My most respected alt weeklies in the Pacific Northwest and my go-to mags for music would likely crucify me for penning a single unfavorable syllable about Bon Iver. But the band’s “Holocene” performance this week on Jimmy Fallon’s late-night show made me wonder how they’ve managed to collect so many accolades for Jagjaguwar, their most recent album.
For nearly six minutes, lead singer-guitarist Justin Vernon made a face like he either needed to urgently use the restroom or had just caught a whiff of some potent potable. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt though; maybe the stage lights were in his eyes or someone in the front row forgot to shower that day.
But even with my eyes closed, his all-falsetto, all-the-time screech left my ears begging for a break.
Meanwhile, several band members were seemingly playing a game in the background called how many guys can we fit on the stage at one time and how many instruments can each play nearly simultaneously. From trombone to clarinet, dual drums to tiny bells, it was like a high school marching band hit up happy hour.
The funny thing is, generally my musical palate lets me enjoy the individual tastes of almost any indie group. Some of my old favorites, for instance, like Ween or Rilo Kiley, have some songs in their repertoire that I scarce play publicly.
Maybe Bon Iver is better in the studio? Or perhaps I spent too much time gearing up for this week’s rousing Red Clay Jazz Festival. I was maintaining a pretty strict musical diet of Miles Davis for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
With Kind of Blue on repeat, a moment of clarity sweeps over me. “Flamenco Sketches,” hands-down my favorite track, ebbs and flows through my brain with improvised precision for more than nine minutes.
Some of my favorite possessions — my record collection and player — unfortunately didn’t make the move with me out to the Garden Isle. If they had, I would be listening to Bitches Brew on vinyl right now.
Sometimes I find it necessary to take a break from trying to keep up with all the great new music coming out of places like Portland, Seattle and Nashville. Sometimes I need to just get back to my roots, and The Roots, for that matter.
The Roots often outshine the guest performances on Fallon’s show, despite being the house band, as was the case this week. The highlight of Bon Iver’s stint on the stage was that it eventually ended and The Roots roared back to life.