Posted in music on July 25, 2014

by Andrew Sacher

Sun Kil Moon at Pitchfork Fest last week (more by Dominick Mastrangelo)
SKM

Mark Kozelek brought his Sun Kil Moon tour to NYC last night (7/24) for a show at Town Hall. Mark's been playing solo shows in NYC fairly consistently for a while now, but this was the first full-band Sun Kil Moon show here in recent memory (or ever?), and in a larger venue than the ones he'd been playing. Mark was joined by a drummer, an electric guitarist, and a keyboardist for the entire set, plus a cellist for part of it. Why the sudden change? Mark said on stage last night, "I don't really know why but my new record, Benji, is doing pretty well. Kids are coming to my shows again. It used to be all old people but now I see 24 year old girls in the audience... because Pitchfork. I used to fucking hate Pitchfork. Now I'm grateful to them."

That wasn't the only time Mark took an extended break to talk to the audience, mostly delivered in his deadpan tone, which was as entertaining as the songs themselves -- though in a much different way of course. While his banter had the crowd laughing, the songs kept the relatively large theater silent and attentive. And for good reason. Mark's a funny guy, but the lyrics on Benji are about some depressing shit. He sang the one about his second cousin Carissa dying when an aerosol can blew up in the trash, the one about his uncle dying the same way, the one about serial killer Richard Ramirez dying, the one about being sad for the day his mother dies, etc. All of this while sitting on his chair, hunched over his nylon-string guitar, and not singing too close to the mic but still projecting through the whole room. His band mostly stayed calm backing him, but a few moments -- like "Richard Ramirez" and "Dogs" -- saw them rising to some unexpected and showstopping crescendos.

A moment both musically satisfying and kind of hilarious came during "Livingstone Bramble" from Mark's album with Desertshore, where he dropped the "I hate Nels Cline" line and, in place of his Nels Cline-mocking solo, the cellist Isabel did her own scratchy, freakout version as the band quieted down to give her the spotlight. Another happened when in between songs, his backing band broke out into a space interlude, which caused Mark to look up from tuning his guitar and say, "Don't do that, it makes me think of 'The End' by The Doors. It makes me chuckle." Then after pausing to think about it, said, "I guess that's not a bad thing... alright go ahead and do it." To end the pre-encore set, Mark changed up the vibe in the room once before by leaving his chair and guitar for the first time during the set, and performing the two final songs standing front and center with just his mic. "Not too fast," he warned the band, inspiring more laughter from the crowd, before showing off that sitting down, hunched over his guitar isn't the only way he's still an excellent performer.

We don't have pictures from the NYC show but check out our photos from their set a week earlier at Pitchfork Festival in Chicago.

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Comments (25)

He had a ridiculous amount of reverb on his vocals the entire night. All the songs he played are so lyrically-driven, which was completely lost when you couldn't understand a fucking word of what he was singing.

Posted by Anonymous | July 25, 2014 3:12 PM

I know he's not a "play the hits" kinda guy, but with a back catalogue as strong as his it's a bit of a bummer this tour is just material off the last few albums.

Posted by Anonymous | July 25, 2014 3:13 PM

Great show overall but yes reverb was a bit too much.

It was instantly noticeable from the opening lyrics to the first song they played, I Know It’s Pathetic But That Was The Greatest Night Of My Life. Thought maybe it was just for that specific song but it continued throughout the night. It wasn't quite as bad when the band got a bit louder.

Show was about 2 hours and 15 minutes total.

Posted by Anonymous | July 25, 2014 3:17 PM

Agreed. The reverb was like a shroud over the whole performance and really hurt some songs. He always sounds like he has marbles in his mouth anyway, but this was too much.

The man is a storyteller, why hide his lyrics like that in mounds of reverb?

Posted by Anonymous | July 25, 2014 3:23 PM

no reverb issues at the Philly show on Weds, but the keys created a weird mid-range drone that overpowered the guitar and drums at various points. Kudos to Mark for being able to project his vocals above that though. We got the Doors banter as well...complete with Mark and the drummer doing the 'father....yes son' back and forth.

Posted by Anonymous | July 25, 2014 3:38 PM

^^^^
nerd alert

Posted by Anonymous | July 25, 2014 3:48 PM

Agreed on the reverb. It was on his guitar as well. Sounded like a really cheap digital reverb pedal

Other than that, amazing show.

Posted by Anonymous | July 25, 2014 3:52 PM

Holy crap his set at Pitchfork was a disaster.

Posted by KS | July 25, 2014 3:57 PM

millenials suddenly deciding this long-time hokemeister is an Important Artist is hilarious. sorry but the Doors dialogue parody joke has been done a few times before, it doesn't really count as a highlight of a live set worth hearing

Posted by Anonymous | July 25, 2014 4:03 PM

"sorry but the Doors dialogue parody joke has been done a few times before, it doesn't really count as a highlight of a live set worth hearing"

and since all people who listen to Sun Kil Moon follow him on tour and see every date, this is a good point!

Posted by Anonymous | July 25, 2014 4:04 PM

4:03 - total moron.

Posted by Anonymous | July 25, 2014 4:19 PM

I thought his banter regarding being on set of "La giovinezza" was pretty classic, as well. But the fact that he mentioned Paul Dano, Michael Cain AND Harvey Keitel with no mention of Rachel Weisz proves his interest lies solely in "24 year old females." Rock on, Mark.

Posted by Anonymous | July 25, 2014 4:37 PM

Does anyone know the setlist?

Posted by Anonymous | July 25, 2014 4:44 PM

Who cares about Pitchfork...

What I wanna know is...how does he feel about BV?

Posted by Anonymous | July 25, 2014 4:52 PM

grateful to pitchfork
hates nels cline
what a loser

Posted by C | July 25, 2014 5:36 PM

+1 for setlist. I'm not familiar enough with his catalogue to pick out everything from the latter half of the set.

Posted by Anonymous | July 25, 2014 8:53 PM

anybody wanna buy a copy of Benji on blue vinyl? $200

Posted by Anonymous | July 25, 2014 8:54 PM

setlist was something like this:

I Know It's Pathetic but That Was the Greatest Night of My Life
Black Kite
Carissa
I Can't Live Without My Mother's Love
Truck Driver
Dogs
I Watched the Film the Song Remains the Same
Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes
Micheline
Hey You Bastards I'm Still Here
You Missed My Heart
Gustavo
Livingstone Bramble
By the Time That I Awoke
Ceiling Gazing

encore:
Caroline
Katowice or Cologne
Elaine

Might be slightly out of order toward the end.

Posted by Anonymous | July 25, 2014 9:24 PM

kinda a bummer setlist imo. remember when he played 'mistress' with the roots on fallon? that was rad

Posted by Anonymous | July 25, 2014 10:17 PM

What's the deal about tuning the guitar every after song? Please explain Mark, and why hate Nels Cline?

Posted by Anonymous | July 26, 2014 3:21 PM

songs are in different tunings? nylon strings stretch?

Posted by Anonymous | July 26, 2014 5:41 PM

The setlist is totally expected and really not too different from when he came to NYC last year. Same with the reverb.

Posted by Anonymous | July 26, 2014 7:03 PM

Sound was bad to the point of distraction. Drums were totally untreated, and Mark had this untra-cheap reverb on voice and guitar. Sounded like guitar center. And all those around me, despite being unable to distinguish lyrics for the whole show, had to cover their ears during the louder songs. Mark, if you read this, stop worrying about the union workers and get yourself a new front-of-house guy. Left after an hour 45 of discomfort.

Posted by Anonymous | July 29, 2014 5:21 PM

I'm pretty sure he and Nels are buds. The name drop (there's another one on the album) is meant as a playful dig.

Posted by Anonymous | July 30, 2014 5:50 AM

He explains the Nels Cline thing in an interview. He doesn't actually dislike him, he was just naming guitarists in the song and the name worked. It's all in good fun.

Posted by Anonymous | July 30, 2014 9:09 AM

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