Aug 152016

Preparing for this past weekend’s “Day of the Dead” concert – the all-star band rendition of The National-lead Grateful Dead tribute album of the same name at Bon Iver’s Eaux Claires festival in Wisconsin – I interviewed a handful of involved artists and kept asking a question that no one knew exactly what to do with. My question: “Given the legacy of the Dead as a live band, what is going to be different about playing these covers live, as opposed to recording them for a tribute album?”

After a thoughtful silence that may have been tinged with a little bit of puzzlement, everyone said something about it being a terrific opportunity to harness the additional energy of having a live crowd.

“No [it’s not going to be harder],” Megafaun’s Phil Cook told me, “mostly because people are just stoked as shit to hear a Dead cover. Whenever people in the audience recognize it, they just lose their shit. They’re so happy that you’re doing it. It’s a completely welcome enterprise.” Continue reading »

Aug 082016

Last July, I drove three hours to meet my brother in Eau Claire, Wisconsin for the inaugural Eaux Claires festival. Justin Vernon, Aaron Dessner, and Michael Brown — the festival’s co-creators — were explicit about their desire to challenge the festival format, one typically designed to gather bands like vendors hawking wares at a marketplace in such a way that explicitly and implicitly pits them against one another, reinforcing genre differences and emphasizing the consumption of music more than its creation and enjoyment.

To those ends, Eaux Claires creators and designers set out to dissolve some of the barriers that typically separate the people who make art from the people who witness it. Festival goers were encouraged to engage with art installations, to experience performance in three interactive and innovative domes, and to journal about their experiences in field guides that were distributed upon admission. Likewise, performers were encouraged to jettison the sorts of festival behaviors expected of rock stars, to collaborate, to take risks, and to be fans of each other. Given my pet theory that covers are such a specific musical pleasure precisely because they become sonic artifacts that merge the roles of making and enjoying art, I expected the creators’ interest in similar mergers to create a fertile ground for covers and collaborations that changed songs in some of the same way covers do.

Continue reading »

Sep 152011

Last night the “Big Four” of thrash metal – Metallica, Slayer, Megadeath, and Anthrax – played their second U.S. show at Yankee Stadium. Despite bad blood in the past, the vibe onstage was all bro-hugs and congratulations all around on having made it this far. The four bands even united during Metallica’s first encore song to pay tribute to a mutual influence: Motörhead. James Heftield called Lemmy the Godfather of Metal (“whether he likes it or not”) before rocking through the band’s legendary “Overkill.” Continue reading »

May 192011

Justin Vernon, better known as Bon Iver, sings in a high falsetto and sounds lonely. However, you probably wouldn’t describe him as having the “high lonesome sound.” Well, get ready to be surprised at how well this Wisconsin native can invent some southern roots for himself. Continue reading »

Oct 072010

“Just because it's auto-tuned doesn't mean it's not sincere,” said an unidentified member of Gayngs, a band comprised of members of Bon Iver, Megafaun, Dosh, Solid Gold, and more (via The Village Voice). This Northern super-group took on Sade's “By Your Side” at a recent Daytrotter session as well as at some shows. They added some Auto-Tune and a background choir of voices to cover this slow jam. Now, I know what you're thinking: Hide your kids, hide your wife. However, it really works. Check out a live video and the Daytrotter MP3 below. Continue reading »