Entries tagged with: Sufjan Stevens
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...
photos by Vincent Cornelli
"Hey, I'm your host: DJ Sufjan. Thanks for coming," he says, trying to stir the audience.After the live music came a screening of the BQE movie. The pictures in this post are from the third show on Saturday night. They did it at 7:30pm, 10:00pm, and then again st 12:30am (technically Sunday morning). The show is now on tour (though without Sufjan to introduce things), and will play NYC one more time. It happens at The Bell House on November 7th, and tickets are still on sale. More pictures from 92Y below...
It will be a night of art -- but exactly how, or what kind of art, no one is certain.
Stevens speaks for a brief moment and introduces the first act, singer/songwriter DM [Stith]. Unlike most folk singers, [Stith] is backed by six other musicians: a percussionist, a bassist, a cellist, two violinists and a viola player. The classical backing only serves to assist his enchanting howl, which channels Eastern rhythms. His short set is defined by simple, delicate arrangements, like an appetizer before the main course.
A few moments pass, and Stevens climbs the stage once more. This time, he explains that his second album, "Enjoy Your Rabbit," was an electronic experiment that no one seemed to understand. As a result, he had the songs rewritten for the string quartet Osso, a group of classically trained women who perform interpretations of Stevens' songs. Stevens' experimental computer distortion transforms into high notes. The audience, formerly busy in conversation, is respectably silent. Dreamy sequences approach and linger as each song reaches a close. It is, most definitely, a non-traditional take on a classical medium. [NYU News]
photos by Vincent Cornelli, words by Andrew Frisicano
After wading through the lines of confused people outside and the waterlogged Bowery basement floor, I managed to settle in for the quiet opening song, "The Mistress Witch from McClure," executed with Sufjan on banjo and french horn accompaniment. Someone nearby got shushed a minute in, but things loosened up as the show progressed. Sufjan's on stage demeanor did a lot to liven things up; he cracked self-deprecating jokes throughout (a few times with post-song IDs of "That was [name of song] by Sufjan Stevens").
Like others, I spent the better part of 2005 and 2006 listening to Illinois - and those were the songs that got the most reaction. Unfortunately, "Come on! Feel the Illinoise!" (an "old one" according to Sufjan) was also the most unpolished. It was nice to hear, but the execution suffered due to a poor mix (too many vocals, not enough of the four horns, which never really lived up to their potential). Afterwards he admitted that they hadn't played it in a while, and apologized with a clean, majestic version of "Casimir Pulaski Day."
One thing I didn't expect was just how in your face the new material is. It brushes up against the rest of the stage show in a stark but not totally unwelcome way. The new tunes are broad psych-rockish opuses that expand elements of Sufjan's usual light-rock shuffle with proggy guitar solos, jazz fusion-y improv passages, drum and bass style beats and glitch-pop blips. They seem made for a live setting (opposed to his complex woodwind-oriented arrangements) and loaded with plenty of testosterone (or at least some, which is a big jump). After the first encore, "Chicago," Sufjan quipped that the tune was "a little boring" and closed with new track "There's Too Much Love," a synth-driven indie-pop gem at first that descends into psychedelic anarchy over its seven plus minutes.
Sufjan's band expanded and contracted throughout the night, maxing out at eleven members with added horns. Bryce Dessner played guitar on some songs, while backing vocals were provided by opener Cryptacize's Nedelle Torrisi and Rosie Thomas, who came out between the set and encore as Sheila Saputo, her dorky, stand-up comedian alter-ego, to read a fangirl ode to the dreaminess of Sufjan.
Speaking of Rosie, she appears at John Wesley Harding's Cabinet of Wonders show on October 7th at (Le) Poisson Rouge (after the Sufjan MHOW show I guess?). She'll also be at 92YTribeca on Saturday, October 10th to do an acoustic performance and Q&A after a screening of All the Way from Michigan Not Mars, a documentary that features her as well as "intimate live performances with fellow songwriters Sufjan Stevens and Denison Witmer...the film is a lyrical examination of Thomas' quest for an expression of truth and her unique brand of performance." Tickets are on sale. 92YTribeca also hosts three of the four upcoming NYC Osso Quartet/BQE screenings later in October.
All photos, the set list and all Rosie Thomas tour dates are below...
photos by Tammy Lo, words by Andrew Frisicano
Sufjan Stevens played the first show of his four-night NYC run last night (10/4) at Bowery Ballroom. The set mostly covered material from Seven Swans (visited extensively at ATP NY in Sept.), Michigan, Illinois and new tracks. Full setlist and more pictures from that show, below.
His current tour dates (including all four NYC shows) are with Sufjan's Asthmatic Kitty labelmates Cryptacize (who are touring with Fiery Furnaces this November). That's just one of many goings-on Sufjan has with the Asthmatic Kitty label he co-founded. He's collaborating with his step-father (also the label's other co-founder) Lowell Brams on Music for Insomnia, Brams' debut and part of the label's Library Catalog series. The album, due December 8th, also includes contributions by Bryce Dessner (of the National and the Long Count) and cover art by Asthmatic Kitty's DM Stith.
Stith will be opening at Sufjan's Osso Quartet/BQE shows at 92YTribeca on October 24th and 25th. Two two screening on the 24th are sold out, but there's still tickets for the show on the 25th.
The Osso Quartet is taking that show on the road at the end of October into early November. The last show of the tour was to be at TBA venue in Philly. Instead it appears that they're closing out the tour at the Bell House on Sunday, November 7th. Tickets are on sale now. If is unclear if Sufjan will actually be at the new date. He will be at 92Y, but not on the rest of that tour.
In 2000, Asthmatic Kitty artist Shannon Stephens was interviewed by Sufjan to discuss her just-released debut album. He interviewed her again a few weeks ago to catch up and discuss The Breadwinner, Shannon's first album in 10 years, which came out September 8th. In the new interview (more of a discussion), Sufjan revealed some interesting things about himself...
Sufjan: I'm at a point where I no longer have a deep desire to share my music with anyone, having spent many years imparting my songs to the public. Although I have great respect for the social dynamic of music--that it should be shared with others, that it brings people together--I now feel something personal is irrevocably lost in this process. Now, while I refuse to act wholly on this impulse (I refuse to take my audience for granted in spite of my mood), I'm still trying to find the value of the song in private. Having spent ten years in private (not sharing your music), can you offer some wisdom on this matter? Does a song have any meaning even it's not shared?A new video from Shannon is posted below.
More pics, video and the setlist from Sufjan's 10/4 Bowery show, with the above mentioned Asthmatic Kitty goodies, below...
Sufjan Stevens @ ATP NY (more by Ryan Muir)
"When Illinois and Late Registration placed #1 and #2 in Pitchfork's Top Albums of 2005 list, some took it as symbolic, a situation in which a hip-hop record that catered to every single rockist habit in the book still played runner-up to our precious lily-livered indie rock. But they're a hell of a lot closer than they look: each a staggeringly ambitious, lushly orchestrated big-top extravaganza whose ringleader mixes in frivolous tall tales and Chicago civic pride with heavy meditations on God, mortality, and love, all to suffer criticisms about too many tracks, too many interludes, and too many French horns." [Pitchfork's Top 200 Albums of the 2000s]Sufjan Stevens & Cryptacize in NYC
2009-10-04, Sunday @ Bowery Ballroom
2009-10-05, Monday @ Bowery Ballroom
2009-10-06, Tuesday @ Music Hall Of Williamsburg
2009-10-07, Wednesday @ Music Hall Of Williamsburg
Some videos from other recent Sufjan shows, including footage of a new song, below...
Daft Punk's first album had helped refresh house music in the mid 1990s; the second went further, rewriting electronic pop's pleasure principles to such a degree that when it came out a lot of people thought Discovery must be a put-on. They took the joy in the record for irony. Rather, the band had simply plunged into the raw popstuff of their 70s childhoods, from AOR to disco, Buggles to Manilow, rock to robotics. They wanted their listeners to get the rush of context-free delight they had hearing music as kids, and on "Aerodynamic" and "Digital Love" they succeeded wildly, dissolving a decade-plus of dance music good taste. And not all of Discovery looked back. The middle of the album is house music as string theory, with the duo finding dimensions of pleasure coiled within the tiniest loops: "Crescendolls" releases an awesome, gleeful energy by repeatedly triggering one five-second sample.Daft Punk grabbed the #3 spot on Pitchfork's list of the Top 200 albums of the 2000s (now fully announced) (yesterday they were only up to #21). The top 20 are also listed below...
Discovery was simply the decade's best good-times record, with Daft Punk as pyramid-toting party wizards and the chipmunk Kraftwerk of "Harder Better Faster Stronger" their anthem. But this most celebratory of records has a bittersweet streak, too: Daft Punk know that a rush always carries the risk of exhaustion. Perhaps the album's most underappreciated track is the sad but gorgeous "Short Circuit", a three-minute robot graveyard of crumbled transistors and dying LEDs. But from Romanthony's first blissful, vocoded shout of "one more time!" the dominant emotion on Discovery is joy. A joy that wasn't afraid to be sentimental and funny as well as hard and futuristic, and is all the better for that. When a generation looks back and tries to catch a fuzzy hold of the music that made them happy this decade, Daft Punk's will be top of the list. --Tom Ewing [Pitchfork]
words by Black Bubblegum, photos by Ryan Muir
some of the stars of ATP NY 2009
What's almost the exact opposite of a soothing set of Seven Swans performed by one of the most delicate singers in indie rock? Try nine drummers (including Hisham Bharoocha, Zach Hill, and Kid Millions among other notables) bashing your fucking skull for so long that the stage manager has to come out to unplug their gear and remove toms from underneath them! That's how I started my ATP Day 3... with the Boredoms blowing my mind.
Starting off with sparse chords on the monstrous multi-neck guitar/percussive device, Eye set a calm and reflective mood... and then the cymbals. And then the toms. And then eight drummers pummeled away led by Yoshimi P-We. And then the synced rimshots that recalled an Animal Collective beat. All of this happened before a ninth drummer was carried into the show like an emperor while doing a call and response with the other eight.
Within about 10 minutes, I knew that Boredoms would take the prize as best show at Kutsher's that weekend. The sheer power of the coordinated drums, along with pregnant pauses and killer synth effects performed via keys, CD-DJ tables, and broomsticks (!) were beyond jaw dropping.
Following Boredoms, I poked my head into Oneida's Ocropolis for the first of many times. For 10+ hours, Oneida basically had the small and very decorated room all to themselves for a long jam session with their friends. Reportedly, the band had tape rolling the whole time (Ocropolis is the name of their Brooklyn recording studio) and had visuals provided by the Mighty Robot AV Squad. With local standbys like BJ Warshaw of Parts & Labor/Shooting Spires fame, Chris Weingarten (ex P&L), Todd P, and many others spotted in the Sportsman's Bar, it seemed like Brooklyn in the Catskills. Unfortunately, I missed every single special guest appearance (word is, and in part according to a sign on the door, Soft Circle, Yoshimi, Aaron from Tall Firs, Zach Hill, Steven Drozd and many others all popped in) but the band was very interesting to watch, alternating between songs, and droney ambient jams.
Caribou was next in the main room and the 16-piece(!) band including Sun Ra Arkestra member Marshall Allen, Koushik, Kieran Hebden (Fourtet) and many others. I had no expectations heading into the set and was pleasantly surprised, although I found the mix to have waaay too much low end.
I ducked out of Caribou early to catch the last twenty minutes of Hopewell who was billed to be playing "The Desperation Suite," "complete with a female choir and avant-garde saxophonist Mark Marinoff". From what little I saw, the three person "choir" did little but coo, ooh, ahh, and coordinate a dance, but the band did close with a rousing cover of Jane's Addiction's classic "Of Course".
words by Black Bubblegum, photos by Ryan Muir
Steve Albini in Shellac
"We're taking a bath, but I don't care," Barry Hogan told [Sasha Frere-Jones]. We were standing in the makeshift production office for the All Tomorrow's Parties festival, at Kutsher's, a resort in the Catskills."My name is Sufjan Stevens and I am going to play all of my Seven Swans album. That should be a good early afternoon hangover sort of thing"
Kutsher's, where Muhammad Ali trained and a thousand schticks were born, was once the jewel of the Borscht Belt. The main venue at Kutsher's, the Stardust Ballroom, has a capacity of 2,800. But Hogan seemed largely unbothered that only 1,800 tickets to ATP had sold. It is 2009, after all.
Considering the bad coffee situation and the fun that I had the day before, Sufjan was spot on. Clad in tie-dye that the band had purchased at the general store at Kutsher's, the five piece were delicate, light and lilting. Sufjan's bright banjo strums and songs, like the sunny "Sister", resonated so well in the Stardust Ballroom. The Seven Swans album was an excellent choice for a wake-up set on the second day of the three day upstate NY festival (Saturday, September 12, 2009).
After Sufjan, I wandered over to catch a crew of young Aussies named Bridezilla. Though their name is a touch offputting, guitarist/vocalist Holiday Sidewinder has a sexy and breathy coo that recalled PJ Harvey and their her cocktail-dress-ed crew were a surprise and a delight.
Grouper were next, and as a fan of 2008's Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill, I was eager to check out Liz Harris's ambient soundscapes. Playing to a projection of an ocean at night, the stage show wasn't much visually but the tides of noise was otherworldly.
Conversely, Black Dice in the same room was a psychedelic mindfuck. Blasts of tribal noise beats nodded heads and shook them in equal measure.
As a fan of Bradford Cox, it was great to see him pull a doubleheader on Saturday, beginning with Atlas Sound. Rolling solo with guitar, harmonica, and some backing tracks, Cox was engaging both in song and with between song banter. I would regrettably end up missing Deerhunter's set a few hours later. Drowned in Sound was there though:
Bradford Cox is a picture of serenity as he swaps his shirt for a more tasteful number and leads Deerhunter into their Saturday night set. He announces that this will be their last performance for some time, causing the band to roll out the hits in quick-fast fashion. They gallop through 'Cryptograms' and 'Nothing Ever Happened', the positively herculean double guitar sound feeling unstoppable and a sense of jubilation ricocheting between the walls as people succumb to these great big shining pop songs. The closing 'Calvary Scars' is a slab of beautiful kraut-pop, with Lockett Pundt's metallic Tim Gane-esque strum leading the way, face-painted kids jerking their bodies back and forth, and Cox looking genuinely sad that this will be the last time these songs will be wrung from his fingers and throat for a while.Anti-Pop Consortium was my next venture, the first time I had ever seen the crew though I was a long time fan. On the Stardust Ballroom system, APC's distorted and creative beats sounded amazing but save for Beans energetic movement, I was less than impressed with their live show. Live hip hop is hard to pull off, and those who try should heed the great Rakim who said "to me MC means move the crowd". If you want to give them a chance, they're at Santos Party House on September 29th.
Sleepy Sun were line checking when I got back to the second stage, with vocalist Rachael Williams checking her levels in the monitor
"Check. Check. I. Hi. Me. You. All of you. Us. Getting nervous."
If they had nerves, the band channeled them into positive energy. Sleepy Sun's influences fit right in with their hometown, San Francisco, as the band dabble in a psychedelic California sound with some krautrock-y elements. I was most struck by their fantastic drummer Brian Tice as well as vocalist Williams, who ripped out a solo that had the crowd shouting and applauding. Wayne Coyne watched the band from stage left, clearly impressed.
After an elongated line check, El-P came on and with a four-piece band (Chin Chin) and hypeman (Mighty Quinn) to the sound of "Tasmanian Space Coaster". I have a soft spot for El-Producto's Blade Runner beats and post-apocalyptic rhyme styles, and it was great to see a Hip Hop artist who actually puts an emphasis on his live show. As a matter of fact, El-P put a little too much of himself out there, almost falling off the stage after pogo-ing around during "Smithereens". Careful dude... we need a follow-up to I'll Sleep When You're Dead.
I hadn't seen Akron/Family since the then more acoustic-centric band played Tonic many years ago (with Hamid Drake?) and it was refreshing to see their energy were still in place. Against a backdrop of a tie-dyed American flag, the band played a rousing and ripping set. It's good to see that the loss of Ryan Vanderhoof to a Buddhist center hasn't slowed them a bit.
Autolux had the discordant riffs, feedback squalls, and a 90s alt punk sound to hit all of the right influences (Joy Division, Sonic Youth, etc), but unfortunately didn't really distinguish themselves from their influences. Autolux isn't offensive by any means, just not compelling or distinctive, and I find it a touch disappointing that guitarist Greg Edwards was a member of Failure (a band that I dug).
Dead Meadow and their fuzzy freakout psych blues were riffing on Stage Two towards the end of the Autolux set, but by half way in, the crowd had diminished considerably due to Shallac on the main. For shame, as the trio played a ripping set!
photos by Ryan Muir
When Sufjan Stevens took the stage to a packed room for the opening set of ATP NY's Day Two, the Detroit singer promised to go easy on peoples' headaches. "This will be an early-afternoon hangover special," he promised, explaining that the set would draw heavily on Seven Swans, his gentle, spare 2004 debut. He started with "All the Trees of the Fields Will Clap Their Hands," in which a plinking banjo riff suggested a tiny music box, mesmerizing and intricate.The pics here are from Sufjan's ATP NY set on Saturday. Jesus Lizard played on Friday. Flaming Lips on Sunday.
Stevens was breathy and hushed, and his backing band -- all in matching tie-die shirts purchased at the grounds' kitsch-stuffed gift shop -- slowly built up songs around him. In keeping with the mellow vibes, "The Dress Looks Nice On You" played like particularly chaste make-out music: "I can see a lot of life he you," he cooed, "I can see a lot of bright in you/ And I think the dress looks nice on you." Someone in the back of the room wolf-whistled. As far as Christian post-folk pick-up lines go, this was pretty racy stuff. [Rolling Stone]
Sufjan has a string of 'small club' dates coming up. And he's appearing with the Osso Quartet at the start of their Run Rabbit Run tour which will also include a screening of the new Sufjan BQE DVD. A new MP3 from the forthcoming BQE album, is posted above.
The BQE album tracklist, and the rest of the ATP pictures, below...
Tickets for the NYC shows on Sufjan Steven's upcoming tour with Cryptacize go on sale this Saturday (August 15th) at 10am...
10-04: New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom (tix)Also there's the BQE screenings coming up, which just added an extra showing.
10-05: New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom (tix)
10-06: Brooklyn, NY - Music Hall of Williamsburg (tix)
10-07: Brooklyn, NY - Music Hall of Williamsburg (tix)
Speaking sof Sufjan Stevens, Shannon Stephens, an Asthmatic Kitty labelmate of his, has a new album, The Breadwinner, coming out September 8th. It'll be her first in nearly 10 years. Sufjan played drums on her album that came out in 2000. He also interviewed her that same year...
Sufjan Stevens: This is a business question. Do you acknowledge any sort of christian market, or is that bunk? Would you be willing to participate in the christian market?"In Summer in the Heat" from Shannon's new record, is above. Tracklist and album art are below.
Shannon Stephens: Honestly, I feel that the christian music market was created out of a need for safety by separation. People wanted to know that the music they were listening to would not contaminate their souls or the souls of their children. The truth is that we are not contaminated by our culture, but by our own hearts. I do think it's important to feed the fire as little as possible, but shutting out the world and creating a safe subculture is not what Christ commanded us to do. Rather than making absolute judgments about christian bands or labels, I try to take them on an individual basis. Sometimes people ask me if I play "christian music"--I don't even know what to say. I'm a Christian, and I play music, but is it all praise and worship? No. I feel more comfortable outside of the box, where things are more dangerous and oftentimes more real.
Cryptacize recently recorded a live session that was just posted as a free download and video on Luxury Wafers. Grab that here
Another band on Asthmatic Kitty, Fol Chen, recently put out a free remixes EP, The Longer U Wait, with contributions from "Liars, Simone White, Epstein AKA Roberto Lange, Rafter and more!" That's linked above, with art, tracklist and tour dates below...