Entries tagged with: Sufjan Stevens
photos by PSquared Photography, words by Andrew Sacher
Linda Perhacs @ Mexican Summer 5
One of my personal favorite rediscovered gems from the late '60s/early '70s psych-folk era is Linda Perhacs' Paralellograms, an album quite literally ahead of its time that mixed the contemporary folk sounds of that era with eerie layers of dissonance that didn't become commonplace in folk music until decades later. Linda's been slowly gaining recognition and reigniting her career in recent times, having just made her NY debut at the Mexican Summer 5th Anniversary that took place in October. I unfortunately missed that show, but BV's Bill Pearis was there and said she had probably the biggest crowd of the day, seemed taken aback by all the love from the audience, and sounded great. Durga McBroom, who has also done backup for Pink Floyd, sang with her at the show, and some of Linda's well-known fans like Devendra Banhart (pictured below) were in the audience. Pictures and videos of her set from that show are in this post.
Now, after talking about it for some time, Linda has finally announced that she'll release The Soul of All Natural Things, the loooong-awaited followup to Parallelograms, on March 4, roughly 44 years after its predecessor initially came out. The album is coming out via Sufjan Stevens' Asthmatic Kitty label, and as discussed, features contributions from Nite Jewel and Julia Holter. The new album's first single is "Freely," a song that picks up right where Parallelograms left off and still sounds entirely of the moment considering artists like Marissa Nadler, Jessica Pratt, Mariee Sioux and others are keeping this sound alive. Her voice is still in fine form too.
Watch the video for the new song, along with the album's tracklist and more pics/videos from Mexican Summer 5, below...
photos by Ryan Muir, words by Andrew Sacher
Stranger Cat @ Glasslands in Brooklyn -- 11/2
Cat Martino, in addition to playing in Sharon Van Etten's band, was a member of Sufjan Stevens' Age of Adz-era touring band and released her own album that same year, which also featured Sufjan (whose Christmas music she has also contributed to). More recently, she's started another project, Stranger Cat, which introduces glitchy electronics to her art pop sound, not unlike the ones heard on Age of Adz. Her first single for the project, "I Promise," also features Sufjan, in addition to Man Man's Chris Powell, and it sounds a bit like another former Sufjan band member, St. Vincent. Check out that song and a preview video for another new song, "Stagger to the Sky", below.
This past weekend, Stranger Cat played a Wild Honey Pie-presented Brooklyn show at Glasslands on Saturday (11/2) with Lapland and Plume Giant. Pictures from Cat's set at that show are in this post.
She's got some more local shows coming up too, including a free one at Manderley Bar at the McKittrick Hotel on November 10 (home of Sleep No More) and another one at Glasslands on November 24 with Magmana and Glass Ghost. Tickets for the Glasslands show are on sale now.
More pictures from her last Glasslands show, along with the stream and video, below...
Son Lux at Merkin Concert Hall in 2012 (more by David Andrako)
NYC art pop musician Son Lux (aka Ryan Lott), who's fresh off a couple Sufjan collaborations, released his newest album, Lanterns, last week (10/29) via Joyful Noise. The record features contributions from Peter Silberman (The Antlers), Chris Thile (Punch Brothers), DM Stith, yMusic, and more. It can be streamed, along with the recently-made video for "Lost It To Trying," below.
Son Lux is doing a one-off in his hometown TONIGHT (11/4) at Joe's Pub with a 12-piece band. We're not sure of all the members in his band, but we do know that one is album collaborator Peter Silberman of The Antlers. There's an early and a late show tonight, and though the early one is sold out, you can still get tickets to the late one.
In other news, Son Lux and Sufjan's project with Serengeti, s / s / s, are planning to release a new EP.
Video and album stream below...
After a volley of open letters to Miley Cyrus from Sinead O'Connor (and one to her from Amanda Palmer), another artist has penned one -- Sufjan Stevens. He is not so concerned with her public image as grammar:
Dear Miley. I can't stop listening to #GetItRight (great song, great message, great body), but maybe you need a quick grammar lesson. One particular line causes concern: "I been laying in this bed all night long." Miley, technically speaking, you've been LYING, not LAYING, an irregular verb form that should only be used when there's an object, i.e. "I been laying my tired booty on this bed all night long." Whatever. I'm not the best lyricist, but you know what I mean. #Get It Right The Next Time. But don't worry, even Faulkner messed it up.You can read the rest below via Sufjan's Tumblr (where he is now blogging).
yMusic at Carnegie Hall in January (more by Greg Cristman)
Contemporary classical sextet yMusic, who have worked with The National, Bon Iver, Dirty Projectors, My Brightest Diamond, and more, will be performing on Stage 2 at Rockwood Music Hall tonight (5/22), premiering works written by Sufjan Stevens, Timo Andres, and Marcos Balter, in addition to "less-new-but-still-pretty-new" works by Nico Muhly and Andrew Norman. Advance tickets for tonight's show are available. Doors are at 6:30. Did anyone catch them performing in a Harlem loft last night (5/21)?
yMusic are also performing with filmmaker Sam Green and The Quavers for a "night of outdoor music and cinema" on PIer 15 on June 20 as part of the River to RIver Festival and the Rooftop Films summer series.
Speaking of people performing works by Nico Muhly, that will also happen in November at BAM as part of the Next Wave Festival:
In this ambitious, expansive reimagining of the art-song recital, the 21c Liederabend festival comes to BAM, featuring music by many leading lights from the international and New York contemporary new-music scenes.Check out a video of yMusic performing the Annie Clark (St. Vincent)-penned tune, "Proven Badlands," for WYNC, below...
Boasting 10 world premieres, this unique weekend event--which played to sold-out audiences in its last two incarnations--pairs video artists and lighting designers with new-music ensemble NOVUS NY, the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, and top soloists. The eclectic, impeccably curated lineup is different each night and includes a commissioned song cycle by British-born composer Anna Clyne and music by Nico Muhly, Missy Mazzoli, Eric Whitacre, Marie Incontrera, David T. Little, Olga Neuwirth, Judd Greenstein, Paola Prestini, Ted Hearne, and many others.Featuring compositions by: Thomas Cabaniss, Christopher Ceronne, Thomas Cipullo, Anna Clyne, Mohammed Fairouz, Judd Greenstein, Ted Hearne, Marie Incontrera, David T. Little, Tod Machover, Missy Mazzoli, Nico Muhly, Olga Neuwirth, Paola Prestini, Huang Ruo, Timur and the Dime Museum, Michael van der Aa, Alexandra Vrebalov, Julian Wachner, Holcombe Waller, Eric Whitacre, and Du Yun.
Doveman (aka Thomas Bartlett) has some upcoming shows this spring, including two of his Burgundy Stain Sessions in NYC. The first of those happens at BAM on April 27 as part of the Crossing Brooklyn Ferry festival, whose lineup was recently expanded. Tickets for the day Doveman plays and 3-day passes for the festival are still available.
His next session takes place at Le Poisson Rouge on June 7. Guests for this one include Paul Noonan (of Bell X1) and Trixie Whitley. It's likely that more will be announced too. Tickets for the LPR show are on sale now.
In addition to appearing at the Dessner-curated Crossing Brooklyn Ferry festival, Doveman will also contribute to The National's new album, Trouble Will Find Me, along with Sufjan Stevens and Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry, both of whom, like Doveman, contributed to High Violet. It also features St. VIncent, Sharon Van Etten (whose most recent album, Tramp, was produced by Aaron Dessner), and Nona Marie of Dark Dark Dark (via Gothamist). Have you heard The National's new single from that album?
Doveman is also appearing in NYC even sooner as a special guest with past collaborator Martha Wainwright at her City Winery show on April 17. Tickets for that show are on sale now. Martha has other upcoming dates posted at her website.
UPDATE: Thomas will also be at LPR in May to assist his bandmate Sam Amidon whose forthcoming Nonesuch debut he co-produced.
In more related news, Trixie Whitley, who appears at Doveman's LPR show, will also play NYC area dates on April 26 at Glasslands and May 11 at Maxwell's. Tickets for the Glasslands show and the Maxwell's show are on sale now.
All Doveman dates are listed below...
photos by Amanda Hatfield
"#Planetarium brought the house down. The future is officially made of lights, lasers and projectors." - @BAM_Brooklyn
'Planetarium' at BAM, 3/21/2013
Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, and Sufjan Stevens' long-in-the-works collaboration, Planetarium, made its debut last night (3/21) at BAM's Howard Gilman Opera House and was a symphony of light and sound. The first half featured individual works by each of them played by a sting quartet (frequent Dessner/Sufjan players Rob Moose, Nadia Sirota, Ben Russell, and Clarice Jensen) which inlcluded the debut of a new piece by Dessner, four of Sufjan's "Year of" pieces, and Muhly's "Diacritical Marks 1--8."
After that, Planetarium commenced, with each song dedicated to a planet with projections to match on a huge orb above the stage. Plus, lots of laserrs. The evening ended with autotune/vocodered cover of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
Planetarium continues tonight through Sunday (3/22 - 3/24) and Sunday is the only day there are still tickets available. You can't buy online but you can call the box office at 718.636.4100.
Meanwhile, Dessner's next BAM project is the 2013 Crossing Brooklyn Ferry festival in April.
More pics from last night's 'Planetarium' debut are below.
photos by Amanda Hatfield
Sufjan Stevens brought his The Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant On Ice tour with comedian "Sheila Saputo" (aka singer-songwriter Rosie Thomas) to NYC last week for shows at Bowery Ballroom on Friday (12/21) and Saturday (12/22), the final two nights of the tour. Like the other shows on the tour, he played a long set of mostly Christmas songs and then returned for an encore of Sufjan classics. It was a wild, confetti-filled holiday celebration and pictures from the second night of his NYC run are in this post. More, along with the setlist from night one, below...
photos by Matt Ziegler
Sufjan Stevens at Metro in Chicago - 12/15/12
As mentioned, Sufjan Stevens is on his The Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant On Ice tour with Sheila Saputo which hits NYC on Friday (12/21) and Saturday (12/22) at Bowery Ballroom. Tickets for those shows go on sale today (12/19) at noon.
Sufjan's tour just hit Chicago last week (12/15) at the Metro and pictures from that show are in this post. That show, like the others on the tour, featured a full set of mostly Christmas songs and than an encore of Sufjan favorites. You can check out more pics below, along with the setlist from that show and a few other shows on the tour, and streams of his Christmas rap mixtape and his Christmas box set.
Sufjan Stevens tickets are on sale too.
Tickets for the newly-added Swans show at Music Hall of Williamsburg go on sale today at noon. Tickets for their previously announced show at the same venue, which happens one day later with Devendra Banhart, are still available.
A bunch of hip hop shows are going on sale today.
The Spinto Band, ARMS, and Brazos are playing Mercury Lounge on February 22. Tickets for that show go on sale today at noon.
Frontier Ruckus are playing Mercury Lounge on February 9. Tickets for that show go on AmEx presale today at noon with a general on-sale starting Friday (12/21) at noon.
Killing Joke, Titus Andronicus, Hilly Eye and other shows are on sale now too.
by Andrew Sacher
DOWNLOAD: Sufjan Stevens - Chopped and Scrooged (ZIP)
Kitty Pryde at BV-CMJ 2012 (more by Amanda Hatfield)
If you noticed back in September that Kitty Pryde made a facebook status saying, "just finished my christmas song for sufjan stevens....................(:" and you were like, "WTF does that sound like?!" now you can find out! Sufjan's free Christmas rap mixtape, Chopped and Scrooged (yeah, we did just say "Sufjan's free Christmas rap mixtape"), is out now and can be downloaded above or streamed below. Other contributors to the album include the now-defunct Das Racist, Busdriver, Nicky Da B, Son Lux, John Dietrich (of Deerhoof), Fol Chen, and more.
This release is in addition to Sufjan's massive Christmas box set which is out now. And as mentioned he brings his Christmas tour to NYC on December 21 and 22 at Bowery Ballroom. Tickets for both shows go on sale Wednesday, December 19 at noon.
Mixtape stream below...
by Bill Pearis
You may remember that former Cryptacize singer Nedelle Torrisi has a new project called Paradise whose debut 7" was just released. The b-side of that single is "Psychic Returns" and we've got the premiere of a delicate piano version of that song, which you can stream below. We're also giving away a copy of the 7" which comes in some elaborate packaging, including nine 7"x7" photos. Details on how to enter are below as well.
Paradise doesn't have any upcoming shows, because she's busy being part of Sufjan Stevens' current "Christmas Sing-a-Long" holiday tour whose sleigh pulls into NYC next week for shows at Bowery Ballroom on December 21 and 22 (tickets go on sale 12/19). She recently dished about preparations for the tour with Interview:
GILMORE: How are rehearsals going?Paradise song stream and contest details, below...
TORRISI: It's funny. You're playing drums, and I'm suddenly a keyboardist! But I'm terrible. I have to practice three times more than everyone else. I'll be like, "We wish you Merry Christmas!" and then I'm lost!
GILMORE: You're playing that song?
TORRISI: Half the set is Sufjan original Christmas songs, and then half the set is just normal ones that everyone knows. Those are going to be sing-alongs with the audience. It's pretty embarrassing when you can't get through "Jingle Bells" on keyboard. That's my challenge, is learning how to become a piano player.
REMINDER: (Despite what was initially reported) tickets go on sale on 12/19 for Sufjan's two upcoming Christmas shows at Bowery Ballroom. Meanwhile head below to watch his new Christmas-themed video for "I'll Be Home For Christmas" (from his new Christmas box set which is out now), below...
Crossing Brooklyn Ferry 2012 (more by David Andrako)
The inaugural Crossing Brooklyn Ferry festival that went down at BAM this past May and was curated by The National's Bryce and Aaron Dessner, was a success and they've decided to do it again in 2013. The 2013 festival will take place at BAM from April 25-27. The lineup has not been announced yet but stay tuned.
Another Dessner-related event happening in BAM's 2013 Winter/Spring season is Planetarium, "an evening of songs and instrumental works inspired by the solar system, by Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, and Sufjan Stevens." You may remember that Bryce, Nico, and Sufjan performed one of those pieces, "Venus," at the MusicNOW Festival this year. You can watch a video of that below.
Another music event in BAM's 2013 Winter/Spring season is Mic Check, a "celebration of contemporary music from North Africa and the Middle East," which features hip-hop artists alongside traditional musicians Amkoullel (Mali), El General (Tunisia), El Deeb (Egypt), Brahim Fribgane (Morocco), and Shadia Mansour (Palestine).
All three shows are part of the just-announced 2013 Winter/Spring Season at BAM which includes 12 theater, dance, music, and opera engagements--from Jan 17 to Jun 9.
That Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, and Sufjan Stevens video is below
DOWNLOAD: Sufjan Stevens - "Ding-a-ling-a-ring-a-ling" (MP3)
As mentioned, Sufjan Stevens is going on "The Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant On Ice" tour which hits NYC on December 21 and 22 at Bowery Ballroom, two very intimate shows for Sufjan, whose last shows in NYC were a two-night run at Prospect Park.
Tickets for both Bowery Ballroom shows go on sale today at noon.
Sufjan also just revealed another song off of his upcoming Christmas box set, Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, Volumes 6-10 (due out 11/13 via Asthmatic Kitty). You can download that song, titled "Ding-a-ling-a-ring-a-ling," above, or stream it below.
In other holiday show news, Matisyahu is bringing his "Festival of Light" tour to the NYC area on December 15 at Terminal 5 with The Dub Trio and December 16 at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester. Tickets for the Terminal 5 show and the Capitol Theatre show go on sale today at noon. He also plays NJ's Starland Ballroom on November 3 (tix) as part of the fall tour he's on right now.
Lists of all Sufjan and Matisyahu dates, and that Sufjan song stream below.
Sufjan at Prospect Park in 2011 (more by Amanda Hatfield)
As mentioned, Sufjan Stevens is releasing more Christmas music this year, and he'll continue the celebration with a series of shows dubbed "The Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant On Ice" with support from Sheila Saputo. Those shows include a two-night run in NYC at Bowery Ballroom from December 21-22. Tickets for both shows go on sale Friday (10/12) at noon.
A list of all Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long dates and a stream of "Christmas Unicorn" from his upcoming release are below.
Sufjan Stevens at Prospect Park in 2011 (more by Jessica Amaya)
As mentioned, the NYC Ballet will be presenting Two Hearts, with music by Nico Muhly, live vocals by Dawn Landes, and choreography by Benjamin Millepied (Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan), starting this Friday (10/5) and running through Tuesday (10/9). Also beginning Friday, is the ballet, Year of the Rabbit with music by Sufjan Stevens (from his Enjoy Your Rabbit album) and choreography by Justin Peck (who has also done work with Philip Glass). More info on Year of the Rabbit and tickets are available HERE. All dates are listed below.
Sufjan is also releasing Christmas music this year (for a change). He'll release a five-EP box set, Silver & Gold: songs for Christmas, Volumes 6-10, on November 13 via Asthmatic Kitty. The box set features guest appearances by Aaron and Bryce Dessner (of The National), Richard Reed Parry (of Arcade Fire, Cat Martino (who plays NYC soon), Ray Raposa of Castanets (who recently released an album), members of Danielson, and more. Check out the cover art(s), tracklist, and a free download of one of the songs below.
photos by David Andrako
The inaugural, Dessner-curated Crossing Brooklyn Ferry festival concluded on Saturday night (May 5) with performances from Beirut, Atlas Sound, My Brightest Diamond, Caveman and more.
There were whispers there'd be an unannounced set from The National, but the secret guest Phi Slamma Jamma was actually Arcade Fire's Will Butler, Jeremy Gara, Tim Kingsbury, and Richard Reed Parry who performed a bunch of covers (Ramones, R.E.M., Devo, Beatles and the Stones, among others) to cap out the Fest.
Night Two pictures HERE. Night one HERE. Lots of pictures from all of Saturday night's performers (including Sufjan), plus video of Atlas Sound (who also kept busy in others ways while in town), Caveman, Beirut and Phi Slamma Jamma performing a song each, below...
TONIGHT (4/20) at Littlefield, Gaspar Claus is performing with an impressive list of guests for 'The Permanent Festival: Gaspar Claus with Friends.' That list includes Bryce Dessner (The National), Jessie Stein (The Luyas), Mauro Remiddi (Porcelain Raft), David Moore (Bing and Ruth), Remi Alexandre (Syd Matters), Ben Greenberg (Zs), Andy LaPlant & Jessica Larrabee (She Keeps Bees), Pedro Soler, Emil Bognar-Nasdor, and Clara Claus. Advance tickets are no longer on sale, but $15 tickets will be available at the door.
Like Bryce Dessner, Gaspar Claus is a Sufjan Stevens collaborator. Check out three pieces that the two musicians recorded together last year below...
The National at Beacon Theater in 2011 (more by Toby Tenenbaum)
Doveman's Burgundy Stain Sessions at Le Poisson Rouge continue TONIGHT (4/13) with Aaron Dessner and Bryan Devendorf of The National, Julia Stone (of Angus and Julia Stone), Trixie Whitley, and more. Tickets for tonight's show, and for the next three, are still available.
In related news, Doveman collaborator and occasional Burgundy Stain Session player Dawn Landes also has a NYC show TONIGHT (4/13) at Mercury Lounge with Cheyenne Marie Mize and Donora. Tickets for tonight's show are still available. That same lineup also plays Cameo on Saturday (4/14). All Dawn Landes dates are listed below.
Doveman @ Le Poisson Rouge in 2011 (more by Toby Tenenbaum)
In more Doveman-related news, collaborator Glen Hansard is NOT currently on tour with Eddie Vedder, seeing as Vedder had to postpone the tour due to injury. Glen does have a new video for the track "Philander" off his upcoming Doveman (Thomas Bartlett)-produced solo album, Rhythm and Repose, which is due out June 19 via ANTI-. Check out that video below.
Meanwhile, Glen Hansard's Swell Season bandmate Marketa Irglova, who also contributed to his new album,
will be WILL NOT BE the musical guest at the Happy Ending Music & Reading Series at Joe's Pub on May 2.... UPDATE: Marketa has cancelled and the guest is Clare and the Reasons instead. Tickets for that show are on sale now.
Speaking of members of The National, Aaron Dessner and both Devendorf brothers recently joined The Grateful Dead's Bob Weir for a cover of Cass McCombs' "Love Thine Enemy" during a Bridge Sessions webcast. Meanwhile, Bryce Dessner joined Sufjan Stevens and Nico Muhly to perform a collaborative composition titled "Venus" with horn and string accompaniment at MusicNOW Festival in Cincinnati, OH. Videos of both of these performances are below.
All Dawn Landes dates and National-related videos below...
Gabriel Kahane's new musical February House will be at NYC's Public Theater May 8th-June 10th. The show debuted Feb 15th at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT, and the Hartford Courant, condensing its review to a Twitter-length blurb, called it, "A haunting, intimate chamber musical so special you want to wrap your protective arms around it." A TV spot and a teaser for the musical are below.
Before that gets to town, Gabriel Kahane plays a solo show at Rockwood Stage 2 on Monday, February 27th. Tickets are on sale. We've also got a few pairs to give away as well. Information is below. At the gig he'll be performing songs from his excellent 2011 disc Where Are the Arms (streaming on his blog), as well as other solo material and possibly some songs from the musical.
Gabriel's busy year also includes a premiere of one of his pieces by American Composers Orchestra on March 22nd at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall and an entire night dedicated to his music at the same venue on October 22nd.
As for the future, Gabriel told us, in a short interview you can read below, about the commissions and material for a new album he's been working on, and he says he's been contemplating a musical work based on David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest.
Read the interview, along with the videos and Rockwood contest info, below...
Beyond This Place$25 tickets to the Brooklyn show are currently on sale for BAM members and go on sale to the general public on 9/19. There will be similar events in Portland and LA.
Part of BAM 150
Directed by Kaleo La Belle
Music composition by Raymond Raposa and Sufjan Stevens
Sun, Oct 30, 2011 at 7:30pm
As part of BAM's 150th anniversary celebrations, filmmaker Kaleo La Belle--joined by childhood friend Sufjan Stevens (The BQE, 2007 Next Wave; TAKEOVER 2008) and singer-songwriter Raymond Raposa--comes to the opera house for a screening of his award-winning documentary Beyond This Place.
Deeply reflective and personal, La Belle's breakout film charts his attempts to reconnect with his perpetually stoned, long-estranged father Cloud Rock during a grueling 500-mile bike tour across the Pacific Northwest. Stevens and Raposa share the stage as special musical guests, providing a live soundtrack to this emotionally nuanced look at family ties and the process of moving on.
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
As mentioned in Rachel's review, Cat Martino danced and sang backup in Sufjan Stevens' 14+ piece band and has also played with Sharon Van Etten's band. Cat is releasing her own second LP Yr Not Alone this fall. The album's title track, which you can stream below, features Sufjan on backup vocals. Sufjan also co-wrote the track "We Belong" with Cat for the album which was produced by Jack Petruzzelli (Rufus Wainwright, Patti Smith), mixed by Brian McTear (Matt Pond PA) and features guest musicians Casey Foubert (Sufjan Stevens, Richard Swift, Pedro the Lion) and C.J. Camereri (The National, Bon Iver, Antony & The Johnsons). In addition to singing, playing guitar and piano, Cat creates soundscapes by putting her vocals through a loop station. Check out a video of her covering The Cure's "Love Song" with her loop pedal below.
Cat has a few upcoming shows including Cake Shop on September 14 and opening for Megafaun at Mercury Lounge with Doug Paisley on September 25. Cat was originally scheduled to play Truck America but the festival has since been cancelled. Tickets are still available for the Mercury show.
Song stream, videos and all dates below...
There's no question. The Age of Adz, Sufjan Stevens' bombastic game-changer-of-an-album is hugely divisive among fans and critics alike. Many balked at its sheer absurdity and accompanying oddball aesthetic. When I first heard the new album, I admit I was one of the skeptics. It was the gentle beauty of Michigan and quirky magnificence of Seven Swans that initially drew me in, but after seeing his performance at Beacon Theatre last fall, I was a convert. I drank the neon-colored, glow-in-the-dark Kool-aid, and I do not regret it.
Before Sufjan and his 14+ band mates claimed the Prospect Park Bandshell stage last night (8/3), the one-man glam artist Diamond Rings (John O'Regan) took his turn. Like Sufjan, O'Regan's show is just as much about his attitude and aesthetic as it is about his music. Dressed in a glittering silver crown and eye make-up reminiscent of Ziggy Stardust, O'Reagan helped pump up the crowd with his upbeat synthesis of samples, drum machine beats, and live guitar/keys.
Though the rain ceased a bit during Diamond Ring's set, by the time Sufjan and his band began to play, it had begun to steadily fall once again. But in a movement of crowd solidarity, umbrellas disappeared one by one as people traded in comfort for better sightlines.
As if in an effort to ease old fans into the post-apocalyptic landscape of glow-in-the-dark electrical tape, Sufjan Stevens kicked off his second Celebrate Brooklyn show not with a new song, but with "Seven Swans" (as he did the night before). Of course, it wasn't long before the nine-minute song began to get raucous.
And in what was just the first of many times throughout the evening, Sufjan slipped into the role of spiritual guide, sage, and motivational speaker. "Oh you are fierce warriors," he said, surveying the sopping magnitude before him, "You have the patience and fortitude and strength."
Sufjan followed the more mellow opening number with a string of songs from The Age of Adz, breaking up the new material only slightly with "Enchanting Ghosts" from last year's over-shadowed but excellent All Delighted People EP. Like last fall's show at Beacon Theatre, the scene was ridiculous. Psychedelic projections, wild costumes (including massive white wings for "Seven Swans"), and the carefully choreographed moves of Jessica Dessner (the sister of Bryce and Aaron of The National) provided abundant visual stimulation.
"I'd like to apologize for being so melodramatic, but I knew you had the heart and strength and soul to take it," Sufjan said as if anticipating a backlash. "So if you're feeling a little bit wet and disenchanted, I encourage you to move your butt."
At times Stevens comes across as a parody of himself and a bit of a megalomaniac, teetering on the edge of sanity... and maybe he is, or maybe he's just channeling the eccentricities of others.
Toward the middle of his set, Stevens explained that the inspiration behind both the fantastical scene on stage and much of the music was an "amazing outsider artist" from Louisiana that he had started studying a few years ago named Royal Robertson. "I decided to use him as my muse [...] and I just really wanted to capture in the frenetic sense the sound of the universe. I wanted to sound my barbaric yawp above the rooftops. And so I threw away the acoustic guitar, and I threw away the banjo, and I decided to surround myself with noise. And then through Royal Robertson I was able to contextualize all this mess into a sort of beautiful pop pageant."
Sure, The Age of Adz is an indulgent, schizophrenic mess, but it's a marvelous mess--especially in a live setting. The neon colors, the flashing lights, the trilling flutes, and dancing girls--it all just works... if you open yourself up to it, that is. Luckily, with the steady rain and steep ticket price (which benefits the Celebrate Brooklyn series), this was no place for haters.
"Tonight we celebrate Brooklyn. We celebrate rain. We celebrate ourselves. We sing the body electric. Am I quoting too much Whitman? I celebrate myself. I sing myself [...] every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. These are your songs this is your show. Thanks for being here." And with that, he launched into "Impossible Soul."
By turns life affirming and heartbreaking, his sprawling opus was clearly the grand finale of the set. Stevens and friends pulled out all the stops--especially DM Stith (on backing vox and keys) and Cat Martino. Though she provided backing vocals for much of the show, Martino (who also sings with Sharon Van Etten) left her post at the back of the stage for a spirited, soulful duet with Stevens, proving that she is more than capable of being the leading lady. (Look for Martino's second solo album, Yr Not Alone this fall.)
After donning an elaborate golden headdress for the auto-tune portion of the song, Stevens re-emerged wearing a crazy balloon costume that would even be a bit much for George Clinton. Then out of nowhere, inflatable dancing men--the kind typically found in side-of-the-road displays--popped up, sending cheers throughout the soaked but ecstatic crowd. As if the scene on stage were not enough, large, clear beach balls began to circulate the crowd.
Stevens concluded the show with a three-song encore of older songs, including the simple, quiet love song "The Dress Looks Nice On You" and of course, "Chicago."
One thing's for sure. As Stevens sings himself in "I Want To Be Well," he's "not fucking around."
More pictures and setlist from the Wednesday show below...
photos by Amanda Hatfield, words by Andrew Sacher
Sufjan Stevens and his elaborate band walked out onto a dark stage at Prospect Park last night (8/2), masked by a black transparent screen. They slowly began the delicate "Seven Swans" as dim light patterns swelled on the screen. Where soft piano and drums usually enter the song, Sufjan's entire band erupted into a heap of crashing chords as the black screen rose and revealed the neon-coated collective of musicians, backup singers, dancers, and Sufjan Stevens flapping a pair of massive bird wings. Sufjan and his band then proceeded to play a set of mostly Age of Adz material. Last night's and tonight's Celebrate Brooklyn shows are the last of the Adz tour.
They launched into the glitchy pop of "Too Much" and "Age of Adz" complete with a frenzy of futuristic visuals and carefully choreographed moves from Sufjan and his dancers/backup singers. After about 15 minutes of the orchestral glitchy awesomeness, Sufjan gave the crowd some "folk relief." He told us that he's still a folk musician at heart and played "Heirloom" off the All Delighted People EP, which was released shortly before Age of Adz last year. He took a moment to tell us about the inspiration for the album and all of the corresponding visuals, outfits, and dancing. He told us that he discovered the work of folk artist/self-proclaimed prophet Royal Robertson, and was influenced by his material. He described Royal's work as the portrayal of visions he had throughout his life, and mentioned that he also faced many struggles within himself, as all of us do. Sufjan said that much of the album was a tribute to Royal, his artwork, and his ideas, and explores themes like inner space, outer space, and the body.
As Sufjan and his band were nearing the end of the set, they delivered the one-two punch of "Vesuvius" and "I Want To Be Well," and after quieting down with album opener "Futile Devices," they sent the show into the most epic part of the night with the 25-minute album closer "Impossible Soul." The song opened with Sufjan accompanied by his piano and voice and slowly built into a layered piece that evolved into the portion sung by Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond.
Although Shara was there (because she opened the show), I'm pretty sure it was one of Sufjan's backup singers who handled her part, though it was hard to tell because they were wearing a mask covered in light bulbs. As she sang, the black screen dropped once again, swirling light patterns drenched the stage and a light tunnel zeroed in on the singer and her light-up mask. After that mesmerizing section drifted off into ambiance and the stage went black once again, Sufjan appeared front and center in a large silver mask with a diamond shaped backdrop behind him and delivered the exaggerated auto-tuned vocals of the song's third section. As glitch hop beats entered the song and the robotic Sufjan left the stage, lights sprung up again and Sufjan's backup dancers, now in neon green t-shirts, neon pink shorts, leggings, and sideways pink hats, appeared at the front of the stage singing lead vocals to the song's epic refrain. After hitting the first round of "it's not so impossible"s, an indecipherable Sufan returned, running onto the stage covered in balloons and feathers and joined in on lead vocals. As the stage became a balloon-covered sing-along dance party, clear beach balls were propelled into the audience as long inflatable creatures shot up in front of the stage, turning the entire prospect park into into a huge party. Once the party died down and the song arrangements fizzled out, Sufjan returned to the front of the stage with only an acoustic guitar and sang the wispy ending of the song, where he plays off the refrain's lyrics to create what could be a stand-alone song in Sufjan's style of folk.
After making such a mess, Sufjan thanked the crowd and he and his band left the stage. He shortly returned for a three-song encore of Illinoise material. It's really hard to follow the end of that set with anything, but it's also pretty hard to turn down Sufjan Stevens playing "UFO," "Casmir Pulaski Day," and "Chicago."
My Brightest Diamond (aka Shara Worden) opened the show with a strong set of mostly songs off her upcoming album All Things Will Unwind, quirky dancing, and also an awesome outfit. She wore a bright green dress and a headdress of something resembling peacock feathers. She switched between guitar, ukulele, keyboard, autoharp, and other instruments as she and her band delivered one great song after another, including the recently released single "Reaching Through to the Other Side." Shara told a story during her set of seeing a Laurie Anderson show about the death of her mother, being extremely touched by it, and wondering if she'd ever learn to love. She told us that she eventually talked to Laurie and asked her if she'd ever learn to love. Laurie told her that it takes a lifetime to learn to love, which Shara then wrote a song about. She played it for us. It aptly opens with the line, "It takes a lifetime to learn how to love." Shara and her band also played a cover of "Tainted Love," which she recorded for the Guilt by Association Vol. 2 compilation, before her band left the stage and she ended the set with another new song solo with guitar and vocals.
More pictures, videos, and setlist from the first show below...