Entries tagged with: Sufjan Stevens
Video of Friday night's episode of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, below...
words by David Andrako
night 1 (more)
Sufjan Steven's tour-ending show at The Beacon Theatre took an unexpected turn Monday night at the two hour mark when the subdued, seated audience leapt to its feet and turned the front orchestra section into an impromptu electro-folk hippie-intergalactic dance party. The moment happened at the midway point of the set-closing 25-minute-plus song "Impossible Soul" from Sufjan's latest album "The Age of Adz." The performance started rather inauspiciously when one of the two drummers on stage knocked over one of his snare drums and Sufjan struggled with his effects pedal causing him to nearly miss his guitar solo. A stagehand reset the drum and Sufjan recovered to lead his 11 person backing band into a rollicking, jagged, electronic extended jam that featured, among other things, glow in the dark shorts, hundreds of balloons that dropped from the ceiling, an autotuned Sufjan singing with a glowing headdress and some choreographed (and some most definitely not choreographed) dance moves featuring Sufjan, his two backup singers and frequent collaborator Jessica Dessner. The song, which is more like a mixtape than a traditional folk/rock/pop song, eventually slowed as Sufjan stepped to his microphone with his guitar and sang the final 2-minute reprise. The audience rewarded the band with a lengthy standing ovation and applause that lasted until the band returned to the stage to perform the only song of the encore, "Chicago".
Having attended and photographed Sunday night's show, I was eager to see how both crowds would react to the new material. "Seven Swans", which opened up both shows, set the tone for the evening as the 2010 version featured Sufjan's hushed singing and banjo playing until the halfway point when he stopped playing his banjo and switched over to a synthesizer. As the song reached its final peak, he began jumping up and down and playing with his entire body. The song, long a part of Sufjan's catalog, had been transformed into a bridge between the older more acoustic material and the new digitally influenced work.
The first half of the set featured songs Sufjan has released in 2010 on "The Age of Adz" and the preceeding EP "All Delighted People." Up-tempo, electronic, loud songs ("Age of Adz" and "Vesuvius") were interspersed amongst quieter acoustic songs ("Heirloom" and "Futile Devices"). The setlist was identical to the previous night until the band performed the infrequently played "All Delighted People" to which Sufjan remarked, "destroys us when we play it." The song ended with Sufjan and band taking a deep breath and a quick drink of water before launching into a delicate version of "Enchanting Ghost." DM Stith, who was the opening act for both shows (and the entire tour) and played piano in the backing band, and Cat Martino, who sang backup, both deserve special praise for their performances. Their vocals stood out and complemented Sufjan's voice especially well on "The Owl and The Tanager."
The shows featured digital art that was created by Deborah Johnson and projected behind the band and sometimes projected in front of them on a translucent scrim that was raised and lowered throughout the show. The art (and the music of "The Age Of Adz") was influenced by the work of Prophet Royal Robertson, a Louisiana based sign painter who produced thousands of paintings that feature scenes of the end of the world, monsters and religious imagery. Sufjan frequently bantered between songs, whether it was telling a fantastical story about his grandfather, an onion farmer who was blessed with the ability to shoot lightning out of his hands and feet, or proclaiming his love for trigonometry and algebra. He also thanked the band for playing all of his "32nd and 64th notes" which were the products of, as DM Stith described, some "12 hour band practices."
Night one pictures HERE. Last night's setlist with some videos below...
photos by David Andrako
With various videos and projections displayed on a backdrop behind the 11-piece band, a contingent of three back-up dancer-singers, and a slew of costume changes (mostly in the way of jackets and headgear, and yards of what appeared to be reflective tape), this show was not the Sufjan you might have expected -- Sufjan himself described the performance as "Avatar meets Cats on Ice." Sufjan stuck to the synthesizer and keyboard during most of the new songs, often joining the backup dancers. It's a shame, however, that Sufjan's development as a multi-media artist has scaled back the other elements that used to be staples of his performance. The best parts of "The Age of Adz," and the best parts of the night, were when Sufjan did what he does best: guitar, vocals, banjo. Sadly, though, even during "Chicago," Sufjan did not even touch his guitar. Perhaps as a concession to Sufjan purists and diehard fans, however, the night ended with "Casimir Pulaski Day," "To Be Alone With You" and "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." in succession, bringing the audience to their feet collectively amidst a shower of beach balls and balloons. -[Trust Me On This]Sufjan Stevens played the first of his two NYC shows at Beacon Theater last night (11/14). The second, and final show on his North American tour for The Age of Adz, happens tonight, Monday, 11/15.
You can also catch Sufjan on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on Friday, 11/19, either on TV or in person if you are lucky enough to win a spot on the "Band Bench".
Soof's tourmate, labelmate and friend, DM Stith opened the sold out show. More pictures, the Sunday setlist, and a video below...
photos by Josh Darr
Sufjan Stevens is now on tour in support of his new album The Age of Adz. That tour, which ends with two shows in NYC, stopped by the Chicago Theatre in Chicago on Friday night. Some pictures from that show are in this post. They continue, with the setlist, below...
"Sufjan Stevens is set to release The Age of Adz, his first full length collection of original songs in five years, October 12 on Asthmatic Kitty Records. The album is available for pre-order now until September 25, with pre-orders receiving music digitally two weeks prior to the physical release date. The Age of Adz comes on the heels of Stevens' All Delighted People EP, available for purchase now from most digital stores, and his 2009 film and musical suite The BQE. Stevens is planning a North American tour of large, elegant venues-including two nights at New York's fabled Beacon Theatre and The Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles-in support of the new record. With a dozen dates already sold out, Stevens will tour with his large ensemble performing alongside projections. "The retun of Sufjan Stevens started with a tour announcement which was followed by an instantly-available EP, and now this.
More album information including the tracklist (the 11th song on the album is over 25 minutes long), along with updated tour dates that list which shows are sold out (tickets are still available for Philly), below...
Asthmatic Kitty Records is releasing Sufjan Stevens' new EP All Delighted People today exclusively via http://sufjanstevens.bandcamp.com for $5.00. Bandcamp is also offering a free stream of the EP. On August 23 the EP will be available for purchase from most digital stores and will appear on CD and vinyl later this year. All Delighted People includes two versions of the title track which debuted on Sufjan's 2009 tour along with six other new songs. The collection is Sufjan's first original song-oriented material since 2006. Included on the EP is the first recording of live-show mainstay "The Owl and the Tanager" and the elegiac "Djohariah." Along with the guitars, piano and banjo that characterize his previous recordings, choirs, strings and brass adorn the melodies. Please see below for track listing."So Sufjan will have new material after all when he goes on tour in October. EP cover art above, trackilst below...
Sufjan Stevens @ Bowery Ballroom in 2009 (more by Vincent Cornelli)
Steve Louie's tickets
Dear Sufjan Stevens Fan,Tickets are now on pre-sale for the Massive Attack and Thievery Corporation shows happening at the Beacon Theatre in October. You can use an AmEx or enter this password: TMMATC or this password: OMMATC. General sale starts Friday at 11am.
Congratulations on successfully purchasing presale tickets to see Sufjan Stevens at Beacon Theatre on Nov 14!
As you may have already noticed, seat locations were not disclosed during the special fan presale. Seating will be assigned within the next 14 days in the order that tickets were purchased; a new order confirmation email will be sent to you to confirm the location of your seats.
If you are receiving this email, your ticket purchase has been confirmed and is guaranteed. As long as all of your tickets were placed together on the same order, all of your seats will be together.
If you have not received your new order confirmation email verifying the exact location of your seats within two weeks, please reply to this email for further assistance.
Thanks for participating in the Sufjan Stevens presale! We hope you enjoy the show!
eTix Customer Support
$3.00 tickets are now on sale for the Wooden Shjips shows at Music Hall of Williamsburg ("All tickets and all drinks only $3 in honor of our 3 year anniversary!").
Sufjan Stevens is back and going on tour this fall. Kicking things off on October 12th in Montreal, he'll end up back in NYC for two shows at Beacon Theatre on November 14th and 15th. Tickets for all shows go on pre-sale Tuesday at 1pm EST. "Sales for some theaters will begin on Friday, August 13th, while others will start later. To avoid scalping, there is a 4 person ticket limit, and the first 20 rows of seats are WILL CALL ONLY."
All dates below...
It's hard to believe that The National headlined last night at Radio City Music Hall (they were the opener a few years ago when the Arcade Fire played there) and harder to believe that the massive space sold out. Sure, their last two albums have done especially well, but really? Radio City? I mean Lady Gaga is playing there in July. In "Little Faith," Matt Berninger sings, "I know what you think. You're waiting for Radio City to sink." Yes, ominous indeed.
The evening began with a rousing set by The Antlers. As if to echo the themes of hospitals, sickness, and funerals found in their solid debut, Hospice, white flowers decorated the stage. The Antlers' performance was bolstered by the addition of a two-man brass section (courtesy of Tim Cronin and Jon Natchez) and lovely female vocalist Sharon Van Etten. They played an extended version of the standout track "Sylvia" in addition to an unnamed new song. After playing a short string of songs from Hospice roughly in chronological order, The Antlers concluded their set with "Wake."
Walking into Radio City, I admit that the prospect of seeing two praise-worthy bands in such a huge space had me both exhilarated and fearful. Would they be able to master the space and overcome the obstacles posed by a seated show? How would they make the experience personal?
Though majestic, the space was a bit stifling. But to help cut down on the formality of a seated show, the majority of the orchestra section stood up when the band walked on stage and remained standing for the entirety of the evening. The National's front man, Matt Berninger, hopped off the stage to cavort with the audience in front during the third song, "Bloodbuzz Ohio." Sure, he only stayed down there for a few seconds, but it boded well for the rest of the show. The third wall came crashing down early.
The National also had some additional musicians on stage to help fill out their sound. Throughout the show, a small brass section again consisting of a trumpet and trombone contributed to the mix. Additional treats came on the seventh song, "Squalor Victoria," when a string section walked on stage. After that, it got almost ridiculous. St. Vincent's Annie Clark hopped on the piano for "Vanderlye Crybaby Geeks" and shared backing vocal responsibilities with Sufjan Stevens for the following song, "Afraid of Everyone." "I'm sorry they're so plain looking. We try to set a standard," Berninger wryly joked. "I wish we could have them on stage all night," replied a Dessner brother.
But the real magic happened during "Abel." At least, it did for me. Berninger jumped off the stage once again and started pulling that oh-so-long mic chord behind him as he walked up the aisle in the theatre. For a few seconds, I lost sight of him. And then, there he was, right outside my row. And then... what? Berninger started climbing over the seats and ended up stumbling right into Row WW, Seat 409 - my seat. As he stood haphazardly balanced on the seat behind me, he leaned over, grabbed my shoulder to steady himself and put the mic right in my face as he sang. And, though I know nearly all of the lyrics to their songs and the chorus to "Abel" in particular is embarrassingly simple, I admit I froze a little and was too stunned to sing along. After my moment had passed, Berninger continued on his way, climbing over the seat in front of me and then heading back to the stage. It's almost as if he knew that this was only going to be a one-paragraph review (since I recently wrote a lengthy one for the BAM show) and wanted to spice it up. After Berninger fled the scene, BrooklynVegan photographer Matt Eisman and I stared at each other in disbelief. Did that just happen?
The show continued with a few more songs and a solid four-song encore that (of course) included "Mr. November". This time when he wandered into the crowd, Berninger climbed the stairs to the first tier of the balcony where people encircled him and furiously sang along. Berninger proceded to walk to the far side of the balcony and back down again, his mic chord dangling over the crowd in the orchestra section below. After over an hour and a half of play, The National concluded their encore with "Terrible Love."
More pictures, a video and the setlists from Radio City, below...
words by Rachel Kowal, photos by Getty Images for American Express
All week, The National has sponsored nightly events at their "High Violet Annex" to celebrate the release of their highly anticipated fifth album, High Violet. On Friday they even performed a set of National songs at the space. Saturday night's sold-out "ZYNC from American Express Presents The National to Benefit Red Hot" show at BAM capped off the week's festivities which started earlier the same evening at the Annex where 70-or-so lucky attendees were, unexpectedly, given tickets to the BAM show and then bussed to the Brooklyn venue to see the show...
the bus @ BAM
The BAM show began with a brief behind-the-scenes video about their recording process, and then the band launched into "Mistaken for Strangers" and then played a string of new songs. Though the National is technically a quintet, as many as nine additional people joined them on stage to play a variety of string and brass instruments. Sufjan Stevens joined the band to sing backing vocals (like he did on Letterman) on a handful of songs. Sometimes National-members Padma Newsome and Thomas Bartlett (Doveman) made a rare appearance together on stage (usually its one or the other as a member of the band). The biggest surprise band member of the night was the Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry who sang backup and played a variety of instruments throughout the set. Richard, Sufjan and Thomas all also contributed to High Violet which is out now.
With its ornate molding, dramatic curtains, and theater-like seating, BAM may be a bit of an odd choice to host what is essentially a rock show, but the beautiful space complimented the dapperly dressed band and gave them enough room to spread out on stage. Possibly sensing that something was not quite right, lead singer Matt Berninger hopped off the stage and began pulling people up into a standing position early into the show.
Throughout the show, Berninger was a sight to behold. One moment, he'd take a sip of white wine and sing softly into the mic stand and the next, he's wildly pacing back and forth on stage with his head down, pounding his hands together like a mad man. The contrast between Berninger's smooth baritone voice and his manic behavior makes for a dynamic performance. During the four-song encore, Berninger leapt off stage again and rushed the audience in the orchestra section. With his impossibly long mic chord trailing behind him, Berninger climbed desperately over anything in his path - be it chairs or people. From the middle of a row, he stood recklessly on a chair, screaming the chorus to "Mr. November" into the faces of ecstatic fans.
When all was said and done, The National played the entirety of High Violet in addition to a number of older songs. Film directors D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus were on hand to direct the live webcast of the concert that was happening on YouTube (the band addressed the Internet audience a few times), and which you can still watch there (some videos below too).
After the show, a fancy ZYNC-sponsored afterparty was held around the corner at One Hanson Place, aka the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower, downstairs in the old bank's bottom floor (now used as an event space). The National, their friends and associates, partied until late with an invite-only crowd that also included members of Grizzly Bear and Beirut, and some celebrities who had attended the show (like Julia Stiles). And there was a lot to party about - recently completed Europe tour and a week of festivities in NYC aside - High Violet is selling really well too. More pictures from the show and the afterparty, with the setlist and some videos below...
As I was saying, The National taped a performance on Letterman yesterday before heading to the High Violet Annex. They brought Sufjan along to both events. The video from Letterman, which aired last night, below...
photos by David Andrako
The Antlers, Phosphorescent, and Sharon Van Etten each played 20-25 minute sets at the High Violet Annex last night (5/13). That was followed by members of The National improvising over projected movies by Margarita Jimeno, Sufjan Stevens, Jonathan Dueck, Deborah Johnson, Ryan Irvin, and Justin Anderson.
The first National-related group was Bryan & Scott Devendorf, trumpet player Kyle Resnick and guitarist/trombonist/Beirut member Ben Lanz (both who also played on Letterman with the National yesterday). The second group was The Dessner Brothers who played along with an 11 minute experimental film that Sufjan Stevens made "using a digital camera while I had insomnia." Sufjan was in attendance (if you haven't figured that out yet) and introduced the song.
It was the third night of the National's temporary venue next door to Other Music. Even more people played live on the second night. It continues for a fourth night tonight/Friday (and ends Saturday) (lineups for those are both TBA, but expect some actual National songs to be played at at least one of them). More pictures from Thursday, below...
by Alex Lewis
Bryce Dessner (we think) @ the Big Ears Festival (more by Andrew Frisicano)
While in Knoxville for the Big Ears Festival (March 26-28, 2010), you knew you were at the right show if Bryce Dessner was in sight. When The Ex performed Friday night, Dessner was in attendance with his entourage that included his twin brother Aaron and Sufjan Stevens. This turned out to be one of the most exciting shows of the weekend. On Saturday, instead of seeing Vampire Weekend at the Tennessee Theater, he was at the Knoxville Museum of Art for the Big Ears film co-op that featured presentations of experimental films with live improvised performances from a number of the festival's artists. Then again, it was hard to miss Bryce completely, as he performed with Clogs, The National, and in a number of other settings.
The intimate relationship between artists and audience at Big Ears is one of the most unique parts of the experience. This interface takes place partly because Knoxville is small and there are few places for artists to hide. But it's also built into the festival's program and embodied by its co-curator. I met with Bryce at the Knoxville Museum of Art after the film co-op. We discussed the festival, venues in NYC, and more...
How did you get involved with Big Ears?
Ashley [Capps, head of AC Entertainment] called me about a year ago, probably because of Dark Was The Night. But then also because of a much smaller festival that I've run in Ohio for the past 5 years. He was basically just fishing to see if I was interested in coming down [to Knoxville] and doing something. He was very open-minded about what that might be. Originally, he didn't care if The National played. He was more interested in Clogs because we don't often get the opportunity to do something like this. I'm usually wary of curating. Inside Cincinnati I know I can control because it's a very small thing. It's just a very small theater and that's the only venue. It's a very intimate kind of thing and because I've billed it for years now people understand what's going to happen. It's very flexible.
So in the past I've been asked to do other festivals and I've usually said "no", mainly because it's rare to find someone who is open-minded and cool to go with it. So basically Ashley is that person. As much as any musical collaborator that I love and have a great time with, he is that person for this. Working on a festival is so ephemeral and in the moment, that it's kind of my favorite thing in music. More than the commercial side of the industry that's related to releasing records, festivals just happen and then they're over. Especially if there's site-specific going on that's really only happening at that festival. I think that Big Ears is kind of new. It's a different format for hearing music. I got the sense that Ashley was interested in pushing something in that way and that's why I said, "sure".
by Andrew Frisicano
this post concludes our Big Ears 2010 Festival coverage. links to the first two posts are also below...
"When people ask what my favorite place to play is, I tell them about this place. It's like playing inside an Easter egg," quipped My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden, gazing at the deep-sea blue dome overhead at Knoxville's Tennessee Theater. The psychedelic cavern, a mish-mash of decorative styles and colors, served as the home to the Big Ears festival's largest shows, and its final act on Sunday night, with headliner the National.
The National's presence was felt long before they took the stage - in the hand of guitarist Bryce Dessner, who co-curated the fest, in the National members' supporting gigs, playing behind Doveman, Clogs and others, and in the abundance of friends and fellow Brooklyn-ites in the Big Ears lineup. Of course, those are all connected. One look at the stage during the first song of the National's encore - "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" off their forthcoming High Violet - revealed a selection of Big Ears' top acts - Nico Muhly, St. Vincent, Shara Worden and sometimes-National members Padma Newsome and Thomas Bartlett (Sufjan came out for a song, but not during the encore), all of whom performed earlier in the weekend on their own. (Read here about days one and two)
Attendees also had the chance to opt for music outside of that circle. At Big Ears Annex, Tim Hecker and Ben Frost collaborated for a set of fragile, icy noise (they both played on their own earlier too - Hecker opened for Bang on a Can All-Stars' performance of Music For Aiports and the Books at the TN Theater). Trio Konk Pack took the same stage later for improvised noises, pops and whirs - like the soundtrack to an invisible film. The night before, one could choose between Liturgy and Gang Gang Dance - two bands at the top of their respective genres - while Terry Riley's In C filled the Tennessee Theater to its elliptical rafters.
Around the corner from the Annex at the Pilot Light, KnoEars, an unaffiliated, somewhat anti-Big Ears DIY Fest, hosted an all-day lineup that included homemade noise, Replacements-style punk and more emanating into Sunday's rainy street.
Terry Riley, selected to be this year's resident guide, performed four times over the three days - all in different settings. Other repeat acts like Thomas Bartlett (Doveman), who played with Sam Amidon, the fest's first act (interviewed here), and The National, its last, were frequent Knoxville fixtures for the three-day fest, running to their own gigs or enjoying others'.
"Mr. Riley also enjoyed a fair number of other people's shows, especially the art-song band Clogs. ("They were the hit for me," he said, beaming over breakfast on Monday morning. "Great performers, great writing. I'm going to buy their CD when I get home.")" [NY Times]Doveman and Nico Muhly both played earlier Sunday in a set that included material from their recent Peter Pears project, the Footloose soundtrack, and their 802 tour partner Sam Amidon (who had to catch a flight to Germany). That show's headliner, St. Vincent, provided a counterpoint to their pianos with a set of songs steeped in squealing noise and leveling distortion.
More pictures and videos from the fest are below...
by Andrew Frisicano
Collaborations were the order of the day on Big Ears' Saturday, March 27th schedule (day two). At 1pm, the 802 Tour - Nico Muhly, Thomas Bartlett (Doveman) and Sam Amidon with violist Nadia Sirota - performed songs written by each. The National's Dessner brothers and drummer Bryan Devendorf joined for a selection of full-band Doveman songs, and the finale was a clamoring, epic version of the folk song "The Two Sisters" arranged by Nico (part of the percussion included Nico combing Thomas's hair). Sam played his own set with help from Thomas one day earlier, and later Saturday night.
Before that, the day started with Andrew W.K.'s Q&A-heavy lecture at the Knoxville Museum of Art (he played a set of music the night before) and a Bang on a Can All-Stars set that included works by Dave Longstreth, both at noon. Dirty Projectors performed later in the day (3:45pm) at Tennessee Theatre on a bill that also included DJ/Rupture and William Basinski who went on at the same time as Liturgy (who played at the Big Ears Annex at 2pm and then again at Pilot Light at midnight).
Clogs took the stage at the Bijou Theater with guests as well. Rumors of a solo set by Sufjan Steven circulated, but he only played one of his own songs, "Barn Owl Night Killer," on piano. Clogs were also assisted by Shara Worden, Aaron Dessner and Calder Quartet. Matt Berninger was delayed en route to Knoxville, so he didn't make his duet on "Last Song," for which main Clog Padma Newsome filled in. That wasn't the actual last song - new-album closer "We Were Here" was, which featured Sufjan on vocals and banjo along with Shara Worden and guitar by Aaron Dessner. A similar show happened in Brooklyn a few days earlier.
The Saturday headliners - Vampire Weekend and Joanna Newsom - both played to sold out crowds (Vampire Weekend at the sprawling, ornate-adorned 1600 seat Tennessee Theater with opener Abe Vigoda). Joanna Newsom's set was opened by Fred Armisen aka Jens Hannemann, a master of "complicated drummer technique." Armisen also joined her set for one song to play awkward and out-of-place cowbell.
At the Tennessee, the night ended with Terry Riley's Autodreamagraphical Tales - music from Bang on a Can over Terry reading from his actual dreams (Eastern religion and weed popped up frequently) - and In C, led by BoaC's Evan Ziporyn and featuring the rest of Bang on a Can All-Stars as well as Calder Quartet, Clogs, Nico Muhly, Nadia Sirota, Gyan Riley, and Terry on voice. The open-ended song stretched to an hour, canceling out any chance to catch late night sets from Javelin and Gang Gang Dance. Gang Gang was stil going when I arrived, but the club shut down the power mid-song and flipped on the lights promptly at 3am, sending everyone home.
A recap of Friday is HERE. More pictures and videos from Saturday are below...
by Andrew Frisicano
Sam Amidon, accompanied by Thomas Bartlett, ushered in the first show of the 2010 Big Ears Festival at the Knoxville Museum of Art on Friday (3/26) with "Wild Bill Jones," his own version of the Appalachian folk song, punctuated with a piercing scream half-way through. "These are all folk songs, some from around here," said Sam, which was the right thing to say at the KMA, an institution whose collection and staff brims with East Tennessee pride. After a welcome by festival organizer Ashley Capps (whose AC Entertainment also organizes Bonnaroo) and co-curator Bryce Dessner, Calder Quartet and violinist Iva Bittova led the audience through the folk-inspired world of Bartok, Janacek and guitarist/composer Fred Frith.
A little after 7pm at the gorgeous Bijou Theatre (est. 1909), Terry Riley and his quartet - consisting of his son Gyan on classical guitar, Tracy Silverman on electric violin and Ches Smith on drums and marimba - played a series of extended ragas and genre-morphing songs. By midnight, an ecstatic crowd of all ages filled the hall for the xx. Just a few hours before, University of Tennessee basketball advanced to the NCAA Elite 8, and the partly collegiate crowd carried the celebratory mood to the gig. Some danced in front of their seats or in the aisles, and cheered in anticipation - in one opera box, an exhibitionist couple shared a drunken embrace dangerously close to the railing. Clandestine cigarettes were smoked as the xx performed their moody rock alongside minutely choreographed stage lights.
The earlier jj were even more laid back than the xx, with a sole singer, Elin Kastlander, standing before video projections that included an Italian soccer game, romps on the beach by Elin and co-member Joakim Benon, and whales and other nature scenes. We also got to see Elin roll a big blunt on screen, which might speak to her onstage ambivalence and generally lackluster approach. She did pick up an acoustic guitar once, as did her blond gentleman collaborator, Joakim, for a few numbers. With the music on autopilot, everything else - from the canned "native" beats to the narcissistic video - seemed to follow suit.
The first act had much better luck: Nosaj Thing's post-apocalyptic electronica, riddled with blippy bullets and ghostly echoes, destroyed the darkened theater. The xx gig was one of of the fest's sold out gigs (the others are currently Vampire Weekend and Joanna Newsom) but those with all-access Inner Ear passes ($250 now, but cheaper if you bought earlier) had no trouble finding front-row first-come, first-served seats if they showed at least 15 minutes before doors. The passes are pricey, but a good deal even if you make it to only 1/3rd of the 30-some shows at the fest.
A few blocks away, Andrew WK and the Calder Quartet finished their set with a cover of John Cage's 4'33" - or as Andrew put it "Johnny Cage! Fatality! Mortal Kombat!" The room was divided between those trying to rebel ("Play music!"), those trying to explain the piece ("It's supposed to be people talking"), those shushing, and those just enjoying the spectacle. Andrew returned for an encore of "Party Hard" (piano, voice and crowd participation) and brought out Calder's Eric Byers for a Bach cello piece, accompanied by an interpretive dance by Andrew WK (think "an impressionistic karate kid") dedicated to the late Merce Cunningham.
The compact nature of the participating venues in downtown Knoxville (one mid- and one large-size theater and a handful of smaller club-like spaces) gives Big Ears an intimate feel, and the festival's musicians - most recognizably, Sufjan Stevens, though his only performance is in a supporting role with Clogs (The BQE is being screened too) - can be seen hopping from venue to venue along with the fans.
The difficult decisions of Big Ears day one - Dutch post-punks the Ex against newcomers the xx - only intensify as the festival progresses, with the headliners like Joanna Newsom, Vampire Weekend and composer in residence Terry Riley all going head to head on Saturday.
More pictures and video from Big Ears day one are below...
photos by David Andrako
"Clogs tonight at the Bell House Brooklyn w/ the astonishing Shara Worden and (briefly) Sufjan Stevens: Complex, transfixing, transcendent" - Frank Rose
As promised, Sufjan showed up to perform with Shara Worden and Clogs (featuring members of the National) at the Bell House last night. The whole crew is now off to Tennessee for the Big Ears Festival which kicks off Friday with performances by Sam Amidon, Andrew WK, The xx, Ben Frost and others (full schedule HERE). Some more pictures from last night's Clogs show in Brooklyn below...
Olof Arnalds @ SXSW 2010 (more by Dominick Mastrangelo)
Chamber group Clogs played live (and spoke) on WNYC on Monday. You can listen at their site (and download it above).
Wednesday night (tonight, 3/24) is Clogs' record release show at The Bell House in Brooklyn. They've confirmed that Sufjan Stevens and My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden (who also played with them on WNYC and was a special guest at the Regina Spektor show at Irving Plaza Tuesday night) will be their guests. Whether Sufjan will sing or not isn't 100% clear, but like Shara, he does sing on the new album.
The National's Padma Newsome and Bryce Dessner are permanent members of Clogs. Bryce's twin brother Aaron and the National's Matt Berninger aren't, but will also play with the group when they perform at the Big Ears Fest in Knoxville, Tennessee this weekend.
Full Big Ears schedule at their site.
by Andrew Frisicano
DOWNLOAD: Clogs - Red Seas w/ Padma Newsome (MP3)
Dave Longstreth @ MHOW in December (more by Ryan Muir)
The final lineup for Big Ears Festival in Knoxville TN, March 26-28, has been confirmed and updated, with the addition of King Crimson's Adrian Belew, tape composer William Basinski, NYC metal Liturgy (who are also playing MtyMx), UK avant-noisemakers Konk Pack, punk band Abe Vigoda, Ches Smith (drummer for Marc Ribot and others who'll play with Tery Riley) and Sufjan Stevens, who will be appearing with Clogs.
Also joining Clogs on stage will be the other guest vocalists on their new song cycle/album ,The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton: Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) and The National's Matt Berninger and Aaron Dessner. They'll be performing that work. A new track from the album, featuring
Sufjan Padma on vocals, is posted above.
Other pairings at the fest include Ben Frost and Tim Hecker (collaborating for the first time) and Bang on a Can All-Stars, who will be playing music by David Longstreth, Thurston Moore, Michael Gordon and their own Evan Ziporyn. They'll also be doing a rendition of Brian Eno's Music for Airports at a show with Tim Hecker and The Books (who are also on the bill of ATP NY this year). Tickets to most Big Ears shows are currently on sale; additional shows go on sale Friday at 10am and noon.
Bang on a Can All-Stars will be performing the music of Dave Longstreth next Wednesday, February 24th at their show at Merkin Hall. At the gig, they'll also premiere work by Nik Bärtsch, Oscar Bettison and Christine Southworth plus "performances of a recently commissioned work by Michael Nyman for a film by the celebrated 1920s New York photographer Paul Strand along with a selection from the group's acclaimed live arrangement of Brian Eno's ambient classic Music for Airports." Tickets are on sale. A video of them playing 2x5 directed by Steve Reich is below. The full Merkin Hall schedule for their New Sounds/Contemporary Contexts series (including a May 27th Signal show/Nico Muhly premiere) is below.
Longstreth, Dirty Projectors and Alarm Will Sound play The Getty Address in full at Lincoln Center's Allen Room on Friday, Februay 19th. More below...
With the new National record coming out, don't forget there's also a new Clogs record, The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton, out March 2nd on Brassland (cover art above). On that record, the band, headed by Padma Newsome and The National's Bryce Dessner, will be joined by vocalists Shara Worden, Matt Berninger and Sufjan Stevens (who is also a confirmed guest on the new National). Clogs just put out a pre-album EP titled Veil Waltz. They're also playing live including a Brooklyn show at the Bell House on March 24th. Tickets are on sale now.
Shara Worden (aka My Brightest Diamond) recently headlined a show of her own at Bowery Ballroom one night before she made a special appearance for Haiti at Music Hall of Williamsburg.
More info on the new Clogs album and all dates below...
Pitchfork: Sufjan Stevens played on the last album. Do you have any guests on this one?It's no surprise that the new National album will have guest appearances by friends of the band. Even before their massively collaborative Dark Was the Night project, the band had a history of working with Sufjan, Thomas Bartlett, Clogs' Padma Newsome and many others. Bryce Dessner was just a guest at St. Vincent's Allen Room show on Friday (January 29th).
The National's Matt Berninger: We have a bunch of people who have come in and out of the studio, which is behind Aaron's house. It was sort of an open door policy; friends come over and do stuff. So a lot of people did do things. I don't know exactly how much of everything we're going to keep. I will say that Sufjan did something that we are going to keep on a song. He sang some weird little backing vocal melodies-- no words. It was on a song that had just the right sort of odd, creepy vibe. There are a few other people that have come in and out. I don't want to say who yet [laughs] because we still might be editing them out. But I'm pretty sure that the little Sufjan vocal thing is going to be in there. It really did something special with that song.
The National's spring/summer tour dates are approaching. Only single tickets are left for their Radio City show on June 16th, so not totally surprisingly, the band has added a 2nd show, though not at the same venue or in the same month. It's a ticketed Celebrate Brooklyn show at Prospect Park Bandshell Tuesday, July 27th. Tickets go on sale Thursday, February 4th at 2pm.
Various videos of the National with friends (and alone) are below...
DOWNLOAD: Jookabox - You Cried Me (MP3)
Jookax record release show (by Dave Evans)
Asthmatic Kitty Records is representing in two neighborhoods of Brooklyn tonight (11/7). Sufjan's BQE movie screens one last time at the Bell House along with a performance by the Osso Quartet (see review of the 92yTribeca show). It's not clear if Sufjan Stevens will be there to introduce the film or not, though it seems reasonable that he would if he's in town. Tickets are still available.
Or maybe Sufjan will be in Williamsburg instead, checking out Jookabox (formerly Grampall Jookabox) whose album Dead Zone Boys was released on his label on November 3rd. The show is at Bruar Falls. Or maybe he'll just wait to see Jookabox when they/he plays Cake Shop on Tuesday (11/10). MP3 above. Video and all dates below...
DOWNLOAD: Takka Takka - Silence (MP3)
(the new) Takka Takka @ Glasslands Gallery in Brooklyn - CMJ 2009
photo by Erin Molitor
Brooklyn band Takka Takka are playing a show in DUMBO tonight (11/5). This gig follows a few shows that the band played in town during CMJ. You can see them playing at one of the showcases in the picture above. If you're familiar with the band, you may notice some changes including one less member, and no it's not front-man Gabe Levine aka Samuel Izdat. Gabe/Samuel has started playing solo, but that's in addition to being in the band.
In light of all this, I asked Takka drummer Conrad Doucette if he would answer a few questions...
BV: Name and position?
Conrad: Conrad Doucette, second base
BV: Did you watch the last game of the World Series last night?
Conrad: I did.
BV: Were you jumping up and down and screaming really loudly when the Yankees won?
Conrad: I was jumping up and down and screaming loudly in the alternate universe where the Cincinnati Reds have a chance to win a World Series.
by Andrew Frisicano
DOWNLOAD: Aaron Dessner - We Were Born (from the Long Count) (MP3)
DOWNLOAD: The Long Count - Bull Run (feat. Kelley Deal) (MP3)
Twins! (the Dessners & the Deals)
The Long Count kicks off its three show engagement at BAM's Gilman Opera House tonight (10/28). Tickets are still available for the show, as well as for the Friday (10/30) and Saturday (10/31) performances.
The 70-minute music and multimedia piece, commissioned by BAM Next Wave Festival, is the work of Bryce and Aaron Dessner of the National and visual artist Matthew Ritchie. But they haven't been working alone. At every step of composing and arranging the Long Count over the past year, the brothers have tapped into their crew of skilled collaborators. The 12-piece orchestra that will be joining them on stage counts talents like NYC violist Nadia Sirota (who played last month's Archipelago series show), sax/bass clarinet player Colin Stetson, and Antony & the Johnsons' guitarist/violinist/conductor Rob Moose (who in particular assisted with some of the arranging duties).
As previously mentioned, the Breeders' Kim and Kelley Deal (twins) collaborated with the Dessners (also twins) on much of the music - they sing for nearly half of the show. Other vocal turns will be taken by the Nationals' Matt Berninger and My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden.
All four singers play roles in the narrative of the Long Count, which takes its story from the Mayan creation myth of Popol Vuh. In that, multiple sets of twins (in the story and on stage) experience repeated cycles of life and death until giving birth to the world as we know it. The original tale ties in strongly with a ballgame played by its main characters - an element which the Dessners have woven in with their love of baseball, particularly Cincinnati Reds and the Big Red Machine.
Musically, the Long Count sections posted above, both from the show's work-in-progress performance at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on September 11th, showcase the piece's diversity. The first, "We Were Born," highlights the minimalist pedigree of the show, while "Bull Run" layers those elements with fearsome orchestral lines and extremely creepy vocals by Kelley Deal.
Paired with the spooky nature of Mathew Ritchie's animation (which you can preview here) the show looks to be a good Halloween night warm-up as any. In fact, the early Saturday night show has the most tickets available, and it follows a pre-show Q&A (ticketed separately) led by Brandon Stosuy (who's curating the Mount Eerie + metal show at Market Hotel later in the night).
Bryce generously answered some of our questions over the phone while in the last week of rehearsal (and in the hectic center of CMJ week). More photos from the production, and that interview, where he reveals the existence of an unreleased Christmas album he made with Sufjan, details on the new National record and more, below...