a weekend of oberst

July 6, 2009

Friday and Saturday were days/nights well spent, as I was finally able to see Conor Oberst, a musician whose work I have loved and respected since third grade, twice this weekend. Though it is not at all an exaggerated statement to say I have been a loyal listener for seven years of my life so far, until Friday night, I had never seen Conor perform, as Bright Eyes, or with the Mystic Valley Band.

Friday: Toad’s Place with Michael Runion and Deep Sea Diver.
The venue unfortunately reminded me of the Crazy Donkey in Long Island in more ways than I would have liked; brick walls, a sports game on a flat screen television near the stage, and sound quality far from impressive. It wasn’t horrible though; It was at least a nice size and in a great location. If the crowd had been more to my liking, the venue undoubtedly would have been as well.

I was rather bored during Michael Runion’s set, but was pretty impressed with Deep Sea Diver, a band with a fantastic female vocalist. An enjoyable set, but not mind blowing by any means.

Conor’s set with the Mystic Valley Band was of course the best of the night. Everyone was anxiously waiting to see him walk across the stage under the bright colored lights. When he finally did, it felt unreal to be only a few feet away. He wore a large black hat that covered his eyes most of the time and kept his dark hair plastered to his forehead. He provided a vague explanation for its existence, perched atop his head, but it was hard to comprehend with his mouth so close to the mic.

The first four or five songs were played with no pause in between, and I began to wonder if all the negative comments I had heard made about Conor’s personality- not having met the man myself, I can’t say whether or not anyone’s perceptions of him are true- meant he would not utter a single friendly word on stage to the crowd. Fortunately, I was mistaken, as he did begin to talk after each song, though it was evident he was shy.

I was not surprised to find that not a single Bright Eyes song was played, though admittedly I felt rather disappointed. It was still a fantastic set; The Mystic Valley Band is made up of a bunch of extremely talented musicians, and Conor’s voice was just as impressive in person as via mp3.

The only down sides were that most people in the front were just standing around in my area of the crowd, and many inebriated “fangirls” refused to stop screaming that Conor should take off his hat so that he could look sexy; even in the middle of Lenders in the Temple, an acoustic song, completely ruining the mood. Still a great show.

Saturday: Central Park Summerstage with Jenny Lewis.
A drastically different atmosphere than that of the show I had attended the previous night. I arrived an hour early, and immediately upon entering the appropriate section of the park, had to take careful steps in order to avoid disturbing the massive amount of people sprawled out on blankets with picnic food, books to read, and friends to share conversation with. It was difficult to navigate through the grass at times, for there really were a lot of people there.

I chose to sit down in the shade near the stage to watch Jenny Lewis perform. Having heard many of her songs before, it did not come as a shock to me that every single one was immensely better live; her vocals were exceptional, and she had a great group of musicians playing along side her. The set was an hour long and a perfect way to start the free show.

I walked around afterward and observed the diversity among the people, all there to enjoy the music amidst the beautiful breezy weather. The trees that surrounded and the blue of the sky helped to create a chill mood in the park, especially between sets. It felt so good to be there.

I thought Conor and the Mystic Valley Band had been great at Toad’s, but they were even better in the park. The sound was terrific and it was a much more relaxing show with a crowd I much preferred to that of New Haven’s.

The set list was as follows:
Souled Out
Air Mattress
Ten Women
Cape Canaveral
Big Black Nothing
One of My Kind
Reason #2
Lenders in the Temple
Difference Is Time
Danny Callahan
Roosevelt Room

(Photo Cred to Dylan)

Overall, it was a delightful weekend of music and I’m glad I was able to make it to two shows!

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