distills an artist’s recorded history into 140 characters, and here is an accurate description of the difference between Justin Vernon and company’s first and second albums (the Jay-Z entry is perfect, too).

I purchased Bon Iver’s second eponymous album in Washington D.C. I listened to it on repeat for the entire 6 hour return trip to Columbus. It’s still in my car’s CD player. The vinyl is sitting on my record player. It would be accurate to say I am obsessed with it. After listening to to it the first time, I was curious to see if what had been recorded could be replicated.  NPR’s recording of the DC show confirmed it, and then I saw it for myself in Phoenix.

From the moment they hit the first harmony in “Perth”, through the Justin Vernon led sing-along to “Wolves (Act I and II)” outro “what might have been lost”, to the Glory campfire scene-like closer “Skinny Love”, Bon Iver put on less of a concert and more of a rite. The crowd was reverent, just receiving the good word.

Even the album’s most divisive track, “Beth/Rest”, was well received. Some might say it’s elevator music, but I feel like it’s the jam Phil Collins never wrote, or the soundtrack to the final scene of John Hughes’ biopic. Like the Grammy coup Arcade Fire pulled last year, Bon Iver deserves Album of Year for 2011. Don’t let me down, Recording Academy…

Oddly, both Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver mispronounced each others’ names during their respective sets. Robin Peckhold commented on how surreal it was to have “Bon Eye-ver” playing next, and Justin Vernon thanked “The Fleet Foxes” for playing the show. Pronunciation malfunction.

Hoping these guys all hit the festival circuit next year.

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