Gush: All things Justin Vernon

Justin Vernon and I have been in a musical relationship since Fall 2007. A boy I was dating at the time casually mentioned he was keen to see a group called Bon Iver at the Horseshoe Tavern, which holds approximately 400 people. I remember checking out his Myspace page that night to check out this new band I’d never heard of and for some reason, this was my first impression of the group:

bon-iverAfter looking at that photo, I wasn’t too concerned about missing anything, so I passed on seeing the gig. Fast forward four or five months to March 2008, Bon Iver returned to Toronto opening for Black Mountain, this time Lee’s Palace and to a sold out crowd. While I don’t remember it quite well now, it’s really comforting to refer back to my former self. After reading that mess of thoughts, I really see the importance of reviews and recording my memories at memorable and not-so-memorable concerts.

Fast forward even further to 2013, and Vernon has now dipped his toes into music making with Bon Iver, Gayngs, Volcano Choir, Kanye West, Kathleen Edwards and the Shouting Matches. Which brought me to the thought today, does this man ever sleep?

I had the pleasure of seeing Gayngs play Coachella back in 2011. It was an unexpected surprise that now two years later, I have only come to really treasure. I found this video a few days ago and have been listening to it on repeat:

The super group is comprised of members of Bon Iver, Poliça, Megafaun and Glasser to name a few. They’re sorta the Broken Social Scene of the American Mid-West. The most memorable instance of that gig was when Har Mar Superstar came out and sang George Michael’s “One More Try” with the band. Thankfully, I had already been familiarized with the weird that is Har Mar Superstar back in 2008 opening for Sia, so I knew what was in store. He came out in a white cape that looked like a bed sheet he stole from the hotel he was staying at.


In reading some comments about Gayngs, I’ve read a bunch of critics on how the band is one part serious and one part farce. There’s something mega cheesy about the ’80s and the synthetic sound that was treasured in that period, but somehow, Justin Vernon has managed to revive it tastefully. I say Vernon because he’s done the ’80s in more than one project.

So with my affair with the music of Justin Vernon revealed, I am over the moon excited for a new album by the Volcano Choir, titled Repave. The picture below is the album’s art work, a photograph by Corey Arnold.


And this little teaser:

And a Toronto gig at the Phoenix September 8.


A few years back I saw these ladies rock their home state of California. It was a real treat that I didn’t even realize. It was the first and only time I saw them, but I remember it better than other unfamiliar shows. I realized they were big in the California scene when they were name dropped in the Will Arnett show Up All Night in the first season’s episode “Cool Neighbours.”

up-all-nightIn 2011, Warpaint played Toronto a couple of times at real small bars. Shame.

Somehow, I ended up back on this band years later. I love that they’re a girl band with edge, we need more of that.

Coachella aftermath seven: Alt-J

I feel a little out of the loop with hip new artists as of late. I jumped on the bandwagon a bit late on Alt-J, but after listening to one of his tunes in a remix that my man was playing hit me hard. It was the tune “Breezeblocks” by Alt-J. It’s insanely catchy but somewhat unconventional.

I caught the middle portion of his set which I thought was really great. I watched it from the outskirts, so I didn’t really get the sweet nuances one gets from being in the thick of a set.

Alt-J isn’t anything I’m absolutely in awe of, but it makes me jealous to think my pal Patrick saw them play at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, MI which fits only 400 people.

I’m listening to their SXSW’13 performance at Stubb’s right now.

Coachella aftermath six: Poliça

I first came across Poliça about a year ago. They were played Sasquatch! and I passed by them pretty fast upon a first listen, but they caught my eye just a bit more than any other anonymous band because I read somewhere Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver) said they were the best band he’s ever heard. Fast forward eight months later and I absolutely fell in love with the tune “Wandering Star” after randomly hearing it on a Daytrotter mix.

We got to Coachella 2013 pretty late, or at least later than I had hopped missing Vernon’s band The Shouting Matches (!!!) Fortunately, Poliça was running late so when I thought I was only catching the last fifteen minutes of their set, I actually caught its entirety. They even played a bit more time than they were allotted on the schedule!

I got there in a huff as I had ran from our far away camp spot around 2pm, and if you’ve been to the California desert or Coachella, you’d know that 2-4pm is the hottest pocket of the day. Arriving with my bangs swept back and sweat beading down my face, I was greeted by a really lovely guy named Carlos. I felt awkward the entire time as my body hadn’t fully cooled down.

The band opened up with their perfect opening tune “Amongster,” a tune I’ve had a hell of time shaking this week. It’s absolutely stunning.

There’s not much to Poliça, but they have two percussionists and no guitarist which makes for a unique sound. Very bass and drum heavy with a bunch of synthetic sounds laced throughout.

I didn’t really feel anything for their new tune “Tiff” which showcases Vernon’s coos. The studio version of the tune is actually quite amazing, it’s unfortunate I can’t say the same about the recorded live version. Apparently, Bon Iver Mike Noyce contributed to vocals throughout Poliça’s debut. Subtle recorded, but I can definitely hear him.

My regret of this gig was the band not playing their amazing tune “Leading to Death” which grew on me after playing “Wandering Star” so often that it would just bleed into “Leading.”

Just another tid bit – lead singer Channy Leaneagh and Ryan Olson (both of Poliça) have contributed to Justin Vernon’s soul/r&b outfit Gayngs who put on one of the most unique gigs I’ve seen at Coachella yet back in 2011.

Coachella aftermath three: Beach House

Coachella ’13 was the fourth time I’ve shared breathing space with Beach House. The first time was a bit of a stretch as I didn’t know any of their tunes nor did I really like the show, but mega proud to say I saw them play the El Mocambo in Toronto.

In 2008, I fell in love with the album Teen Dream which I remember made frontwoman Victoria LeGrand a little testy towards Katy Perry’s similar album title. I however feel that I must admit that I’ve been enjoying the tunes of Ms. Perry after watching her amazing documentary Part of Me.

OK, to not highjack this post here with bubblegum pop, Beach House had a terrific evening set just after Modest Mouse. I was happy to hear most of Teen Dream and much of Bloom.

I was in great company of a very flamboyant young Asian guy who seemed to be in a trance. I made a comment about LeGrand’s dazzling shirt and he commented that she looked like a diva. I have never really considered Beach House to be a band that puts me in a trance as it seemed to my new friend, but I definitely found their music appealing on many different levels.


The set felt dark in a sense that it was poorly lit.